MacDonald's Ranch is a ranch in Northern Scottsdale that offers horseback riding, cookouts, a seasonal pumpkin patch, pony rides, petting zoo, and ranch games. Unlike most ranches, kids can start horseback riding here at age 5 on gentle horses, making it a great family destination.
Being from Pennsylvania, a trip to Arizona means quite a change of scenery. What better way to make our family experience complete than an afternoon excursion to a ranch? MacDonald's Ranch is perfect for such an adventure. Here you can experience riding a horse in a very family-friendly way as well as many of the other things often associated with The West.
MacDonald's Ranch offers families with kids of about five and up the chance to try their hand at horseback riding. The ranch hands pair you with a compatible horse, outfit you with a helmet and offer tips to keep you in control of your horse and comfortable with the riding experience. Once setup, you leave as part of a group and are shown around the ranch while the guide tells stories, offers up interesting trivia and facts about your surroundings, jokes with you and generally shows you a good time. We were paired with Mike and he was terrific. The ride was very easygoing and kid-friendly and great for first-time riders or those who haven't been on a horse in awhile. None of my 3 kids (ages 6-12) or myself were afraid or worried during the entire time and I am a big chicken, so I know what I'm talking about. It was very relaxing and educational for my kids to learn about things on the ranch and to see the terrain of this part of the country and to try their hand at riding a horse. I thought the whole experience was great!
While you wait for your time to ride, there are other activities to occupy your time including hay bales with pretend steer heads so you can practice using a lasso. My kids liked trying to land the lasso over it's head. Not easy, but fun to play around with!
There are horseshoes to play, a haywagon to climb on, and storefronts from an old western town to complete the scene. There's also a pavilion where birthday (or other) parties can be held. My kids also enjoyed the petting zoo complete with pigs, rabbits, donkeys, goats, peacocks and more. They spent quite a bit of time there.
Overall I would say MacDonald's Ranch is a wonderful place to take your family for a ranch and riding experience. We enjoyed our time here and would definitely recommend it to families in the area. Happy Trails!!
Located in north Scottsdale, Mac Donald's Ranch’s 1300 acres of level Sonoran desert landscape are ideal for first time riders. My children recently went for their first real horseback ride here and had an incredible time.The ranch prides itself on its gentle horses and enthusiastic guides which help make any rider’s experience out on the trail an enjoyable one. The youngest riders, 5 year olds, do ride their own horses, but they are lead via rope by experienced employees on horseback. Although the horses know the trail so well they could probably walk it blindfolded and never stray, the rope helps children and their parents feel comfortable by having a trained professional cowboy lead the way.
My daughter fell in love with Sheik, her handsome white horse with a sweet disposition, and was incredibly charmed by Cowboy Mikey, the “silly” cowboy who kept her entertained the entire ride.My son loved riding Cloppy, who he determined was really a super hero horse in disguise, sent to the ranch to protect us In between laughs, Mikey pointed out a red-tailed hawk perched on top of a tree, bones left behind from the ranch’s cattle days, and a Saguaro cactus shaped like Vanna White (the similarities were uncanny!). My husband and I were just as entertained as the kids. After the one hour ride, we took time to visit the animals in the petting zoo, go for a run in the hay bale maze, and have our turn at some of the ranch games. My son was drawn to the lassos, and after seeing his unsuccessful attempts at trying to rope a mounted steer, a friendly ranch hand was happy to spend several minutes teaching him the tricks of the trade. Eventually, my boy not only roped the steer, but Daddy as well!
If you happen to be in Scottsdale during October, be sure to stop by the ranch for the pumpkin patch. Families climb aboard a wagon which takes them on a ride through the desert to a makeshift pumpkin patch. This is the busiest time of year for the ranch and while I have not had the pleasure, friends living in the area speak highly of it.
Disclosure: While working with the Scottsdale CVB to write stories about the region, my family received a complimentary horse back ride. Both the CVB and the ranch did not ask that any particular opinions be expressed and all opinions are my own.