Credit: Alisal Ranch
Credit: Alisal Ranch

How to Unplug for 3 Days at This Luxurious California Dude Ranch

This Dude Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley Will Make You Say Yahoo!

The world is simply spinning faster now. Minutes, hours, days and years magically disappear into “circling back” emails, Instagram “like” notifications and Netflix series we absorb in eight-hour marathons. We are a consumer society by design, and our appetite has turned towards absorbing time in behemoth-sized bites. Even the two-week vacation has become something you need a vacation from, dealing with canceled flights, packing and unpacking and the overflowing inbox when you return. We needed a bite-sized getaway that packed a full-size, energy-restoring punch of nature, animals and quietness. At Alisal Ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, you can experience just that. Set your email to OOO, your DVR to record and escape a few hours up the coast to a place that will take you back a hundred years or so, where you can “like” riding a horse without having to post it anywhere. California Dude Ranch


We recently spent 48 hours at this 10,000-acre dude ranch, waking to roosters instead of iPhone alarms and riding horses instead of writing emails. We left very much recharged while mentally planning our next trip. This is how we spent our time detached from the wires and waves of modern society.

California Dude Ranch

Day 1

4 p.m.

The drive to Alisal Ranch was the perfect way to start detoxing. We left at noon and drove up the coast past Santa Barbara before turning on a small country road. We saw wild turkeys and deer along the beautiful winding drive. We arrived at the property and parked our car next to a field where horses were feeding. We were smiling already. We checked in and used a giant metal wagon to roll our luggage across a bridge under magnificent trees to our room.

They offer rooms (and homes) of many different sizes, from studios that sleep two to the Jackson House that sleeps 12. We were in a select suite with two chairs out front, a fireplace, a living area and an upstairs bedroom. The room did not have a television or phone (you can text with the front desk), which was perfect for our mission of unplugging.


6 p.m.

Credit: Sara Range

We made reservations for dinner at The Ranch Room, which since 1946 has required a jacket and collared shirt for gentlemen (which they can also lend). We were seated next to a spectacular roaring fireplace in a grand hall with chandeliers and stunning carpets out of a ‘50s Western. The chef served hearty portions—perfectly sized for a dude ranch meal.

Note: In the summers, they offer an outdoor California Cookout with barbecued favorites, including savory meats, seafood, delicious roasted veggie dishes and decadent desserts.

California Dude Ranch

8 p.m.

@localemag Alisal Guest Ranch #alisal #alisalguestranch #solvang #santaynez @ronniesrituals ♬ Mud on the Tires – Brad Paisley

After dinner, we made our way to The Oak Room. This room also has a magnificent fireplace, live music every evening starting at 6:30 p.m. and great cocktails.

Day 2

8 a.m.


We woke up early (for a vacation) and took a nice long nature walk before breakfast. Breakfast was served back in The Ranch Room (no jacket required for breakfast), which offers your choice of a buffet or a la carte dish. We chose to sit on the outside patio for a change of scenery; we listened to birds and looked for squirrels in the trees as we enjoyed our cappuccinos. But for those in search of a little morning adventure, they also offer a trail ride to a pancake breakfast on the ranch.

California Dude Ranch


Credit: Nicki Sebastian

There are so many activities to choose from at Alisal Ranch, but what we were most interested in was the guided horseback riding. We chose the intermediate level (I think it would suit most anyone) and enjoyed a meandering two-hour trip across the ranch, around a lake and back to the stables.



1:30 p.m.

Credit: Alisal Ranch

Even though we had enjoyed a large breakfast just a few hours earlier, we were famished. We ate french fries, salads and an enormous sandwich and drank some wine (some might be an underestimate) next to the pool at the Chuckwagon Grill and Waggin’ Tongue Bar. Completely full and a little inebriated, it was time for a nap.



5:00 p.m.

Our muscles were still aching (mostly the ones you sit on) after our trail ride, so we visited the on-site spa to work out the tension. Our 90-minute Swedish massage, called “The Alisal,” took out the knots that the wine did not.

Note: On the last Sunday of each month, they offer a “Stretch & Sip” class—an outdoor yoga experience under the shade of a giant oak tree on “golf row,” which is followed by a flight of seasonal, local and organic fresh-pressed juices. 


Day 3

8 a.m.

Credit: Alisal Ranch

I highly doubt that cowboys play much golf—but we do! And although it usually isn’t relaxing with my score, it is something we love to do on vacation. There are two local courses to choose from: Alisal Creek and Alisal River. We played the river course and left the property with the course record intact.

California Dude Ranch


We had already packed our bags but signed up for one last activity—something we had never tried before. We loaded onto a truck bed, sat on hay bales and were driven to the lake for an archery and air rifle combo course. Breaking bottles and shooting at hay bales was the perfect way to end our trip back in time.


Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort
1054 Alisal Rd
Solvang, CA 93463

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Erik Hale is the visionary and publisher behind LOCALE Magazine. He launched the magazine in 2010, wanting to give the community of OC a premiere lifestyle magazine that knew all the native knowledge behind OC. “Six years ago Ashley and I sat at a table scratching the name LOCALE (among some other names) onto a sheet of paper,” says Erik, “coming up with story ideas and basically dreaming. Everything we imagined has happened and we have been blessed with so much more. I am so grateful as we start another year for my family, my two wonderful children, my health, our amazing writers, designers and photographers, our advertising partners and you.”




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