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Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort
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Reviewed November 7, 2012

We spent 6 days here in August and had a wonderful family vacation. We've never been on a Ranch vacation and everyone - my in-laws, us and the kids- had a great time. The fun never stopped.

I think people have pretty much covered all the cool things to do here. It's really a family place and a great place to entertain multi-generational groups. My in-laws had their own separate room (which was one of the newest and was very nicely appointed) and enjoyed two days of golf. They liked that it was relaxing, no one had to worry about cooking and my MIL took the shuttle down to Solvang for window shopping twice (totally her thing). My husband got in a hike and played tennis. He signed up for a group lesson but no one else showed so he had a private lesson and loved it. He got to talking to the tennis pro and he set up my hubby with a friend to play. Hubby has never gotten to play tennis on a family vacation before so this was just the best for him. I guess even better because he beat the guy (who is really good) and then the guy wanted to play again (he loss the second time) so he was stoked to get in three days of tennis! My daughter also played "pee-wee" tennis and Walt and the teen girls that played with my daughter were great. She had fun!

The horse riding was amazing. They have so many trails! My daughter who rides horses, was in heaven! We did a group trail ride and two breakfast rides. I used to ride and was able to keep up with her as the the horses are well trained. The wranglers are personable and all the little girls just love all the girl wranglers - which I thought was great for them to see strong confident women doing something they love. We had Haddie twice and my daughter loved her.

My younger one was too little for the horseback riding but was able to enjoy free pony rides and hung out at the barn. You can pick eggs each day and on your last day they will send some home with you. You can spend hours hanging with all the animals in the barn. One day they brought out a mini petting zoo in the parking lot with snakes, iguanas, rats, birds, etc. The kids loved it! It wasn't on the schedule so it was a nice surprise.

Speaking of schedule, this place is like being on a cruise without the sea sickness. There's a full schedule of events, with something for everyone. Teen night at the lake, family movie on the lawn at night, astronomy talk for the kids after dinner, craft room for the kids, pool games, air riffles, fishing, tennis lessons, the list goes on. If you don't like the scheduled stuff, there's so much else to do (catch the shuttle to Solvang, for example) but it's okay to do nothing too! We spent some time doing just that at the pool or at the lake!

I really could go on about all the fun things we did. But I think you get my point. There are three downsides to this place. While the property is immaculate and just amazing, the rooms are a bit "rustic". No AC, no TV, no phone, and depending on where your room is Wi-Fi is a bit spotty. Not sure when some of these bed spreads were last washed. But I took it as part of the ranch experience. The other downside is that nearly everything you do is ala carte. Other dude ranch vacations we looked at had all the activities included. This place is not cheap to begin with and then to add on each activity adds up. And lastly, it's REALLY hard to get in. There are families that have been coming for YEARS. Like we met an 11 year old girl that said it was her 11th year there. Returning guests get priority for the same week the following summer. And most people make their reservations when they check out. I can tell you that my MIL was thinking this is a one-time deal but after a great week, she was sitting down with the reservationist on our last day trying to reserve for next summer! (sadly, we're on a wait list because we need to move a week earlier for 2013 and there's no space)

All in all, if you can get in, you'll have a great time. The staff is wonderful. The food is good and the experience you'll have is tops. Experience the great outdoors in this beautiful ranch!

Room Tip: If you're not a returning guest, you don't have much choice on your room. You get what you get. And you should just be happy you got in!
  • Stayed: August 2012, traveled with family
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2  Thank FCM0M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 5, 2012

First of all, in spite of the high tariff, this is not the Ritz. If you want big TVs and lavish accommodations, you're in the wrong place. The ranch decor pervades with big furniture and Indian blankets. The rooms are spacious (ours was near the Library, a location I like very much because it's close to everything) and the bathrooms were very clean with ample toiletries. Plenty of closet and drawer space as many people stay for several days. Breakfast and dinner are included in the price. While lunch isn't all that necessary, I ordered a picnic basket just to see what it was like. What arrived was an old fashioned charming basket filled with a generous lunch that included a sandwich, fruit salad, cole slaw, olives, peppers, and a giant cookie for each person. I ordered 2 lunches to feed four adults and it was more than enough.We did not go horseback riding, but we did go over to the barn area where there are animals to pet and very friendly staff to chat with. We also took the minibus to the lake where one can fish, boat, or just relax. There is also archery available. Each activity has a fee unless you have a special package so you can rack up charges fairly easily. There is a spacious pool area but it was not being used during our rather chilly, windy, stay. Because of the season, there was a corn maze in the garden as well as a pumpkin patch along with other vegetables. There are also some hiking trails though most of the ranch is not open to walkers because it is a working cattle ranch. This was our second visit to Alisal and will not be our last.

Room Tip: Rooms near the library are close to dining, the comfortable library, and the main office building.
  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled with friends
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Thank pelerine
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 19, 2012

Three far-flung family members met up with their families for a wonderful five days at Alisal Ranch. It is a fabulous setting for family reunions; everyone gets their own space, there are plenty of activities to satisfy divergent tastes, and we all met for meals at the big round table in the dining room.
We loved the horseback riding and rode every day. The wranglers were great and we all improved our horsemanship during our stay. The horses were top-notch, not your usual rental nags that are often offered up at riding stables.
Other family members enjoyed the golfing and said that the courses were beautiful.
We had a great half-day at the lake. We worked on our archery and rifle skills. The lake is stocked with very hungry fish. Fun!
But the best part was watching the cousins who don't often see each other having a great time together! Who knew that shuffleboard could be a contact sport?
Overall, a fun and memorable trip. Hope that we can make Alisal a family tradition as so many other families have done through the years.

  • Stayed: October 2012, traveled with family
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Thank cathtrac
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 8, 2012

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.

  • Stayed: September 2012, traveled with family
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4  Thank TeamJK
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 15, 2012

I had a fabulous time at the Alisal. Amazing rooms, food, golf course, and kids activities. I especially love the babysitting services provided by The Little Guest. Our family had a very memorable experience.

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled with family
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1  Thank corey j
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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