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Weekend in Ojai–The Perfect Getaway

The purpose of our weekend in Ojai was to stay at Caravan Outpost.  Ever since Jason had shown me pictures online of this unique “glamping” site I was determined to check it out in person.  So we made reservations and hit the road. After sitting in traffic (gotta love Los Angeles) for almost four hours I wondered if we had made the right decision.  It seems impossible in Southern California to try and outwit traffic!

As we drove into Ojai on a Friday afternoon I was a bit underwhelmed by the town.  Some of the shops and restaurants along the main street, Ojai Ave., had charming exteriors while others looked in need of updating.  Scattered between these establishments were vacant lots and empty buildings. So far this was not the getaway I had imagined. Maybe I was just hungry and tired of being in the car.   

A cozy set-up of an Airstream trailer and patio furniture at Caravan Outpost in Ojai
A cozy set-up at Caravan Outpost

Where to Stay–Caravan Outpost

We decided to head straight to Caravan Outpost and check-in.  I was glad that one of the TripAdvisor reviews I read mentioned that the location is a bit odd--a light industrial area two blocks off the main road.  I would never have expected the lush grounds shown in the online photos to appear next to a cold storage facility. We parked our car on the street and walked into a different world--eleven Airstream trailers surrounded by large palm trees and stylish, outdoor furnishings. We were the first to arrive so the grounds were really quiet.  After entering the lobby area we were greeted by a very friendly staff member. The check-in process includes the staff member escorting guests to their Airstreams to help navigate the unique accommodations. Finally we unloaded our luggage while admiring the quirky amenities like a turntable with vinyls, paperback books and a colorful, Indian blanket on the bed.

Book your stay now at Caravan Outpost Through Booking.com.

The lobby area of Caravan Outpost in Ojai
The lobby area of Caravan Outpost

Later in the evening we had the pleasure of visiting with the owner, Brad Steward.  As we were standing under the string lights with relaxed and happy people wandering in and out of their Airstreams, Brad shared the journey of how this place came into existence. At first, the city of Ojai did not understand why he wanted to purchase a junkyard and convert it into a “glamping” spot, or as the Outpost website describes, an Adventure Hotel. This very odd proposal met with considerable resistance from all city departments. But Brad is a determined man and eventually his plan was approved. Two years later the place is a success.  (Weekends book far in advance so take that into account for future travel plans.)   In a short period of time this unique spot has come to the attention of  LA area celebrities and their families as well as large corporations looking for a special spot for executive retreats.

After visiting with Brad we spent the rest of the evening chatting with other guests and eating s’mores by the fire pit.  Something about a fire and s’mores just makes me smile--maybe it’s all those great memories from Girl Scout camping trips.

First pit and seating area, a very popular spot in the evening
Fire pit and seating area, a very popular spot in the evening
Shared seating area available on the ground of Caravan Outpost in Ojai
Shared seating area available on the grounds

What To Do In Ojai–Hike, Bike and Shop

In our short time in the small town of Ojai, we learned that there is plenty to do. While our weekend in Ojai consisted of just two days, I could easily have stayed three or four.  In fact we found ourselves rushing from place to place to experience as much as possible.

Late Friday afternoon we borrowed two bicycles from the Outpost (free to registered guests) and rode the Ojai Valley Trail immediately behind the property.  The former railroad that cut through Ojai has since been removed and converted into a scenic 9.3 mile trail. Biking in Ojai is clearly a popular activity and several hotels in the area offer bikes for their customers.

Wendy biking in Ojai along the Ojai Valley Trail
Biking in Ojai along the Ojai Valley Trai
Hiking in Ojai, a beautiful view of the valley
Hiking in Ojai, a beautiful view of the valley

Hiking in Ojai is also a great option.  On Saturday morning we rose early to hike the 3.5 mile Shelf Road Trail which offers beautiful views of the valley.   Some of the trails in the area were badly damaged by last year’s fire, so it’s worth asking a local for a trail recommendation.  And I definitely recommend arriving early since parking is limited.  (Interested in our other hiking adventures? Then click here or here.)

Outside Bart's Books, the largest outdoor bookstore in the U.S.
Outside Bart's Books, the largest outdoor bookstore in the U.S.
Bart's Books in Ojai California
Bart's Books

Finally, there is plenty of shopping in Ojai, mostly along Ojai Ave.  But my favorite shop, Bart’s Books, is a bit off the main road on Matilija Street.  I love independent bookstores and this one is especially unique due to its designation as the largest outdoor bookstore in the U.S.  I think this might be the only bookstore anywhere where shelves have been built into the exterior walls. While there appeared to be plenty of photo taking visitors like me, this is also a popular place for locals to buy and sell books.  

Where to Eat and Drink in Ojai–Great Food, Wine and Beer

The quality and selection of good food, wine and beer in Ojai was a pleasant surprise to me and Jason.  Our Friday lunch was at Ojai Beverage Company. This isn’t a place you come for stylish decor, but instead for a enormous selection of beer and wine and darn tasty burgers.  I learned from the manager that they carry almost 1,000 different beers from around the world in the cooler cases along the wall.  In the bar there are 50 beers on tap!   The selection of wines from Ventura and Santa Barbara counties is also impressive.  We shared a good burger, some fried pickles and two local beers on tap.

Ojai Beverage Company--great food and a large selection of bottled beers
Ojai Beverage Company--great food and a large selection of bottled beers

For Saturday’s lunch we selected Azu and the Ojai Valley Brewery.  The menu here is original and well executed, featuring mostly Mediterranean cuisine.  We were excited to order patatas bravas as an appetizer which was delicious! In fact I think it’s the first time I’ve seen this item on a menu outside of Spain.  Then Jason ordered a Syrian chicken salad and I had a black bean taco. I’m not ordinarily a fan of Bloody Mary’s, but I’ll admit that the one Jason ordered at Azu was also quite good.

Wendy enjoying a Bloody Mary at Azu and Ojai Valley Brewery
Wendy enjoying a Bloody Mary at Azu and Ojai Valley Brewery

We couldn’t leave the area without checking out Ojai wineries.  This is a fairly small wine region, but if you enjoy wine as much as we do, it’s worth checking-out.  There are about half a dozen wineries in Ojai and a few more dozen throughout Ventura County. While there are some tasting rooms in the downtown area of Ojai, we were intent on getting out to the vineyards.

Wine tasting in Ojai--at the Topa Mountain Vineyard
Wine tasting in Ojai--at the Topa Mountain Vineyard

We began with Topa Mountain Winery which is a fun place to hang out.  I know that “fun” is not usually a word associated with a winery, but it’s accurate here.  In addition to the expected tasting room, there is a large outdoor area where you’ll find visitors of all ages and their dogs.  Very little food is sold at Topa, so people are encouraged to bring a picnic. After paying for our tasting ($15 each), our first sample was poured and then we were encouraged to enjoy the property and play one of the games (it turns out that we are both pretty good at cornhole!). The Ojai Valley Trail runs behind the property and bike racks are available.  But I’d be remiss if I didn’t share that the wines here are pretty good. We went home with two bottles--one red and one white.

Wine tasting in Ojai--Jason playing cornhole at Topa Mountain Vineyard
Wine tasting in Ojai--Jason playing cornhole at Topa Mountain Vineyard

Our last stop of the day was Boccali Vineyard.  This tasting room is open only on the weekends and consists of a small shack with four stools at the counter.  The charge for each tasting is $10. While I didn’t love these wines, I thought the setting was charming. Surrounding the tasting shack is a large lawn and dozens of very large, old oak trees.  Next door is the Boccali Restaurant which was packed. I took a quick peek at the restaurant and thought the Italian dishes coming out of the kitchen looked delicious.

Two Days in Ojai is Too Short

We began our time here with awful traffic and a lackluster first impression.  But we ended it with a desire to return to explore more restaurants, wineries and trails.  Ojai did not immediately “wow” me, but instead it took some time to unfold its charms. The area was hard hit by the fires in Ventura County last December, but its recovered quickly.  This quaint and quirky town is ready for visitors looking for a weekend getaway.

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Looking for a great weekend getaway? Then consider Ojai. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, shopping or wine tasting, this place has it all.
Looking for a great location for a weekend getaway? Then consider Ojai California. Whether you enjoy hiking, biking, shopping or wine tasting, this place has it all!

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Debbie Jackson

    Looks really fun Wendy!

    1. Wendy

      Thanks Debbie, it really was a fun trip!

  2. Susan Manson

    Wendy,
    My husband and I are also Southern California empty nesters .Loved your Ojai post. I am curious how you heard about this place. we like to bike,shop and get away. I love Ojai though we haven’t been there for many years.We will definately be going there……..So fun. thank you for your post. Looking forward to reading your local discoveries.
    Susan

    1. Wendy

      Susan, I’m so glad you enjoyed our Ojai post! I’ve known about Ojai for many years, but have never made the effort to visit until we learned about Caravan Outpost from a business colleague of Jason’s. Once I saw the website I knew I had to visit. Sometimes it takes something new or really unique to finally visit a place we’ve known about for years. Look forward to sharing other local discoveries with you!

  3. Jay Artale

    I had my 50th birthday girly weekend there – it was blissful. Full of a relaxing day and massage at a local spa, chilling out, and good eating. We found that the restaurants close quite early, even during peak season and on the weekends. So you have to head out early if you want to get your pick of places. We’ve been here a number of times, and my husband has played golf here too — I think we even camped near the lake once or twice. A fab LA getaway. I still have fond memories of the bike ride we took past the citrus groves just north of the town – the smell of the blossom was divine.

    1. Wendy

      Thanks for sharing all of your wonderful memories of Ojai!

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