When the places you stay at are pivotal to your travel experience–be it by virtue of a uniquely artistic design, a special location, in-house events or unusual services that offer extra insight into the city or town you’re visiting
By Shana Ting Lipton
[Originally Published on About.com/New York Times Company]
As a city slicker sleeping at a working cattle ranch for the first time, I must admit to an adjustment period on my first night at Alisal. A symphony of croaking frogs–that I had only previously known from my Sharper Image sleep/noise machine–serenaded me throughout the night. I awoke to another sound I had become so familiar with in the digital world–that of a rooster saying ‘good morning’ in his own special way.
It’s sad to say that many Angelenos like myself are so distanced from nature that it’s become something of a novelty. Thankfully, the Alisal Guest Ranch and Spa is the perfect ‘antidote to civilization’ as the commercial saying goes. Yes, it’s separate from its Danish-founded town of Solvang–which is rife with kitschy faux Danish architecture and windmills (which are technically Dutch). But the ranch allows curious urbanites to dip into the rustic side of things, one step at a time.
TV is verboten. Why would you want to watch American Idol when you can experience real Americana with a fireside sing-along, in real time? Yet, the ranch is hip and smart enough to offer wifi…a minor link to ‘civilization’ for lap-top toting Internet addicts.
This is mostly a family-friendly spot, but couples will find it plenty romantic with lots of beautiful walks, cute little nooks, and on-site ranch activities–like lakeside boat rides–and nearby wine tasting to spice things up. Ah yes, wine, something that has made the Solvang environs of the ranch world-famous in pop culture since 2004 when Paul Giamatti and Alexander Payne sought women and the perfect pinot noir in Sideways. Today, it is not uncommon to hear of a Sideways wine tour of the area.
Alisal has its own label featuring a nice pinot noir, available at its lounges and restaurants, and also for purchase along with other ranch treats. You can buy a bag of Alisal’s pancake mix as well–the results of which you can preview at one of its hearty ranch breakfasts. Or if you’re health-conscious, the ranch’s own brand of granola can be your sojourn takeaway.
Save room in your luggage. There is plenty of fun culinary shopping in town as well as adjacent Buellton: olive and grape seed oils, hand-crafted soaps, vinegar, etc. I personally love this kind of shopping as I return to LA with the ‘spirit of Steinbeck.’
In conclusion, the Alisal is a must for LA tech/ media burnouts who need to revitalize to the sound of a running river and distant cows. Its land is virtually untouched by Hollywood. I say ‘virtually’ because of an anecdote that one of the wrangler/guides told us about its history, over an outdoor breakfast.
One of the ranch’s early owners, Raimundo Carillo is the great great great grandfather of TV western sidekick Leo Carillo of ‘50s TV show The Cisco Kid fame. Some things, like Hollywood, are hard to evade. But Alisal does a heck of a job of keeping them at [shooting] arm’s length, hombre.
Alisal Guest Ranch Resort
1054 Alisal Road
Solvang, CA 93463
Read Full Review With Rating at About.com Los Angeles
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