As a family with three kids 5 and under, finding a vacation that all of us enjoy can be a challenge: I’m always looking for what’s going to be exciting enough for my 5-year old, entertaining for my 3 year old, and baby-friendly for my toddler. So when I looked at Pine Ridge Dude Ranch in the Catskills, I knew it was a place that all my kids could find their groove, as well as an amazing getaway where my husband and I could have a few adult moments too. To be honest, we really didn’t know what to expect–we’d never been to a dude ranch before and have only heard about them being out West. But having a western experience so close to NJ was really different and a unique adventure that we normally wouldn’t have had the chance to do. I was also sold when I read that it was all-inclusive—that means not only meals, but also all the horseback riding and apple picking you want to do, which is what I knew would make my kids love it. Of course, there are a ton more activities included, like archery, a rock wall, sports and games, tractor rides and a petting zoo.
When we pulled into the property, we were in awe: It’s set on 150 acres and the views are gorgeous. Fall was in full force with all the fiery colors, and with the mountains, we really couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful grounds surrounding us. We loved the ranch too–it’s exactly what you picture when you think of a ranch out west, but it’s right here in the Catskills.The best part is that it’s all been recently renovated. They did a great job in refreshing it while still keeping a down-home feel, with warm woods, stone fireplaces and vintage Western decor.
We were greeted by friendly staff members, who immediately showed our kids their first favorite activity—face painting in the atrium. After we checked in, we went to our room in the Dakota Wing which was huge. There were adorable bunk beds that my two older ones loved, and a crib for my little. It was also newly renovated, with a Western-themed style and cozy feel. I was especially happy to see soft throws on the bed, since they looked like they were made for snuggling and storytime, and knew my kids would get under them right away before bed.
After we settled in, it was time for dinner in the dining room, known as Roundup Corral. My kids were so happy because all their favorites–french fries and chicken fingers—were on the menu. For the adults, the food was delicious and plentiful: There were homebaked rolls, a fresh salad bar, BBQ specials like brisket and mouth-watering ribs, crispy fried chicken and fish specials, like broiled salmon. Our waiter let us know that the ranch sources as much as possible from local family farms and vendors, providing you with the highest quality fresh produces and meats for a real farm-to-table experience. Of course, we could eat as much as we wanted, so we were stuffed by the end, especially with the desserts like apple pie. Alcohol is not included, but they have $2 beers available and reasonably priced wines, which we thought were really good deals (unlike other all-inclusives where alcohol is super expensive). On the way to our room, we saw The Silver Dollar Bar, a really cool space for adult beverages and live music. We couldn’t hang there with the kids, so maybe next time we’ll hire an on-property sitter and sneak away for a few hours.
The next morning, we were thrilled to see the beautifully set-up buffet breakfast that included all the fixins’ for a day out on the range: oatmeal, fresh fruit, pancakes, sausage, eggs, biscuits, bacon, cereal, and so many home-baked treats, all served with Starbucks coffees. The kids kept going for seconds on pancakes. It was all delicious!
After, we hopped on a tractor ride to see the grounds and then headed to the Wightman Fruit Farm up the street to pick apples. At home, we live close to apple picking farm, but it can get very very crowded this time of year, so we were floored that we had this whole apple orchard all to ourselves. There were over 200 different kinds of apples for us to pick and taste. Each variety name was tied to a ribbon on a branch to let you know which apple you were tasting, and it was fun to sample the different varieties. The whole experience was pure fall magic.
Back at the resort, lunch was an Italian buffet of hearty favorites, fueling us for horseback riding and archery. The weather was perfect and the horses were gentle and kind. My kids were riding newbies, and the owner understood that, as he helped my daughter onto her horse, Nemo, and my son on his horse, Oreo. As they rode with all the fall colors and Catskill mountains in the background, it was so pretty and surreal, that it looked like they were in a movie. After riding, we took turns learning archery, and I was able to hit the bullseye on my third try. The kids then ran to the petting zoo where they actually petted the goats in the gated area, instead of feeding from a fence—it was so cute to watch all three of them playing with baby goats.
As we made our way back to the ranch, we stumbled upon a beautiful wooden playground. It was awesome with a full wooden train for the kids to play on, a giant ship and an airplane. The kids had a ball, even our little guy, who just loved hanging out with his big brother and sister. We grabbed some beers for a few minutes of adult time and watched all three have some good old-fashioned fun. We then saw the bouncy pillow, which is a giant air-filled pillow that’s almost like a trampoline, where you can really get high jumping. We all took our shoes off and joined in the bouncing, giggling hysterically the whole time. Bouncing was so much fun that the only way we could convince the kids to get off was to have our 5-year old try the rock wall. He amazed us by climbing to the top, ringing the bell and then scrambled down in two and a half minutes. It was a great way to end the day and our trip.
At the end of our weekend, we took home over 40lbs of apples and so many great memories. The weather during our stay was just perfect, so we took advantage of all the outdoor activities. But if it hadn’t been, I know my kids would have been heading straight for the indoor pool (it’s heated to 80 degrees) with a double-flume waterslide and checking out the arcade game room. Plus, there are magic shows and juggling performances each weekend. There’s so much to do, and we didn’t have enough time to try everything, so we’re already planning ahead to our next visit. I love that you can go all-year-round with different experiences each time, so we might go snow-tubing and skating in the winter, or play camp-style games, swim in the lake and roast s’mores around a campfire in the summer. A ranch vacation for every season? Yes, please!
Ready to make family fun memories? Plan your own adventure at Pine Ridge Dude Ranch here.
Pine Ridge Dude Ranch
30 Cherrytown Road
Thank you to Pine Ridge Dude Ranch for sponsoring this article.