This Laid-Back Mountain Town Is the Zen Reset You Need
Just 90 minutes from LA, put Ojai on your weekend agenda.
One of the best things about living in Los Angeles is the close proximity to so many small towns fit for a weekend getaway. A 90-minute drive north of Los Angeles and a short windy road into the mountains will eventually lead to the small, laid back town known as Ojai.
Ojai’s population of nearly 8,000 residents consists mostly of local artisans and passionate food producers who fervently protect their small town charm. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a mass retailer here thanks to an ordinance that banned corporate chains but you will find plenty of hemp sanitizer, avid bike riders, and retirees who have planted roots in Ojai to enjoy the quiet life.
Your best bet is to visit during the weekend as most shops and restaurants are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Here’s our roundup some of the best things to see and do for the ultimate weekend in Ojai:
Go back in time and check in to this retro, mid-century modern hotel that just got a fresh new look. Originally built in 1963, and surrounded by date palms and the Topa Topa Mountains, the 30-room hotel is reminiscent of Italian decor from the 1960s with its neutral color palette and textures. Rooms are minimalistic but chic and some even include a private patio. Guests have access to complimentary bikes to ride into town, or can lounge by the outdoor firepit and pool. Oh, and your four-legged furry friends are welcome here too!
How to book:Reserve a room online.
Sometimes the best finds in a small town are not along the main road and Tipple & Ramble is a perfect example of that. This hidden garden oasis with major 1950s vibes offers a backyard wine tasting experience in someone’s home. True story. The owner of Tipple & Ramble lives on the top floor of the house but the bottom floor and outdoor space are used as both a retail shop and public bar. While indoor seating is currently unavailable, you can still shop for housewares and small batch food products and then head to the backyard where wine is poured by the glass (or bottle) from an airstream. Pair your tasting with a charcuterie and cheese spread while you chill at one of the tables under the pastel-colored fringed umbrellas.
How to book: Reservations are not required but they do get busy on weekends so come early to get a seat.
You can’t visit Ojai without strolling through Bart’s Books—the largest independently owned outdoor bookstore in the world. The original owner, Richard “Bart” Bartinsdale, was inspired by the book carts in Paris along the Seine River so he opened Bart’s Books in Ojai—except it’s wayyy bigger than a cart. You’ll easily get lost in a sea of over 130,000 (mostly) used books including an impressive first edition collectible section. Pro-tip: For the hard core bibliophiles, trade-in your used books for store credit. (Read their updated trade-in policies here.)
How to book: Walk-ins are welcome but face masks are required. See here for COVID update.
Getting a loaf of Kate’s bread is like finding treasure on a scavenger hunt because you won’t find her bread in a bakery. Kate is a self-taught baker who sells freshly baked baguettes, seeded loaves of bread, and beautiful pastries out of her parent’s home in Ojai. Follow her on Instagram for updates on pick-up days (or for entertaining videos of her baking while lip synching to old classics like “Break My Stride”). You’ll pick up the goods at the house and when you do get your hands on the perfectly crunchy sourdough bread or the flaky Parisian-style croissants, you’ll probably come back for more.
How to book: Follow Kate on Instagram and check her website for the latest updates on her baking schedule and to place an order.
Let’s be honest, you deserve a day of self-care to detox yourself from 2020 and Ojai is the perfect place to do it. Body Essentials of Ojai was the first day spa to open in Ojai in 1990 and continues to take home awards for their luxury spa services; in 2019, the spa was voted Best Facial and Best Spa by Ojai Valley News. They offer a range of treatments using a holistic approach, from deep tissue massages to gentleman’s facials, sugar hair removal, and even airbrush tanning, using only medical-grade organic products. The staff is super friendly and knowledgeable and will teach you how to swap your toxic facial cleanser with a natural product that uses fruit enzymes instead. Who knew? Inquire with staff about the spa’s COVID policies when making an appointment.
How to book:Book an appointment here or call 805-646-7600
Remember Nic’s Martini Bar on Canon Drive? Larry Nicola (aka “Nic’s”) has since moved to Ojai to open up Ojai Rôtie, a hugely popular Lebanese-inspired rotisserie chicken spot in the heart of town. The former 1920s gas station is now a restaurant with a large outdoor patio covered with string lights and picnic tables fit for families and large parties but you’ll also find locals who dine solo with a book in hand. The restaurant’s wine box program focuses on small, sustainable wineries in Ojai and Santa Barbara, while also boasting bottles from the Côte-Rôtie—a star wine region within France’s Rhone Valley. Neighborhood brewers and fermenters are featured in their selection of beers, ciders, and kombuchas.
How to book: Order pick-up and curbside online and for delivery click here. Walk-ins for dine-in are welcome.
For the coolest airstream experience, check out Caravan Outpost, a magical airstream park hidden among the residential streets in downtown Ojai. Choose from one of the ten shiny silver airstreams or a tiny house parked on lush grounds around a communal fire pit and wooden benches. Accommodations are equipped with kitchens, bathrooms, and other fun details like a vintage record player. Caravan Outpost offers complimentary coffee to-go and bike rentals for all guests but also features a hipster-friendly general store that is not to be missed.
How to book:Book an airstream here
Sure, breakfast burritos might be the OG breakfast item (and you can find those here too) but have you had breakfast tacos?! The veggie tacos here are loaded and delicious. They come with crispy kale and avocado but make sure to add eggs to make it a hearty breakfast. The husband and wife duo who split their time between practicing law and running the cafe wanted to create a community about love which is why you’ll see words like “play” or “self-love” on the table numbers meant to provoke interesting conversations and we LOVE that.
How to book: Order online or dine-in on their outdoor patio seating
If you’re a coffee snob, Beacon Coffee is legit. The seasonal drinks like the maple gingersnap latte taste like the holidays in a cup and puts any Starbucks PSL to shame. Don’t skimp on the freshly baked pastries like the egg bacon swiss chive croissant or the almond croissant either. The coffee shop makes every effort to meet all their producers and source responsibly.
How to book: Order online for pick-up or walk-ins welcome
Enjoy scenic views of the mountains and wildflowers on this moderate to difficult trail that starts with a steep incline and continues approximately 11 miles out and back. The best time to hike is early in the morning or right before sunset for epic views and don’t forget your sunscreen and hat because shade is limited on the trail. Looking for less of a challenge? Try the nearby Shelf Road Trail, a 3.5-mile out and back trail that offers similarly scenic views.
How to book: N/A
There are a few tasting rooms in downton Ojai but Topa Mountain Winery offers the best outdoor wine tasting experience. Enjoy a flight of four wines for $15 or purchase wine by the glass or bottle. For Saturday and Sunday, you can pre-order a grazing box by 4:30pm on Thursday from Grazing Kitchen which includes an assortment of cheese, cured meats, fruits and crackers. On Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays, you can bring your own food.
How to book: Reservations to the winery are required and open on a rolling basis. Join the mailing list for the latest updates and reserve your spot online here.
Ojai Valley is paradise for vegans—there’s a plethora of restaurant options and Hip Vegan is one that tops the list. The menu is internationally-inspired featuring plant-based salads, burgers, and bowls but the gunpowder fries are almost a meal on their own. The gluten-free fries are coated with Indian spices and served with flavorful homemade dips that you can’t choose between like the Lebanese-style garlic sauce and curry ketchup. Don’t forget to try their homemade fizzy sodas to wash it all down.
How to book: Order pick-up or curbside here, or dine-in on their outdoor patio garden
This small, family-run business has been producing some of the best tasting honey and custom blended organic teas in Ojai for over 41 years. They opened their Honey Tasting Room in the Ojai Arcade in 2016, where you can choose any six flavors of honey to taste, including sage, lavender, orange blossom, and avocado blossom, for just $3. You’ll learn the importance of pure, locally produced honey, what gives honey its golden hue, and how to pair it with your food. How sweet is that?
How to book: Reservations are not required. Walk-ins welcome.
For locally roasted coffee beans that you can purchase by the pound, check out Ojai Coffee Roasting Co. in the heart of town. The family-owned coffee shop roasts all their single-origin coffee beans in-house. Everything is made from scratch (and with love). They have a menu full of sandwiches and salads for a casual lunch but what you’re really coming here for is the freshly brewed coffee. The oat milk lavender latte is a must.
How to book: Walk-ins welcome
Take a two-hour workshop at Firestick Pottery and learn how to play with clay! While you might not master pottery in one session, you can learn the basics and get your hands dirty on the pottery wheel. If you’re traveling with friends, set up a private group session which starts at $45 per person for groups of five or more and BYOW. The studio has an attached gallery and garden where they display and sell their potters’ wares. What better souvenir than a one-of-a-kind piece forged just for you?
How to book: Call 805-272-8760 to reserve and visit their website for details
The Sunday Ojai Farmers Market is where you’ll find some of the finest, locally sourced goods from the farmers and tastemakers in Ojai Valley. Look out for citrus fruits like the Pixie tangerine and fresh avocados—both of which Ojai is well known for. You can also shop for fresh lavender, local honey, and olive oils at one market.
How to book: Reservations are not required
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