mountains, near Santa Barbara, California –
a desirable place to live, vacation,
or even just to take a day trip.
I’ve got Ojai, California, on my mind today — probably because last night, I watched the dvd of Easy A, an entertaining movie that was filmed on-location in Ojai. Having spent much time in Ojai myself, it was fun to recognize all of the buildings and vistas in the film!
Ojai often makes the “best places to live,” “best places to day trip,” and “hip and stylish communities” lists of many magazines. It is considered a very desirable place to live among small Western towns, in particular.
10 Things to Do in Ojai, CA
Below is a list of my most favorite Ojai, California excursions — please leave your own personal favorites in the comments section!
1. Walk the Trail.
Walk, run, or bike “The Trail.” Though it sits on the edge of Los Angeles, the Ojai Valley has retained its rural charm. Part of that charm is the rail-trail that travels all the way down to Ventura, passing broad open spaces and offering stellar mountain views along the way.
2. Take a Yoga Class.
At Lulu Bandha’s. They actually have a class called, “Stiff White Guys,” and several gentle classes for beginners.
3. Breakfast at Rainbow Bridge.
In the morning, they offer organic scrambled eggs, free-range turkey links, and oatmeal at their food counter. A scrumptious way to begin the day, and many locals do — which is why the breakfast food is usually all gone by 10am!
4. Hike Shelf Road.
A fairly simple hike that overlooks Ojai Valley. Take Signal road until the trail head. Frequented by families and dog walkers. Bring water and wear walking shoes, but this hike is not very difficult. There is a bench at the most scenic part of the hike that overlooks the entire valley. Orange trees line the hike.
5. Lunch at Jim & Rob’s Fresh Grill.
I like to grab their Vegetarian Burrito (“cut in half, hold the chips”). They offer a selection of salsas.
6. Stroll the Arcade Plaza and Libby Park.
This is the part of town with whitewash mission architecture (most of it built in 1917), bell towers, and all of the little galleries, shops, and cafes on East Ojai Avenue. Behind the “arcade” is a plaza that has a grassy area, benches, and tiled arches. Across and in front of the arcade is Libby Park, with its lovely Spanish fountain and oak trees, gazebo, and a play area for kids. The park also has 8 really nice public tennis courts toward the back. Look up and east at dusk and you might witness Ojai’s famous “pink moment” (see photo, top).
7. Visit the Ojai Valley Museum and Visitor’s Center.
You can pop in and obtain maps, brochures, and flyers on local areas of interest and special events. The museum looks like a mission (complete with tower, though not to be confused with the famous post office tower just two blocks east), and there is a nice courtyard in front. The friendly folks inside can offer suggestions and answer your questions, plus they sell maps of the hiking trails in the area. The museum is filled with local artists’ work and various small exhibits.
8. Ride the Trolley.
The Ojai Trolley Service is a well-known feature in the Ojai Valley and owned and operated by the City. The trolley provides daily fixed-route transportation to approximately 9,000 riders per month. I believe the cost is still 50 cents (bring exact change) and begins at 7:15am at Ojai Ave at Signal St (look “up” for the Trolley Sign) and picks up there every hour after that. Each route is about an hour. Nothing earth-shattering here, but it’s a good way to get a “lay of the land” if you’re new to Ojai.
10. Browse Bart’s Books.
A charming outdoor bookstore (you can’t miss it) that is fun to browse (302 W. Matilija), unless you’re very allergic to book dust.
Ojai Homes: Creating Your Own Ojai Retreat
Ojai, California has been a great weekend getaway for Angelenos and was long thought to be the ideal place for a second home. Recently, however, there seems to be a new trend: professionals who choose to keep their main home in Ojai and who commute to Ventura, Malibu, Santa Barbara or northwest Los Angeles for work.
Of course, Ojai also has citizens who do not commute by car, but walk or bike to their offices without leaving the Ojai Valley at all!
Perhaps, ultimately, Ojai’s charm is found in its diversity: it’s not just all celebrities and executives — there are bohemian artists, laborers, teachers, and all kinds of good folks from all walks of life who seem to co-mingle in Ojai’s relaxed and easy atmosphere.
“Ojai, California often makes
the ‘best places to live,’
‘best places to day trip,’ and
‘hip and stylish communities‘
lists of many magazines.”
If you’re having fantasies of living in Ojai, there are three important questions to ask yourself as you begin your home search:
#1 Do I want to live in Ojai’s historic downtown?
Sounds like an easy choice, yes? Not so fast. Some people like the idea of having a few quiet acres of land in the hills. You know, the full ‘country’ experience. The trade-off is, you’ll have to drive everywhere, which for some people sort of defeats the whole reason of living in a charming small town in the first place.
If you live near the historic downtown in Ojai, you’ll be able to stroll just about everywhere, including the health food store, the post office, the yoga studio, shops, restaurants, grocery, nature trails — you name it. However, you may have to sacrifice that acreage. How important is a pedestrian-friendly lifestyle to you? How would you feel in the first year of having to drive everywhere? What about the second year? The third?
#2 What level of maintenance do I want?
Generally, the larger your spread, the more work involved in maintaining it.
In condos and some green-housing communities downtown, monthly homeowner’s dues are required. Monthly dues sound like a drag at first, but it also means that for a hundred bucks or so, all the gardening, landscaping, watering, community areas, and weed-whacking will be handled for you. A little gardening is fun when it’s optional, but are you ready to maintain two or more acres on your own?
On the other hand, it can feel luxurious to have the space and privacy that a large parcel provides.
#3 Will I live in Ojai full-time, or just weekends and vacations?
If you have some flexibility in your work schedule, it’s possible that you can live in Ojai full-time and still commute to LA for professional reasons. For example, if you only have to be in LA four times a week or less, then a full-time Ojai lifestyle could work well for you. This is even more true if you can leave your Ojai house at 9am, missing most of the heavy traffic, and then can make your return trip back on or before 4:30pm. Use the time productively, returning your business calls on the drive, or using Jott (verbal task-listing) to organize the next day’s projects (speaker-phones only, please!).
On the other hand, if you must be in LA five times a week or more, and must be on the road during rush hour, then Ojai will probably only work for you as your weekend getaway and vacation retreat. When it comes to commuting, it’s better to err on the side of the caution — and not bite off more than you can chew. Commuting can really wear you down over time if you’re not organized.
Best Barbershop in Ojai, California
I sometimes like to drive to Ojai early on a Saturday morning. As many of you know, Ojai is less than a 90-minute drive from the Westside of L.A., and the drive north along PCH is startlingly beautiful — I’ve even seen dolphins jump out of the water as I drive along!
As I pull into Ojai’s serene Main Street and arrive at its charming historic downtown district, I take a left at Signal Street until I arrive at an authentic, true-Americana barbershop — Montgomery’s — where I can get one of the best haircuts ever (closed on Sunday, and the schedule is booked solid on Saturdays, so no walk-ins — call ahead!)
Remember Floyd, the beloved barber of Mayberry, from the classic television show Andy Griffith? Ojai has its own Floyd, only his name is Duane and he has been standing in the same spot giving professional haircuts since 1967!
Duane and I were talking about how so many people these days will relocate themselves for a new job. It has become a mobile, transitory culture. Duane said that 50 years ago, people were more prone to find a town or a company that they liked, and then stay there forever.
There is something time-honored and American about sitting in the barber chair, getting a fresh clipper cut, and catching up on the latest local news. It is an enjoyable experience, and you leave there looking better than when you went in.
For those that want to live in a beautiful, natural, walkable area, and yet still live in proximity to a major metropolitan area, Ojai can be a desirable option. This is the type of home that is available in Ojai, California (if you’re intrigued about Ojai real estate, you can give us a call — we’d be happy to answer any questions you might have: 310-345-6911).