by Alicia Ellis
Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort is located in the heart of Santa Barbara County, nestled in the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley. The Ranch sits on a 10,000-acre working cattle ranch, and is home to beautiful unspoiled land everywhere you turn. In addition to the enormous ranch, Alisal guests have access to a private, 100-acre, spring-fed lake, which is home to a wide array of wildlife. If you are looking to get the kids back in touch with nature, this is a good place to do it.
Our Editor Loves
- Operating cattle ranch
- Loads of outdoor activities
- All-inclusive rates
- Horse Back Riding
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Meal Plan
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
There are 73 guestrooms at the ranch, which range from studios to spacious one-bedroom suites. Each unit includes a wood-burning fireplace with firewood, high-beamed ceilings, a refrigerator and coffee maker. But be sure to warn the kids that there are no in-room TV's.
Alisal Guest Ranch has something for everyone. Come and enjoy family and friends. If you need a break, ride a horse, play in the pool, learn pickleball or have a soothing facial. The staff at the Ranch is very accomodating. The rooms are well appointed. I especially enjoyed the view of the creek from my front door. It's old style family vacations with modern twist.
Lunch and dinner is included and the menu is varied and the qualify excellent. It was nice to see that all meals could be enjoyed in "small" portions as well.
So we planned a very relaxing 2 day trip to Alisal. My husband and I wanted to unwind and relax and this was perfect.
Reservations was able to get us into a deluxe suite on the lane, which was beautiful. Looking out to the pastures and horses was serene and tranquil.
We booked massages in the spa ahead of time and booked for right after check in. We both had great 60 min massages that started the trip off perfect. “Lucky” was my masseuse and he unkinked some tense muscles. I am so glad we booked that as a starting point to our few days here.
Dinner on St Patrick’s Day was corned beef and cabbage, which was, by far, the best corned beef ever.
We signed up for a last minute novice trail ride on day 2 and Elizabeth, our handler was such a joy to ride with. She really took us all on a gentle ride through the vast land here, which is beyond beautiful. I think it’s been at least 20 years since I’ve been on a horse, but it was wonderful...
The only thing wrong with the trip is that we have to leave.
Thank you to all at Alisal for making this such a pleasurable and relaxing time... Kathleen, the General Manager is taking this nostalgic place with timeless traditions into the future with grace and integrity. I love being able to completely unplug in a place that’s almost stopped in time, but I also love the ability to enjoy modern amenities as well... thanks for the attention to detail!
A big draw for families is the horseback riding, and Alisal has more than 50 miles of trails to explore along the valley. Depending on your experience level, you can take lessons or choose from more than 100 horses, and even participate in rodeos in the summer. On Tuesdays and Thursdays riders are treated to an evening trail ride with gorgeous sunsets and view of the local wildlife. Kids ages 4 to 6 receive personalized attention with arena lessons available three mornings a week. Hop aboard the hay wagon or follow the guide for breakfast buffet at the Alisal's historic Adobe Camp where you'll find a campfire, flapjacks and a even singing cowboy.
Not many ranches are also blessed with a private lake. Fishing (for bass) on Alisal Lake is reserved for guests of the ranch. All bass are natural spawn wild fish and fishing is "catch and release." You can rent a good selection of fishing equipment and boats for a reasonable fee, including two-person fishing boats and motorboats (which start at $40), kayaks (start at $30) and fishing rods (which start at $15). You can also rent of one three Catalina Expo twelve and a half foot sailboats, and take sailing lessons if you so desire. Or, simply take it all in on a nature walk around the lake.
During the summer, the Alisal offers a kids' program for children. Kiddie Korral is for kids ages 3 to 6, the MAC Club is for 7 to 12, and Teen Times for ages 13 to 17. There are activities that take place all day, every day for the kids. When you check in you get an activity schedule that outlines all the great things that kids and families can do. Just as an example of a few of the many activities for kids are relay races, face painting, roping classes, chalk art, scavenger hunts, arts and crafts, helping at the barn, water balloon tosses, mountain biking, target paintball, volleyball, teen night out at the movies, parties, dances, and zip lines. There are also two golf courses with a pro shop and lessons available. The Fitness Center and Spa is spread out along 6,000 feet and features a well-equipped cardio weight room, private or group fitness class and the Spa features our signature treatments including hot stone massages, facials, and more.
Designed by the legendary Billy Bell Jr., the Ranch Course, open since 1956, is exclusively for Guests and Members. This par-72 course stretches for 6,500 yards.
Breakfasts and dinners are included in your room rate. Breakfast is in the form of a buffet which features fruit, homemade cinnamon rolls and your favorite morning entrees. Dinner time is dress up time with jackets required for men over 16 and no jeans allowed, and the chef specializes in "California food with a Western flair." The dinner menu changes daily and always includes at least 10 choices. The Oak Room features nightly entertainment; and there is a list of babysitters available from the ranch for a night out. Lunch is available daily at the Chuck Wagon and serves a variety of traditional favorites for kids.