Every year my best friends from Oregon and I take a weekend girls trip. And we don’t mess around. We used to vacation with our families but with 2 kids each that means 16 people (8 under the age of 8!!) in one large, but never large enough, house. After the last one we realized that finishing a sentence shouldn’t be a luxury and ‘vacations’ shouldn’t feel this chaotic. So we cut the kids and husbands from our annual trip and HAVE. NOT. LOOKED. BACK.
Editors note: *If you think we are not thinking or going to write about the latest tragedy don’t worry, we are and I will. This post was written days ago, but I’m currently writing about the shooting and if I have the guts will post about it soon. But if you are looking for an escape, keep reading 🙂
My first draft of this post was all about our friendship and how amazing these women are. But writing about how I won the friend lottery might not be as interesting to you as it is satisfying in my brain. We have 25 years of friendship and, while I live in LA and they live in Portland, I feel so close to them because of these weekends (when I go to Portland I have a lot of family there I want to see, too, plus the kids, so getting any quality adult time with friends is hard).
Two years ago I reached out to one of my favorite places in the world – The Ojai Valley Inn – to see if they were interested in a little social media trade for a discount towards my girls weekend, and after seeing the engagement and reservations they received from that weekend on Instagram they reached out to host us again this year. Ummm…
It would be like Santa asking Charlie and Elliot if they wanted to come visit to the North Pole, have a sneak peek at the toy factory and pick out their favorites… on a random Wednesday… in June.
I tried to play it cool, but my fingers scrambled in excitement as if they had each drank a red bull. ‘Yes,’ they wrote. ‘We could make that happen.’
Needless to say, my friends booked plane tickets and we were all buzzing over text with joy (and yes, I was feeling VERY COOL – and lucky). Our first girls weekend there was magical, and we were so excited to be doing it again.
But then the Thomas fire happened. And it wasn’t kind to that area of Southern California. For over 2 weeks it was out of control and while the firefighters saved the towns, the mountains burned. The resort closed for over a month – weddings were postponed, family reunions and company parties went elsewhere, and the town itself, typically flooded with tourists, went quiet.
But this town is magical, both pre-Thomas and now. They are BACK.
Brian and I actually looked DESPERATELY for something to buy there all last year until we opted for the less expensive ‘mountain house‘ route. We wanted to buy/live in Ojai because it’s a valley of palpably good energy (seriously… it’s a thing), with a really lively artistic community, a small town feel, amazing weather (and wine), and yet it’s commutable to LA (if needed – it’s an hour and a half away, which is basically Santa Monica to Silverlake during average Friday night traffic).
Once the fires were under control (and we weren’t worried about the safety of those living in the area) we started throwing around some other ideas of where we could spend our girls weekend since everyone had already booked their flights, thinking that any chance of spending it in Ojai was off the table. Then, in late December, The Ojai Valley Inn reached out saying that they were reopening their doors the day before we were scheduled to come in January, and they and the town needed visitors more than ever. We were obviously THRILLED.
A quick note – and one that inspired me to write a whole post about this resort. We asked both our first server and the manager of the bar what they did while the resort was shut down over the holidays, and they told us (with nothing but gratefulness in their heart), that the family that owns the resort paid them in full – INCLUDING AVERAGE TIPS – for those 5 weeks while they cleaned the resort. The entire staff was walking on air, so glad to be back working for a family/company that treated them so well during what was surely a very scary time in their region. While the timing was bad for the resort, it allowed the staff, who usually work more during the holidays, to be with their families. The PR folks that I work with didn’t tell me this, but once we found out all of us were floored, impressed, and dare I say, moved.
The point is – the resort is owned by good people who treat their staff so well and not only do I want this resort to be at full capacity again for their sake, but also for the town itself, which was hit hard by the fires, as a large part of their economy is based on local tourism. That’s all to say – despite the fires, Ojai is just as amazing to visit as it was before and if you are looking for a place to splurge, in an extremely special and magical town – this post is for you.
So I thought I’d shoot a bunch and write a full post. The resort is high end and certainly isn’t in everyone’s budgets, but if you are going to splurge and looking for a weekend full of magical luxury, then keep reading (and yes, I got a generous press discount). I have booked weekends here many times before I had an Instagram following and my experience was the same. Brian and I baby-mooned here (before Charlie) and I have spent many a magical wedding weekend at this resort. They treat everyone like GOLD.
Let’s start with aesthetics. As a designer, I obviously respond to a well -designed room. It’s not all I care about, but I can’t help having an emotional response to good hotel rooms. It just makes me happy.
The rooms are beautiful, calm, modern, and so, so warm. It was built in 1923 and has Spanish architecture, in a totally modern and fresh way. It’s appropriate to the style while having so many modern amenities.
It’s dripping with charm (and luxury) and you feel spoiled and taken care of from the second you arrive to the second you sadly have to leave.
This (below) was my room and I almost cried when I walked in.
As you know the holidays were a bit crazy for me (and everyone), and walking into this room for a 3-day weekend mid-January made me overwhelmed. My eyes turned to glass and my body turned to mud.
I was with my best friends, for THREE DAYS at this magical place. Just “happy” wasn’t accurate. As much as I like a hipster hotel with “cool” fixtures and urban details, I really love a big soft bed, with wall to wall carpet, a peaceful private terrace, upholstered headboards, flattering lighting, and functional nightstand tech (like outlets built INTO the lamp on the nighstands – don’t make me search for it!). The showers, the bathtubs, the complete lack of noise and traffic – all make you feel like you have escaped.
I read the coffee table book about this resort that was in our suite while we were there and learned that they renovate and update it every few years, which costs millions. They don’t wait for things to get dated and dingy. It ALWAYS feels fresh, modern and new – but with so much soul.
If you can’t tell it, I REALLY, REALLY LOVE THIS PLACE.
I wasn’t alone – physically or emotionally. My best friends and I talked fast and furious from the first second, diving into our careers, kids, marriages, and general thoughts and feelings.
After we checked in and took some photos we headed out to lunch, through the grounds.
The resort is big, but totally walkable and the grounds are so well kept, with perfect landscaping and again, so much architectural charm. But if you want to rent bikes to go into town, they have, of course the most adorable bikes possible.
We ate at the first of their four restaurants for our first lunch – The Oak (which has both inside and outdoor dining).
And again, the food and service is truly incredible. Everything is so fresh and feels so healthy even if it’s the lobster roll. Seriously every resort needs to come experience the high level of hospitality that this resort provides.
We Rose’d all day, obviously, and took the party to the outside patio that overlooked the golf course with those insane trees and the mountains in the background.
The Inn has 8 places to dine – so you really don’t need to go into town if you don’t want to. The Oak is the casual indoor and outdoor patio, Olivella’s is delicious fine dining (perfect for any special occasion), Jimmy’s Pub is down by the golf course and obviously more gastro-fair and where we typically spend our nights after dinner, The Spa Cafe has extremely healthy delicious breakfast and lunch (their “healthy” cocktails are SO delicious), Libbey’s is for picnics, coffee, and grab-and-go sandwiches, and then both pools have menus available to eat and drink poolside (or in cabanas). Every single one of them has amazing, healthy, California cuisine at different price points. Even if you stay at a less expensive hotel in town or an airbnb, come for the restaurants (and spa).
The next day we had a yoga class (scheduled with the spa) under a tree on the grounds, which was just dreamy. I went on a run by myself beforehand and when I came back our instructor was setting up and I almost started crying at this setting.
If you aren’t into yoga they have other private classes that you can book in advance. Additionally, there are exercise classes throughout the day and the gym (we didn’t go to it, but it is BEAUTIFUL). Even the spa boutique is so well curated. I mean, how often do you go into those stores and actually want to buy anything? Never. This is fashion-forward, with beautiful athleisure, jewelry, beauty products, and cosmetics (many from local artisans). There are a couple other boutiques on the property that are GREAT, too.
The first time we came I wanted to show them the town. You can bike or walk from the resort and in 10 minutes be in the heart of Ojai. The town is adorable and while the locals will say that it’s changed a lot (and I’m sure it has), it has great boutiques, restaurants, bars, and a huge square with an amazing park for kids.
But let’s get back to the second, but the most important reason that we came: THE WORLD FAMOUS SPA.
When we originally conceived of the ‘ditch the family’ idea we knew the weekend was meant for relaxing, so finding somewhere that had an amazing spa that could treat us all at the same time was extremely important. I hyped up this spa A LOT to them, with full confidence that I wasn’t overstating.
The spa itself feels like an old-world Mediterranean spa, with gorgeous Spanish tile and architecture. You feel absolutely transported.
It has a few different areas for groups of individuals to relax – for hours and hours.
The idea is that not only do you get treatments (massages, facials, or even a spiritual group mud treatment) but you can hang out here all day with your girlfriends and talk (the men have their own area – although I haven’t seen it). Bachelorette weekends, bridal groups, or annual girls trips like ours are so perfect here.
The spa is famous because it is truly one of the best in the world. The therapists and aestheticians are highly trained and experienced, the amenities are plentiful (hot tub, steam rooms, sauna, adult-only pool, a huge locker room with beauty supplies – every detail is considered and high end). It’s WORTH THE SPLURGE.
In addition to our spa treatments we wanted to do some more Ojai experiences, and the resort offers a few that are relatively new.
The first experience was candlemaking in our room.
At first when they mentioned it I thought it was kinda odd and random, but said ‘sure let’s try it.’ It ended up being so nice to have another activity, learn something new, and not have to think or plan. It was super casual and interesting, without feeling like you were at school. The resort brings in a local expert candle maker (Kirsten of Good Vibes Candle Co.) and she made it super easy and strangely satisfying.
The next day we were booked as a group with a spiritual counselor (Nicola Behrman), and when I told my girlfriends about the prospect they all freaked out. None of us are (or should I say WERE) particularly into things like this, but we are all so open and excited to try anything new – especially in the self-help realm. Now I didn’t really shoot this because it was rather personal, and it’s hard to describe to people but I’ll try.
It was mostly about our energy and working through some blockages. There was some guided meditations, aura readings, and of course some really open and spiritual conversation about the inner ‘us.’ It was remarkably enlightening and she was so accurate at reading us it was insane. She immediately told me that I was a cosmic bunny, that I flit around fast, scattered, and happy with an extremely high-frequency energy and that I often need to be grounded. Indeed. After 2 hours we felt like better, calmer versions of ourselves with some new tools to help us navigate the chaos in our lives. We were on a high for hours and we still talk about how it’s kinda changed our lives (well that, and the Tarot reading that happened later that day – WHICH WAS ALSO AMAZING).
Of course, spiritual counseling isn’t for everyone (why not?), and if you aren’t into it then don’t worry, you can hang at one of their two pools instead.
Or golf at their world-class golf course:
Or of course, sit and watch the ‘pink moment’ where the mountains and sky turn pink every night at sunset. It’s magical…
And don’t forget to sit near that tree with those amazing hanging lanterns (that inspired my hanging lanterns in our backyard).
I typically don’t do big press trades for a blog post, but like I explained at the beginning of this insanely long post, not only is this resort one of my favorite places in the entire world, but it’s run by the loveliest of people, full of the friendliest staff, and the town of Ojai and this resort need the world to know that they are BACK.
If you are looking for a truly splurge-worthy vacation – whether it’s a honeymoon, wedding, girls trip (it’s great for mom/daughter or boys trips, too) then consider The Ojai Valley Inn. We talked about going somewhere else next year, but then thought WHY? Nothing will compare.
The Inn was generous enough to give a discount to my readers: EMHEN18 – 15% OFF Sunday – Thursday stays through June 30th, 2018 (book by April 30th, 2018). Or if you want to stay on the weekend then use: OJAILOVE – 10% OFF any day of the week, which gives a $10 donation per night to the Ojai Love Charity, and a 10% OFF voucher for select local restaurants, shops, bars, activities etc. Available for stays through March 31st, 2018. You can find more info HERE. As a large part of the Ojai economy, the Inn is obviously wanting the town to get back on its feet again, too.
Thanks to The Ojai Valley Inn and all the friendly staff who made my girls weekend quite possibly the best weekend of our lives together. The girls left on Sunday but we had the room ’til monday, so Brian and the kids joined me for a day and night, and I could have cried when they arrived. There is nothing better than taking a break from chaos… besides being reunited with your 2 and 4 year old after 2 nights away.
>And yes, it’s great for families, too. 🙂