Jenn Baxter is an accomplished author, speaker, and freelance writer in Charlotte, North Carolina. She has been published in numerous print and online publications and appears nationwide at tiny house festivals, healthy living festivals, and private engagements. She is an expert on downsizing, minimalism, clean eating, healthy living, and spiritual health.
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While Miami and Orlando typically get all the love in Florida, why not try staying outside the city limits at a dude ranch? Perfect for when you’re ready for a different kind of vacation getaway, skip the boring cookie-cutter hotels and instead immerse yourself in Florida’s outdoor beauty. Whether you want an authentic cowboy adventure or a bit more of a glamping experience, there’s a Florida ranch perfect for you.
Located just about an hour outside of Orlando, Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo offers guests an authentic ranch experience. Spread across 1,700 acres and overlooking the Kissimmee River, the ranch features a variety of accommodations, including one and two-bedroom cabins and cottages, guest rooms and suites in the main lodge, RV camping, and tent camping. But, perhaps the most unique way to stay at the ranch is in one of their large glamping tents, which feature climate control, a private bathroom, ceiling fan, a microwave, a mini fridge, and comfortable beds, or in one of their “luxe teepees” – an actual teepee with a bed, sleeper sofa, portable ac unit, microwave, mini fridge, and private bathroom. On-site, there’s plenty to do and see, including horseback riding, archery, airboat rides, a rodeo, fishing, bungee jumping, golf, skeet shooting, ziplining, and even a petting zoo.
At the Happy Acres Ranch in Dunnellon, guests can stay in the middle of the action on a real, working ranch. There’s a variety of accommodations available, including small quarters in the barns, larger guest lodges that sleep up to six people, and even several campers located throughout the property. During your stay, you can take horseback riding lessons, go on a trail ride or enjoy fishing, canoeing, and swimming at the nearby Rainbow River. The ranch is also conveniently located close to the Dunnellon historic district that’s home to a variety of quaint shops and restaurants.
For all the horse lovers in your family, there’s the Grand Oaks Resort in Weirsdale, known as “America’s Equestrian Resort.” Here, you can take a relaxing horse-drawn carriage ride around the property, take a riding lesson or even learn to drive a carriage. There’s a variety of accommodations to choose from, including quaint cottages, a suite at the Oak Tree Lodge, or if you’re bringing along your own horse, you can stay at the Berry, which is conveniently attached to the horse stable. The on-site restaurant, The Bistro, is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner; plus, there’s a gift shop, coffee shop, museum, salon & spa, and even a church that has service on Sunday mornings, so you’ll never have to leave the resort.
Although the Circle F Dude Ranch in Lake Wales is actually a summer camp for kids aged 6 to 16, they are also open to families on weekends throughout the year. Your experience is every bit a camp experience, complete with staying in a bunkhouse-style cabin, meals at the main lodge, and plenty of outdoor activities. You can decide as a family whether you want a more relaxing, laid-back vacation or a fun, action-packed adventure since they offer everything from fishing and massages to paintball and ziplining. At night time, you can also enjoy hayrides, karaoke, and a campfire with s’mores.
Located in the middle of Florida river country, the Smoakhouse Ranch offers guests a chance to unwind and relax in a beautiful setting. The historic property offers private cabins that feature full kitchens, private bathrooms, central heating and air, an HDTV with DVD player and complimentary Wi-Fi. If you’re looking for a low-key vacation, you can explore the trails, meet the animals, go for a swim or go berry or apple picking. Or, for a little more adventure, the innkeepers will arrange a river trip for you where you can go kayaking, canoeing or tour a dozen of the area’s massive springs. The quaint town of High Springs, known as “Florida’s Antique Capital” is also just a short drive down the road.