Tanque Verde Ranch
This isn't my first rodeo. Well, actually it is. Maybe
that's why I'm having so much fun living out my cowgirl fantasy on
our family's dude ranch vacation!
Prime rib, Caesar salad, shrimp and a dessert table?
Whatever happened to franks-n-beans? Apparently, they're long gone,
like much of what I expected to find at a dude ranch. Thankfully,
some of the iconic images are still here. There's a lot of
horseback riding, as well as an occasional old-fashioned chuckwagon
cookout, complete with a country-western crooner and cowboy doing
incredible rope tricks. But you'll also get to indulge in spa
treatments, a luxurious pool, wine tastings and cooking
Most importantly for our family, Tucson's Tanque Verde Ranch
has plenty to keep every age group happy. Tweens meet up at the
basketball court, while teens have their own dining table in the
restaurant. Since the ranch is all-inclusive, our kids were pretty
much free to get their meals whenever they felt like it, and the
terrific kids club took my 4-year-old on pony rides in the corral,
allowing me to horseback ride and mountain bike with my 12- and
We ended up enjoying the mountain biking as much as the
horseback riding. Tanque Verde sets you up with top-of-the-line
mountain bikes, helmets, gloves and a friendly guide who takes you
through trails in the surrounding Saguaro National Park. At the end
of the day everyone's exhausted, which, of course, has plenty of
benefits for mom and dad.
When we were done horsin' around, we'd head over to the
pool, with its waterfall and postcard-perfect view of the
surrounding mountains. The cute cowboy saloon right next to this
sophisticated swimming hole has a pool table or you could just pick
up your drink and lounge by the water.
Not all dude ranches are as luxurious or kid-friendly. Some
ranches have incredible kids' programs, making vacation feel like
summer camp. Want to really immerse yourself in the great outdoors?
Consider Montana's Nine
Quarter Circle Ranch in the northwest corner of Yellowstone
When you're visiting matters as well. We wanted a warm spring
break escape-Arizona was an obvious choice. But you can visit
ranches in the winter-Vista
Verde Ranch and The Home
Ranch, both near Steamboat Springs, Colo., allow you to spend
time skiing while also making yourself at home on the ranch.
The Dude Ranchers'
Association, representing more than 100 of the best dude
ranches in the United States and Canada, will steer you in the
right direction. Its website, duderanch.org, allows you to
search ranches by size, location and activities.
Chicago-area families looking for a sunny adventure will not be
disappointed at Tanque Verde
Ranch. Besides the horseback riding and mountain biking, daily
guided hikes allow you to comfortably explore the desert landscape
of Saguaro National Park, so exotically different from our own. As
you plan your family's next vacation, consider saddling up at a
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