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.
My husband and I went for 4 days. We rode horses everyday and enjoyed great food at the resort. Our room was cozy and the staff were all friendly. I will absolutely be going back in the near future. The food was well prepared in the dining room. However there is a small gap in serving lunch and dinner, so if you want an afternoon snack, bring them yourself. There is no place at the resort to purchase anything in the afternoon before dinner. That would be the only complaint from our trip. But I know for next time. It was so quiet at night and the beds are very comfortable.
My family has been going to the Alisal for over a decade now, we love the horseback riding, the ranch is beautiful, and it's refreshing to be able to disconnect due to no TVs nor phones being in the room. As always, my family and I ate in the dining room at dinner for every night of our stay. While we usually come away raving about the food and service, this time there were many little mistakes all 3 nights at dinner that negatively impacting our experience and why I gave it an overall 4 stars:
1) Two people at the table ordered lattes at dessert on the 1st night, both tasted like there was only warm milk. We told the waitress and asked her for espresso shots to add to the lattes. She brought back a small pitcher of it, I tasted it before adding it to the latte and it was obvious that it was just coffee, not espresso. Both people couldn't make it past a couple sips of the latte
2) Every night they got our drink orders wrong
3) On the 1st night some of us got Alisal Specials, after we asked for a refill of them it took 25 minutes to fufill the order.
4)The chicken tortilla soup came out cold the 2nd night, it was obvious that they hadn't even warmed it up before it left the kitchen
On the 3rd night they did serve me the wrong side with my entree but I did not include this in the complaints because the manager came over promptly, was quick to offer to replace it, and overall handled the situation in an extremely professional and pleasant manner. The best takeaway from this review is implementing or reinforcing the training that the waiters and waitresses also need to check that orders are correct. Kitchen staff and bartenders can make mistakes and the servers could have checked to make sure the drinks were correct, the soup was warm, and the side was right before setting it down on the table and leaving the customer to ask for the mistake to be corrected.
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.