A dude ranch vacation during a winter break provides plenty memorable activities for the entire family. From horseback riding to snow tubing, ice skating to line dancing, the Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch has something for everyone. Operating on 600 acres in New York’s Hudson Valley, ample outdoor and indoor activities range from riding to swimming to snow tubing and plenty more. The spot caters to kids, so they’re bound to enjoy themselves!
A Dude Ranch Winter Break
Who would have thought a winter break family dude ranch vacation would provide so many fun things to do? I’d never considered one before, especially in the winter time. But my brother and his family were visiting and wanted to try something different. And with a daughter who loves horseback riding, the Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch seemed to fit the bill.
Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch
Situated on 600 acres in New York’s Catskill Mountains, the Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch lives up to its name. Horseback riding among pine groves, tractor rides, and roasting marshmallows over a campfire are just a few options. A lodge decorated with plenty of “cowboy chic” enhances the dude ranch mood. Multiple upright pianos are on site, letting you tickle the ivories. Antique relics include wagon wheels, horseshoes and farm equipment that kids learn more about. Did I mention it’s also pet friendly? No need to board Fido.
To be clear, this is not the Canyon Ranch — it’s a dude ranch. For families. That means plenty of kids everywhere you go. If you’re a luxury, five-star-hotel kind of family, mosey along to a different spot.
Outdoor Winter Break Activities
Our visit in late February held some unusually warm weather, as well as the seasonal cold. As a result, we spent plenty of time both indoors and outdoors.
Horseback riding was a big draw. So we signed up for an afternoon ride for our family. Children under 7 or who weigh under 60 pounds can take pony rides, but aren’t permitted to ride the trails. Our group of riders ranged from complete beginner to intermediate. We were given horses appropriate to our ability. (Hint: Give an honest assessment of how good you are on a horse!) Helmets are provided. With the warmer weather, we sloshed through lots of mud. But plenty of snow and ice left on the trails made for a beautiful and exciting nature ride. We saw birds and deer as we steered our horses up and down some steep paths through the woods.
Dude Ranch Snow Tubing
Snow tubing was another popular winter activity with both kids and adults. Because of warmer weather only two runs were open, although there may be as many as seven in colder weather. But the lines were short and the walk back up the hill hauling our inner tubes was good exercise!
The tubing was best done in the morning because by afternoon, the sun’s heat slowed the runs down. No ice skating for us due to warmth, but when the lake is frozen, the skates are free to use. Making a snowman, taking a walk and visiting the petting zoo were on our outdoor itinerary. Plenty of fresh air for us as eating a pizza lunch outside on picnic benches mid-winter!
Indoor Fun Things to Do
As an alternative to the great outdoors, there were lots of indoor activities too. A swimming pool with a double water slide stayed open most of the day and into evening. The kids played mini-golf and learned to play Bocce and shuffleboard. (The Bocce green needed a vacuuming but it still worked.) Ping pong, pool tables, air hockey and video games were included in the popular attractions.
There were alternating opportunities at the rock-climbing wall or the archery range where instructors helped out. Personally, I enjoyed the common area by the fire. It sits next to many tables where families played board games. (Head to the front activity desk for the game of your choice!) We played a game of “Life” and it felt good getting back to basics with the kids. For adults, a fitness center and massage services are available.
An Evening’s Entertainment
There’s a nightly cocktail party for adults and kids that includes free drinks and casual hors d’ouevres. Think cheese and crackers, veggies or fruit with a chocolate fountain. And once dinner is over, much like a cruise ship, there are different – and multiple – activities every night. Our choices included dancing, line dancing, an old-timey “Medicine-Man Magic Show,” BINGO and a juggler. More low-key, we sat with the kids by the fireplace listening to live musicians. We also roasted marshmallows by the campfire. Yum! While the entertainment was mostly geared towards an audience chock-full of kids, the adults attending clearly enjoyed themselves.
An All-Inclusive (Almost)
Much like a cruise ship, Pinegrove is an all-inclusive, four-season spot. Three meals and snacks are served for all. Breakfast was rated the best meal of the day among our group. Beer and wine was served at dinners. Not high-end choices, but the liquid flows until you’re done.
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While the common areas have been updated in recent years, our rooms could have used some touching up. That said, they were large, comfortable and could sleep a family of six in a queen bed, a full bed and bunks. Rooms range from standards to suites that sleep up to nine. You can get cribs and mini-fridges for an additional fee. It’s “stairs only” to the second floor rooms so if that’s a problem mention when you make reservations.
There are additional fees for some activities such as horseback riding, paintball and the video game arcade, but they weren’t outrageous. It’s worth noting that if you’re hoping to do business during your stay there is free Wi-Fi in the lobby only. (Probably a good reminder to take a true break from work!)
For the Kids
One of the things that struck me about Pinegrove was how friendly the staff was towards children. Our dining waiter treated ours with kid gloves, offering food samples to try. (Note, the food is not great, but there are plenty of choices for kids. A kid-centric snack bar serves soft serve ice cream, fries, nachos, pizza and popcorn.) The activity coordinator walked around telling families about the day’s activities. The entertainers loved having kids in the audience, often making them part of the show.
There wasn’t much that seemed to ruffle staff when it came to dealing with kids. And there’s something to be said for that when you’re looking for a family friendly spot for a short break. We spoke with families who’d been coming to Pinegrove Family Dude Ranch for years, making it an annual tradition. For the kids.