Welcome to Ojai!

I have to admit that one of the best things about living in L.A. is that our next adventure is never far away. While there’s always something new to discover in the city itself, it’s also comforting to know that we can hop in our car, drive about 80 miles northeast, and explore a completely different place.

And that’s exactly what we did during a recent “mental health day” trip to Ojai. Because of its natural mineral springs in the Matilija Canyon and spa-focused hotels, Ojai attracts tourists in need of a wellness retreat – whether physical or spiritual. Also, Ojai is known for its organic agricultural scene.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve passed signs pointing to Ojai while cruising down the US-101, but for some reason, I never prioritized a visit until recently. This year, I’m quite serious about prioritizing the destinations on my California wish list, and so far, we’re off to a good start!

One of the massive ranches we passed

One of the massive ranches we passed

As someone who’s road tripped around much of California, I have to say that it’s such a scenic state to drive through, and the drive to Ojai didn’t disappoint either. Instead of routing us on the US-101, Google Maps routed us on a faster track through Santa Paula on State Hwy. 126 past the beautiful campus of Thomas Aquinas College. (I’ve made a mental note to return to Santa Paula someday since it looks like such a cute town to explore.) We passed acres and acres of massive family owned ranches and farmland in the Ojai Valley nestled within the Topatopa Mountains of Ventura County.

Jave kept wanting to stop to pick oranges from all of the roadside orchards we passed, but because I’m always afraid of getting caught, we kept it moving. Besides, we were pushed to make it to our first stop of the day in time for our olive oil tasting.

Ojai Olive Oil Company

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While Ojai has a few wine tasting rooms, given Ojai’s Mediterranean climate, olives are one of the city’s agricultural claims to fame. So we made a point of visiting the Ojai Olive Oil Company for a tasting. While we’ve tasted olive oils before during our visit to Santa Ynez Valley, our tasting at Ojai Olive Oil Company gave us better insight into the olive harvesting and pressing process.

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Unfortunately, we were a day too early for a tour of the olive grove, but we were still able to walk away from our tasting with a better understanding of the olive fruit. I’ll likely write a separate, more detailed post about our tasting.

Ojai Valley Museum

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To get a better understanding of Ojai’s history, art and culture, I’d highly recommend a quick visit to the Ojai Valley Museum. As soon as we walked in, we were greeted by the most delightful docent who we later learned moved to Ojai from Maine (too bad I don’t remember her name!).

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The museum is rather small, so after paying our $5 per person entrance fee, we were able to move through the exhibits quite quickly while being able to ask the docent questions, and she was more than happy to share her insights with us.

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Exhibits highlighting what Ojai is known for

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The museum features exhibits highlighting the recreational activities on offer in Ojai, its agricultural scene, ecology, and some of its notable residents including Edward Libbey of the Libbey Glass Company and the acclaimed artist, Beatrice Wood, who seemed like such a fascinating woman. The museum also features an exhibit highlighting the Chumash Indians, the valley’s early residents. As the docent pointed out, the Chumash exhibit should be much bigger and more detailed than it is.

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Ojai Meadows Preserve

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The Ojai Valley Museum docent recommended that we visit Meditation Mount, a public meditation center that offers spectacular views of the valley below. Since it’s only about 5 miles from downtown Ojai, we took her advice and headed up, but when we got there, the gate was closed and a sign indicated that the mount is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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Wanting to experience some nature in Ojai, we instead headed to the Ojai Meadows Preserve for a quick walk. The preserve is part of a restoration project led by the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy that has worked to return water flows to the meadows via land grants, thereby restoring wildlife back to the area. There are signs around the preserve advising caution since there are rattlesnakes and mountain lions in the area.  Nevertheless, many locals and their dogs get in their daily exercise on the preserve’s beautiful walking trail.

Ojai Beverage Company

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Following our walk, we were pretty hungry, so we headed to the Ojai Beverage Company for a late lunch. When we walked in, I thought that perhaps we were at a liquor store and not a restaurant since the front of the restaurant is actually a one stop alcohol shop that sells fine wine, craft beer, and uncommon spirits.

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The restaurant and bar are in the back, and the menu features sandwiches, signature burgers, salads, and heavier entrees. I opted for a club sandwich while Jave ordered the salmon melt. Our sandwiches were just okay, but accomplished the job of satisfying our rumbling bellies.

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After lunch, we hit the road back to L.A. in hopes of beating rush hour traffic. On the way back, we both agreed that our little day trips do so much good for our souls, and we’re looking forward to digging even deeper into our backyard!

PINNABLE

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Does Ojai look like the kind of place where you’d like to take a day trip? What’s your favorite “mental health day” trip destination?