Ojai pixie season: A must-try California travel experience

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, fellow Escapists. The first time I visited Ojai, less than a year after moving to the West Coast, I had no idea the small, laid-back city set in the Topatopa Mountains was known for pixie tangerines — or how irresistible the petite citrus fruits are.

Fortunately, I visited during April, otherwise known as Pixie Tangerine Month, and I was about to find out.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that pixie tangerines are sweeter and more delightfully candy-like than any actual orange candy I’ve ever tried. Plus, they’re seedless and easy to peel.

I was hooked from the first bite.

Although we’re still a month out from the April festivities, Ojai pixie season is already upon us. This year, the season is expected to run from March until the end of April.

You may be able to score some tangerines at grocery stores and farmers markets across Southern California for the time being. But come April, I recommend making the trip to Ojai to bask in full pixie fervor.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find info about Ojai’s Pixie Month celebrations, and I’ll share some other can’t-miss stops in town. Where are your favorite places to go in Ojai? Let me know, so I can pass your recommendations on in a later edition of Escapes.

Indulge with Ojai pixie tangerines

During Pixie Month, local Ojai businesses offer a bounty of tangerine-themed dishes, drinks and activities. A few examples:

If you fall in love with Ojai during your trip and are looking for a reason to come back soon, you’re in luck: Roughly two months after the end of Pixie Month comes Ojai’s lavender festival.

The event, taking place June 25 at Libbey Park in downtown Ojai, will feature over 100 vendors selling clothing, jewelry, food and, of course, lavender. Admission is free.

(Photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Find peace at Meditation Mount

There are plenty of parks and hiking trails in the hills surrounding Ojai where you can get some fresh air. There are also lots of guided meditations and crystal healing treatments you can sign up for while in town.

But if you’re only in Ojai for a day trip and want to maximize your time, consider a visit to Meditation Mount or the Krotona Institute to get a sense of the area’s natural beauty and spiritual offerings at the same time.

Meditation Mount, founded in the 1970s, is “a non-denominational spiritual and religious center where compassion and peace are promoted,” according to its website. Its International Garden of Peace particularly catches my eye: In addition to providing a beautiful, peaceful space to unplug and reflect, it offers a sweeping view of the Ojai Valley.

A two-hour self-guided meditation experience at Meditation Mount costs $10 per person. Yoga classes, sound meditation and other events are also available (at added cost) for guests on select days. If you’d like to schedule a visit, preregister for a time slot.

Seven miles away, closer to town, is the Krotona Institute, established in 1924. It’s home to a garden space, called the Sanctuary of Connections, that has a path bordered by stones bearing quotations from different faiths. Guests are encouraged to meander the peaceful terrain. Keep an eye out for a wide variety of bird species, including starlings, goldfinches and the California quail.

Guided group meditations are held Monday through Friday, from 9 to 9:20 a.m. The institute is open daily from dawn to sunset, and visitors are asked to follow any COVID-19 guidelines.

A sign to Meditation Mount in Ojai California.

(Photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

Browse for treasures at Bart’s Books

Perhaps one of the best-known spots to visit in Ojai, Bart’s Books is a legendary travel destination for good reason.

Bart’s is a casual, cool and inviting space, with wooden shelves displaying one of the richest selections of used books I’ve ever seen.

But despite being quintessentially Californian, the book shop’s inspiration came from the other side of the globe. The founder, a voracious reader named Richard Bartinsdale, was charmed by the book carts in Paris found on the banks of the Seine.

Back in California, he decided to take some books from his own prodigious collection and put them in shelves outside his home. Bartinsdale left coffee cans on top of the shelves that people could use to pay for their books. So began the shop’s honor system policy for selling some of its titles, a custom reported on by L.A. Times journalists time and again over the years.

“It restores your faith in humanity,” owner Gary Schlichter told Times writer Charles Hillinger in 1990. “I’d say at least 95% of the time people drop their money into the box.”

The practice continues today, with the shop open seven days a week from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

illustration of a book face down over a desert sunset road.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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Tour art studios on Second Saturdays

Ojai has long been a down-to-earth haven for the arts, a place where visual artists and art appreciators live side-by-side as neighbors.

The creative spirit of Ojai will be on display during the Ojai Studio Artists’ Second Saturday program, starting March 12 and running through Aug. 13 on the second Saturday of each month. During the events, OSA artists open their workspaces to the public, with a new neighborhood highlighted each month.

Artists from the Arbolada neighborhood near downtown Ojai will open their studios on March 12. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., members of the public will have the chance to see ceramics, paintings, sculpture, mixed media and more, created by Ojai artists. The event is free.

Can’t make it for Second Saturday in person? OSA includes a number of virtual studio visits on its website.

A GIF illustration with various art frames popping up.

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • A black bear known as Hank the Tank was at risk of being killed after a spate of break-ins in Tahoe, my colleague Christian Martinez reported, until DNA evidence spared him. His case highlights the need for residents and visitors to “bear-proof” their food and trash to prevent human-animal encounters.
  • Planning a national park trip this spring? Here’s everything you need to know about national park entrance fees, from Emily Pennington in Outside.
  • A new law could result in substantial fees for rental car customers. Silas Valentino breaks down the details in SFGate.
  • Those who love traveling to the Pacific Northwest have something in common with Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin” fame. Kaitlin Menza spoke with Rodriguez about her favorite destinations, her love of road trips and more in Condé Nast Traveler.
  • Dream of seeing the northern lights someday? Don’t miss Shruti Swamy’s piece about Joe Bailey — a.k.a. the “Aurora Hunter” of Yellowknife, Canada — in Afar.
Green lights cover the night sky. Near a hillside, a small tent glows with light.

Tent camping under the aurora borealis at Tombstone Territorial Park in Canada.

(Piriya Photography / Getty Images)

📸 Photo of the week

Yellow wildflowers in the foreground with mountains and an overcast sky, out of focus, in the background.

In the Ojai Valley, mustard grows and clouds loom.

(Wendy Lamm / Los Angeles Times)

🎸 Road song

Song: “Alien Love Call” by Turnstile, featuring Blood Orange

Favorite lyric: “Love is in the heart, it came like a dream. Loners out to roam, sewn at the seam.”

Where to play it: on a drive up Maricopa Highway above Ojai to Wheeler Springs

Illustration of a Polaroid photo of a mountainside road with the words "Alien Love Call."

(Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)