The stunning town of Ojai, California, located just north of Los Angeles, offers a sweet escape. Set with the Topatopa Mountains serving as the backdrop, it is the perfect place to get away with plenty of great places to eat, outdoor activities, and culture to take in for travelers of all ages.
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Travel Guide to Ojai, California
History of Ojai, California
The valley town of Ojai was once the home of Chumash Indians. The name “Ojai” (pronounced OH hi!) is derived from their word for “moon” which is “Awhai.” It’s one of the oldest towns in Ventura County and was settled in the 1800s, though it wasn’t incorporated as an official city until 1921. Edward D. Libbey was one of the prominent settlers who helped rebuild the town after a fire burned much of it in 1917. It was rebuilt with Spanish Revival-style architecture to create the charming town that stands here to this day.
Why Visit Ojai, California
Ojai is the kind of place you retreat to when you want to experience real-life without corporate chains at every turn. They’re not allowed in Ojai, so instead, you’ll find many independently-owned shops for all sorts of things from jewelry and pottery to gardening and unique gifts.
It’s a place that forces you to slow down to its own lovely pace and simply relax. So grab a coffee from a local roaster and enjoy real food rather than fast food mayhem, the way life should be lived.
How to Get to Ojai, California
It’s only 83 miles from Los Angeles, 120 miles from Bakersfield, and 207 miles from San Diego. Whether you’re coming from the north or south, get on US 101 to CA Hwy 33 east. If you’re coming from the north, don’t take Hwy 150 at night because it’s dark and winding, a bit more dangerous. And if you’re coming from the east or central valley areas, take I-5 to CA Hwy 33 west to get here.
When is the Best Time to Visit Ojai, California
Any time of year offers a spectacular time to visit Ojai. However, if you can plan on coming in March or April, you’ll be in for an extra special treat! In March, the orange blossoms are in bloom and the scent is truly amazing. And in April, you need to come to the Pixie festival (more on that below!).
What to Know Before You Go
There are a few things you should know about Ojai before you hop in the car and put the pedal to the metal. You should plan on spending about 3 days and 2 nights in Ojai because that gives you enough time to unwind and explore everything there is to do.
However, be forewarned that many places are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so if you’d rather come during the week to avoid crowds on a weekend, better wait until Wednesday to do it.
Another thing to know is that this is a sleepy town at night. Only the Deer Lodge and The Hub are open at night, so if you’re counting on a wild nightlife, this is not the place for that!
What to Do in Ojai, California
Even though the nights are quiet here, there is much to do in Ojai, California with your family, friends, or whoever you want to come with!
Browse for Books at Bart’s Books
The tagline for Bart’s Books is “everything under the sun.” That’s quite fitting since it’s the world’s largest outdoor bookstore. It’s a beautiful place to explore new and used books alike, all amid such peaceful surroundings.
Olive Oil Tasting at Ojai Olive Oil Co.
Ojai Olive Oil Co. is a third-generation, family-owned farm that offers the chance to sample the impeccable olive oil produced here. You can enjoy olive oil tastings at their picnic tables. It’s a wise idea to bring along bread, lunch, or some kind of snack to go with the tastings.
Taste the Oranges and Pixie Tangerines at Friend’s Ranch
So far, five generations of the Friend family have been farming in Ojai. You’ll want to stop at Friend’s Ranch, known for their Pixie tangerines to give them a taste. These mild, sweet, seedless, and wonderfully juicy tangerines also make a great snack for the rest of your visit.
Experience a Sunset Sound Meditation at Meditation Mount
Find yourself at Meditation Mount and you will truly be on the way to finding yourself. It’s impossible not to feel more serene after this experience, though this one is best if you aren’t traveling with kids.
See The Pink Moment
Ojai is famed for the “pink moment.” What the heck is it? It’s a phenomenon that occurs moments after sundown. The valley walls turn a stunning reddish pink that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Bask in this magical moment you can’t experience anywhere else!
Explore “Downtown” Ojai
Shop the Arcade and explore shops that will make you feel as though you’ve traveled back to simpler, more peaceful times. Enjoy an ice cream cone at Ojai Ice Cream, a staple here since 1979 with classic flavors as well as Ojai-only offerings like Ojai Pixie Orange and Valley Lavender.
Next door to the ice cream shop, partake in a honey tasting at Heavenly Honey Company which is made from local bees to give you another taste of authentically Ojai flavors!
Taste the Farmer’s Market
In town on a Thursday? Then be sure to stop at the Farmer’s Market from 3pm to 7pm. You’ll find it at the Chaparral campus of the Ojai Unified School District Office. Explore fresh foods and local goods in a lovely setting.
Explore Ojai by Trolley
Want to relax more on your visit to Ojai? Trolley rides are available that can let you soak in the views and see more of this charming little town!
Visit the Ojai Valley Museum of History and Art
The Ojai Valley Museum of History and Art is where you can learn about the evolution of this valley region in both history and art. The museum is beautiful on the outside too, and exploring inside is a fascinating way to get to know Ojai better.
Visit an Art Gallery
There are quite a few art galleries in Ojai that will pique your interest.
Porch Gallery Ojai is where you can discover artist-created products, books, and unique gifts. Oh, and chocolate too! Canvas and Paper offers classic and modern art for your appreciation while Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts celebrates the life and work of Beatrice Wood through showcasing her creations in exhibitions. You’ll also find performances and other educational opportunities at this center. Firestick Pottery gives you the chance to craft something with your own hands, or shop from the amazing ceramic created by local artists.
Quiet yet fun, Libbey Park is a great place to pop by with the kids, or for a picnic out in nature. Let the kids have fun on the playground, or come during the Ojai Music Festival which is held every year in June at Libbey Bowl, the amphitheater in the park.
Bike the Ojai Valley Bike Trail
The Mob Shop is your place for bike rentals from electric to mountain bikes should you arrive in Ojai without bringing your own. Then you can explore the Ojai Valley Bike Trail which offers 15 miles of astoundingly beautiful views.
Soak in the Hot Springs at Ecotopia
Ecotopia is the perfect natural sanctuary for a hot springs soak! You’ll find it along the Matilija River in the Los Padres Forest where there are 5 sulfur hot springs to soak your spirits.
Have a Spa Day at the Ojai Valley Inn
Ojai Valley Inn Spa is enveloped by the Topatopa Mountains, giving it a splendid view all around. Treat yourself to relaxation with a spa day here where you can refresh your mind, body, and spirit all at once…the best way to replenish!
Take a Pottery Class
If you’re not just intent on buying art, you can make it yourself with a Firestick Pottery Studio Pottery Class. Celebrate over 100 years of pottery history by becoming a part of it with hands-on experiences.
Take a Cooking Class at Ojai Culinary School
The Ojai Culinary School offers a place for you to become more at home in the kitchen with new techniques, demonstrations, and of course, tasting your creations. One of their more popular classes is the seasonal Cooking With Lavender class which is fitting since classes are offered at The Lavender Inn. Private and group classes make for the ultimate way to work with artisanal ingredients with expert chefs leading the way.
Take a Yoga or Meditation Class
Ojai is the kind of place that inspires a better mind and body. As such, you may want to try out yoga or meditation here.
The Krishnamurti Education Center is where you’ll find the fundamental questions and answers to life.
Light and Space is an uplifting space to breathe deeply and channel your inner calm through yoga.
Meditation Mount is a place you shouldn’t miss with sunrise, sunset, full moon yoga, self-guided sunset meditation, and sunset sound meditation options that will help you reconnect with yourself.
Take a Guided Eco Tour or a Class at the Earth Island Medicinal Herb Garden
Wander through a special garden that was made to help others learn how plants heal. At Earth Island Medicinal Herb Garden, you’ll have the chance to discover native and regional plants that are used in herbal medicines, right at the foot of those gorgeous Topatopa Mountains.
Visit a Lavender Farm
Frog Creek Farm is off the beaten path, a cool stop where lavender fields are the ultimate backdrop for your selfies, or for a special event.
The Ojai Lavender Farm offers another eco-friendly place to find lavender and lavender-based products that make splendid souvenirs to bring back home.
Explore Ojai on Horseback
Ojai Valley Trail Riding Company is located within Oso Ranch. It’s a fully operational horse establishment where you can take scenic trail rides along the Ventura River Valley. It’s also known as one of the most beautiful horse country places in all of California.
Relax Poolside at Hotel/Motel
Don’t forget that Ojai is a relaxing place. You don’t have to be rushing about here and there and everywhere to get the meaning of being in Ojai. That said, head to the pool at your accommodations and simply enjoy the bliss of doing nothing as you luxuriate under the warming rays of the sun.
Wine Tasting in Ojai, California
One of the best things to do while in Ojai is taste some wine!
Head to Topa Mountain Winery, a newer winery (since 2016) that offers hand-crafted wines in sublime settings. If you’ve got a group, you can reserve a private tasting.
Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room presents a more European wine experience right here in California. And there are over 300 wines in the tasting room that you can explore, making it even more worthy of a stop.
Or choose the Cloud Climbers Jeep Tour which includes a Jeep ride that brings you for olive oil tasting, a stop at Meditation Mount, wine tasting, and more with the option to add more wine tastings to enhance your tour.
Where to Stay in Ojai, California
Ojai Rancho Inn is a properly cozy place, complete with a bar and cool décor throughout. It’s best for couples for sure.
Ojai Valley Inn is a better option for families and those that want more of a resort-style stay. With the pool area, spa, and on-site restaurants, it’s got everything you need, which comes with the price. It’s on the more expensive side of accommodations offered in town.
Capri Hotel is also a more resort-like experience though on a smaller scale. It has a pool, garden area, and minimalist rooms that are great for families and couples alike.
Caravan Outpost gives you a rustic experience within Airstreams where you have your own kitchen to cook in. Enjoy free bike rentals and access to the outdoor pool in these glamping-style accommodations.
Where to Eat in Ojai, California
Whatever you’re hungry for, you’ll find it in Ojai!
If it’s comfort food you seek, try Bonnie Lu’s. It’s especially ideal if you crave breakfast at any time of day.
Ojai Deer Lodge is a place that has a bit of everything. By day, it’s fine to bring the kids. But if you’re coupled up, it’s a lively place at night on the weekends to go have some fun. California cuisine, plenty of craft beers, and food options for everyone make it a welcoming spot. Plus, there’s a dog-friendly patio and a game room too.
Looking for fresh, seasonal foods of California? You’ve got to check out Rory’s Place. Especially if you’re in the mood for fresh oysters!
Ojai Rotie is a fast-casual restaurant with pretty patio seating and an interesting fusion. Think Lebanese-French picnic and you’re on the right track with farm-fresh foods that speak to your soul through your taste buds.
Need a pick-me-up? Grab a coffee at Beacon Coffee. This collective sources the best coffees from around the world.
The Nest is a revamp from the classic, brought back to life by the former owners’ daughter. It’s classic comfort food melded with innovation to create fresh and delightful meals that are worth stopping in to taste.
For the meatless or even meatless-curious, there’s Hip Vegan. The menu offers sandwiches, burgers, smoothies, bowls, salads, and shareable dishes that will make you forget meat ever existed.
Craving Mexican? Of course you are! Stop at Ojai Tortilla House for authentic made-by-hand flavors.
Farmer & the Cook has a little bit of everything which is why I think it’s perfect for families that can’t agree on anything. There’s a Mexican café, pizzas, smoothies, an organic market, bakery, and more. If you can’t find anything you like here then you’re not really hungry!
Fancy something fancier? Nocciola is the place you need to make reservations for when it’s just the two of you. Upscale Italian done in a beautiful setting, you can and should do the tasting menu for the ultimate experience.
Olivella at Ojai Valley Inn is not a place for kids under 10, making it the best date night for couples celebrating their love. The intricate locally-grown cuisine is full of sensational delights though saving room for the olive oil cake is an absolute must.
For over 70 years, The Ranch House has been providing indulgent gourmet meals. Ideal for couples, the seasonal menu offers immaculate dishes including the famed pate, a must-try to start off your dining experience.
Cool patio seating and plenty of cantina-style Mexican food await at Agave Maria’s. This casual place has all those awesome flavors and hefty margaritas to give you that glorious buzz.
For more than a café, head to Love Social. You’ll find a welcoming environment and plenty of breakfast and lunch options to nourish your body and free your mind.
What would a speakeasy be if it were for burgers? It would be the Ojai Beverage Co where you will find big, juicy burgers in the back of a liquor store, of all places. Trust me, just do it!
Remember what I said about Ojai not having any big chains? Instead of CPK, you’ve got the Ojai Pizza Co., where you’ll find “the only good pizza” as the slogan says. It’s no lie either. If you’re craving pizza, go here.
The Oak Kitchen at Ojai Valley Inn offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner from locally-sourced ingredient, some of which come from the resort gardens on-site. Enjoy the view of those 200-year-old oak trees while you dine.
And if dessert is what you’re after, you need to head to Boccali’s. They have the best strawberry shortcake that is sweet with a moist cake that tastes like it fell from the heavens.
Read More: California Foods Every Visitor Must Try!
Where to Get a Drink in Ojai, California
Need a drink? Sure you do! Here’s where to go!
Ojai Deer Lodge – I mentioned this one earlier on. It’s a great place for a drink, and if you have the kids with you during daytime hours, a perfect stop.
The Hub – It’s one of the only places open at night, like the Deer Lodge, so if you’re looking for night life in this town, you’ve found it!
Ojai Beverage Co – While you’re heading to the back for those burgers, definitely set yourself up with a cocktail in this quaint joint!
The Ojai Pub – This is the place to go when you’ve got a group of people that have differing tastes. There’s wine, craft beer, cocktails, and plant-based stuff to make everyone happy.
Tipple & Ramble – A cozy and inviting wine bar, you could spend hours here without even realizing it.
Wallace Neff Heritage Bar at Ojai Valley Inn – Upscale and classy, you’ll revel in the luxury as you sip from your cocktail here.
Topa Mountain Winery – This is a beautiful place to enjoy hand-crafted wines, even better if you schedule a private tasting!
Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room – Enjoy the feeling of being whisked away to Europe. While you’re in the mood, try one of over 300 different wines in the tasting room.
Ojai Valley Brewery – With 15 beers on tap, house-made sodas, and welcoming arms for well-behaved kids and dogs, this is the best spot to snag a cold one.
Topa Topa Brewing Co. – It has a walk-up window and a patio that affords one of the best views in Ojai for that pink moment during sunset, so stop by!
Where to Shop in Ojai, California
Since there are no corporate chains permitted in Ojai, you’ll find stores that are independently-operated, which further add to the charm. Local roasters, handmade jewelry, and all kinds of treasures await!
The Ojai Arcade and Plaza has various shops including Rains with the perfect gourmet kitchen gifts for the home chef in your family and Cercana, which has really unique ethically-sourced items to add to your home décor.
FiG Curated Living – If you’re looking for more locally-crafted items for your home, FiG, is a cool place to browse. Enter through the garden which will lure you right in and it will be hard for you not to find something amazing to buy!
In the Field – This chill boutique has clothing for everyone in the family. Come on in and try on your next favorite outfit!
Tipple & Ramble – If you’re a fan of entertaining, you’ve got to come here (and have some wine while you’re at it). There are things for your home, specialty food items, games, barware, and loads of whimsical and adventurous other items that you’ll love.
deKor Living – For those that are searching for iconic accents to add to the home, please don’t miss this shop. It’s incredibly unique and charming!
Plant Based – Just as the name suggests, there are plants. But there’s loads more too for your home and lifestyle too!
Summer Camp – With stuff for home and lifestyle, this store has a ton of plants. And it’s known for framing on a museum-quality level using reclaimed wood frames and handmade options.
Canyon Supply – It’s clothing for women and children, plus some lovely gems for your home in a boutique setting.
Lineage Botanica – With a focus on sustainability, this artisan shop features home décor with an antique Eastern European vibe. Simply stunning!
Jones & Company – Find gifts and home goods with a California spirit in this boutique. There are chandeliers, books, jewelry, and all sorts of unusual items to browse through.
Festivals in Ojai, California
If you’re the type of person that lives for festivals, you can plan your visit to Ojai around these great events!
Pixie Month – Throughout the entire month of April, you’ll find Ojai celebrating its famed Pixie tangerines everywhere you go. It’s a great time to visit Ojai and take advantage of special packages and prices in celebration of this sweet fruit!
Ojai Music Festival – Forget those wild Coachella festivals. This one has class with musical thinkers that are composers, soloists, and musicians. It’s been an annual event each June for 75 years and is an amazing experience for music lovers.
Ojai Wine Festival – This wine festival is also held in June and is coming up on the 34th one too. You’ll taste award-winning wines and craft beers plus find gourmet food trucks along the way. There’s a lot of great stuff going on here, perfect for those who like wine and beer.
Ojai Lavender Festival – Yes, this festival also takes place in June too, so come discover over 100 vendors and live entertainment the whole family will love while enjoying food, drinks, and checking out the lavender plants.
Golden State Getaways wants to acknowledge that we live, operate, gather, and benefit everyday on the traditional stolen lands of several Indigenous peoples and nations including the Tongva (Gabrieleno), Kizh (Gabrieleno), Chumash, Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, Awaswas, and Fernandeño Tataviam peoples who have stewarded the lands and waterways throughout their many generations in what is now the state of California.
I wanted to personally acknowledge these Indigenous people and nations and both their commitment and current contributions to the land with a donation to the American Indian College Fund because acknowledgment without action does not begin to address the systemic issues facing Indigenous people. If you feel as though you benefit from the land you’re living on or traveling to and you have the means, I kindly ask that you donate at least $1 to a Native-led organization such as the Native American Rights Fund or the American Indian College Fund.
Ojai is on Chumash and Micqanaqa’n land. You can learn more about the Indigenous land you’re living on or traveling to by visiting the Native Lands website.