Whether you're seeking the ultimate fly fishing experience, the most authentic cattle drive, or a haven for your children and family to run free, a dude ranch vacation may be your best connection to the great outdoors. Browse through these ten ranches to find your perfect dude ranch.
Family ranch vacations blend outdoor fun with unplugged relaxation. Round up your clan and consider these destinations for a plum western good time:
1. Ranch at Rock Creek, Philipsburg, Mont.
Spend the night in a Trapper Tent, a half-cabin, half-luxury canvas tent, nestled within 6,000 acres of rugged Montana wilderness. If you prefer four solid walls, choose the Granite Lodge or log homes on the property. Families may opt for fly-fishing on private trout ponds and Rock Creek, horseback riding, clay shooting, paintball, hiking and mountain biking. Later, sit a spell in the ranch’s Silver Dollar Saloon where karaoke, billiards, big-screen movies and bowling will entertain your crowd. Plumb tuckered out? Choose a riverside or mountain getaway spot where you’ll find a hammock, blankets, pillows, snacks and a little peace and quiet. Enjoy your nap, cowboy style.
Contact: 406-859-6027; www.theranchatrockcreek.com; www.frontierstravel.com.
2. Flying E Dude Ranch, Wickenburg, AZ.
With 20,000 acres to ride and roam there is seldom a day without sunshine. The Flying E Dude Ranch is a working cattle ranch and the ideal place to take a step back in time.Enjoy delicious home cooked meals, great horses and a comfortable place to relax at the end of the day. Open Nov 1 to April 30.
3. Hacienda Santa Ines. Cartago, Costa Rica.
The children can feed the lambs and piglets before a family breakfast of fresh farm eggs and other culinary delights plucked from the organic garden and greenhouse. Here, in the Tres Rios mountains, your family will enjoy the essence of rustic farm life in a luxurious environment amidst flower-laden lawns, lagoons and stables. Ride Fresian horses, swim in the pool, and ride ATVs throughout the 300- acre working ranch and farm. Play paintball, help milk the cows or enjoy the spa. With only 11 guest rooms, you’ll enjoy a peaceful holiday or perhaps your own family reunion.
4.Three Bars Cattle & Guest Ranch, Cranbrook, BC, Canada.
Visit the Three Bars GuestRanch, The Adventure Ranch of the Canadian Rockies, where you will experience the ultimate horseback riding vacation. Located just south of Banff National Park, Three Bars Ranch offers diverse activities program, providing something for everyone. Voted Canada’s #1 Dude Ranch 2011. www.ThreeBarsRanch.com 877-426-5230.
5. Greenhorn Creek Guest Ranch, Quincy, CA.
A truly all inclusive guest dude ranch vacation, this ranch is the perfect location for family vacations, reunions, weddings, corporate and business retreats, meetings, special events, equine guided education and so much more. Serving up true western hospitality. www.greenhornranch.com 800-334-6939
7. Hideaway Ranch and Retreat, Bluff Dale, Texas.
Kids can help crack the case of the Buffalo Gulch Bank Robbery by finding clue boxes around the 155-acre ranch. The reigning super sleuth will earn an honorary sheriff’s badge. More fun can be had in this Erath County location by swimming in the big stock tank, fishing, enjoying family picnics and wagon pulls, horseback riding and learning archery. Choose from rustic or more modern cabins in the woods throughout the ranch.
Contact: 1-866-609-4433; www.thehideawayranch.com.
8. Creek Ranch, Lake Hatchineha, Fla.
This family-owned ranch is one of the few of its size that remain in the bustling state of Florida. Just an hour from Orlando yet a world away, you’ll find wetlands-style bird-watching and the chance to ride horses across the ranchland as well as an airboat across Lake Hatchineha. Families ride bikes, hop aboard jeep tours, play boccie ball, learn skeet shooting or to explore the chain of lakes that begins just beyond your cabin door.
Contact: 863-307-9627; www.creekranch.net.
9. Hunewill Circle “H” Guest Ranch, Bridgeport, CA.
Hunewill Ranch is a family owned and operated cattle and guest ranch located near Yosemite National Park in the beautiful Bridgeport Valley. Horseback riding and cattle work are featured attractions for a vacation experience suited to families, singles, or couples. www.hunewillranch.com 760-932-7710
Train travel combines a nod to history with a unique adventure. Here are five places to ride the rails:
Heber Valley Historic Railroad. Heber Valley, Utah.
Choose from sixteen specialty train excursions, designed by this non-profit organization to educate visitors about their railroad’s rich history. Opt for a dinner ride that includes a comedic whodunit or participate in a Wild West escapade. Some families will opt to hop off the train, climb aboard an ATV, and make a bee line for the recently added zip line adventure. Come Fall, go full steam ahead to a private pumpkin patch. Kids can choose their own pumpkin to carve and scamper through the hay maze, before returning to the Depot. In December, the North Pole Express promises a visit from Santa and his elves before hot cocoa is served in a souvenir holiday mug. Contact: 435-654-5601; www.hebervalleyrr.org
Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Carson City, NV.
As the vintage train rolls down the track and the sound of a steam whistle slices the air, you will likely mark the moment as a family favorite. For more than an hour, enjoy slipping through the Sierra Nevada’s, by old cemeteries, abandoned mines and through an occasional tunnel, just as prospectors did during the Comstock silver boom of the 1860s. Be on the look out for wild mustangs. Later spend time learning about the rich history of the 150 year old city through walking tours, and museum visits. Contact: 775-687-7410; www.VisitCarsonCity.com
Harry Potter fans, gather round. That special steam train that transported Harry to wizard training at Hogwarts, is available for boarding. In real life, the Jacobite Steam Train winds 42 miles through Ben Nevis, freshwater lochs, the stunning countryside of Glen Nevis and other sites you are sure to recognize from the film series. The unforgettable journey operates May through October.
In addition to jaw-dropping scenery from coast to coast, you’ll find plenty designed just for kids on board Canada’s national passenger rail service. Serving 450 communities, expect year round children’s discounts, kid’s menus and healthy snacks available. You’ll also find games, videos and mini-lectures crafted to assist young travelers in learning along the way. Contact: 1-888-VIA-RAIL; www.viarail.ca.
Durango & Silverton Train. Durango, CO.
For stunning vistas, climb aboard the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in southwestern Colorado You’ll travel behind vintage steam locomotive engines that have been transporting gold diggers, silver miners, cowboys, explorers and family travelers through the picturesque San Juan Mountains since 1882. Themed packages include specials for hikers, bikers, and mining enthusiasts. Kids ride free on select dates during the summer. Contact: 1-888-TRAIN-07; www.durangotrain.com.
These exhibits, tours and thrill rides will make for fun and adventure-filled family travel memories. Here are five to consider:
1.Indiana Jones Exhibit, Montreal, Canada.
The National Geographic Society and Canadian production company X3 have teamed up (with the cooperation of George Lucas) to create the 10,000 square foot, Indiana Jones Adventures in Archaeology interactive exhibit. Premiering now through September 18, 2011 at the Museum of Science in Montreal, kids of all ages will be mesmerized by the wealth of enchanting items that make up the expansive collection. See your favorite Indy film props and set designs made available by Lucas Films. Embark on an interactive tour that explores the compelling myths of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Children will enjoy the interactive quest game that tests their skills while they move throughout the exhibition. Consider opting for the handheld multimedia guide that allows visitors to skip sections and spend more time where their interest is most intense.
2. The Ride. New York, NY.
Board the super-sized tour bus, which uses stadium-style seating facing the sidewalk, to provide participants with a wide angle view of the streetscape. During its first summer season, expect high-energy tour guides, street performers, and plenty of surprises. The 4.2 mile, 75 minute trip, which showcases the pulsing city from Times Square to Grand Central to Central Park, is part theatre, part comedic improv and part informational tour. The experience continues to evolve and on any given day may include jugglers performing on the sidewalk or a “businessman” who suddenly breaks into song and dance while standing on the street corner. The Ride departs from the Marriott Marquis at Times Square.
Contact: 866-299-9682; www.experiencetheride.com.
3. Disney’s California Adventure, Anaheim, California. Fans of Disney movie heroine Ariel will want to check out the Voyage of the Little Mermaid at Disney’s California Adventure theme park. Its opening in Paradise Pier was part of a five year, $1.1 billion expansion of this park that includes other new attractions and an evening program. The musical, underwater adventure begins when guests board a car resembling a large clam shell. The adventure is inspired by the major scenes and popular songs from the movie.
Contact: (714) 781-4400; http://disneyland.disney.go.com/
4. Alabama Adventure, Bessemer, Alabama.
This southern, family-friendly theme park features super-soaker BuzzSaw Falls. Cool off as you plunge five stories through a watery chute and finish with a splash that drenches riders and watchers. The theme park offered a prize to the consumer who came up with the best name for the new ride. The winner chose to remain anonymous and the prize, which includes full season pass privileges, has been donated to the local Ronald McDonald house. Ask about the park’s concert series and the Family Four pack savings.
Contact: 205-481-4750; www.AlabamaAdventure.com.
5. Holiday World, Santa Claus, Indiana.
Junior theme park goers were the focus of $5.2 million worth of new projects at this 100-acre Midwestern Park. Visit Splashland where body slides, shallow pools and other water play facilities will delight toddlers and young school age children. A sleigh ride, Rudolph’s Round-up, located in the park’s Christmas area, is custom designed for young children to ride with older park goers. Also: free Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the park.
Contact: 1-877-Go-Family; www.HolidayWorld.com.
Family adventures abound north of the US border. Visit Canada for outdoor adventure and yet another view of the natural world. Here are five places to explore with our northern neighbors:
Heli-hiking in British Columbia.
Chopper, chopper, chopper. The thrill begins when your crew boards the spacious helicopter bound for your high mountain lodge. Within just a few days every member of the family will push their high altitude limits while rock climbing with world-class mountain guides or simply enjoying colorful wildflowers aside stunning glacier lakes. Designed to engage children of all ages, families can choose to divide by ability and interest during the day and gather for the evening or choose to explore together for the week. CMH also offers heli-skiing adventures during the winter months. Contact: 1(800)661-0252; www.CanadianMountainHolidays.com.
Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia.
Olympic alpine ski coverage may have stoked your interest in this pair of charming ski resorts. Throughout the year, families will find plenty of activities to engage each member of the clan. In summer, enjoy kayaking, rafting, and horseback riding. Try out the bungee trampoline, the Core climbing center or just stroll through the village. When the snow falls there is plenty of downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snowboarding, snowshoeing and dog-sledding to keep an active family engaged. Check out deals, packages and last minute offers on the website.
Kids love the chance to ride the rails. A good option for reunions or multigenerational travel, this family owned company offers more than 70 Canadian train vacation packages through British Columbia, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. Unplug and relax while taking in spectacular scenery from the comfort of your seat. Onboard attendants provide colorful commentary and make sure every member of the clan enjoys the ride. Best known for their two-day, all daylight train excursion and rail tour through the Canadian Rockies, this year the company celebrates their 20th year in business.
Contact: (800) 665-7245; www.Rocky Mountaineer.com
Find your way to the remote community of Churchill for a chance to see the magnificent polar bear, which migrates to this icy seaport on the Hudson Bay in search of the ringed seal. As night falls on the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, glimpse the amazing aurora borealis or northern lights for an added thrill. During the summer months, Beluga whale-watching is possible in small boats or zodiacs.
Contact: 1(800)665-0040; www.travelmanitoba.com.;
Klondike Gold Rush Route, The Yukon.
Relive one of the most exciting and colorful eras in Canadian history when you step back in time along the route of the Klondike Gold Rush. Be sure to make time for Dawson City, where dusty streets lined with old-time boardwalks and historic buildings evoke a sense of what life was like in the Wild West. You’ll also learn about First Nations cultures, and have plentiful opportunities to view wildlife, fish and hike. Take advantage of visitor centers along the way to maximize your journey. Come winter, snowshoe, cross- country ski or join in a dog sled race.
Contact:1 (800) 661-0494; www.511yukon.ca/; www.TravelYukon.com.
Accompanied by a tall, handsome young man (OK, he was carrying my luggage) I wandered down the cedar plank, eager to see the digs I had heard so much about. As he unzipped the white canvas door, a slice of heaven was revealed.
I’ve spent my share of nights inside a tent, but none like this. Forget the unrolled sleeping bags on uneven ground. Think exotic bed, laden with thick, silky linens, elegant antiques and carpets warming the wood floor. The entire room was aglow with more than a dozen candles flickering in the early evening breeze.
And then there was the view. From my private deck overlooking the mouth of the pristine Bedwell River, I could see smoke billowing from the lodge fireplace across the water. A bevy of resident canines frolicked on the deep green lawn. Beyond, tree-covered mountains rose, with still higher peaks looming in the distance.
I had arrived at the remote Clayoquot Wilderness Resort near Tofino on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, via seaplane. Away from the watchful eyes of the male members of my family sons, I was looking forward to a little rest and relaxation, and to the camaraderie and nonjudgment of my fellow students—four other “reel women”—for a stress-free, four-day tutorial to hone our fly-fishing skills.
This wilderness lodge and others dotting the planet have combined luxurious, yet eco-friendly amenities with a wilderness setting to create a fresh air-filled getaway some have labeled “glamping” (short for glamorous camping). Somehow, the distinction does not do justice to this elegant outdoor trend. For me, the term thuds to the ground, but the experience is other-worldly.
At Clayoquot, the day begins with coffee or tea service delivered outside your tent door at the time of your choosing. Later, you’ll linger over a delectable breakfast. Consider wild blueberry and cornmeal griddle cakes or homemade muesli along with fresh-squeezed juices, served in the cozy, timbered ranch style lodge, while gathering your strength for an event-filled day.
Guests can choose from guided hiking or horseback riding through old growth forests, deep sea fishing, kayaking, rock wall climbing or relaxing in the wood-fired cedar hot tub overlooking the estuary.
Some opt for a Walk on the Wild Side, a guided outing that combines hiking, strolling deserted beaches, and whale and bear watching.
Heading out for the day? The gourmet dining staff will create a delectable picnic lunch—perhaps free-range roasted chicken, grilled vegetables and aioli on homemade bread—fit for an eco-queen.
And at day’s end, sore muscles are soothed at Healing Grounds where seaside spa tents envelop the weary for a deep tissue massage set to the muffled sounds of water lapping and birds chirping outside canvas walls.
Meanwhile back in the Hemingway-esque fishing tent, the reel women are learning the difference between roll casting and back casting, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and how differently men and women adapt to the sport.
“Women seem to have an easier time learning to cast,” observed Dino, one of two charming and patient instructors. “So many men try to strong arm it and that just isn’t how it is done.”
Our feminine group did express some concern about the well being of the fish. But once we cleared that hurdle it was on to tying our own flies, practicing our casts and preparing for the big catch.
Part of the experience involved testing our skills in the local waters. We rode horseback past massive, moss-covered cedars, climbing through the lush rainforest to cast into deep, clear pools. The following morning we climbed aboard a seaplane and landed on a high mountain lake where Alice, our most determined student, would joyfully land her first big fish.
My only regret: Four days leaves too little time to enjoy this expansive and exquisite wilderness setting. My fly fishing skills had improved, but I hadn’t lounged near the imposing stone fireplace in the outside living room, lingered on my scenic deck, had a second massage, gone Coho salmon fishing or kayaked across the sound.
Remedy: a swift return.
While intimate and romantic, families are also welcome. Reunions and weddings are common. Rates include all activities, three gourmet meals and seaplane transport from Vancouver; mid-May to mid-July and end of August to the beginning of October.
The Resort at Paws Up. Greenough, Montana. Stay at one of several glamping sites, including River Camp on the Blackfoot River and enjoy horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking spa services and a healthy dose of Big Sky. Tel. 800-473-0601, www.PawsUp.com
Whether expecting your first child or your fifth, those days and months before the new baby arrives can be hectic. So why not plan a relaxing and romantic getaway so that parents can greet the new family member with renewed vigor.
Here are five places to enjoy a Babymoon:
1. Baby Me.
Expectant parents who book the Baby Me package at one of 12 W Hotels, will be treated to a copy of Bump it Up, Amy Tara Koch's pregnancy style bible for the chic mommy-to-be. You’ll also garner a pair of Baby Mocs and a cotton Onesie for the new arrival. Craving a little something to snack on? Order delectable goodies from the “Womb Service” menu. Mom-to-be can also relax with a bump-friendly massage designed to relieve tired muscles and sluggish circulation. Contact: 888-625-4988; www.whotels.com.
2. Relax at Biscuit Hill.
Take time for yourselves in Texas Hill Country. Stay at this charming bed and breakfast nestled in a wooded hillside and overlooking a picturesque lake. Tuck your toes into microwaveable, herb-filled slippers designed to provide relief for the expectant mom’s aching feet. Enjoy fruit, chocolate, sparkling juices and a spa bath tote filled with soothing products to take home. Relax by the fireplace or the cozy outdoor sitting area. Contact: 888-998-9909; www.biscuithill.com/babymoons.htm
3. Little Palm Island Resort & Spa.
Off the Florida Keys. For the ultimate pre-baby holiday, get cozy in an oceanfront, thatched-roof bungalow within this luxurious, 5 ½ acre resort only accessible by seaplane or boat. Enjoy his and hers spa gifts and treatments. Then meet for an 80 minute couple’s massage. Relish in the television, telephone-free environment where the only sounds that may interrupt your rest are waves lapping outside the door or birds chirping overhead. Contact: 1(800)343-8567; http://www.littlepalmisland.com/LittlePalmIsland_BabymoonPackage.aspx
4. Canadian Seaside Getaway. Just 20 minutes from downtown Victoria, observe whales, seals and otters frolicking in the ocean from your perch at Amore By The Sea. Relish your stay within this award-winning bed and breakfast where elegant rooms, fine linens, jetted tubs, fireplaces and the quiet ambience combine with luxurious spa treatments, rich chocolates, and specialty lotions and soaps to relax and prepare parents-to-be for the arrival of their new baby. Contact: 1 (888) 828-4397; www.amorebythesea.com/index.html
5. Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa. Birmingham, AL.
While future Dad explores the Robert Trent Jones Trail and the inherent championship golf, Mom-to-be might indulge and relax within the resorts sprawling, 12,000 sq.ft. European Spa. The “Baby Love” massage will restore her energy enough to take in a night on the nearby town. Before heading for home, enjoy an afternoon by the pool, and doze to the rhythmic pulse of the signature waterfalls and fountains.1-888-236-242; www.marriott.com
Hotels are expanding their luxury services for animals to ensure that your beloved canine companion can sleep and dine in style.
An increasing number of upscale lodging establishments gain guest loyalty by throwing a bone to Bob.
“Oh, yes. Bob,” said Sue, who with her husband, Derrick, was telling a story to another couple. Barely within earshot, I heard them continue. “Well, he needs plenty of room or he gets cranky,” she said.
“It’s important that he be able to stretch his legs. He doesn’t like to be cramped,” said Derrick. “And he’s a finicky eater … and frankly, he doesn’t get along well with others.”
An aging uncle? A distant cousin?
No. Bob is their beloved greyhound dog. And there’s nothing too good for Bob.
My friends Sue and Derrick don’t go anywhere without Bob. Hotels, restaurants, parties, resorts. If Bob isn’t welcome, they simply don’t go.
Fortunately, for this Arizona couple, much of the world now sees it their way.
It’s a Dog’s World
An increasing number of lodging establishments are not only posting a welcome sign for your pooches, but they are going out of their way to ensure your pet is comfortable and cozy.
Upscale hotel chains like Loews Hotels and Starwood’s W Hotels, have expanded their system-wide commitments to include guests’ canine companions. With perks ranging from toys at check-in to doggie turndown service, pets have plenty to wag their tails about.
So when you get the urge to enjoy life’s luxurious locations, you won’t have to go alone. Here are a few of the places where your four-legged friends will be appreciated.
My son Ted and I recently spent the night at The Curtis hotel in downtown Denver. A pop culture hotspot, The Curtis features colorful themed rooms and floors, which are all about fun. And if the humans are having a good time, why not include the shaggy set and let the good times roll. The hotel has installed the city’s largest doggie door, allowing pets like Bob and his pals to slip into the lobby in style. He’ll bunk on the “pet-friendly” 8th floor—which is Sci-Fi themed, where images from Star Wars, Alien, Godzilla and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman adorn the halls. www.thecurtis.com
In sunny Los Angeles, The Beverly Hills Hotel, offers a Canine Connoisseur program, with bone-shaped cookies personalized by hand with your pet’s name, as well as doggie beds, bowls and the hotel’s signature hot pink tennis balls. Rooms start at $495 per night. www.thebeverlyhillshotel.com
After a long day of shopping in fashionable Milan, you’ll have no worries. The Hotel Principe di Savoia has a room service menu just for pets featuring tasty treats made out of beef, chicken or veal, served cooked to order or tartar. The hotel also offers vegetable croquettes. (Of course, there is room service for you as well.) . www.hotelprincipedisavoia.com
Headed to Paris with your puppy? The elegant Hotel Le Meurice offers complimentary pet baskets for dogs (and cats), with personalized and custom-designed bowls and name tags, and specific menus and food options—all arranged prior to your arrival. The hotel’s staff members will also be pleased to take your dog for a stroll in the Jardin des Tuileries while you are out and about the streets of Paris. www.lemeurice.com
At the Long Beach Lodge on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, pets are welcomed into beach-front guest rooms or rain-forest cottages. And when those paws get wet and sandy from a feisty romp on the world famous surfing beach, there will be warm towels, special treats and a cozy bed—size small, medium or large—waiting for your treasured friend in seaside accommodations. “Our guests enjoy staying at the Long Beach Lodge with their dogs and having the opportunity to explore the beaches and nearby trails,” explains Sara Holland, a spokesperson for the resort. “We have no weight restrictions and so big dogs—even two big dogs—are welcome to enjoy the beautiful surroundings with their owners.” www.longbeachlodgeresort.com
One of the earliest adopters of the pet-friendly phenomenon, the Cypress Inn is in the pet-friendly enclave of Carmel, Calif. Owned by actress and animal advocate Doris Day, the Mediterranean-style establishment is a short stroll from the beach and offers pet sitting plus suggestions for outings with your canine companion. . www.cypress-inn.com.
With so many hoteliers now eager to please the four-legged crowd and their loyal owners, Doris must be proud.