Friday, October 17, 2014


Dude Ranch Vacation: 9 Reasons to Book One as a Family

Last weekend, my family and I had our very first Dude Ranch experience.  I am, after all, a born & bred Texan, (my kids are too) - they needed to experience a vacation on a Dude Ranch - and a Texan one at that.

We spent 3 full days at the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, Texas.  While we were there, I was overwhelmed with all the reasons why every family should take a dude ranch vacation at least once.  And I was kicking myself for not taking one sooner.  Here are all those reasons - and I hope they will convince you to book a Dude Ranch trip as soon as possible.

9 Reasons to Book a Dude Ranch Vacation

Dude Ranches Encourage Unplugging 

While on the Mayan Ranch, I was compelled to not be on my phone.  I wanted to breathe in the quietness and completely unplug from the world.  With the exception of taking a few photographs, we all stayed off our phones.  The kids left their electronics in the cottages (without mom asking) and we took advantage of the time we had, not distracted by gadgets in our hands.  We barely even turned on the TVs in our cottages, as we wanted to be out exploring the ranch.

Dude Ranches Specialize in Family Time

One of my favorite parts of our weekend, the 5 of us got to "play" together.  We rode horses, played shuffleboard, learned how to line dance (yes, even Dad!), shot BB guns, and took hayrides together.  One evening, the Ranch put together "Family Games"  with some of the most creative group games we have ever played. Our time together wasn't forced, at any time we could have relaxed back in the cottage, but we were having so much fun together, no one wanted to.  It was good, quality family time together - and that seems so precious now a days.

Dude Ranches are All Inclusive

When you stay at a dude Ranch, your cost includes meals,  drinks, activities, and overnight stays.  It is nice to pay one fee up front and not worry about hidden costs throughout the vacation. Most dude ranches have activities and amenities (pool, hot tub, game room) and snacks as well.

Horseback Riding is King at a Dude Ranch

Most people visit a dude ranch to experience life as a cowboy.  What better way then in the saddle on a nice mosey around the property.  Wranglers at dude ranches will match your horseback riding experience with the perfect horse and will offer daily (sometimes more) rides.  We found this type of horseback riding was the most relaxing and enjoyable we had ever experienced.

Unmatched Hospitality at a Dude Ranch

Most dude ranches are working ranches, owned by families who invite you to share their property with them.  Everyone is kind and patient and there to make sure you are having a wonderful time.  We encountered people who were passionate about the Mayan Ranch, as they had grown up there, and were so friendly and unpretentious.

Try Something New at a Dude Ranch

Dude Ranches offer you the opportunity to try something you new that you never have before.  On our trip, we took a few hayrides, learned how to shoot a BB gun, learned archery and ate almost every meal outside.  You can find working dude ranches, where you get put to work and can see what it takes to be a cowboy.  

Dude Ranches Serve Hearty Food

I didn't quite expect to be as blown away by the food as I was this past weekend.  And from what I hear, dude ranches offer hearty meals 3 times a day.  From amazing cowboy breakfast cooked over a fire under a grove of trees to an amazing t-bone steak meal under the stars, this family ate very well at the Mayan Ranch.  Everything tasted delicious and was made from scratch.  I can't vouch for other dude ranches, but if they have experienced chefs in the kitchen, you know the meals are going to be delicious.

Meet New Friends at a Dude Ranch

We loved meeting the other guests who were staying at the Mayan Ranch with us.  All meals and activities are done together, so you get to meet people from all over the globe.  We met a sweet family from Denmark who was on a 2 week fall holiday and a high-speed train engineer and his wife from England.  It was fascinating sharing meals with people from other parts of the world who were just as curious about your lifestyle as you were about theirs.

A Dude Ranch = Quiet

And my favorite thing about the Mayan Dude Ranch.  The quiet. No road noises, no obnoxious video game sounds, no phones ringing, nothing.  Except laughter - my children's sweet laughter as they play with their Dad.  And I could listen to that "noise" all day.

We truly had a special experience this past weekend at a Dude Ranch.  I was sad to leave and return to the real world, that says it all doesn't it?

I haven't been to any other Dude Ranch but the Mayan Ranch - I can't say enough good things about it!

Disclosure: The Mayan Ranch invited my family to stay for 2 nights.  I was not paid to write this article. All opinions (especially the mushy ones) are my own).

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