As the pandemic continues, travelers also continue to seek ways to rest safely without taking a plane in seemingly hostile skies. For those in the western states, a good option to do that is a vacation ranch. With abundant nature, fresh air, and animals, a vacation ranch can be the best escape for couples and families while safely distancing themselves socially. At Circle B Bar Ranch & Stables in Goleta, the outdoors are king. And aside from employees and guests donning face masks, the pandemic seems a long way off. Here are six reasons to go:
1. Location, location, location
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch is only 30 minutes from downtown Santa Barbara, but a world away. It is also a stone’s throw from the former Western White House, President Ronald Reagan’s Sky Ranch, in the Santa Ynez Mountains. Once you exit Highway 101 at Forest Route 5 – Refugio Road, there is no commerce. About five miles with uninhabited curves of mountainous nature along with avocado trees seem to belong to the aptly named Rancho Guacamole. The Circle Bar B Guest Ranch comes into view at the end of Refugio Road
2. Peace and quiet
If you are looking for peace and quiet, you have come to the right place. While there is solid internet in the main Circle B hostel and the surrounding courtyard and pool areas, the lodges do not have internet, although there is Direct TV for the news junkies among us. There is also a small library and a games room with a pool table, ping pong table and table football.
There are a total of 18 rustic lodges including self-contained cabins, creekside cabins with large wood burning fireplaces, and ranch-style rooms in various configurations to sleep four to eight people.
3. Channel your inner cowboy
Circle Bar B Guest Ranch is approximately 1,000 acres and the stables currently hold 48 horses, professional cowboys, and 15 miles of riding trails. In the small group setting, beginner and novice cyclists will be happier here as these are ‘foot only’ trail rides. Private walks can also be arranged.
There are 90-minute tours, two-and-a-half-hour tours, and a four-hour tour a day. I did two 90 minute trail rides while at Circle Bar B. Most enjoyable was my ride with the Wrangler Jimmy Anguiano, who had been at Circle Bar B for several years.
Without a doubt, Jimmy was as happy on his horse as most ordinary mortals are on his two legs. My huge horse Chip was intuitive and a smooth ride. I was dying to take him gallop into the picturesque valley, but the other two riders, who came from Palo Alto through Bombay, had never ridden before, so we hiked.
4. Good food
Meals at Circle Bar B are served ranch style. In the COVID era, that means buffet style with masked employees serving the tasty home-cooked meals behind Plexiglas. While some patrons opted to eat in the indoor dining room, we ate comfortably al fresco on the patio on western-inspired red and white checkered tablecloths.
We had teriyaki chicken one night with shrimp and tri-tip grilled another night. There were pasta options available for vegetarians. The breakfasts were equally enjoyable: yogurt, fresh fruit, pancakes, French toast, eggs, and of course bacon or sausage.
5. Ornithologists will be happy
While walking, hiking, or horseback riding at Circle Bar B, ornithologists can have a picnic. On the ranch there is a plethora of woodpeckers doing their civic duty and pecking through the trees. During the day, it often sounded like they were building a planned multi-unit birdhouse development.
There are also many hummingbirds, crows, red hawks, sparrows, warblers, flycatchers and orioles. So if the birds float in your boat, bring a pair of binoculars.
6. Location, location, location
A great aspect of Circle Bar B is its proximity to Santa Barbara for world-class beaches, shopping, art galleries, and museums. Also nearby, in the Santa Ynez Valley, is the picturesque town of Solvang which calls itself “A Little Slice of Denmark in Southern California.” Founded in 1911 by three Danish-American educators to preserve Danish heritage in their new homeland, there are specialty shops – anyone want handmade cuckoo clocks? – great bakeries, cafes and of course great wineries nearby serving some of the best …