That quintessential family destination, San Diego, has no shortage of hotels or resorts — but Rancho Bernardo Inn stands out for its seasonal family packages and proximity to North County attractions, including Legoland and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The mountain town of Julian, known for its apple picking and pies, is also just an hour’s drive east from the resort.
During our October stay at Rancho Bernardo Inn, our children were greeted upon arrival with pumpkin pails filled to the brim with stickers, activity pads, stampers, pumpkin tattoos and bat-motif bead necklaces. It was a thoughtful touch for our 2-year-old and nearly 6-year-old, and made us all feel very welcome. (Come December, the hotel incorporates activities like cookie decorating, gingerbread houses, caroling and a music and light show into the family packages.) And then we arrived in our room to find two tiger tents with sleeping bags set up for a “campout,” complete with a s’mores kit. Our older one slept in her tent both nights we were there.
These small details helped set the tone for our stay, and we found that property really caters to families.
Dating back to 1963, Rancho Bernardo Inn sits on 265 acres with an 18-hole William Bell-designed golf course and an impressive spa with its own saline pool. The sprawling grounds are great for toddlers and young children to run around and get some fresh air. Our kiddos lingered at water fountains and benches and trees galore while out for a walk one morning.
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All of the 287 rooms offer balconies or patios. Even with some updates in recent years, our room did feel a bit older, but the setup with an adjoining connecting room was so helpful, especially while our younger one napped. If you’re traveling with younger children, one connecting room can be arranged as the living space with pull out sofa, while the other serves as the sleeping area with a king-size bed. The hotel’s eight suites, added only a few years ago, are also a fantastic option for families.
There’s one main family pool with a hot tub nearby as well as an adults-only pool at the spa. If parents can sneak away, the spa pool is a gorgeous and lovely respite.
The hotel’s new restaurant, Avant, opened in 2013 and feels very bright and modern, with an indoor-outdoor space and California-inflected cuisine. There’s beer and wine as well as a house-made mustard on tap. We didn’t make it to the restaurant during our stay, but we did order room service for breakfast one morning. Due to some dietary restrictions, I was concerned we wouldn’t be able to eat much beyond fruit, but after explaining to the chef that we abstain from eating eggs for religious reasons, he confidently and kindly assured us that we’d still be able to have egg-free pancakes for the kids. And sure enough, 25 minutes later, our kids gobbled up their crepe-style flapjacks. We were so appreciative of the hotel’s team going this extra mile — these sorts of gestures are what make or break a stay.
Given our plans to head to Legoland and also go apple picking, Rancho Bernardo Inn proved to be well-situated for our weekend getaway. Legoland was about a half-hour ride away, and its October Brick-and-Treat festivities, from pumpkins and spiders built out of Legos to candy stations, were fun for our kiddos. And the main drag of Encinitas, with the scrumptious local pizza chain URBN, was the perfect dinner pit stop on our way back.
Although we didn’t visit during this trip, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park is about a 15-minute drive from the property.
Editor’s Note: Tanvi received a media package to review Rancho Bernardo Inn for Ciao Bambino. As always, all opinions are our own. Photos by Tanvi Chheda and Rancho Bernardo Inn.
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