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A longtime favorite for those looking to escape Los Angeles for an off-the-grid weekend, Ojai, California is a laid back city in Ventura County. About 50 miles north of Malibu, Ojai is south and inland of Santa Barbara. While Santa Barbara is known for their seafood, stunning coastline, and charming downtown, Ojai is considered more of a spiritual oasis. Visiting Ojai is a grounding experience, from the farm-to-table cuisine to Ojai Valley Inn’s spa treatments to the natural hot springs in Matilija Canyon. Here’s how you can plan the perfect 24-hour Ojai retreat:
9 a.m. In true Ojai style, start your day with a fresh juice or smoothie at The Farmer and the Cook. You can try a build-your-own juice, an acai bowl, or one of their restorative smoothies like the desert rose with raspberries, bananas, goji berries, cashews, coconut oil, lime, and coconut sugar. If you’re in the mood for something heartier, they also have a full breakfast menu—pro-tip: try their huevos rancheros. At The Farmer and the Cook, the farmer has been part of the organic farming movement since the ‘60s and currently farms on 12 acres of CCOF-certified land. The cook has been on the Ojai culinary scene since 1988. The farmer and the cook fell in love, and an Ojai restaurant was born.
10:30 a.m. Nothing follows a farm fresh breakfast quite like some local shopping. After The Farmer and the Cook, head to In the Field, one of Ojai’s precious shopping gems. A mod-bohemian shop, In the Field sells beautiful clothes and home decor pieces. Founded by two women from LA, In the Field curates vintage pieces and light, chic clothing from high-end retailers. Caution: a visit to this store may mean leaving Ojai with an extra suitcase filled with new clothes and home goods.
11:30 a.m. In the Field puts you right in downtown Ojai, which means you’re just a quick walk from the city's picturesque urban wineries. Start at Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room—Ojai Vineyard has been producing Santa Barbara wines for more than 30 years. And their tasting room is in the historic fire house on South Montgomery Street, in the heart of downtown Ojai. Try their more recent release—a flight of five wines—or select wines from their library collection.
Next to Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room is Ojai Art Center, touted as the “oldest multi-purpose non-profit art center in California.” Exploring eight branches of art, from dance to music to photography, the Ojai Art Center hosts a new exhibition every month. They’ll start 2020 with the “Shapes of Things” exhibit featuring landscape acrylic paintings, woodblock prints, and sculptures, each done by artists who are long-time contributors to the Ojai art scene.
1 p.m. In-the-know foodies lunch at The Nest, with their scenic patio and eclectic vegetable-centric menu. Truly, no restaurant lives up to the adage “eat your colors” quite like The Nest. Try their ahi poke bowl with black rice and spicy red pepper sauce, or their harvest salad with butternut squash and pomegranate seeds. To drink: The Nest’s Loma Paloma with habanero tequila, or their charcoal lemonade.
2:30 p.m. Book a two-hour visit to Ecotopia. Getting into Ecotopia requires making a reservation in advance—and it’s well worth it. Ecotopia is the all natural hot springs within Matilija Canyon. Said to have ancient healing capabilities, the hot springs are just one of the reasons that Ojai is considered such a restorative and spiritual destination. While visiting Ecotopia, be sure to check out their sustainable gardens. And be warned: the hot springs are clothing optional.
4:30 p.m. Another classically Ojai spiritual experience is paying a visit to Meditation Mount. Meditation Mount is a non-profit meditation center—they’ve been carrying out their mission “to promote the building of an enlightened and compassionate world through the power of creative meditation” since 1971. Though temporarily closed, you can still put in a Meditation Mount tour request and the center will let you know when they can accommodate you.
6 p.m. On your way back to town, stop at one last winery—perhaps to celebrate the newly restored version of yourself. Topa Mountain Winery is between the center of town and Ojai Valley Inn. The winery’s expansive outdoor space looks up at the Topatopa Mountains making it a perfect spot to savor a glass of wine and golden hour in Ojai. You can even book a backyard table or a private tasting in advance.
8 p.m. Azu Restaurant serves upscale Californian-Mexican-Spanish plates and terrific craft cocktails. The cocktails are made with juice squeezed from fresh Ojai citrus. The menu feels tapas-adjacent, and the attention to detail given to each ingredient sets Azu over the top. Their tacos are rolled up in fresh, homemade tortillas, their short rib is braised for eight hours, and their zucchini pesto ribbons is one of the best vegan, gluten-free dishes you’ll have all year.
Where to Stay
Ojai Valley Inn, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, has offered guests an upscale retreat since opening in 1923. The resort is set on 220 acres within the Topatopa Mountains, and has an award-winning spa and an 18-hole golf course. From the wild sage and lavender planted throughout the property to the complimentary yoga and meditation classes at the spa, Ojai Valley Inn is both luxurious and authentically Ojai.