City folks looking to let loose in the wild, wild West? Make reservations at a dude ranch. They offer parents and kiddos a getaway full of fresh air and wide-open spaces and offer lessons in how to ride horses, round up cattle, fish in salmon-filled rivers and enjoy life the western way.
Like all-inclusive beach resorts, these down-home vacations include lodging, drinks, meals and entertainment, only here the entertainment includes guided horseback riding, rock climbing, white-water rafting and fishing. Activities differ depending on the type of facility you go to — some are more like resorts with pools and spas — while others are full working ranches that breed and train horses year-round.
To see some of the ranches catering to families,
- Pinegrove Ranch in New York's Catskills may be heaven on earth for kids. In addition to the all-you-can-eat meals, there is a chuck wagon of snacks and ice cream available all day. Daily riding sessions and activities like miniature golf, tennis and a petting zoo will keep the family occupied throughout the day.
- Rancho de los Caballeros in Arizona offers one of the nation's top golf courses in addition to 20,000 acres of rolling hillsides on which the ranch's 100 horses can be ridden. The ranch's tot program includes morning instructional rides and swimming, tennis clinics, hiking, scavenger hunts or crafts.
- Sundance Trail Guest Resort in Colorado is one of the smaller ranches only allowing seven families to visit at one time. In addition to the standard horseback riding, the resort offers rock climbing, fishing, kayaking and the opportunity to gather eggs from the hen house.
- Colorado's Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch hosts six-night dude ranch vacations over the course of the Summer. The historic working horse and cattle ranch offers guests the opportunity to go on cattle drives and cattle roundups, fishing and hiking trips and scenic tours.
Photo courtesy of Sundance Trail Guest Resort