State's top three getaway spots chosen

The readers of have chosen their favorite California getaways and those results were announced recently on the Website. The top three vote-getters couldn’t be three more different experiences, so there is no doubt there is something for everyone in this year’s winners.

Topping the field this year was the luxurious Ojai Valley Inn & Spa, located in the small community of Ojai, not far from Santa Barbara. If bed-and-breakfast inns are your preference, the second-place winner this year is Aurora Park Cottages, a wine-country retreat in Calistoga. And rounding out the top three was Rankin Ranch, a family-run Southern California guest ranch that has been popular with visitors for generations.

Among the getaways receiving the most nominations this year were Curry Village at Yosemite National Park; the Pink Mansion, an intimate bed-and-breakfast in Calistoga; and El Capitan Canyon, a unique luxury tent-camping experience. Also nominated were the famed Bacara Resort of Santa Barbara and Honor Mansion, a wine-country getaway in Healdsburg.

The top rankings were tallied by combining reader response with other reputable rankings, giving special weight to the readers who took time to send in their nominations and comments about the various getaway experiences they have had throughout the state of California.

If you’re wondering just why the top three ranked so highly, here are some of the comments, along with information about each of the award-winners:


Ojai Valley Inn & Spa

The Ojai Valley Inn & Spa is a luxury resort, long known as a golfer’s haven but now also renowned for many other major resort amenities. It’s a little off the beaten path, about 13 miles off Highway 101 near Ventura. It’s located in the spectacular Ojai Valley, only about 10 miles long and three miles wide, but famous as an artists’ enclave. The resort is on 800 sprawling acres including the inn, its village and the golf course.

This luxury resort has earned a Triple A 5-star designation. That puts the resort in a pretty exclusive club because only a few resorts in California have achieved that status.

“As a golfer, I really appreciate their great championship course,” writes Michael Baker from Santa Barbara. “Their spa is incredible for my wife, and the kids love Camp Ojai. Plus there are great hiking and biking trails and the cute town of Ojai is so charming.”

Sydney, Australia resident Mark Coyne remembers the quality service. “The staff were absolutely fantastic and could not do enough for us. I tried the spa for some exercise, massage and Jacuzzi and came out floating in the clouds. The Monday night footy [Aussie-speak for football] at the pub was great, with fantastic buffalo wings.” He recalled how the resort’s general manager’s wife volunteered to take his wife shopping at the nearby premium outlets.

Jodie Brescia of Alamo Bay wrote that she and her husband are empty-nesters always looking for unique getaways. They have lived in California 30 years and had never heard about Ojai. “We just couldn't believe why we hadn't heard about this place before. The whitewashed buildings surrounded by a brilliant green golf course took our breath away. This is exactly the atmosphere we were looking for,” she wrote.

Kareen O’Bryan recently moved to Ojai and stayed at the inn for a few weeks while waiting for her new house to be ready. “The staff was fabulous, our room was gorgeous and the whole property was spectacular. There was lots to do for the kids, my husband loved the golf course and I could not go past the spa. It is only a short drive to Santa Barbara and the biggest outlet shops I have ever seen in Camarillo.”

For more information on the Ojai Valley Inn & Resort, go to or phone (888) 697-8780


Aurora Park Cottages

Aurora Park Cottages is in the beautiful wine-country city of Calistoga and offer individual cottages, each with a spacious, private deck. Aurora Park pampers guests with luxurious down-filled beds, cozy overstuffed chairs, a mini-fridge, coffee-maker and a morning basket of scones, croissants and fresh fruit.

“We’ve been there several times and have always had wonderful service from the innkeepers, Joe and Celeste,” wrote Carole Peterson from Pleasanton. “The cottages are very comfortable and I like that they are separate cottages, instead of a room in someone's house.”

Ohio resident Luanne Johnson writes that the location is ideal: “It’s close to downtown Calistoga, but far enough away to be peaceful and quiet. Each cottage has a private deck with a spectacular view of the Palisades and the furnishings in the charming cottages are both comfy and deluxe. But what makes it really special are the innkeepers, Joe Hensley and Celeste Ford. They are definitely the host and hostess with the mostest.”

For more information on Aurora Park Cottages, visit the website at or call (877) 942-7700.


Rankin Ranch

Rankin Ranch, located 40 miles from Bakersfield and near the famous Kern River Valley recreation area, is what used to be called a dude ranch. Nowadays it’s called a guest ranch and guests are treated pretty darn well. At Rankin Ranch, 75% of the clientele are people who have stayed at the ranch before and just keep coming back for more.

It’s a family-run operation, with Bill Rankin and his kids rolling out the red carpet — or the hay, as it were — to welcome guests of all stripes and persuasions. Some are horse people and others just revel in the atmosphere that includes some of the best scenery in California. The meadows and pine forests are picture-perfect and there are plenty of recreational opportunities in the immediate area.

For guests, you can be as busy or laid-back as you want it to be. It’s easy to stay busy, with daily horseback rides, hiking, swimming and lots of social activities that go along with the home-cooked meals. You won’t be sitting in your room watching TV because there is no TV.

Los Angeles resident Shawn Harrington wrote to tell us that the Rankin Ranch offers the “friendliest staff on earth” and that the Rankins immediately make you feel like family. “It’s the best food imaginable and offers the rest and relaxation we all need now and then. Once you arrive, you don’t want to leave.”

Teresa Phillips wrote that Rankin Ranch is her family’s favorite getaway and, again, pointed out how the Rankins treat their guests like family. “It’s the best hospitality ever. And the best food, too.”

For more information on Rankin Ranch, go to or phone (661) 867-2511.

For more information on travel in California visit

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