Big-city life can be draining. It’s easy to feel like Billy Crystal’s character in “City Slickers” and decide that the best way to escape is to get as far removed from the trappings of civilization and technology as possible. As the cinematic city slicker discovered, a dude ranch — or guest ranch — may be the perfect way to recharge the internal battery. Check out Houston’s best dude ranches next time you are in the market for a vacation.

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Price: adults, from $135 per person per night/$99 children age 6 to 11/$79 children age 3 to 5/free children age 2 and younger/minimum stay requirements may apply/weekly rates available
Hours: online reservations available, 24/7

Head 10 miles northwest of Bandera in the Texas Hill Country to this family owned ranch to saddle up for cattle roundups, trail riding, hayrides and gatherings around a campfire. Learn to lasso from experienced cowboys and ranch hands. Families are welcomed, but corporate and church groups come here to bond as well. Shed pounds and get into shape at the ranch’s fitness camp, led by certified instructors who take guests on guided hikes, and hold classes in water aerobics, yoga, pilates and weight training. Half-day and full-day visits are also offered for time-crunched travelers.

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Price: $325 to $500 per room per night (two-night minimum stay on weekends and three-night minimums on weekdays)/spring break packages available
Hours: online reservations available, 24/7

This ranch is a 30,000-acre spread nestled in the heart of the scenic Big Bend in west Texas. It takes several days to take in the surroundings, which includes a 125-foot waterfall that cascades from volcanic cliffs. The entire setting hearkens back to the old wild West. Featuring three forts built during the 1850s, this historic site has been fully restored and is home to several indigenous animals to the region, including a herd of longhorn cattle and American bison. The restored forts now house guest rooms and suites that capture the essence of the wild West with all the amenities of the 21st century. Travelers may take advantage of the pool or hot tub for relaxation. Other activities include Humvee tours of the spacious property, paddle boating on the lake, fishing, bird watching, mountain biking and hiking. ATV tours are offered to anyone 16 or older with a valid driver’s license. The McDonald Observatory at Fort Davis is nearby, and this ranch offers guests the opportunity to look for the famous marfa lights.

Related: Best City Escapes from Houston

Price: adults, from $155 per person per night/$80 children up to 12 years old/$100 children 12 to 17 years old/two-night minimum stay requirement.
Hours: reservations online, 24/7;
No arrivals or departures Mon or Sat in the summer

Start the day with a morning trail ride to a breakfast cookout before hitting the trail on horseback to see the hill country scenery. The Medina River winds through the 340-acre spread and is perfect for tubing or fishing the afternoon away. Spend time soaking in the Texas-sized swimming pool or join in contests and activities led by the ranch hands. In the evenings, the cook rustles up feasts that feature Texas barbecue brisket and ribs before the entertainment — live music, country dancing, a musical play or even fireworks displays — begins.

Related: Fun Texas Weekend Getaways

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Price: room rates from $159 per night/individual fees for amenities and activities (including horseback riding, golf, water park entry and putt-putt golf) are not included in the cost of accommodations
Hours: online reservations available 24/7

Get away from the trappings of the city without participating in a cattle drive. This ranch resort offers travelers a taste of life on the open range, but also many amenities of a traditional resort vacation. Choose horseback riding along the river bed or tee it up on the 18-hole golf course. Kids may search for arrowheads, create great arts and crafts, or take part in the ranch’s junior cowboy olympics. And the entire family will love the western-themed water park or a round of putt-putt golf. Bunkhouse rooms, suites and one or two-bedroom villas accommodate any size group. The havens of Kerrville and Fredericksburg are within reasonable driving distance for an afternoon of shopping or strolling the town square.

Price: room rates from $110 per night/cabin rates from $130 per night with all-inclusive packages from $160 per person per night (two-night minimum stay required)/RV park rates from $25 per night with all-inclusive packages from $145 per person per night.
Hours: online reservations available 24/7

RV travelers are as welcome as any tenderfoot staying in one of the ranch’s cabins. This spread, known to locals as the 2E, is home to the Twin Elm Rodeo, where guests may see bull riding, calf roping, barrel racing and calf scrambles, among other traditional rodeo events on Friday nights. There are plenty of other activities to fill up the rest of the week too. Go tubing, canoeing or kayaking along the Medina River, or take to the trail on horseback before finishing the afternoon in the ranch’s swimming pool. All-inclusive vacation packages provide lodging, amenities and three meals a day.

Lonnie King is a freelance writer living in Houston. His work can be found at

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