All About Family Ranch Vacations
I come from a long line of horsemen (and women!). My great-grandfather was a rancher, my grandfather was a cowboy and racehorse trainer who owned and "broke" dozens of horses, my uncle was a jockey, and I was riding my own horse before I was three. And my younger cousin is a professional barrelracer!
Some of my first memories are of riding my horse around behind the house before breakfast when I was a toddler and my great-grandmother helping me feed their retired thoroughbred oats and corn from my little hands.
I'm certain my ancestors would be amazed that people now use their precious vacation time visiting and working on ranches! But ranch vacations are an incredible family vacation option that are sure to leave your children with phenomenal and unique memories.
There is a huge list of options available across the western United States and it’s overwhelming to determine which would be best for your family. When I'm helping a family plan their ultimate ranch vacation, I look at the available amenities to determine the best fit, keeping in mind the ages of the children and what type of experience the family is going for.
Most ranches offer significant structured activities including trail riding, guided fishing and kids programs. You can definitely find something interesting to do every waking hour. However, many of us are so scheduled in our daily lives that a more relaxed schedule is the better option. Keepign in mind how each ranch runs their program and making sure it matches how my clients want to spend their week is essential.
A typical “dude ranch” heavily features horseback riding. If this doesn't appeal any of the group, or kids are too young to ride, making sure there are plenty of other activities offered is key to a successful vacation! Some ranches are nearby lakes or rivers which are great for fishing; others offer pools, tennis, a spa, and other resort-like amenities. You may also want to practice your rifle skills or experience a cattle drive.
Another aspect important to some families is in regards to meals. Since most ranches provide all meals, f you don't want to dine with other guests three times a day, make sure families are free to eat on their own when they choose to do so. Some people enjoy vacations more when they are able to socialize and make new friends, but it's also great to be able to spend time bonding with your family.
There are major differences among kids programs at ranches. Some ranches don't have a program for babies and preschoolers, although they may offer babysitters at an additional charge. All of the ranches I work with have exceptional programs for school aged children and offer more than just riding.
I also make sure I understand what type of riding my clients want to experience. While all good ranches have great programs for beginning riders, if, for example, you are looking to gain some speed, the mountainous terrains I like riding on won't be the best fit for you.
Some ranches allow families with older kids to go on overnight camping trips, which is an amazing experience if you've never done it! You get the bragging rights of having ridden to your campsite and sleeping under the open sky with none of the headache of planning, packing or cooking!
Whether you are looking to try your horsehandling in a rustic, authentic setting or, like me, you want to end the day with a bubble bath in spacious accomodations with a glass of wine, I have no doubt I can help you plan the perfect ranch getaway for you and your family. Click here to get started planning.
Photo courtesty of The Resort at Paws Up.