Racing Christmas to Oxnard California

“What does Santa do?” I used to ask my daughters when they were tiny tots. The answer was always the same: “RUN!”

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The adorable logo of the “Santa to the Sea” running race. Photo by Jill Footz

In those days, the extent of my girls’ knowledge of Santa started and finished with a series of running t-shirts I wore around the house. The large central logo showed a trim, fit Santa Claus, decked out in red, huffing and puffing as he ran between palm trees. It’s the logo of my all-time favourite race, Santa to the Sea, in Oxnard, California.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The Pacific Ocean just steps away from the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach hotel. Photo by Jill Footz

How it became my favourite running race has become something of a story of legend in my world. The Coles notes version is that I made a race goal, trained my butt off all Fall, then shattered my expectations on a magical day that felt easy and painless. It probably wasn’t, but that day I set a personal record, won my age group, and launched a love affair with not only the race but the community of Oxnard itself.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

My inaugural “Santa to the Sea” race in 2012.

The adventure started months earlier when my friend Stephanie declared she had found a fast, flat race in California just before Christmas. We could take an easy, direct flight into LAX, pick up a rental car, and drive an hour up the coast to a beautiful, seaside hotel that was a short walk from the race finish line. The nearby marina held a Christmas Parade of Lights the night before the race. Heck, the race started at a giant Santa Claus statue. It just didn’t get more festive than this. I was on board.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The Santa to the Sea race begins at this huge Santa statue where toys are piled for families in need. Photo by Jill Footz

Our hotel looked like it was straight off the cover of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” album. The beautiful, Spanish-styled Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach, just steps away from the ocean, with a pool, two hot tubs, even bike rentals, and a fantastic green space and playground less than a block away. Having kids of my own wasn’t even in the cards yet, but I knew this would be a beautiful place to bring a family one day.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The pool at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach in Oxnard, California. Photo by Jill Footz

Fast forward to December 2018. My twin daughters celebrated their fourth birthday, and we promptly hopped a plane to LAX and made the trek to the city of Oxnard. My girls oohed and aahed over the impressive entryway into the Embassy Suites, with its grand staircase, oversized art, and of course, Christmas greenery adorned with, what else but, seashells.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The beautiful lobby at the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach in Oxnard, California. Photo by Jill Footz.

They collected pounds of pebbles on the beach, chased gulls and sandpipers, visited the pool and hot tubs at least twice per day, and enjoyed the freedom of a being at a playground without a jacket in December.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

Oxnard is strawberry country and these beauties were as sweet and juicy as could be! Photo by Jill Footz

While my fifth running of the Santa to the Sea race wasn’t quite the fairy tale of the first, my fifth visit to Oxnard recaptured the magic of that inaugural trip. From enjoying the Parade of Lights in the marina to eating fresh California strawberries with my girls at the farmers’ market to visiting the beautiful lights of Oxnard’s historic Christmas Tree Lane, it was a wonderful getaway that won’t be soon forgotten.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

Oxnard’s historic Christmas Tree Lane is a must-do for holiday visitors. Photo by Jill Footz

“I don’t want to go to another hotel!” one daughter wailed as we packed our bags to head south for the second half of our trip. Despite knowing we were on our way to Legoland, she had no desire to leave the hotel, beach, pool and marina she’d fallen in love with.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The annual Christmas Parade of Lights at Channel Island Harbor in Oxnard California. Photo by Jill Footz

It’s a sentiment I understand completely – and I have a sneaky suspicion it’s Santa’s fitness motivation, too!

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

Can’t beat a California ocean sunset! Photo by Jill Footz

What to do in Oxnard:

Holiday Fun: Enjoy the Parade of Lights in Channel Island Harbor, Oxnard’s annual Gingerbread Fest, and the stunning lights of Christmas Tree Lane!

Holiday Run!: The Santa to the Sea half marathon, relay and 5 km is held the second week of December.

Where to stay: Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach

ShoppingCamarillo Premium Outlets, Channel Island Harbor Farmers Market

Dining: The Waterside Restaurant and Wine Bar, or any of the other great spots along Channel Island Harbor. If you book early enough, you can get a table for the Parade of Lights!

Playground: In Oxnard Beach Park, next to the Embassy Suites.

Chasing Christmas to Oxnard California

The playground at Oxnard Beach Park in Oxnard, California. Photo by Jill Footz

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