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Tips For Your First Bandera Dude Ranch Experience

On your next trip to Texas, skip the hotel in the city and opt for a real, bona fide cowboy experience at a dude ranch. Bandera, which lies about an hour outside of San Antonio, is one of the country’s best places to have your first dude ranch experience. Dubbed the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” Bandera is home to a number of dude ranches—or ranches that also serve as resorts for guests—that offer Texas-style amenities you can’t find in most vacation destinations.

What To Bring

Packing for a trip to a dude ranch isn’t like packing for most getaways. You’ll want sturdy shoes for walking and horseback riding (boots recommended), clothes that are comfortable and OK to get a little dirty, hats to protect your face from the sun and options for layering depending on the season (Bandera’s dude ranches are open year-round). You’ll also want to bring a camera, because if you’ve never been to a dude ranch before, there’s a lot to see and do that you’ll want to remember long after the trip is over.

Where to Go to Feel Like a Real Cowboy

All of Bandera’s dude ranches have a variety of cowboy activities to keep you busy, but if you’re looking for an authentic horseback riding experience and waking up to the smell of a hot cowboy breakfast, consider Dixie Dude Ranch (the oldest ranch in the area) that rests on 725 acres of land. Here you can kick back and relax by a bonfire while enjoying Southern fried chicken. After a day on horseback, guests can get the kinks out with a relaxing massage before retreating to their rooms on a working stock ranch built in 1901. And don’t miss the ranch’s overnight trail ride, always one of the most popular things to do.

What to Do If You're Traveling With Kids

Families that are traveling with kids may want to check out Flying L Guest Ranch, known for its luxury suites and condos next to a mini golf course and a water park. A nightly bonfire lets guests roast s’mores, and guest ranch has horseback riding, too. Chuck Wagon dinners are popular here, where they can sample the flavors of genuine cowboy meals. Parents who want a little break from the kids can try to find time for an afternoon on the 18-hole golf course.

What to Do If You're Planning a Group Trip

A fun way to experience a dude ranch for the first time is with other novices. Plan a group trip to Silver Spur Guest Ranch, which often hosts family reunions and large gatherings. The cabins at the ranch have several beds, making it possible for a family of eight or more to be comfortable in one space. Groups can take advantage of the ranch’s Olympic-sized pool and nightly campfires under a large oak tree where s’mores kits are distributed.

For a one-of-a-kind experience, register to dig for arrowheads, Texas hearts, and sea shells at the ranch’s Fossil Pit. Or join a historical hayride, where a guide narrates the history and biology of the surrounding natural area. The Wagon Wheel Garden is also popular among groups for its cowboy breakfasts cooked in large cast iron skillets along with delicious barbecue lunches. Guests looking to unwind after a day outdoors can swing by The Healing Room to use the ranch’s own zero gravity massage chair, foot bath, and other spa equipment.

Where to Go If You’re Looking for a Little Fun

Looking to spend anywhere from two nights to a week worth of vacationing cowboy style? Then Mayan Ranch may be right up your alley. Each day of the week at Mayan Ranch has different themes, giving guests plenty to do. Several themed-parties are hosted during the week such as Wrangler Night, where the Gibson Sisters play on their fiddles for guests. Another can’t-miss theme is Mexican Fiesta Fridays, where everything on the menu consists of fajitas, enchiladas, tamales and more. The ranch offers horse rides through the wilderness, hayrides, and on-site amenities like a pool, tennis court, basketball court and more. Don’t miss sampling some of the ranch’s mesquite-cooked barbecue to make the cowboy experience complete.

Where to Go to Learn to Ride

Not everyone is an experienced horseback rider. At Hill Country Equestrian Lodge, guests are able to spend some time in lessons before embarking on a scenic ride on the ranch’s 6,000 acre-wide area full of live oak trees, yucca and wildflowers. Guests stay in authentic pioneer-style cabins (many come with their own full kitchen and fireplace) overlooking the land.

If You Want to Stop on an RV Tour

For a fun dude ranch stop along an RV tour throughout Texas, head to 2E Twin Elm Guest Ranch, which has room for up to 27 RVs with electric hookups and a clubhouse with a full kitchen, washroom and cable TV. Campers can go tubing, horseback riding, go on hayrides, sit by campfires and play a series of games like horseshoe, volleyball and basketball. However, guests that aren’t traveling with their RVs can still reserve a room at the ranch’s bunk house or rent a cabin on the premise.

If You Want to Be Active

Rancho Cortez takes pride in its fitness program with a cowboy twist. Instead of hitting the gym, guests are invited to stay active through a series of fun games and activities like horseback riding, hiking, biking, yoga, swimming and more. Healthy meals are served to guests to maintain their weight loss and diet regimen. Other fun cowboy-activities will be available such as learning the art of lassoing and feeding longhorn cattle.

If You Want to Get Away

Whether you’re away on a romantic weekend trip or looking for some quiet downtime, West 1077 Guest Ranch is the spot. The ranch is situated on an old cattle ranch surrounded by untamed landscape where guests have total privacy. There are only 14 cabins on site, designed to reflect an authentic Wild West-style atmosphere with wooden furniture, private patio and a view of the sunset. Guests will be invited to use the 230-acre property’s private hiking trails to for bird watching. Horseback riding tours are available on site, and riders can explore the adjacent 5,400-acre Hill Country Natural Area to see a wealth of wildlife and breathtaking scenery.
Find out what else Bandera offers in terms of activities and things to do here.
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