Fountain at Rancho Bernardo Inn
Fountain at Rancho Bernardo Inn

Fancy hotels are some of the prettiest places to spend time during the holidays (well, anytime really, but especially the holidays) because of all the festive decor, cozy fireplaces, and seasonal beverages. Over Thanksgiving, I packed my bags for a staycation at Rancho Bernardo Inn, overlooking the 18-hole golf course in Rancho Bernardo. There were three weddings taking place the night I was there, so it seems to be a popular local wedding destination. The hotel has 287 rooms and suites, each with a private balcony or patio. The spa offers skin care treatments, body and massage treatments, and nail and waxing services. The spa facility also has a heated outdoor saline pool and a fitness center (daily guest passes are available for $35). The property contains 21 fountains with flowing water, which can be seen during a self-guided tour through the resort’s lush greenery.

Christmas tree at Rancho Bernardo Inn
Christmas tree at Rancho Bernardo Inn

During December, visit Rancho Bernardo Inn to get photos with Santa, decorate gingerbread cookies, enjoy storytelling and caroling, view a life-sized gingerbread house, watch a synchronized musical lights show, and purchase seasonal treats (through Dec. 22). I loved cozying up next to the many fireplaces in the lobby and gazing at the sparkly Christmas trees, while drinking a glass of wine and listening to the live music coming from Avant.

Fireplace at Rancho Bernardo Inn
Fireplace at Rancho Bernardo Inn

The hotel’s signature restaurant, Avant is open for dinner and happy hour, serving farm-to-table cuisine, wine and craft beer. The restaurant features daily chef’s specials that vary by season, and presents live music every Friday and Saturday night. And something that’s extremely important to me – the service is impeccable at Avant. The waitstaff will gladly recommend expert wine pairings to complement your meal.

Live music at Avant
Live music at Avant

At Avant, I started with the warm white bean salad special, made with great northern beans, arugula, pesto, shaved radish, poached egg and serrano ham. The flavors worked incredibly well together – the saltiness of the ham and the peppery arugula complement the savory egg yolk and earthy pesto flavors.

Warm white bean salad
Warm white bean salad at Avant

For a main course, I highly recommend the hand-harvested scallops, served with glazed pork belly, chicharrones and Korean barbecue cauliflower. The scallops are cooked perfectly, with enough sear to keep the texture firm but still melt in your mouth. The all-natural filet mignon is also a standout dish, paired with oxtail marmalade, celery root puree, sprouts and a potato croquette.

All-natural filet mignon at Avant
All-natural filet mignon at Avant

Save room for dessert, including another glass of wine. The date toffee cake comes with candied ginger, marshmallow, salted caramel popcorn, and bourbon ice cream. It’s not overly sweet, and has a variety of textures for a unique bite. Take advantage of happy hour, daily from 4 to 6:30 p.m, and Avant’s complimentary valet parking for restaurant diners. You’ll feel right at home listening to acoustics by Devlovv, a local musician playing soul, R&B and jazz. Happy Holidays!

Date toffee cake
Date toffee cake at Avant
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