Autumn Getaway Near Orlando: Westgate River Ranch


Ah, the autumn conundrum. Temps are finally getting cool enough to really enjoy the great outdoors. Unfortunately, school schedules make planning a family getaway seem like more of a trick than a treat. Fortunately, the folks behind the familiar Westgate properties all over Central Florida Orlando can transport you to an idyllic outdoor paradise just 90 minutes from Orlando: the Westgate River Ranch, a trip back in time where guests can ride horses, shoot skeet, fly fish and enjoy the natural beauty of the scenery.

Location: Westgate River Ranch

Back in the late 1800s, when “ranch” was both a verb and a noun, steamboats traveled along the then 103-mile Kissimmee River bringing cargo and supplies to the ranchers and settlers along its banks. A restoration project that began in 1999 is bringing flow back to 44 miles of the meandering river, along with alligators, turtles, bald eagles, hawks, snail kites and other rare birds. These days, you can take in the amazing view aboard an airboat or the Kissimmee River Queen (below), a 40-foot pontoon boat.


Freestanding accommodations range from budget (tent, platform and RV camping) to luxury (tricked-out tents, teepees and Conestoga wagons [below]), and there’s also a lodge with a range of rooms and suites.

Eats and Activities

If you’re like us, eating counts as an activity. The new Cattle Company Chophouse & Bar has everything you’d expect from a high-end steakhouse — like the smoked old-fashioned below — plus Florida flavors courtesy of items featuring Florida gator, sweet corn and heirloom tomatoes. If you’d like a little theater to go with your dinner, there’s a real, live rodeo every Saturday night; the petting farm and pony rides, are available every day, as are opportunities to brush up your skills at archery, air rifles, horseshoes and more.

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