Fieldtrips: Ojai/Oh Hi!


Ojai Watchtower/Ojai Post Office

You may be wondering why I am venturing out of L.A. before I finish writing about L.A.  I am writing this as my hair still smells of smoke from the bbq outside of West Ridge market on the main drag of Ojai. It is a smoke that beckons.

Ojai, pronounced Oh Hi! not O.J., is really only an hour and a half away from Los Angeles. It takes less time to get there than it takes to get from Santa Monica to Echo Park during rush hour. Ojai is a small town nestled in the Topa Topa mountains and on the edge of the Los Padres National Forest. You can easily do Ojai as a day trip, although you may want to stay the night after visiting a few of the tasting rooms. Here are some suggestions if you want to do the round trip in one day.


Open stacks at Bart’s Books in Ojai

Bart’s books:

Only in California could there be a book store that has no ceiling. The weather is just that 100% chance of beautiful. Except for a couple rooms, like the old kitchen filled will all types of cookbooks, the bookstore is completely open air. Hundreds of linear feet of used books in every subject area imaginable line the shelves that wind around the space. This place has tons of nooks and crannies and hidden art, don’t be afraid to get lost, but be sad if you left your camera at home.

There is also a section of books wrapped around the outside of the building for all of you insomniac bibliovores that is accessible 24 hours a day and that you pay for by dropping coins in an antique box by the entrance. On the inside there are plenty of places to hide out and spend an entire day exploring or reading and not realize time has passed. It is nice to shop in a store that feels like it wants you to stay.

Check out their instagram account @bartsbooksojai

Open 7 days a week 9:30 until sunset. Check out their website for events and readings.

Sunday Farmer’s Market:

This farmer’s market is really one of my favorites in Southern California. It is deceptively large and its maze of stalls sits in a public parking lot on Montgomery & Matalijia behind the Arcade building. I see vegetables at this farmer’s market before I see them in L.A. While I was there last month, I tasted the first spring asparagus of the season and grabbed a bouquet of my favorite flowers that it seems only florists can score this year. (Oh you taunt me with your instagram accounts!) There are tons of vendors and you can find ice cream, cheeses, flowers and plants, honey, art, nuts, etc. and live music. The highlight for me is that they have one of the best tamale vendors I have found in Southern California. The masa is so moist it melts in your mouth, it cuts like cake, doesn’t reveal a pocket of dry grain, and the spice of the green salsa is spot on. You will have to eat a couple in order to go to the ….


The Ojai Vineyard

Ojai Vineyards:

Newly expanded from the half dozen or so seat bar I visited a couple years ago, the Ojai Vineyards is a nice low key and pressure free place to try new wines. It is a lot less daunting and crowded than its Santa Barbara counterparts. They have quite a repertoire of wines from sweet ices to earthy reds. At $15 a pop with liberal pours it is a nice place to spend time learning about the region and get a buzz on.

Ojai Beverage Company:
As this is a day trip and I strongly discourage imbibing and jumping into the car I can’t tell you to continue on to the OBC after Ojai Vineyard, but I recommend it if craft beer is more your jam or you want to pick up a local bottle of wine that won’t break the bank to bring back home as a souvenir.

Part restaurant/bar/liquor store Ojai Beverage Company is a great place to try new local wines and beers. Offered by the glass, bottle, or flight it is easy to try different breweries and vineyards. This where I discovered Noble Oaks and fell in love with their tannat.

If I had more time, I would have done one of the hikes in the Los Padres National Forest. The trail heads are just outside of town. Until next time.

[Getting there: It may be tempting to take the 405 to the 101 and cut through Ventura. I recommend rather the scenic route that climbs and descends through the canyons, passes, through orange groves and strawberry fields. See where the food you eat grows.

Take the 101 to the 23 to the 126 to the 150.

Believe it or not, there is public transportation to Ojai. Starting at Union Station from DTLA take the Surfliner north to the Ventura Amtrak Station then take the 16 bus to Ojai. It takes over 4 hours, so I would make it a longer than a day trip trip.]


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