Instead of watching the kids play video games over school break, wishing you were one of those outdoorsy types, saddle up and become one with the help of a dude ranch. From luxury to old-fashioned family fun, dude ranches come in all shapes and sizes and deliver on the great outdoors. Put these five on your radar and start channeling your family’s inner cowboys and cowgirls.
Horse lovers gallop into the sunset at Rocking Horse Ranch Resort on 500 acres in the Hudson River Valley. A Winter Fun Park and Big Splash Indoor Waterpark keeps kids busy year-round along with live entertainment and plenty of chances for family bonding over a bonfire and a sing-a-long. Rocking Horse Ranch also offers all-inclusive dining and a spa, so you can recharge after a long day in the saddle before heading out again for a horse-drawn wagon ride.
Families have visited Tanque Verde Ranch for more than 150 years, so you know this place has its family-friendly dude ranch vibe down pat. There are plenty of grown-up things to do from horseback riding to a day at the spa, but the daily kids program caters to kids ages 4–12. Buckaroos, Wranglers and Outlaws learn the basics of horse activities along with a variety of fun activities peppered in throughout the day.
If you’ve ever wondered if there’s a World’s First Forbes Travel Guide 5-star guest ranch, there is: The Ranch at Rock Creek. There’s all the usual fun, like horseback riding and mountain biking, but the Little Grizzlies Kids Club invites guests aged 4–12 to learn more about caring for animals at the barn, explore the banks of Red Creek for flora and fauna and enjoy bowling, shuffleboard, movies and more.
Families are greeted by Georgia’s southern charm at Southern Cross Guest Ranch, where kids learn to ride and dine on farm-to-table dishes. The summers in Georgia may be hot, but the rest of the year offers a temperate climate perfect for horseback riding adventures. After a day riding horses, enjoy a pool heated seasonally, or show your kids your competitive spirit over ping pong and horseshoes. Keep an eye out for special packages often available with kids stay free.
Situated at the base of Spencer Mountain, the year-round Bar W Guest Ranch boasts more than 3,000 acres. Make it your mission to explore all of them with your family. Of course, horseback is at the top of the list of things to do with babysitting services available for kids under 3 so grown-ups can enjoy riding sans children. Cowpokes 7 and older can hit the trails with pony rides, horsemanship lessons, Montana bingo, crafts and more. The Junior Cowpokes have their own big kid adventures with horseback riding, fishing and countryside exploration.