Where do southern California families go for spa, fresh air and fun kids’ activities with little fuss? Ojai.
Shangri-La would not be too grand a name for the classic Southern California resort that continues to lure upscale families from Palm Springs to Bevery Hills seeking a poshly rustic getaway.
In the Past
Built in 1923 by architect Wallace Neff as an inn and clubhouse for glass magnate Edward Drummond and his cronies, today’s Ojai Valley Inn and Spa (855/697-8780; 805/646-1111) retains much of its Roaring 20’s charm, even after major renovation. Sporting the Old Hollywood pedigree of having been featured in Frank Capra’s 1937 film, Lost Horizon, it continues to attract a celebrity crowd.
In the Present
Much of Ojai’s appeal to its largely Los Angeles-based clientele (LA is about a 90-minute drive) comes from its pure air, mountain scenery and casual elegance. (Its reputed legacy as a ‘place of healing’ for the indigenous Chumash Indians helps, too.) Tropical banana plantations and horse farms dot the low-lying Topa Topa Mountains.
This makes the Ojai Valley Inn a favorite weekend retreat of peace-seeking celebrities and their families, who enjoy the immaculately maintained abode and tile buildings, cozy guest rooms and fine restaurants. The 800-acre resort features an 18-hole Sr. PGA Tour golf course — a classic designed by George C. Thomas, Jr. back in 1923 — plus three heated pools, tennis, fitness and award-winning spa facilities. Complimentary wellness classes include water aerobics and yoga that teens may enjoy. Kayaking, bass fishing, horseback riding, good hiking and vineyard touring are all nearby.
Ojai earned a AAA 5-diamond designation in 2006 and has maintained it ever since. A spa expansion created 28 treatment rooms and a terrific fitness facility. The lobby, slated for updating in 2017, will be more welcoming than ever, and updates to many of the guestrooms are underway. Jimmy’s Pub pizza is a family favorite at night, while the Golf Shop, The Tennis Shop and the Hacienda Gift Shop are popular on-site spots. Ojai Valley continues to update its offerings while retaining its old-fashioned charm.
For the Family
The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa has repeatedly been rated in the “Top Ten Resorts for Familes” by Parents Magazine. FTF member Y. G. of Los Angeles told us, “My husband and I loved taking Annie, then 3-years old, up to the Ojai Valley Inn, where they have a great kid’s program. [Camp Ojai welcomes kids 4-12 daily in summer and over school holidays.] I would take Annie over in the morning, when she did an arts n’ crafts project, some reading or other things with the kids. Part of the time she would go to a huge ranch nearby to visit the animals while older kids went on a trail ride. I could go to the spa or just relax, while Andy played some golf.
“Then, after they fed the kids lunch back at the Inn, the counselors took them all down to swim. We would meet them at the pool and spend the afternoon together. It was a wonderful vacation. I like the area, too, because you can make a day trip into Santa Barbara and visit some local museums.”
Rooms and Rates
Within a luxurious hacienda-style compound are elegant rooms which can be adjoined, plus separate suites and cottages. Most have fireplaces for chilly evenings and terraces to show off the mountain views. Rooms ($$$$) with king or two queen beds vary depending on view; 1BR suites begin at $$$$$.
Photo Courtesy Ojai Valley Inn and Spa
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