A Taste of the Cowboy Lifestyle in Texas Hill Country
As night falls, Buck Shannon begins to pluck on his old six-string, and the campfire glows a little brighter with each stoke of the smoldering wood. Shannon, a lifelong rancher, now acts as the head entertainment director at the Flying L Guest Ranch; he performs ditties as guests' marshmallows turn golden brown over the fire. Such a rustic scene unfolds nightly at the ranch. Set on 542 acres, this archetypal dude ranch—which has welcomed legends such as John Wayne, Willie Nelson, and Slim Pickens—delights guests with its country hospitality, mouth-watering, down-home cooking, and wealth of activities for all ages.
While kids spend the day with supervised activities such as crafts, archery, and pony rides, adults can hit the greens at the championship golf course or take turns riding piggyback on the many neighboring trails. Forty horses neigh in the barn; Tawni Solise, the head wrangler and working cowgirl, is always on hand to help match-make visitors with the proper steed, and she leads riders on one-hour trail rides. The nightly entertainment changes frequently but runs the gamut from trick ropers and storytellers to line-dancing parties that keep the merriment alive as the stars twinkle over the ranch.
Homey touches characterize the accommodations, and each room features its own unique decorations. Welcoming couches and plush beds are dressed in hues of soft blue, gold, and autumn red. Replica guns, bucking-bronco statues, and rich wood furniture lend to the western theme.
Bandera, Texas: Outdoor Adventures and Lively Honky-Tonks
Less than an hour outside of San Antonio, the grassy hills and rushing rivers of Texas Hill Country transport guests back to the era of the cowboy. But the rugged western exterior isn't a cheap gambit to lure tourists looking for a kitschy photo opportunity; the cowboy life is the authentic way of life here, where the motto is "work hard, play hard." Hitching posts downtown regularly welcome horses, which snort next to large work trucks slicked with mud. Come nighttime, locals lace up their dancing boots and boogie down in between sips of cold brews at one of the swinging honky-tonk bars. Outdoor adventure opportunities abound; the open, rolling hills and many streams make it a prime location to take horseback trail rides, angle for catfish and large-mouth bass, or propose to an Eagle Scout.