Dude Ranch Vacations and Honeymoon Destinations in the USA

Horsing Around Dude Ranches in the USA

What a delight it is to slip from your wedding finery to a soft shirt and jeans, fill up a duffel with spares (and perhaps only one full calico skirt for barnyard square-dancing), tie on a bandanna and set out for a dude ranch! Or, clothed in crisp linen suits, to sip mint juleps and cheer as horses boom past in a breathtaking attempt to win first place. Whether you intend to trot over tumbleweed or blue-grass, to wrangle or to root for a winner, horses in almost every state are whinnying their uneasy invitations.

Among the best parts of considering a dude-ranch honeymoon is the capacity to know precisely what you'll spend. Most ranches extend attractive all-inclusive packages that give far more down-home cooking than you will ever be able to consume, campfires and barbecues, and at the least a couple of serious rides a day (generally with free lessons). Alcoholic drinks and tips are typically extra, and you'll want a few spare dollars for a pair of ten-gallon hat and boots.

Dude ranches vary from "roughing it" (cook yer own grub, saddle yer own horse, roll yer own sleeping bag,) to full-service ranches having rustic trappings but resort-style comforts (three-star chefs, exercise rooms and swimming pools). Some ranches also prepare hayrides, rodeos and barn dances, and stagecoach reenactments.

Wranglers across the U.S. are willing to teach you the ropes. In the West, Colorado, a dude ranch capital, asks over honeymooners to pass over craggy Rocky Mountain passes and flower-filled valleys, while Montana's ranches numerate their acreage in thousands, most sneaking up the edges of majestic mountain ranges. For canters under skies draped with glorious sunsets, cool nighttimes in massive log cabins and daybreak rides to abandoned gold mines, pack your saddlebags for Wyoming. Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska feature willing wranglers too.

In the East, the ranches in New York's Catskill Mountains receive everyone, from the greenest of dudes to skilled English saddle riders; observe or learn polo here, or in nearby Connecticut or New Jersey. There are even dude ranches in tiny Vermont and Rhode Island. Or ride along Arkansas's amazing Ozark Mountain trails, halting to fish the rivers and visit Dogpatch, USA, and Silver Dollar City. Head up for Illinois to rally in Abraham Lincoln's tracks or lope around the vast ranch-lands of Texas—any state's department of tourism would refer you to a variety of dude ranches. You may also visit the listings and vacation rental reviews at VacationRentals.com to help you decide best.

Gambling on dressier clothes and more city-bred surroundings, grandstand seeing is another way to pull in your horse time. The ultimate stop is, naturally, Kentucky. Louisville ushers a two-week festival of parades and fireworks, and a huge flea market. If you can not get bookings for the Kentucky Derby (try a year or more in advance), think about a summer stay in Saratoga, N.Y., another "racy" honeymoon alternative.

Whether you climb on horses yourselves or wager on the professionals, horsing around is a sure wager for honeymoon excitement.

© 2011 Athena Goodlight