Groups looking for an authentic Wild West experience will find just that at the 73-room Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, situated in Solvang, California, on a 10,500-acre working cattle ranch where there are no phones or televisions. This rustic mentality is matched by high-end amenities and outdoor activities that will keep attendees—believe it or not—away from their phones, tablets and whatever other device they own for hours.
Sherrie Fitzgerald, director of sales and marketing at the property, says the most popular thing for groups to do is use the private, 100-acre, spring-fed lake. It hosts a plethora of activities such as archery target shooting, paddleboating, canoeing, fishing derbies and horseshoes.
“[Meeting planners] can incorporate all of those into a teambuilding program,” says Fitzgerald. “Everyone has a strength and a weakness. There are some people that have never picked up a fishing pole before, not to mention a bow and arrow.”
The ranch specializes in western-style barbecue and hosts an annual barbecue boot camp weekend. Several of the educational components from that weekend can be incorporated into an onsite event in which attendees can learn the two different methods of cooking western-style barbecue. They will learn the two different types of wood to use and the two different ways to get a fire started. They will also learn about how to choose certain types of meat and what ones work well for barbecue. Plus, individual attendees will build their own spice rubs to cook with in competition against other attendees.
Meeting planners can also plan what the resort calls a “breakfast ride,” in which attendees can ride horses or take a hayride to the historic onsite adobe, where an outdoor breakfast awaits them upon arrival. In addition to breakfast, planners can opt to have a cowboy recite poetry or have Head Wrangler Tony Thompson speak to the history of the property from his 20 years of working at the ranch.
Even the meeting spaces have a western theme. The 2,800-sf Sycamore Room features a high-beamed ceiling, stone hearth and wood mantle, and the 750-sf Adobe space has a bearskin rug hanging on the wall. Plus, the 748-sf library features brown leather couches, wood furnishes and a fireplace—setting the scene for a truly John Wayne-worthy event.
“It’s important that groups understand that while, yes, we are a guest ranch, we have all the amenities that you’re looking for in a resort,” says Fitzgerald. “[Meeting planners] do take a chance the first time they come here not knowing what they’re in store for. It just takes a couple hours to let go with the no TVs and phones to know that they’re in good hands.”