Rustic Elegance for Families: The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort

Gone are the days where children would run around acres of lush acreage in boots and farm dresses from sunup to sundown, playing tag and building secret forts in the woods. You no longer see many men with weathered cowboy hats riding horses while they herd their cattle about, or women tending the homestead while gathering fresh roots and eggs for a hearty dinner. You probably can’t imagine a modern day household without a TV set, five telephones, or family dinner around the table for every meal.

But, what if that’s what you long for? What if part of you wants to go back in time to a simpler era, where family values prevail and traditions are steadfast. What if you and your family desperately need an escape from today’s fast paced world? Then it’s time to dust off the kid’s riding boots, buy cowboy hats for the whole crew, and book some tickets to sunny Santa Barbara, California, where The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort will quietly be waiting to transport your family back to a time where Instagram and BMWs never existed.

The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort


Nestled away in California’s Santa Ynez Valley, a mere 30 minute drive north of Santa Barbara, and in the heart of wine country, sits the 10,000-acre Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. This land, rich with history dating back to the 1800s, hosts the untouched beauty of a Western world where cattle and horses freely roam, and the people enjoy simple pleasures. While not much has changed geographically in this stunning area, The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort resides in these hills, bringing their guests a plethora of activities that many other resorts offer, but with a twist. Instead of your usual resort amenities, this humble ranch remains true to themselves and honest to the feeling they want to portray to their guests, which is a sense of “rustic elegance”. While unconventional at least to today’s standards, The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort has proven themselves for many years, with longtime guests returning each year to enjoy the traditions and friendships that are established on the ranch grounds.

Yeehaw!


If you (or your kids) think you can’t have fun without technology in your hands, then you’re hugely mistaken! Upon check-in, you might as well turn off the cell phones and stash them away in your bags, because you won’t need to “check-in” anywhere but the vast lands surrounding you (and they don’t accommodate Foursquare). With 10,000 acres available to play in, The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort makes sure that their guests can enjoy the nature around them in countless different ways. 

Horseback Riding

When you think of a ranch and the Wild West, horses are usually the first thing to pop into your mind. With 50 miles of trails throughout the Alisal’s grounds, you could hop on a horse each day and never see the same thing twice! The 100 horses that reside at the Alisal are perfect for beginner through advanced riders, and there are a number of different riding options available. Sign the kids up for riding lessons and let them experience the thrill of handling a large, beautiful creature. Take a Breakfast Ride, a Scenic Ride, or an Evening Ride depending on what time of the day you’re ready to take off. There are also a couple of programs available that involve educational and interactive experiences with the horses.

Golf

Any good resort has a beautiful golf course at its beck and call, and that is no exception at the Alisal. The Ranch Course and River Course are the two 18-hole championship courses that the Alisal boasts. Let dad and his boys take an afternoon to swing the clubs and soak in the stunning views of the Santa Ynez River and Mountains. 

Tennis

For those who don’t like to swing a club, but love swinging a racket, they can head over to one of six full-size tennis courts that the Alisal contains. With classes, lessons, and casual tournaments, every member of the family can try their hand at a little friendly tennis competition.

Bicycling

Taking a bike ride is a great resort activity, but it’s made even better when you’re biking through the Santa Ynez Valley’s winding mountains and streams. With gorgeous views, the sounds of serene nature, and miles upon miles stretching in front of you, be sure to rent a bike at the Alisal, and choose to either ride solo or with a guided cycling tour.

Water Activities

The 100-acre, spring-fed Alisal Lake sits on the resort grounds in all its splendor, and beckons guests who love the water to come and partake in several fun water activities.

Choose from:

  • Fishing – guided fishing, fly fishing lessons, or fishing on your own, with rental equipment available
  • Boating – bass boats, paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, and more
  • Archery – shoot bows and arrows at Alisal’s archery range
  • Air Rifles – take a supervised class with Alisal’s skilled instructors
  • Nature Walks/Bird Watching – seasonal guided nature walks (look out for an American Bald Eagle!)

In addition to Alisal Lake, there is also a pool on the resort grounds for those who like a different water experience.

For the Littlest Tikes

Kids of any age can take advantage of all that Alisal has to offer. The Barnyard is the perfect place to bring children by to meet the animals and even participate in a daily egg gathering. 

While small children can’t saddle up solo, they can still enjoy the fun of riding on a horse with lead-around horse rides in the corral. 

There is an Arts and Crafts room that is open to kids who have some creativity to burn.

Spa and Fitness Center

While Dad is shooting at paper targets and the kids are saddled up, Mom can pop into the Alisal’s spa for a little me-time. Choose from a range of massage, facial, body treatment, and waxing options, all made to make you feel even more relaxed than a tech-free week has already made you.

There’s also a fitness center available if you need a little more than horseback riding and bicycling to give you your workout fix. Choose from group classes, such as yoga, pilates, Zumba, and cardio core, or use the workout equipment.

For the Tired Cowboys & Cowgirls


After a day spent in the sun, full of fresh air, laughter, and nature, you can bet that the family will sleep hard each night at The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. Each of the 73 studios and suite rooms available at the Alisal are exactly what you would expect from a charming ranch setting. Complete with Western decor, wood-burning fireplaces, beautiful linens, and absent of TV sets and telephones, you can spend quiet evenings with your family the way they did back in the day, with no technological distractions. Instead, pull your kids outdoors to lay on the grass and watch the stars, or roast marshmallows fireside while in their pajamas, and make memories that will last longer than the latest app or video game.

When traveling with babies and toddlers, sleeping arrangements can sometimes be an issue, especially when you’re flying into a destination, but no worries, because the Alisal offers full-size cribs, small-size cribs, and Pack n Plays, so breathe easy Mama.

Ring the Dinner Bell


Hungry ranchers expect a big spread of delicious grub at the end of a hard working day, and the guests at the Alisal can work up just as much of an appetite as those long-gone rancher boys. Alisal’s Executive Chef, Pascal Gode, delivers food that is California classic with a fresh Western flair, pleasing the taste buds of everyone who passes through his restaurants. Since the Alisal is nestled among nothing but nature, you’d expect the freshest, most natural ingredients to show up on your plate. That is indeed the case and you can expect to dine on regionally grown ingredients, along with sustainable seafood and top notch proteins, not to mention some of the most delicious barbecue you’ve probably had. Hey, it’s a ranch for goodness sake, what else would you expect?!

Your dining options are as follows:

  • Ranch Room – offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner
  • Chuckwagon Grill – poolside, offering lunch on a seasonal basis
  • Ranch and River Golf Course Restaurants – offering lunch (will also deliver a boxed lunch to you at Alisal Lake) 
  • Oak Room Lounge – offering appetizers, drinks, and entertainment

There are also special dinners and BBQs held for all Alisal guests during the summer months that bring together good food and great fellowship.

One of the shining features of The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is their pride in family dinners. One way they do this is by enforcing a dress code, which is simply all men ages 16 and up are to wear a dinner jacket with optional tie and all women and children are to dress accordingly, with no jeans for anyone. Think back to the days long ago when men and women worked hard on their farms, coming home dirty, sweaty, and unkept. Before dinner, they would clean up and dress nicely, as they believed in making dinner an elegant event. Alisal wants to keep that tradition alive, and bring families together in their finest.

Wine Country

The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is conveniently situated right in California’s wine country, making it a go-to spot for wine lovers and aficionados. With over 100 different wineries as Alisal’s neighbors, you can bet that wine makes a stunning appearance in the dining aspect of the Alisal. The wine list at Alisal features local wines from Santa Barbara County and Central California, because they like to keep their hearts close to home, not to mention as one of the best wine-producing regions in the country, there really isn’t anything better! Plan a day trip to one of the many vineyards and experience the best that California’s wine country has to offer.

That’s It, Folks


The days of family vacations with faces in phones and headphones on are no longer. Make The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort an annual getaway with the family, and not only will you form some lasting friendships, both with the staff and the guests, but as you arrive back home, you are sure to feel refreshed, rejuvenated, and recharged. And isn’t that the whole purpose of a vacation?  

We love sharing our favorite places to stay with you all, so be sure to keep up with us in WANDER as we continue to travel the world, bringing you the best destinations and greatest hotels and resorts out there!

Photo Credits: The Art of Making a Baby

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Elena

Elena is the managing editor for Daily Mom. She enjoys traveling, spending time with her daughter, running several businesses, working on Daily Mom, playing volleyball, going to the gym, photographing and reading. You can contact her via email.

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