OXNARD — Strawberry lovers should get their fill here next weekend at the fifth annual California Strawberry Festival. This April 30 to May 1 event will be hosted at Channel Islands Harbor.
That's where you'll find a "Make Your Own Strawberry Shortcake" tent with trays of freshly baked shortcake, heaps of sweet strawberries and tubs of whipped cream. There will be strawberry shortcake-eating contests, too.
A strawberry-pancake breakfast at 10 a.m. kicks off activities on both days, ending at 6 p.m. Most activities will be between Harbor Landing and the Marine Emporium, a pair of waterfront marketplaces on South Harbor Boulevard at Channel Islands Harbor. Admission to the fenced-in festival area is $3; children ages 5 to 12 and seniors, $1.
Strawberry blonds of both sexes and all ages will compete for fair-haired (natural, tinted or bewigged) awards Saturday morning.
Waiters, Waitresses Race
In the afternoon, waiters and waitresses will race with trays of bottles and glasses filled with strawberry wine.
Other events range from a 10-kilometer run to a tea dance with music of the Big Band era. Two stages will feature jazz, country and rock groups, dance ensembles and other ongoing entertainment. More than 150 artists and craftsmen will exhibit their work.
All sorts of gourmet strawberry foods, as well as packs and flats of the big berries, will be offered for sale.
There is no parking at the festival. However, highway and street signs will direct you to free parking areas, where buses and vans will shuttle visitors free. (Charter tour buses have a special traffic lane to drop off passengers at the gate.)
Parking areas are at the Naval Construction Battalion Center off Ventura Road (with facilities for the handicapped), Oxnard College near California 1, and the Ventura County Government Center by U.S. 101 and California 126. Shuttle buses will run from 9:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
For more information about the California Strawberry Festival, phone the Oxnard Convention and Visitors Bureau weekdays at (805) 485-8833.
Oxnard also attracts visitors most of the rest of the year with beaches and boats rather than berries. Focal points are Oxnard's two waterfront resorts.
The Mandalay Beach Resort is a favorite of families for weekend escapes. Overlooking a mile-long public beach, the $36-million retreat features a swimming pool and whirlpool spas, lighted tennis courts and bicycle rentals.
Its 250 accommodations are suites. Prices include a cooked-to-order breakfast and happy hour cocktails. Double rates begin at $135, with children under 12 years free. Phone (805) 984-2500 or toll-free (800) 582-3000.
Also at the water's edge is the Casa Sirena, a Princess Cruises resort that is undergoing a $1.5-million face-lift. From many of its 273 rooms, including 30 suites, boating activity in Channel Islands Harbor can be viewed.
Guests can use a heated swimming pool, whirlpools spas, sauna, putting green, tennis courts and exercise and game rooms. Marina-view rooms start at $88; children under 18 free. Call (805) 985-6311; also ask about vacation packages.
Visitors can stroll and bicycle around the harbor, which is home to 2,500 pleasure craft, as well use the beach and mini-parks with picnic tables.
Fishing fans can join one of the ocean-going boats that depart daily from CISCO's Sportfishing on South Victoria Avenue. Phone (805) 985-8511 or toll-free (800) 322-3474.
Tour the harbor by renting a small sailboat for $10 to $15 an hour at Channel Islands Landing on South Victoria Avenue. Or charter a sailing yacht named the Moana Pua for a sunset luau cruise with Hawaiian food and music. Contact the Kalekele Charter Co. at (805) 644-0891 or (818) 344-9577.
A lighthouse marks Fisherman's Wharf at the corner of Channel Islands Boulevard and South Victoria Avenue, where you can shop for souvenirs and dine on fresh seafood.
Brandon King Seafood barbecues some of the local catch to serve at outdoor tables with live musical entertainment on most sunny weekends. Another menu of fish and other dishes is offered at Reuben's, a popular spot for Sunday champagne brunch.
Just beyond Fisherman's Wharf, you'll find seafood and Mexican fare at Cisco's By-the-Bay on Peninsula Road. At the road's end is the Casa Sirena's venerable Lobster Trap restaurant, known for its savory Love Boat buffet on Sundays.
Also popular for Sunday brunch is Opus One at the Mandalay Beach Resort. The restaurant also has an all-you-can-eat luncheon buffet weekdays, and dining every evening. Its Cabana Lounge has nightly entertainment.
Around the harbor are several other places for food and drink with waterfront views. Try the Whale's Tail, Port Royal, Tugs or the Left Bank.
A scenic way to reach Oxnard and Channel Islands Harbor from Los Angeles is west on the Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) to join California 1 north through Malibu.
Continue along the coast, and after the highway veers inland beyond Point Mugu and becomes a freeway, exit west on Channel Islands Boulevard to Victoria Avenue or Harbor Boulevard.
Round trip from Los Angeles is 140 miles.