Between Los Angeles and San Francisco, you encounter town after town that qualify as either sleepy or dreamy. Ojai (O-hi) is definitely dreamy. It’s the perfect blend of casual and relaxing with artsy stores, great restaurants, and so many spas that you’ll never have trouble booking a treatment. Ojai screams “weekend retreat,” and since it’s just 85 miles from LAX, you can fly in, drive up the coast, and chill out for a few days of tranquil bliss. Here’s my perfect day in Ojai:
While most visitors opt for the opulent Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, I checked out the Emerald Iguana Inn, an understated boutique property just off the main drag (Ojai Ave.). It was quaint and quiet (they enforce a no-noise policy after 9:30pm) and each bungalow feels secluded and private. Waking up here felt like waking up in my own bed and that’s just how I like it. They offer a full continental breakfast, but it’s worth the walk to hit up Knead a few blocks away. The family-run cafe makes just about everything in house and their breads are wonderful. Get a breakfast sandwich with eggs, tangy cheddar, and prosciutto or try their apricot-studded butter cake. You can’t go wrong either way.
Wander around the town and explore some of the cool shops. Bart’s Books is tucked away in a converted old house and you can lose hours exploring all the literary finds there. If cooking’s your thing, head to the (former) kitchen – that’s where you’ll find a great collection of vintage cookbooks. If it’s a Wednesday or a Saturday, head out to Ojai Olive Oil for a tasting and tour. The experience is free and you’ll get a chance to sample their full line of olive oils, vinegars, and olive oil-based beauty products.
Anybody can order lunch, but at the Ojai Culinary School inside the adorable Lavender Inn, you can learn how to cook it, too. They offer a wide range of cooking classes on everything from jams to Argentinian food. My recent visit produced a delicious bowtie pasta with fresh local zucchini and a simple focaccia that made me regret not having the recipe for every dinner party I’ve hosted in the past.
After lunch, head to The Day Spa of Ojai where owner Kim Wachter will make you forget about the outside world. Seriously—my back masque and massage were the highlights of my trip.The building itself is an old stone ranch house that used to be surrounded by orange groves and almost all of the products used are natural and organic. Algae is a point of emphasis here, so expect your treatment to feature algae-based products in one way or another. If you’re a sauna fan, make sure you check out the super unique sauna out back that’s built from a giant old wine cask.
Almost everyone you talk to in Ojai will bring up the “Pink Moment,” and no, that’s not a Pink Floyd tribute band. It’s a small period of time every day where the sun reflects off the Topatopa Bluffs creating a gorgeous pink hue in the sky. Get your pink in and then check out The Ranch House for dinner. You’ll feel like you’re eating in a lush garden and the menu of refined French-tinged classics (tournedos of beef, grilled diver scallops in curried corn sauce with dry vermouth) is sure to fill you up.
When dinner is over, cut loose at The Deer Lodge, an old hunting building that has been around since the ’30s. A new owner took over at the beginning of the year and they’re in the process of overhauling the whole experience. Catch live music every night or just sit outside and stare up at the starry night sky. You’ll never want to say obai.