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As a child, some of my favorite summer memories were going to a horse camp.
We would go for a week at a time, just us kids, and have the time of our lives! Riding all day, learning about horsemanship, and just having fun. I knew this was something that I wanted my own children to enjoy, but I also thought it would make a great family adventure! When I learned about White Stallion Dude Ranch, in Tucson Arizona, I knew we had to go, and I am so excited to share this review with you!
Since summertime is our off season for traveling, we booked our trip for the day after Emmy got out of school. This also worked out well because it was before the monsoon and high heat of Arizona summers.
White Stallion Ranch is located in Tucson, which is about a six-hour drive for us from San Diego. It would have been an even quicker drive if we didn't often stop for snacks and bathroom breaks. I've decided it's just par for the course when road tripping with a six-year-old.
Once we arrived at the Ranch, it was like we were entering a scene from an old western movie. It was everything we had hoped for. There were tall cactus, beautiful mountains, and the friendliest people on the planet! And because it was all inclusive, we didn't even have to worry about carrying around our wallets! Everything is included in your price except for private riding lessons, alcoholic drinks, sodas, and anything from the gift shop.
We drove up to the office and checked in. From there we were shown to our suite and around the ranch while given an introduction to how ranch life works. After that, we changed into our western wear and explored!
Emmy made multiple wardrobe changes a day, and almost all of them involved a cowgirl hat, even if the rest of the outfit was more “tropical vacation.” That is the beauty of staying here. There is no right or wrong way to do it. They welcome those looking for as much riding time and those that would prefer just to watch. Either way, you will have a very memorable vacation with something for everyone!
Let's talk about the dining…
The food at the ranch is awesome!
There are set dining times, and everyone eats together in the dining hall. Breakfast has all the traditional items on an a la carte basis and then extras buffet style. Every morning there is a special of the day, like a breakfast burrito, and then eggs, toast, pancakes and potatoes that you order by writing down what you would like and then a server takes it to the kitchen for them to prepare. The buffet has fruit, cereal, and bakery items available too. On certain days, they have breakfast out on the range. It is about a half hour ride to get to, and you get to enjoy a cowboy breakfast! There is also hot coffee, tea (hot and cold), water, and lemonade available all day long. Bonus points that they offer almond milk too!
Lunch and dinner are served buffet style and are themed. There was a Mexican dinner, a cowboy dinner, and more. Weather permitting, they also have a BBQ dinner outside. Dessert is also something that can't be missed! They serve decadent dishes made with old family recipes.
Outside of regular meal times, they always have snacks available, and a social hour with appetizers. Our favorite evening was the family hay ride where they served prickly pear lemonade and two different alcoholic options, including a Monsoon Mule! While we rode around on the hay bails, we enjoyed cowboy caviar (aka black bean salsa) and an onion dip that was out of this world delicious!
They also are very accommodating to alternative diets. Since Maddie and I are vegan, they made sure to have ample options for us, and the chef spoke to us about our likes and dietary needs on our first day just to make sure that they were providing us a superior dining experience. They were just as helpful to others that were there, including those that are gluten free.
You will never be hungry when you are staying at the ranch.
The ranch has around the clock activities too!
We enjoyed a ranch rodeo where the owners, The True Family, entertained us with the many events in a standard rodeo. Mr. True explained each event, and we left with so much more knowledge and respect for the sport.
Other activities include a nightly experience. We were able to hear a well known local historian speak about the Native Americans and early settlers, see the planets and the moon when an astronomer was there, and much more! There was even country dancing being taught!
The highlight, of course, was the horseback riding.
On our first day, we were partnered with a horse for the week. One is carefully chosen for you, and they are yours for the entire time you are there. I imagined that we would be responsible for saddling them up and all that, and I was pleasantly surprised when each time I went to ride, they were there waiting for me. Not only were they waiting for me, but they even had ice cold water in a pouch to enjoy during the ride. This was nothing like the old school dude ranch experiences. This was pure luxury!
There are six hours of riding time available each day, and the night before you sign up for your spot so that they can have your horse ready. During the summer, the rides are early in the morning and later in the afternoon to avoid the heat. Once a week they have a sunset ride, and that is my all time favorite one… so don't miss that one when you go. The colors that reflect off the mountains as the sun goes down is one one of the best sights on the planet!
It is a pretty amazing experience to ride through the desert like this…
Children six and over are allowed to ride. Emmy had ridden before when we were in Hawaii earlier this year, but it was a lead ride, and this was her first time on her own. I was nervous, and I really shouldn't have been, because she did awesomely! There were other kids with us, and they all did great too. The horses are so well trained that they could probably do the whole thing with their eyes closed.
They offer two different types of rides. A fast and a slow. The only difference is that on the fast rides there are parts where the horses are allowed to move faster. Emmy was too young for that, so we opted to have her take lessons each day where she could practice going faster in the arena. She LOVEDit! The lessons are one of the few things that are not included in the cost of your visit, but they are very reasonable, and they are paid directly to the Wrangler as a way for them to make some extra money. I highly recommend taking them. I've ridden many times in my life and didn't think I would benefit from the lessons, but I wish I had taken them as my skills were a bit rusty, and it would have been fun to learn some new tricks. Pete and the girls took them almost every day.
The Ranch also has many other ways to enrich your visit. We enjoyed the pool, petting zoo, and just relaxing!
And even hanging out with the horses when they weren't off riding! The office has a huge bucket of horse treats, and the girls loved stopping by each day and handing them out to the horses.
The accommodations were superb.
Everyone stays in a few rows of suites on the other side of the common area.
The chairs in front of the rooms were the perfect place to relax in the evening.
We stayed in a family suite which consisted of two bedrooms and a bathroom. The girl's room had three twin beds, and the master bedroom had a large king bed.
Noticeably absent from the rooms are a TV and phone. The girls were shocked to learn that there would not be a TV, but we assured them they wouldn't miss it, and they didn't. We found that we rarely even spent any time in the room unless we were sleeping. The ranch has a TV in the clubhouse for everyone to enjoy and there is a definite sense of community for all those staying there. It was a nice feeling being together with so many people from all over the world, and we never even ended up spending time watching the TV. Same for the phone….we never had a need to use one. If we needed anything, we simply went to the office and an actual person was there to help. It was wonderful.
We had such a wonderful time at White Stallion Dude Ranch, and we are already planning on adding a dude ranch vacation to our travel schedule every year. It was that awesome!
Here is our White Stallion Dude Ranch Video Recap:
See our full White Stallion Dude Ranch adventure here.
Have you ever been to a dude ranch?
Thank you to the White Stallion Ranch for hosting our stay. All opinions, photographs, and videos of the property are our own.