I’d actually heard of Ojai as part of the family lore, in one of the tidbits about my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born. One of the things he had done was haul horses, and one of the destinations was the Thacher School in Ojai, where learning to ride and care for a horse is part of the curriculum. Despite that, I’d never had any particular interest to go there – well, perhaps a vague sense of interest, but I never happened to be in the neighborhood, and the interest was not pressing enough to make a special trip. However, my sister chose it as destination for our Sisters’ Weekend in 2019 so now I can say I’ve been! Actually she’d chosen it in a previous year, maybe 2017? but wildfires had other ideas about that.
It’s nestled (which I use totally un-ironically) in a small valley in the the Topatopa and Sulfur mountains, which rise to approximately 5000, and 3000 feet respectively, with the town at around 745 feet. Our drive there passed by Lake Casitas, another weekend/vacation destination, and was quite scenic, winding from the ocean up to the Ojai valley.
In some ways it reminded me of Cambria, the town where we grew up – the tourism, bit of hippy flavor (although Ojai is perhaps more new-agey), retirees – WHICH! Who knew, AARP was founded there! – and, somewhat insular and “now that I live here no more development should happen.” But, a pleasant place to spend a weekend – there was an awesome book store, and ice cream. What more do you need? Ohand we had a nice hike in the hills around town, getting some great views.
Inadvertently we were there on a weekend with several events, starting with Third Friday – where the Ojai Valley Museum and downtown shops were open late and some had snacks. Saturday was Ojai Day, where part of the main street was blocked off and filled up with food and merchandise booths. And Sunday morning was the Ventura Marathon, which did a meander around the valley before heading down to the coast at Ventura. In getting out of town we had to detour around the event course, and ended up passing by the entrance to the Thacher School.
I don’t know that I need to go back, but I’m glad we went, and I can see how it’s a popular weekend getaway for those who live within an hour or two drive. Worth a visit if you are in the area, but also not the end of the world if you don’t make it.