I don’t know if I’m typical of most locals, but I truly knew very little about Tanque Verde Ranch, despite it being located mere minutes from our home, 600 acres of Sonoran Desert at the very eastern end of Speedway Blvd. I had been there only once, years ago, for a lovely wedding (of a certain NW Tucson Macaroni Kid Publisher, in fact), but thought of it generally as a place for weddings and out-of-towners. It didn’t seem to me somewhere locals would frequent, partly because I had heard it was “all-inclusive” (read: Out of my league). I’ve recently learned, however, that over the past few years, Tanque Verde Ranch has started to offer a variety of a la carte options and lower-rate specials in addition to their all-inclusive packages. For Tucson locals, these options are particularly appealing during the summer months, because we don’t have to travel far to have a first class dude ranch experience. My family had the incredible opportunity to find out just how fantastic that dude ranch experience is.
It was hot the afternoon we arrived, so the first thing we did, after checking into our lovely casita that was roughly the size of our first little bungalow in midtown Tucson, was head to the pool. We splashed in the waterfall and floated under the clear blue sky, cooling off and letting the idea of “vacation” sink in. Then, my 6-year-old donned her pink boots and cowgirl hat and my 3-year-old armed herself with a notebook and pen so she could “sketch” the desert landscape, and we headed out to dinner. We walked past the adobe ranch buildings and beautifully landscaped grounds, past the horse corrals and fishing pond, and arrived in a shaded cottonwood grove filled with the sounds of cowboy music and the smell of barbeque. And what a BBQ it was: Steaks, burgers, chicken, hot dogs, corn, beans, greens, mac and cheese, cornbread, watermelon, salads, brownies, and peach cobbler. My little one, who doesn’t typically eat much at all, heaped her plate and went back for seconds. My husband, a bit of a BBQ connoisseur, declared the steak and house BBQ sauce delicious (and he, too, went back for seconds). My older daughter enjoyed the food, but had more fun at the line-dancing lesson that followed, reveling in the
personalized instruction and in dancing with guests from as near as Phoenix and as far away as Sweden.
As the stars came out and we strolled back to our room, my older daughter asked if she might celebrate her birthday at Tanque Verde Ranch, and my younger daughter asked if we could live there. We had only been there 4 hours…the weekend was just beginning, and we were already having the vacation of our lives!
We were fortunate to be offered a two-night all inclusive stay in exchange for this review and promotion of Tanque Verde Ranch, and we jumped at the chance to take advantage of what we thought was a once in a lifetime opportunity. All inclusive packages include three scrumptious meals a day, including the aforementioned BBQ two nights a week and other special meals, like Sunday brunch or the pancake breakfast ride. Guests with the all inclusive pacakage also have full access to all of the amenities, including trail rides and riding lessons, the pool, tennis courts, nature center, fishing pond and the Kids Club for ages 4-12. My 6-year-old enjoyed every minute of the Kids Club, riding, crafting, swimming, and generally having a blast. My 3-year-old was also able to participate in Kids Club activities, including riding horses with a lead line, as long as a parent was present. Guests who need childcare for children under 4 while staying at the ranch can arrange with the staff to have a local nanny service provide care while parents go for an afternoon ride or visit the saloon in the evening, so Tanque Verde Ranch truly is a family vacation, for families with children of all ages.
Whether you choose an all-inclusive stay, a discounted package, or just head out for a trail ride, the staff at Tanque Verde Ranch will do all they can to ensure your experience is everything you’d expect and more. Many of the families we met during our stay were repeat visitors; one single mom from Texas was visiting for the fourth time with her 3 daughters, ages 6-17. She said that once she’d experienced the kids’ club, the horseback riding, the food and the excellent service, she was hooked. Others we talked to felt the same way, one mom from Phoenix was back for her second summer, “The kids have talked about this for a whole year, we had to come back!”
Here are a few other things we learned about Tanque Verde Ranch during our stay:
- There are no TVs in the rooms…and they aren’t necessary! Everyone in our party was so tired after full days of activity, that we fell asleep as soon as our heads hit our pillows. However, there is free Wi Fi, so those addicted to their electronic devices can use them.
- The Kids Club is for children 4-11, but only children 7+ can go on trail rides. My 6-year-old daughter was absolutely content with her horseback riding in the arena, though, and even cheerfully pointed out that it was shadier than the trails. She’s looking forward to returning when she’s 7, however!
- The Daily Kids club runs year round, and local children can “drop in” for a day or a week of the Kids Club experience: Horseback riding, swimming, games, crafts, also breakfast and lunch included. The cost is $75/day and advance reservations are necessary.
- There are week-long overnight camps for children ages 9-16 during the summer. Kids participate in ranch activities and also have off-site field trips to places like the Pima Air & Space Museum, The Desert Museum, even Tombstone! Contact the ranch for more information.
- Thanksgiving is the busiest season; plan to book up to a year in advance. Summer is steady but mellow. Some of the repeat visitors we talked to said they preferred the pace of the ranch during the summer, but that some may prefer the bustling excitement during the cooler months of the year.
- Nearly all Ranch activities are offered a la carte. Want to experience the BBQ in the Cottonwood Grove? Sunday brunch? The Pancake Breakfast Trail Ride? Call the Ranch and ask about what is available!
- Packages such as the “Hi-Yo Silver Getaway” with discounted room rates and buy-one-get-one-free dinner and ranch activities, are great deals for summer staycations!
- Tanque Verde Ranch is at 14301 E. Speedway Blvd. Call 800.234.3833 or visit www.tanqueverderanch.com for more information!
We had a full weekend. My older daughter had spent the whole day in the Kids Club with the other children, riding a horse called “Thunder”, learning about grooming, playing games on the shaded lawn. My younger daughter had spent most of the day in the pool with either her dad or me, but enjoyed visiting with the horses and chasing lizards on the walking trails. We had all hiked up to the “Old Homestead” for an amazing breakfast of pancakes bursting with fresh blueberries and cowboy style eggs. I had spent what was, surprisingly, an incredibly relaxing and invigorating 90 minutes on a horseback walk-ride through the desert. The sun was warm, the horse steady, and the Wrangler leading the ride was full of interesting facts that even a local like myself didn’t know. We saw two deer and several rabbits and enjoyed the spectacular views of the mountains around us and the city of Tucson to the west, so close, but a world away. As I tucked the children into their Murphy beds that night, they were tired but happy. My 6-year-old speculated about the next day…what horse would she ride? Would she meet more friends? My younger daughter looked at me sleepily and murmered, “I wish the whole world was the ranch.”
Our Tanque Verde Ranch experience WAS the staycation of a lifetime, but not once in a lifetime. We had such a wonderful time, that once simply isn’t enough! Luckily, we learned that there are many ways to have the Tanque Verde Ranch experience, and with that knowledge, we will definitely find a way to go back. Already I am looking forward to some summer in the future, when once again, the whole world WILL be the ranch.
Tanque Verde Ranch sponsored this review with a complimentary two night stay. All opinions expressed are my own.