Ojai. This much-revered valley town is home to sun-kissed mountains, hot springs running from the hills and nearly 8,000 locals. World-class shopping, restaurants and art give Ojai a hip feel, yet the city maintains a small town vibe that draws nature lovers and R&R seekers up from Los Angeles. Let’s go.
Get There: Set a relaxing precedent for this mini-vacation by taking the scenic route. From Los Angeles, take the 118 East, (via the 5 or 405 north), to Moorpark, and then jump on Route 23 North. The state highway winds through gorgeous Grimes Canyon, where the sand formations will make you feel a thousand miles away from smog and gridlock. In reality, Ojai is about two hours and 85 miles northeast of LA.
Start with Shopping: The adventure begins on Ojai’s picturesque main drag, Ojai Avenue. The Spanish style shopping arcade is home to cute, smart boutiques made for moseying. Stop by the family-owned Primavera Gallery for breathtaking fine art and furniture by renowned national and international artists, and then make your way to The Lennon Closet consignment store, where designer goods can be had for a song.
Primavera, 214 East Ojai Avenue, at North Signal Street, (805-646-7133 or primaveraart.com)
The Lennon Closet, 250 Eat Ojai Avenue, at North Signal Street, (805-640-3695)
Eat, Well: Knead Bakery offers cakes, tarts and cookies almost too pretty to eat in addition to heartier options including sandwiches and quiche. Locals love the Mexican fare at hole in the wall Rubens Burritos, and Hip Vegan Café provides classy vegetarian food at friendly prices. Osteria Monte Grappa is ideal for dinner, and guests can play bocce ball in the restaurant’s courtyard before eating.
Knead, 469 East Ojai Avenue, at Fox Street (310-770-3282 or kneadbakingcompany.com)
Rubens Burritos, 104 North Signal Street, at Ojai Avenue, (805-646-6111)
Hip Vegan, 928 East Ojai Avenue, at Park Road (805-646-1750 or hipvegancafe.com)
Nightlife: Although sleepy Ojai tends to shut down early, there is an evening scene. Check out locals bar The Hub for insider information, and the Village Jester is the spot for live music.
The Hub, 256 East Ojai Avenue, at North Signal Street (805-272-8344 or thehubojai.com)
The Village Jester, 139 East Ojai Avenue, at FILFIL (805-640-8001 or thevillagejeser.com)
Sleep: The Lavender Inn’s romantic B&B style accommodations are ideal for R&R seekers. For more rustic accommodations, Los Padres National Forest is a short trip up Highway 33 and is home to a variety of campsites, including the family-friendly Wheeler Gorge, where campers can set up next to a stream, which provides a soothing sleep soundtrack and a refreshing morning wake up bath as well.
Lavender Inn, 210 East Matilija Street, at North Signal Street, (805-646-6635 or lavenderinn.com)
Wheeler Gorge, 17017 Maricopa Highway, (805-640-1977 or rockymountainrec.com)
Get Out: Use day two to explore Ojai’s natural wonders. Lake Casitas Recreation Area is a short trip out of town and offers hiking, boat rentals and fishing, (although swimming is not allowed as the reservoir provides drinking water). Back up in Los Padres, hikers will find 300 foot Rose Valley Falls after an intermediate level hike. A local will gladly provide specific directions.
Casitas Recreation Area, 11311 Santa Ana Road, Ventura, (805-649-2233 or lakecasitas.info)
Rose Valley Falls, Chief Peak Road, Los Padres National Forest
Finale: End your adventure at The Ojai Deer Lodge, a roadhouse style eatery housed in a log cabin built in 1932. The venison barley soup is especially good, and pretty waitresses in cowboy hats will gladly share the night’s specials.
Ojai Deer Lodge, 2261 Maricopa Highway, (805-646-4256 or ojaideerlodge.net)
CORRECTION: This post was edited to remove mention of a closed restaurant and tourist attraction.
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