There’s absolutely nothing wrong with relaxing at a pool or a beach, sipping fruit drinks and letting all of your cares in the world melt away. That’s the standard go-to definition of a vacation, but it’s not the only possible way to do it. Some people find themselves craving more adventure, more excitement and a chance to experience a new way of life when their vacation time rolls around. If you find yourself in that group and are looking for a getaway in the United States, the Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort in Solvang is worth a look.
Unlike some other themed all-inclusive resorts, Alisal pulls double duty as an actual functioning cattle ranch spanning 10,000 acres. Rest assured that it’s also an all-inclusive four-star resort complete with fine dining, golf courses, a spa and all of the other amenities you would expect. The standout quality here is the ability to immerse yourself in traditional American Western culture and enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities, however.
What are some of those activities? Most of the 10,000 acres of the property are open to horseback riding, for starters. Rope courses, fishing derbies and boat races can also be arranged to challenge groups looking for adventure. And if you’re visiting during the summer months, there’s a special program of added events including archery and air rifle lessons, group mountain bike trail rides, hay wagon rides, and a weekly rodeo in which the ranch wranglers demonstrate their skills at roping cattle, barrel racing and the quick draw. The rodeo is also followed by a BBQ and a night of country dancing.
For those looking for more leisurely outdoor fun, there are two great options that are available year-round (weather permitting): the two golf courses and Alisal Lake. Each of the golf courses features 18 holes and is open every day, with a pro shop on site and areas available to practice driving and putting. Alisail Lake offers fishing and a variety of boat rentals, but visitors should be aware that while the California drought is ongoing the lake is at a much lower capacity than usual, which means that bass fishing and guided fishing trips are temporarily unavailable.
Of course, a visit to a Western resort wouldn’t be complete without some good Western food. The menu at the resort combines expected country comfort foods like barbecue and steaks with the fresh and healthful cuisine that modern California is known for. The Ranch Room is the central eatery, and both breakfast and dinner there are included with the cost of the vacation. For breakfast, you can choose from a robust breakfast buffet or order items a la carte from a menu. Dinner features fine dining courtesy of Executive Chef Pascal Godé, and guests are welcome to visit the Oak Room Lounge from 4 P.M. onward to enjoy drinks, appetizers and coffee. Certain nights during the summer feature a themed meal as well – seafood on Mondays, Southwestern on Wednesdays and a traditional Western barbecue on Saturdays.
Alisal has been in continuous operation since the 1940s, and there’s a reason why it’s so enduringly popular. Guests should be aware that it’s most ideal for those seeking total immersion in their resort vacation; the ranch is a fair distance from the closest small towns (Solvang and Santa Ynez) and is about 35 miles from the nearest large city (Santa Barbara). The rooms were originally built without televisions and have stayed that way all of this time, but there is free WiFi throughout the property and most of the major cell phone carriers have coverage in the area. Also be aware that lunch is not included in the cost of the stay, though it is available at two on-site restaurants as well as the Ranch Room.