Flying E Ranch
For winter vacation, our family of four (with two young kids ages 5-8) spent three nights at the Flying E Ranch. We have never stayed at a dude ranch before, so this was going to be a new experience for all of us. We did a lot of research, and finally we decided that Flying E would offer us what our family was looking for in a relaxing getaway. Not knowing exactly what to expect, or whether any of us would find the dude ranch experience enjoyable, I have to say that having just now returned from Flying E, we are so glad we went as it exceeded every single expectation any of us had for a ranch vacation.

Normally for my reviews, I note the negative aspects, or at least areas that could be improved upon by the property owner/management. I can honestly tell you there is not one thing negative to say about the Flying E Ranch. They really do everything right. The only suggestion I would give to readers of this review is to book as early as possible, especially for peak holiday travel periods and for dates of special events at the ranch.

So now, let me run down the (long) list of things we were impressed by at the Flying E:

- Actually, our first positive impression began a few months prior to our arrival. It was when we called to inquire about availability. Amanda in the Front Office was not only professional and helpful, but just delightful on the phone. She took her time to answer all of our questions (remember, this is our first dude ranch vacation and we had lots of questions) despite multiple phone calls. The whole booking process was easy and quick.

- We flew into Phoenix Sky Harbor airport, and the drive to Flying E Ranch in Wickenburg was pretty easy (GPS directions worked well) and took just under an hour and a half. As soon as we walked into the Office, we were warmly welcomed by Amanda, who handed us just one form for signature and that was it. She then took us on a tour of the Ranch grounds and led us to our guest room. Amanda was as nice in person as she had been on the phone.

- Our room, though not fancy, was impeccably clean, well furnished, and thoughtfully decorated. The bed was really comfortable, as good as one from any four or five-star hotel I've stayed at. A window in the room offered expansive views of the desert landscapes, as well as horses in the field which for our kids were simply magical.

- Since we arrived before lunch time, we were invited to lunch. We headed for the dining room when the bell rang at 12:30 (the bell rings whenever breakfast/lunch/dinner is ready). The food tasted homemade, was plentiful, and really really good. All of the kitchen staff were extremely friendly and accommodating. Even at our first meal, we were addressed to by each staff on a first name basis. I have no idea how everyone remembered the names of 30+ guests, but they did. One of us is vegetarian, and the kitchen prepared a separate vegetarian dish at each meal. All in all, we enjoyed ten meals there and were not once disappointed.

- During lunch each day, the head wrangler Aaron checked in with us to see who's riding that afternoon. Likewise, at dinner, he checked in to see if we're riding the next morning. Overall, the riding at Flying E was fabulous. They match your skill level with the right horse. Our 5 year old was too young for the trail ride (must be 6 or over), but was offered a "pony ride" around the corral. The scenery here was spectacular. All of the wranglers were friendly to all of the guests. There's a supply room with boots and hats in all sizes for you to borrow, in case you don't bring your own. We particularly enjoyed having Debbie and Tom lead a few of our rides. They were super personable and took the time to tell us what we were seeing on the rides.

- We happened to be there on New Year's Eve. They planned a special "casino night" for all of the guests. It was done in a "family-friendly" fashion, where even the children were able to play in all of the table games. The wranglers took the role as dealers, and we got a chance to interact with them in a different setting. They were genuinely friendly and cared about every guest's experience there. I could tell the entire ranch staff took pride in what they do - to make sure the guests are having the best time possible. At 10 o'clock (midnight in NYC), bubblies were offered and everyone young and old walked away that night with a bag of party favors. It was the best NYE party our family ever celebrated together (as a family, with young ones). We were so impressed the Flying E managed to throw a party that was fun and family-friendly.

If you're still reading this, you've noticed I've written a long review. The reason I'm spending the time to write this really is to duly acknowledge and recognize an exceptionally well run ranch. I want to thank Ande (manager) and her entire staff for our pleasant stay, and hope others will get the opportunity to enjoy staying there in the future.

Would we go back to Flying E Ranch again? Absolutely, without a doubt!