Nestled in a scenic valley between the Topatopa Mountains Ventura County, US, Ojai is a tiny town with approximately 8,000 residents. Surrounded by groves and natural beauty, Ojai got its name from the Chumash word “awhai,” which means the “moon”. Ojai initially resembled a typical western town but after a fire in 1917 destroyed the entire town, it was given a Spanish Revival makeover. Ojai is situated approximately 90 miles north-west of Los Angeles and is the smallest city in Ventura County. Here are the top things to do in Ojai.
With idyllic and picturesque beauty, Ojai also offers excellent local cuisine, interesting museums and art galleries, and close proximity to the beautiful Los Padres National Forest. This is a perfect destination for some time off from the hustle bustle of the city especially for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet. Ojai feels like a spiritual epicentre with warm and welcoming energy, close-knit community and its breathtaking views. Even Hollywood director Frank Capra chose the Ojai Valley to represent a mythical Shangri-la in his 1937 movie Lost Horizon.
Things to do in Ojai:
Explore Bart’s Books
Book lovers! We have been blessed with Bart’s Books in Ojai. Established in 1964, it is grown to be the largest independently owned and operated an outdoor bookstore in the country. This beautiful outdoor bookstore is packed to the brim with an extensive collection of used and new titles from Sci-Fi to Self Help. Browse the book selection in this corner cottage and marvel at the lemon tree growing in the centre of it. A spellbinding place for bibliophiles, it is a maze of bookshelves with corrugated tin roofing and open-air seating areas for comfy browsing. It’s like being in a treehouse made of books. *Excited giggle*
Tip: Be sure to pick up the “Hip Hiking Guide,” it is written by three generations of Ojai women.
See (and taste) freshly pressed Olive Oil
With Ojai’s unique Mediterranean climate, you can reap the benefits of one of the biggest olive oil orchards in Southern California: Ojai Olive Oil. Started in 1880, Ojai Olive Oil is a family-run business that harvests its olives by hand and uses organic farming practices. The company makes several different varieties of award-winning extra-virgin oil as well as olive oils infused with fruits and herbs. You can purchase these at the Sunday farmers market or right from the shop at the olive grove, which is open 7 days a week. While free guided tours of the olive groves and the olive mill are offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays, free tastings are available every day in the tasting room.
Those looking for peace of mind, head over to Meditation Mount, which is a public meditation centre in service to humanity. The centre opened in 1971 and is regularly visited by pilgrims, gurus, and yogis. This sacred site is located 5 miles from Ojai city centre and is spread across 32 acres. Make your way to meditate in the beautifully manicured lawns where placed benches, stunning views and tranquillity waits for you. Now, remember: anyone can enter Meditation Mount, but do note it is temporarily CLOSED to the public during their Recovery Period. Please check the official site to remain updated about the centre.
Los Padres National Forest
Comprising of 220 miles (354 kilometres) of wilderness from north to south and some trails interspersed all over makes Los Padres National Forest as the second-largest national forest in California. Covering mountains, rivers, and beaches, it is home to about 468 different species of wildlife and approximately 1,200 plant species, 23 of which are threatened or even endangered. Experience the forest’s beauty including the two hot springs in the forest: Sespe Hot Springs and Willet Hot Springs with 1,200 miles of maintained trails. Some areas of the forest require special permits, which can be purchased from the Forest Service.
Remember: While hiking or camping here, be sure to keep an eye out for snakes!
Taste wine at Casa Barranca
Pamper yourself with wines that are carefully handcrafted from organic grapes grown in the Casa Barranca vineyard. The Casa Barranca is a USDA-certified organic winery that produces more than 5,000 cases of wines a year. This award-winning winery also has a tasting room. So, you can sample the vintages they produce, before choosing a bottle to bring home. Although the estate is not open to the public, it can be rented out for weddings and other special events.
Buy some Citrus at Friends Ranch
Family owned and operated, Friend’s Ranch is a perfect place for if you’re a fan of citrusy treats. This locally owned ranch has been growing citrus fruits in the Ojai Valley for more than a century. The orchards everything from oranges to lemons to tangelos. But, the fruit they’re best known for, is the Pixie Seedless; it is a small, yet sweet, seedless orange. Make sure to pick some while you’re there.
Also, you can tour the orchards, during spring. However, reservations need to be made, beforehand. Visitors can buy these citrus fruits which are also available for sale at several local stores. Stop by the packing house on a Tuesday, Friday, or Sunday morning farmer’s market to also have some freshly squeezed juice.
Experience the Pink Moment!
One of the most memorable experiences in Ojai is the Pink Moment. To give you context, it’s the magical time when the sun goes down and the Ojai Valley is awash in muted tones of pink, lavender and peach. This is due to an optical phenomenon called alpenglow. It materialises as a horizontal glow just after sundown graces the eastern walls of the Ojai Valley. The moment is said to be most stunning between November and February.
Include this tiny gem in your California itinerary; and also tell us about your experiences in the comments below!