We spent three nights over the Labor Day weekend at Alisal Ranch, and found it to be a tranquil, extraordinarily friendly place where our family could get away and spend some wonderful time together. Lots of activities available, as well as plenty of opportunities to veg and let the kids run around the property & hang loose. Room is not updated, but very clean and comfortable, and quite suitable for a ranch getaway. Details follow:
Property grounds: The grounds are quite nice and tranquil, marked by very large grassy areas that the cabin porches spill out onto. Our particular room was well located - off the main area, and next to a much smaller, enclosed "quad" area, which included two comfy table & chair sets under a lovely pergola. Our boys - 7 and 4 years old - took great pleasure in the wide open grass spaces, by far their favorite aspect of the trip. After you check in, you walk across a bridge spanning a dry river bed, and enter into the big grassy area - you can feel the calm air and atmosphere the minute you arrive. There's a shady corner to sit and lounge in, and beautiful landscaping everywhere. I could just sit on the grounds all day.
Room: we stayed in a one bedroom suite, comfortable bed, lots of windows. With two little boys, two bathrooms is a wonderful thing to have. There's two couch/lounges in the main room that the staff converts to beds in the evening, the kids slept fine there. A full wood burning fireplace (restocked with wood and fire starters daily) is a terrific touch to take the edge off of the cool mornings. Bathrooms are standard fare, very clean; not updated. No TV. Coffee maker in the room (yay). Wi-Fi is on the property, but generally need to be near the library or other areas of the property to get good reception.
Activities: We stayed three nights and got in horseback rides for the kids, a hay wagon breakfast ride, a separate horseback ride for my wife and me. We also went swimming, the pool has a very shallow end (2.5 feet), and the hot tub is popular. There's a farm where kids can interact with horses, ponies, cattle, tortoises, goats, gather chicken eggs, feed rabbits, and hold all kinds of critters and reptiles. Lots of loafing around time and time to run around the property. I would have loved to take advantage of the horseback ride to breakfast, and we didn't have enough time to take the shuttle to the lake, where they have boating & fishing activities. Another day probably would have been sufficient, and if we were to play golf on one of the two gorgeous courses, we would have needed a day on top of that. I should note most of the activities - horses, lake, golf, etc. are not included in the price of the room. Also a spa and fitness center are onsite, neither of which we made it to.
Dining: Breakfast and Dinner are included with the room, and both are served in the main dining area - breakfast being wonderful, consisting of hearty biscuits, hash browns, sausages, pancakes, waffles, eggs, etc. Plenty of fresh fruit & cereals too. Dinners are a more formal affair, where jackets (not ties) are required for men, which lends a distinctly pleasant old school feel. There's optional kids' activities (also for an extra charge) that we took advantage of, which enabled my wife and I to have lovely dinners together. On Saturdays in the summer there's a ranch-wide BBQ dinner, with country music and dancing, and hay bales for kids to jump around on. Ribs, shrimp, brisket, corn, etc etc., with this humongous tub of peach cobbler (among other things) for dessert. Wine, etc. not included with any of the meals. For lunch there's an onsite grill, which is not included in the price of the room. Standard fare, burgers, quesadillas, hot dogs, sandwiches, salads, etc. Burger is quite good. Avg. cost for lunch for two adults and two kids ran to about $55 per meal. Overall happy with the food.
One other thing to note - many families have been coming to the ranch for many many years, and it was very nice that we already knew a family that was staying at the same time as we were. However I must say that the regulars were very curious about us, and welcomed us warmly to the ranch. It's interesting - everyone seems to give each other plenty of space, but it also is an intimate and pleasant atmosphere. We've already booked our trip for next year.