Planning the Perfect Escape: Ojai's Insiders Share Their Local Knowledge

From Audrey Hepburn's room at the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa to Judy Ovitz's favorite place to eat.

This story first appeared in the Jan. 10, 2013 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.


The white-stucco Ojai Valley Inn & Spa (905 Country Club Road) celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2013. The 308-room resort (rates from $260) has lured everyone from Audrey Hepburn and Clark Gable to Kate Walsh for her 2007 wedding and offers sweeping mountain views, five restaurants, a kids camp,tennis courts and four pools. Its 10,000-square-foot Tuscan estate, Casa Elar, includes two master suites with limestone fireplaces and its own pool(from $5,500 a night).

Owned by L.A. shoe designer Calleen Cordero, the Calliote Canyon vacation home ( is set in a private canyon on five acres and includes a main house, two cottages and a yurt for yoga or screening movies ($1,400, main house;$1,850, entire property).

Near downtown,the redone 18-room Ojai Rancho Inn (rooms from $120, 615 W. Ojai Ave.) is a rustic take on the hip Ace Hotel style with such furnishings as hand-made bed side lamps by L.A. ceramicist Heather Levine. Mary Steenburgen recommends the “charming” The Lavender Inn B&B (rooms from $140, 210 E. Matilija St.),which was built in 1874 as Ojai’s first schoolhouse.

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In addition to the Ojai Valley Inn’s upscale, organically driven Maravilla, locals recommend a few mainstays. TV writer Ajay Sahgal (who penned the 2010 Fox telefilm Nevermind Nirvana) enjoys tamales on the patio at The Farmer and the Cook (339 W. El Roblar Drive). Steenburgen praises the homecooked Mexican food and tequila bar at Las Caporales (307 E. Ojai Ave.). And Judy Ovitz heads to Osteria Monte Grappa (205N. Signal St.) for pasta, fish, Italian and California wines and “the nice patio in the central courtyard.”

The grande dame of cuisine is Suzanne’s (502 W. Ojai Ave.),with a wide-ranging menu that includes salad nicoise and bouillabaisse. “The best place to eat is near the bar,” says John Langley. “Suzanne is a local legend, and the restaurant is warm and friendly!” Nancy Seltzer suggests Knead Baking Co. (469 E.Ojai Ave.) for cakes such as the chocolate peppermint holiday special, pastries and sandwiches: “It’s run by a mom and her three kids, and it’s excellent.”

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Two olive oil ranches offer tastings. Head to Regalo (283 Carne Road) on Saturdays; Ojai Olive Oil (1811 Ladera Road), with a stand of 130-year-old trees, is open Wednesday and Saturday afternoons.

The area is host every August to the Ojai Playwrights Conference, known for developing such plays as Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities, which went to Broadway in 2011. The classically oriented Ojai Music Festival will take place in June in the newly built Libbey Bowl (210 S. Signal St.), with choreographer Mark Morris as music director. And the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts (8560 Ojai-Santa Paula Road) showcases the late potter’s bohemian life and gorgeously glazed pottery.

To enjoy the great outdoors,stop in at The Mob Shop (110W. Ojai Ave.) for bike tours and rentals. Hiking guidebook Roam has the scoop on such routes as Sahgal’s favorite, the Palomar Trail, with great views of the entire valley.

Planning a wedding? In November, Gangster Squad director Ruben Fleischer and 42West publicist Holly Shakoor got married (by her client Emma Stone) at a for-rental Spanish Revival residence called Twin Peaks Ranch (Thacher Road).