Family vacations are so important, for making memories and experiencing new things together, but if I'm being honest, as a mother of 3 small children, they sometimes don't quite feel like vacation to me. I just kinda feel like I'm parenting in another location, and deserve a vacation after coming back from the vacation! But this past weekend, we found the answer to our vacation woes. A super duper family-friendly ALL-INCLUSIVE resort near NYC that includes, wait for it, CHILD CARE!!! This amazing place is none other than Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, New York, just a quick 2 hour drive north from New York City (or hop on Amtrak and they'll have a shuttle pick you up from the station!).
Full disclosure, we were provided our stay free of charge in exchange for our review and promotion. But don't worry, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own and completely unbiased - I'm no sell out!!!
Watch our fun video here and keep reading for details on the Rocking Horse Ranch accommodations, activities, food, and more!!
The main grounds of Rocking Horse Ranch are pretty compact, which made everything super convenient! Our room was located in the Main Lodge and we could get to the pool, dining room, arcade, and theater without going outside! And it was just a quick walk outside to the other areas including the playground, stables, day care, fun barn, etc.
They have rooms accommodating 4 - 6 people. We got the "Main Lodge AA" room for 6 people, which included 2 queen beds and a bunk bed, which my kids were over the moon for!!! Our 5 year old took the top bunk (which has built in rails) and our 3 year old twins shared the bottom bunk (I simply pulled 2 wooden chairs over to use as a makeshift rail and it worked like a charm. But frankly, everyone was so exhausted after a full day on the ranch that they crashed quickly and slept like the dead. The room was spacious and included a TV, fridge, shower/bath, toilet, 2 sinks, coffee table, dresser, and tons of hanging / storage space.
The room, like the entire hotel, had a fun ranch / cowboy / Wild West theme, and seemed newly renovated. Everything was in immaculate condition, super clean, and honestly impressed the heck out of me!
As you would expect at an all-inclusive resort, all meals were included. Breakfast and Lunch were buffet style, and dinner was sit down and order off the menu, however there was no limit on how much you could order. On your first day, you must make a dinner reservation and that same time will remain your dinner time for your entire stay. We struggled with what time to sign up for, not wanting it to cut into our fun activities and also not make us rushed to get to the 8pm nightly entertainment! We settled on 6:30PM and it was perfect. The dining area itself, just like the rest of the hotel, has a beautifully decorated rustic cowboy type theme, complete with dozens of antler chandeliers, views of the surrounding forest, and a gorgeous fireplace (bring your cameras, this is one of the many great spots in the hotel for some family photos)!
Breakfast was delicious, featuring eggs, pancakes, french toasts with strawberries, bacon, eggs, danishes, oatmeal and yogurt stations, tons of fresh fruit and individual cereal boxes, bagels, etc. You can also order eggs anyway you like, we got a bacon and cheese omelet that was ah-may-zing (be sure to scroll through the food gallery above)!!
Lunch had some standards like hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and DIY sandwiches, pastas, make-your-own bar like tacos, sloppy joes, etc. The fun part about lunch is the Character meet-and-greet. Even though they weren't well-known characters from TV, our kids were so excited to hug and high-five Betsy the Horse, a Prospector, and a Cowboy (see below)!
Dinner consisted of a soup, a salad, 2 appetizers, 6 or so main dishes, and 2 sides. Menus of all meals are posted before each meal outside the dining room, just in case you want to go over it before sitting down at the table, which can be a crazy time for families like mine! You could order as much as you wanted, and even order basics not on the menu that might be more picky-kid-friendly, pizza for example. As hard as it is with all that endless food to devouer, I encourage you to SAVE ROOM FOR DESSERT because they have a to-die-for selection of pies, as well as soft serve ice cream sundae bar, cookies, etc. YUMMMMMMM!!!!!
There are two self-serve drink bars in the dining room, with all kinds of sodas, whole milk, chocolate milk, water, and flavored waters. A separate server comes around in case you want to order alcohol at dinner, which is not included. There is also a 24-hour coffee / hot chocolate / pastry station located in one of the common areas near the lobby - all free, of course!
At Rocking Horse Ranch, child care (or "day camp" if you prefer) is free of charge for ages 3 - 12, and $12 per hour per child under the age of 3! No reservations needed, just drop-in between 9am - 5pm and pick them back up whenever! Use as long or as often as needed during your stay! It was SO AMAZING, I don't ever want to go on "vacation" again without a child care option LOL! Not only was it great to get some (free) alone time with my husband, but the kids LOVED it there! They actually begged to go back!! They have 2 rooms, one for ages 0-5, and one for ages 6-12. They have tons of age-appropriate activities in the rooms, but they also give the kids the option to go on trips outside to the various activities. They took our kids moon jumping, to see the animals, to the play ground, etc!
PONY RIDES & HORSE BACK RIDING:
Now, it wouldn't be a RANCH without some horses and other animals, and they are certainly in abundance here! With over 100 horses to ride, they're able to guarantee a free daily trail ride to every guest (must be 48" and above, under 48" can take pony rides). You'll need to select a time (same daily) for your ride, but you can also get extra rides waiting standby at other ride times. We met some girls who were riding 3 times a day! They accommodate any level, from first-time beginners (like us) to intermediate (walk-trot) and advanced (walk-trot-canter). You can attend a demonstration to learn more about the horses, the stable, and how to ride, or you can wing it as we did - the staff will give you a 30-second instruction about how to hold the reins and control the horse, and then you're on your own to keep your horse in check as you head out with a group on your 45 minute trail ride.
I'm not gonna lie, I was rather terrified. Those horses are huge and while they're tame and more or less know what to do because they do the same trail ride several times a day, you had to be careful not to let your horse get too close to the next horse or else they might spook each other or bite or whatever, oh my gosh it was very nerve wracking for me. There are wranglers riding along with the group though, and they gallop over to come to help out within a few seconds (nothing major happened on our ride, just a few horses got out of line to munch on some grass and occasionally a rider needed help getting back in line). I'm very proud of myself that I did it, despite my fear, but we decided not to go back for a second ride haha! My sore butt thanked me.
Our kids, on the other hand, were absolutely in love with their pony rides!! The last time Emi had a chance to ride, a year ago at 2 years old, she was so petrified she wouldn't even touch the horse. But this time, she was so happy to be up on that pony. All of them were. And my heart nearly exploded with the cuteness of it all!!!
Rocking Horse Ranch has a great indoor water park area with a big pool in the lower section (with a fun bobbing platform area to walk across), a nice splash area for the younger crowd in the upper section (with 1 small and 2 medium sized slides), and a MONSTER of a water slide for the older kids and adults. That slide is 250 feet long, and let me warn you, you go FAST!!! It is really really fun!!! I was shocked my 5 year old was brave enough to go it alone, but he did and he loved it, rode it about 5 times during our stay!!
The water and air temperatures in there are kept at a balmy 85 degrees fahrenheit, so no chills to worry about, and they also have great life jackets for the kids to wear (for 30-50 pounds). Down one flight of stairs (which isn't kept as warm, so you'll need to dry off or bundle up) you'll find bathrooms, showers, changing rooms, and saunas. Or you can run through the hallways from your room to the pool in your bathing suits, as we did haha!
ACTIVITIES, ANIMALS, & ENTERTAINMENT:
No matter your age or interest, you will find plenty to do at Rocking Horse Ranch, and nearly all of it is free of charge for guests (the only things I ran across that cost extra were alcohol, arcade games, and mining camp, but anything that costs extra will be noted so on the daily activity guides).
In the indoor Fun Barn (pictured above) you'll find a bouncy house, large jungle gym with lots of foam ball shooting devices, badminton, ping pong, and electric rock climbing. Outside of that, you'll find 3 moon jumping trampolines (pictured below) and a rock climbing platform.
Near the stables, you'll find an enormous playground (pictured above), indoor BB shooting range & archery, Highland Cattle, zebra, camel, pigs, donkeys, and goats. You can watch a silversmith make horse shoes (they have over 100 horses, each needing new shoes every 6-8 weeks - be sure to watch our video to see them putting new shoes on a horse, it's fascinating!!).
Our favorite activity was definitely the mountain tubing. They have a "Magic Carpet Lift" that brings you and your tubes up, and fly down down the huge hill at super speed!!! You cannot double up in one tube, but even our 3 year olds were fine riding solo. Sometimes they'll let you go double with 2 tubes (1 person in each) and 1 person holding the leash of the other tube. We enjoyed that as well. At night they light it up in fun colors and it brings it to a whole new level of fun!
Inside the main lodge, in the basement, you'll find the Lucky Horseshoe Arcade with pay-to-play machines as well as 2 lanes of free mini bowling, and a fun interactive floor game.
Down the hall from the arcade, you'll find the Silverado Saloon where they have daily activities such as scavenger hunts, trivia games and nightly live entertainment (we saw a great magician there).
In the summer they have more outdoor activities open up including an outdoor pool and water slide, and in winter they have snow tubing and skiing! They also have a softball field, tennis courts, horseshoe pitching, basketball courts, shuffleboard courts, horse-drawn wagon or sleigh rides, and you can take a shuttle to a golf course and the Walkway Across the Hudson!
Seasonal, of course, they make a killer haunted house, with nighttime tours as well as "not as scary" (but still super creepy and gross) day time behind the scenes tours, which my husband and I thoroughly enjoyed. They tell you how they made it, how they mange from above the crowds, use trap doors etc. Be sure to watch my video for some of the cool behind the scenes tour!
So there you have it, our family vacation at Rocking Horse Ranch in a big amazingly fun nutshell!! I'm not going to sugar coat it, this is not a low-budget vacation. But you can find deals and make a splurge, because honestly, it's SO worth it!!! Prices I've seen on their booking page range from about $349 - $979 per room per night, but don't forget, this includes EVERYTHING during your stay!
What do you think?? Is this on your list of places to visit? Have you been before? Have another place to recommend for us to try out? Be sure to head on over to our great FAMILY-FRIENDLY DAY TRIPS & WEEKEND GETAWAYS FROM NYC page for some other great destinations!!
I'm a NYC metro area mom blogger living in NJ with my Japanese husband & our 3 kids (twins plus 1), focusing on fun and honest product and travel reviews, saving moms time finding the best for their families! Find what you need in the menu bar or search section above!