Scenically it’s beautiful, years ago, when Hollywood’s Frank Capra filmed Shangri-La for the movie Lost Horizons, he chose Ojai. Looking at the valley today, it’s easy to see why.
It’s a long East/West valley full of oaks, orange and avocado groves surrounded by mountains that seem to enfold it and give it its small self contained community air. It’s Ojai, not on the way to anywhere, not between anywhere, just a haven of quiet peace and civility in a world that’s short of both. No advertising bill boards to barrage the senses, no Walmart, no Target, etc…
Yet there is a quiet vibrancy that comes through in its famous Tennis Tournament, The Ojai Music Festival where the L.A. Philharmonic under world renowned conductors play in a bowl setting that is exquisite. It has its Shakespeare Festival, its Film Festival, and the Wine Festival just down the road at Lake Casitas. There is always something going on, all pretty big events and yet, in its own Ojai way, all no big deal.
There are bike trails, horse trails, hiking trails through national forest, rocky scrub and waterfalls, and everywhere, anywhere in the valley, there are breathtaking views. There are gourmet restaurants and fresh baked pastry shops, it’s home to artists and potters and craftsmen, and stores and studios that sell their wares.
There’s the Ojai Valley Inn with a golf course to challenge the pros and there’s the bucolic county run Soule Park course, where the trick is to get in early. There are public tennis courts of rare quality and there are tennis clubs with gyms and pools.
The city’s self-styled nickname is “Shangri-La” referencing the natural beauty of this health-and-spirituality-focused region. Ojai’s culture is heavily focused on ecology, health and organic agriculture, walking/hiking, spirituality, music and local art. It is often seen as a hippie-friendly city, and many New Age shops exist. The benign climate has also fostered subcultures devoted to driving and exhibiting classic cars and there are several motorcycle clubs that regularly tour through Ojai as well.