Tasty, Tranquil and Fun Things to do in Ojai, California

November 26, 2016 at 4:36 pm

One of our favorite day trips from Santa Barbara is a quick visit to Ojai, California. There is literally something for everyone here. We find the town to be a bit “hipster” and that just seems to add to the enjoyment. We love green smoothies, yoga, renting beach cruisers and quirky used bookstores! With plenty of things to ride on(bikes, trolleys, horses) and many large, open parks, kids are bound to have a good time. By visiting the nearby farms you can stock up on a great variety of produce and enjoy the stunning mountain views. This peaceful little town is a wonderful getaway location all year long. Let’s take a look at some of our favorite spots.

Bart's Books Ojai

Books, Books, Books 

Bart’s Books (302 W. Matilija St.) is an Ojai institution known as the largest outdoor bookstore in the U.S.. Currently housing over 150,000 books! We could spend hours (days?) browsing the shelves. Every nook and cranny has a comfortable seat or table, so onsite reading isn’t just allowed, it’s encouraged. Check their website for fun special events.


Book Ends Bookstore Ojai

Book Ends Bookstore Ojai

Book Ends Bookstore & Curiosities (110 South Pueblo Ave.) definitely lives up to it’s name. This former church and ‘60’s era Airstream have been lovely crafted into a unique and cozy space for exploring rare book titles and collections from antique cameras to radioactive glass(yes, you read that right.) I got a special kick out of the group of original computers. The ibook clamshell still looks pretty impressive two decades later. The proprietors share a wealth of book knowledge and are striving to turn Ojai into a “book lover’s destination.”


Organic Tastings

Casa Barranca Ojai

Casa Barranca

We have to love a town that offers at least three olive oil tasting opportunities. We drove out to Ojai Olive Oil  Company (1811 Ladera Road) and took the short tour at this 150 year old heritage olive grove. We learned about the harvest and refining process and then tucked into the samples like we hadn’t eaten in a week. The garlic infused olive oil and peach infused balsamic vinegar were too good to pass up. We came home with a bottle of each.


We continued this Mediterranean theme with a visit downtown to Casa Barranca Organic Winery and Tasting Room (209 E. Ojai Ave) where we sampled a flight of delicious local organic wines. The atmosphere was warm and friendly, and the owner educated us on Santa Ynez Valley and Santa Barbara offerings. We plan to return to visit other tasting rooms in the area. It’s time to up our wine game!


Farm Stores and Eateries

Farmer and the Cook Ojai

Farmer and the Cook

farmer and the Cook Ojai

Farmer and the Cook

Ojai has a thriving community supported agricultural program. Farm fresh produce, classes in foraging, and volunteer harvesting make eating here a very special experience. We stopped by  The Farmer and the Cook (339 W. El Roblar) to try a green smoothie and check out all of the spices, herbs and veggies on offer. This bustling store/restaurant is a hub of local activity.


Knead baking Company Ojai

Knead Baking Company

Knead Baking Company Treat

Knead Baking Company treat

So after you’ve stocked up on veggies and herbs head to Knead Baking Company (469 E. Ojai Ave.)for some treats. The bread here is so good and pairs perfectly with the olive oil. We shared a couple of tarts. Lemon kiwi and frangipani were heavenly. This would be a wonderful spot to pick up the ingredients for a picnic.


Baked Brie

Baked Brie at The Vine

It’s hard to believe we could eat again, but later in the evening we visited The Vine (308 E. Ojai Ave.) for a cup of curry and a shared baked brie dessert. The ambiance at this lovely, intimate little restaurant reminded us of a vintage eatery with classic films playing and jazzy ‘20’s style music. Very warm and inviting!



Meditation Mount Ojai

Meditation Mount

Meditation Mount Ojai

Between all this eating we needed a break to clear our heads and reflect on the stunning natural beauty that surrounds Ojai. We drove up to Meditation Mount (10340 Reeves Road) for some photographs and to contemplate the views. The quiet, spiritual property would make a perfect location for a picnic at sunset. They are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Check the website for yoga classes and special meditations.


Getting Around

We drove from place to place but The Mob Shop (110 W. Ojai Ave) is the place to rent bikes or take a bike tour. Ojai is a long valley that stretches over quite some area but is mostly flat and full of great bike trails. 

 The Ojai Trolley Company covers most of the valley and a day pass runs just $2.00.


We drove over for the day from Santa Barbara but could have easily stayed a night or two. We’d love to splurge on a spa treatment. Maybe hot rocks or reflexology? We also missed the great golf, art galleries and horseback riding Ojai is known for. I guess that gives us plenty of reasons to return! The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa would be the place to stay for a luxury resort experience. Watch for their seasonal specials. We’ve also heard excellent things about The Blue Iguana Inn a “bohemian boutique”inn. We’re already planning our next visit. Spring wildflowers? Sign us up!

The Madonna Inn

July 18, 2016 at 2:53 pm

[The Madonna Inn, San Luis Obispo

As a child growing up in the 1960’s and 70’s a highlight of any road trip on California’s central coast was a stop at The Madonna Inn. It was built in 1958 by Alex and Phyllis Madonna in San Luis Obispo as a roadside inn for travelers headed up and down the coast.The iconic inn continues to delight children and adults today. The inn is mentioned in countless travel articles and shows. The rise in vogue of all things mid-century it is making it even more celebrated. Let’s take a quick tour!

The Kitsch

From the second you walk through the door you realize this is no sleek, Mad Men style 50’s retreat. This is over the top, pink and jewel toned, Bavarian, silk floral, carved maple work of brilliance. There are copper tables and lite fixtures, plush red leather banquettes and possibly acres of floral patterned carpet. The Madonnas had a hand in every aspect of the design from the leaded glass windows to the signature goblets. Mrs Madonna loved roses, anything pink and plushiness. A woman after my own heart.

The Madonna Inn Dining Room

The Gold Rush Steak House

The Deliciousness

The food at the Inn is vintage American style fare. The Copper Cafe serves burgers, sandwiches and a generous breakfast. We found them reasonably priced and tasty. The Gold Rush Steak House is a wonderful place to experience a 1960’s posh style dining experience. Take a look at the giant rock fireplace which includes real dinosaur vertebrae as you enter. We’d recommend a martini, the Green Goddess avocado toast appetizer and the local Abalone entree. They serve a great variety of local central coast wines, including their own label, and the dessert……. well dessert is one of the best reasons to stop at the Madonna Inn! The bakery is world-famous for a reason. They have a great selection of pies, cookies and pastries, but their cakes are truly amazing. We tried the pink champagne, which wasn’t pink that day due to a pink chocolate shortage (I’m not kidding) and the toffee crunch. They were both delicious and so pretty.

Amazing Cakes

Amazing Cakes

The Restrooms

As a child I remember being enchanted by the tiny toilet and wash basin in the ladies room which remain today. The restrooms alone are worth a stop to the inn. The ladies rooms feature hand painted Italian tile and marble counters. It’s the downstairs, men’s room, however that is the most awesome. The giant waterfall urinal and clam shell sinks have been a lure for women sneaking into the gents for years. Ask a male companion or any man exiting if the coast is clear. Really, ladies, it’s a badge of honor and worth the potential embarrassment.

The Madonna Inn Ladies Room

Your Beauty is Your Smile!

The Grounds


Mrs Madonna loved roses and flowers of all kinds. There are gorgeous pink roses, fanciful wishing wells, water fountains (rare in California these days) and loads of whimsical features covering the property. Take a walk out to view the lion cage that was once home to, Duchess, the Madonna Inn lion. Rumor has it that you could actually pet her. Yikes!

The Madonna Inn's Gorgeous Roses

Gorgeous Roses

The Hotel

We haven’t had a chance to stay at the hotel but it is famed for it’s 110 unique rooms. They are each, individually decorated to the hilt in fun themes. Personally, I’d like to try the Daisy Mae with rock floors and walls, waterfall shower and garland lights. The Just Heaven looks wonderful with spiral staircase, cherubs and private viewing tower. It would be so hard to make up my mind! Click here to get an idea of all the choices. They have a gorgeous pool, whirlpool, spa, hot pink tennis and basketball courts and horseback riding.

I love any spot you can get a glimpse of another time and The Madonna Inn is pure vintage 50’s and 60’s. What about you? Have you “time-traveled” recently?



A Guide to 5 Santa Barbara Beaches

September 20, 2015 at 11:13 pm


I’ve lived in Santa Barbara for many years and never get tired staycationing in this beautiful California coastal community. The Spanish architecture, temperate climate, and fabulous surrounding wineries, make this an ideal location for a fun, relaxing vacation. As a child, I remember swimming in the ocean on my Christmas vacation. I can’t imagine doing that now! Our water is quite cool compared to other more tropical destinations.  Santa Barbara has been dubbed the “American Riviera” and our beaches often make the top 10 lists of most renowned in the world. Here are a few of my favorites, along with why I love them.

East Beach

East Beach Santa Barbara

1. East Beach: This is the number one beach associated with Santa Barbara. East beach serves as training ground for many world-class and Olympic Beach volleyball players including Karch Kirali and Todd Rogers. A long stretch of light golden fluffy sand makes this the ideal spot for building sandcastle’s, basking the sun, and playing in the cool, refreshing sea. There is some available street parking and pay by the hour spots but using the Waterfront Trolley is the best way to get from a downtown hotel to East Beach. The East Beach Grill offers light meals and drinks and the Cabrillo Bathhouse rents beach toys and equipment. If you can only see one beach in Santa Barbara don’t miss this beach.

2. West Beach: Located West of the pier, this beach is a good choice for swimmers since it is protected by the harbor. It has fewer amenities but offer a wide, sandy stretch of beach that is a good choice for families with children. It’s fun to take a break and grab an ice cream on the pier when the afternoon gets hot. The Santa Barbara Outrigger Canoe Club practices here from 5:30 to sunset on weekdays. Watch for the “sandcastle man” who creates works of art near the entry to the wharf and snap a picture in front of the dolphin statue.

3. Arroyo Burro a.k.a. Hendry’s beach: Many locals think of this as their favorite beach. In spite of being renamed Arroyo Burro years ago, we tend to call it by its original name, Hendry’s beach. We’re just stubborn this way. This is the beach for dog lovers! You will see almost every breed you can think of happily playing in the surf, chasing balls and making friends One of the best local restaurants, The Boathouse, serves up delicious meals and cocktails literally steps from the beach. The parking is free but in summer and on holidays it can be challenging to find a spot in the lot. Many choose to park on Alan Road the nearest small residential street and walk to the beach. This is a good spot to hunt sea glass and watch for Dolphins.


Butterfly Beach, Santa Barbara

4. Butterfly Beach: This beach is located across from the Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel and is the place to see the luxury Santa Barbara has become known for. It’s not unusual to see a stream of classic cars heading to dinner at the Bella Vista Restaurant. The beautiful beach is somewhat narrow and accessed by a flight of stairs. Again, parking can be a challenge but is free on the street. There are no concessions so pack a picnic. This is a great place to view the sunset.

5. Leadbetter Beach: This is a great beach for surfing, paddle boarding and kite boarding. Many local surfers got their start at Leadbetter. Even if you don’t surf you will enjoy watching the crazy tricks the kite boarders pull off. There are very limited free parking spots. Again if you’re able to take the trolley from your hotel this is the best means of access. The Shoreline Café is a good choice for a light lunch or a glass of wine at happy hour. It’s located near Santa Barbara City College so many students hang out here between classes. For fun pick up some supplies at the grocery store and arrive early to snag a barbecue and picnic table.

East, West and Leadbetter Beaches are close to lower State Street where you will find rentals for surrey bikes, beach toys and boards. Natural oil seepage occurs in the Santa Barbara Channel so be prepared for tar on your feet. It’s easily removed with baby oil and most hotels and vacation rentals will have a removal kit available for you. Most importantly, be prepared to spend an entire day enjoying these beaches.