Staycation in San Diego’s North County at the Rancho Bernardo inn

Rancho-Bernardo-Inn-veranda--courtesy-the-Rancho-Bernardo-InnI’m a firm believer that traveling together is a perfect way to bond as a family and even a quick trip to a nearby destination provides plenty of memory making moments.

We recently planned a long weekend in North San Diego County – it doesn’t get much easier than loading everyone into the minivan for a road trip that literally lasts less than an hour.

Traveling with an 8 and 9-year-old and only three days to pack in the fun, we decided to spend the better part of one morning at nearby Legoland and spend the rest of the weekend taking advantage of the accommodation, amenity and activities at the Rancho Bernardo Inn.

We were hoping it wasn’t too tall an order to arrange for accommodation that was comfortable and spacious, with family-friendly dining and amenity, including a – preferably heated – pool and within an easy drive to the theme park.

In searching hotel options online, we selected the Rancho Bernardo Inn (ranchobernardoinn.com) and couldn’t have been more pleased to find that this welcoming property more than delivered on its promise of being a “place to play, to relax, to unwind, to reconnect or to find a little time for yourself.”

Rancho-Bernardo-Inn-Avant-restaurantEach of the Inn’s 287 guest rooms and suites are luxurious, spacious retreats with a variety of enhancements – upon check in, our kids were beyond excited to discover that our room came complete with a pop-up tent (where they hid out and slept in during the duration of our stay), a special “gift” for each child that included a new “friend” (a soft plush toy) and delicious fresh-baked cookies and ice-cold milk (Mommy and Daddy had to indulge as well much to the kids’ chagrin). Another surprise were the packages of Smore fixins’ – which included everything we needed to make too many ooey gooey treats and an amenity we put to good use in the cracking courtyard fireplace opposite our building.

A little history

Rancho Bernardo Inn opened its doors with 30 rooms in 1963. Room rates started at $8, an all-you-can-eat fish fry at Veranda was $1.50 and guests were invited in to see ‘color television.’ The resort course opened with 18 championship holes designed by William Bell, architect of both Torrey Pines and La Jolla Country Club. The resort sought to provide its guests with casual elegance and this philosophy allowed the Inn to become a staple in North County San Diego.

Rancho-Bernardo-Inn-Deluxe-Rooms--courtesy-the-Rancho-Bernardo-InnThe resort gained notoriety on a national level by hosting the PGA San Diego Open in 1964. Art Wall won with a score of 274 and a purse of $30,000. The LPGA Honda Civic Classic was hosted from 1978 to 1980. In 1978, Sally Little won the tournament with a score or 282, defeating Nancy Lopez with a par on the first extra hole.

In 1968, Rancho Bernardo Inn was expanded to 151 guest rooms and our beloved El Bizcocho was opened. A renowned fine-dining experience, it was enjoyed by guests and city residents alike. Chefs such as Gavin Kaysen and Patrick Ponsaty honed their skills in the El Biz kitchen, earning the eatery a loyal following. In 2013, with food trends shifting to a more social, sharing experience, El Bizcocho was respectfully put to rest. In June, after a $2.5 million renovation, AVANT was opened to wide interest and acclaim.

Since its inception, the resort has expanded to include a Conde Nast award winning spa, redesigned golf course, and the addition of 250 more guestrooms.

Legoland

LEGOLAND-Water-Park-2--Courtesy-LEGOLAND-California

As Orange County residents, we are ideally situated to spend the day at any number of world-renowned theme parks ranging from “The Happiest Place on Earth” to the San Diego Zoo. But for our family – since the time our kids were toddlers to their now-elementary school age (I’d say the theme park’s target audience is four to 12), a favorite attraction has been Legoland (www.legoland.com) in nearby Carlsbad – home to both amusement park rides (most rides are accessible by height with 34 inches being the minimum) and a fun-for-all-ages waterpark (open seasonally) that alone is worth the trip – there are a dizzying array of water activities, slides, wading pools, splash zones and activity areas to keep the kids occupied for hours on end.

Unlike its behemoth amusement park counterparts, Legoland is smaller and much easier to negotiate (a plus for parents navigating their brood between rides).

Family-friendly dining

San Diego has a huge variety of restaurants to choose from: Thai, Lebanese, Indian, Mexican, and even Eritrean. If you don’t feel like venturing off property, the aforementioned AVANT offers an indoor/outdoor dining experience defined by “bright new flavors from the sea, farm and garden.”

For sharing, the fried Brussels sprouts were delicious accompanied by curried cauliflower, pickled mushrooms and baby corn, while the Charcuterie (the Chef’s nightly selection of artisan cured or smoked meats and cheeses and house-made mustards were a tasty complement to a nice house cabernet.

Among the most popular entrée selections include the glazed black cod and the all-natural filet mignon and for dessert, AVANT serves up an array of unique treats – ranging from pumpkin spice ice cream and blood orange sorbet to a decadent chocolate pistachio cake flavored with brandied cherries, whisky crème sauce, sea salt and bittersweet chocolate mousse.

Stone Brewing Co.

Since we were “this close,” my husband wanted to check out Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens in Escondido. I wouldn’t have thought the destination brewery and restaurant would be as kid-friendly as it turned out to be and was surprised by the number of families dining in the expansive interior and exploring the beautiful gardens with children of all ages to tow.

Stone-Brewing-World-Bistro--Courtesy-Stone-Brewing-Co

Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens

Stone Brewing (www.stonebrewing.com) which began as a collaboration of beer lover/homebrewer Steve Wagner and beer geek/rock ‘n’ roll entrepreneur Greg Koch serves craft draft and bottled beers and an array of inventive and delicious dishes with an emphasis on locally-sourced, organic produce.

We started with the housemade hummus – made fresh daily and topped with sweet smoked paprika and extra virgin olive oil with coarse ground sea salt and the Stone-style hemp seed pretzels which deserve a special mention because they became the hit of the evening and the often-talked-about dish for days following our trip. Our 9-year-old son’s palate is rather limited (we often half-joke that were it not for peanut butter, he wouldn’t continue to grow), so it took some doing to get him to even try the fresh-from-the-oven pretzels served with jalapeno cheese sauce and stone ground mustard. But one taste and he was hooked … then it was all the rest of us could do to wrestle a sample away to try it for ourselves.

Stone-Brewing-World-Bistro_Duck-TacosMy husband raved about the Stone BBQ Beef – slow-roasted all-natural chuck roast, shredded with Stone Cola BBQ sauce on a Kaiser roll and topped with a tangy blackberry horseradish slaw, served with garlic pepper potato chips. For my part, I thoroughly enjoyed the organic vegetable platter which arrived with seasonal vegetables, braised greens and a barley-quinoa tabouleh.

The kids went with their “go-to” menu choices and were perfectly content with the penne marinara and grilled cheese sandwich (artisanal bread with aged white Cheddar cheese and served with fruit).

With world-famous attractions, so many family-friendly dining options and the option of an all-inclusive accommodation such as what we experienced at the Rancho Bernardo Inn, what started out as a weekend getaway ended up fun-filled trip we hope to turn into an annual tradition.

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