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US/Canada: Dude Ranches Provide Unforgettable Family Vacation Experiences. Lazy RB Ranch Wyoming Family VacationThe original all-inclusive, all-American vacation experience, dude ranches are rooted in American traditions offering positive ways to enjoy time together.  

A dude ranch vacation guarantees plenty of time to bond and spend time as a family sharing new experiences, and creating memories that will last a lifetime. How do I know this? I married the son of a rancher and while we did not remain on the ranch, our family has enjoyed many campfires with sing-a-longs in Wyoming, starry nights with coyotes calling in Arizona, trail rides and cowboy poetry in Alberta. Our daughters learned to saddle and ride, shoot skeet, and identify scat. No two days on a ranch will ever be the same but every day is guaranteed to be rewarding. Expect horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart.

Here’s the scoop. Located in some of the most breathtaking areas of the U.S. (and Canada), dude ranches can handle almost any request, from horseback riding, steer roping, zip lining and hiking and fly fishing to yoga sessions, dance lessons, and cooking classes. Dude Ranch All-inclusive Family Vacation ExperiencesForget the word ‘dude’ because ranch vacations are not just for dudes and guests are not required to ride horses or even like them for that matter.

One of the best resources to facilitate planning a ranch vacation for your family is the Dude Ranchers’ Association (DRA) with more than 100 accredited guest ranches from which to choose. Where have all the dudes gone? The term ‘dude ranch’ typically brings to mind images of cowboys and cattle drives, a la the popular 1991 comedy, “City Slickers.” While dude ranches still evoke those same memories and are rooted in American tradition, they are much, much more. There is a broad spectrum of guest ranches across North America, ranging from rustic, no-frills working ranches to luxury resort-style locations. From valleys complete with untouched Rocky Mountain backdrops to desert sunsets across the Southwest, DRA-accredited ranches are located throughout the Western U.S. including Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nebraska and South Dakota, as well as in California, Arkansas and Canada. 

The DRA was founded to preserve and protect the unique guest ranch vacation experience. The association requires its members to uphold top quality and service standards. The website helps parent so grandparents customize their experience, guiding them to the perfect ranch that suits their family’s needs and desires. Priced competitively with respect to other similar all-inclusive vacation options, almost all meals, activities and special events are included in the cost of a ranch visit.

“The Dude Ranchers’ Association takes great pride in all of our ranches, and we know families will have an unforgettable trip, regardless of which guest ranch they choose,” said Colleen Hodson, executive director of the DRA. “One of the best things about a dude ranch vacation is that it makes family travel easy: from working with our experts to plan and customize your trip, to airport pickup, to on-site activities and meals once you arrive, it’s easy and hassle-free and most Importantly - fun.”

No matter which guest ranch you choose, a dude ranch vacation guarantees plenty of time to bond and spend time as a family, creating memories that will last a lifetime and a vacation destination you’ll want to return to time and time again. 

Just for kids on the range. Many dude ranches have special programs and events tailored to children of varying ages, including customized horseback riding lessons based on experience and ability level. Activities can often be done solo or as a group, giving guests the option to spend time as a family and individually. Like the ranches themselves, accommodations vary from luxurious and elegant to rustic and cowboy-chic, from private cabins that can sleep entire families to lodge rooms that share common space. Chow Time at Elkhorn Ranch near Tucson, Arizona

I have three examples which demonstrate the variety and scope of the all-inclusive fun a dude ranch family vacation affords. Our family has been to Elkhorn Ranch and it is super. Almost anything in the Kootnay will be amazing as exemplified by Three Bears and we are planning a trip to Wyoming so Lazy L&B caught my attention with not just their programs but their sense of humor.
  
Arizona: Elkhorn Ranch – Spring in the desert. Framed by the Baboquivari Mountains and the awesome Sonoran Desert southwest of Tucson, Elkhorn is a perfect spring break escape. From November to April they offer a perfect setting to chill out with your kids. Cabins are equipped with private baths, electric heat, reading lights. Some have separate sitting rooms or fireplaces but none have televisions or phones. Families ride together or separately and have the chance to enjoy gentle or loping rides through the desert or more vigorous trails along mountain trails. Bonus points: There is no charge for children age five or younger. Wait for it! The ranch is less than 30 minutes to the awesome Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. (27000 W. Elkhorn Ranch Road Tucson, Arizona 85736. (520) 822-1040, (970)583-2410 or www.elkhornranch.com) 

British Columbia: Three Bears Ranch – Old-fashioned family fun.   Located in the Canadian Rocky Mountains between Banff and Glacier National Park, the ranch offers an abundance of nature, fresh fast moving water, green fields, glorious cowboy sunsets, and awesome starry nights. The ranch features one, two or three bedroom log cabins. Most meals are served as a buffet, with available family style and private table seating. Kids to learn about nature, catch frogs, go horseback riding, feed the sheep, goat and gather eggs. Bonus points: They offer riding opportunities for all ages and skill levels. Wait for it! Weekly breakfast rides include fresh blueberry pancakes cooked on an open grill. (9500 Wycliffe Perry Creek Road Cranbrook, British Columbia V1C 7C7. Toll-free 1-877-426-5230 or  www.threebarsranch.com) Little Tyke Horse Encounter Lazy L&B Ranch near Jackson Hole, WY

Wyoming: Lazy L&B – Ride a little bit or a lot. The ranch located near Jackson Hole and framed by the Shoshone National Forest and the Wind River, Absaroka, and Owl Creek mountain ranges. The ranch is known for the quality, range and scope of its horseback-riding program. Nestled among cottonwood trees along the river, the log cabins are comfortably furnished with a casual western flair and comfortably sleep up to eight. Family activities include not just horse encounters but also hiking, fly-fishing, bird watching, swimming in the river or pool, shooting gallery, petting zoo, and campfires under the stars. Bonus points: An experienced wrangler will carefully match each guest to a horse for the week. And guests are invited to groom and saddle their horse each morning. Wait for it! This is the land of Buffalo Bill Cody, Lewis and Clark, Sacajawea, the Pony Express, and the Oregon Trail. (1072 East Fork Road Dubois, Wyoming 82513. Toll-free 1- 800-453-9488 or www.lazylb.com)

Make it happen. The possibilities for an authentic all-American western family vacation are impressive. Browse a bit and see what I mean. And if you need  assistance planning contact the Dude Ranchers’ Association toll-free 1-866-399-339 or www.duderanch.org

Content and images proved by DRA with comments by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor & Curator of the good Stfuff for FTF. Copyright 2014.

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