An Exclusive Look at Rocking Horse Ranch Resort
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Rocking Horse Ranch – A Beautiful Upstate NY Getaway
In September 2022, my family of seven spent three nights at The Rocking Horse Ranch Resort in upstate New York, a dude-ranch-themed all-inclusive resort specifically geared toward families, but enjoyable for everyone. We went mid-week to take advantage of the lower rates and non-existent crowds. The trees were still green, the mornings were crisp, and the afternoons were warm – the breathtakingly beautiful Upstate NY fall days I love so much. Read on to find out more about Rocking Horse Ranch, as well as whether we’d recommend it for your family’s next getaway.
Rocking Horse Ranch Theming
Rocking Horse Ranch does an impressive job with both theming and decorating the resort. During our stay, they were beginning their “fall fest” and the entry was adorned with a plethora of mums, haybales, cornstalks, and one very adorable one-eyed cat. The entire resort oozes with Southwestern Charm – from the stone accents to the massive fireplace, the carpet, and the main lobby bathrooms. The only place we found untouched by theming was the downstairs locker room and the outdoor pool. I would put the theming on par with something you would expect out of a Disney deluxe resort.
If you’ve read any of my Disney posts, you’ll know that I typically travel in a multi-generational group of seven. My traveling party includes two ‘Boomers, two Millennials, and three little kids aged 1, 3, and 5. This gets a bit complicated as we like to keep our traveling party together but also have separate sleeping spaces. Luckily, the Rocking Horse Ranch has connecting rooms. Prior to our trip, I had read complaints about noise, so I requested two upper-floor rooms in the Main Lodge, as far as possible from the stairs/elevator. They were more than accommodating with this request, and I did not find noise to be an issue. That being said, I always travel with a white noise machine which drowns out most things – including my dad’s insane snoring that sounds more like fighting hippos than a sleeping human.
Lodging Comfort & Cleanliness
The rooms were immaculately themed, with log-style furniture, western bedding, and a small table and chairs. In our particular room, we were able to open the windows and let in the fresh fall air, which was a welcome change from other hotels. Immediately upon entry, each room has a dedicated “mudroom” area with engineered hardwood. All in all, the bedroom area had plenty of space, especially given the amount of time we actually spent in the room. The bathrooms; however, were tight. There was no way to actually get into the bathroom and close the door without an awkward shuffle. To access the bathtub, the door must be closed and to get the door closed, it required stepping next to the toilet. It’s basically like line dancing with a full bladder and sans music. Additionally, there were no stepstools for kids in the bathroom, but the front desk provided one to us upon request.
One feature we really loved about The Rocking Horse Ranch was daily housekeeping. In the era of COVID and environmental awareness, daily housekeeping is often foregone, which is part of the luxury of staying in a hotel. RHR cleaned the bathrooms daily, made the beds, and stocked fresh towels. I’m assuming they also vacuumed while they were in the rooms.
One thing I did not love was the fact that there was carpet throughout the resort. Carpet is disgusting to begin with, and made even more so by the fact that this resort is focused on a dude-ranch experience (read: manure and mud). People tromp around in the mud and muck (and potentially parasites) all-day and then traipse through the resort with their icky shoes. While the horses appear very well cared for, and I can’t say that I saw manure anywhere on site, the reality is pinworms and tapeworms can live in soil and be transferred elsewhere (carpet) and then ingested when a kiddo touches (or crawls) on the floor and then places their hands in their mouth. While none of my kids came home with pinworms, this did give me pause.
At the Rocking Horse Ranch, “all-inclusive” truly means “all inclusive” with the exception of maybe two activities (crafts and gem mining).
Dining at Rocking Horse Ranch
The dining experience at The Rocking Horse Ranch includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a daily happy hour. Upon arrival, you make your dining reservation for dinner in the dining room, and that will be your time for the remainder of the stay. For breakfast and lunch, you basically show up between set hours and help yourself.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style. For breakfast, there are hot offerings, like biscuits and gravy, waffles, sausage, bacon, and eggs, as well as pastries and fruit. My traveling party includes people from both above and below the Mason-Dixon Line, and no one had any complaints about the breakfast selection. Lunch options include a pretty spectacular salad bar, as well as a selection similar to what you’d find at any backyard barbeque – sliders, pasta salads, macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and the like. One of the days we were there, the staff took a morning poll to see who would be up for an outdoor lunch. I was astonished by how quickly they shifted gears and created an absolutely adorable picnic experience. Honestly, I’ve seen wedding venues that haven’t done as well with significantly more notice.
Around 3 or 4 PM, there is a “Chef’s tasting” (location varies, so check at the front desk). The Chef’s Tasting includes various hors d’oeuvres and a daily mixed drink. This was one of our favorites of the day and included things like jalapeno poppers, nachos, fresh vegetables with dip, and seasonally-themed alcoholic beverages. This little snack hour was a great way to fuel up between lunch and dinner.
Dinner is served in the main dining room each evening at your preselected time. The menu rotates and is served a la carte. You can access the daily menu both online and posted outside the dining room. We found that the food was generally quite tasty, and they were able to accommodate our gluten intolerance without much issue; however, I did notice that the staff rotated frequently, and that led to some gaps in the quality of the service. We arrived on a Wednesday and had phenomenal service, but throughout the week, that service definitely waned – one night we waited over an hour for our meal, which was really challenging with very small kids (one of which gets very nauseous and overwhelmed in a restaurant setting). The dining manager was very apologetic and offered us a round of drinks on the house.
A general point of contention among the older members of my traveling party was having to get up for drinks. I didn’t find this as annoying as the older crew did, mostly because it gave my kids a reason and opportunity to stretch their legs and try something different.
While The Rocking Horse Ranch definitely focuses on horseback riding as a main activity, there are plenty of activities for the non-riders among us. There’s an indoor and outdoor pool, sauna, bungee jumpers, mini golf, mountain tubing, paddle boats, an amazing playground, shuffleboard, nature trails, bocce court, and even bonfires with live music and s’mores. Of course, this is not the entire list of activities offered at Rocking Horse Ranch and you can visit their website to see if there’s something that piques your interest. We definitely were not bored during our time there, but one day it rained and we did find it challenging to find anything to do other than the pool. Because we went midweek, the only other indoor activity (craft area) was closed. My kids love swimming as much as the next, but my middle is extremely sensitive to chilly temperatures, so a full day of swimming isn’t usually in the cards for us.
While we were there, we spent the most time at the playground, miniature golf, the bungee trampolines, the pool, and mountain tubing. The playground is incredible – there’s the main (gigantic) play structure, but also a smaller structure for toddlers, an inground sandbox (genius), and a merry-go-round! At the time, our kids were 14 months, 3, and 5.5 years old. While I’m definitely not a helicopter mom, I also wasn’t comfortable letting the smaller ones climb the larger structure solo. The obvious solution to this was for my husband and me to get in on the action, and we had a blast!
The swimming situation is pretty magnificent. There’s an outdoor pool, the most oversized hot tub I’ve ever seen (El Dorado Hot Springs), an indoor pool, and an indoor splash pad. The outdoor pool is beautiful, clean, and features multiple slides (for both little and bigs), as well as a beach entry. We only braved the outdoor pool once because the air temperature was definitely crisp while we were there, but the pool water is heated and very warm! I actually took my toddler in and she was quite content until she scraped herself the bottom of the pool. Similarly, the indoor pool and splash pad were a big hit with my crew. While it was under construction while we were there, we were still able to access and enjoy it. Surprisingly enough, my kids were having such a good time they didn’t even notice the construction (normally they request ear protection).
Of course, not everything is perfect and I couldn’t give an authentic review without calling out weirdness where I see it. First things first, the main section of the pool, while awesome, is located right off the main lobby – with gigantic windows for everyone to see. There’s no place for an insecure body image, here. Secondly, the location of the locker room. The locker room is downstairs, then you have to basically strut around the pool complex to get to your desired destination. The whole thing felt a bit strange to me. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s the only piece of the hotel that is untouched by theming, and looks more like a basement than part of the resort, or that there is basically no way anyone would hear you call for help in an emergency. Either way, I did not want to go down there alone, let’s just leave it at that.
For the most part, the staff really went out of their way to accommodate guests and ensure everyone was having a great experience – going so far as to take votes to open the indoor pool on a rainy day and host an outdoor barbeque on a picturesque fall afternoon. I’m not sure if this was due to the fact that we went mid-week or if this was representative of the experience as a whole. I did notice that as the weekend drew near, the staff seemed more frazzled. I’m hoping to go back during a higher volume week to suss this out further. The dining manager was very accommodating of our need to switch table locations (one of our kids gets overwhelmed by the smells), and one of the activity managers, Allison, went above and beyond to make sure our girls were comfortable getting on the bungee trampoline. In fact, they’re typically very shy and were requesting her by name by the end of our trip.