This year’s hot travel trend is actually not even new. The dude ranch vacation dates back to the late 1880s when the spirit of the Wild West was firmly entrenched in the American and European psyche. Wealthy foreigners and Eastern industrialists, including Theodore Roosevelt, came to the West – and its dude ranches, for the abundant wildlife and magnificent unspoiled scenery. During the 20s and 30s, dude ranch owners discovered that opening up their ranches to guests was a good way to increase their income. This has continued to the present day.
So why have dude ranches’ popularity exploded these days? When it comes to vacation planning, many people nowadays want to go somewhere unique where they can create memories and bond with their families. “More people are visiting dude ranches to do something out of the ordinary” says Colleen Hodson from the Dude Rancher’s Association. “Dude ranches are the original Western adventure vacation.” Deep down the core principles of dude ranching remain the same: horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart but dude ranches have evolved immensely from what they originally were and now offer a plethora of experiences. Perhaps the popularity is due to fact that there really is something for everyone. You can go to a dude ranch numerous times and have a different experience each time depending on the type of ranch, time of year and who is accompanying you.
Some dude ranches feature special ranch getaways for cowgirls or adults only, while others are a virtual “Disney World” for kids of all ages. Some ranches focus on the culinary experience serving the finest wine and food pairings along with cooking instructions supplied by noted chefs. Other dude ranches attract fitness buffs by offering yoga, meatless menus and spa treatments. Still more are known for birding, astronomy, photography classes, painting workshops and special eco-tours.
You also won’t feel as connected on other types of holidays where you are just one tourist among thousands. High end ranches across the USA average 45 guests at a time and your days and meals are often shared with other guests. By the end of your stay, you’ll know everyone and might even have forged some new friendships. The remote, peaceful setting lends itself to easy camaraderie, so it’s not uncommon for lifetime friendships to develop during a dude ranch vacation
Once you have been to a dude ranch, you will probably want to go back. Dude ranch owners report that more than a third of all reservations each season are made by repeat visitors. Colleen Hodson reports a similar yet different pattern among the daily inquiries at the Dude Rancher’s Association. She is finding that a group lovingly nicked named as “ranch junkies”, who are travelers who visit dude ranches frequently but prefer to explore a different DRA ranch each trip are inquiring often about dude ranches
Whether it’s the unique experience, the diverse activities, the welcoming atmosphere or the human connection the old is new again. Put a dude ranch vacation on your to do list to see what everyone else is loving.
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