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.

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

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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.

beekeeper

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.

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