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Kids & Family

(BPT) - Planning a trip for 2016? While the beach is warm and a cruise ship is lovely, you've done those trips before. This year you want something unique that will create lasting memories and bring you closer to your family.

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Dude ranch vacation trips gaining popularity

"More people are visiting dude ranches due to the desire to do something out of the ordinary," says Colleen Hodson, from The Dude Ranchers' Association. "These aren't the ranches from 'City Slickers.' High-end ranches across the country average 45 guests. You get to know everyone. By the end, you'll have friendships and memories to last a lifetime, and you will reconnect with your family in a way you never thought possible."

Travelers enjoy getting a taste of the dude ranch experience blended with a heaping serving of other popular vacation-type activities. Today's dude ranches cater to a diverse crowd with attractions, services and things to do that travel far beyond the trail.

"Dude ranches are the original Western adventure vacation," says Colleen Hodson. "Though guest expectations have changed and ranchers have had to change with them, the core principles of dude ranching remain the same: horses, hats, hospitality, heritage, honesty and heart."

In addition to discovering the beauty of nature and gazing into a crackling fire, here are other top reasons dude ranch vacations are a top trend for 2016:

Indulge the taste buds
Home cooked cuisine that oftentimes features ingredients from the ranch brings new meaning to farm-to-table eating. From family-style meals to gourmet al fresco dining, the food is a central part of the dude ranch experience.

Embark on a once-in-a-lifetime adventure
You can learn traditional ranching skills like riding a horse, driving cattle and throwing a lasso, but adventures on a dude ranch don't stop there. Some ranches offer overnight pack trips, rodeos, target shooting, zip lining and white water rafting.

Enjoy exclusive fishing
Casting your line has never been more relaxing than at a dude ranch. The vast acres on these private properties often include secluded rivers and ponds ripe with fish. Forget about battling overcrowded hot spots - the water will be all yours.

Embrace an R&R mindset
While the unique dude ranch activities will keep you busy, there comes a time when cowboys and cowgirls just want a little rest and relaxation. Fortunately, many ranches now offer luxury spa services so you can enjoy a little pampering.

Bond over some friendly competition
Looking for a fun way to connect with your family and other guests? Friendly competition can be found in many forms on dude ranches, from roping contests to talent shows. If lassoing a speeding calf isn't your forte, you can sing, tap or joke your way to local stardom in a talent show.

There are a lot of dude ranches to choose from and The Dude Ranchers' Association can help you find the perfect one to suit your family's unique personality. Visit www.duderanch.org or call 866-399-2339 to work with someone directly to find the dude ranch right for you and your family.

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