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Archives for February 2013

Nature Lovers: Hike Ojai Valley

A day hike is a wonderful way to experience the colorful Ojai Valley. (Photo by Perry Van Houten, as first appeared in the Ojai Valley News)

The Ojai Valley is rich with blue skies, colorful mountains, and lush wildflowers, native plants and brush. Located just one hour north of Los Angeles and 12 miles inland from the gorgeous Ventura coastline, Ojai is famous for its ‘pink moments,’ the time of day just before sunset when a pink light is cast upon the valley, washing over the Topa Topas and other hills and mountains.

Being in Ojai is like stepping in a Technicolor dream or movie, your senses will come alive as you absorb the vibrant colors in nature.

Hiking or walking in nature is a great way to experience Ojai up close.  Ojai local Perry Van Houten, an avid hiker and mountain biker, writes about hiking trails for the Ojai Valley News. His  “Perry’s Picks: Best Ojai Valley Hiking Trails” was featured in the Ojai Valley Visitors Guide (Fall 2011).

Perry offers insider information on the best of Ojai nature including:

  • Nordoff Lookout with its breathtaking views of the lush OjaiValley.
  • Gridley Trail, where a steep stone staircase leads toward a mini spring feeding water to ferns, maples and other trees uncommon in the area.
  • Sulphur Mountain Road trail offers views of Lake Casitas and, on a clear day, the Channel Islands.
  • Horn Canyon offers a restful retreat under a canopy of pine trees and a cool ocean breeze.

For details on all of these hikes click this link to download the Ojai Visitors Guide and see page 76-79 (.pdf might download slowly, so be patient).

Distance from LAX: 86 miles

Traffic411 Insider Tip: Experiencing Ojai in person is much more rich and glorious than the photos depict (photos in the gallery below by Ojai local Smitty West)

Ojai Valley, CA Nature at its Finest

Ojai, CA is only a 20 minute drive from the beaches of Ventura, yet you'll feel like you're a world away. The climate is sunny and warmer than the cool coastline, and the sights are pure technicolor. Whether you're a hiker or hippie, avid golfer or spiritual seeker, there's plenty to do and see in Ojai. Even if you do nothing but R&R, the energy here will recharge your batteries and can offer new insights on life.

[img src=]2830Blue Sky Over Ojai
The Ojai Valley, located in Ventura County, CA, offers some of the most breathtaking nature scenery in the world. Source: Smitty West
[img src=]570Ojai Pink Moments
Ojai is famous for its 'pink moments.' Just before the sun goes down the valley and mountains are washed in a beautiful shade of pink.
[img src=]9940Topa Topa Mountains
View of Ojai's Topa Topa mountain range from Nordoff Ridge. Source: Smitty West
[img src=]760Ojai Rainbow over Windmill
A rainbow adds magic to this beautiful shot of the windmill at Euterope Farms on a sunny Ojai day. Source: Smitty West
[img src=]490Ojai Windmill at Sunset
This is the windmill at Euterope Farms at sunset. Ojai sunsets are among the most beautiful in the world. Source: Smitty West
[img src=]360Ojai to the Pacific Ocean
Located in the mountains of Ventura County, This shot of the Ojai Valley includes Lake Casitas, and the Pacific Ocean. Source: Smitty West<br />
[img src=]280Golden Ojai Valley
The golden valley of Ojai. Taken from Nordoff Ridge. Smitty West
[img src=]260Ojai Sky at Sunset
Sunrise & sunset in Ojai are beautiful. Source: Smitty West
[img src=]320Sunset over Chief Peak
Sunset over chief’s nose, Chief Peak, Ojai. Source: Smitty West
[img src=]390Ojai New Moon & Venus
Two-day old crescent moon and Venus in Taurus (May, 2012). Source: Smitty West
[img src=]320Photographer Smitty West
Musician and amateur photographer Smitty West shares these beautiful pictures of the Ojai Valley, an artist enclave 90 miles north of Los Angeles.
[img src=]270

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So Cal Chinese New Year Celebrations

South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa is among the many So Cal venues welcoming in the Year of the Snake. (Photo: Traffic411)

The Chinese (Lunar) New Year rings in on Sunday (February 10, 2013). Los Angeles and Orange County are home to some of the highest populations of Asian residents in the nation. Here are a few places you can join the celebration welcoming in the year of the Snake.

Kids in Orange County can sample popular Chinese foods and learn about the Snake and other symbols in the Chinese Zodiac at Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine.

In the Torrance area, dancers in colorful costumes will perform at the South Bay Galleria, and 100 children will receive traditional red envelopes with cash ($2) inside. Read more

Disney California Adventure is hosting a Lunar New Year Celebration (Feb 8-13) offering cultural foods, music and dance performances, featuring popular Disney characters. Click for details.

Several upscale boutiques at South Coast Plaza in Orange County are adding Asian fashion and flair in honor of the Chinese New Year.  And, across Southern California, Starbucks and Target have been selling Year of the Snake themed gift cards. Read a round up of So Cal retailers celebrating the Year of the Snake.

The Year of the Snake comes around every twelve years.  You can tune-in to the energy of this Chinese symbol by listening to your intuition, and gracefully shedding old thoughts, beliefs, issues, as gently as a snake sheds its skin. Chinese astrology says people born during the year of the snake are wise thinkers who enjoy living well.

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Wine Lovers: Santa Ynez Valley

Rideau Vineyards in Solvang is one of my favorite spots for wine tasting in Santa Barbara County's Santa Ynez Valley. (Photo:

If you have seen the movie Sideways, you know that the Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara wine country)  is home to some terrific wines, and it’s a scenic and easy drive from Los Angeles.  Whether you’re a fan of reds or whites, there is something for every wine lover in this beautiful Southern California wine country. And, it’s a romantic spot for Valentines.

The little town of Los Olivos offers several tasting rooms on one street, so you can park your car and walk to sample a lot of wines including varietals from Andrew Murray, Arthur Earl, Tensley, Qupe, Daniel Gehrs and more.

As for beautiful scenery, my favorite winery is Rideau Vineyards.  Owned by New Orleans native Iris Rideau, the place is surrounded by vineyards with an old-style feel.  It’s a relaxing place to sample delicious wines and relax in beautiful surroundings. Be sure to try the Tempranillo!

The quaint Santa Ynez Inn is my pick for a romantic place to stay.  The boutique bed & breakfast it’s a bit pricey, but the rooms are plush, quiet and very romantic. Each room is unique, decked out in pillows, plush bedding, thick rugs and most, if not all, have a Jacuzzi tub and fireplace.  It’s a great, private hide-way to romance your sweetheart.

If you’re looking for something more affordable, nearby Solvang offers a lot of options, including a Best Western. Solvang is a Dutch-themed village with an old world European feel. A fun daytrip while you’re in the area.

Santa Ynez is about a two hour drive north from Los Angeles, some of the route you’ll be hugging the coast, a gorgeous drive up the 101 freeway. If you’re already in So Cal, it’s an easy getaway for a one or two night stay.  And, it’s not far from Santa Barbara, another favorite spot for lovers.

Traffic411 Insider Tip:  Do a day trip to Solvang or Santa Barbara if you have time. Chumash Casino is nearby, if you wish to try your luck.

Distance from LAX: 132 miles (2 hours 15 minutes, when it’s not rush hour)

Helpful links to help plan your getaway:

Los Olivos wine tasting

Wine tasting at Rideau Vineyard (

Santa Ynez Valley: Living the Life

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