Last year at Christmas, my Mom presented us with our gift, it was an envelope that contained the map for the Mayan Dude Ranch. She proceeded to inform us that she had booked a five day adventure for all of us (our family, my sister’s family and my mom) at the Mayan for Thanksgiving. Tami and I were skeptical, Mackenzie’s head exploded at the thought of five whole days on a horse. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we booked our flights and rental car, and in November we headed to west Texas for five, really awesome, days on a dude ranch.
The Mayan Dude Ranch is a family-owned and operated dude ranch. It has been owned by the Hicks family since 1954 and most of the staff is family. It is located about an hour northwest of San Antonio, TX in the small community of Bandera, TX. It is an all-inclusive facility. All of your meals and beverages are included in your daily rate, along with your lodging. Most of the rooms are small cabins that can hold anywhere from 2 to 6 people. They do have some “hotel” style rooms as well. The ranch provides each guest the opportunity for three horse rides a day. You can participate in the breakfast ride, and then one morning ride and one afternoon ride. The horse rides and all of the daily activities are also part of your all-inclusive rate. It is important to note, while it is all-inclusive, they cook ONE option for each meal, and the only “adult” drinks they provide are beer and wine. It is not restaurant style, so there is no menu to choose from. The rooms do not have kitchens, so if you aren’t a fan of good, hearty, Homestyle cooking, you’ll struggle with the food. Town is a short 10 minute drive, so you can buy snacks or visit a local restaurant if you need a different option.
The Room: We loved our room. It was a two bedroom “cottage”. It was obviously one of the original buildings on the ranch, but it was incredibly well kept and clean. It did have a small refrigerator and microwave (this was a lifesaver). The beds were relatively comfortable, the shower was good (Tami says this is important), and each room was air conditioned. We were surprised to see that the cottage had television. We thought that was odd, and we never used it, we were too busy.
The Food: Ok, so the food was really good. Tami and I are fine with Homestyle meals, so we were well fed (we both came home about 5 pounds heavier). Mackenzie, not so much. I’ll cover that later. The first night we were there, was steak night. I love a good steak, and these were really good and there were plenty of trimmings to go with. All of the trimmings are homemade. From the casseroles to the breads, nothing is prepackaged. And, there is A LOT of food. I went back for seconds on the steak and I think my nephews, who were also with us, may have gone back for thirds. Every meal was like this. TONS of good, homemade food. We didn’t starve. Mackenzie was challenged with the food options. We did the breakfast ride the first morning, and while the food was good, there wasn’t much that Mack would eat. We decided that the breakfast in the lodge was better, because it had pancakes and waffles for Mack. The other meals were challenging for her as well. We were happy to have a microwave and a grocery store close, so that we could procure the mandatory Mac ‘n Cheese. The staff was fine with Mackenzie eating her own thing, so if you have a picky eater or dietary restrictions, and need to improvise like we did, you won’t get grief from the staff. Also, be aware, they do not provide special meals if you have dietary restrictions. This is upfront and clear on their website.
The Horse Rides: Did I mention that Mackenzie was excited about the horse rides? Well, we got two rides a day, every day. They were good rides, too. Each about an hour long. The horses are trained to walk head-to-tail, so they are perfect for inexperienced riders or kids. The wranglers were super knowledgeable and were really good at picking the right horse for the rider. They were also open to letting a rider have the same horse for every ride, if that horse was working that day. Mackenzie had Quack the horse. Every. Time. The wranglers also lead the rides. In the time we were there, we didn’t have the same ride twice. The ranch is beautiful, so it’s a great way to see the Texas country side, and have a little bit of peace. We did learn quickly that if you want a particular ride for the day, you have to sign up in advance the day before, and do so as soon as the sheets are out. They limit the number of riders per ride, so if you don’t get signed up early, you might not get the ride you want.
Non-Horse Activities: If you don’t want to ride a horse, there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied. They have organized activities that range from archery to roping lessons, to hayrides. If that still doesn’t thrill you, they have a “rec-room” in the main lodge with a pool table, books and board games. If you want to be outdoors, there are tons of trails to explore, or pick-up a fishing pole and bait from the front desk. Our nephew spent a substantial amount of time down at the river, fishing. It was too cold when we were there, but they also have a really nice swimming pool. The pool area has some ping-pong tables and free washers and dryers. The activities that we enjoyed the most were the dinosaur track tour (they have real dinosaur tracks on the ranch), the archery and the roping lessons.
In the evenings, there is before dinner entertainment and after dinner entertainment. During the before dinner entertainment we learned how to crack a whip and petted exotic animals. During this time they also provide some simple snacks. The after dinner entertainment we enjoyed the most were the DJ Dance and the family talent show.
Thanksgiving: Yes, we were on the dude ranch for Thanksgiving. Here’s the thing. I love Thanksgiving dinner. I make a killer Thanksgiving dinner, so this is where my skepticism was focused. I was pleasantly surprised. They had a traditional spread of turkey, pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, pecan pie and homemade bread and rolls. It was good. I ate a lot. We all ate a lot. There was a lot left over. I cannot complain about the Thanksgiving experience at the Mayan. The food was good, the dinner entertainment was good. We had a nice family day.
Other Things You Need to Know
- The Mayan is a pretty small place. It’s also really popular, So, if I’ve made you excited about a dude ranch experience, you have to book EARLY. A year in advance, early. My mom booked our stay for this Thanksgiving, right after Thanksgiving 2015, and she was still put on a wait list.
- If you can find a way to hack this one, do it. It isn’t cheap. We figured that for our room and food, the daily rate for the three of us was about $500. It’s well worth the price, but keep this in mind when you are planning. They also won’t discount your rate if you have food restrictions. So keep this in mind as well.
- Not all rooms have microwaves or refrigerators so if you need other food options, inquire when you book, and make sure that you stop in town for the necessities. And make sure you pick up a cooler. ( For Beer)
- There is no Wi-Fi in the rooms. They do have free Wi-Fi in the main lodge, however. This is a great opportunity to disconnect for a few days and leave behind e-mail, work and social media.
We loved our experience at the Mayan Dude Ranch. It is definitely a place we would visit again.
If you are interested in visiting the Mayan, check out their website at www.mayanranch.com
Or check out the reviews on TripAdvisor at https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g55439-d286263-Reviews-Mayan_Dude_Ranch-Bandera_Bandera_County_Texas.html.