by Carmel L. Mooney
The setting for the beautiful community of Ojai looks like something out of a movie and it’s no surprise that movie stars and movie buffs have found this beautiful little oasis a magical getaway for decades. Now families are discovering the same.
Situated in a ten-mile long valley surrounded by hills, mountain vistas, and perfumed with seemingly endless orchards of fragrant citrus groves and orchards, Ojai encompasses the least populated incorporated area in the county. This beautiful valley provides a peaceful getaway for traveling families looking for serenity and a slower pace of life.
Ojai is lined up geographically with an east-west mountain range, making it one of few towns on the globe to have a “Pink Moment” which occurs as the sun is setting, just as the fading sunlight creates a brilliant shade of pink for several minutes on the Topatopa Mountains at the east end of the Valley.
Ojai is a cultural hub and home of the Ojai Film Festival, showcasing world-famous independent films since 2000.
Its music festival has been going strong for over half a century and showcases performances by some of the world’s top musicians and composers. Moreover, Ojai is also home to the annual Ojai Playwrights Conference, yet another famous festival. This two-week-long festival draws professional writers and actors from across the country.
The Ojai Storytelling Festival is another well-received festival drawing visitors from around the globe.
The Lavender Festival in June celebrates everything Lavender including plants, products, and cooking.
The peacefulness of Ojai, along with the Mediterranean climate and beautiful fertile valley, makes this a perfect family vacation option for a getaway.
Where to Stay
Staying at Su Nido is a fantastic choice for a luxurious yet family-friendly abode away from home.
With Mission Revival Style suites luxuriously appointed, your clan may choose to stay in for a while and just soak up the ambiance of this charming inn and its tranquil mission-style courtyard. Delightfully comfortable beds, kitchenettes, delicious and healthy snacks, and pure tranquility are just a few reasons to consider this centrally located and relaxing locale. Everything downtown is within a short walking distance. Perfect for toddlers and strollers!
Another possibility is the lovely Lavender Inn. This historic bed and breakfast in what was once a schoolhouse provides elegance and serenity in a lovely garden setting and atmosphere. Delightful homemade, gourmet breakfasts enjoyed in the gardens are the epitome of relaxation. To further provide an oasis of peace, joy, and relaxation, the Lavender Inn is also home to the Lavender Spa and Ojai Culinary School.
What to Do
We took a remarkable tour with Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours. Our sightseeing adventure shared an adventurous and educational glimpse of Ojai which exposed us to the history, gourmet flavors, and many qualities the Ojai Valley offers visitors. Perfect for kids, our guide stopped numerous times to allow us to touch, smell, and learn about all the abundant herbs, flowers, and plants.
Very convenient for first-time visitors who aren’t familiar with the area, Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours provides door-to-door service from all area hotels. This allows participants a few hours to sit back, relax, and enjoy the majesty of the valley from their canopied, custom, open-air Jeeps.
Quiet winding country roads, off-the-pavement dirt trails, secret gardens, and hard-to-reach exclusive vistas were part of our excursion. Our off-roading trek into the foothills allowed us to witness lake, mountain, and valley views along with the flora and fauna of the area.
We thoroughly enjoyed sampling local gourmet olive oils at Ojai Olive Oil. Some were from century-old heirloom trees and the flavored and vintage varieties were astounding. We loved the basil and mandarin flavored oils. It was a very educational and interesting stop.
The grand finale of our tour took us to sample and wine tasting at Old Creek Ranch Winery. The peaceful grounds and excellent wines were a wonderful ending to our Jeep Tour. We (the grown-ups) delighted in several outstanding Syrahs and an unusual Albarino Ice Wine. The grounds are a great place for kids to explore and get some energy out.
Where to Eat
With the Ojai Valley being richly fertile and surrounded by agricultural areas, it makes sense that Ojai offers diners a unique experience in an authentic farm to fork experience.
For lunch, Osteria Monte Grappa offers the most extensive, full, authentic Italian menu one could find. Delightful gourmet delicacies are overflowing on the menu and served on the patio. This restaurant is surprising with outstanding quality and attention to detail in every offering. Such a lovely outdoor setting makes it perfect for kids to keep happy and interested as they watch the goings-on in town.
Perfect for breakfast or brunch, the Ojai Café Emporium serves hearty portions of gargantuan homemade muffins and scones along with typical fresh entrees one would expect from a well-known breakfast café.
If you truly appreciate farm-fresh produce served in delightfully varied and enticing ways, then you’ll want to spend some time in Ojai’s best farm to fork eateries.
Ojai is much more than beautiful; it’s a bouquet of flavors, colors, and aromas – a true family road trip experience to delight the senses.
Carmel L. Mooney is a travel columnist, author, and radio talk show host. She is the editor of Road Trips for Couples