Photo by Alexandra Bilham / Shutterstock
Photo by Kristin Baalman / Shutterstock
Ojai Valley is a land of orchards and mountains.
Hike at sunrise. Meditate. Fuel up on organic, local food. Pick Pixie tangerines. Repeat.
Ojai has long been a favorite weekend getaway for residents of Los Angeles and surrounding areas for many good reasons. A far quieter place than its neighbor 90 minutes south, the pretty little town full of health and wellness businesses, singular boutiques, and excellent restaurants sits in a valley brimming with citrus trees bordered by the hiking trails of the nearby Los Padres National Forest.
From Meditation Mount to the downtown yoga studios, much of the focus here is on self-care—and thanks to its temperate climate, life is lived largely outside. It’s the perfect place to shut out the din of modernity for a day or two and commune with nature or just yourself and a glass of wine—West Coast living at its finest.
Book now: from $609 per night, expedia.com
One of the most popular, if somewhat pricey, choices is Ojai Valley Inn, with its golf course, pools, and tennis courts set over 200 acres. The seven dining options include the Farmhouse, which runs seasonal events and has a guest chef series where visiting cooks bring their expertise. Rooms and suites are Mediterranean-inspired and offer all the high-end mod cons you’d expect.
Book now: from $850 per night, vrbo.com
Airbnb and VRBO have an abundance of comfortable and unique places to stay in and around Ojai. On our last trip, we discovered a beautiful ranch home set among three acres of lemon and orange trees. With living and dining rooms stuffed with games, books, and art, plus a tennis court, 1970s redwood hot tub, ping-pong, hammocks, and myriad hide-and-seek spots, it was a perfect retreat for a family with young kids.
Sage Cafe, in the Rainbow Bridge Village Marketplace, offers all kinds of tempting breakfast, brunch, and lunch options (spanning sandwiches to eggplant parm to chicken pot pie) in a pretty, relaxing patio area. The adjoining Sage Lounge serving cocktails later in the day. Other lunch spots to investigate include The Nest, with its avocado polenta toast, cauliflower tacos, and Sunday brunch, and the burritos and sandwiches at Love Social Cafe.
For dinner, the Ranch House is slightly out of the center of town but worth the short trip—it’s won awards for both its wine and romantic setting. The venue was taken over for a wedding on our trip, but the take-out pâté with cornichons, rabbit carbonara, and dessert of “seasonal deliciousness” (a selection of sweet bites) tasted great back at our rental house.
Early mornings and early evenings are beautiful times for walks, bike rides, or just finding a shady spot with a book in the valley, as rays of sunlight pierce through willow trees and the low-hanging clouds. Just before sunset, the mountains on other side of the region—which run east to west—are often lit with a rosy glow known locally as the “pink moment.”
There’s plenty more to keep you busy. Start your shopping at outdoor booktopia Bart’s Books, which houses racks upon racks of outdoor shelves set around a small house. It promises “everything, under the sun” and pretty much delivers; you’ll find secondhand tomes on almost anything. Make sure you explore inside the house in the middle, too, for new books including cookery books in the kitchen.
From there, an easy stroll around downtown will reveal boutique clothing, jewelry, and home furnishing shops, as well as the Ojai Valley Museum and a farmers’ market on Sundays. Ojai Olive Oil, just out of town, is also worth a visit.
Prepubescent playground aficionados will love the structure downtown: It’s a giant wooden wonderland filled with slides, swings, and other delights. (They won’t say no to browsing the excellent Serendipity Toys either.)
Ojai should be less than a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, depending on your start point and traffic conditions. The most scenic route is the 101 around the back of the Santa Monica mountains, through Oxnard and Ventura, and then inland for the final stretch.
Ojai is a great destination for an EV getaway, too, with 29 charging stations according to PlugShare, and most attractions a very short distance apart from each other. We borrowed a zippy and roomy Volvo XC90 Recharge plug-in hybrid to get there (and around), using battery power almost exclusively for the trip with the car's Pure electric mode.
With three rows of seats, it was large enough for two adults, three kids, and all the accompanying luggage. It also had four cameras offering a 360-degree view, which made parking downtown—and navigating dark roads among the fruit trees at night—much easier.
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