What makes a perfect family vacation? How about family bonding, new adventures for all ages and a variety of interests, beautiful surroundings, relaxing by a pool, comfortable lodging and great food?
Dude ranches fulfill all of those goals and more – in wildly beautiful settings, often a stone’s throw from U.S. National Parks. Horseback rides and activities tend to take center stage, but high quality dude ranches offer so much more and expertly cater to each individual guest. Montana’s Flathead Lake Lodge, for example, includes numerous waterfront activities such as sailing, stand up paddling and kayaking. Dude ranch guests may also want to take advantage of mountain biking, kids’ fishing derbies, fly fishing, hiking, and whitewater rafting – or even a day trip to nearby Glacier National Park.
When my own family – ages 7 to 80 – spent a week at the gorgeous Paradise Guest Ranch in Wyoming, my kids loved the daily rides and learning to “barrel race” on horseback in time for the kids’ rodeo – a delight for the parents and grandparents as well, of course. The best dude ranches take great pride in hiring staff who are not only highly qualified but excel at customer service – the wranglers in particular quickly become cheerful pied pipers, with hero-worshipping tykes trailing them wherever they go. But it’s not just the little ones who have a blast. My teenage nieces and nephews loved it so much that more than one considered spending the next summer as a ranch hand.
These days, dude ranches take great pride in offering truly excellent food. While their western-themed options are always a big hit, they will happily accommodate allergies, restrictions and picky eaters. The most fun meals are the ones reached on horseback, covered wagon or an antique fire engine – from blueberry pancake cookouts to “old west” steak fries. After dinner bonfires, s’mores and entertainment shore up the warm memories.
Dude ranches are a uniquely American experience and tap into the romance of the Wild West. Many ranches run specials during their “shoulder seasons” and themed weeks such as “wellness” or “couples” – and are fantastic venues for corporate retreats. The spectacular Arizona-based Tanque Verde Ranch welcomes guests year-round and is adjacent to Saguaro National Park.
Please contact me if you’d like to book a dude ranch vacation and make unforgettable memories for your family – whether it’s a trip of a lifetime or the beginning of an annual tradition.