Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff offers a guide to this quaint town that’s just a short-and-pleasant drive away.
by Mimi Slawoff
Tucked away in a valley 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles, Ojai is easy to miss unless you know about it. With its farms, mom-and-pop boutiques, restaurants and inns – no two alike – this laid-back, picturesque town (population about 7,500) is well worth the pleasant drive. Downtown consists primarily of art galleries, one-of-a-kind shops and locally owned eateries along the main street called the Arcade.
Ojai has many dining options, but among the most kid-friendly is Boccali’s Pizza and Pasta (3277 Ojai-Santa Paula Road; 805-646-6116805-646-6116; www.boccalis.com), a family-owned diner at the edge of town. The menu, built around fresh produce from the owners’ Ojai farm, includes hand-tossed pizzas, pasta and numerous salads. Meat and vegetarian versions of most entrees are available. The children’s menu features smaller portions of spaghetti, ravioli, pizza and pasta. The recipes are handed down from DeWayne Boccali’s grandfather, who moved to California from Lucca, Italy, in 1898. Portions are big and prices are family-friendly. Save room for the delicious strawberry shortcake.
Specialty grocery stores are a good option when planning a picnic to bring on a hike. You can buy meats and cheeses from Westridge Market & Fine Foods (802 E. Ojai Ave.; www.westridgemarket.com) or order sandwiches to go from the deli.
The southwest/hacienda-style Blue Iguana Inn (11794 N. Ventura Ave.; 805-646-5277805-646-5277; www.blueiguanainn.com) offers comfortable guest rooms and family-size bungalows a few minutes from historic downtown. Unit six is a spacious two-bedroom bungalow with one and one- half baths, a living room, kitchen and private patio. There’s an onsite pool and Jacuzzi, and stays include continental breakfast of bagels, scones, hardboiled eggs, fruit, yogurt, cheese and juice served in the small front office.
If you’re planning a getaway without the kids, consider staying in town at the Su Nido Inn (301 N. Montgomery St.; 805-646-7080805-646-7080; www.sunidoinn.com), walking distance to boutiques, wine bars and restaurants.
Ojai is known for its citrus, so take the kids to family-owned Friend’s Ranch (15150 Maricopa Hwy.; 805-646-2871805-646-2871; www.friendsranches.com), where they can pick and sample sweet tangerines, oranges and mandarins. The family lives on the sprawling farm near the Ventura River, surrounded by Los Padres National Forest. The orchard’s season of public tours and special events begins in February. In the packing house, visitors can buy honey, citrus and other fruit grown on the ranch.
A family bike ride along Ojai’s quiet streets or trails is a great way to explore the area. Traditional and electric bikes, kids’ trailers and trail-a-bikes are available to rent from The Mob Shop (110 W. Ojai Ave.; 805-272-8102805-272-8102; www.themobshop.com). Electric bikes are fun because you only use the power boost when needed, like when peddling uphill. Hit the trails on your own or join one of the shop’s guided tours.
Popular hiking trails include the Shelf Road Trail (begins at 1780 Gridley Rd., pick up a map at the Ojai Visitor’s Bureau, 206 N. Signal St.), an easy to moderate path with pretty valley and mountain views.
Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff is a mother of three who writes about family fun.