A Guide to Ojai: Relaxation in an Old-Fashioned Hamlet

Take in the sunset, the oak trees, and the relaxation of this historic town.
The sun provides a splendid backdrop for all kinds of views in Ojai. Photograph by Brandon Desjarlais

Just a short drive from Orange County, Ojai is a place to vacation without logistical headaches. Jump in the car and drive a few hours north to the old-fashioned hamlet that peeks out across beautiful mountains and sits just a dozen miles from the ocean. The small-town vibe and the chance to relax away from crowds, particularly this time of year, will reset your outlook. February is a nice time to visit as you’ll get to use the hotel fireplaces and restaurant fire pits to stay cozy.

Immense, historic, and luxurious, the Ojai Valley Inn welcomes you to its 220-acre property with activities of all sorts. Golf, multiple pools, an artist cottage, a 31,000-square-foot spa, and even an apiary await, in addition to several dining options and grounds made for walking and admiring the oak trees. Be sure to spend time outside for the pink moment, the time just before sunset when the hillsides blush. Rooms and suites ($439 and up) offer various options such as private terraces or balconies, fireplaces, tubs, and marble bathrooms. The fireplace minisuite showcases hand-painted Spanish tile in the bathroom with a soaking tub.

The fireplaces in some rooms at Ojai Valley Inn set a relaxing tone. Photograph by Ojai Valley Inn photograph courtesy of Murphy O’Brien

When it’s time for a relaxing meal, check out The Oak at Ojai Valley Inn. The outdoor space is vast, and there are plenty of heaters to keep you cozy. You’ll be treated to views of magnificent oak trees and the green of the golf course. Gaze at the mountains in the distance while you linger over the estate-based lavender lemonade ($9) and seasonal dishes such as plum-glazed pork belly with red cabbage puree, watercress salad, and heirloom carrots ($22). The service is impeccable, whether you’re having a romantic evening or a family meal.

Serving handmade ice cream and various other treats since 1979, Ojai Ice Cream is a must-visit. Besides a cold scoop, you can also choose from housemade fudge of all sorts. Old-fashioned Pez dispensers and nostalgic candies are plentiful in the long, narrow shop that was featured in the movie “Easy A.”

In the center of town sits Libbey Park, home to the oldest amateur tennis event in the U.S., The Ojai. The park has an expansive playground that was built by volunteers in October 2015, as well as a bandstand and the Libbey Bowl. The historic archway from Ojai Avenue leads to a central fountain featuring beautiful Spanish tile and plenty of benches for you to relax and take in the local scene. Next to the park, you’ll find the historic Ojai Post Office bell tower, a four-story Spanish Colonial Revival-style structure built in 1917 that’s perfectly picturesque.

If wine tasting is your favorite pastime, several tasting rooms exist on Ojai Avenue between Montgomery and Signal. You can go below street level at Majestic Oak Vineyard and Wine Tasting with its sunken garden. Or try The Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room where fans unwind with their glasses out front. The Casa Barranca Organic Winery and Tasting Room features an open-beam ceiling and cozy bar.

Bart’s Books has been operating in Ojai since 1964. Photograph by Justin Aiken

Comfort Italian
Nocciola restaurant provides a charming, intimate space for special occasions. Dine on freshly made pasta dishes such as Salsiccia ($18)—which features rigatoni, sausage, peas, and tomato—and seafood that delights, such as the grilled Portuguese octopus ($16). The cocktails shine a light on local flavors: Try the Herborist with Wilder gin, lemon, lavender, and Génépy des Alpes ($13).

Biking Bliss
When you’re ready for some exercise, the Ojai Valley Trail is a convenient place to stroll or bike. Go 9 miles to Ventura and connect to the Ventura River Trail to get to the beach. Be prepared for the uphill version on your way back. The path runs along the river and parallel to Highway 33. Animals are welcome as it’s an equestrian trail, and dogs are allowed on leash.

Mark Your Calendar
Through February: Experience a special meal from chef Christopher Kostow of the three-Michelin-starred The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley but closer to home ($495 including wine pairings). Kostow finishes a pop-up winter residency at The Farmhouse at Ojai Valley Inn. thefarmhouseojai.com

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