We don't want to name-drop, but if you move to Ojai, California, you'll have some pretty big stars for neighbors. Ellen DeGeneres, Ted Danson, John Krasinski, Diane Ladd, Larry Hagman, Bud Abbott (but not Costello) and Anthony Quinn have all called this city home.
Tucked in the Ojai Valley in Ventura County, just northwest of Los Angeles, Ojai has given itself the nickname "Shangri-La." Pretty big brag, Ojai. If anywhere can live up to the hype, however, it's this 7,500-resident community offering more day spas than you can shake a stick at, boutique hotels, spiritual centers and acres of outdoor recreation. This place is so protective of its identity that chain stores are literally outlawed per city code.
Moving to Ojai
The weather will present no challenges in your search for rental homes in Ojai. And, given the nice weather, the tourist season lasts, well, always. Most of these tourists, however, will be daytrippers from California or hotel guests from farther afield. You shouldn't face much competition from them when looking for condo rentals or when renting an apartment.
Ojai itself is relatively walkable, but, as with most of the Southern California region, you'll still want a car around since -- as we also mentioned -- no chain stores are within city limits and sometimes you might need to shop retail. Many residents also commute to larger urban centers for work. While there is some public transportation available, the car remains king.
To set yourself up for success when looking for housing for rent in Ojai, come prepared. You should always have proof of income, credit history, contact info for references and deposit money with you so that you can lock down your lease quickly.
In a city that prides itself on its individual spirit, it's probably not surprising that you'll have your choice of many neighborhoods. You should probably start your rental search about two months in advance -- if you can visit first and spend the day exploring, all the better. Here are a few of the many neighborhoods you can consider:
Ojai Village: Ojai's historic downtown is its heart and soul. Boutique shops, fine dining (definitely try out Agave Maria's), casual cafes (such as Ojai Cafe Emporium), a city park, local theater and a weekly farmers' market make this a desirable place to live. Walkable as all get-out, Ojai Village offers apartments for rent and older, historic homes, each imbued with quintessential local character.
Arbolada: Developed by original town designer Edward Libbey in the 1920s, this neighborhood was one of the area's first subdivisions. Large, custom homes on generously sized lots are the norm here. Rentals will be harder to come by here.
Golden West: On the east side of Ojai, this neighborhood has a few walkable shops but is a better match for lovers of the great outdoors. It has access to many hiking, biking and horse trails in the surrounding mountains. This is also a newer area. You'll find mostly detached homes and duplexes for rent here.
Casitas Springs: Are you a Johnny Cash fan? He once lived in this rural, removed neighborhood, known for its 1940s and '50s style ranchers -- and literal ranches. This rustic community might offer a few house rentals for people who need a lot of wide open spaces. Be sure to bring your car.
Rancho Matilija: A private community, Rancho Matilija is about five miles from Ojai Village. Large estates are the norm here. An involved Homeowners Association keeps things elegant and up to the expected standard here. Don't expect too many homes for rent here, but you might get lucky. This neighborhood is also close to Lake Casitas.
Mira Monte: This cluster of homes and business lies on the border of Ojai and the neighboring community of Oak View. With rolling hills and the Ventura River basin, its natural amenities shouldn't be missed. Rental homes and several apartment complexes can be found here, along with a few local restaurants and shops.
Living in Ojai
Hoteliers, talk show hosts and the Hollywood A-list didn't discover this jewel of a valley, however. The original inhabitants were the Chumash Indians. In fact, the name Ojai is believed to be derived from their word for moon, "awhay." After the arrival of European settlers, the area became part of the Rancho Ojai Mexican land grant and home to a vast cattle ranch. Original grantee Fernando Tico sold his property to eventually unsuccessful oil prospectors in 1853. By 1874, the town was fully laid-out and initially named Nordhoff, after writer Charles Nordhoff. Thanks to World War I and rising anti-German sentiment, the town jettisoned the Germanic moniker in favor of Ojai. The name lingers on, however, still gracing the local high school (which keen observers might recognize as the setting for the 2010 film Easy A_, _filmed entirely on location in Ojai).
A walk down the main drag in Ojai today might make visitors think the Spanish Colonial buildings are original to, well, Spanish Colonial days. They aren't. They arrived in the early 1900s, after a fire wiped out the western architecture of old Nordhoff.
Ojai residents enjoy nearly year-round sunny weather. Rain confines itself to the winter months and, even then, there's not too much of it. In January, expect sunny, mid-60s days. Summers temperatures can reach the low 90s.
Blame it on the sunny days and stunning natural beauty, but the Ojai life is largely centered around health, agriculture, local music and art. Some call it a little hippie -- but that's cool, right?
Aside from top-notch local dining and the non-chain store shopping, a yearly calendar of events will leave you with little free time. The Ojai Music Festival has been filling the hills with the sound of music since 1947. Music pairs well with wine, so it's good to know that the Ojai Wine Festival is held concurrently at Lake Casitas with over 30 wineries represented. The Ojai Playwrights Conference will have you on the road to your first Tony Award in no time.
When you don't want to deal with festival crowds, head for Los Padres National Forest which borders the town on the north. Backpack to waterfalls or soak in a hot spring while you're there. There's also the Lake Casitas Recreation area, which offers camping (though, why do you want to leave your new rental home?), picnicking and hiking.
And, of course, probably every town in America vies for the best Independence Day celebration, and Ojai is no exception. Enjoy a traditional main street parade, city picnic, concerts by the likes of the United States Air Force Band and a fireworks spectacular.