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Pastoral Alisal Guest Ranch in California

Author: Jill Weinlein
Date of Trip: September 2014

Driving to Alisal Ranch along the 101 freeway, past Santa Barbara, I felt the tension release from my muscles as the road offered vistas of the blue Pacific Ocean on one side and rolling hills with grazing cattle decorating the other side of the road.

Turning from the 101 onto Old Coast Highway I stopped at a small farm with llamas, pigs and a miniature donkey greeting visitors near the Honor barn filled with fresh produce. You leave money in a cash box for the produce you wish to purchase. Ahh, simpler times.

I drove under a canopy of ancient trees before reaching the 10,500 acre Alisal Guest Ranch. Turning onto the long driveway, I saw horses peacefully grazing in grassy pastures. Nearby were couples sitting on their patio in comfy wicker chairs sharing a bottle of wine while watching the sunset.

The premier working cattle ranch opened in 1946 for couples, families and now corporate gatherings. Beautifully manicured lawns connect 73 recently renovated California ranch-style cottage studios and suites to restaurants and recreational facilities. Each room offers a wood burning fireplace, however no television or telephone. It lends to a cozier and quietier atmosphere. Rooms do have a refrigerator, coffee maker, new flooring, pedestal sink, separate bathtub, bedding, lighting and fixtures.


Guests have the option to take a morning horseback ride to the old Adobe house for a gourmet breakfast or visiting the new Alisal Fitness Center & Spa, featuring weight and cardio equipment, fitness classes, and indulgent massage and facial treatments.

Golfers enjoy the two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by renowned William Bell Jr. One is the Ranch course and the other is the River course.

Tennis players can play with the Pro, take a lesson, or enjoy a game with other guests on the six tennis courts.

Boaters and Anglers will want to visit the 100-acre spring-fed private Alisal lake with water sports, including fly fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. There are also archery and air rifle lessons near the lake.

Staff members enjoy taking guests on cycling tours around Santa Ynez Valley. The diverse country roads and scenic vistas, make this area one of the most sought after cycling destinations in the world.

For those who want to relax, the outdoor swimming pool offers lounge chairs ideal for sunbathing, napping or reading a good book.

Animal lovers enjoy visits with the ranch cats Tom and Jerry or a trip to the Alisal Barn Yard offering educational experiences to both adults and children. Guests can pet ponies, chickens and a duck named Fred. In one room are guinea pigs and bunnies that guests can feed. The barn is open seven days a week. After lunch guests can gather eggs to bring home.

Nearby is the charming town of Solvang filled with quaint shops, wine tasting rooms, dining opportunities, and the beautifully preserved Old Mission Santa Inés, rich in tradition and history.

Staying at Alsial Guest Ranch usually includes a gourmet breakfast and dinner each day.

The resort is offering special discount packages during September through December 2014 from Sunday through Thursday for guests to enjoy a one-of-a-kind Dude ranch experience.

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