One of our favorite day trips from Santa Barbara is a quick visit to Ojai, California. There is literally something for everyone here. We find the town to be a bit “hipster” and that just seems to add to the enjoyment. We love green smoothies, yoga, renting beach cruisers and quirky used bookstores! With plenty of things to ride on(bikes, trolleys, horses) and many large, open parks, kids are bound to have a good time. By visiting the nearby farms you can stock up on a great variety of produce and enjoy the stunning mountain views. This peaceful little town is a wonderful getaway location all year long. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite spots.
Books, Books, Books
Bart’s Books (302 W. Matilija St.) is an Ojai institution known as the largest outdoor bookstore in the U.S.. Currently housing over 150,000 books! We could spend hours (days?) browsing the shelves. Every nook and cranny has a comfortable seat or table, so onsite reading isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged. Check their website for fun special events.
Book Ends Bookstore & Curiosities (110 South Pueblo Ave.) definitely lives up to it’s name. This former church and ‘60’s era Airstream have been lovely crafted into a unique and cozy space for exploring rare book titles and collections from antique cameras to radioactive glass(yes, you read that right.) I got a special kick out of the group of original computers. The ibook clamshell still looks pretty impressive two decades later. The proprietors share a wealth of book knowledge and are striving to turn Ojai into a “book lover’s destination.”
We have to love a town that offers at least three olive oil tasting opportunities. We drove out to Ojai Olive Oil Company (1811 Ladera Road) and took the short tour at this 150 year old heritage olive grove. We learned about the harvest and refining process and then tucked into the samples like we hadn’t eaten in a week. The garlic infused olive oil and peach infused balsamic vinegar were too good to pass up. We came home with a bottle of each.
We continued this Mediterranean theme with a visit downtown to Casa Barranca Organic Winery and Tasting Room (209 E. Ojai Ave) where we sampled a flight of delicious local organic wines. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and the owner educated us on Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara offerings. We plan to return to visit other tasting rooms in the area. It’s time to up our wine game!
Farm Stores and Eateries
Ojai has a thriving community supported agricultural program. Farm fresh produce, classes in foraging, and volunteer harvesting make eating here a very special experience. We stopped by The Farmer and the Cook (339 W. El Roblar) to try a green smoothie and check out all of the spices, herbs and veggies on offer. This bustling store/restaurant is a hub of local activity.
So after you’ve stocked up on veggies and herbs head to Knead Baking Company (469 E. Ojai Ave.)for some treats. The bread here is so good and pairs perfectly with the olive oil. We shared a couple of tarts. Lemon kiwi and frangipani were heavenly. This would be a wonderful spot to pick up the ingredients for a picnic.
It’s hard to believe we could eat again, but later in the evening we visited The Vine (308 E. Ojai Ave.) for a cup of curry and a shared baked brie dessert. The ambiance at this lovely, intimate little restaurant reminded us of a vintage eatery with classic films playing and jazzy ‘20’s style music. Very warm and inviting!
Between all this eating we needed a break to clear our heads and reflect on the stunning natural beauty that surrounds Ojai. We drove up to Meditation Mount (10340 Reeves Road) for some photographs and to contemplate the views. The quiet, spiritual property would make a perfect location for a picnic at sunset. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Check the website for yoga classes and special meditations.
We drove from place to place but The Mob Shop (110 W. Ojai Ave) is the place to rent bikes or take a bike tour. Ojai is a long valley that stretches over quite some area but is mostly flat and full of great bike trails.
The Ojai Trolley Company covers most of the valley and a day pass runs just $2.00.
We drove over for the day from Santa Barbara but could have easily stayed a night or two. We’d love to splurge on a spa treatment. Maybe hot rocks or reflexology? We also missed the great golf, art galleries and horseback riding Ojai is known for. I guess that gives us plenty of reasons to return! The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa would be the place to stay for a luxury resort experience. Watch for their seasonal specials. We’ve also heard excellent things about The Blue Iguana Inn a “bohemian boutique”inn. We’re already planning our next visit. Spring wildflowers? Sign us up!