Sunday, November 28, 2010
Thanksgiving Getaway - Bandera, Texas "Dude Ranch"
It was August when my wife suggested "Let's do something different for Thanksgiving"
Those six words lead to several discussions about exactly what a "Destination Thanksgiving" might look like. The problem was there limited money to spend on a vacation, thus it had to be something close enough to home to drive, and yet different enough to inspire us to take action.
We decided on two nights at the Twin Elm Guest Ranch in Bandera, Texas (a two hour drive from Austin). This "Dude Ranch" experience, complete with a large group Thanksgiving meal and several horseback trail rides, was appealing to both parents and kids. We told family and friends we would be out-of-town this year, and made our plans for a fun and relaxing western experience.
The ranch is rustic, but not run-down. If you prefer to stay at a "Four Seasons Hotel", I would not recommend this style of vacation. The guest rooms and cabins are older and small... but very clean. The grounds are not manicured like a resort, but instead a real ranch experience. The dirt roads and barns are functional, not designed as landscape. It is a bit more like "roughing it" than we are accustomed... but that was the whole idea!
The food was simple and yet fabulous. Everyone in residence at the ranch ate together in the dining hall upon hearing them ring the bell. Yep, a big triangle that could be heard across the grounds, sounded to bring everyone running; "Come 'n get it!". Everyone talked and shared stories over meals, and it made for a family atmosphere, albeit groups of strangers!
Captain and Miss Victoria, who manage the Twin Elm, give the place the warm feeling that permeates throughout the ranch. They take care of everyone's needs and made sure that all were welcomed.
The kids practiced roping a metal cow, and took over the game room pool table, air hockey and Foosball (although a bit worn, they still worked). We all played cards, read books, and hiked down to the river. The idea was to just have a low-key and relaxed few days without having an agenda or being on the go the whole time.
On Friday night there was a Rodeo on the ranch grounds. This would have been great, but we only lasted about half-way through because it was 34 degrees outside. Burrrrrr. We did see some professional rodeo cowboys get tossed off a few bulls before having to head back inside.
The highlight of the trip for all of us were the trail rides. We had three rides, two on Friday and one on Saturday. The horses were easy going, which was important because the kids had never ridden before, and I am not very experienced on a horse. Each ride was over an hour throughout the beautiful Hill Country trails. My wife, Sara, is an experienced rider and would have preferred the chance to run the horse though the meadow,.... but this was not the type of rides available. My gentle walk on the one eyed horse, "Rooster", was just fine for me!
We also drove to Medina, Texas to the Apple Store. Not the "Apple Store" that you city folk are thinking about (no iPads to be found). This bakery and restaurant sold all things Apple (think the fruit). I am adding this to this post because we had the best apple strudel ever. We bought one on Friday and shared it in the car. We drove back the next day (30 minutes round trip) to get four more.... because it was way too good. If you visit the Twin Elm, you must add this drive to eat some apple pie or strudel to your trip!
Getting out of your routine is great. In this case it was for Thanksgiving... but anytime you shake things up and try new stuff it can bring big benefits. Our family had a wonderful shared experience, the kids are now big fans of horseback riding, and we found a new and affordable place for a long weekend.
I recommend a "Destination Thanksgiving" for anyone (to a Dude Ranch or other place out of the norm). No cooking the meal, prepping the house for guests, or clean up!!! Yes, you miss the fun of a large family gathering.... but some of those at the Twin Elm brought their whole extended clan for the weekend. Maybe next year we will convince everyone to come with us!
Have A Great Day.