Nestled in a valley at the foot of the Topatopa mountains, some 80 miles north of Los Angeles, the sleepy town of Ojai has a well-deserved reputation as California’s very own Shangri-La: It provided the backdrop for Frank Capra’s 1937 movie Lost Horizon. Since then, with its fabled electromagnetic forces, hidden hot springs, and jaw-dropping sunsets (known locally as “pink moments”), it has become the getaway of choice for Angelenos looking to live out the town’s unofficial motto: “There’s nothing to do in Ojai, and not enough time to do it.” If however you are inclined to do something, here is our guide to where to eat, drink, stay and what to do in Ojai.
OJAI RANCHO INN: Housed in a former 1950’s roadside motel, the Ojai Rancho Inn retains that retro road trip vibe but with a hipster edge. Guest rooms have their own front porch, log cabin-style interiors and hot tubs (some also have kitchenettes and fireplaces). Hang out poolside during the day and make use of one of the communal BBQ grills for an al fresco dinner. Finish the evening at The Chief’s Peak wine bar – the local after hours drinking spot – or enjoying one of the regular outdoor screenings and live bands.
CARAVAN OUTPOST: Glamping meets the great California road trip at this chic trailer park where accommodation comes in the form of eleven Airstream caravans. All have kitchenettes, showers, air conditioning, heating, record players complete with vintage vinyl and private outdoor seating areas. Grab a bike to explore the town by day and spend evenings roasting marshmallows around the communal fire pit with fellow guests.
NOCCIOLA: Pietro Biondi (formerly of Piccolo in Venice, California) serves up traditional Italian food with a focus on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Standout dishes include beet casoncelli topped with poppy seeds and brown butter, and seared lamb over thinly sliced celery and pecorino tartufato. The pretty porch is the perfect spot to sip an aperitivo and catch the much-hyped “pink moment.”
THE FARMER AND THE COOK: This health-food grocery store restaurant hybrid has been in the business of all-organic, farm-to-table tacos, salads, and burritos since before it was cool. You can go the pre-made sandwich route for picnics and on-the-go lunches or have a proper sit-down dinner of veggie tacos, salads, enchiladas, and pizza with the locals and visitors alike.
TIPPLE & RAMBLE: As the name suggests this picnic shop meets wine bar is the perfect place to spend an afternoon sampling central coast wines and craft beers while browsing their selection of SoCal weekend essentials, including bocce ball sets, vintage coolers, Mexican wool throws and hand-made leather camping stools. On weekends charcuterie and cheese boards are served out in the shady, succulent-filled garden.
OJAI VINEYARD TASTING ROOM: This organic winery run by Ojai native Adam Tolmach has achieved cult status thanks to its small production of Rhone-influenced, organic wines sourced from Santa Barbara County (many of which have recognized by top critics). Tasting flights featuring their sought after Rieslings, Syrahs, Pinots and Chardonnays are offered daily at the charming tasting room housed in the town’s former fire station.
Weekends in Ojai start at Beacon Coffee Company for a cold brew caffeine fix and gluten-free baked goods. Next up, the Shelf Road hike is an easy 1.5 mile round trip that will take you through picturesque citrus and avocado groves and up into the foothills where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the entire valley. Most hotels in town provide complimentary bikes for their guests but The Mob Shop also has a selection of mountain, town, kids and even electric bikes to rent and offers guided tours to local attractions like the Ojai Olive Oil farm.
An entire afternoon can be lost at the country’s largest independent outdoor book store Bart’s Books browsing the over one million titles for sale which include everything from signed and first editions, to rare art books, pulp fiction and new releases. Don’t forget to pick the town’s must-have souvenir: a deKor&Co.’s Ojai candle which perfectly captures the scent of the valleys orange blossom in full bloom.
On Sundays most of the town heads over to the Farmers Market to stock up on organically grown produce from fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, to olive oil, jam, honey and goat’s cheese. At the nearby Porch Gallery, a modern art gallery housed in one of the town’s historic homes, owners Heather Stobo and Lisa Casoni host coffee mornings on their large porch. Browse the latest exhibit while local jazz musician Dave Palmer riffs on grand piano and the Scratch food truck from Ventura serves up breakfast burritos.
Evenings in Ojai are all about finding the perfect spot to catch the town’s extraordinary sunsets which turn the entire valley a fiery shade of pink. Prime pink moment viewing can be had atop Meditation Mount, a public meditation center located on a 32 acre site with stunning views