One of the most coveted perks at Travelzoo is the Travelzoo Experience, in which Deal Experts and other employees take advantage of the same travel, entertainment and local deals we publish to our subscribers and report back on their experience.
I am an avid rider and have loved horses ever since I was a child. Mix riding with white-water rafting, and you have created my dream adventure vacation! When the French Broad River Dude Ranch deal landed in my in-box thanks to the Top 20, I had to snag it.
Thanks to our GPS, we took a few unnecessary detours on the Tennessee roads, but we found the lodge at the end of a long gravel road on more than 300 acres of private land away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The property offered breathtaking views of the hillside, horses and river below.
Although it looks sparse from the outside, the dude ranch lodging and facilities were spacious, clean, and right out of an old Western movie. The bathrooms were up-to-date, air conditioning in each room, and porches on every floor. The lodge was tucked neatly into the side of a mountain. In addition to the large mess hall and saloon, there was a large rec room that had pool and air hockey. There was even a small pool to lay out at during the down time!
When we arrived Wednesday night, we were served an abundant meal including pork, potatoes, beans, biscuits, and a hearty dessert. There were three full meals served a day at very prompt times, just like on a ranch: 8 a.m., 12:30 p.m., and 6 p.m. Ten minutes before each meal the staff rang the dinner bell so the two wranglers would know it was time to finish up their work. After dinner we got started on our first horse lesson down at the corral.
During our stay at the ranch we embarked on two horseback rides a day. This ranch is excellent for families and beginner riders. The best things about the rides were each trail was different, and we were given the opportunity to saddle up our own horses. Because we visited in warm-weather months, we took an exciting white-water rafting trip on the Nolichucky River. This is a great family-friendly river with Class II and III rapids. Transportation and lunch was provided by the ranch.
Staying there: The French Broad River Dude Ranch has discounted stays by 55% to $179 per person for two-night visits with Friday arrivals Jan. 18 - Feb. 22. Or for $219 per person arrive on Tuesdays or Fridays for two-night stays March-April, regularly $450. These prices are based on double occupancy.