West Coast Weekending
Last month I returned to California for an annual reunion with my best friends from college. With all of us spread out across the western hemisphere, we decided to make LA the meeting place for this year's long weekend of epic girl time. In what may have been an attempt to debunk my theory that Los Angeles is a dream world with perfect weather where everyone just hangs out at the beach or drinks expensive juice at trendy coffee shops while pretending to work on MacBooks, my Los Angelino pals suggested that we spend part of our West Coast trip somewhere outside of the city. I had a vague, social media-based familiarity with Ojai as a mystical hippie mecca (which turned out to be 100% accurate) so when Ojai came up as a potential destination for our weekend getaway, I was totally on board.
Ojai is about an hour and a half from Los Angeles--closer than the Hamptons and the Catskills are to New York City--which makes it the perfect place for LA-based weekenders to spend a couple of days decompressing from city life. In fact, many visitors to Ojai come solely to hang out at the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa--a luxury resort with a spa that spans over 30,000 square feet (!) Since quiet time and deep relaxation weren't exactly on our crew's agenda, we decided to forgo facials and massages in favor of consuming copious amounts of beer and pizza.
The big draw to Ojai, for us at least, is the beauty of the surrounding natural landscape. The town itself has a distinctly down-to-earth energy and there is clearly a collective effort within the community to remain aware and respectful of one's place in nature. There are dozens of places dedicated to spiritual advancement in the Ojai Valley--zen centers, yoga studios, Buddhist temples, and holistic healers are all just a Google search away--but any of them would be hard-pressed to compete with Meditation Mount. The mountain-top meditation center and its surrounding gardens are open daily from sunrise to sunset and are an absolute must when visiting Ojai. We went at dusk and walked down to a grassy clearing with an incredible view of the valley and each took a few moments of quiet reflection and appreciation as we watched the sun set behind the mountains.
When we weren't meditating on mountaintops (i.e. most of the time) we were hanging at the Ojai Rancho Inn--a motel that was given a hip overhaul by the folks behind Shelter Social Club. Since California was in the middle of a serious heatwave during our trip, we wanted nothing more than to pass the afternoon swimming and hanging out on the shady lawn while drinking cold white wine from the newly-opened Chief's Peak Bar, which was conveniently about six steps from the edge of the pool. With it's hippie-chic decor, amazing outdoor space, and super gracious staff, the Rancho Inn is the prime example of a place with really good vibes. And if you ask me, that's reason enough for a return trip.
Places to STAY, SEE, SHOP, and EAT in Ojai.
Ojai Rancho Inn - 615 Ojai Valley Trail - Whether you're looking for a place to stay, spend an afternoon, or grab a drink, the Rancho Inn is a must on any and every trip to Ojai.
Meditation Mount - 10340 Reeves Road - This mountain-top zen paradise is a must-see when visiting Ojai. Walk around the beautifully landscaped grounds, take in the scenic views of the valley, and have a quiet moment as the sun sets behind the mountains.
Hip Vegan - 928 E Ojai Ave - I know, I know, but when in Rome. Shockingly, my meal at Hip Vegan was probably my favorite thing I ate while in Ojai--the food is truly delicious, no qualifiers necessary. For the perfect lunch, get the Echo Beach bowl with a tasty craft beer and enjoy eavesdropping on the conversation about transcendental meditation at the table next to you.
Farmer and the Cook - 339 W El Roblar Dr - A Mexican café on weeknights, dressed-up farm-to-table restaurant on weekends, and spot for live music and wood-fired pizza on Sunday nights, Farmer and the Cook's rotating personalities mean there's always something new to try. We went for Friday night dinner which meant white tablecloths under string lights on the patio and delicious pizza, pasta, and appetizers made fresh from ingredients harvested from the owners' farm.
Rainbow Bridge - 211 E Matilija St - This deli and natural food store is exactly what you would expect a grocery store in Ojai to be. Imagine if Whole Foods had a super socially-aware older sister who ate things like hemp granola and cashew cheese...voici Rainbow Bridge. We stopped in to pick up the fixings for an incredible cheese/antipasti plate and got fresh juices while we wandered the store and discovered what dietary restriction heaven must be like.
Summer Camp - 1020 W Ojai Ave - As its name would suggest, Summer Camp sells a variety of goods that hit the backwoods-cool vibe dead-on. From vintage treasures like maps, flannel shirts, and kilim rugs to handmade jewelry, candles, and, of course, crystal-infused essential oil, you'll likely find a little Ojai souvenir you can't live without here.
Gravel & Gold @ Ojai Rancho Inn - 615 Ojai Valley Trail - Occupying a corner of the Rancho Inn's office, this little shop has a perfectly curated selection of books, ceramics, all natural beauty and skincare products, and G&G's own line of super cool printed totes, pillows, and clothing. PS: Sorry for using the word 'curated.'