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What's Up, Dude?

January 31, 2008
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Whoa! This host is sure happy to see guests mosey on up to him!
Does "dude ranch" conjure up images of office workers doffing their Dockers in favor of denim? Do you envision time in the saddle or sleeping under the stars, and think it might be fun for a day or two, though you're not sure about an entire vacation?

What -- you haven't seen "City Slickers"? (Billy Crystal proving, of course, that Jews can be dudes.)

There's good news for travelers who would like a taste of the dude-ranch experience blended with a heaping serving of other vacation-type activities. Today's ranches cater to a diverse crowd -- from families to couples to singles -- with activities, attractions and services that travel far beyond the trail.

So if you're considering such a vacation and would like to spend time out of the saddle, consider these 10 surprising things to do on today's dude ranches:

· Get a massage or spa treatment. Hotels and resorts around the world have hopped on the spa bandwagon, spending millions to build lavish facilities or offer massage, salon and spa services. Many dude ranches now offer comparable services, like White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., where guests can indulge in a massage.

· Water ski. Not all dude ranches are located in desert terrain. Those like Wilderness Trails, on Vallecito Lake in Durango, Colo., take full advantage of their waterfront setting.

· Take a yoga class. Many ranches that offer spa services also provide yoga classes and training. Before a long day in the saddle, guests can have a relaxing limbering-up session with certified trainers.

· Indulge in a wine-tasting. Gourmet cuisine is gaining popularity at dude ranches, right alongside traditions like steak and potatoes, and strong coffee. Many ranches also offer wine-tastings, where guests can experience and learn about different varietals, including kosher wines.

· Get married. Picturesque settings, wide-open spaces and top-notch amenities draw thousands of brides-to-be and their grooms to dude ranches each year. Some even offer personal wedding planners.

Indeed, having a chupah set up amid a Wild West background can offer a very different type of romantic taste to the ceremony, even if "The Frisco Kid" isn't invited to the wedding.

At Tanque Verde Ranch, out of Tucson, you can even rent the entire ranch for your event.

· Work on your tennis serve. Recognizing that your craving for sport might exceed chasing down an errant calf, some dude ranches like Paradise Ranch in Buffalo, Wyo., offer other sporting opportunities, such as lighted tennis courts.

· Surf the Internet. Demand for high-speed, wireless Internet access is high among both leisure and business travelers. Many dude ranches are in step with the times and offer guests free Internet access. Some may provide access only in guestrooms, while others feature access in some public areas as well.

· Perform in a talent show. Haven't sung since your Bar/Bat Mitzvah? Friendly competition can be found in many forms on dude ranches, from roping contests to talent shows. If lassoing a speeding calf isn't your forte, you can sing, tap or joke your way to stardom in a talent show.

· Chase a chicken. Immortalized on the TV reality show "Girl Meets Cowboy," the chicken chase at Paradise Ranch pits man, woman or child against fowl. (Think of it as good schochet training.) Several chickens are turned loose in a pen, and the human competitors must try to chase them down. No chickens are harmed in the competition.

To date, the score tally remains in favor of the chickens.

For more information about dude-ranch vacations, log on to: www.guestranch.com.

 

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