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Experiential Travel: State of Play

The words “experiential travel” sound a lot more mature and serious than they need to be. The experience of traveling to The Ranch at Rock Creek should be an escape from normal routine. It should be at times exhilarating, relaxing and even a bit fantastical. It’s all fun and games.

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Children are naturally adept at play. However, it seems unreasonable that we should lose that talent during our working life, only to rediscover it during retirement. When Jim Manley bought The Ranch at Rock Creek and made it into the award-winning luxury guest ranch it is today, he had an eye on the indefinable western spark that encourages people to dream and play. He envisaged more than a traditional dude ranch that recreated the life of a working cowboy. He sought to redefine experiential travel by inspiring a state of play for every guest, child or adult.

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In fact, researchers seem to be suggesting that play is essential for adults, as well as children. NPR, Psychology Today, Scientific American and The Huffington Post have published stories about the importance of adult play. A researcher and psychiatrist Dr. Stuart Brown says,

“Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”


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The Business of Play

Companies have also found that employees respond well to being at play. Google is one of the most famous cases, with their intramural sports leagues, company bike trails and napping pods, to recharge the body after working (and playing) hard. The Ranch itself is an inspiring destination for corporate retreats and strategic planning sessions, thanks to the same ethos. Play develops empathy, communication and trust between employees, just as it does for children. (1)

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Corporate groups at The Ranch have many opportunities for team play, such as the ropes course, geocaching or a winter hockey game. These travel experiences are a welcome break from scheduled meetings and extended workdays, because they encourage you to lose track of time and change your activities based on fun and flow. Although the “beach vacation” is seen as the essence of relaxation, a Ranch experience is likely to recharge and inspire. As Dr. Stuart Brown says in his TedTalk, there are many types of play—rough and tumble play, imaginative play, ritual play, spectator play. Lose track of time by sharing stories around the bonfire or by starting an impromptu bowling tournament in the Silver Dollar Saloon—our experiential travel caters to all styles.

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Montanans at Play

For a moment, let’s look at The Ranch at Rock Creek as a 6,600-acre office. Many of our on-ranch activities are the professional responsibilities of our local Granite County ranchers. A rodeo is simply a celebration of the riding, wrestling and roping that is involved in a day-to-day cattle operation.

Travel to The Ranch at Rock Creek to experience Montana traditions and Western heritage

Other activities are typical “play” for Montana residents. The combination of active work and hobbies could be the reason that Montana is the least obese state in the union. Hiking, horseback riding, skiing and fishing are a very normal part of modern mountain life. The Ranch at Rock Creek is an authentic expression of Montanans at work and play.

Two girls gallop during a trail ride at The Ranch at Rock Creek, a luxury guest ranch in Montana


Experiential Travel and Play

The fully inclusive amenities are another way that guests get out of their normal routine and into a culture of play. A guest can enjoy gourmet meals, premium drinks, activities, guides, gear and amenities without the worry of logistics. All necessary arrangements are made in advance, and then the Ranch experience begins. You don’t need to plan excursions, drive to daily activities or pay cancellation fees if you change your mind.

The Ranch’s experiential travel focus also means that family members can choose different activities each day, depending upon their preferences, with knowledgeable staff on hand to customize and make recommendations. Our guides could be considered “experts in play,” since they understand the seasons, the weather, the equipment and the mesmerizing nature of Montana pastimes intuitively, allowing you to move seamlessly between play and rest.

Ranch guests are outfitted with rods, reels, waders and flies for fly fishing Montana streams

Experiential travel can leave you better connected between body and mind. People who love video games, will enjoy testing their hand-eye coordination on the pistol range. Cross-fit fans try their balance on ice skates or a rope bridge in place of a Bosu ball. Instagram-lovers will delight in the creative possibilities hidden in spectacular Ranch scenery.

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With over 20 year-round activities for kids and adults, The Ranch is play distilled into its purest form. There are countless health, work and social benefits to experiential travel, but instead of thinking about them, perhaps you can sneak outside for a short walk or paint a picture until you can release your inner adventurer at The Ranch at Rock Creek.