THE WESTERN EXPERIENCE IN TEXAS
Visitors to Texas are often eager to replicate the cowboy/girl lifestyle so intrinsic to the heart of Texan culture. Since the late 19th century, the American cowboy has been a figure of special significance, and cowgirls have gained similar respect for their roles and achievements. Specific to Texas, the post-Civil War vaquero culture was integrated with the cattle herding traditions, resulting in this cultural character and long-standing way of life. Thanks to a variety of guest and dude ranches, historic districts, entertainment venues, rodeos and excursions, visitors can easily slip into the boots of this heroic figure.
Travelers can experience the authentic cowboy lifestyle by trading in their suits and ties for jeans and boots, and visiting one of the 100 plus guest and dude ranches Texas has to offer. Experienced cowboys lead groups on overnight trail rides and horseback riding adventures; families can spend the days saddled up, followed by evenings enjoying traditional cowboy fare cooked outdoors fireside beneath a sky full of stars - uninterrupted by big city lights. For a more adventurous trip, experienced riders can participate in authentic cattle drives rounding up herds of cattle across vast open ranges. Learn the origins, history and importance of herding while learning how to sort and pen. In West Texas, the semiannual Longhorn Cattle Drive takes place each spring and fall in Big Bend Ranch State Park. For three days, guests can experience life on a working ranch by driving the longhorns from the rugged country to ranch headquarters. It is certain that visitors will leave with a healthy respect for the cowboy lifestyle and, more importantly, feeling like “The Duke” – as if they are riding straight out of the Hollywood movies.
These guest ranches offer many attractions for the cowboys and cowgirls-in-training as well. Swimming pools, water slides, canoeing and horseback riding lessons are offered at most across the state making them both kid and family friendly. Additionally, for the lower key cowboy, bird and wildlife watching are popular attractions that surely won’t disappoint! Grab a pair of hiking boots and a walking stick and hit the trails to observe the many species native to the Texas.
Nestled in the heart of some of the most scenic areas of Texas, many of the ranches are easily accessible from urban centers. Just southwest of Houston, George Ranch is a working ranch featuring historic homes, costumed presenters and hands-on activities. And in Kingsville – located along the coast between Corpus Christi and Brownsville - King Ranch is one of the world’s largest ranches featuring guided tours to illustrate the history and modern day workings of the ranch. Ninety miles northwest of Fort Worth, Graham is home to the Wildcatter Ranch, which takes in 1,500 acres and offers the perfect escape for adventure-seeking families. More centrally located in the Texas Hill Country, the small town of Bandera is known as “The Cowboy Capital of the World.” Modern-day visitors can experience this town’s strong rodeo tradition by staying at one of the Bandera County dude ranches, where horseback excursions and chuckwagon meals are still the norm. For a night in town, unwind the Old West way by enjoying the live music at one of the local honky-tonks.
In the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, cosmopolitan cowboy meets Wild West with a host of sights and activities. In Dallas, Pioneer Plaza houses the world’s largest bronze monument, displaying 40 Texas longhorn steer being driven by three cowboys on horseback, a celebration of the trails that led cattle to markets. Nearby, the historic West End Entertainment District offers specialty shops and the area’s most famous steakhouses and saloons, including Gilley’s Dallas, which features the mechanical bull from the legendary Hollywood movie “Urban Cowboy.”
From a cultural perspective, the city of Fort Worth – known for cowboys and culture – features some of the country’s best museums of the American West, such as the Sid Richardson Museum, Amon Carter Museum and The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. In conjunction with the latter, Cowgirl University (www.cowgirlu.net) is a series of hands-on workshops, classes, retreats and demonstrations dedicated to sharing the Western lifestyle with a broad audience. Sundance Square offers additional museums, art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. The Old West comes to life in the Stockyards National Historic District with the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive, known as the Fort Worth Herd, and on weekends, the Stockyards Championship Rodeo. No trip to Fort Worth is complete without a visit to the world’s largest honky tonk, Billy Bob’s Texas, named "Country Music Club of the Year" eight times by the Academy of Country Music and three times by the Country Music Association.
Miles from the metroplex, more than 100 Texas guest and dude ranches welcome guests to experience the Lone Star lifestyle. Guests can explore the landscape via horseback and ATV rides, canoeing, mountain biking, birding, star gazing, fishing, hay rides, cookouts, overnight trail rides, steer roping, line dancing, cowboy breakfasts, fossil digging, river tubing and even water slides. Just southwest of Houston, George Ranch is a working ranch featuring historic homes, costumed presenters and hands-on activities. Ninety miles northwest of Fort Worth, Wildcatter Ranch in Graham takes in 1,500 acres of North Texas hill country and is the perfect posh escape for adventure-seeking families or romance-seeking couples. And in Kingsville – located between Corpus Christi and Brownsville – King Ranch is one of the world’s largest working ranches and features guided tours to illustrate the history and modern day workings of the historic ranch.
In the Texas Hill Country, the small town of Bandera is known as “The Cowboy Capital of the World.” Modern-day visitors can experience this town’s strong rodeo tradition by staying at one of the Bandera County dude ranches, where horseback excursions and chuckwagon meals are still the norm. For a night in town, unwind the old West way by enjoying the live music at one of the local honky-tonks, where friendly locals will ensure visitors are not only entertained but a part of the entertainment, too!
In the spring and summer months, rodeo season is in full swing across the Lone Star State. Visitors come from across the country to enjoy this Western tradition, filled with sights, sounds, scents, tastes and experiences. With high stakes professional roping and riding, concert performances, carnivals, barbecue cook-offs, live auctions, trail rides and more, rodeos offer something for everyone. Annual events include the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo, San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo, Austin’s Star of Texas Rodeo, the series of Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association (CPRA) events in Corsicana, Hitchcock, Huntsville, Katy, Madisonville and George West, the West of the Pecos Rodeo, the Tri-State Fair and Rodeo in Amarillo and the Southwestern International PRCA Rodeo in El Paso.
Dust off the boots, grab a cowboy hat, and hit the trails for an unrivalled Texas experience, where the Wild West meets the cosmopolitan cowboy in an unforgettable way. Learn more about Texas guest and dude ranches at www.TravelTex.com
, and get ready to embrace the classic American hero who is an amalgamation of cultures – the cowboy.