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Executive Travel

Oxnard Oasis: A Charming California Retreat, With an Up Close Look at Cowboys Training Camp

Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach, a Spanish Hacienda-style resort, is one of California's few true oceanfront resorts and boasts Oxnard's top fine dining restaurant.
By | |Photography courtesy of Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach
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Oxnard Oasis: A Charming California Retreat, With an Up Close Look at Cowboys Training Camp

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In Oxnard, California, just six miles from where the Dallas Cowboys host its training camp, the sunset meets the ocean, which meets the sand, which meets the Curio Collection Hilton resort of Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach. That view is rare because Zachari Dunes—which recently underwent a multimillion dollar facelift and management change—is one of the state’s only true oceanfront resort, and the lone all-suite oceanfront property on Mandalay Beach.

Aside from annual visits from America’s Team, Oxnard, which is about 60 miles from Los Angeles, is known as the strawberry capital of the world. The state produces 90 percent of all strawberries, and Oxnard alone is responsible for 44 percent of the state’s output.

The art collection within the Zachari Dunes resort reflects the city’s rich farming history and the food and cocktail selections showcase the area’s produce. The Ox Strawberry Sour cocktail—featuring St. George Botanivore Gin, Campari, lemon juice, Oxnard strawberries, and turbinado—is a must try.

The resort has 250 rooms; when my wife and I visited this past summer, we stayed in the Ocean View suite, which boasts a spacious balcony overlooking the beach. The resort’s premier suites are the Ocean View and Ocean Front presidential suites, which can sleep up to six in the 1,600-square-foot quarters.

Start the morning with breakfast on property at Ox & Ocean or by walking the coastline half a mile to the Hollywood Beach Cafe. While at the old fashioned diner, I enjoyed sports banter with the outgoing locals—many of whom have strong love or disdain for the Cowboys—and some great breakfast tacos.

For lunch, the chicken fajita bowl is a hit, and make certain that an order of the diner’s famous side dish, the Channel Island Tots, which are topped with cheddar cheese, caramelized onions, and Thousand Islands sauce, makes its way onto the ticket.

The Ox & Ocean breakfast spread offers an array options, including avocado toast topped with radish, a sunny egg, cilantro, and pickled shallots; the Mission Burrito, which features Mexican chorizo, scrambled eggs, potatoes, Oaxaca cheese, caramelized onions, and salsa verde; and the steak and eggs, which features a grilled flat iron steak with sunny eggs and chimichurri sauce for dipping.

After a summer Oxnard breakfast, the only thing that follows should be an appearance at Dallas Cowboys practice. That’s exactly what we did on a cool summer day. Dallas is one of the few teams in the NFL that still allow crowds of fans at training camp practices—and one of a few that permit videos. On busy days, up to 10,000 fans show up sporting silver and blue.

After practice is over, players make their way around the field signing autographs and taking pictures, so getting an up close experience with your favorite Cowboy players isn’t all that rare.

Training camp for the Cowboys in 2023 ran from July 26 to August 15, and the 2024 schedule will be similar. Admission into practice is free. Be sure to visit practices during the week, as the team will be traveling on the weekends to play its preseason games.

On the first Friday of camp, the city’s destination marketing organization Visit Oxnard hosts Oxnard Fan Night, a family-oriented event that appeals to kids who are super fans of the Cowboys and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The night also features various dance groups and musical acts with the occasional appearance of former and current Cowboy players.

In 2023, Zachari Dunes tested out a few packages that included various Cowboys-themed amenities and transportation to the training camp. The property is planning to iron out the packages for 2024 and roll it out to traveling fans.

For dinner on property, the town’s top-rated fine dining restaurant Ox & Ocean boasts a delicious grilled pork chop as its signature dish. It’s topped with an acorn squash puree, apple bacon chutney, and crushed pistachios. If seafood is more your flavor, the halibut was cooked to perfection, and the grilled swordfish featuring a locally-made strawberry ponzu was fantastic as well.

Within the property’s courtyard oasis sits a recently opened food truck—or food airstream—called Sugar Beats that offers on-the-go breakfast. For lunch, the truck serves fish and chips, an LA-style loaded hot dog, and an ahi lettuce wrap.

Out on the town, a visit to 1901 should be on your itinerary. With an ambiance that takes inspiration from the prohibition era, the venue features a restaurant and bar as well as a speakeasy that is a social hub complete with live jazz music. I recommend trying the blackened salmon. Should you choose to have a relaxed beachside picnic dinner, a couple of pies from Toppers Pizza Place should be the go-to. I’m still trying to replicate its creamy garlic sauce featured on several of its pizzas in my home kitchen.

When not soaking in Dallas Cowboys practice or enjoying the town’s quaint delicacies, the property boasts a retail shop called Henry’s Sundries & Gear Rental. There, you can rent anything from a bike or surfboard to a video game console or GoPro camera. My wife and I opted for the board games and played them on the beach as we enjoyed our pizza.

Oxnard has hosted the Cowboys training camp for 17 years now, and the team’s contract with the city runs through 2024, with an option for a 2025 extension. But considering the area’s beauty and the cool temperatures it offers, it seems like an ideal place to start the season. Who knows what comes next, but maybe the city will one day host the reigning Super Bowl champs. We’ll see.

Author

Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…

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