Serene Inn near Los Padres National Forest
When legendary film director Frank Capra needed a stand-in for Shangri-La during the shooting of the 1937 movie Lost Horizon, he chose Ojai, a small mountain town located about 80 miles north of Los Angeles. In the novel on which the film is based, author James Hilton describes his fictional paradise as a remote, idyllic place tucked away in the Himalayas. Ojai fails to meet that last qualification, but it makes for a convincing replica of paradise in every other regard, thanks to its location amid the 6,000-foot peaks of the Topatopa Mountains, near the crystal-clear Lake Casitas and the lush Los Padres National Forest. The serenity of the landscape extends to the Hummingbird Inn of Ojai, where the crown of Chief Peak mountain can be seen from various vantages and dozens of colorful hummingbirds—the inn’s unofficial mascots—flit and flutter around the property.
Each guest room features hardwood floors, a flat-screen TV, and a soothing palette of neutral earth tones. In the morning, a free breakfast spread awaits guests, whose days can include a dip in the outdoor pool or a visit to massage therapist Laura Hathaway for onsite massages incorporating aromatherapy and organic oils. Explore Ojai by renting one of the inn's complimentary bicycles or by hitching a team of hummingbirds to their low-flying dirigibles.
Ojai, CA: Artsy Small Town in Peaceful Mountain Valley
In Ojai at dusk, the light from the setting sun reflects off of the Topatopa Mountains in such a way that the face of the mountains starts to glow with a distinctive rouge color. Locals call it the "pink moment," and Ojai is one of the few places in the world where this phenomenon occurs. You can get a nice view of this event at Meditation Mount, a New Age center.
Serenity and simplicity seem to be some of the defining characteristics of Ojai, contrasting it with the sprawling Los Angeles, located about 90 minutes southeast. Ojai has just a handful of traffic lights and some well-kept bridle paths. The city also used to be home to the peaceful Chumash tribe, who believed that the land's east-west configuration gave it magical powers. Spiritual traditions still linger; today, the town features a number of sites, spas, and shops dedicated to holistic healing and meditation.
Many restaurants in Ojai rely on local farms to source their food; the produce grown in town is well-regarded enough that residents of neighboring towns have been known to travel to Ojai on Sunday mornings for the weekly farmers' market.
There's also a strong artistic presence in town, due in no small part to former resident Beatrice Wood, a renowned sculptor. She worked until her death at age 105. You’re likely to stumble upon the works of local artists hanging on the walls in the area's restaurants and shops, and many artists open up their studios to outside visitors.
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