Is your family is ready to explore Florida, like Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon when he searched for the Fountain of Youth? Then head to River Ranch, where a wide variety of adventures are just waiting to be discovered.
Westgate River Ranch
Adventure awaits at Westgate River Ranch, located about an hour south of Orlando on over 1,400 acres of pristine Florida wilderness. In 2013, the ranch underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, so roughing it has never been so easy. Lodging options range from standard guest rooms and spacious two-bedroom cabins to simple campsites with RV hookups and unique glamping campsites. My family selected a cabin and prepared our meals in its full kitchen with supplies purchased from the onsite General Store and Deli. Soaking in the hot tub and sharing stories on the patio’s rocking chairs each evening was a great way to reconnect as a family without having to text to talk. There were Wi-Fi connections, but the ranch encouraged communicating the old-fashioned way, face to face. We especially enjoyed exploring the ranch in an “ours for the weekend” golf cart.
On Saturday nights, cowboys and cowgirls from across the Southeast compete in the Westgate River Ranch Rodeo. Cheering on bull riders and barrel racers as young as seven-years-old was exhilarating! My kids especially enjoyed getting their boots muddy while chasing after a calf in the Calf Scramble competition. They did not capture the ribbon that was tied to the calf’s tail, but they had a blast trying! After the rodeo, cowboys and guests mingled at a dance party outside of the River Ranch Saloon while brave buckaroos took a spin on the mechanical bull. Roasting s’mores on the campfire was thrilling enough for me!
The ranch sat along the Kissimmee River and offered plenty of outdoor activities for everyone to enjoy. One night, we sang along with a cowboy balladeer on a hayride to a tasty cookout. The kids hand-fed Florida Key deer in the petting farm, soared above us on zip lines, tried their hand at archery, mastered skeet shooting, and went fishing. We all enjoyed the horse trail rides and mini golf while the youngest kids loved the pony rides and crafts. Next time, we’ll give the swamp buggy and air-boat rides a whirl!
When adventure worked up an appetite, Westgate Smokehouse Grill serves up delicious barbecue ribs, salads, hearty soups, chili, and more. We liked sitting on the screened-in porch overlooking the Kissimmee River as fishermen cast their lines in hopes of a freshwater prize while lazy alligators floated by and snowy white egrets lounged on the shores. It was like a living postcard!
Disclosure: The author received complimentary lodging and activities at Westgate Ranch. She was not required to state any particular view; all opinions are her own.