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First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Pittsburgh...
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First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Will be accompanying my husband on a business trip July 23 to July 27. His business is near Oxnard. He is considering the Mandalay bay embassy suites for our accommodations. I will have the days free to explore and would love to spend some time in Santa Barbara. Is this an easy ride? What other areas are not to miss? I love sightseeing, shopping, good restaurants, good wine and generally just getting a feel for new (to me!) regions.

Any suggestions are much appreciated. Thank you

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Oxnard, CA
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1. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

The Embassy Suite Mandalay Beach Resort is beautiful and just completed a multi-million dollar renovation. It is right on the beach with a lovely pool area and a restaurant and bar close by. The accommodations are beautiful and very comfortable. There are many things to see and do in the area and if you could stay one more day, you could visit the world class Mullin Automotive Museum which is open only two days a month (and will be open July 28th). The Channel Islands Harbor which is located in Oxnard has kayaking, boating and dining options. If you will be staying over Friday night, July 27th, I would recommend the Friday night concerts at Heritage Square in Downtown Oxnard. Tickets sell out early, so plan ahead. If you can stay over July 28 - 29, there are two festivals in the area that are worth checking out: The Annual Oxnard Salsa Festival which celebrates everything Salsa - the dance, the music and food. The Annual Citris Classic Balloon Festival in Santa Paula is the same weekend. Santa Barbara is a quick 40-45 min drive north (depending on traffic/time of day), but you could easily spend the day sightseeing in Santa Barbara with an easy drive back to Oxnard in the evening. For more information, please call (805) 385-7545 or go to www.visitoxnard.com or www.santabarbaraca.com. This is one of the best times of year in the area with many, many activities and great weather! Enjoy your trip ~

La Habra, California
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2. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Hi, Oxnard is located about halfway between Santa Monica, CA and Santa Barbara so you could also drive along Hwy. 1 South from Oxnard to Santa Monica, much of it along the coast in a scenic winding drive. Along the way you could take a detour via Malibu Canyon Rd. to Malibu Creek State Park which is really beautiful. Santa Monica and Santa Barbara both have lots of excellent restaurants to choose from. Ventura (the city just North of Oxnard) has a really enticing downtown area (centered on E. Main St. and California St.) that draws a lot of crowds.

If you're a nature lover, you won't want to miss the Channel Islands State Park just off the coast of Oxnard. I haven't been there myself yet but it's one of those places that's near the top of my to-do list.

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3. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

If you have a car, a trip to Malibu is a nice option. The Country Mart area should be one of your goals - and if you cross PCH to go behind the supermarket (Ralph's) center behind it, you'll be on a little road full of beach mansions/houses. You can park anywhere on the right hand side of the road that's permitted and every tenth of a mile, there's beach access (you have to look hard to see these little stairways at first, but they are there). Then, once you're on the beach, you'll have to to yourself - or almost and can walk for quite a way in either direction. If you are at all interesting in being star-struck, you might (MIGHT) see a movie star somewhere along there (and there are a number of interesting places to shop at Country Mart - and it's a common star sighting spot).

As for Santa Barbara, it's a major resort destination with absolutely so much to see and do that you won't be disappointed (but be prepared to be patient to find parking - I suggest using maps.google.com to locate the Paseo Nuevo and just use their parking garage, but you can also find parking in various other places around SB - they have plenty of signage directing you to it). It's about 50 minutes from Mandalay Beach Resort (which is lovely in itself - although do not go sunbathing in the dunes, for several reasons, if you're going to sunbathe, go out on the flat part of the beach). The most scenic route to SB involves turning left onto Harbor from the resort and driving over the Santa Clara River to Ventura and getting on the northbound 101 to SB at Seaward. The drive is gorgeous most of the rest of the way.

OTOH, Ventura itself can be a lot of fun and is close by. It's not a world class resort town like Santa Barbara, but it has a great little history museum, a mission and a Native American archaeology museum.

Personally, I don't think the trip all the way out to Channel Islands (without husband) would be much fun - but that's just me. It will be hot, dry and sunny out there and unless you're really into 1) water sports or 2) wildlife photography, it's not going to be as much fun solo - just my opinion. You can rent a paddle boat at Ventura Harbor (and probably see seals) and you can go to the Channel Islands Visitor Center (at Ventura Harbor) and gaze at the Islands, and it's almost as much fun as being on a boat for an hour or more and then in the hot sun all day on the Islands.

I like being able to get a beverage, do some shopping, talk on the phone, rest in a cool spot, explore nooks and crannies of towns and museums when I'm solo - so it depends on your style. I do not recommend solo hiking around the Channel Islands on your first trip - nor do I think it's likely you'll even find that opportunity, as everyone unloads in a big group, like a tour bus (another feature I do not like). If I had my own boat...or could hire one...that would be different (and btw, we have had friends over the years that did have boats and going out to the Islands that way is an entirely different experience). Going with Island Packers is sort of like being confined to the tram at Yosemite - except, well, Channel Islands is not as overwhelming gorgeous as Yosemite (just my opinion).

If you are a nature lover, you'll get much the same feel at McGrath State Park - just minutes from your hotel and still with cell phone service and the ability to meet up with hubby at the end of his day, on his conference schedule (as opposed to being tied into a timeline established by the Packers). Or, you could do the cruise that doesn't actually stop on the island but takes you by the wildlife viewing points (including the seals near the buoy markers on the way out) - that's only a 4 hour round trip, but does not involve actually spending time hiking on the Islands. Island Packers goes to East Anacapa Island right from Oxnard Harbor (my daughter just moved there last week!) and to various islands from Ventura Harbor (nearby). Here's their webpage, with various options:

https://reserve.islandpackers.com/#tabs-3

Oxnard itself does have the auto museum (if you're into cars) but very nearby is Ventura, with more general museums.

The various state parks (like Malibu State Park) are wonderful (and there's the old Paramount Movie ranch nearby).

But, for a resort style feel, after you've soaked up the ambiance of the lovely beach at Mandalay, you might want SB. And don't forget, Ventura Harbor is good for renting a kayak or paddleboat (lifevests provided - and you're in a harbor, paddleboat is easier for first timers - that's the kind that you cycle like a bike, although not sure one person can do it efficiently). There are also short harbor cruises there.

SB has some really good shopping, like Santa Fe, but with its own special style. It also has great beaches, botanical gardens, museums, etc. And an urban winetasting trail. (Just google Santa Barbara urban wine tasting trail). You can actually get to SB easily without driving by simply going to the historic/quaint Oxnard Transportation Center and getting on a train and being deposited some 40 minutes later (after a lovely train ride) near the huge Fig Tree, near the Beach and downtown Santa Barbara (which has free trolleys and other public transport easily available throughout). Indeed, you could easily go to SB more than one day using the train (you can take a taxi from Mandalay to the Transport station or walk to a bus stop - the bus doesn't quite go out to Mandalay, you'd have to walk over the bridge to Port Hueneme, near the Naval Base and catch it there).

Oxnard itself (the town) is not exactly scenic, although the little downtown area (Heritage Square) now boasts a number of unexpectedly good restaurants, the Harbor (both sides of it - you'll be on the Silverstrand side) has some really good restaurants and a nice little food court on the Silverstrand side. By "unexpected" I mean, of a quality you'd expect to find in...Santa Barbara (which of course, has a plethora of restaurants of the sort you could spend days choosing from them).

Will you have a car? If so, you can drive short distances to McGrath, to Ventura, and to the Transport Center, and then take the train for a more relaxing experience (SB without a car might be nice). PM me if you want more personalized recommendations (I'm from Santa Paula, mentioned above, not living there right now, but very familiar with Ventura County and worked in Oxnard for years).

Corpus Christi...
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4. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Loved your review. My husband (from Corpus Christi, TX) and our friend (from Indiana) will be traveling through this area to San Francisco.You did a wonderful job of describing the area and the things to do. Will use it for a guide.

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5. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Going to a wedding in Oxnard in October. Have 3 nights at Mandalay. Will have a rental car and an additional 6 days to drive around. Leaving from LAX. have been to LA several times so not really interested with the exception of a hotel for the last night.

Would love a driving schedule that includes nature, as well as a little city. Will it be warm enough to swim, kayak, etc. Copied some of the suggestions for Barbara and Santa Fe.

We appreciate photo opportunities, good wine(trails), outdoor scenery, a few art museums, and good restaurants.Would love recommendations for local moderate priced restaurants and places to stay. Looking forward to your feedback.

La Habra, California
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6. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Hi, Susan

A moderately priced restaurant I would highly recommend is Greek at the Harbor located in Ventura Harbor Village in the city of Ventura (just North of Oxnard). I loved the food so much I took a few friends of mine there all the way from Whittier (about 84 miles away) to dine there and they loved it, too. A must there is the galataboureko for dessert! Just scrumptious. It's somewhat more expensive than the average Greek restaurant but it;s more than worth it as it's the best Greek food I've ever had and I love Greek food! Their website is www.greekattheharbor.com and they post prices at the website if you look at the menu there.

One of my favorite scenic drives in the area is Mulholland Hwy. through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. To get to Mulholland Hwy. from Oxnard, take Hwy 1 south and it will become known as Pacific Coast Hwy. when you get to the coast. As soon as you see a sign that you have entered Los Angeles County, be ready to make a left turn at the first paved street you see. This is Mulholland Hwy. I will post a link to a map (and other very helpful information on this area) below.

www.nps.gov/samo/index.htm

When you get to this site, on the left side of the page toward the bottom in the "Park Tools" section you will see a link to the "Park Map". Click on this link and you will get a great map of this area.

A scenic drive in the Santa Barbara area I would recommend is to take U.S. 101 north from Oxnard/Ventura and as you enter Santa Barbara County you will see a sign for Hwy. 150. Take this hwy. a short distance (about a mile) and you will see a sign for Hwy. 192 (Casitas Pass Rd.) on the left. Make a left here and just follow the signs for Hwy. 192. This a wonderful winding road through the foothills of Santa Barbara. You will have to make a few turns to stay on Hwy. 192 so be sure to follow the signs! Stay on Hwy. 192 until you see a sign for Hwy. 154/San Marcos Pass Rd. Take Hwy. 154 North and you will go through the Santa Ynez Mountains and past Lake Cachuma (where there are boat trips to see the wildlife there) into the Santa Ynez Valley. Once you're in the Valley, you can either make a left on Hwy. 146 to go to west to Solvang, Buellton, and Lompoc or you can continue North to Los Olivos and Hwy. 101.

Let me know if you would like further information and I will gladly provide it.

New York City
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7. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Thank you for your quick response. We love Greek food so will check it out. Also looking for B&B's and moderately priced accommodations. Not sure how far North to go with 6 days to play with. We have been to LA before and always enjoy the coast highway.What do you think of the urban wind tour. We were in Northern part last year and visited wonderful wineries. Favorite state parks or beaches? My husband is a photographer and want to take advantage of the beautiful scenery. Thanks again.

La Habra, California
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8. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

I'm not really into wine myself, but there are a lot of wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley and also in the Santa Maria Valley just North of the Santa Ynez Valley. I haven't visited yet myself but the Channel Islands National Park seems very enticing. You have take a boat from Island Packers to get there. You also may like Hearst Castle and the Elephant Seal rookery in San Luis Obispo County. San Luis Obispo County has a lot of state parks and is a beautiful area with lots of nature and attractive small towns. I will list some links below.

www.sbcountywines.com

www.nps.gov/chis (for the Channel Islands National Park)

www.islandpackers.com

www.elephantseal.org

www.hearstcastle.org

www.slostateparks.com (for information on State Parks in San Luis Obispo County)

www.visitsanluisobispocounty.com

Edited: 7:33 pm, September 28, 2014
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9. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Once again- thank you and I appreciate your suggestions.

California
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10. Re: First time visitor to area....need advice please.w

Great wineries abound in the Santa Ynez Valley, particularly the western side of the valley where the weather is cooler and pinot noir does particularly well. There is a divey Oaxacan restaurant facing Plaza Park in downtown Oxnard called el Ooxaco or something like that with awesome food. Go for the tamales wrapped in banana leaves.

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