Kid-friendly activities such as pony rides and summer youth programs
Little nightlife (a pro for some)
Limited cell phone reception (a pro for some)
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, set on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch, has been a family-friendly getaway in California's Santa Ynez Valley since 1946. Guests can expect charming, western-style rooms, and a range of outdoor activities, including fishing, golfing, tennis, swimming at the pool or lake, and (of course) horseback riding. The buffet-style breakfast and dinners are included in the rate, and in the evening the hearty western-style fair may include steak, ribs, or locally caught fish. There are also breakfast horseback rides where guests can head to a remote hillside location for flapjacks and a cowboy poetry recital. It's a step back in time to the Old West, but with amenities.
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is where people go to disconnect from their iPhones and connect with nature.
Travelers looking to commune with nature in a charming, western atmosphere need look no further -- Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort delivers a classic dude ranch experience. Geared toward those wanting to experience the outdoors but in comfort, it's an ideal choice for a family who wants to get away and go horseback riding, fish for bass and trout, golf, and play tennis. The sprawling 10,000-acre working ranch includes a private lake for fishing, a corral, and a variety of horseback riding excursions. Rooms are housed in a number of ranch-style buildings, connected by paved paths and clustered near the main reception, restaurant, and pool area. The scenic location in Santa Ynez Valley (Santa Barbara wine country) setting has rolling hills, scrubby oak trees, and wandering cows, donkeys, and wild deer; it's easy for guests to feel like they've stepped back in time to the Old West. Even cell phone reception is very limited here, making it hard to connect with the modern world.
Easy to get to but completely removed from the hustle and bustle of a city
Although it's a 40-minute drive to the Santa Barbara airport, the ranch's location in the Santa Ynez Valley may as well be on another planet. Solvang, California, is a small town that's easy enough to get to, but the ranch's position on 10,000 mountain acres of land makes it feel as remote as a backcountry campground.
Fireplaces in every room, plus strong western-themed decor
There are four categories of rooms in the 73-room Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, ranging from the smallest -- Studio Rooms -- to the largest -- Deluxe Suites. Some rooms have patios, and the larger rooms have sitting rooms outside the bedrooms. All have fireplaces, and all come with free firewood. Refrigerators, coffeemakers with in-room coffee and tea, filtered water dispensers, irons, ironing boards, and hairdryers also come with every room. Decor is definitely western: Think colorful prints on the rugs and bed linens and western art on the walls. There are no televisions or phones by design, making it easier for guests to connect with nature (though it's possible to get phone messages at the front desk).
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort focuses on outdoor pursuits.
There's plenty to do here for both families and couples, but its not the kind of place that's geared toward business travelers, unless a corporate group comes to take advantage of the ranch's team-building activities. (High ropes course, anyone?) High ropes are also good for the families the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort attracts, as is the plethora of outdoor activities, such as as horseback riding, fishing, and a barnyard where kids can help care for ponies, miniature horses, and sheep. There is also an arts and crafts room (children under six need to be accompanied by an adult), and a variety of youth programs for children ages three to 17 are offered in the summer. Cribs, and pack and plays for the little ones are available upon request. There's also tennis and golf, a sunny outdoor pool, a fitness center, fitness classes, and a spa. But despite the many opportunities to interact with animals, pets are not allowed.
The breakfast and dinner buffets are included in the rate, and the hearty western cuisine is what one might expect from a dude ranch. At breakfast, guests can expect cinnamon rolls and fresh fruit (among other options) while the 10-plus entrees offered at the dinner buffet may include steaks, ribs, and locally caught fish.
A variety of horseback riding excursions are offered, including a breakfast ride, a two-hour scenic trail ride, and a twilight evening ride; lessons can be scheduled at the barn.
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