I live in San Diego and drive by Oceanside on a regular basis to visit my dad in Dana Point and my mom in Huntington Beach. I’ve lived in Southern California most of my life and I always thought of Oceanside as a military town and where portions of Top Gun was filmed.
Recently I began hearing about the many breweries popping up and new restaurants getting rave reviews. I did a bit poking around and it turned out there was a cultural side to Oceanside too—including a surf museum and contemporary art museum.
Okay, I was sold. It was time to give Oceanside a visit and see what all the talk was about! So, my husband and I ventured north on the 5 freeway for an overnight staycation in the city with the longest wooden pier on the West Coast.
We checked in at the SpringHill Suites by Marriott located one block from the beach and the famous 1,954-foot pier. We wanted to make the most of our time in Oceanside and decided it would best be explored on bike. We rented two beach cruisers from Wheel Fun Rentals which is located on the boardwalk just below the pier.
We rode up Pier View Way to our first stop; the Oceanside Museum of Art. The museum is unique in the fact that there are no permanent exhibits. All collections are on loan and the majority are from San Diego artists and collectors. When we visited there was a really interesting exhibit from San Diego artist, painter and printmaker Neil Shingley called ‘Invisible People” that told the story about San Diego’s homeless community. To really enjoy the museum, plan for about an hour to explore the art.
After the museum we rode back towards the beach on Pier View Way and noticed a bakery at the corner of Coast Highway called Petite Madeline. Who can pass up a bakery? Well, not us! We parked our bikes and ventured in. I’m gluten free, so normally I have very limited options in a bakery, but was pleasantly surprised to find my all-time favorite dessert; crème brûlée. It was rich and delicious and just the mid-morning boost I needed. My husband opted for their most popular item, the ‘All Day Bun’.
A short ride up Pier Way from the bakery, as you head back towards the ocean you’ll find the California Surf Museum. The museum offers up a lot more than just surf memorabilia and history. Many of the exhibits are on loan and temporary. During my visit there was a great photo history of body surfing on display including the World Body Surfing Championships which take place in Oceanside. Did you know that body surfing started in the 1940’s in front of the Copa Cabana in Brazil?
The permanent display is a collection of surf boards showcasing how the sport has evolved. Showcasing boards from 1000 AD when surfing was brought to Hawaii from either The Marquesas or Tahiti, to surf legend George Freeth’s contribution and his tutelage of Duke Kahanamoku all the way to present day surfboards.
Also on display was a Bethany Hamilton exhibit including her board from the shark attack.
After you absorb all the surf legends, history and artifacts it’s time to ride back to the beach, return the bikes and venture out on the sand to enjoy some sunshine and watch some real surfers in action.
For lunch, head to the 2nd floor of the SpringHill Suites Marriott, where you will find a deck they share with the Hello Betty’s Fish House. The deck offers great views of the ocean and pier and Hello Betty offers some top notch seafood. They are known for their fish tacos, but also on the menu are a variety of seafood cocktails, sandwiches, salads and soups. We tried Baja stone crab cocktail and the grilled Mahi Mahi tacos with cabbage, crema and pico. It’s a perfect light lunch.
I recommend spending the afternoon at the rooftop pool with beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the longest wooden pier on the West Coast. Relax on one of the lounge chairs and soak up some sun, take a dip in the pool or unwind in the Jacuzzi.
For dinner, take a short walk to the Mission Ave Bar and Grill. The restaurant has roll top doors that create a great open air ambiance. Featuring local art and offering 40 California beers on tap and more than 60 bourbons and whiskeys have made Mission Ave Bar and Grill a popular spot for locals.
They also have several gluten free items such as fried calamari, blackened shrimp and Mediterranean chicken. For appetizers we tried the fried calamari with a duo of dipping sauces (blood orange cocktail sauce and a wasabi buttermilk sauce) and the crab stuffed cremini mushrooms with herb butter and swiss cheese.
For entrees they offer a variety of burgers such as the Cubano burger with capicola, pickles, lettuce, swiss cheese and dijon mustard and entrees such as blackened sea bass with Tropical fruit salsa and sushi rice or shrimp arrabbiata served with diavalo sauce, capers, and kalamata olives.
This is how we spent our perfect day in Oceanside; exploring the art, surf culture, beach and food. Not a bad way to get to know this beachside town!
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