This week we are sharing travel stories from Alberta, a Canadian province full of culture, history and community. If you want to meet a Canadian cowboy, head to Alberta! If you want to become a cowboy or girl, well you can in Alberta. Here is my article, for The Toronto Star, highlighting Alberta ranch vacations that offer families just this experience. You can read the original article here.
A trip out to Alberta without a horse would be akin to visiting New Orleans and skipping the beignets. Cowboys aren’t just the stuff of storybook legends here; they’re the real, rough and tumble hardworking deal.
And, if you’re lucky, they’re also your hosts; Alberta ranch vacations offer families the chance to get as hands on as they can handle. Grab the reigns alongside your kids at one of these three spots for a ranch experience to remember!
What: Full immersion in the experience of being in a Wild West town at a working ranch.
Where: 18 km. north of Lundbreck, Alberta, off the Hwy. 22 Cowboy trail. Owner, Randy Donahue, has been ranching on this spot since 1979. He and wife Ginny added to their guest offerings when they built their own Wild West town on site. “Cowtown,” a one-street replica of a frontier town, completes what you likely imagined a dude ranch to be. Thanks to a combination of a Longhorn Saloon (meeting house), a cantina (commercial kitchen) and three bunkhouses, larger groups can now experience the ranch together.
The personality: Ditch your ties and suits and put on your bandanas and blue jeans; your city-slicker days are behind you.
The sleep: Log Cabins set on the bank of Todd Creek range in size, sleep from four to seven people and offer a range of self-catering amenities.
Your day: Sign up for cattle drives, trail rides, cattle-sorting and more. Gymkhana events — special games with horses — round out the offerings.
Extra special: Plan a family reunion of 30 or more and book a Cowboy Chuckwagon Cookout! You’ll take the Cowboy Trail (Hwy. 22) from Calgary, then stop at Sierra West for a cowboy feast and lasso lessons. ($45 per person, based on a minimum of 30 guests.)
What: Authentic farm stay on a family-owned working ranch established in 1881.
Where: 4,000 acres of land in the Porcupine Hills south of Calgary. Wayne and Judy Lucas play host to guests on the land where they’ve raised their four children. You’ll also find elk, deer, Texas longhorns, cattle, and ,of course, horses, on your travels around the area.
The personality: True grit. Cattle drivers can expect to be up on the horse all day, every day, during an intensive one-week experience. If you don’t fall into bed tired, you haven’t lived the day to the fullest.
The sleep: Your family will be comfortable in a two-bedroom log cabin with a Queen bed in each, and an upstairs loft with double futon. Completely self-contained, the cabin boasts a kitchen and two bathrooms.
Your days: Saddle up! You won’t be able to participate in a cattle drive, unless you can spend a full day in the saddle. This isn’t a pony ride; only experienced riders will be able to participate. Play a game of Horseshoes! Try your hand at roping!
Extra special: You’ll be able to access wi-fi out here if you need it, but with no cellphone coverage, you’re able to step off the grid.
What: Luxury B. & B. and cabin rentals
Where: One hour east of Calgary in Strathmore. Views of Eagle Lake and the Rocky Mountains.
The personality: A soft landing and cowboy spirit.
The sleep: You’ll sleep well on top count linens and comfy beds, especially after you’ve had a massage at the spa. The self-catering bunkhouse cabin has two bedrooms, a kitchen and a large deck which has an outdoor grill.
Your days: Start with a two-course gourmet breakfast delivered to your cabin, before you spend the day learning about horses, riding through Kananaskis country, enjoying wagon rides and exploring the plains. Those who prefer to hike or soak up the sun and atmosphere are welcome here.
Extra special: Sign up for the three-day Equestrian Adventure (minimum age is 12) and you’ll be well fed as you spend your day riding and pass the evenings around a campfire roasting marshmallows and studying the stars before you go to sleep in tents and camp cots.