You’ll feel the calming energy of the place as you turn each curve of the road. After the 90 minute drive from the urban sprawl of Los Angeles, I take in a deep yogic breath, inhaling the tranquil beauty of green pastoral views, 200-year-old oak trees, a rolling golf course, and picturesque mountain vistas.
We’re staying at the Ojai Valley Inn, a Spanish hacienda-style resort that still exudes the by-gone glamour of Ojai in the 1920s. It’s an idyllic land of enchantment, where lavender fields, olives, grapes, wineries, yoga studios, kombucha bars, nouveau hippies, cattle ranches and vegan-friendly dining all come together. Truly, it is Shangri-la.
As many who gravitate to this peaceful oasis away from Los Angeles, I’m here for the yoga, healthy food, pink sunsets, and for soaking up some sunshine by the pool. My kids want to swim, bike, and eat, while I’m on a mission to drink as many green juices as I can from the spa juice bar.
Oh, and you may have heard people mention the “pink moment” in Ojai, where everything turns a magical pink hue just before sunset. It does, and it is magical. This rosy hour is due to the east-west alignment of the valley. To me, it feels like everything vibrates with euphoric energy. You get the sense of the eras past, just a small town utopia nestled in a valley, away from the mega-city of Los Angeles and the relaxed beach town of Ventura. Santa Barbara is also one of the nearby cities to resonate with the blissed out Ojai vibes, only a 45-minute drive away.
Ojai’s namesake comes from the Chumash Indians who lived in this valley. They called it Ojai, “Valley of the Moon.” There’s a sky full of stars when it’s clear, and epic moon viewing while the moon is full.
I’m feeling quite blessed to stay at the Ojai Valley Inn. Mountain views of the Topa Topa surround all directions, drenched in watercolor hues, golf carts cruising around the green, the warmth of the sun, and a vibe that says stay and relax.
I must admit, I’m tempted to indulge in the Moroccan hammam-style day spa Spa Ojai.
The spa offers luxurious body and skin care treatments, such as the warm Himalayan salt stone massage, Ayurvedic herbal body treatments, seaweed wraps, body scrubs with sea salt, lavender and honey, and a unique sound therapy session. Perhaps a more adult getaway might involve the spa’s signature Kuyam therapeutic clay bath ritual, quite possibly to detox from a night of tasting too many glasses of the local wine. I’m not adulting this trip, however, I am totally mom-ing it.
The positive energy of the geomagnetic vortex still affects visitors with its energetic pull, keeping this place preserved within a bubble of time. The garden came alive with hummingbirds darting about flowers, as glimpses of rainbow light danced through my window panes. Ojai is much like living inside the dreamy world of a Maxfield Parrish painting.
Yes, it’s a place where celebs and hipsters commune in kombucha bars and wine tasting rooms here, while macramé and bookstores have yet to go out of vogue.
Oh, Hi is still a thing. This is still a small sleepy town where hiking, yoga, and shopping for fruits and veggies at the farmers market are the main social activities. You can be reassured that there are but a few iPhone toting influencers (I’ll admit, I’m one of those types) flocking around historic walls to capture that perfect Cali boho aesthetic for the ‘gram.
With two and a half days in and around the town of Ojai, I had high hopes that I’d keep my teenagers off devices, and get them swimming and biking with some family bonding time instead. I have to say that the vortex energy just might have something to do with this.
Once we finally got the car packed with all of our bags, we hit the road from the San Fernando Valley. My older teen had her headphones cranked up, and even though I was blaring a Haydn symphony, I could hear strains of Jimmy Page’s guitar vibrating in her ears. As I made the swift interchange from the 101 north to the 33, my daughter’s mood went from crossed arms and black lipstick to open eyes and curious glee as we rolled into Meiners Oaks for a stop at Farmer and the Cook.
FARMER AND THE COOK: Get the giant corn tamale with cashew cheese and sautéed veggies to share, served with beans, pickled red cabbage, and fluffy Spanish rice.
The homestyle lentil burger on hearty seeded bread had a warm comforting taste of mild curry powder, tomato, and earthy lentils. Green smoothies are delicious.
Driving into the main area of town, the kids were amazed that we could find parking easily without struggle or feeding parking meters. And they lit up at the sight of a trolley, nearly skipping down the sidewalk, exclaiming how much they love Ojai. “It’s so cute! Can we live here?”
We browsed through a quaint little shop called Fig. I marveled at all of the colorful blown glass hummingbird feeders and whimsical wind chimes, already mentally purchasing a few for our backyard. Aside from browsing shops, the kombucha bar, Revel, was part of my big plan. Both of my daughters love kombucha. I got the Kick Flip — lots of ginger — and my oldest daughter got the Vanilla Sunrise to share with her sister.
My daughters darted over to Libbey Park and went from a tween and teen to two toddlers again, giggling and laughing on the swings, climbing on the playground apparatus. The air was full of something, whether it’s peace or joy, or a timeless essence of being, and it’s infectious, you can’t help but smile.
The first thing we did once we arrived to the door of our suite at the Ojai Valley Inn was change into swimsuits for a dip in the pool. With the Topa Topa mountains in full view, we had the entire pool to ourselves. It was the perfect way to experience the pink moment as the sunset washed the mountains with a vibrant rose hue.
A quick change of clothes before dinner, we took a walk up the path to Jimmy’s Pub. Diners lounged in Adirondack chairs by the cozy fire pits, others sat at tables with candles and heat lamps, as oak trees glowed with hanging glass lanterns.
By far, one of the best vegan dishes on the Jimmy’s Pub menu: mushroom crostini with cashew ricotta. I had a glass of red and allowed it to sink deep into my bones. Later, a steaming hot bubble bath and stargazing out on the patio.
My kids voices bubbled with excitement as they saw all the many stars in the sky that we can’t see in Los Angeles. My older daughter inhaled deeply through her nose and said she couldn’t remember breathing in such fresh air. The starry sky and fresh air, two things we don’t get in the city.
We took a long and leisurely bike ride on our complimentary Linus bikes into town. The resort is quite large, with walkable pathways, beautiful California native landscaping, and architectural beauty. As you ride along the charming road out of the resort, you’ll find the bike path goes straight into the downtown area where all the shops and cafes can be found.
Wandering into Food Harmonics for lunch, I was pleased to discover a cafe that has literally everything on their menu that I am completely obsessed with: Indian dosas, turmeric matcha lattes with house made nut milk, vegan pizzas, salad, soups, and smoothies. Yeah, I could live there.
Dinner at The Oak was one of the best family dinners with my kids. My teenage son and his best friend spent the day together up in Santa Barbara, then met us for a sunset dinner on the patio. They both chose the special of the day: ravioli in truffle cream sauce with vegetables. (Yes, they literally licked their plates clean.) And we all loved the warm bread served at the table (ask for olive oil instead of butter) and the lavender lemonade. Of course, I ordered the vegan enchiladas, while my daughters shared a veggie pasta primavera.
My heart happy, my belly full of veggie enchiladas, I floated in the pool and gazed up into an indigo sky full of stars.
VEGAN DINING AT THE OAK: Enchiladas with sweet potatoes, black beans, spinach, vegan molé, lime cashew crema.
Seared Cauliflower “Steak” served with herbed farro, raisins, almonds, capers & sage. (vegetarian served with brown butter, ask for vegan options)
(from left to right) my son Ben (18) daughter Sayuri Lily (10) me & my daughter Hannah (13)
This post was created in partnership with Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. All opinions about the experience are my own. Vegan & vegan-friendly dining options are given as suggestions for vegan travelers. This post features health & wellness activities, family-focused fun, and healthy dining choices.