Camp Happy

Carmel Valley Ranch feels like a summer retreat year-round.

Flashback to the carefree days of camp: warm nights spent outdoors, a rowboat-studded lake, camaraderie, and friendly competition. While reliving is nice, why not live instead? A family get-together over the holidays or an off-site winter retreat can feel a lot like summer camp in California’s Carmel Valley Ranch.

While Carmel Valley Ranch has tree swings, seven fire pits, and s’mores (all emblematic of camp), you’ll have to forgo some classics.


Instead of the mess hall’s roast beef and mashed potatoes: the Lodge’s angus rib-eye with Yukon-gold whipped potatoes.

Instead of the camp counselor: a full-time gardener and activity staff.


Instead of repetitious campfire songs: repetitious fireside songs, but only if you wish, and with really good wine.

Instead of a dip in the chilly lake: a soak in the outdoor hot tub.

Instead of leaving your dog at home: bring him or her along to this pet-friendly spot.

Instead of tug-of-war: well, tug-of-war! An Amazing-Race-style event at CVR uses the 500 acres as a playground. Teams compete for the gold. Everyone starts on equal footing: a map, their collective brainpower, and the first clue. Relay races, garden scavenger hunts, and memory games may be on the agenda.

Instead of making bead jewelry: making candles. An all-ages arts-and-crafts session encourages groups to unplug and find their flow by using their hands. Make hand balm, lavender soap, or beeswax candles using the bounty from the ranch: distilled oil from the lavender beds and wax from the on-site apiaries.

Instead of sneaking out after lights out: meet up after dark. The sun makes life so bright and, well, easy. After-dark challenges include golfing (with glow-in-the-dark balls) and hiking. Finish off with a nightcap.