From beaches to theme parks to cattle ranches, all things are possible in Florida. I recently took a weekend getaway to Westgate River Ranch, where I learned things about myself I never knew. It was a trip of firsts for sure.
The resort, located in River Ranch, Florida, is about an hour from Orlando, but it is a change of scenery for sure. I love Orlando for all it has to offer, but sometimes it is nice to just escape into the wilderness. Ok, I know this is not technically wilderness, but it seemed pretty close. The vast landscape is free to roaming animals, large oaks and a wide variety of activities that will keep you occupied all weekend long. And we tried them ALL.
We arrived on Friday night. After finding our cabin, we made our way to the Saloon where the dance floor was filled with what looked like professional line dancers. My friends and I tried to keep up, but learning the steps was going to take some time. We took a break, drank out of our nifty boot mugs and went outside to the bonfire to make s’mores. Can you believe that was my first time making “real” s’mores. I was beyond thrilled. They didn’t taste anything like the poptarts. They were so good a little kid snuck up behind us and tried to steal my marshmallows…I wasn’t having any of that. First night was a success.
The next day we woke up and had breakfast at Smokehouse Grill on property. Yum! They had so much to offer, but I personally loved the omelet station. After we were completely full, we began the day with a Swamp Buggy ride. It was a little bump…bump…bumpy, but it was nice to drive along the trails of the ranch. It is a great way to see the land and natural wildlife like cattle, horses, birds and even buffalo. After the bumpy swamp buggy ride we smoothly glided across the water on an airboat ride where despite the clouds we were able to spot several gators. I’ve been on my fair share of airboat rides, but this one was completely unique with so many twists and turns through the various canals of Lake Kissimmee. The great thing about airboats, as I mentioned before, is that they just glide along the surface of the water so we were skimming over vegetation as we made our way into the natural wilderness. There I go with wilderness again, but it is true, there is nothing around but vibrant green foliage and wildlife. It is also so quiet and peaceful. As the wind blew in my face, gators and birds were diving under our airboat (unharmed of course) and I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. Did you know, you can take an airboat from Westgate River Ranch all the way to Miami. I was so ready to persuade our captain to take that path because I didn’t want it to end.
The day wasn’t over yet, nope not even close. Next up…archery. I’m a real Katniss (from the Hunger Games). Made bullseye on my first try. And once you make bullseye you have to try try again. The thing I loved most about River Ranch is that it was not like the theme parks at all. There was no waiting in long lines for various activities or being rushed. They let us take as much time as we wanted and I took advantage of that. I shot arrows until I got a blister, ouch! After all that action it was time for a nap. It was so nice being able to go back to the cabin and just relax on the comfy leather sofas or play a card game or two. We didn’t have anywhere to be until 5 o’clock so we all rested a bit and then took our own tour of the property, even checking out the new Glamping tents. With tents like those even I would be willing to try camping. Come on…electricity, a king bed and your own private bathroom…I could do it. That’s my next challenge.
Our 5 o’clock agenda item was a hayride through the property. It just felt like we were in another world. Everyone was so cheerful as we sang country songs along the way. I could feel myself becoming a country girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love love love country music, I’ve been to several country concerts and I watch the CMA’s every year, but this was a brand new experience for me and I was loving it. There was just one thing…well two things missing, a pair of cowboy boots. Luckily there was a general store on property, so my friend and I decided to splurge and get our very own pair of cowboy boots, my first pair!! And, I had the perfect place to wear them. The Rodeo!
I was absolutely amazed at how dramatically entertaining the whole event was. It was my first rodeo but hopefully not my last.
The rest of the night we played. We tried our hand at all the activities available. We made s’mores, again. Danced the night away on the outdoor dance floor. Learned some new line dances. Rode the mechanical bull. Ziplined. Climbed the rock wall (I made it to the top twice!! and my poor fiance didn’t even make it up once 🙁 )
I was having so much fun I never wanted it to end. But we still had one more day.
Our final day began with Skeet Shooting. I had never held a gun in my life and never realized how heavy shotguns were. I didn’t have much faith in myself. How was I supposed to hit a moving target shooting into the sky several feet in front of me. Um, yeah, I wasn’t counting on doing very well. My friend Alisha was the first one up. Bam! She hit her first skeet!!! I was pretty amazed, but still didn’t see myself having such luck. Well, I surprised myself and actually hit about 14 out of the 30 targets. I was quite proud. My fiance- 0 out of 30 and my friend’s boyfriend maybe about 5 out of 30. Girls definitely ruled that round.
Don’t I look like a natural?
We ended the day, and the trip, with horseback riding. Again, I was a natural. Who knew I was such an outdoor girl? I guess Westgate River Ranch just brought it out in me. It was one of the most amazing weekends of my life. Great company and great scenery, what more can you ask for?
I can’t wait to go back!!
For a listing of all their activities available visit Westgate River Ranch It’s a great getaway for friends as well as families.
For more on my travels, follow me on Twitter @EllieSiegel29