Oh, Ojai. Where do I start? Really, it’s a tiny little town. Village-y, if you will. But it’s like the perfect little snack of a place to go for a few days to recharge. It’s like a vacay appetizer.
We took off on a Tuesday from LA, and would have been there in an hour flat if we didn’t stop at the J.Crew Factory store on the way. (Duh.) After we rolled into the Ojai Rancho Inn I pretty much dropped all of our bags and ran off with a camera, leaving Mr. Lovely to fend for himself. This place is too cool for school. I felt like I was definitely in the cool kids club for a couple of days. It’s got a throwback summer camp vibe (somebody asked on my Instagram if we were on the set of the Dirty Dancing movie!) with updated touches — indigo tie-dye curtains, woven leather lawn chairs, and cruiser bikes that you can borrow on the honor system. You can chill out by the pool, roast in the sauna, build yourself a fire in the evening, hang out in a teepee (!!!), and admire the crazy collection of cacti on the property. The owners, Chris and Kenny, are so sweet and kind. I’m on team Rancho all the way, if you ever need a spot to stay in Ojai.
I loved how walkable and bikable Ojai is! We could take off on the bikes and within a few blocks there was enough to do for a whole afternoon. If you’re looking for shops, here were my faves:
Summer Camp. This place stole my heart! It’s one of the most thoughtfully curated and organized shops I’ve been into in a while! And Rachel, one of the owners, was as sweet as could be. Mr. Lovely found a few trinkets to take home while I snapped away. This place is in an old gas station. Could not possibly be any cooler.
Bart’s Books. While I was browsing here, a local that I struck up a conversation with called it “legendary.” It’s an outdoor bookstore. As in, open air, books hanging out in the wild. There’s a sign out front that says if you want to buy a book after the store is closed, you should just put your money in the slot on the honor system. Amazing. And the indoor part of the store is an old house that still looks like a house. So all of the cookbooks are in the kitchen, obviously.
Kingston’s Candy Company. I never met a candy store I didn’t like, you guys. But what was cool about this one was all of the old school candy! I came home with a couple of packs of those old bubble gum cigarettes that blow smoke. And we snagged a selection of bottled ginger beer that we had never seen before. Double score.
Desert Images. I can hardly even describe this place. It’s essentially a cactus and succulent farm. It’s hidden in a residential area with a crazy view of the mountains and fields, and it’s got thousands upon thousands of plants to look at (and take home if you like!). Not all of them are for sale, so be sure to check with the fella who runs the place. And if you go on a weekend, you have to make an appointment, so I’d recommend hitting this place on a weekday.
We also ate our fair share, although most of the food was so fresh and simple (but delicious) we didn’t feel like we were stuffing ourselves. My top picks for Ojai eats:
Papa Lennon’s Pizzeria. This was our favorite! It’s perfect for an easy dinner date. Sit on the patio under a heat lamp and enjoy your pizza. The perfect meal? The garlic fries, the Beetnik salad, and Papa’s Favorite pizza. Split it all and take home the leftovers.
Knead Baking Company. A little pricey for a breakfast sandwich, but so fresh and good it was worth a splurge! My fave was the egg, cheese, and arugula on a seeded bagel. They make the bagels in-house, and I think it might have been the best bagel I’ve ever had. No exaggeration.
Boccali’s Pizza & Pasta. Go to the one on Ojai-Santa Paula Road! You can sit outside with a view of orange groves and mountains while you sip their fresh-squeezed lemonade. We split a BLT, which was delish, because we wanted to save room for dessert. You have to get the strawberry shortcake. I’m not sure what they put in it but I was a different person after I ate it. I have seen the other side, y’all.
I’m so grateful for our little mid-week vacay! Ojai is a major treat if you’re looking for a place to relax in a simple way. Have you been? Do you love it? I’d definitely make a return trip. xoxo