I've been in L.A. for almost three years now, but have never thought to explore other nearby cities. When I think about travel, I always long for somewhere that's a plane ride away. But (and this may be 2021 Cass talking) I'll never again underestimate what a change of scenery can do for my mental health—even if it's just for the day. Ojai was never on my radar until I realized how near it was (an hour and half drive to be exact). With very little research, I grabbed my best friend and my sister one random Saturday and hit the road. If you're not sure where to start, I recommend picking a restaurant in Downtown Ojai where there is plenty of public parking. From there, you can take your time and explore by foot. Here are a few of the spots we enjoyed seeing, for a day of eating and thrifting in Ojai:
The Nest was the perfect place to start our Ojai excursion. It's located at one end of Downtown Ojai, making it a great starting place. The Nest is very popular online and it did not disappoint—it's a charming and casual spot with a menu that has something for everyone. I recommend coming a little after opening like we did to avoid the long line that forms when it hits noon. Don't forget to check out the specials while you're there. My sister and I both ordered the shrimp tacos and were very happy with the serving size. Next time I'm there I want to try the Fried Chicken Sammy my friend got. Their serving sizes are very generous, so if you want to try more things you might want to share with a friend!
After lunch, we crossed over to the main row of shops and restaurants. Downtown Ojai has a lot of well-curated boutiques but two that stood out to me were FIG and Canyon Supply. They're almost next to each other and are great to just pop in and peruse. FIG has a charming little entrance that takes you through an alleyway lined with home and garden decor. Once you're inside you'll find a fun variety of candles, colorful glassware, and other fun things to adorn your home with.
A few steps away is Canyon Supply which has a great selection of modern brands and vintage clothing. It was here that I discovered a new sustainable brand, Ride or Dye Ojai. This local apparel brand achieves its cool tie-dye print through plant dyeing. I love the softer, more pastel shades that natural dyes achieve.
Our next stop was the famous Bart's Books. This outdoor bookshop is about a seven-minute walk from the main street. It will take you through the residential streets and give you a chance to see all the charming homes. Bart's has an extensive collection of books, but my favorite spot had to be the room dedicated to art and specialty books. I loved flipping through the pages of one about mid-century modern homes. I imagine on the cooler days it must be really lovely to wander the isles or sit at one of their many tables for hours.
On our walk back from Bart's Book we passed this antique store, Treasures of Ojai. I tried to resist but, before we got too far, I asked my group if we could turn back and check it out. It was more of an antique mall than a thrift store (which I expected) and was reflected by the prices of everything. I was hoping to see more furniture pieces but they had plenty of home accessories and knick-knacks. Somewhere in the back, you'll find a row of vintage records where you're sure to find some gems. Even though I left empty-handed, I'm still glad we popped in. If you're not too thrifty but still looking for a vintage kick, this is a great one-stop-shop for unique pieces.
Just around the corner from The Nest is a little frozen yogurt shop. After walking around town, this was just the refreshing treat we needed. Of all the businesses we popped in, this one felt the most familiar. It wasn't anything fancy but you could tell most of the customers were locals. The shopkeeper was very friendly. (You can tell a lot about a place by how keen the people are to give you recommendations!) He told us that if we weren't pressed for time, we should take a longer route home and pass by all the beautiful orchards. He wasn't wrong: Driving past all the large fields of greenery, I felt almost like I was transported to the Italian countryside. But back to the frozen yogurt! I went for my usual tart flavor and chose popping boba balls (my favorite sensation), cookie dough, and mochi as my toppings.
The best thing about Ojai is that there's a little bit of something for everyone. Here are three things on my to-do list the next time I'm in town:
- There are plenty of wine tasting options in Ojai. If you're looking for a spot still close to all the action, Majestic Oak Vineyard is on the main avenue and has a lovely outdoor patio. If you're looking for a more immersive experience, Casa Barranca Estate is further away from the busyness of the town. It's right next to a national forest so you know the views can't be beat.
- Rent a bike for the day and enjoy the idyllic Ojai Valley Trail.
- Visit the Ojai Farmers Market which happens every Sunday from 9AM to 1PM.