What do strawberry nachos, rock climbing, live music, magic and a Strawberry Shortcake princess have in common? You can find them all at the 31st annual Strawberry Festival in Oxnard on May 17 & 18. Easily one of the best food festivals in the nation, this juicy jubilee is jam-packed with strawberry-themed goodness and arrives just in time to kick off summer with the kiddos in a berry cool way.
Fruitful Family Fun
Journey first to Strawberryland for Kids where budding thrill-seekers can try out a bungee bouncer, scale a rock wall or careen through the air in the berry-go-whirl, and that’s just for starters. New rides and attractions have been added — including a zipline, and there is a shaded Family Care Zone for families with babies. Kids love Strawberry Land and can spend hours there; we suggest arriving at the festival early and making it your first stop of the day to avoid the lines (because you know they cannot spend all day in lines without losing tiny tempers).
While you’re in Strawberry Land, don’t forget a photo-op with Strawberry Shortcake, who reigns supreme in this very berry kid kingdom.
Time For a Shady Break
Just as you were ready to guzzle a gallon of icy cold strawberry juice, there’s the Jest in Time Family Fun Stage. There’s plenty of seating under the big tent to rest those tired legs and take in a smorgasbord of spectacles performed every half-hour by jugglers, clowns, magicians, and puppets.
Be sure to hit the festival main stage on Sunday for a performance by The Young Dubliners. The main stage line-ups also feature jazz bands, soul singers and even tributes to Bon Jovi and Queen. (You know you miss the music of the 70s and 80s. We do too.) Check out the full entertainment schedule here.
Berry Story Time
Stroll through the Strawberry Promenade, where little ones can participate in a reading of “Saving Strawberry Farm.” Or head over to the Interactive Berry Craft Patch where your little Picasso can get crafty alongside 250 other painters, sculptors, photographers who are showcasing their works.
No self-respecting strawberry festival is complete without pie eating contests –forks prohibited. You can also team up with the kiddos for a Strawberry Relay Race: participants sprint through a set of obstacles to collect the makings of a strawberry snack which they must gobble up against the clock.
But why just eat it when you can throw it? Kiddos will love tossing a tart at Mom’s face – chances are, you will too.
Berrylicious Treats Galore
Take a walk on the wild side with a strawberry pizza, strawberry nachos, strawberry kabobs or deep-fried strawberries. And who can resist tried-n-true classics like chocolate covered strawberries and strawberry funnel cakes? Up-n-coming pastry architects will have a blast heaping berries, smothered with mountains of whipped cream at the Build-Your-Own-Strawberry-Shortcake tent. And the non-driving parents and friends can relax with a nice cold strawberry beer, wine or margarita.
For all of you proud newbie parents, you must plan the day around the Berry Best Dressed Baby Contest for kids. With over $5,000 in prizes – including a date night for parents, a gift certificate to Babies R Us and a lifetime membership to My Gym, you might want to start digging for your best berry attire right now. Kids under 4 that are berried out are invited to parade across a tented stage before a panel of judges (parents can help out). The contest parade gets underway at 3:30 p.m. at the Jest In Time Family Fun Stage. Just check in by 2:30 p.m. at the Community Connections booth to participate.
Helpful Tips and Tidbits
- Strollers will not be happy on the festival’s dirt terrain so don’t forget the baby carriers.
- There is not a lot of shade outside of the Jest In Time Family Fun Stage so bring a hat or break out that strawberry print parasol.
- Be sure to check festival scheduled times for all contests and activities as some require advance sign-up.
- Keep in mind that outside food is officially prohibited at the festival. But with 50+ food booths benefiting hundreds of local charities, you won’t feel guilty chomping on corn dogs, turkey legs and other festival chow faves – not to mention the strawberries.
The California Strawberry Festival takes place Saturday, May 17th & Sunday, May 18th. The festival gates open at 10 a.m. and you can get your fill of berries until 6:30 p.m.
Avoid the lines and get your tickets online before you arrive. Kids under 5 are free, 5-12 year olds are $5, adults are $12 and seniors are $8.
The Strawberry Festival is located at the Strawberry Meadows of College Park at 3250 South Rose Avenue in Oxnard, just 60 miles north of Los Angeles off the 101 freeway. If you are driving we strongly urge you to use the free Park & Ride “Strawberry Express”; you’ll save the $10 parking cost and avoid traffic. Shuttles pick up and drop off approximately every 15-20 minutes, from six convenient locations off the 101 freeway. Check the website for driving directions and shuttle info.
Better yet, put up your feet and ride the train. Amtrak California is offering a special “Kids Ages 2-15 Ride Free” promotion festival weekend.
Have you ever been to the California Strawberry Festival? What are some of your favorite memories? If this just puts you in the mood for more berries, we’ve got some great pick-your-own suggestions.
All photos courtesy of California Strawberry Festival