Only 90 minutes north of Los Angeles by car and 15 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean, Ojai has long been a go-to place for Angelenos to get away and recharge. The town is tucked into a valley of the same name, surrounded by mountain ranges. A feeling of serenity permeates the main street (Ojai Ave.) and the encompassing landscape is lush with citrus and avocado groves, wildflower fields, and hiking trails. Against this beautiful backdrop, a burgeoning restaurant scene has taken shape, one that displays the open-heartedness and geniality for which the town is known. In the last year alone, a flurry of creative, warm, and downright delicious bakeries and restaurants have opened their doors to celebrate the bounty of a wonderful agricultural region.
If you spend enough time in Ojai you’ll start hearing about how its east-west orientation makes for a kind of ethereal energy vortex (the majority of California’s mountains and valleys are configured north to south). It’s this geological positioning that causes the town’s famous “pink moment,” when just before sunset, the Topa Topa Mountains to the north radiate a luminescent shade of salmon. For these environmental reasons, Ojai has attracted spiritual leaders including J. Krishnamurti, Aldous Huxley, Beatrice Wood, John Lennon, and Yoko Ono. But as a friend who grew up here told me, “Whatever the spiritual thing is, the Vortex is just a convenient way of wrapping it all up in one idea.” Whether you’re spiritual or not, you’ll have no trouble understanding what makes Ojai so special. Here are the can’t-miss spots, old and new, for those visiting Ojai.
- Don’t forget to pack… hiking shoes, so you can hit the trails in Los Padres National Forest.
- Don’t leave town without… a growler of local Revel kombucha or a shirt from Rory’s Place to take home.
- The best place to stay is… Ojai Rancho Inn. This revamped retro motel boasts ’50s ranch-style architecture, a swimming pool for hot days (of which there are many), and firepits for cool evenings. Bonus points for the complimentary bicycles to ride around town.
First, a Bountiful Pastry Case (and Coffee)
Mornings at The Duchess, one of Ojai’s newcomers, are heavenly. Cappuccinos fly through the space, kids devour chocolate croissants, and dogs pant underneath the sidewalk tables. The only potential stressor comes with deciding what to order from the bakery’s overflowing pastry case. You can’t go wrong, but my recommendation is a sticky toffee date muffin and something with seasonal produce, like a passion fruit danish or vegetable frittata. Enjoy your treats in one of The Dutchess’s several rooms or on the back patio shaded with hand-painted Burmese umbrellas. (At dinnertime, the restaurant transitions to an Indian-Burmese menu, and chef Saw Naing serves puri with chicken liver mousse, golden egg curry, and beef masala worth coming back for.)