DescriptionThe more things change, the more things stay the same in Ojai (Oh-hi). The denizens of this oak-studded artists’ colony nestled in the mountains north of Ventura wouldn’t have it any other way. Settled in the 1870s, the last big change was in 1917 when a fire destroyed much of what was then a dusty Western town called Nordhoff. It took a new name the same year, from the Chumash Indian word a’hwai, meaning “moon.”
Ojai’s pocket-size downtown, with its distinctive Spanish Revival architecture, was the brainchild of glass magnate Edward Libbey. The heart and soul of the community, Libbey Park, is named for the man who not only envisioned the town as it appears today, but largely financed its rebuilding. In place of the cookie-cutter look that defines many a Southern California city, you’ll find a stately post office tower fashioned after a campanile in Havana, and across from the park the handsome block-long Arcade, a landmark structure housing boutiques, galleries and eateries.
Libbey Park provides a majestic setting for such popular annual events as the Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament in April, the oldest amateur tennis tournament of its kind, which began in 1900 and helped launch the careers of Billie Jean King and Arthur Ashe; phone (805) 646-7241. Art in the Park in May is both a juried exhibit and a free celebration of painting, sculpture and ceramics that turns the park into a huge outdoor gallery. The much-anticipated event also features live music; phone the chamber at (805) 646-8126.
The park-adjacent Ojai Art Center, 113 S. Montgomery St., serves the town and surrounding valley as the hub of cultural activity—monthly exhibits and competitions, stage productions, concerts, dances and more; phone (805) 646-0117. Ojai Valley Museum, housed in a Mission Revival-style church at 130 W. Ojai Ave., is caretaker of the valley’s rich history; you’ll find exhibits on Chumash culture, early settlers, local artists and an interpretive garden of native plants. Phone (805) 640-1390.
Visitor InfoOjai Valley Chamber of Commerce 206 N. Signal St. Suite P OJAI, CA 93023. Phone:(805)646-8126