Nestled in the Ojai Valley in Ventura County, between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, the small town of Ojai (population 7,590) is easy to miss unless you seek it out. This is why it’s a favorite getaway for Southern California locals seeking respite from busy routines. From olive oil and wine tastings to wellness retreats and art galleries, there are many unique and fun things to do in Ojai.
What makes Ojai so special?
For one thing, Ojai has a unique location in an east-west valley, resulting in early sunrises and late sunsets. The latter is dubbed the “pink moment,” created when the setting sun casts a rosy glow over the Topatopa Mountains. Ojai is also fairly close to the beach (15 miles) and Lake Casitas (seven miles). And the Mediterranean climate makes outdoor activities possible year-round.
But it’s Ojai’s laid-back, bohemian lifestyle that attracts people to the town. Many of the locals moved to Ojai to escape the corporate world and reinvent themselves as artists, farmers, and small-town entrepreneurs.
This opens up opportunities for visitors to discover Ojai’s mom-and-pop businesses, farm fresh produce, art galleries, meditation/ wellness centers, and hotels – no two alike. You won’t find any chain establishments here.
In addition, hiking, horseback riding, and other outdoor activities offer ways to explore the scenic vistas. And don’t miss out on live music and spirited annual events like the Ojai Music Festival and Lavender Festival. Learn more about Ojai here.
1. Explore Downtown Ojai
Take a walk through the pedestrian-friendly downtown lined with art galleries featuring local artists, restaurants, and one-of-a-kind shops. For example, Bart’s Book claims to be the world’s largest outdoor bookstore. Established in 1964, Bart’s Books is open seven days a week and relies on the honor system for payment.
It’s also fun to ride the Ojai Trolley, which travels daily except on major holidays.
2. Ride a Bike
Rent a bike or bring your own to ride on quiet streets or trails to explore the area. The Ojai Valley Bike Trail is a scenic route that travels between Ojai and Ventura. Bike rentals and guided tours are available at The Mob Shop.
3. Take a Hike
Hiking is a popular activity in Ojai. Find several trails in Libbey Park. For a leisurely walk try the 0.7-mile loop, Libbey Park Park. Other area hiking trails include the Shelf Road Trail, an easy 3.5-mile out-and-back trail. Dogs are welcome and may be off-leash in some areas. The best time to hike this trail is November through March.
Although Rose Valley Falls Trail is currently closed, it’s another good option for when and if it reopens. It’s about a 40-minute scenic drive to the trail from Downtown Ojai. It’s a short, easy walk that starts at the Rose Valley Campground. Park outside the campground’s gates to avoid a parking fee.
4. Enjoy Farm Fresh Citrus
Ojai is known for its citrus, so be sure to stop by a farm or farmers market for fresh oranges, lemons, and tangerines. The family-owned Friend’s Ranches sells a variety of citrus products from its packing house, which is open to the public on Tuesday and Friday mornings.
Tangerines are a top seller, specifically Ojai pixies because they’re seedless, easy to peel, and very sweet. The family lives on a sprawling farm near the Ventura River, surrounded by the Los Padres National Forest.
5. Shop at Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market
Rain or shine, the Ojai Certified Farmers’ Market is open every Sunday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Downtown Ojai. Shop for organic vegetables, sweet fruit, essential oils, and many other products.
6. Sample Award-Winning Ojai Olive Oil
Drop by the Ojai Olive Oil Company for a tasting and an Asquith family member will be happy to chat about their groves and products. In the hands of the third generation, the Asquiths hand-pick the olives and use a classic Tuscan-style mill for processing their olives. You can sample a variety of olive oils and balsamic vinegar in the tasting room for $10. The products are also available for purchase.
7. Relax at Meditation Mount
The beautiful grounds with views of Ojai Valley and the Topatopa Mountains are an ideal setting for creative mediation. That’s the focus of Meditation Mount, a non-denominational spiritual center that offers various ways to meditate. Walk through gardens, meditate at the International Garden of Peace, or join guided walks. In addition, there’s Sunset Yoga & Sound and Full Moon Meditation. Be sure to register. Cost varies depending on the meditation activity.
8. Wine Tasting at The Ojai Vineyard
Situated in Downtown Ojai, The Ojai Vineyard is a tasting room that has over 300 wines. Enjoy wine tasting inside or out on the patio. The tasting room doesn’t serve food but there are many nearby restaurants and you’re welcome to bring your meal. Kids and well-behaved pets are allowed at The Ojai Vineyard.
9. Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts
Beatrice Wood was an artist, craftsperson, and writer who loved chocolate, art, and men. Learn about her and what inspired her work, collections, and spiritual beliefs on a guided tour of her home and studio. Located about 10 minutes from Downtown Ojai, the center features her pottery and ceramics in addition to exhibitions, workshops, and visiting artists.
10. Visit the Ojai Valley Museum of History and Art
Housed in a former Catholic church, the museum features exhibits depicting Ojai’s art, history, and culture starting from the Chumash Indians to the present.
11. Savor an Authentic Italian Meal
With big portions and fresh ingredients from the Boccali’s Ojai farm, you can be sure to eat well at Boccali’s Pizza and Pasta. Enjoy pasta, pizza, and salads in a cozy dining room or on the patio. The children’s menu features smaller portions. The recipes are handed down from DeWayne Boccali’s grandfather who moved to California from Lucca, Italy in 1898. Save room for the family’s signature strawberry shortcake.
12. Spend the Night in Ojai
The cozy bed and breakfast, built in 1874, has a great central location and offers a continental breakfast. The historic inn offers cooking classes and spa services.
Built in 1923, the five-star resort is a great home base for exploring Ojai’s art galleries, farmer’s markets, and shops. Choose from luxury guest rooms, suites, or penthouses – some with fireplaces. All rooms have a courtyard, garden, golf course, or mountain view.