Less than an hour from Santa Barbara, the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort had been on our radar for some time. Located 3 miles south of Solvang, a quaint Danish town complete with a windmill and themed shops selling everything from handmade clogs to aebelskivers (traditional Danish ball-shaped pancakes), it is set on a 10,000-acre estate in the Santa Ynez Valley. Originally a working cattle ranch, the property of 73 rooms and studios was purchased in 1943 by Charles Pete Jackson Jr., who opened it as a hotel in 1946. The property is still owned by the Jackson family, but the guest experience has been enhanced by the addition of two 18-hole golf courses, a full-service spa, an equestrian center and a kids’ club.
Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort
Time seemed to slow down as we turned onto the hotel’s long driveway, flanked by mature oaks and verdant pastures where quarter horses with shiny coats were grazing peacefully.
The charismatic check-in staff presented us with an extensive directory of activities offered at the estate from sunrise to sundown, plus a list of nearby wineries that offer complimentary tastings to ranch guests. A golf cart transferred us to our Studio Room. There, we immediately felt at home. The décor featured an earthy color palette; a thick, colorful Pendleton blanket set on a leather chair in front of a woodburning stone fireplace; and vintage artwork that brightened the tan-colored walls. A gratis bottle of the estate wine was a welcome touch, one that we appreciated later that evening as we lounged on a bench to watch the sunset.