It was my husbands birthday last weekend and we wanted to get away, but not too far because we didn’t want the weekend to be all about driving. It’s been ages since we’ve been to Ojai, I knew there were many cool places that had popped up in the last ten years, plus it’s only about an hour and a half out of LA, so we decided to give it a go!
And yes, it is incredibly charming. I think it’s still coming into its’ own, but there are so many great spots; restaurants, and shops, not to mention a brand new winery – we had such a great time.
We arrived early Friday afternoon and had a quick bite & beer at Azu, which is also home to the Ojai Valley Brewery. It was perfect – Azu prides itself on fresh farm-to-table fare using organic ingredients from local farmers. Our M.O. is to sit at the bar because we really think that’s where the action is! Seriously, we have a great time watching the bartender mix drinks and we usually chat them up on what their specialties are and try for an impromptu craft cocktail class. If it’s an open kitchen, even better I had the Arugula & Dried Fig salad, which was delicious and I dove into before taking the time to snap a photo.
If you wander down Ojai Avenue there are some beautiful boutiques and shops, all a little different with everything from housewares to men’s & women’s clothing, surfboards, and camping goods. So many of the shops have a great vibe and are so perfectly curated, I could live in them.
I love the slow pace of this town, everyone is taking their time and it’s a great respite from the craziness of life. You literally can’t help but relax!
We made a stop at Topa Mountain Winery, which is on the edge of town. The tasting room has only been open for a year, but it’s a beautiful venue and they produce very nice wines. They were setting up for a charity concert event that evening, so it was a little busy in the back outdoor area.
Isn't that entry gorgeous? If we make it back there, I definitely want to come prepared with a picnic!
If you go – we have some recommendations…
High End: Ojai Valley Inn & Spa – this place is g o r g e o u s, and completely worthy of a splurge. It’s a huge complex with several different restaurants, bars and little enclaves to hang out in. We stopped in after dinner at the Deer Lodge and had a drink at the Wallace Neff Heritage Bar, where a very theatrical bartender was mixing very theatrical concoctions. It was very fun to watch!
Mid-Priced: Ojai Rancho Inn – we stopped here to check out their bar, Chief’s Peak, which was packed and full of hipsters (sort of like the Ace Hotel in Palm Springs). We aren’t opposed to bumping elbows with hipsters, we just couldn’t find a place to sit, and couldn’t muscle to the bar so we left. We’ve stayed at their sister hotel in Santa Ynez before, and I would definitely check them out for lodging if we visit again, although we will most certainly be the oldest people there, I am sure.
Affordable: AirBnB – this is our usual mode of accommodation these days. Ojai has a city ordinance against short term rentals in town, so most of the AirBnB’s are just outside of town. It was no problem, we were literally 6 miles from town center. The rental we had was a guesthouse in a quiet, private residential neighborhood, was super clean, modern, had a beautiful garden and a gorgeous view.
FOOD & DRINK
There is no shortage of great places to eat and drink in Ojai, whether you are looking for a quick bite, a nice, romantic dinner or just want to cool off with a drink.
Azu/Ojai Brewing Company – fresh farm-to-table fare and a nice selection of local wines.
Topa Mountain Winery – beautiful new winery just as you enter the town. They have a delicious Chardonnay, and it’s the perfect setting for a picnic, or go big with a wedding.
Ojai Deer Lodge – super casual, with a woodsy vibe, they have barbecue Friday – Sunday and it’s good stuff! I ordered the Lodge Burger, which I totally recommend…with a fried egg on top #ohmygod
Chief’s Peak – as I mentioned, we stopped in here but didn’t stay. It’s a young crowd, but we aren’t above that – I’d join the party any day! Looks like a very cool place!
Ojai Beverage Company – at first glance upon walking in, you think you’re in a liquor store. A very large liquor store with an amazing selection and very good pricing. If you walk to the back, there’s also a tap room, bar, and restaurant.
Suzanne’s – this was the birthday dinner spot, and it did not disappoint. Be sure to make a reservation because everyone in the valley hits this place on the weekend. I had the Salmon with Cilantro Pesto, which was served with steamed vegetables, and it was delicious. Scott had the penne with meatballs, which was good, but the sauce was a little loose.
I’m loving the recent influx of simple lifestyle stores that are curated with an eye toward design and bohemian living.
In The Field – love this place! Modern bohemian and beautifully curated.
deKor & Co. – similar to In The Field, but more home goods and lifestyle oriented. They also carry a small selection of apothecary and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t pick up a perfume that I tried (lesson learned!).
Fig Curated Living – this is a little hard to find as it is located down a little alley off the sidewalk between a couple of shops. A portion of it is located outside and is almost home and garden, with an emphasis on local, handmade and fair trade goods.
Have you been to Ojai lately? What is your favorite thing to do?