Gene Kilgore’s Ranch Vacations

Ranch Vacations
The Leading Guide to Guest and Resort, Fly-Fishing, and Cross-Country Skiing Ranches in the United States and Canada, 6th Edition.

5 reasons Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW: family time

19590030Family time.

It sounds so simple to find, yet it can be more elusive than you think—even on some vacations. Well, quality time with the kids is all about balance. You want to be together—except when you want alone time, adult time, or just-kids time. It’s hard to find a vacation that makes all of that possible, until you think about a dude ranch.

How do you make sure you choose a ranch that will foster family time? Pick a ranch that caters to families with kids, and with select “youth activity leaders” designed to guide children into fun activities; then, you don’t even have to think twice about what the kids are up to all day. Or you can be with ‘em every minute: it’s up to you how you schedule things.

Either way, the end result is a happy child, relaxed parents, and good times spent together.

But first, take time to research your ranch destination. Not all ranches focus on families and children. Research, read, and talk to the ranch owners or past guests. At Colorado’s  Lost Valley Ranch, owner Bob Foster says, “The number one thing we spend time on is finding young “supes” or supervisors who really enjoy being around kids and teens.” He adds, “Trying to find young people as supervisors who have a passion—that’s the key.”

Foster, with years in the business, has learned that kids don’t want to be pushed into ‘programs’, they want freedom. “But we guide them into fun things to do,” Foster notes. “It takes more time and staff to do it that way, but returning guests come back to Lost Valley Ranch because of our kids and teen programs.”

At California’s Rankin Ranch, the counselors prepare activities daily, ranging from riding and nature walks, to treasure hunts, talent shows, and toy boat building   to learning about the area’s Piute Indians (and making Indian crafts). In any spare time, most kids enjoy feeding the calves and chickens skittering about on Sarah’s Farm area.

Don’t forget to think outside the box—or even outside the West. At New York’s Rocking Horse Dude Ranch Resort, there’s an outstanding children’s program and day camp (optional babysitting nursery available), plus a giant Fort Wilderness playground and pony rides.

So look for a ranch where they hand pick all their potential staffers, as Foster does, and then ask detailed questions about the kids’ programs. And don’t forget to ask your own children what they want in a ranch vacation. Oh, and, it’s okay to tell the kids what you’re looking for out of this vacation. After all, it’s okay for “the ‘rents” to have fun, too.

Seeing your children react to a new setting—with animals, in the outdoors— is bound to bring out a whole different side to them. And letting them see you —relaxed, happy, away from daily routines, and not in ‘parent mode” for a change—can only help your relationship.

Sitting next to your kids by a campfire at night singing songs, riding with them on the trail, or just gathering over chow at the end of a happy day; now that’s quality family time.

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a 5-part series running on consecutive Mondays: Americans need a dude ranch vacation NOW!

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