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Just 60 miles north of Los Angeles, the village of Ojai, California has long seemed like a remote, unspoiled paradise, a reputation enhanced by the Ojai Valley’s starring role as Shangri-La in 1937’s Lost Horizon. Nestled in an east-west mountain range where the sunsets provide a rare “pink moment,” Ojai is an oasis of serenity, known for world-class spas and celebrity-worthy luxury, drawing stars (residents include Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen, Bill Paxton, and Reese Witherspoon) and tourists in search of quiet relaxation and pampering.
WHERE TO STAY
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is the area’s most celebrated resort, with a 130-year history and a fabled clientele. (For true luxury and exclusivity, rent the Casa Elar, a gated villa on the property, where Private Practice star Kate Walsh had her wedding reception. Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn also honeymooned at the Ojai Valley Inn.) In addition to its championship golf course, tennis courts, and stables, the Inn has a world-famous spa, with its unique Moroccan Kuyam mud-smearing treatment.
Rolling Thunder Ranch has a set of private cottages decorated in Early Cowboy but with modern amenities (WiFi, iPod speaker bases); the property also houses the Deer Lodge, where you can dine on wild game and enjoy some of Ojai’s only nightlife. Guests at the Su Nido Inn, a boutique hotel located in the center of town, rave about its solicitous service, homey amenities (like a fireplaces and well-stocked DVD library), and plush feather beds.
WHERE TO EAT
The best local seasonal produce, much of it from the chef’s own ranch, finds its way into the unique and ever-changing French- and Italian-inflected menu at Suzanne’s Cuisine, foodies’ favorite spot in Ojai. For decades, the romantic dining spot of choice in Ojai for decades has been The Ranch House, where visitors dine outdoors in a lush garden that is also the source of the herbs that flavor their steaks and seafood. The Mediterranean menu at Azu delights diners with its wide variety of tapas (try the dates, stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon) and its homemade gelato in exotic flavors (like mango chili lime or blood orange dark chocolate).
HOW TO RELAX
As you hike along the Pratt Trail Loop, relish the scenery – citrus and avocado groves, mountain vistas, celebrity hikers like Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. Nearby Lake Casitas offers boating, camping, fishing, and a water park. Enjoy the arts and crafts at the Ojai Art Center or the many galleries, including the Primavera, where Anthony Hopkins’ paintings are on display.
If you’re not staying at the Ojai Valley Inn, there are still plenty of other spa options, including the female-friendly Oaks Spa, the Day Spa of Ojai (where you can get a warm volcanic soil rub), and the Shangri-La Paradise, a spa so exclusive they’ll only tell you the address after you make a reservation.
There are also plenty of spiritual institutes in town, including Meditation Mount (which speaks for itself), the Ojai Foundation – with meditation facilities like teepees, kivas, and a sweat lodge, all inspired by the Chumash Indians who were the area’s first residents – and the Krishnamurti Education Center, which includes its own inn (which was the philosopher J. Krishnamurti’s home for 40 years), with TV-free guest rooms for a true retreat.