I’ve wanted to visit California’s Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara ever since a playgroup friend in San Diego told me about it. She would pack up the kids for a long weekend, and when she came home, she would rave about the resort—particularly how easy it was to enjoy as a family.
It’s not hard to see why people like this historic, 207-room Spanish Colonial resort, recently renovated for $305 million. Guests have access to the exclusive Art Deco Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. And the resort goes the extra mile to ensure that kids are looked after, too—after all, happy kids not only make the experience more enjoyable for parents, but also for other resort guests! Personal touches and attention to little details, like our waiter offering suggestions for kids’ meals, do make a difference.
Here are 15 kid-friendly things we loved about Four Seasons Santa Barbara:
1. Kids check in themselves. Well, not really. But they feel like they do. Special steps put a child eye-to-eye with front desk staff. Feeling important is a great way to start any activity, especially in a new setting.
2. Beanie Babies at check-in. Resort owner Ty Warner shares the soft-toy love with all young Four Seasons guests. Our girls each got “Houston,” a cuddly chocolate-brown puppy with big eyes. The plush stuffed animals were perfect nighttime companions.
3. Kid-sized robes. Why should adults have all the fun? Three fuzzy robes were waiting in our room, and they were just as soft as their full-sized counterparts. My girls felt (and looked) very grown up wearing them.
4. More personalized goodies on arrival. While we adults got “boring old fruit” such as luscious local peaches and strawberries, the girls nearly shrieked when we got to our room and they saw three red velvet cupcakes, a line of backpacks stuffed with snacks and their own girly toiletries, made by a local company. It all adds to the excitement.
5. Music in the courtyard pool. “In” is the key word. Put your head under water in the Jungle Pool and hear Jessie J sing: “It’s not about the money, money, money.” It’s a fun, surreal experience, and kept my girls active in the water. I even got my hair wet, which I rarely do!
6. The Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club. In addition to an Olympic-sized pool, there’s a diving board with attendant lifeguard. How fun is that? Pick your spot carefully, and you can watch the kids boogie board on beautiful Butterfly Beach (accessible by private stairs from the pool deck) from the comfort of your own lounge chair. There’s a games area, too, with table tennis, ping-pong and air hockey. The Coral Casino was a definite trip highlight.
7. Milkshakes in the whirlpool. This is the ultimate “we’ve made it” for tweens. On our second day my girls were spotted sipping a chocolate cookie milkshake while chatting to fellow holidaymakers. I tried to eavesdrop on their conversations (what do eight-year-olds talk about to other eight-year-olds?), but soon was too engrossed in my own beach novel.
8. Kids’ menus with real food options. Yes, there is the usual mac ‘n cheese, chicken nuggets and hot dogs. But you can also get a Caesar Salad, spring rolls and chicken noodle soup. I’m always looking for opportunities to expand my children’s culinary horizons.
9. Bikes to explore Santa Barbara. The resort offers complimentary two-hour bicycle rental for guests (available at the spa). The attendant adjusted each bicycle for size, kitted us out with bottled water and directions to Stearns Wharf. Once we got past the initially wiggly bit, we found ourselves enjoying the stunning–and flat—coastal scenery.
10. Croquet. Tucked in the center of the resort is a kid’s playing field, with croquet and other outdoor sports. The lawn is perfect for cartwheels and handstands, too.
11. Fun at meal times. Meals in restaurants, especially at a five-star resort, can be challenging with kids. But Four Seasons provided an activity pack, which includes Wiki Sticks—colorful bendy “sticks” kids can mold into practically anything. My girls created a Wiki Stick family, then discovered they could quietly slip away and play tag on the lawn adjacent. This allowed my husband and I to finish a (very enjoyable) glass of wine. We beamed when the older couple at the table next to us came by and complimented us on our well-behaved girls!
12. Frozen grape kabobs at the pool. One of the pool attendants came by and offered us all frozen grapes, speared with toothpicks. The girls looked puzzled at first (frozen grapes?), but once they tried them, loved them. What a great idea!
13. S’mores. Every Thursday in the summer you can gather around a firepit and make your own S’mores (that’s graham crackers, roasted marshmallows and Hershey’s chocolate). You will most definitely want some more.
14. “That strawberry drink.” The central coast is known for its strawberries. The Agua Fresca de Fresa (Mexican strawberry-water), available afternoons near reception, was a big hit with my seven year old. She had five glasses. Think of all that vitamin C…
15. Bottled water for the ride home. It’s the little things that count. As we were leaving, the valet asked where we were headed and gave each of the girls a bottle of water for the journey. Mom and Dad got one, too.
All of us will remember our wonderful family weekend in Santa Barbara for a long time. On our list for next time: supervised children’s activities for $20 per child so we can have a quiet dinner at Tydes; summertime stargazing tours, the complimentary Kids for All Seasons children’s program, kid-friendly manis and pedis and “dive-in” movies at the Coral Casino.
Read more about Santa Barbara in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read our Concierge Recommendations for Santa Barbara in Four Seasons Magazine.
After a career in marketing, Susanna Scott took three years off to reflect on how the heck she went from charging around Europe to charging around the play park. She recently re-entered the workforce, and is pleased that she hasn’t lost as many brain cells as she feared. Susanna is considered a pioneer in the UK mum blogging space, and has appeared about the subject in The Times, FT, Independent, Technorati, She, Primo Baby and Red Magazine. She is the founder of BritMums, the UK’s largest parent blogging community. You can read more at Susanna’s blog, You can read more at her blog, A Modern Mother and keep up with her on Twitter.
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