Santa Paula has only 23,000 residents, but it offers more reasons to mark your calendar these days than most towns its size.
No. 1: The Santa Paula Oil Museum is showcasing a meticulously restored 1960 Austin-Healey Sprite. The puckish sports car, with its trademark bug-eyed headlights, won top honors in international competition for its Thousand Oaks owner.
No. 2: On the first Sunday of each month, Santa Paula lets down its hair and takes people on a nostalgic trolley tour of the city--past historic Victorian homes and along photogenic Main Street, stopping at the train depot to pick up passengers and proceeding to the airport and its collection of vintage planes.
The event is called, not surprisingly, "First Sunday in Santa Paula." The next one, June 1, will be bigger than usual when the town simultaneously hosts its "Sample of Santa Paula" near the downtown train depot. For $10, you can sample food from 20 local restaurants.
No. 3: The new farmers' market in Santa Paula is now open on Saturdays from 1 to 4 p.m. next to the depot. In addition to browsing the 20 to 25 vendor booths, you can take a look at two vintage vehicles: a 1900 horse-drawn oil tank wagon and a 1922 oil tanker, both used for local deliveries.
If you're really a sucker for old machines, pencil in "First Sunday in Santa Paula." The trolley stops at the museum, where early day oil-drilling equipment is displayed. It pulls up at the train depot to pick up passengers who take the weekend scenic rail trip from Fillmore to Santa Paula, and then it meanders to the airport, where 30 or 40 old aircraft are rolled out for viewing.
The trolley stops on the runway for 10 minutes, but if you want a guided tour of the old planes, you can catch a return trip 30 to 40 minutes later.
"First Sunday in Santa Paula" offers free trolley tours from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. each month. For information, call (805) 525-5561. Santa Paula Oil Museum is open Thur.-Sun., 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (805) 933-0076.