By Travel & Leisure
May 16, 2014
Dude Ranches in Bandera, Texas
Credit: Dennis Cox / Alamy

Bandera calls itself the Cowboy Capital of the World. The rest of the state (not to mention Montana or Calgary, Canada) might have something to say about that, but you can’t deny the independent spirit and Old West feel of this lively destination. You’ll see adults and kiddos alike dressed in starched white button downs and leather boots as you stroll by saloons and general stores downtown. Stay overnight at a dude ranch for a cookout under the stars.

Mayan Dude Ranch

Cowboy bravado is this ranch's hallmark. Intended soley for beginners, the ranch is ideal for the family that knows it wants to do some horseback riding, yes, but plenty of other things as well, like fishing, swimming, tubing, taking in a hootenanny, and...lots of Lone Star–style eating.

Riding: Two rides are offered daily, and they're set up for beginners, lasting just 50 minutes apiece, about half that of most other ranches. They're also single-file only, and you could find yourself on a trail ride with up to 25 other people at a time.

Capacity: 130 guests; 40 horses.

Bunkhouse Leather

Get ranch-ready at Bunkhouse Leather & Biker Shop where owner Michael Hancock tools just about anything out of leather, including reigns, saddles, and for the city slicker, cell phone holsters.

Bandera General Store

This main street staple has original 1950s wood floors and pressed tin ceilings. Practice your bowlegged saunter up to the shop’s old-fashioned ice cream parlor for a root beer floats or glass bottled Dr. Pepper. Keep an eye out for vintage (and more affordable) embroidered cowboy boots.

Dixie Dude Ranch

Life at the 725-acre Dixie outside of Bandera, Texas, revolves around horses, hard work, and hardy meat-filled meals such as brisket, ribs, and huge portions of chicken fried steak, all served family style. After climbing out of pine-wood beds (20 accommodation options range from cabins and cottages to two-story bunk houses and simple lodge rooms) guests grab their cowboy hats and head out for daily trips on horseback, two-stepping lessons, and hayrides. On select weekends, cowboys and range cooks also host overnight rides, where horseback trailblazers travel until sunset, cook dinner over a campfire, and roll out sleeping bags under the stars.

11th Street Cowboy Bar

You can chow down on grilled steaks and two-step to live country music at this family-friendly bar and restaurant.