If your family is ready to ditch the four-star hotels and look
for a little more rustic vacation, you may want to check out a
ranch vacation. You don't have to take your little dudes far to
give them a little horse sense. Here are two places on my family's
Drive Time: 5 hours
Canoe trips, bonfires and supper at 6 await at Bluffdale Vacation
Farm, once recognized as Parent Magazine's "Top 10 Family Resorts
in North America."
Bluffdale is in Eldred, right along the Illinois River. One of the
oldest farms in the state, you'll find 320 acres of wide open
space, beautiful bluffs and scenic trails. Families stay in cabins,
cottages or in the big guest house.
Down on this farm, kids are put to work gathering eggs, picking
vegetables, and feeding and brushing horses. There are plenty of
puppies to pet, homemade meals and even a rope swing behind the old
barn. Mornings on the farm start out with a horseback ride, with
boating saved for the afternoons.
Owner Lindy Hobson says she's a city girl turned farm girl after
the Oak Park native met her husband at the University of Illinois.
Hobson got the idea for the dude ranch when all her Chicago
relatives kept asking to visit.
Now the Hobsons have been welcoming guests for 50 years. She says
guests keep on coming back to the ranch because they fall in love
with all that wide open space and her delicious farm meals-homemade
pies and breads are her specialty.
Drive Time: 4 1/2 hours
If roughing it is more your thing, Red Ridge Ranch offers
weekend-long horseback riding excursions in Wildcat Mountain State
Park. You supply the tent and food, Red Ridge Ranch supplies the
horses and the horse know-how.
Wildcat Mountain State Park in Ontario, Wis., is considered big
bluff country with 35,000 acres of premiere countryside untouched
by the glaciers.
On select weekends in May, ranch owners Lyle and Cindy Peterson
bring horses and guides to the park so families can spend the
weekend riding up beautiful big bluffs, over bubbling creeks,
through dramatic tree canopies and along the Kickapoo River.
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