Fun Things to Do in Historic Ojai, Ventura County's Smallest City

Ojai, Ventura County's smallest city with under 8,000 residents, is 40 miles from Thousand Oaks, the 2nd largest city in the county. This drive is well worth it if you're looking for a unique old town feeling right here in Ventura County.

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Incorporated as a city in 1921, the Ojai valley was once inhabited by the Chumash Indians. The name Ojai is derived from the Chumash word "Awhai," meaning "moon." Glass manufacturer Edward D. Libbey helped create the layout of Ojai. After a fire destroyed much of the town in 1917, the western-style town received a new Spanish Revival look.

View of the arcade and pergola in front of Libbey Park on Ojai Avenue

View of the arcade and pergola in front of Libbey Park on Ojai Avenue

The Ojai Post Office tower and portico was completed in 1917 and is a focal point for the city at the corner of Ojai Avenue and Signal Street. The tower was modeled after the Christopher Columbus Cathedral in Havana, Cuba, with additional details from Mexico. The tower complements the arcade and pergola along Ojai Avenue. You can't miss the one block arcade with its shops, eateries and art galleries.

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Here's a selection of just some of the great things to do in Ojai:

The Ojai Valley Inn and Spa was ranked as the 33rd best hotel in California out of nearly 5,600 hotels by U.S. News & World Report in 2013. The Inn is a great local weekend getaway! Whether you stay there overnight or not, the Ojai Valley Inn's historic 18 hole golf course, 31,000 sq ft spa and fitness facility and four lighted tennis courts are available to local day trippers.

Libbey Bowl and Libbey Park are located in the heart of Ojai next to the downtown arcade area. Libbey Bowl, originally built in 1957 and completely renovated in 2011, is used for the annual Ojai Music Festival, Storytelling Festival, Ojai Day celebration, holiday events and much more. Libbey Park provides plenty of sitting areas, shade trees, a kids' playground in the heart of the city.

Strolling and shopping in the Ojai Arcade

Strolling and shopping in the Ojai Arcade

Founded in 1966, the Ojai Valley Museum at 130 West Ojai Avenue maintains an extensive collection of art, Native American baskets, pioneer tools and photographs of early days in Ojai.

Meditation Mount

Meditation Mount

Located on a 32 acre site overlooking the Ojai Valley, Meditation Mount is a public meditation center that has invited the public to its beautiful grounds since opening in 1970. (NOTE HOWEVER THAT MEDITATION MOUNT HAS BEEN CLOSED SINCE THE THOMAS FIRE OF DECEMBER 2017 AS A RESULT OF DAMAGES. RESTORATION IS IN PROCESS. UPDATES AT www.facebook.com/meditationmount.

The Ojai Valley Trail provides cyclists, equestrians, runners and strollers a nine mile path paralleling Highway 33 from Foster Park on the north end of Ventura to Soule Park on west of downtown Ojai. My personal favorite activity in Ojai is riding bikes on this trail.

The Ojai Playhouse is a single screen theater originally built in 1914 that has been restored to its deco-style look inside and now shows first run movies in a theater that seats over 200 people. The Ojai Film Society hosts eclectic, independently produced movies here on Sunday afternoons.

NOTE: The Ojai Playhouse has been closed since January 2018 to restore the theater due to a water main break causing damage and flooding to the building. Check www.facebook.com/ojaiplayhouse for updates.

The Ojai Trolley Service provides transportation on a fixed route schedule throughout Ojai, Meiners Oaks and Mira Monte. Where else can you find a year-round trolley around here!?

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Ojai Day was originally conceived in 1917, took a long hiatus in the 1920s, and came back in 1991 on the third Saturday of each October. The event showcases the best Ojai has to offer, with entertainment, a parade, art, food, games and much more. Visit www.ojaiday.com for more information.

The annual Ojai Valley Lavender Festival at Libbey Park began in 2004 with a goal of demonstrating and promoting the many uses of lavender and educating others about the benefits of plants that celebrate the Ojai Valley’s Mediterranean climate. Visit www.ojaivalleylavenderfestival.org to learn more.

One of my favorite activities with the kids just minutes from Ojai is the Lake Casitas Recreation Area, which includes the seasonal (Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend) Casitas Water Adventure. Though the water is not heated, the 1,200 foot lazy river and multi-level water jungle gym for the kids is sure to entertain you while cooling you off.

Casitas Water Adventure

Casitas Water Adventure

For other year-round things to do in Ojai, click here in the Do Something section of CVG or here for kids' activities. Or here for Fitness & Sports activities. And for upcoming Ojai events, click here. To learn more about the city, visit the City of Ojai website at ojaicity.org.

The Twin Ponds Conservation Area in the Conejo Open Space is Protected Land

The Twin Ponds Conservation Area in the Dos Vientos section of Newbury Park is part of the public open space lands of the Conejo Open Space Conservation Agency and is protected by a conservation easement to the California Department of Fish and Game.

July 2014

July 2014

January 2015

January 2015

May 2016

May 2016

The ponds were originally constructed in the 1920s as part of the irrigation system for agricultural and cattle ranching operations at Dos Vientos Ranch. Today they serve as important habitat for Two Striped Garter Snakes and larger animals such as deer, bobcat, coyote and mountain lions that depend on a reliable source of water. Migrating waterfowl are occasionally abundant, especially in winter.

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COSCA and Fish & Game ask that we enjoy this scenic area but protect the ponds for the future and ask that we do not enter the water or allow dogs/horses to enter the water, disturb or remove any animal or plant or place any plants or animals, including fish, into the ponds.

To explore the ponds, take the Vista Del Mar Trail from one of several access points in the Dos Vientos area, including the corner of Via Ricardo and Via Rincon and the corner of Rancho Dos Vientos and Via El Cerro. This is a fun little hike to take the kids on and the ponds are only about a mile from the Via Ricardo/Via Rincon trailhead.

Twin Ponds? What ponds? The ponds are completely dried up as of August/September 2016.

Twin Ponds? What ponds? The ponds are completely dried up as of August/September 2016.

The Seabee Museum at Naval Base Ventura County in Port Hueneme is a Local Must-See

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The U.S. Navy Seabee Museum at 1001 Addor Street, Port Hueneme is a state-of-the-art, free of charge must-see for local residents and visitors alike. One of the U.S. Navy's 11 official museums, the Seabee Museum displays historical material relating to the history of the Naval Construction Force, better known as the Seabees, and the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps.

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The 38,000 sq ft museum was recently renovated and features modern exhibit spaces, memorial garden, theater, education room and well-stocked gift shop. Well worth a visit with the kids. Additionally, the STEM Center at the Museum is a hidden gem!

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The second oldest of the official Navy museums, the Seabee Museum was established in 1947 in Port Hueneme, which today is part of Naval Base Ventura County.

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The museum is open Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. Closed Sundays and all Federal holidays. Admission and parking are free. Learn more at www.usnavyseabeemuseum.com or call 805.982.5165.

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MASH Site at Malibu Creek State Park

Malibu Creek State Park is a wilderness wonderland, stretching over 8,000 acres in Calabasas, Agoura and Malibu. The park is a great place for hiking, biking, camping, picnicking and exploring. If you do plan to explore the park, be sure to check out the old M*A*S*H (or "MASH" television series set!

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Produced by 20th Century Fox, M*A*S*H was filmed from September 1972 to February 1983 over 11 seasons and 256 episodes on CBS. Exterior scenes were filmed at what is now Malibu Creek State Park. Over the years, the ambulance and other props left at the old site became less and less visible as the surrounding brush became overgrown.

In 2007, the set was restored with a shaded picnic area, military vehicles, ambulance, helipad and signpost. Check out the photos below, but, better yet, visit it in person! For more pictures and extensive information about the M*A*S*H set and Malibu Creek State Park, visit www.malibucreekstatepark.org.

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The M*A*S*H set is easily accessible from the main parking lot at Malibu Creek State Park, mostly on wide fire roads, with one significant hill, a bridge crossing and one somewhat rocky trail section. The path is about 2 1/2 miles each way, so it would be a good idea to bring drinks and snacks.

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CSU Channel Islands is Ventura County's Only Four-Year Public University

Aerial view of the campus

Aerial view of the campus

California State University Channel Islands (or CSUCI) opened in 2002 as the 23rd campus in the California State University system and is the only four-year public university in Ventura County. It is located in Camarillo at the juncture of the Oxnard Plain and northern edge of the Santa Monica Mountains. The 1,187 acre campus is accessible via Lewis Road in Camarillo and Potrero Road from Newbury Park.

As of Fall 2017, CSUCI had enrollment of 7,053 students. CSUCI offers 26 majors and 26 minors, with a focus on business, sciences, liberal studies and teaching credentials, among others.

Learn more about CSUCI at www.csuci.edu.

CSUCI is located in the former Camarillo State Hospital, which operated from 1936 to 1997. At its peak in the 1950s, the hospital served over 7,000 patients.

On the north side of the campus is the 367 acre University Park, where a dairy farm that served the hospital was disbanded. It has informally been coined the "Scary Dairy."

West of the campus is the prominent, 538 foot elevation Round Mountain.

Aerial of the former Camarillo State Hospital (Photo Courtesy Pleasant Valley Historical Society)

Aerial of the former Camarillo State Hospital (Photo Courtesy Pleasant Valley Historical Society)

Building Pacific Coast Highway Around Point Mugu in 1923-1924

Point Mugu before and after creation of a narrow road around it in 1924.

Point Mugu before and after creation of a narrow road around it in 1924.

According to the California Highway Commission in the October 1924 issue of “California Highways,” perhaps the most dangerous and difficult piece of construction work on the California state highway system at that time was the 3800 feet of grading AROUND Point Mugu.

For those driving Pacific Coast Highway in Ventura County past Mugu Rock, there are clear signs of this old route that took automobiles on a precarious route around Point Mugu.

Peaking through the fence towards the old road around Mugu Rock.

Peaking through the fence towards the old road around Mugu Rock.

The new and still existing route was created by blasting a massive hole through Point Mugu to create Mugu Rock in 1937 to 1940.

The work to complete this section of the Oxnard to San Juan Capistrano PCH route was authorized by a bond issue in 1919.

The project averaged 60 workers who moved 108,000 cubic yards or rock at a total cost of $108,500 (heck, that would be the cost of a pool addition and new kitchen remodel today). The cut around Point Mugu ranged from 40 feet on the ocean side to 115 feet on the high side in creating the narrow, short-lived roadway.

The California Highway Commission ended its article by stating “…along this piece of rugged coast line the Old Pacific is recognized as an arch enemy to whom we must trust as little as possible of our costly highway.” Sheesh, that was not a particularly optimistic statement!

Two Ventura County Cities Were Born on September 29, 1964!

You wouldn't immediately know it looking at the headline of this September 30, 1964 issue of The Daily News, but the day before, residents in BOTH Camarillo and Thousand Oaks voted to incorporate their respective cities.

The article indicates that voters in Camarillo voted in favor of incorporation by a 5 to 1 margin, with 64% of the 3,745 registered voters turning in ballots. In the far right column, you'll see that with 10 of 18 precincts counted, 61% of 2,428 votes cast in Thousand Oaks were for incorporation. In Thousand Oaks they also voted on the name of the city...over 87% of votes cast said "yes" to the name Thousand Oaks.

Thanks to the Pleasant Valley Historical Society Museum in Camarillo for maintaining this and other local Ventura County history!

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