The recent Thomas Fire might have devastated the Ojai region, but the close-knit community is still filled with love, hope, comradery and plenty of worthwhile pursuits for a getaway.
Located in Ventura County, only 75 miles north of Los Angeles, Ojai has long been a low-key escape for West Hollywood residences. With locally owned boutiques, galleries and cafes, the bucolic environment with about 8,000 residents also offers some of the best hiking, horseback riding, biking or golf. The below is a listing of some of our favorite places to shop and dine that are located right on or around Ojai Avenue, so everything is easy walking distance, and you should take advantage of two current campaigns with great deals for visitors from Ojai Love in March to the Ojai Pixie in April.
Now through March 31, 2018, 10 hotels in Ojai are offering special Ojai Love room packages in an effort to raise money for those who have been impacted by the Thomas Fire, facilitated by HELP of Ojai. Guests who book an Ojai Love package will receive 10% off their room rate and a $10 donation will be made in their name. Also, discounts will be offered at participating restaurants, hotels and attractions.
One of the B&B’s participating in this effort is The Lavender Inn.
Not surprising since the owner of this charming, historical bed and breakfast is philanthropic by nature and holds many retreats throughout the year for various causes, including underprivileged women with cancer. The property was built in 1874 and is Ojai’s first schoolhouse transformed into seven guest rooms of various sizes but all tastefully decorated. The location is ideal for walking to all the top restaurants and shops and they offers gourmet cooking classes and a veranda overlooking elegant lavender gardens where you can spend a leisurely morning or afternoon. If you are celebrating a special occasion, book the cottage which is like a small apartment home with a private patio, living room and fireplace. No matter where you book, don’t miss breakfast. Vegan specialties, such as ‘chorizo’ are mixed in with fluffy olive and potato omelets, polenta cakes and freshly baked goods. They also have a daily ‘wine hour’ with cheese at 5pm that is a perfect way to unwind after a long hike or before going out in the evening. You can also book a treatment in the tiny but effective spa on the property that features a range of facials to stress reduction and massage.
If you are going out, try the tapas at Azu Restaurant & Bar featuring organic produce in inspired recipes from Spain, the Mediterranean, and North Africa but the real star here is the cocktails. Make sure to order a pixie Ramos Fizz – a vodka concoction with the local tangerine pixie juice and egg white that is whipped up to perfection.
Just a few doors away is the casual patio of the Nest. This is head chef and co-owner, Kiona Wachter’s new take on the original, The Nest of Ojai by her father, Eric Wachter and she brings some of the modern comfort food inspired by family recipes to this location. Order a variety of veggie tacos (cauliflower or Korean Brussels sprouts are a big hit), or spicy gochujang sauce chicken wings with sticky sesame seeds and an orange road margarita from a walk-up window while you mingle with the locals.
For a completely original concept head to Ojai Harvest, also just a few doors away on Ojai Avenue. Here you will be able to choose from sitting on a patio, minimalist indoor restaurant or at a lively rustic but stylish bar. Restauranteur Spoon Singh, last seen at Fork in the Road, Santa Monica and a soon to open French concept in Los Feliz, is behind the diverse eatery, along with interior designer Channon Roe, and a collection of top local chefs and farmers. Expect rotating farm-to-table organic fare and full bar. Try the burger (with fries) or the salmon in a jar.
When you want to relax, book a treatment at EarthTonics which is off the beaten path slightly on Montgomery Street. Try the botanical ritual which stimulates healing while overhauling your complexion. A natural concoction is mixed with wild-harvested herbs and flora for deep cleansing and gentle exfoliation. Active whole-plant nutrients are blended and applied to address specific areas of concern. While the ingredients – that might also include fresh goat milk, cardamom, bamboo or honey are working their magic on your skin, you will be further relaxed with a shoulders, neck and scalp massage. Concentrated facial massage and pressure point therapy are used in conjunction with KANSA bronze, which is considered the healing metal in Ayurvedic medicine, that can also stimulate blood flow and lymph drainage that will leave you glowing with just the right amount of plump and taut.
After you’re feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world, head just up the street where you can find unique home furnishings – including pixie candles – leather bags and embroidered clothing at deKor & Co. Head further up Montgomery to Tipple and Ramble, where you can enjoy wine tasting and snacks on the patio, jump in the hammock or shop in the cute home goods store.
As for shopping: we fell in love with the delicate precious stone jewelry at Jess Maharry (who you might recognize from the Sundance catalog) and the rustic, bold, pounded metal pieces with rare beads and baubles at Susan Cummings – both on Ojai Avenue.
April marks Ojai’s Annual Ojai Pixie Month celebrating the petite, sweet, and seedless tangerine native to the area. Ojai’s unique microclimate creates ideal growing conditions for the Pixie, making tangerines from the region the best in the market and a source of pride for residents. All month long, local restaurants will commemorate pixie season with sweet and savory, citrus-themed culinary delights including cocktails, marinades, pastries, and more.
• Pixie Pints, Cocktails, & Bites at Azu Restaurant & Ojai Valley Brewery. Pixie Drop Martini, Pixie Ramon Fizz, Wild Pixie with locally-distilled Ventura Spirits Wilder Gin, pixie juice, and Luxardo. Pixie glazed pork belly, Pixie desserts, White Pixie Ale – a white wheat ale with Etchart Ranch organic pixie tangerine zest and blossoms.
• Healthy Pixie Options at Food Harmonics. House-made pixie probiotic kefir water that aids digestion and improves intestinal flora. Dosas served with a side of pixie chutney
• Pixie-Infused Cake at Knead Baking Company Citrus Syrup Cake infused with pixie syrup and topped with fresh fruit
• Pixie-Themed Breakfasts and Happy Hours at Lavender Inn o Pixie orange curd with bread and biscuits Lavender pixie sweet bread Lavender Pixie Martinis and Ojai Valley Brewery’s Pixie Pale Ale on tap.
• Pixie-Inspired Desserts & Cocktails at Ojai Valley Inn. Sweet treats from Libbey’s Market including pixie cupcakes, macaroons, and scones. Olivella’s Almond Semolina Cake with Greek yogurt mousse, orange gelee, candied fennel, citrus tuile and pixie sorbetto. “Pixology” Class where the Inn’s award-winning bartending team gives participants a guided demonstration and sampling of two cocktails with pixie-inspired recipes. Don’t miss other Ojai Pixie-themed activities around the Inn.
• Pixie Kombucha from Revel Kombucha Brewery & Tasting Room. Oj
ai’s new Jun Kombucha Brewery & Tasting room introduces the first-ever house brewed Pixie tangerine flavor – served cold and on-tap
• Pixie Month Bubbles & Sweets at Tipple & Ramble featuring a rotating menu of sparkling wine cocktails and confections featuring pixies. Upside-down cornmeal pixie orange cake paired with a Rosemary Fizz, a blend of fresh squeezed pixie juice, rosemary simple syrup, prosecco, and a splash of Aperol.
Visitors hoping take home a few of these sweet little gems can find them at the Ojai Certified Farmer’s Market, Rainbow Bridge Village Marketplace, Westridge Family Market, or at a nearby Ojai Pixie orchards such as Friend’s Ranch where they can learn about the history of Ojai Pixies while picking and sampling the fruit. The Friend’s Ranch Packing House is open Tuesday and Friday from 7:00 a.m. to noon.
Coffee shops, bakeries, wineries, shops and galleries to visit
Beacon Coffee “Responsibly sourced. Thoughtfully roasted.” Beacon Coffee bridges the gap between growers and consumers by sourcing their coffee exclusively from responsible producers and accessing quality beans not found anywhere else. Offers educational classes on best farming practices, pour-overs, brewing fundamentals, and cupping. Monday to Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
Knead Baking Company A family-owned and operated bakery offering fresh-baked breads, artisanal pastries, desserts, daytime eats, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages in a bright and cheerful setting in downtown Ojai. For a limited time, support the local small business community and purchase an “I Love Ojai” box with a sampling of local favorites. Monday to Tuesday, closed; Wednesday to Sunday, breakfast + lunch 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., bakery 4:00 p.m.
Majestic Oak Vineyard A boutique family-owned and operated winery that does everything, from yearly harvests, crushing, and bottling entirely by hand. Sourcing organic, locally-grown vines from the Santa Ynez and Santa Barbara regions, Majestic Oak specializes in bold Syrahs and refreshing Sauvignon Blancs. Sunday to Thursday, 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Topa Mountain Winery Vineyard and tasting room showcasing the exceptional wines made from locally-grown grapes. Live entertainment on weekends. Varietals such as Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier have long thrived in the region, but new vines have also been introduced such as Barbera, Tempranillo, Carmenere and Touriga Nacionale. Sunday to Monday, 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Tuesday to Wednesday, closed; Thursdays, 12:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Friday to Saturday, 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Bart’s Books (302 W. Matilija St.) – One of the largest independently-owned and operated, outdoor bookstores in the country. Carries nearly one million books ranging from thirty-five cent-specials for sale on the honor system, to rare, out of print first editions, and art books valued in the thousands of dollars. Monday to Sunday. 9:30 a.m. to sunset.
Carolïna Gramm Extra Virgin Olive Oil Tasting Room & Extra Virgin Skincare An extra virgin olive oil tasting room and retail shop, sourcing only the best olives direct from certified, organic California farmers and specialty items from Italy. Offers a collection of the finest extra virgin olive oil culinary and skincare products. Monday to Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. except Wednesdays.
Cattywampus Crafts An inspiring gathering place and resource for craftspeople and artisans. Offers natural and sustainable craft supplies, one-of-a-kind apparel, whimsical home goods, and variety of classes including macramé, weaving, dyeing, and knitting. Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Tuesdays, closed; Wednesdays 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.; Sundays, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Treasures of Ojai (110 N. Signal St.) – A collective shopping mall with experienced antique dealers with an extensive inventory of antique furniture, furnishings, original artwork, glassware, pottery, silver, lighting, vintage and estate jewelry, and musical instruments. Also provides appraisals, estate sales, and liquidation services. Monday to Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sundays, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment.
Dan Schultz Fine Art Gallery (106 N. Signal St.) – A working studio/gallery of nationally-acclaimed artist Dan Schultz, offering plein air landscapes, figures, and oil portraits, as well as painting classes and gallery events. Monday to Tuesday, by appointment only; Wednesday to Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Sundays, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Ojai Valley Museum The Ojai community’s resource for history, art, and cultural exhibits and events, showcasing the unique elements that make the town a such a special place. Featuring a permanent gallery as well as a rotating exhibit, museum store, research library, permanent collection, and visitor’s center. Historical walking tours are hosted every Saturday. Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays, 12:00 p.m. to 4 p.m. $4 admission non-members. Children under 18 are free.
Porch Gallery (310 E. Matilija St.) – Contemporary art in a historic house, representing emerging and established present-day artists as well as producing artistic events throughout the valley. The Porch Gallery is partnering with the Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation to create the Thomas Fire Artist Recovery Fund, a grassroots initiative to raise, match, and distribute unrestricted cash grants to members of the Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties’ creative communities seriously affected by the Thomas Fire. Thursday to Friday, 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and by appointment
Human Arts Gallery An Ojai Art destination since 1975 offering a wide range of unique fine crafts from over 170 American artists including jewelry, furniture, artistic clothing, glass and ceramics.
Active Pursuits to Book
Cloud Climbers Jeep Tour (408 Foothill Rd.) – Mountain, wine country, and sunset tours of the back-country trails of Ojai and Santa Barbara from a Jeep Wrangler or classic CJ-8 Scrambler.
The Mob Shop Bike Tour (110 W. Ojai Ave.) – A full-service bike shop dedicated to the transformative power of bicycling and the belief that everyone is a cyclist. Offering bicycle rentals, bicycles and cycling accessories for sale, and a host of prearranged and custom tours.
Hiking – Ojai offers a wide range of outdoor adventures. With the help of community volunteers, the Ojai Land Conservancy is working tirelessly to rehabilitate and reopen the hiking and biking trails around Ojai. Updates on trail conditions can be found here.
Beekeeping & Honey Tasting at Ojai Valley Inn
Beginning at the Discover Ojai Center, you will meet with our resident beekeeper for a brief introduction on our most vital pollinators, the European honeybee. You will experience firsthand how it feels to be inside an apiary and learn about the extraordinary life of the honeybee. The excursion will conclude with a honey tasting of local, raw honey in a beautiful and serene setting.