Carmel is one of our favorite family travel weekend getaways. Carmel is a small town close to Monterey, on the Central California coast. It’s about a four hour drive north from Santa Barbara, 5 hour drive from Los Angeles, and two hour drive south from San Francisco. 

Last weekend we surprised the girls with a weekend at the Carmel Valley Ranch. Yummy Hubby was going to be at the Laguna Seca racetrack watching the Moto GP motorcycle races, so I was on my own with the girls. I knew from last time, we would have plenty to do. The Carmel Valley Ranch is so much more than “a hotel” – it’s park, playground, vineyard, farm, and luxurious (but not at all pretentious) resort all rolled into one. It’s so kid and pet-friendly – everyone feels welcome.

There are always fun activities going on at the Ranch. Recently there have been pickle-making classes, honey harvests, organic garden tours, and as always, nightly s’mores by the pool. The last time we visited, B and I did the amazing Bee Keeping Experience. We were lucky enough to visit during the annual lavender harvest last weekend. The girls and I met John, the beekeeper and lavender expert at the Ranch to harvest bunches upon bunches of lavender. We then took it to a lovely tea party in the organic garden and made our own lavender tea. John said that empty tea bags are available at Cost Plus, and I also found them on Amazon. We simply pulled some lavender buds off the plants, filled the bags, and steeped our tea. We could not believe how delicious this fresh tea was. Especially with the buttery lavender shortbread and other cookies the Ranch provided, along with lavender honey lemonade. Yum! I highly recommend making your own tea if you have fresh herbs growing in your garden.

Has someone invented a scratch-n-sniff feature for computer screens yet? I wish you could smell the relaxing perfume of the lavender fields. We found many interesting feathers on our nature walks over the weekend, but our favorite was this Red Tailed Hawk feather the girls found in the garden. We thought it made a nice addition to our lavender bouquets.

A small portion of the beautiful organic garden at Carmel Valley Ranch. Tall sunflowers, vegetables, and herbs that go directly to the Ranch kitchen.

One of our favorite parts of visiting the Ranch is the wildlife. Deer and wild turkey roam freely throughout the property.


Our glorious suite had not one, but TWO fireplaces. The living room and bedroom were separated by a long hallway and two doors. If you have little kiddos, you know how amazing this is – it means mom and dad don’t have to go to bed silently at 7PM! Woo! You can put the kids to bed and then sit on the balcony with a glass of delicious Monterey wine.  Pictured above is the serene adult pool. I have yet to experience it, but that’s okay, because the family pool is pretty darn fun…

I had planned on venturing out into the town of Carmel, but the girls and I never left the Ranch. Thanks to the fun childcare activity cottage, I even got to work out for an hour while the girls did arts and crafts. The food was wonderful – pictured above is the Pea Ravioli with Truffles – and they had everything the kids and I needed for the weekend.

Things to do in Carmel and Monterey with kids