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10 Things To See and Do at Alisal Ranch

Updated on September 28, 2014

Welcome to Alisal Ranch

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The Jackson Family

Charles Pete Jackson, Jr., purchased the Alisal, located in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1943 as a working cattle ranch. He converted some of the cat­tlemen's quarters for dude ranch guests who came to the ranch to help round up the cattle. He opened in 1946 the Alisal Guest Ranch during the summer season for up to 30 guests.

The Jackson Family still own Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort. There are more than 50 miles of horseback riding trails, two 18-hole championship golf courses, a 6500 square foot spa and fitness center, six tennis courts and a 100-acre spring-fed lake with water sports, including fly fishing, canoeing and kayaking.

The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort has long been considered the premier full-service guest ranch for couples, families, and conferences since it opened in 1946. This secluded hideaway is one of the few places where time seems reluctant to move forward.

They have families who have visited the resort for over 60 years as a family tradition. They request the same rooms, dine at the same table inside the main restaurant and know each wrangler by first name. Year after year, they come back with their kids and grandchildren.

Celebrities at Alisal Guest Ranch

The Alisal attracts a multitude of VIP's and celebrities with its laid back - low profile vibe. President Ronald and Nancy Reagan enjoyed coming to the Alisal, as did Clark Gable and his bride Lady Silvia. They were married in Alisal's old library. Doris Day was a regular guest. Recently Billy Crystal enjoyed a hayride to the Old Adobe for breakfast.

The Ronald Reagan Ranch helipad is visible from horseback at Alisal Ranch. Staying at Alisal Ranch must have inspired President Reagan to purchase his own ranch. It is now part of the Young America's Foundation.

Recently Renovated Rooms

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1. Check into Your Room

The property offers 73 telephone-and-television-free guest cottages and suites. If you must watch television, the library has one television and phone service to contact the reception area.

Cell phones do not call out if you have AT&T as your carrier. WIFI does work in your room and common space with AGR as the code.

Rooms range from one room studios (My room #18) to deluxe two room suites. Each room has a King or CA king bed, coffee maker, refrigerator, blow dryer, iron and safe.

I stayed another night in the lovely room 33. It had a large living area with fireplace and two sofa/beds. The newly renovated room had two bathrooms and a separate bedroom with a large King-size bed. The master bath has a separate tiled show and Kohler bathtub.

2. Schedule of Activities

Each day and during turndown service, you will receive a schedule for the day. The highs and lows of the day's weather will be listed to inform you how to dress appropriately.

Activities range from:

Morning horseback breakfast ride at 9:30 a.m. and an afternoon ride at 2 p.m.

A shuttle takes guests to Alisal Lake for those who would like to practice their archery skills, fish for Big Mouth Bass or learn air rifle skills.

There are arts & crafts daily and egg gathering at the friendly Barnyard at 1:30 p.m.

Tennis is open from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Adults are encouraged to visit the Oak Room for a cocktail and appetizers (Excellent salsa and guacamole) before dinner. Live music by Patrick provides evening entertainment.


A Variety of Entrees

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Sweet Treats

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3. Dining at Alisal

The Executive Chef Pascal Godé oversees all culinary operations at the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, including the Alisal’s open-to-the-public restaurant, the River Grill.

Born in France, Godé began assisting his family at the age of 11 in their pâtisserie and boulangerie business in his hometown of Epinal.

In 1994, Godé accepted the position of Executive Chef at the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, where he specializes in hearty American cuisine with French and Mediterranean accents. In the heart of Santa Barbara County wine country, he has many opportunities to prepare elaborate wine dinners and showcase his expertise in haute cuisine.

He likes to include one or two items that are unfamiliar to his guests to try new things.

Breakfast is served in the Ranch Room from 7 to 10 a.m.

Lunch is served in the Ranch Room from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. There the Alisal Tortilla soup and two salads for starters. Hot and cold sandwiches include 8 oz. ground sirloin cheeseburger, a Dr. Praeger's California Veggie burger and grilled chicken Caesar salad wrap. If you miss lunch because you went on a ride or to the lake, a boxed lunch is available in the Oak Room from 2 to 4:30 p.m.

Dinner is served from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Every night of the week is a different menu. Some of the specialities include roast duck, Prime Rib, Steak and fresh fish.They also offer some vegetarian dishes. Save room for the desserts. The cheesecake, flan and chocolate delights are excellent.

Alisal Ranch

A marker1054 Alisal Road, Solvang -
1054 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463, USA
get directions

Tennis Anyone?

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Activities at Alisal

Archery
Air Rifle
Tennis
NFAA Certified Instuctors
NRA certified range safety officer
Mens and Ladies Clinics
Must be 10 and older
The course has paper and gravity fall targets
Dress in Proper Tennis Attire
Backdrop is the Alisal Lake
Located at Alisal Lake
6 courts

The Old Adobe at Alisal Rancch

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Horses for all Riding Levels

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4. Saddle Up for a Ride

The best ride is in the early morning when it's cool to explore the rugged hill country and picturesque canyons. The ride by horseback or hay wagon is three miles.

A wrangler arrives in the dining room during the dinner hour to sign up guests.

There are three groups - Novice, Intermediate and Advanced. An experienced wrangler will lead the group on the morning and afternoon rides.

During the morning group ride we rode the horses to The Old Adobe and enjoyed a ranch-style breakfast with a campfire, cowboy singing (with an iPad attached to a music stand) and amazing buttermilk pancakes, fresh fruit, pastries, eggs, quesadillas with fresh salsa, bacon and sausage. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate and juice are provided.

Guests should wear long pants, cowboy boots or tennis shoes, a hat and smile.

During the months of September and October, hairy tarantulas are seeking mates out in the open canyons. We saw quite a few on our ride to the lake and back. They are quite a sight!


5. Fish in the Alisal Lake

Alisal has a private, 100-acre, spring-fed lake tucked in the foothills. Alisal staff members will shuttle guests to the lake from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. every other hour. The last pick up is at 3 p.m. Staff will provide equipment for fishing trips. The guide will take guests out on the bass boat to track fish using spinning tackle or fly fishing gear, You will be taught how to tie knots, how to cast, what's in the tackle box, handling and the proper releasing methods.

Alisal Lake

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6. Boating

Alisal Ranch has a private fleet of boats includes kayaks, canoes, bass boats, electric trolling boats, catamaran and pedal boats available for guests to use.

Holding a Furry Friend

7. Visit the Farm

Near the stables is a small area with barnyard animals. There are two precious pigs, a handful of chickens and roosters, one duck named Fred who will follow you around, because he is lonely and misses his friend who recently passed away.

There are two miniature cows from India called Zebu, miniature horses, an old and lovable goat and a spotted pony. Be sure to check in on the tortoises In one room live up to 20 guinea pigs and three rabbits.

Patty Wilding gives tours of the petting farm. She will give you bowls of fresh lettuce and carrots to feed the friendly guinea pigs and shy bunnies. It's quite an adventure.

At 1:30 the farm has an egg gathering in the chicken coop. Guests are allowed to take the freshly laid eggs home with them.

Visit the Farm

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A Great Way to See The Valley

Start Your Day With A Morning Ride

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Great Sights and Wineries On Our Bike Ride

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8. Ride the Loop

Since Alisal Ranch is filled with scenic vistas, long-time Alisal employee and cyclist, Eric Larsen, developed guided cycling tours for guests to experience the varied terrain of the Santa Ynez Valley by bicycle.

The program is tailored to each individuals’ fitness levels. Larsen will lead guests on a variety of routes throughout the valley including: Figueroa Mountain Route, Jalama Beach Route, Foxen Canyon Road, The Amgen Time Trial Route, Santa Rosa Loop, and an ambitious Highway One Loop.

A group of three ladies and myself joined Larsen on a ride to Solvang past ranches and farms to Los Olivios and back. It was a 17.5 mile ride with stops along the way to have a water break and take photos.

Since some of the world’s top cyclists flock to the valley to train throughout the year, Alisal is offering a guided cycling package for two that includes:

  • Two-night stay in deluxe studio accommodation, Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, a welcome basket, guided rides per day, Alisal logo cycling jerseys, two therapeutic massages at The Alisal Spa and Horseback riding, golf green fees, tennis, fishing at Alisal Lake.

  • Guided Cycling FAQs

  • Why is the Santa Ynez Valley so good for cycling? Strenuous climbs, rolling hills, open meadows, beautiful scenery all in one valley. Good roads, low traffic, great cycling weather.

  • Are the guided rides private, or with other people? There can be up to eight riders with the guide.

  • Is there at all a wine component at all? Depending on the route,you could ride by Fess Parker, Firestone, Curtis, Sanford and other wineries for a tasting.

    Alisal can incorporate the tasting either during dining hours or they can arrange for a van to take guests for tours after cycling, or have the cycling end there and have a van pick up. Alisal could also have guests see/ride through the vineyard as part of the tour and then taste the wines back at the Ranch/private tasting.

    Dates for this package are Sunday through Thursday nights, September through May, or any two nights from November through March (excluding summer or holiday periods). For weekends during September, October, April, May, add $200 to the midweek package price.The Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort 1054 Alisal Road, Solvang, CA 93463

Picturesque Danish Town

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9. Walk into Solvang

It's about a 2.5 mile walk into the Danish town of Solvang. Take the back road behind Alisal Ranch to walk through Rancho Alisal's private development or walk along Alisal Road.

On Wednesdays, the town of Solvang closes down one street to accommodate their Farmers Market. Fresh fruit, flowers, pies and nuts are some of the popular booths.

There are some great thrift stores in town. I bought at pair of black dress pants for $1.50 at the Humane Society Thrift Store.

Be sure to visit the bookstore. Upstairs in a little museum.

Feeling hungry? Walk over to Succulent Cafe for house cured meat sandwiches and some amazing French fries with housemade ketchup.

Walk into some of the wine tasting rooms and call the Alisal front desk for one of the staff members to pick you up and bring you back to the resort.


A Dip in the Pool is Ideal After A Bike Ride

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10. Go for a Swim

The pool surrounded by orange lounge chairs is heated to 81 degrees and the outdoor hot tub is about 101 degrees.

This is an ideal spot to read a magazine, swim some laps and soak in the warm water after a horseback ride, walk into Solvang or bike ride with Alisal employee and cyclist Eric Larsen.

Phone: 800.4.ALISAL or 805-688-6411 Web site: www.alisal.com


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    • bearnmom profile image

      Laura L Scotty 2 years ago from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

      This review is filled with great information and really makes a visit to this ranch inviting. It really makes me long for the days when I could horseback ride.

    • Jill Weinlein profile image
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      Jill Weinlein 2 years ago from Southern California

      While trotting on my horse Rango, I thought "Am I going to feel this in the morning?" Yes bearnmom I did!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

      I have not heard of this ranch and I am glad you posted this article highlighting it. The food photos alone are inviting! Sounds like it would be an ideal spot for couples.

    • Jill Weinlein profile image
      Author

      Jill Weinlein 2 years ago from Southern California

      Couples, families and multigenerational reunions.

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