I have to be honest – I didn’t know much about Ojai before I visited. In fact, all that I knew about this small California town was that in the television series Brothers and Sisters, Ojai was the name of the food company that seemed to be the source of so much drama for the Walker family. On a recent visit to this town, about 90 miles northeast of Los Angeles, I got to know more.
A bit of background: Originally inhabited by the Chumash Indians, the Ojai Valley’s name is derived from the native word ‘ahwai’, which means ‘moon’. Because of its location, surrounded by mountain peaks, this region is often graced with the gentle glow of the evening sunset, referred to as ‘the pink moment’, a truly special time if you’re lucky enough to catch it.
Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree. — Joyce Kilmer
Getting there: The hour and a half drive to Ojai from LA is so pretty. With the mountains always looming just ahead, driving along the 101 is a scenic way to get to Ojai. It’s about 12 miles inland from the coast and is the smallest city in Ventura County, a title this tiny town (population: 8,000) wears proudly.
Stay: My husband Johnny Jet and I stayed at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. This tranquil retreat is breathtakingly beautiful. With a massive spa, 308 guestrooms and suites and a focus on rejuvenation of mind, body and spirit, this is the perfect place to escape the demands of everyday life. Read more about the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa.
Eat: The LA Times calls Suzanne’s Cuisine the best restaurant in the Ojai Valley and I’m not one to argue. This charming family restaurant feels like home. It’s small, intimate and inviting – like being in mom’s kitchen – and the menu offers a variety of entrees to please any palate. My spinach salad and fusilli pasta (with basil-infused olive oil, bocconcini, roasted peppers, artichokes and tomato), was wholesome, hearty, homemade goodness.
Do: Go to the Ojai Farmers Market. Unfortunately, I was sick while I was visiting but I was told that the weekend market is fantastic. Driving up to Ojai, we saw signs aplenty for fresh avocados and while we were at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, we got to sample Ojai Pixies, sweet, tiny, seedless tangerines that are native to the region. I would imagine you’ll find these delights there, along with other locally grown fruits and vegetables, fresh seafood, organic meats and cheeses and homemade desserts. Peach cobbler, anyone?
Why you should go: For those of us not lucky enough to live in Ojai, it’s the perfect escape from a life that revolves around laptops and iPhones. The natural beauty here is decidedly off the charts. Surrounded by nature’s sheer perfection, I found myself repeatedly reminded of Joyce Kilmer’s poem Trees. “Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.”