Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 6:07 pm | Fair 58º

Here & There

Donna Polizzi: Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort Will Have You Relaxed in the Saddle In No Time

Famed getaway provides guests with an ideal blend of rest and recreation — a mere minutes from the hustle and bustle of Solvang

Stress melts away with the horse therapy offered at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang. Click to view larger
Stress melts away with the horse therapy offered at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang. (Donna Polizzi photo)

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There’s no place like the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort.

I’ve had the privilege of staying at many beautiful hotels and resorts around the world, but let me tell you, the Alisal is beyond compare. I had no idea that this amazing place — at 1054 Alisal Road in Solvang — was less than an hour from my home. It is truly a hidden treasure.

Who knew that Solvang holds a hidden treasure that time seemed to escape?

The winding. picturesque road that led my husband and me to the Alisal is a treat in itself. Every curve opened up another view of white and red oak trees full of mistletoe, a large buck in the brush and a bald eagle flying over the golden hillside.

The magic began at the entrance. I didn’t make it to registration. I was out of the car taking pictures of the beautiful horses in the green pasture on the right and the rustic, western-style bungalows on the left.

I found myself nestled in the mountains ... bathed in natural beauty and a quiet stillness that was kind of eerie, but in a good way.

“Originally, the Alisal was a cattle ranch,” our wrangler, Nina Moody, said on the morning breakfast horseback ride. “Now it’s a full-service guest ranch with 73 bungalows, 50 miles of riding trails, a 100-acre lake with two 18-hole championship golf courses and tennis courts.”

During our ride, we stopped at the Old Adobe where a delicious outdoor breakfast was prepared. The smell of flapjacks, maple syrup, crispy bacon, sausage and the strumming of a cowboy playing live western music filled the air.

Now that you’re hungry, let’s get back to the ride.

I felt my stress melt away in the midst of rugged and beautiful terrain. Looking up to see massive eagles’ nests and deer in the distance was truly a much needed treat for my soul. On another note ... I was so sore the next two days from the 2½-hour ride that I felt like I’d been used as a piñata.

It was amazing to me that a place of this caliber is affordable. We’re not rich, and at first I thought the room cost was rather pricey, until I realized that many of the amenities are included when you’re a guest. Fabulous gourmet meals were included, as were long horseback rides through breathtaking territory, archery, fishing and many other activities for just about everyone.

For me, it was a good thing that there are no TVs or phones in the rooms at the Alisal. Cell service is sketchy at best. I admit that I have a phone addiction and it is very hard to put down.

“Visitors have returned to the ranch year after year since it opened in 1946,” Alisal activities director Marcy Payne told me. “We have had the privilege of hosting guests like Billy Crystal and wonderful local couples simply looking for a romantic escape, or more often a retreat from their stress to recharge their batteries.

“Last year, Hilary Swank bought out the entire ranch for her birthday.”

One night at dinner, I struck up a conversation with a sweet lady named Jennifer who was at the ranch for her 30th year in a row. She shared that her husband had died two years before.

“After my husband passed away, it was hard to come back the next year, but I had to,” she said.

She went on to say that the staff did many little things (like bringing her Los Angeles Times to her room) “like little angels” — small gestures that her husband used to do on all of the previous years that they had visited the ranch.

“The staff never asked but when I shared, they were caring and kind,” she said.

To me, that speaks volumes. The staff at the Alisal Guest Ranch treats your family like part of their family.

Ohhh, the barn! I almost forgot the barn!

It houses some of the most interesting-looking chickens that I’ve ever seen. One of them looked like a poodle from the back.

Penelope is a pot-bellied pig that didn’t like me much. I’m a city girl and I learned quickly that pigs can make quite a menacing sound when irritated. I was simply trying to move her out of the shade to take a snapshot. The picture was worth it.

At one point, I noticed an odd brand on one of the animals.

“Who in the world would write a phone number on this tortoise’s shell?” I asked. Turns out this particular tortoise, named Tortellini, is an escape artist and needs to be returned periodically.

The Alisal is remarkable in so many ways. There is truly something interesting around every corner. The only thing that I didn’t like ... was leaving.

Click here for more information about the Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, or call 805.688.6411.

— Donna Polizzi is a regional travel expert and founder of Keys to the Coast, a free Central Coast travel resource providing honest recommendations on the best places that locals want to go. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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