Taking in the sunset over the Topa Topa Mountains, from Meditation Mount. Photography by Lisa Corson.
Ojai's legendary "pink moment," when the setting sun casts a scarlet glow across the Topa Topa Mountains (pictured above), is pretty enough to plan a weekend getaway around. We sent writer Jess Chamberlain to this Ventura County village—80 miles northwest of L.A.—to explore. Here below, her five favorite Ojai finds. Happy road tripping!
1. Natural HighsFor the best views in town, head to Meditation Mount, a 32-acre garden perched above Ojai that's dedicated to the art of introspection. In the mornings, you can attend a free, 30-minute guided meditation session, or simply wander the grounds and take in panoramas of the valley, vineyards, and orchards below. $2 donation suggested; 10340 Reeves Rd.
2. A literary legendBack in 1964, resident Richard Bartinsdale decided to share his outsize collection of books with neighbors and passersby. So he built some shelves along the sidewalk, filled them with reads, and put a few empty coffee cans on top, in case people wanted to pay for their takeaways. Now, five decades later, Bart's Books has grown into the largest outdoor independent bookstore in the country, with nearly 150,000 titles. You'll find books new and used—hardbacks, paperbacks, out-of-print first editions, even a sizeable collection of vintage Sunset gardening guides and cookbooks. And in case you're wondering what happens when it rains—manager Matt Henriksen says everyone asks—the sun does more damage to the volumes than the occasional downpour. 302 W. Matilija St.
Alfresco reads at Bart's Books.
3. Standout souvenirsMost chain stores are prohibited in Ojai by city law—which makes it the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind gifts. Start your search at Modern Folk Living, which stocks everything from Earth Tu Face natural skin-care products to ceramic dishware made by Ojai artist P. Lyn Middleton. Nearby, Summer Camp looks like Wes Anderson's 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom come to life. The shelves are lined with a mix of vintage camp wares (binoculars, Boy Scouts books) and modern goods (indigo-dyed handbags, even dog tipis). At the new Fig Curated Living, you can find something unique for every room: tea towels for the kitchen, Ojai Botanika soaps for the bathroom, and bird feeders made from repurposed glass bottles for the garden. If you're in town on a Sunday, you can stock up on citrus and made-in-Ojai edibles like La Nogalera walnut oil at the Ojai Certified Farmers' Market. Modern Folk: 306 E. Matilija. Summer Camp: 1020 W. Ojai Ave. Fig Curated Living: 327 E. Ojai Ave. Farmers' market: 9--1 Sun; 300 E. Matilija.
4. Spicy goodnessOwned by a husband-and-wife team (he's the farmer; she's the cook), Farmer and the Cook is equal parts produce market and Mexican restaurant, with a healthy twist. The veggie tacos are made with local produce, and even the desserts (bird-seed cookies, vegan chocolate raspberry cake) include good-for-you ingredients. If so much behaving makes you crave an indulgence, you can finish the evening with live music and a margarita infused with local lavender at the Deer Lodge, a roadside Ojai classic since 1932. Farmer and the Cook: $; 339 W. El Roblar Dr. Deer Lodge: $$$; 2261 Maricopa Hwy.
5. Make it a weekendAt the boutique Ojai Rancho Inn, the charm is in the details, from the knotty-pine walls to the potted succulents and outdoor firepit. The 1950s motel was bought in 2012 by the same team behind Santa Barbara's popular Sama Sama Kitchen. Since then, they've added desert-inspired local artwork and Linus bikes to borrow and built a new bar. The homey vibe remains. If an overnight is not enough, you can take a piece of the Rancho's aesthetic home with you at the chic little lobby shop. From $129; 615 W. Ojai Ave.
Ojai Rancho Inn's recent revamp included the addition of a new poolside bar.