Sometimes a girl just needs to pack her bags, jump on a plane and take a vacation to a land far away. This couldn’t have been truer for me more than a few weeks ago. However what if your money’s funny and your credit can’t get it? Taking a trip on such short notice isn’t always feasible. Enter the “Staycation”- a vacation you take close to home yet feels far enough away and won’t cost you an arm and a leg to enjoy.
Living in Southern California provides me with a ton of Staycation options. Las Vegas is a 3-5 hour drive, Palm Springs 2 hours (depending on traffic) and if I’m feeling really adventurous Santa Barbara is a train ride away. On this particular weekend however I was looking for a different kind of adventure. I wanted to go somewhere that I’d never been, was not only a short drive but was also a place that wouldn’t feel overrun with tourists while still offering a variety of things to do. After much research Ojai seemed to be just what I was looking for.
Where to Stay
There is no shortage of cute places to stay in Ojai. Each Inn more quaint than the next, offering apartment like amenities with a warm rustic decor. After finding that all of the most popular Inn’s were sold out I ended up making reservations at The Blue Iguana Inn – a cute little bed and breakfast that was pretty popular among Yelpers.
Little did I know I’d made the reservation on the wrong days! Seems in Ojai, most hotels want you to book a 2 night stays at the very least on the weekend, and if you’re not booking Friday – Sunday or Sunday & Monday you’re SOL.
So after making the drive all the way to Ojai I’d found out that I made the wrong reservation and to top it off all of the other hotels in the area were sold out too! Luckily my always positive always seeing the brighter side of things, good friend Valerie was there to talk me down from the proverbial ledge I was so ready to jump off of. I made a couple calls and found an Inn that would accommodate us both without breaking the bank. Thank God for the kind folks over at Chantico Inn & Suites.
Though Chantico got very mixed reviews on Yelp, I found the staff and the grounds to be very welcoming. Upon check in, the front desk agent gave us a glass of wine as we settled into our room. We were also invited to their nightly reception and complimentary continental breakfast the next morning. Free booze and breakfast? Needless to say Chantico Inn had me at hello. What I especially loved about Chantico is the homey feel of the rooms. While not necessarily my personal style, there was a bed and breakfast feel to the rooms that made you feel like you were a guest in someone’s home as opposed to a hotel guest. However, if I’m being honest there are some much-needed upgrades I think this place needs to invest in as some of the furniture looked worn and there were windows without screens. The service was so excellent however I forgave them of this fact.
What to Do
After all of that drama ,Mama was badly in need of a cocktail. So imagine my surprise to learn that wine tasting is to Ojai what casino’s are to Vegas-EVERYWHERE! Val, not being much of a drinker totally entertained the wino inside me and had no problem coming along for the ride A.K.A acting like she was wine tasting and pouring the majority of her tastes in my glass.
The Ojai Vineyard was probably my favorite as the tasting menu was very extensive and they had some pretty good aged selections. Not to mention the tasting room was one of the cutest I’ve ever been in. I just loved the decor!
Ojai has the boutique shopping game on lock! Everywhere I looked was a beautifully curated shop with one of kind pieces deKora & Co. among my faves. The store has some of the most stylish home decor, beauty products, and furniture I’ve ever seen. I wanted to take everything from the shop and put it in my home.
A bookstore is my happy place, seriously the idea of curling up on one of those overstuffed chairs, coffee in hand browsing through some romance novel is what I hope heaven to be. So Bart’s Books, an outdoor independent bookstore in Ojai just might be my version of heaven on earth. With books ranging in price between $1.00-$10.00 you could pull up a seat in a cozy outdoor nook, sun shining on your face and get lost in the various titles and genre’s the store offers. I especially loved how welcoming the place felt. More than just visiting a bookstore and buying a couple of books, it felt like an experience in appreciating literature.
Meditation Mount– what sounded very hippy dippy at first (not that I mind that sort of thing) turned out to be my favorite part of the trip. Meditation Mount is a sacred site on 32 acres of land at the east end of the Ojai Valley. Completely supported by donations, the site is used for meditative meetings, inspirational educational programs and community events. There is a peace that washes over you upon arrival that I can’t quite put into words. We ended up here on our very last day in Ojai and it was the perfect ending to what was to be a weekend of rejuvenation.
I’m not a very “one with nature” kind of girl and much prefer big city life but the there is something to be said for allowing yourself the time to commune with it. We walked on the grounds and what hit me first was how quiet and peaceful it felt.Talking above a whisper felt as if you were disturbing the serenity of the place. Although we weren’t able to experience the sunset I hear that it’s the best time to go as the views are breathtaking . There’s a very tiny hike that you take to the outer most part of the mount and you’re met with couples and friends enjoying packed lunches among the backdrop of the Ojai valley. Perhaps my favorite part of this experience was our walk through the “International Garden of Peace” where you’re met with boulders and benched engraved with principles like “Goodwill” and “Essential Divinity”.
Ojai avenue is a one stop shop of smart clothing boutiques, live music and local eateries. The energy of the place was all laid back cool with no pretentious doorman or pointless lines to fight through. There’s a true “where everybody knows your name” feel to the place and although we weren’t locals we were treated as such. We stopped for brunch the next morning and some locals actually remembered seeing us in passing at one of the bars. Granted we were probably the only black women rocking out to folk blues but still they stopped us to say hi and we felt totally welcomed 🙂
Where to Eat
There are almost too many places worthy of being on this “where to eat list” . However, after screwing up our initial reservation on top of feeling starved, it was Azu that saved the day. Located on Ojai avenue, Azu specializes in tapas, craft cocktails, local wine and beer and just our luck brunch! Everything we had at Azu was great! I especially loved their fried chicken biscuit sandwich, which was kind of like the southern version of Eggs Benedict. I ordered the french toast with eggs and a side of chicken sausage (which is pretty basic) and even that was amazing!
I’d like to also give honorable mention to the following establishments as their food was also amazing however to list every single one would make this post longer than it already is. So shout out to Agave Maria’s for the refreshing margs, and the Ojai Coffee Emporium for their outstanding service and delicious waffles!
I can’t wait to go back to Ojai again! Although not a very big town one weekend was not enough to experience all the city has to offer.
What are your favorite staycation destinations? I’d love to know in the comments below.