Some people have a love for the Wild West. Although it’s not so “wild” anymore, there is a certain romance to the whole cowboy image. Horses, campfires, riding the range – some people wish they could experience life the way it used to be. Now, you can. Many families are choosing to take adventure vacations to dude ranches in the U.S. and elsewhere. On these vacations, they can live out their dreams of being a cowboy in the old West.
Once you have decided that you want to go to a Dude Ranch, there are several more decisions and plans that you have to make before you wind up there. Here are a few to help you get started in your quest of becoming a cowboy for awhile.
First, decide what is important to you. Do you want to ride horses and round up the cows? Do you mind sleep in a cabin or even out under the stars occasionally? Or are you more the type of person that would rather be pampered, stay in rough-looking but five star quality cabins and have a five course meal at night? If you are taking your children, would you prefer to spend the days together doing family activities, or would you rather have adult and children’s activities separate, only meeting for meals throughout the day?
Once you have decided the answer to these questions, you’ll have to decide which dude ranch you’d rather stay at. What’s most appealing? At traditional dude ranches riding is the main focus and there’s usually a minimum stay, often a week in the summer. These are popular with families, but confirm other kids will be there at the same time. The higher-end ranches have nicer lodging, supervised kids programs and possibly a spa. At a working dude ranch you’ll help with the livestock. Guest ranches offer riding plus activities such as fly fishing and mountain biking.
Be very specific when asking about the activities. For horseback riding, for example, will you be on the same horse each day, and be expected to feed, brush and care for the horse? Will you be taught how to ride if you don’t know how? Are there two-hour rides, full-day rides, or overnight rides? Are riders split into groups according to ability?
Find out what’s included in the package price. Some offer all activities, meals and boarding for one set fee. Others are a la carte. Confirm if you’ll be paying up front, how you should pay at the end for a la carte, and what credit cards are accepted.
Although you should definitely check with the specific ranch you are visiting, you should always be prepared to bring a few staples along. These would include heeled boots, for riding, a brimmed hat with a strap to keep the sun out of your face, jeans and long-sleeved shirts, leather gloves if you plan to ride all day, and a hand sanitizer, for keeping your hands clean after dealing with the horses. Of course, bandanas are a requirement of all cowboys, as well.
So you have now decided for sure what type of ranch you want, and you are half-way there to being packed. Now you just need to find the right one for you. The Dude Ranchers Association lists over 100 ranches in the Western United States, while the Colorado Dude & Guest Ranch Association focuses on choices in that state. Keep in mind, there are also dude ranches in other countries. You’ll just have to do your homework to find the perfect one for you and your family.