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Five-Star Resort Wants To Teach You More About Life
Read the brochures and they say Ojai Valley Inn and Spa is a “spa village”, but we found it more like a luxurious college campus with classes and activities to teach you about life, and accommodations top notch to ensure you’ll feel pampered while you learn.
The Ojai Valley Inn is a bit off the beaten path, 13 miles off the 101 freeway with the exit just north of Ventura. This detour takes you into the Ojai Valley, a serene setting amid a scenic range of modest mountains. About 10 miles long and 3 miles wide, the valley has just enough room for a small town – a kind of artists’ enclave – and the sprawling 800 acres occupied by the Ojai Valley Inn, its village and its golf course.
The inn dates back to 1922 when a wealthy glassmaker and philanthropist from Ohio commissioned famed architect Wallace Neff to build a country club in a Spanish Colonial style. The 18-hole golf course was designed by George C. Thomas, also a famous designer. Even those who don’t play golf today can still appreciate the wide fairways and sweeping vistas visible from nearly every part of the property.
Over the years, the 308-room inn has become much more than a country club and in fact recently received the AAA’s five-star designation, making it one of only 15 properties in California to achieve a such high status. Pricing — which follows a $90 million renovation — is based on service and amenities that are the best mere mortals can receive, and the Ojai Valley Inn doesn’t disappoint.
When we arrived, a valet and two bellboys were immediately ready. We took a golf cart ride to our suite, enjoying the beautiful views as we drove along the winding path that wound up and down hills, between buildings and along a golf course fairway postcard. A quick questioning from our bellhop and we learn that about 45% of visitors come to Ojai for the golf, about 45% for the spa and the remaining 10% just to enjoy the setting.
As you can imagine, our suite was quite stylish and tastefully decorated. It wasn’t as large as a traditional suite which can offer entirely separate living and sleeping areas, but the bedroom was spacious enough and there was good separation between the four poster bed with its duvet bench and the L-shaped sofa, the centerpiece of the living area. There were lots of extra touches ranging from the soft pillows on the couch, to a variety of lamps, to the landscape paintings adorning the walls. The ambience felt much more like a residence than a hotel room, and right out of the sliding glass door was a patio and breakfast table with views of the golf course and nearby mountains. .
The bathroom deserves a special mention: it had a long deep bath, a separate shower, a separate closed toilet and a double granite vanity. In the closet, luxurious bathrooms were ready.
It didn’t take much exploring to discover that Ojai is so much more than a golf course or a spa. There are so many activities in Ojai that something is planned for every waking hour. Just like cruise ships, the management never wants to take the risk of getting bored.
Foremost among these are the lessons and experiences that can make your stay as much an educational experience as a totally relaxing one. Ojai “University” offers “Short Life Better Courses” designed to encourage customers to try new things and learn new concepts. Five short courses are featured, including topics such as The Artist’s Journey, Tasting Wine Like a Pro, Golf: The Name of the Game, Horse Riding: Life’s Child’s Play; and Aromatherapy: Essential Oils from A to Z.
With the recent renovation, Ojai Valley Inn even has its own 1200 square foot artist house. In this sparkling new facility, the resort offers more than 30 classes, ranging from weaving, graphite and drafting to journaling, engraving and wreath making. We hadn’t really come to the hostel to take lessons but, too bad, we decided that a watercolor lesson would be a good way for us to see firsthand how the lessons go.
Our instructor had an excellent resume and incredible ability to create watercolors, as evidenced by the many examples of her work proudly displayed throughout the chalet. And she was good at teaching us a little bit of that to our guests. All four of our class were beginners, although one showed much more promise than the others. After 90 minutes of playing with various techniques and colors, we both had worksheets that looked more like papers I remember bringing home from kindergarten. But keep in mind that this was just a 90 minute introductory lesson – no one promised to make real artists out of us.
It seemed to us that these courses would be the perfect complementary activity for the person whose spouse is addicted to golf or the spa. Let them do what they love while you go to classes to learn more about life and yourself.
The 31,000 square foot spa building is one of the main attractions at the Ojai Valley Inn, and we were impressed with the facilities and attention to detail. For example, about $400,000 was spent just to add individual small-screen televisions and separate channel selectors to the already state-of-the-art exercise equipment. The locker rooms and locker rooms were so immaculate that this area almost looked more like a medical facility than a spa. Again, a big part of the Ojai’s spa experience is education, with classes in water aerobics, t’ai chi, and other activities.
Education at Ojai Valley Inn is not just for adults. Another helpful service provided by the resort — for an additional fee — is Camp Ojai, a classroom and recreation complex at the far end of the property that’s dedicated to kids ages 5 to 12. Our six-year-old spent two half-day sessions at camp during which she received one-on-one instruction in art, games, and enough fun to keep her looking forward to coming back. for its second half-day of activities. Horseback riding was at the top of his list of interesting activities, but it was only one of many.
Dinner, of course, was a big part of our stay in Ojai. We didn’t get a chance to try the inn’s signature restaurant, Maravilla, but the more casual Oak Grill had everything we needed, from a hearty breakfast buffet in the morning to an al fresco lunch on the terrace, through a delicious dinner with impeccable service. Jimmy’s is a sports bar-style restaurant perfect after a day on the golf course, and Café du Spa serves light Mediterranean fare for lunch.
We found the food to be top notch in Ojai, and there was a lot of attention to detail: the granola. We found it to be the best we have ever had, much tastier and fuller than the store bought ones or the ones we had served in a restaurant. To one degree or another, each of the other dishes we enjoyed at Ojai were equally special.
No doubt about it: Ojai “Getaway University” is an ideal choice for those who want to explore new interests and learn how to really relax. It’s almost like stepping back to when you were in college – you know, when you had three hours in class and the rest of the day playing with friends.
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