When I was in elementary school, my first grade teacher taught us to tell the difference in spelling “desert” and “dessert”. ”Dessert” has two s’s, because you always want another helping, whereas “desert” only has one, because who in their right mind would want a second helping of something so dusty, dry, and hot? Mrs. Brown certainly knew a thing or two about spelling tricks, but she had clearly never spent much time in a desert, or at least the one I was in.
The White Stallion Ranch in Tucson, Arizona, is nestled between mountains and desert, with the sky reaching as far as the eye can see. Early to bed and early to rise certainly has its place on a dude ranch, as there’s enough activity to keep you going from sunrise to sunset, then immediately crashing.
Each morning we’d awake to a gorgeous blue painted sky, and head over to the dining hall for a homemade breakfast.
“I think the American West really attracts me because it’s romantic. The desert, the empty space, the drama.” -Ang Lee
Then it was off to the stables to fetch the horses. What I loved about the ranch was that they assigned you your own horse for the entire duration of your stay, based on your skill and comfort level with riding.
That being said, I have about as much comfort on a horse as I do driving in Manhattan, so the amazing ranch hands assigned me the slowest, laziest, oldest horse of the bunch, Cholla. Cholla loved nothing more than to eat along the trail and to nip at whatever horse was in front of her, so needless to say, we got along just fine. Depending again on your riding experience, there were a myriad of rides to choose from: slow rides, fast rides, mountain rides, flat rides, short rides, all day rides, wine and cheese rides, beer and cheetos rides…you name it, they had it. I’ll let you take a guess which ride was my favorite.
The rides departed three times a day, so if you really loved riding, it was entirely possible to be on a horse the majority of your stay.
I chose to engage in a few of the other activities, as well: hiking, reading by the fire, and lounging in the hot tub all ranked at the top of my list.
Each night was a different form of post-dinner entertainment, ranging from country line dancing to songs and stories by the campfire. Not gonna lie, I was utterly wiped out by about 8pm, heading back to the room to kick my boots up, and falling fast asleep to the sound of crickets. Sorry, Mrs. Brown, but I’ll take two helpings of the desert anytime.
If You Go
One of the best aspects of The White Stallion Ranch is that, much like a cruise ship or a Carribian vacation, it’s all inclusive…no matter how much you eat or how much you ride, it’s all one set pre-paid price. The only thing NOT included in your stay is alcohol, but drinks are very affordable and done on an honor system of paying when you check out. OR you can be super budget savvy and BYOB and keep it in the fridge of your room. Our room had its own electric fireplace and front porch with chairs…perfect for watching the sunset, then snuggling into bed.
A few things to note…
Ranch rates can be found on their website, but the most affordable time of year to go is June 16th-September 28th, when you can take advantage of the hot summer rates!
Tucson has over 3,800 hours of sunshine yearly–the highest known! So no matter what time of year you go, pack sunscreen. Even the winter sun is very fierce.
Wireless is available, free of charge, as is the on-site gym and sauna.
If you will be staying 4 nights or more, there is free transportation to and from the Tucson airport.
This would be a fantastic vacation if you have young kiddos who you’d like entertained all day, non-stop, by others. The resort has a pool, game room, movie theater, basketball and tennis courts, petting zoo, library, and plenty of room to run around (safely) and act like kids. There is no charge for children under 5 years of age, but the minimum riding age is 5.
If you want to explore more of Tucson while you’re out west, I’d highly recommend Stephen Fredricks from Tribute Transportation, whose local perspective and excellent (and affordable) driving will give you everything you need to know about the town.
A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at the The Dude Ranchers Association and the White Stallion Ranch!