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California Guest Ranchs Offer Dose of Family Values

California Guest Ranchs Offer Dose of Family Values

Looking for a vacation that actually brings the family together? Try visiting one of California’s guest ranches, where the outdoor scenery is only exceeded by the down-home family values.

The summer season is prime time for guest ranching families who maybe have tried Disneyland or taken a family cruise vacation but have been searching for another unique experience that every member of the family can enjoy. A week-long stay at a guest ranch means that Mom, Dad and the kids will all be eating together — three hearty home-cooked meals a day – and that the parents will actually have some inkling where, at any given time, they can find their kids.

If that sounds good for parents, it gets even better for kids. There is a long list of games and family activities available as guest ranches compete with theme parks for the California vacation dollar. There’s the obvious – horseback riding, and plenty of it – but add to that such activities as swimming, tubing on nearby rivers, volleyball, darts, fly fishing, archery and gold panning.

“We had one Australia family visit Disneyland and our ranch in the same vacation,” recalled Alicia Ryan of Coffee Creek Guest Ranch, “and the family emailed us from home just to tell us that the ranch was all the kids were talking about.”

Score one for guest ranches. The ranches will score a few more points with adults who deal with city traffic and crowded workplaces every day of the work week and figure the last thing they want to do on vacation is stand in long lines for theme parks and their rides. Once they’re settled in at a guest ranch, they may find a total of just 50 or 60 other guests spread out over many acres with most guests out riding or involved in activities. End result: peace and quiet for Mom and Dad.

When the movie “City Slickers” came out several years back, the impact on the guest ranch industry was significant. Maybe it was the way the movie showed every-day city people adapting very well, thank you, to the Great Outdoors — whatever the reason, ranches saw more business than ever. In recent years, some ranches have found that growth has leveled off somewhat as competitors such as cruise lines lower their prices and rising gasoline prices discourage long distance car travel. So nowadays, many guest ranches are including everything but the kitchen sink in their “all-inclusive” price.

Operators of guest ranches say that most people who come to stay at a guest ranch share a love of the outdoors, although the majority of visitors are not experienced horseback riders. If you really want to get out and enjoy the scenery, the horseback riding is the best way. Rides generally are scheduled several times each day. Skill levels are taken into account when deciding what horse you will be riding while at the ranch and, often, guests will get training and greatly improve their skills as the …