Transport yourself to a vast, luxurious west world just hours from Boca
So, you want to channel your inner cowboy/cowgirl, but you’d rather not rough it in the wild? Westgate River Ranch & Resort awaits.
This dude (or dudette) ranch is on 1,700 lush acres in River Ranch, approximately 90 miles south of Orlando and 80 miles east of Tampa. Built on one of the old trails where Florida cowboys herded cattle and moved them into market, Westgate offers visitors a piece of the state’s cowboy history and is a unique experience that can be shared with the whole family or with your friends (it’s a great destination for a girls’ glamping-in-style weekend.)
As you arrive, you are greeted by the concierge, with your itinerary and a smile, and you soon realize you’re not in [enter big city name here] anymore! In fact, you are asked to order your breakfast for your upcoming stay, so they pretty much had me at hello. But, speaking of your itinerary, be advised to schedule your activities in advance before your trip to ensure a spot (especially on the weekends). Activities that require a reservation include trap shooting, airboat rides, horseback riding and the swamp buggy.
Although you and your family can be as active as you like, the overall vibe here on this expansive ranch is tranquil, with a soundtrack of chirping birds worlds away from the bustle of city life. You are surrounded by rustic wooden buildings and cabins—a time warp of the Old West, when life was a lot simpler.
Cows, horses, donkeys and buffalo roam—and there’s even a mechanical bull. In fact, being in the great outdoors was more than just peaceful; it actually became somewhat miraculous as we watched our kids give their streaming services a rest for the weekend.
When it comes to accommodations, Westgate provides everything from cabins, glamping tents and cottages to comfortable campgrounds. However, if you are looking for the ultimate glamping experience, our family (and my inner diva) opted for a Luxe Teepee, a luxurious tricked-out teepee which includes a personal concierge, access to all resort activities, VIP rodeo tickets and seating at the Saturday night rodeo, golf cart transportation, morning coffee service and pastry delivery, and a nightly campfire prepared for your indulgence.
Accommodating up to four guests, the teepees are uniquely themed in Native American style with such comforts as a double-sided stone rock hearth fireplace, a screened private patio deck, microwave, mini refrigerator, leather chairs, king bed and full sleeper sofa. Worried about air conditioning and heating? They have both.
My favorite perk was the heated seat bidet with a drying feature. Before you ask why, just think of it as solace, an instant escape from your kids’ thousands of question—with a five-star upgrade. My fellow moms can appreciate this hidden treasure and will thank me later.
Each teepee comes with a personal golf cart, and though this vehicle is not your noble steed, it will take you where you need to go throughout the property. For kicks and giggles, we continued to call our golf-cart “noble steed” throughout our stay.
After you are all settled in, you’re filled with the feeling of wanting to do absolutely nothing—to be engulfed by this tranquil bliss—AND totally do EVERYTHING to awaken your childhood cowboy and cowgirl. This big-city girl, who hasn’t been camping since childhood, all of a sudden had a hankering for a 10-gallon hat and boots of her own.
When a seaside resort with little umbrella drinks no longer fits the bill, when you are yearning for some old-fashioned family time in the spirit of wide open spaces, you may want to Go West. Between the tranquility, adventure and southern hospitality, Westgate River Ranch & Resort is a must-see destination and Florida treasure.
Must Do Essential Activities:
For a family/kids trip:
- Zipline and rock climb at the adventure park; ride the mechanical bull
- Ride a horse.
- There’s nothing like biking with the wind blowing through your hair, and the peace of mind that you’re not going to get run off the road.
- Archery: Get your “Hunger Games” fix as you aim for a bull’s-eye.
- Arts and crafts projects at the “Kids Corner”
- The Saturday Rodeo features trick riding, barrel racing and bull riding. Little cowpokes can participate in a “calf scramble” where boys and girls try to remove a ribbon from a calf’s tail. The first one to get the ribbon receives a prize!
- Saturday Street Party: Where kids of all ages can sing, dance and compete in games while the energetic DJ entertains the crowd with lively tunes.
For a glamping girls’ trip:
- Relax: Lounge around in the hammocks of the Takoda Village (only if you are staying in the Luxe Teepees).
- Grab your girls and your yoga mats and bike over to the East Corral. It’s the best place to meditate.
- Order a bottle of wine from your luxe concierge, and head over to the nightly bonfire for the ultimate sister circle.
- Get out your frustrations by blasting something to smithereens in trap or skeet shooting.
- Those boots are made for line dancing! Stop by the saloon for a cocktail (or two), grab that belt buckle and get down to the Street Party on Saturday night.