Not more than a half hour from downtown Santa Barbara, sits the beautiful, idyllic and tranquil Santa Ynez Mountains. I have loved this beautiful area for years and just recently have taken the time to really explore it in-depth. Everything can be found in this area such as wine tasting, the Danish town of Solvang, golfing, views of beautiful Lake Cachuma, and if you are into camping, it’s a campers’ dream.
I camped a lot as a child but in my day it consisted of 100 degree weather, a lake to jump into to escape the 100 degree weather, and driving to the flush toilets if there were any. Mustering up the courage to use an outhouse has never been in my genetic make up so once I grew up, if lodging didn’t include plumbing, it didn’t include me. Call it living on the edge for me, but I recently decided that I would give camping a shot again, if for no other reason than to save money on accommodations. This is purely the act of a desperate travel addict trying to get their fix of “get me the hell out of dodge.” Must travel at any cost. So, my trusty travel partner and I found camping accommodations fit for a princess (or at least a couple of cougars who need showers and flush toilets.) And if you have a horse, you can bring him with you and board him in a fantastic boarding area. This is also pet-friendly in general, but they recommend that you keep your animals inside your lodging with you at night because of possible dangerous scuffles with the local wildlife. (Camping, remember?)
Located off of Highway 154 en route to Santa Barbara, past many great, traditional camp grounds, is the Rancho Oso Guest Ranch & Resort www.ranchooso.net. This place is camping at its best, with the benefits of resort living. I was all set to go back to my roots and sleep on the biggest rock I could find to bury deep inside my spine, but to my surprise, this resort offers any style of accommodation you prefer. There is traditional camping where you can pitch a tent in a cool, shaded area, located a stone’s throw away to the resort facilities. For those who drive their house around with them, they have full RV hookups, making it possible to get Direct TV while getting away from it all. I’m not even going to criticize that because I am someone who would totally appreciate that. In my opinion, that is progress in camping! If you want to show up and sleep semi-hotel style, they have the most precious little cabins, located right next to the horse stables. Guess which one we stayed in?! The cabins do not have in-room facilities but the main bathrooms and showers were literally 20 feet away. Our little cabin had a perfect view of the horses and the beautiful Santa Ynez mountains behind us, equipped with a mini-refrigerator, coffee-maker, and small writing desk. Each cabin has its own porch for lounging and a BBQ grill. This tiny cabin had a bunk-bed and double bed, making it possible to sleep three or four people. Granted, it would be a tight fit but definitely possible. For bigger parties, there are larger cabins to accommodate an entire entourage.
The part I really love is that this resort is geared toward childless adults as well as families. The pool is open all day, until 10:00pm including certain hours where it is adults only. This doesn’t mean that the swinging crowd is open to show up and take over, it simply gives adults the chance to enjoy the pool without kids in it for a little while. In addition, the adult recreation room is a nice touch considering that there are more than enough play areas and activities for the kids to enjoy. It’s great that they took into consideration that adults need a break and would like to relax and have fun too.
But if you are a kid, this place is awesome. Activities such as miniature golf, badminton, horseshoes, volleyball, ping-pong, and horseback riding are just a few choices of the activities offered at Rancho Oso.
The resort offers so much to do it’s ridiculous. There are two pools, a jacuzzi, an adult game room with a pool table, ice-cream social, BBQ cookouts, s’more roasting, and an endless amount of other activities. Another fun feature is the availability of their covered wagons used as sleeping quarters. Very cool. Just throw in a sleeping bag and you get to pretend that you’re out in the wild west hanging out with the cowboys.
There are plenty of barbeque grills and pits to be found, making it economical to bring your own food and cook to your little hearts’ content. Otherwise, there is a great local store and cafe not too far out of the resort called the Paradise Store which serves up some pretty good sandwiches, BBQ, fries, etc. The night we were there they had a really good live band playing there and the locals were shooting the breeze with other travelers.
Rancho Oso is really a great, economical getaway that anyone would enjoy. It really has something for everyone and is as picturesque as it is entertaining and relaxing. Check it out if ever in the area.