Parents’ insider guide to family travel: in the Santa Monica foothills, Four Seasons Westlake Village, California

Parents’ insider guide to family travel: in the Santa Monica foothills, Four Seasons Westlake Village, California

By on March 30th, 2013

California’s Westlake Village is a hidden gem. It’s near Los Angeles, but very different. Picture hiking through fields of wildflowers in the spring; mountains that change color with the seasons; and bright-blue skies made possible by ocean breezes creeping inland through canyons. This upscale community is quieter and less well-known than its famous neighbor, providing a luxurious wellness retreat for Southern California residents as well as visitors seeking excitement combined with serenity. And Malibu is nearby.

The truth is that once you park the family at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village, it might be difficult to leave. Both Condé Nast Traveler and Trip Advisor Channel rank The Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Westlake as one of the best hotel spas in the United States. Multiple lounging areas, a serenity pool, lifestyle classes and an extensive range of wellness and beauty treatments are designed to nurture mind, body and soul.

FS Westlake Village Spa

Creative, locally-sourced menus fill happy tummies while family-friendly activities around the property exist inside and out—making weather less of a concern. In this part of the world, the odds of sunshine are in your favor, especially during spring and summer. We happened to visit during a somewhat rainy weekend (rare in SoCal) and it didn’t matter one bit.

FS Westlake Village Room

Why go

*Rejuvenate in a family-friendly environment. Have both inner and outer beauty addressed by experts. Check out feeling like a new person.

*Location: Families can pivot in almost any direction to see the best of Southern California. The hotel is located roughly half-way between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, a 25-minute drive to the beaches of Malibu, close to local farms, uphill from outlet shopping and around the corner from a kid-friendly Presidential Library—to name a few. It’s best to have a car.

*Weekends are a culinary treat. The Lobby Lounge transforms into an interactive Farmer’s Market Breakfast featuring local produce, organics, fresh breads and hearty favorites. Bold color is everywhere: purple carrots in baskets, oranges piled high ready for juicing, fresh watermelon on ice and exquisite attention to detail.

*Return in the evening on Saturday’s to find the same spot decorated as an Italian Market with the staff as festive as the real deal. Mercato Italiano means wood-fired pizza, custom-made bruschetta, cured meats, a not-to-be-missed gelato cart… An extra hour at the gym downstairs is worth a few extra bites here.

FS Westlake Village Mercato Italiano

*Or, try the champagne brunch (complete with Bloody Mary bar) at Hampton’s.

*It’s easy. The hotel has cribs, monitors, step stools, DVDs, etc. to lessen the strain on your luggage. Early morning coffee (in addition to the ever-important in-room coffee maker) and muffins in the lobby curb pre-breakfast meltdowns. The freeway is right around the corner. Your kid’s will master the property’s layout on the first day. And, there’s 24-hour laundry service.

*It’s comfortable. Collapse on to a huge bed in a sun-filled room. Use ample storage space to settle in for your stay of active leisure or spa zen. Roam from room to pool in those awesome hotel robes. Make the hotel your home.

What the kids will love

FS Westlake Village Indoor Pool

*The indoor heated pool and Jacuzzi beneath a huge glass roof—inflatable pool toys and noodles included. Order up snacks, lounge on a chaise, or go out the side door to the patio.

*Running around, playing horseshoes and other games on the Activity Lawn.

*Kids’ Activity Room. Grab a key from the concierge and head downstairs to play games as a family or watch DVDs. Teens surf the web, play Foosball, listen to music and make new friends in their own activity room. Pool table included.

*The gelato cart at Mercato Italiano. OK, you’ll love it too. Try the salted caramel flavor.

FS Westlake Village Gelato Cart

*A spa treatment with you in a luxury spa suite complete with fireplace, private patio and two therapists—one for you and one for them. They paint, listen to a story, get a mani/pedi and play, all while you lie on a heated spa bed totally relaxed during a bamboo foot treatment. It’s called the Episencial Experience.

FS Westlake Village Episencial

What you will love

*The road to a better you. There is just so much to learn, including how to navigate the grocery store, posture assessment and cooking classes—to name a few.

*Ocean breezes and wine? Yes, please. Explore Malibu’s tasting rooms on a luxury tour while catching glimpses of celebrity homes and plenty of gorgeous scenery. Curiosity peaked, but short on time? Sample Malibu and other local wines all over the hotel, including in-room dining.

*Farm-to-hotel eats. It’s not just the wine. Food is locally-sourced whenever possible. See first-hand by picking your own vegetables and learning about organic produce at nearby operations such as McGrath Family Farm or Underwood Family Farm’s Moorpark location.

*World-renowned golf clubs. Choose from six nearby courses. Exclusive access to Sherwood Lake Club, a collection of Jack Nicklaus’s premiere par-3 holes.

*Spa experiences beyond the average massage. Try acupuncture, a Feng Shui makeover designed to unleash natural beauty, cosmetic dentistry, even treatments with the kids. Take a wellness class or have a personal fitness plan developed for you.

Look for

FS Westlake Village Pagoda

The big red pagoda next to the spa—a stunning place to blow off steam and relax. Flowers, open space, a pond, rocks… kids love it.

Eat this

Dine in—
*Despite the ueber-swanky atmosphere of ONYX, it’s actually kid-friendly: crayons and a menu designed just for them. Order the lobster roll and popcorn shrimp. Make a reservation; this is a popular spot with locals.

*Cave up with in-room dining.

*Try one of the weekend signature dining experiences: Mercato Italiano, the Farmer’s Market Breakfast or Champagne Brunch. There’s even a raw oyster bar on Fridays as an upgrade to a seafood-focused experience.

FS Westlake Village Orange Juice

Dine out—
*Build your own gourmet burgers at The Counter, within stroller-pushing distance of the hotel.

*Recipient of numerous accolades, including the best deli in Southern California by the Los Angeles Times, this Brent’s Deli serves Reuben’s, latkes and delicious pancakes for breakfast.

*In Malibu? Paradise Cove is a casual restaurant that’s right on the beach.

5 family to-dos

FS Westlake Village Beach Jeep

1. Lounge on a Malibu beach. Build sandcastles, catch a wave, read magazines and soak up rays on a popular white-sand shore that’s often photographed with celebrities doing the same.

2. Eat well. Splurge, go healthy or meet in the middle. Signature Four Seasons dining experiences, restaurants and in-room dining have well-rounded options, including healthier fare that doesn’t sacrifice taste. Even your kids may eat carrots for breakfast, just because.

FS Westlake Village Carrots

3. Unplug. With complimentary WiFi, this might be difficult. Give in to the stress-free vibe of the place and do it anyway. Reconnect as a family.

4. Go outside. Hike, bike, horseback ride, search for wildflowers at the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area, a one-of-a-kind National Park. Visit a local farm. Book a whale-watching excursion—the choices are vast.

5. Learn. Forget boring history textbooks. Walk through Air Force One, see the first lady’s dresses, ride a horse with the Gipper, and picnic on the gorgeous grounds at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Or, the Getty Villa in Malibu makes learning the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome and Etruria family-friendly through special programs and events targeted at school-aged kids.

FS Westlake Village Reagan Library

Kid fun by age group. Best for…

*Babies: Splashing around the hotel’s heated indoor pool. A power walk through the hotel gardens or the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Crawling on the lawn while listening to the waterfall.

*Toddlers: Waddling around the hotel’s grassy areas. The pool. Picking wildflowers at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation area. Getting sandy in Malibu. Wandering rows of vegetables at a local farm.

FS Westlake Village Malibu Surf

*Kids 5-10: Earning the Junior Ranger badge at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (ages eight and older). Hands-on exhibits at Reagan Presidential Library. A whale-watching tour out of Ventura Harbor. Universal Studios in Los Angeles. Making art at the Getty Villa. The mom-kid spa Episencial Experience at Four Seasons, Kids’ Activity Room and Activity Lawn. The pool.

*Tweens & teens: Exploring Hollywood. Chilling in the hotel Teen Activity Room. Hiking and biking. Learning how to surf. The Getty Villa and Reagan Presidential Library. The spa. Outlet shopping in Camarillo.

Read more about Westlake Village, California in Four Seasons Magazine

FS Westlake Village Waterfall

Read more our “Concierge Recommendations” for Westlake Village, California in Four Seasons Magazine

FS Westlake Village Spa Lounge Area

Post Author
Katie Dillon

Katie Dillon is a freelance lifestyle and luxury travel writer who loves mother-daughter trips, Pinterest, her husband's sense of humor, a nice glass of wine and one very needy pitbull mix. Living at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong spoiled her for life so she does her best to regularly check in to FS properties around the globe. When not on the road, Katie's family is at home in seaside La Jolla, CA. Her work can also be seen on USA TODAY Travel, Taste by Four Seasons, Four Seasons Magazine and her personal site, La Jolla Mom.

View all posts from Katie
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