If you’re looking for a romantic and relaxing weekend getaway, look no further than the quirky town of Ojai and the magnificent Ojai Valley Inn. The Inn is consistently rated as one of the top resorts in California by the likes of Conde’ Nast Traveler. It’s our favorite place to go when we want to get out of Los Angeles and only have a couple of days to spare.
Here are my recommended things to do in Ojai to have a romantic weekend getaway there.
1. Bart’s Books
If you love books, or if you just love cool bookstores like The Last Bookstore in Downtown L.A. or Powell’s in Portland, then a stop at Bart’s Books in Ojai is a “must”!
Bart’s Books was the home of Richard Bartinsdale, and eventually morphed into a book store. Calling itself “the world’s greatest outdoor bookstore”, much of the inventory is indeed outside.
Inside, almost all of the space has been dedicated to books, even the kitchen!
My wife found a rare cookbook here for only $10! But, it’s fun to wander through this quirky space, even if you’re not looking for a book.
2. Downtown Ojai
When you arrive in Ojai, I recommend checking out the charming downtown area on E. Ojai Ave. between Signal St and Montgomery St. You’ll find lots of unique shops, restaurants, art galleries, winery tasting rooms, and boutiques. Definitely worth a stop!
While you’re there, be sure to venture into the charming courtyard on the north side of E. Ojai Avenue. There are lots of restaurants with outdoor seating.
For cheap but good tacos, quesadillas, and burritos, I like the Ojai Tortilla House on N. Signal Street. There’s no seating, just a counter where you order. But you can take your food to the courtyard and have it there. There is often a line, so you know it’s good! Cash only.
3. The Ojai Valley Inn
As I mentioned, the Ojai Valley Inn is one of the top resorts in California. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway, this is the place to be. This was the view from our room the first time we went:
If you just want to chillax, the Ojai Valley Inn is a wonderful place to unwind in complete luxury. If you want to book a massage at their spa, do it in advance, as it fills up quickly.
If you’re more active, the resort has a lot to offer. We love to swim there because they have separate pools for families with kids (The Pixie Pool), adults who just want to stand around with drinks (The Indigo Pool), and a two-lane pool for people like us who want to do laps (The Energy Pool).
If swimming isn’t your thing, they have tennis courts, free bike rentals, yoga classes, and of course, golf! There are also cooking classes by world-renowned chefs, arts and crafts classes at the Artist Cottage, a bee-keeping tour, and a jeep tour of the Ojai Valley which includes olive oil and wine tastings! Check with the Ojai Valley Inn concierge about these activities.
The Ojai Valley Inn is pricey (add $40 parking plus $40 resort fee to the advertised prices), but it’s worth it if you’re looking for the ultimate romantic getaway.
4. Olivella Restaurant at the Ojai Valley Inn
Good hotels usually have fine restaurants, but Olivella, the Inn’s premier restaurant, is one of our all-time favorites. It features “California coastal cuisine with Italian influences”. Virtually every dish we’ve had during our visits there was outstanding. The ingredients are unique and fresh. It’s pretty much a “must” if you’re staying at the Inn, and even if you’re not.
The ambiance and service are great. If you have a table on the outdoor patio, you’ll have a sweeping view of the Ojai valley.
Just remember to book a reservation at Olivella at the same time you book your hotel reservations, as it fills up quickly.
UPDATE: Olivella has transitioned from an “a la carte” menu to a prix fixe system where you can only order either a three-course (starter, main, dessert) or four-course dinner (starter, pasta, main, dessert). This is definitely a downer because we loved their side dishes and the flexibility to order whatever we wanted, and it results in a significant price increase. INSIDER TIP: if you don’t need dessert, you can substitute a pasta for your dessert in the three-course menu (i.e., starter, pasta, main) and get charged only $15 more. This is a good deal because each of their desserts is big enough for two people to share (in our opinion).
5. Caravan Outpost
If the golf courses, tennis courts, and swimming pools of the Ojai Valley Inn are too bourgeois for you, check out a bohemian alternative at Caravan Outpost, where you stay in Airstream trailers surrounding a central communal area. It’s one step above glamping, but in a good, fun way. The grounds have a “Gilligan’s Island” feel even though you’re in downtown Ojai.
Hang out at your own deck, or meet other guests in the communal area. If you’re up for a unique non-hotel-like, but still romantic, experience, check out Caravan Outpost!
Ojai has some great bike paths, including one that goes all the way from Ojai to Ventura (about 11 miles one-way). This is an awesome trail because most of it is protected from traffic.
For a more modest ride, the Downtown Trail loop goes through Libbey Park and downtown Ojai. It’s a great way to see the town.
If you’re staying at the Ojai Valley Inn, they have complimentary bike rentals with easy access to the trails. The bikes are great for cruising around town, but I wouldn’t attempt biking all the way to Ventura with one of these bikes. Caravan Outpost is also close to the bike trails.
7. Nocciola (Italian Restaurant)
I have a fondness for restaurants located in former residences, and Nocciola is such an establishment. Located just a block north of Ojai Avenue less than a mile from the Ojai Valley Inn, Nocciola serves excellent Italian food in a romantic setting with indoor and patio seating.
All of the dishes we tried at Nocciola were good, but the homemade pasta is the star here. We had the mare seafood pasta and the spaghetti. Both had very mild seasonings, but that was probably on purpose because the pasta itself was outstanding.
You pretty much can’t go wrong with the food and ambiance at Nocciola.
8. The Dutchess (Burmese Restaurant)
Housed in a building built in 1927 which was originally Ojai’s bakery, The Dutchess is again a bakery during the day and serves Burmese cuisine at night.
L.A. West-Siders might recognize some of the restaurants on the staff resumes. Saw Naing was formerly the chef at Tallula’s but wanted to cook his native Burmese style. Kate Pepper formerly created baked goods at Milo + Olive.
We had dinner there, as well as breakfast the next morning, and both meals were delightful. I also liked the sort of British Colonial feel of the place. Not sure if that was on purpose, but it had a romantic feel. They have both indoor seating and a charming outdoor patio.
If you’re staying at the Ojai Valley Inn, I highly recommend borrowing one of their bikes and riding over to The Dutchess, less than a mile away, for breakfast!
9. The Ranch House (Restaurant)
A true hidden gem, the Ranch House is a mostly outdoor restaurant nestled in a garden with towering bamboo trees, a Koi pond, and charming walkways. It’s one of the most romantic restaurants I’ve been to, reminding me of the Inn of the Seventh Ray in Topanga.
Although set in a Japanese-style garden, The Ranch House serves American fare. When we went, we had the choice of either a three-course dinner or a five-course dinner, the courses being the appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and dessert.
We loved the appetizers (filet mignon & porchini and crab cakes), the soup (shrimp bisque), the salads (baby gem salad and Nagoya kale salad), and dessert (flourless chocolate cake), but for us, the entrees missed the mark. The rabbit carbonara pasta was bland (to the point where we were wondering if the chef forgot to add salt), and the porchetta with apple chutney was too fatty and rich for me. But, we plan to go again and try different entrees because the ambiance was amazing and the other courses were quite good.
10. El Roblar Drive in Meiners Oaks
On West El Roblar Drive in the neighborhood of Meiners Oaks just west of Ojai, there is a section of unique stores and restaurants worth checking out. Papa Lennon’s is where locals get their pizza. If you prefer Mexican, then just a few doors down there’s Don Lalo’s, also popular with locals. Between them is a brand new restaurant opening in June called Meiners Heritage Table. It looks pretty hip. All of these have charming outdoor dining patios. While you’re on that block, check out the vintage clothing at Pearl Paris Vintage.
A few blocks east is Farmer and the Cook, a small bohemian market/restaurant where you’ll find some of the best smoothies in Ojai. Also great for fresh-squeezed juices, coffee, burritos, sandwiches, and baked goods.
One block further east is BookEnds Bookstore & Curiosities, a wonderfully quirky bookstore housed in a former church and a 1961 Airstream trailer. Look for the Statue of Liberty in the garden as you drive by. Definitely a unique bookstore you won’t find anywhere else! (Note, it closed during the pandemic; hopefully, it will re-open soon!)
11. Ojai Certified Farmers Market (Sundays)
A farmers market is almost always a great date idea, so if you’re in Ojai on a Sunday, check out the Ojai Certified Farmers Market located in downtown Ojai, one block north of Ojai Avenue in downtown (east of N Signal Street).
It runs from 9 AM to 1 PM on Sundays. Afterward, you can check out the restaurants, stores, and galleries in downtown Ojai.
12. Meditation Mount
If you want to relax in nature with some splendid hilltop views, check out Meditation Mount. The place has a somewhat New-Agey feel but it’s open to all religions (or none at all). You can do a two-hour self-guided stroll for $10 or they also have yoga classes.
Advance registration is required.
Old Town Ventura
If you’re driving from Los Angeles, your trip to Ojai will probably take you through the town of Ventura.
We decided to stop in the Old Town area on our way home after our first trip. Old Town is on Main Street starting from the Mission San Buenaventura running several blocks east of there.
The street was closed off to traffic and turned into a pedestrian-only area, allowing the restaurants to have lots of wonderful outdoor seating. There were a variety of unique and charming thrift stores, gift shops, clothing stores, and other quirky one-of-a-kind shops there. It was a great way to end our trip before heading home.
As you can see, there are a ton of things to do in Ojai and the Ojai Valley Inn. Whether you’re looking to celebrate a special anniversary or trying to impress a date big time, the Ojai Valley Inn will not disappoint! – Brian