Four Seasons Santa Barbara Biltmore
1260 Channel Drive
Santa Barbara, California 93108
Phone: (805) 969-2261
Fax: (805) 565-8326
Santa Barbara Four Seasons Biltmore, Second Visit
The bliss of perfection! If only all roads of life flowed as smoothly and seamlessly as the experience of the Four Seasons Santa Barbara Biltmore. If you crave perfection, this is a staff that crosses its t’s and dots its i’s down to the finest details when it comes to family travel, and they are now “absolutely” including pets in their picture of the family. The Biltmore is the only resort in Santa Barbara County to achieve the AAA Five Diamond Resort distinction. This quaint resort with only 207 rooms contains a grounds team of 14 that works around the clock to keep the beautiful gardens lush. Perched on Butterfly Beach in Montecito, all family members enjoy the opportunity to escape the frantic pace and relax.
The history of this resort dates back to 1894 when the property, spanning along Channel Drive, was known as the Santa Barbara Country Club and its 9-hole golf course was California’s second golf course. In 1908, Walter Douglas acquired the property, which then became known as “Montecito Park,” and had guest cottages built on the site for long-staying guests. Eventually, in 1935, Robert Odell became the new operator of the Santa Barbara Biltmore. Under his direction, the Coral Casino was built and became known as the “Biltmore Beach Club.” In 2003, the Coral Casino was designated as a historical landmark.
During World War II, the Biltmore functioned as an Army-Air Corps redistribution station. Here, reassignment of overseas returnees was handled and soldiers temporarily stationed here (with a maximum stay of 14 days) paid an average of $2.41 per day, which included room, three meals, and laundry. They were often entertained by celebrities who traveled up from Hollywood.
Nine years ago when my daughter was a baby, I stayed at the Biltmore and the staff met all the needs of traveling with a baby (see earlier review below). In April 2009, traveling with my four young children, I found the same high quality service and amenities available for this age range as well.
Upon arrival at my adjoining rooms, I found a pop-up tent for the kids to play in and four kids’ lunch boxes, each filled with Ty animals, granola bars, fruit, gummy bears, and juice. Four kids’ robes and a packet of trendy kids’ shampoos and conditioners had been placed on the beds with little slippers on the bedside floor. The most memorable touches were in the bathrooms where my four kids’ names were spelled out in sponge letters on both bathtubs. What an embracing and memorable welcome for them! The two adjoining rooms afforded plenty of space for my whole family of six with two cozy balconies that overlooked the resort’s casitas, palm trees, and the Santa Ynez Mountains.
We had dinner in the Bella Vista Restaurant, the lovely main dining room which spreads open to a terrace with a bonfire, and from almost any point in the restaurant looks out upon the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands. The balmy Santa Barbara weather allows for warm breezes to flow in as you enjoy the view and food. This, combined with the retractable glass roof and abundance of exotic plants, gives the feeling of a European courtyard.
We sat literally surrounded by various families with kids ranging from teenagers to babies in strollers. It looked more like a crowd you would expect at the family-friendly Sizzler than at the upscale Biltmore. There was good cause for this popularity among the family crowd—the service, menu, and activities far-surpassed most resort restaurants in terms of kid-friendliness. At the table, my kids were each given a whole coloring book with pictures, word searches, mazes and other activities and a box of crayons. The one-page activity sheet usually given out at restaurants is often exhausted in five minutes, but with the complete book of activities, the kids had a world’s (or at least a meal’s) worth of fun at their fingertips. Going the extra mile, the servers also provided packs of “wickie sticks,” bendable felt strips, for the kids which I must say I also enjoyed twisting into shapes and bracelets with the kids. My 6 year-old son constructed a whole group of little people out of this twistable felt while waiting for his food.
I ordered the generously portioned lobster and my husband had the chicken Caesar salad. Aside from the activities, the other exceptional factor in this meal was the on-it service. Our waitress did not forget about the second round of root beer or extra cup of ice requests and, with the table activities, the impression was cast that there was no waiting.
The kids’ lunch/dinner menu, available all day between 11:30 pm and 10:00 pm, consists of Santa Barbara quesadilla, grilled chicken, spaghetti with marinara sauce and basil, fresh fish (anything available on the adult menu), and beef tenderloin. Dessert offerings include monster chocolate chip cookie, Butterfly Beach banana boat sundae, triple diple chocolate brownie, root beer float, and fruit plate. The breakfast items, available until 11:30 am, include eggs with bacon, sausage or ham; hash browns and toast; waffles with “whatever,” (that’s right!); cinnamon French toast with bananas and berries, blueberry pancakes with bananas and berries; and blueberry pancakes with bananas and berries.
Walking back to the room was relaxing among the lush gardens, red brick walkways lit by gas lanterns with sweeping archways in the Spanish mission style. The Santa Barbara Biltmore contains twenty acres of botanical gardens and guests can take self-guided walking tours to view 44 of the property’s rarest plants.
The next morning, my four little travelers got up and ran down to the greens outside the room to play croquet and try the putting green. The equipment for both activities was refreshingly accessible. A large resort golf bag was simply left out beside the greens so that they could easily select their clubs and play at leisure, and the croquet clubs were hung by the court with no sign-in and definitely no rigid dress code, as some top resorts require for this sport.
Compared with my last visit nine years ago, significantly more families with young children, toddlers, and babies were strolling the grounds amidst the well-dressed senior citizen guests. Another difference in clientele was the abundance of four-legged companions. As my kids putted and croquetted, many pet owners walked along the paths with their leashed dogs. We met Wally, a beagle, who, let off the leash, ran to us across the greens. His owner said that he brought Wally’s crate along and both were comfortable in their accommodations at the Biltmore. The hotel offers the “Pampered Pet” program, which includes a full in-room dining menu, play toys, oversized beds, toiletries, and treats.
It is always challenging to improve upon perfection but the Biltmore just completed a three year $65 million restoration of the Coral Casino Beach and Cabana. This private members’ club, which allows special access for Biltmore guests, is perched on Butterfly Beach, and contains the upscale Tydes Restaurant and La Pacifica Ballroom. The club, styled in Gardner Dailey’s Scandinavian Modern design, also contains an adult pool, kiddie pool, and pool table.
Additional features for children:
--The concierge desk can arrange professional babysitters, complimentary strollers, children’s DVDs, toys, and games. They can also suggest family activities and dining options for the Santa Barbara area.
--The hotel pool is open from 6 am until 9 pm; however, be aware that a lifeguard is not on duty.
--Pay-per-view movies are offered through the guestroom television. Adult movies can be blocked by calling the front desk.
--Bicycles are available for loan on a first-come, first-serve basis along with helmets and locks.
--The Kids for All Seasons Program is open between Memorial Day and Labor Day, daily 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, providing complimentary daily activities for children ages 4-12. Children under the age of 4 may attend with an adult18 years or older. The program is designed for parents to take advantage of the amenities at the resort while the kids are supervised with both indoor and outdoor activities. The program’s Activity Room provides computer access, DVD players and movies, PlaySation2, painting, drawing, and spin art. Outdoors, the kids are supervised while playing tennis, croquet, swimming, and capture the flag. Between Labor Day and Memorial Day, the program is only open on Saturdays.
Some area attractions in Santa Barbara include the Ty Warner Sea Center, the Santa Barbara Zoo, Chase Palm Park with its Carousel, Stearns Wharf, and State Street with its abundant shopping and restaurants.
Although Four Seasons hotels have become synonymous with opulence and luxury, most travelers do not realize how hard many of these properties work to cater to their very young guests. The Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel in Santa Barbara represents a wonderful conglomerate of elegance, child-friendliness, and, yes, romantic possibility.
When I checked into this resort, I was asked about my child by name at the front desk. When I entered my room, not only was it baby-proofed, but a little box was waiting for me with a stuffed Four Season's bear, a fluffy hooded towel, diapers, and a variety of baby accessories such as a baby gel for a bath, baby shampoo, and baby powder. I was able to make myself and 7-month old baby comfortable very easily in this room. The room came with all the comforts a parent traveling with a baby could hope for: a refrigerator for storing baby food; a rocker with a foot stool, perfect for rocking or nursing baby; a comfortable couch overlooking the fireplace, allowing parents to soothe the baby in a very relaxing context; and a radio, set on a classical music station, all creating a warm and calming atmosphere for the baby and the parents upon arrival.
Despite the hotel's snob reputation, I found the staff accommodating, from the front-desk attendants to the clerks in the gift shop. Some rooms (not mine) come with an ocean view. The resort has two complete health clubs with a full-service salon featuring spa treatments. An olympic-size pool overlooks the Pacific Ocean at the resort's private Coral Casino Club. Tee time privileges are available at the nearby Sandpiper Golf Course, Rancho San Marcos, and Glen Annie Golf Club.
The nearby Coast village is a smattering of upscale shops and restaurants where you will find authors, movie stars, and directors eating late breakfasts and quietly walking back to their jaguars. Having spent four years in this village, during my undergraduate years, I can say there has been a lot of turnover, but some of the best restaurants have solidly remained there for year, including Tuttis and the Montecito Cafe. Coast Village is certainly posh, but not highly baby-friendly. Be prepared that the streets do not have stroller or wheelchair access or mini ramps, at least not at the time of my most recent visit.
Many people do not realize that Santa Barbara weather is much more akin to that of Carmel than of, say, San Diego. Advertisers often paint Santa Barbara as a sun-drenched mecca of beautiful people cavorting in halter tops and short shorts. Actually, I can say this as one who has lived in Santa Barbara for four years, the fog is quite thick and chilly in Santa Barbara, and it hovers over the Spanish-tiled buildings until late afternoon when it leaves for a few hours and then returns at night. This climate can be perceived as much like that of Carmel. When traveling to Santa Barbara though, parents should be prepared for this and bring lots of warm clothes for themselves and their youngsters.
My baby got very comfortable in our pre-baby proofed room at the Biltmore.
- The resort offers a kids' program called "Kids for all Seasons" for hotel guests every Saturday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. It is also offered on a daily basis during June through August and on holidays and school breaks in March, April and December.
The "Kids for all Seasons" program is designed to give parents the opportunity to enjoy the activities provided at the resort, but the program is much more than a baby-sitting service. Parents must be on the premises while their children participate, but there is no cost to guests. Many top resorts charge a hefty fee for their kids' programs. The program is for children ages five to twelve and includes: outdoor activities such as walking on the beach, building sandcastles, playing games on the lawn, sports and races, and use of the swimming pool. Some of the indoor activities are arts and crafts, including painting rocks from the beach, decorating visors to block the sun, and coloring. Children also play various games, watch videos, and listen to stories told to them by the staff. A child's lunch menu is provided upon check-in. Younger children can join the program with a guardian or the concierge can arrange a day or evening baby-sitting service for them. Each staff member of the "Kids for all Seasons" program is CPR certified.
- Upon request, housekeeping will baby-proof your room.
- Many items are available to assist parents. A variety of gates, including separate kinds for the patio and for bathroom doors; cribs, or if one prefers, single rollaway beds, or an extra mattress for the floor on which to lay baby; high chairs; humidifiers/vaporizers; baby strollers; outlet covers; and corner guards for the sides of tables.
- The only potentially unsafe feature I noticed in my room was the fireplace, which was set off only by a thin screen. I kept my pilot light off so that my crawling baby was not exposed to the potential hazard of being burned. Parents can request a room without a fireplace.
- Being greeted at the desk by people who already mentioned my daughter by name (just based upon the reservaton made) was a comforting feeling and a nice, personalized touch. I had been asked previously about her name and age when the reservation was made.
- The gift shop is stroller-friendly, spacious, and not cramped. Although the selection is somewhat limited, it does contain a section of children's items such as clothes, frames and lullabies.
- The restaurant is stroller-friendly with wide spaces to allow easy movements.
- The walking paths along the property are flat and wide enough to accommodate a stroller. They are also beautifully tropical and have no stairways on them.
- Same-day laundry service: dry cleaning and laundry are returned before 6:00 p.m. This service is a real convenience when traveling with youngsters.
- Room service offers complete in-room dining and is available twenty-four hours a day for eating in with a baby or a toddler. Many hotels offer no room service after a certain time and provide a limited menu, but the Biltmore offers an impressive late-night menu, available between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. It is convenient to have an excellent food selection in the room should you arrive late with baby and not feel like taking her into a formal restaurant. At the Biltmore, you can order gourmet items in the room, such as grilled Atlantic salmon; New York steak; thin crust pizza of tiger shrimp and barbecue chicken; pasta with portobello mushrooms, sun-dried tomato pesto, and goat cheese; classic Caesar salad with grilled shrimp or roasted chicken; and for dessert, order one of the pastry chef's daily creations or a warm French apple tart, or a plate of macadamia nut fudge brownies, or cookies with ice cold milk.
- The resort offers a "Just for Kids" food basket, distinct from the adult basket, which includes tuna fish, cheese, or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches; vegetables; fruit; potato chips; cookies; and a surprise gift for $12.50.
- Heating pads are available from housekeeping, and massages are available through the health club to aid tired and aching moms and dads.
- Pay-per-view movies are accessible in the room. The blocking of adult movies is available as a service through the front desk.
- The putting green, croquet, shuffleboard, and horse shoe pit are all complimentary to guests. However, children under twelve must be accompanied by an adult when using them. In addition, the resort has a swimming pool, but there is no lifeguard on regular duty; therefore, children sixteen and under must be accompanied to the pool by an adult.
- Housekeeping schedules its turndown service for rooms with young children between 5:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. to accommodate their early bedtimes.
- The Concierge has video rentals, toys, and games available, for the young guests.
- Quiet time is observed between 9:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. so that the peace and privacy of all guests are not disturbed.
Note: Regular guests at this hotel do tend to be of an older generation, but the hotel is very accommodating to young families.
- The hotel's location is idyllic, as it is ocean-front and at the base of the Santa Ynez Mountains. The resort itself is in a Spanish colonial style, in keeping with Santa Barbara's thematic architecture: ivory adobe with a red tile roof and graceful, long archways.
- The hotel boasts beautiful strolling paths among tropical gardens.
- The restaurant, The Patio, is considered one of the five top restaurants in Santa Barbara. It is designed to make you feel as if you are in a huge greenhouse, as it is an enormous, spacious room with endless light and lush plants everywhere (and it also happens to be stroller friendly). The dinner buffet offers oysters in the half shell, cold shrimp, Caesar salad, tomatoes and provolone, lamb shanks, chicken picata, baked salmon, and roast beef.
The Patio's delicious buffets and green house ambiance have given it recognition as one of the top restaurants in Santa Barbara