“How long have you been coming here?” the little girl asked my family as she scootered past us on the grounds of The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. This was our first visit, but it was obvious from the baseball mitts, scooters, lacrosse sticks and soccer balls that many families were seasoned guests. One grandma shared with us that she had been coming to the ranch for 37 years! Over the course of three days during spring break, we experienced what makes The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort a go-to location for families.
The Alisal feels miles away from the nearest town, yet in 10 minutes guests can be eating pastries as big as their heads in the Danish-inspired town of Solvang, and it’s only 30 minutes from Santa Barbara. There are few places where a beach, city and ranch vacation can be combined so easily. Los Angeles is a mere two hours away, making it a convenient getaway for SoCal locals and visitors.
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The ranch has 10,000 acres of rolling hills, a lake that thrills with catch-and-release fishing and boating, golf courses, tennis courts and a large pool. Most activities are within walking distance of the guest cottages, with the exception of the lake and archery center, which are reached via the ranch shuttle.
The Alisal offers generous amounts of horseback riding, but it’s not essential that guests ride to enjoy the ranch — there are so many other activities going on. Rides and lessons are offered at different times throughout the day, but the specialty group rides, like the breakfast ride, fill up and should be reserved when accommodations are booked. For kids too young to ride or adults who prefer to sit, a hay wagon takes guests to the breakfast site in time to meet the arriving riders.
The immediate grounds of the resort are designed in a way that offers privacy, and while the cottages are connected, they don’t feel crowded. The swimming pool and lawns provide families spaces to play together, yet there are areas to escape and relax for both kids and adults. An adults-only library is a lovely spot to do work (if that’s a must) or read, and the children have their own scheduled activities seasonally in the kids’ area. There is always room to run or roam on the ranch. It simply works well for all ages and especially for multigenerational families.
Guests stay in groups of connected, one-story guest cottages scattered throughout a central area on the property. The one-bedroom Western-themed suites have a king bed in the main bedroom and two daybeds for kids in the living room, and one and a half baths, making them very convenient for families. Adding to the ranch feel, no televisions and spotty cell coverage encourage everyone to spend time together frolicking in the pool and playing games with no batteries or plugs.
There are so many activities available at The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort that we found we needed more than two nights to fully appreciate and take advantage of all the resort offers. Lodging packages usually include breakfast and dinner, creating a community feel as you sit at your own table and see familiar faces each evening. Seasonally, the property offers packages that come with activities, including horseback riding.
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Editor’s Note: Ciao Bambino received a media package to review The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort for families. As always, all opinions are our own. Photos by Kristi Marcelle.
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