Rocking Horse Ranch review – Spring 2013

My family and I went to Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, NY from Sunday 3/31/13 to Tuesday, 4/2/13. Overall we had a great time and would definitely go back again. I was a little apprehensive about going, since a friend had gone and complained that it was “boring and old,” but that wasn’t our experience at all.

We left Long Island around 11 AM and arrived at the ranch around 1 PM. Check-in was scheduled for 4 PM, but we got our room number around 2 PM. It’s important to keep in mind that on your check-in day, breakfast and lunch are not included, but dinner is. We were aware of this (RHR states this plainly) but when we were eating lunch on our check-out day, we saw lots of people who had just checked in trying to get in for lunch and acting shocked that they couldn’t (on your check-out day you have breakfast and lunch, but not dinner, so you get all the meals you’ve “paid” for).

So we checked in, parked the car, and walked around. The snow tubes were open and we spent about an hour doing that. My wife, 7-year-old son and I LOVED the snow tubes. There’s a conveyor-belt lift that takes you up the hill (maybe a 3-5 minute ride) and there was no line at the top. It was our first time doing anything like that, and it was around 50 degrees so the snow was kind of slushy and not super fast, which was great for newbies, and also meant we didn’t have to bundle up in full winter gear.

After that, our room was ready so we went and checked in. We stayed in room 220, with some friends staying in adjoining room 222. There was a shared door between the rooms and our kids loved that. The room itself wasn’t anything special, but was adequate. There was ~32″ Dynex LCD TV and a Cablevision cable box. The TV isn’t connected to the cable box via HDMI, and we didn’t get HBO, which wasn’t a huge deal except that Sunday night was the season premiere of Game of Thrones, and I’d hoped to watch it, but I had it DVRed at home so that wasn’t a big deal. The only time the TV was on was right after we woke up or right before bed, so that wasn’t really a big concern. There were two queen beds in our room. In terms of comfort I give the bed a C+/B-. There weren’t enough pillows (two per bed) and they weren’t fluffy, which led to neck pain and bad sleep. If we go back I’ll probably bring my own pillows.

After checking in and unloading the car, we played a short game of baseball in the field next to our building. Gloves, bats and balls are all free to use. We then went back to the snow tubes for another hour or so. After that we went to the bungee jumping area where the kids had a great time jumping up 20 feet in the air and doing flips. We then headed over to the Fun Barn (about 40 feet away) where there was an inflated bouncy house, foam-ball-shooting “arena,” makeshift badminton court, “infinite” rock wall to climb, and three or four ping-pong tables. The adults played badminton for a half-hour or so while the kids entertained themselves. We then went to the 5 PM dinner.

One of the complaints I’ve seen about RHR was the food, and this is one of the things that worried me. Fortunately I found these complaints unfounded. The food spread was impressive, and the quality was good. The main entrees for Easter Sunday were lamb, ham, and prime rib. I had the ham and prime rib and both were very good/excellent. Other items available included a vegetable medley, fresh mashed potatoes, basmati rice, beef barley soup and a full salad bar. For dessert there were lots of cakes and pies. Most of the stuff was very good, and the prime rib was excellent.

After dinner, we took the kids to the pool. The pool isn’t huge but we had a good time. The main pool is about 2.5 feet deep on the shallow side, and 4 feet deep on the deep end. The deep end has some floating blocks that kids can try to cross by jumping from block to block while holding on to an overhead rope – they enjoyed that. In the upper level of the pool area is a mini water-park for young kids (mainly 5 and under) and a huge water slide that goes outside the building. The entrance to the main slide is about 4 storeys up, and the kids got a great workout going up and down. I think my son went up 30 or 40 times the first night. Needless to say, they loved it. After we got the kids in bed, my wife and I went down to the lobby (“The Hunt” room) where there’s a coffee machine and a selection of muffins and pastries available all night and had a quiet cup of coffee.

For breakfast the next day it was a buffet again. The breakfast selections included fresh fruit, scrambled eggs & huevos rancheros, bacon, sausage, pancakes, french toast, corn-beef hash and home-fried potatoes. You can also order eggs from the kitchen however you want – omelets or sunny-side up, etc.

After breakfast we walked around a bit, made our reservation to go on the horse trails, then went on the paddleboats for a little while. This was fun, but it was still kind of cold. After that we played a round of 9-hole mini golf. The mini-golf course was actually pretty good compared to some of the ones I’ve played. I forgot to get a scorecard but fortunately there are plenty of iPhone apps that make keeping score easier than using the little pencil & card. By now it was time for lunch already so we headed back in.

Lunch was a buffet and consisted of a full salad bar, a tray of cold-cuts to make your own sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers (with a nearby fixins bar), french fries, mac & cheese and other staples. One review I read said the hot dogs were “dried out” but that wasn’t the case for me. They weren’t exactly fresh off the grill but they were fine.

After lunch I went on my horse ride. I hadn’t ridden a horse probably 25 years so I went on the beginner trail. It was great and my horse (Rustler) was nice, though I had to keep him away from the horse in front of me. It was cold though, and I was only in a hoodie, which was stupid, but it had dropped about ten degrees since the morning. The ride was about 45 minutes to an hour.

After that we went back up and did some more snow tubing, then went on a horse-cart ride, during which time we chatted with one of the employees who works in the stables who was very friendly. I should mention that all the staff we encountered while we were at the ranch were extremely friendly and helpful, which really contributed to the overall great experience we had. After that, the kids went back to the pool and then we went to the 7:00 dinner seating. Dinner was from a menu, and I ordered the flatiron steak, which was thick and good, and the chicken orichiette, which was mediocre. The sides were mushroom crostini and baked artichoke dip, both of which were good. The buffet tables had mashed potatoes and other sides and the salad bar open. In addition to the previous night’s desserts there was an ice cream station with a make-your-own-sundae section.

After dinner, we went downstairs where a DJ was having a dance party for the kids. At 9:30 there was a magic/comedy show that was also great for the kids. We went back to the room and went to sleep around 10:30 or 11.

On day 3, we went to breakfast and then hit the pool for a little while, then checked out and loaded up the car. The kids played on the playground for a little bit, and then we went down the snow tubes a few more times. Since it had dropped down to 30 degrees overnight the tube rides were MUCH faster and more exciting than Sunday and Monday when it had been in the 40s and 50s. After that, we had a quick lunch and headed home.

This was our first “formal” vacation in two years and as I said, I was a little worried based on some of the reviews I’ve seen online, despite RHR’s 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. But my whole family had a great time, and as I said, we’d definitely like to go back, but maybe during another season. Being on the edge of winter & spring may not be the best time, since it’s too warm for the real winter activities and too cold for others, and minute-to-minute you might be too hot in your coat or too cold in your hoodie.

As I said, the staff was excellent – friendly and helpful. The room was ok, not wonderful, but I wasn’t expecting a palace. The food wasn’t exactly gourmet (not that I’d want or expect that on a horse ranch), but was overall very good. I should mention that the chef was very accommodating to my wife’s gluten allergy – if you have any kind of allergy make sure to tell them this when you book your reservation and speak to the chef when you arrive. My only complaint about our experience was that it was rather expensive (it came to about $1200 for our 2-night stay), but since we had such a great time I can’t complain about that too much — I’d rather pay extra for a great time than save a few bucks and have a miserable time.

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