The Oceanside Cultural District is where the sea serves as an inspiration for an emerging art scene that befits one of California’s classic beach towns. Home to the Oceanside Art Museum, galleries, live theater, brewpubs, restaurants and culturally inspired events near the city’s always-picturesque pier, this district gives visitors a taste of how its surf and skate spirit merge with a rich military heritage to create a uniquely Southern California cultural experience.
Oceanside Museum of Art
Just like the city itself, the Oceanside Museum of Art revels in delivering the unexpected with a celebration of contemporary art that is “enriched by the cultures of community.” The museum does this by offering constantly changing exhibits that feature fine art from the southern California region including paintings, sculptures, studio furniture, art quilts and architectural glass and a full roster of classes, lectures, concerts and docent tours. Even the museum’s outside is an homage to southern California’s rich contemporary art scene with its side-by-side buildings designed by two of the region’s most renowned modern architects with Irving Gill’s classic, clean arches leading to Frederick Fisher’s contemporary Central Pavilion.
California Surf Museum
Soak up more than the sun and the sea by visiting the California Surf Museum – which celebrates the sport that is a quintessential part of the state’s coastal experience. Located just steps away from the Oceanside Pier, this compact but cool museum offers a comprehensive look at the evolution of surfboards and wave-riding, plus rotating exhibits on famous surfers as well as on the adaptive surf movement, which focuses on customizing boards to allow people with disabilities to ride the waves. Also, the gift shop is the perfect place from surf-inspired items from t-shirts to books and beyond.
Arts and Culture
Tucked behind North Coast Highway and right off of Pier View Way, Artist Alley is a quaint shopping district that also doubles as a place where local artists can demonstrate their process and display their wares on Saturdays between 10 AM and 4 PM. Marketplace lights hang above, and murals provide a bit of whimsy along the way. Merchants include Seaside Flowers and Gypsy Soul Dreaming, which describes itself as a “handmade spiritual crystal healing shop,” as well as the School of Hard Locks Escape Room. Close by are a variety of restaurants and watering holes including Elena’s French Crepes, known for both its sweet and savory creations, and the Holme Estate Cellars wine tasting room, which features wines from South Australia and California’s Central Coast, and is kid- and pet-friendly and offers up live music on weekends.
Oceanside is home to two – count them two – venues for live theater: The Star Theater and The Brooks Sunshine Theatre. Both have histories as movie theaters and feature flashy neon signs that harken back to yesteryear and offer up a little bit of bygone glamor. Still, each venue stays current with a full-slate of theater productions from “The Man from La Mancha” to “The Wizard of Oz” to “Sweeney Todd” to “Mamma Mia.”
Food and Drink
Imagine a night filled with international eats, unique shopping and live music and then add a technicolor dusk with the ocean as your backdrop and you’ll understand why Oceanside’s Sunset Market is such a popular event. It takes place every Thursday between 5 and 9 PM on Pier View Way, just west of North Coast Highway. The market features more than 200 vendors and covers four city blocks and offers up food from around the globe including homemade tortillas to freshly rolled sushi and mouthwatering Mediterranean meats. Bring the whole family as there are tons of kids activities as well.
First Friday Art Walk
Arts and Culture
Gets some steps in and see all that Oceanside’s emerging art scene has to offer with the First Friday Art Walk that happens – you guessed it – on the first Friday of the month starting at 5 PM. It features pop-up galleries, dance performances, live music, poetry and more. The Oceanside Friends of the Arts puts on the First Friday Art Walk and all proceeds benefit its efforts to support arts-related activities.
Mission San Luis Rey
History and Heritage
While not technically part of the Oceanside Cultural District, the Mission San Luis Rey is still a historic treasure that you won’t want to miss. Built in 1789, it is the largest of the 21 missions Spain established in California. It is home to a community of Franciscan Friars and is open to the public, offering self-guided tours of its expansive buildings and grounds.
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