With its rambling hills and sprawling lavender fields, Carmel Valley Ranch claims 500 acres of California’s stunning Central Coast. Whether riding horseback through the property’s glorious trails or Zenning out at the spa, days on the Ranch are wonderfully tranquil. Here’s how to keep the littles entertained while you unplug.
Get Into the Mindset, Straight Off The Bat.
Book a Ranch Suite with two double beds plus a queen-sized pull-out couch in the living room (from $585). Order a fantastic bottle of house-made pinot noir made from on-site grapes and watch from your room as wild turkeys, deer, and bunnies scurry about the hotel’s farm houses.
Send The Kids Off To Play In A Bee Hive. Yep, That’s Right.
The resort’s 9-5 kids’ camp ($125 per kid, per week) is pretty fab. Run by local educators, the program offers geo-caching, guided nature walks, candle-making, archery, and yes, the “Bee Experience,” where participants gear up in full suits to learn about bees while in the hive (for tykes over 4). Activities are also available on an a la carte basis. A kids-only pool rounds out the fun. Order up some grass-fed burgers and let them browse the organic garden to spy everything from rainbow chard to strawberries and edible roses.
Let ‘Em Get Their Giddyup On.
The resort’s impressive stables and trails are 10 minutes by shuttle van. While “Kiddie Corral” offers kids ages 2-7 pony-style walks, lasso lessons, and cowboy crafts, children 8 and up can go on purely magical trail rides. Pricey private lessons ($170 per hour) are also available to children of all ages; wranglers teach to a child's ability. At the very least, your kids will fall for the property’s mini horses and sweet donkeys who greet you upon arrival.
Order The Chicken. Make Killer S’mores.
The kids’ menu includes the basics (chicken tenders, grilled cheese) while grown-ups choose from thoughtful dishes like organic chicken with polenta and sweet onion madeira jus, or fresh fish of the day with artichoke puree, sweet potato gnocchi, and citrus relish. The on-site restaurants are big, and can be loud. Choose the outdoor dining option, which is poolside and peaceful. S’mores start at 6pm sharp.
Book A Massage, Thank Us Later.
The Ranch’s stunning Aiyana spa is better than most. Book the Herbal Vitality ($280), a 110-minute hot stone massage and rejuvenating exfoliation with herbs harvested from the Ranch. Ask for a treatment room with a private terrace for some extra chill time.
If There’s Still Time…
Try the Underwater Explorers experience at the nearby Monterey Bay Aquarium, where kids ages 8 to 13 can scuba dive into the Great Tide Pool and get up close with sea otters and star fish. And try to squeeze in a half-day trip to Carmel-by-the-Sea, an upscale coastal town 15 minutes from the Ranch with charming bookshops, delectable bakeries, and family-owned burger joints.