10 Surprising Things to Do at a Dude Ranch

Sunday, April 03 2011 16:07   Dude Ranches
There's good news for vacationers who would like a taste of the Western dude ranch experience, but have it blended with other vacation-type activities.

"While dude ranches still provide that one-of-a-kind ‘cowboy-style' vacation you can't find anywhere else, many have also expanded their offerings to appeal to the diverse and discriminating tastes of today's traveler," says Colleen Hodson of the Dude Ranchers' Association, an organization that represents more than 100 dude ranches.
Today's dude ranches cater to a diverse crowd, from families to couples and singles, with activities, attractions and services that offer enjoyment far beyond the trail.

So if you're considering a dude ranch vacation and would like to spend time out of the saddle as well, consider these 10 surprising activities Hodson suggested that are available at many of today's dude ranches:

Get a massage or spa treatment

Hotels and resorts around the world have hopped on the spa bandwagon, spending millions to build lavish facilities or offer massage, salon and spa services. Many dude ranches now offer comparable services, such as White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, where guests can indulge in a massage.

Water ski

Not all dude ranches are located in dessert terrain. Ones like Wilderness Trails, which is located on Vallecito Lake in Durango, Colorado, take full advantage of their waterfront setting. Guests can water ski, kneeboard or tube behind a tournament quality ski boat, or sail on a 24-foot Catalina sailboat.

Take a yoga class

Many ranches that offer spa services also provide yoga classes and training. Before a long day in the saddle, guests can have a relaxing limbering-up session with certified trainers.

Indulge in a wine tasting

Gourmet cuisine is gaining popularity at dude ranches, right alongside trail traditions such as franks ‘n' beans and strong coffee. Many ranches also offer wine tastings where guests can experience, savor and learn about different varietals.

Get married

Picturesque settings, wide open spaces and top-notch amenities draw thousands of brides-to-be and their grooms to dude ranches each year. Some dude ranches even offer personal wedding planners to assist couples in planning every facet of their special day, a leading-edge service you would expect to find in the finest hotels or resorts. At Wilderness Trails, you can even rent the entire ranch for your event.

Catch a movie

From 27-seat movie theaters to state-of-the art home theater equipment or simple, old-fashioned family-style viewing on a big-screen TV, dude ranches are equipped to show recently released films.

Work on your tennis serve

Recognizing that your craving for sport might exceed chasing down an errant calf, some dude ranches like Paradise Ranch in Buffalo, Wyoming offer other sporting opportunities, such as lighted tennis courts.

Surf the Internet

Demand for high-speed, wireless Internet access is high among both leisure and business travelers. Many dude ranches are in step with the times and offer guests free Internet access. Some may provide access only in guestrooms, while others feature access in some public areas as well.

Perform in a talent show

Friendly competition can be found in many forms on dude ranches, from roping contests to talent shows. If lassoing a speeding calf isn't your forte, you can sing, tap or joke your way to local stardom in a talent show.

Chase a chicken

Immortalized on the TV reality show "Girl Meets Cowboy," the chicken chase at Paradise Ranch pits man, woman or child against fowl. Several chickens are loosed in a pen and the human competitors must try to chase them down. No chickens are harmed in the competition and the activity is unusual fun for the other two-legged participants as well. To date, the score tally remains in favor of the chickens.

About the DRA

The Dude Rancher's Association is the governing body of the West's dude ranch industry. Created in 1926, it provides an organized structure for members, in which they are able to exchange ideas and experiences in an effort to uphold the highest quality of services within the industry.

The association promotes the Western ranch vacation, while continuing to build a strong working relationship with federal and state land agencies in order to preserve and protect parks, forests and wildlife.

To learn more about a dude ranch vacation, visit
www.duderanch.org .


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