Written by Jennifer Haler
November 19, 2013
Last year my husband and I decided that we didn't like getting all of our nieces and nephews more items to clutter up their rooms and houses. It is something we had thought about for a long time but didn't do anything about until last year. We have a large family and by the time the kids opened up new toys from everyone for each holiday/birthday and added it to all the hand-me-downs they already had it felt like we could open up our own toy store. These are all kids that have plenty of the necessities such as food, clothing, a home, etc. And have plenty of the unnecessary too.
So we decided to make a change. Instead of giving out more toys we would give out experiences. We had a ton of fun planning it and thinking of new ideas. We did a lot of research on activities to do in the area, and after checking with all the brothers and sisters in-law, we got the go ahead for the activity we chose.
Which brings us to the Rider Ranch. Rider Ranch is a local, family owned and operated ranch. They are now on the third generation working on the same land. They offer a variety of activities like weddings, birthday parties, horseback riding, dinner rides, etc. The prices were affordable and I felt well worth the money spent.
Steve and I did much preparing for the holiday. We got my mother and father in-law to go with us. So, on the day we opened presents each child was given an age appropriate puzzle to solve. Some were riddles, some mathematical, etc. Once they solved the clue it would lead them to a location where we had hidden an envelope with a puzzle piece in it. This puzzle was a picture we had printed on our home computer with our activity written on it and what their present was. Once the kids had gathered all of the puzzle pieces they assembled the puzzle and got to see their gift.
There was so much joy in watching them excitedly run around the house and helping each other out. They worked together to solve everything and, in the end, had a great time. The gift was a horse-drawn sleigh ride around Rider Ranch with hot cocoa and marshmallows served afterwards around a campfire. Later, all the kids would come home with us for a sleepover party. (This was the gift for the brothers and sisters in-law. A night without the kids.)
We had coordinated a day with all the families and the Rider Ranch and headed off. We managed to squeeze everyone into my Durango and my mother-in-law’s Forester. It took all the seats but we managed.
Rider Ranch is not very far away and the drive is easy. There were signs guiding the way so we found it right away. My mother-in-law had expressed some concern about needing 4-wheel drive to get there in the snow as she did not know where it was located. However, we found no need for it. There were not any areas where we had to use it on the day we went last year.
As we pulled up we were greeted by dogs, horses and the family that owns the ranch. They were very kind and patient with us as we unloaded eight kids and four adults and took time to make sure we had all of our snow gear on. The kids had a great time playing with the dogs and they were given time to pet the horses and learn their names. And, bonus, they have a port-a-potty for anyone to use. Because there is nothing worse than having a bunch kids in tow and discovering that there is no place they can use a bathroom.
After the meet and greet we hopped on the flat wagon and settled in. We were then pulled around by the horses and given information on the ranch by our guide. Rider Ranch is beautiful and it was neat to see a family operated place.
It seemed like the ride ended too soon. I think everyone wanted to stay with the horses a bit more. But next we were taken up to a fire pit and served hot cocoa and marshmallows. And, they provided marshmallow roasting sticks.
Side Note: I had talked to the owners beforehand about bringing our own marshmallows for those of us that are vegetarian. I purchased vegetarian marshmallows at Pilgrim’s Market and we were allowed to bring these with us. I appreciated that they were accommodating for those of us with food preferences.
It was so beautiful to sit around a warm fire, surrounded by snow, sipping cocoa and listening to how excited the kids were about the whole thing. Some of the kids finished faster than others and got up to play with the dogs.
When our time was up we headed back to the car. We took all the kiddos to our house and had a slumber party.
We had unknowingly left one of my nephew’s blankets at the ranch. They contacted us right away and held it for us so I could drive back out and get it. I appreciated this since no little kid wants to lose their favorite blanket.
In the end, we had a great time and got to experience something wonderful with our nieces and nephews, the kids got to have an experience they wouldn't normally be able to do, and everyone got a wonderful Christmas gift without the extra clutter.
We already have planned out what we are doing this year and I will let you know next month. Don’t want to ruin the surprise.
I love spending time with my family doing all the wonderful activities in the Inland Northwest.