Stipulated: the perfect travel time for a three-day weekend getaway is four hours. More, and you waste your vacation. Less, and you’re still near home. Hence our series, The 4hr. Rule, dedicated to revealing the best destinations that are far away, yet still close to home.
This month, we’re sending you to the hippified town where Patagonia tests its gear for some adventure-tested R&R.
Where to stay big-bucks style
With its mission-style facade and archways, Ojai Valley Inn and Spa is still one of the finest hotels in the area, and it just received a little facelift. This is also the best place in town for massages and facials. If you have the means, you know the drill.
Where to stay pennywise style
There’s a new airstream trailer park on the opposite side of town that looks cool, though we haven’t vetted it yet. The Ojai Rancho Inn, on the other hand, we love. They focus their energy on the things that matter. The beds are plush, and seeing as you don’t come to Ojai to watch TV, they have record players in every room and a collection of vinyl in the lobby you can pull from. Bring your own toiletries.
Patagonia’s headquarters is in nearby Ventura for a reason: Yvon Chouinard likes to test his gear on the Black Wall in Sespe Gorge just outside of Ojai, one of the best rock formations this close to the ocean (where he also likes to surf). If you’re experienced, head to the Black Wall. If you’re not, hit up Alex Bury at Ojai Rocking Climbing. He’s a great teacher and knows these canyons in and out. He’ll bring the gear and set up the routes so you don’t have to think about anything but where to put your hands and feet.
Go for a spin
The Mob Shop does both street and mountain biking, and they run tours geared toward all levels. If you’re thinking of getting into the sport, their beginner classes are a great place to start. The streets are also very amenable to bikers, so if you rent a bike, you can retire your whip for the weekend. And the mountain trails will bust your rump.
You need peace. You need quiet. Meditation Mount is a plateau at the end of town that overlooks the Ojai Valley. From this well manicured lawn, you can watch the sunset and breathe in the fragrant foliage. There are benches and plenty of grass for laying out.
Where to eat...
Breakfast: NoSo Vita does pourover coffee and even has nitro taps for that creamy cold brew. Their bagels are house made and delicious, and the breakfast tacos will set you straight if you’re looking for something more filling.
Breakfast alternative: Farmer and a Cook makes delicious smoothies that are full of plant proteins like hemp and nuts. This is a good one before doing an adventure activity.
Lunch: Farmer and a Cook is a third place for a lot of bohemian locals. It’s a co-op market and they serve some delicious and healthy Mexican fare. The swiss chard enchilada is robust, and the sopes, corn patties filled with refried beans, avocado and fermented cabbage is a beautiful dish that’ll replenish you after a long climb. At nights they fire up a wood-burning pizza oven and host movie screenings.
Lunch: The locals rave about Knead Bread Co., and for good reason. The bread, baked daily, ranges from rustic wheats to buttery brioche. Their quiche is a light and flaky masterpiece, and you may want to grab a bag of their bagels or a loaf of their sourdough to go.
Dinner: The Deer Lodge has been plating food since it was a gas station in the early 1900s. Grab a table on the patio and get a bison burger encased in havarti on a pretzel bun, some gooey mac and cheese for the table and whatever the seasonal salad is. The microbrew-heavy beer list has lots of options, but IPAs are proven to be good for your liver, and they’re tasty after a day in the woods. After dinner, move indoors for the live music.
Dinner: Osteria Monte Grappa is about as fine dining as you’ll get in Ojai, which isn’t a bad thing. This casual bistro makes its pasta in house, and frequently seasons it with butter and sage, a local herb that’s getting lots of love from health gurus — hence its prominence here.
Drinking: You’re not really in Ojai to drink, but a good beer after a long day or a glass of vino sometimes hits the spot. Topa Mountain Winery just opened, and they’ve got a big field where folks gather to play games and socialize.
Where to shop
Bart’s Books is all outdoors, a fact that’s only made possible by our glorious weather. The store has changed hands a few times but it’s still stacked with more titles than Ali. Like Ali, Bart’s comes as advertised — it’s the best. It’s mostly used books and rare finds, and with nice benches and tables on its patios, it’s easy to spend hours here.