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New World, Old West: Thanksgiving Travel

A Rustic-Luxe Thanksgiving at The Ranch

A grove of aspen trees lines Rock Creek, a Blue Ribbon trout stream that runs through The Ranch at Rock Creek

Welcome to fall at The Ranch at Rock Creek! This season is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque times to experience Montana’s wilderness. When the leaves start falling, we start thinking about Thanskgiving travel and put the finishing touches on our festivities. This year’s itinerary is going to be one of the most gratifying and serene seasonal celebrations we’ve ever planned.

The Ranch at Rock Creek's Granite Lodge glows as the sun sets on an autumn day

Thanksgiving travel is exceptional in the leisure travel world. Unlike action-packed family reunions, wedding weekends and school summer vacations, Thanksgiving trips are best spent gathering around a table, relaxing into your favorite leisure activities and unplugging before a potentially frantic holiday season descends.


The calm days of late November and early December can be a chance to delay the bustle of Christmas just a little longer. (Although our country Christmas might be considered one of the most relaxing ways celebrate the holidays).

Sleigh rides are a popular Montana pastime at The Ranch at Rock Creek
Thanksgiving travelers occasionally enjoy a dusting of snow. Winter isn’t far away. 

What we see year after year, is that families that travel this time of year appreciate the luxuries of an all-inclusive, customized ranch celebration like ours—where less time for planning means more time with family and even a little extra time away for individual pursuits.

A fly fisherman wades across Rock Creek on an autumn day

This week we look at the luxuries of a wild, but luxe family gathering. More than just our first-class amenities, our upcoming Thanksgiving itinerary shows why The Ranch is the “last best place” to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Luxury #1 : Experiential Focus

Once guests land and are greeted by a Ranch driver, the pace of life slows. The Ranch is different from your average resort when it comes to the holidays. Within our all-inclusive designation, we provide fully customizable itineraries, including twice-daily activities with gear, transportation and guides and we provide a full slate of holiday festivities.

A Ranch wrangler drives a historic Wells Fargo stagecoach during Thanksgiving travel dates

This combination allows our guests to feel as though they are on vacation without sacrificing the comforts of a holiday at home. Most of our luxury homes have kitchens and big country tables for families who like to gather together for morning coffee, an afternoon board game or for nightly tales of the day’s adventures.

Sarah Jane's Cottage is a four-bedroom luxury home with a kitchen, living room and several bunk bedsSarah Jane’s Cottage, a 2,500 sq. ft. four-bedroom, four-bathroom luxury home.

No two accommodations are alike, and our large luxury homes and historic barn, with bunk beds lining a restored horse stables, are particularly suited to family gatherings. All accommodations are full of the loving touches of home.

Stables in the Historic Barn boasts three sets of twin beds and a queen pullout—perfect for sleepovers with cousins. 

By consulting a Ranch Ambassador about preferences before their stay, each guest and family can choose when they will strike out on their own and when they will enjoy special Ranch events. For example, on Thanksgiving Day a guest might enjoy a trail ride after breakfast, a family lunch and football watching in the Silver Dollar Saloon’s theatre before Thanksgiving dinner.

The Silver Dollar Saloon boasts a private movie theatre with 14-foot HD screen and bowling alley

Another guest might nibble on coffee and pastries as they watch the Macy’s Day Parade, try a 3D archery trek in the morning, a ropes course challenge after lunch and then meet in the Great Room for a specialty cocktail before Thanksgiving dinner.

Guests tackle 35-foot high elements on the ropes course at The Ranch at Rock CreekOur 19-feature ropes course includes zip-lines and 35-foot high challenges, as well as lower elements.

These holiday Ranch events are designed to highlight the season and provide a sense of cozy Americana. On Tuesday, November 22, we recommend Ranch Yoga in the Buckle Barn to decompress from the flight. On Wednesday, we’ll follow our Chef’s Grill Dinner with game night in the Buckle Barn. On Thursday, we’ve planned a guided “Turkey Trek” where guests can learn about the landscape and where to spot wildlife.

A cow and baby moose cross Rock Creek at The Ranch at Rock Creek in Montana
A cow and calf moose wade into Rock Creek. View a video of a recent moose sighting. 

On Friday, kids can do seasonal crafts with Flint’s Forest Rangers counselors and on Saturday, adults can take part in a fall-themed mixology class.

Luxury #2: Rich Tradition

We’re pleased to announce that we just won the accolade of “United States’ Leading Ranch” from the World Travel Awards for the third year in a row. We believe this is due to the fact that we celebrate the legendary West by staying true to our working ranch roots.

Robert Cole captures a horse mid-stride during a roping event at The Ranch at Rock Creek rodeo

Our luxury amenities and epicurean experience are layered on a solid foundation of Western customs. Whether its through haying, calving, barn dances, horseback riding, fishing, snowshoeing or Dutch oven cuisine, we still rely on the community and agricultural traditions of Southwest Montana.

The Ranch grows and harvests hay for our herd of longhorn cattle and horses

At the beginning of Thanksgiving week, guests will enjoy s’mores and songs by the campfire. Slate Magazine once featured an article entitled, “United Sweets of America” and chose s’mores as Montana’s state dessert. While we think Executive Chef Drage’s butterscotch budino or Dutch oven apple pie might be even more delicious, we agree that eating something grilled over an open flame is quintessentially Montanan. In fact, when our Barn Manager’s goat, Fruit Snack, had babies this past year, one of her kids earned the name “S’mores” (with her brother taking the moniker “Gummy Worm.”)

Ranch at Rock Creek guests can toast s'mores over a bonfire year-round

Thanksgiving travel to The Ranch will feature wagon or sleigh rides (weather depending), horseback ridinghiking, fly fishing and shooting. These are the same Montana pursuits that have been practiced since this county was first settled over 150 years ago.

Barn Manager Joe Demers rides with his son Bronc.

Furthermore, Thanksgiving travelers will enjoy a guest favorite—the Barn Dance. The night starts by mingling with wranglers in the horse barn during a special Friday social hour, followed by hearty barbeque fare, live music and line dancing in the Buckle Barn. If you’ve never been to a barn dance, we highly recommend you read about this wonderful Ranch tradition on this blog.

Guests dance to live music during a barn dance for Autumn Harvest Weekend

Luxury #3 : Gourmet Feasts

As a Relais & Châteaux property, culinary experiences are designed to be a memorable part of the Montana adventure. Based on the importance of hospitality and culinary arts, this elite group of hotels and restaurants aims to elevate living to a fine art. With that in mind, every dining experience from lemon ricotta pancakes at breakfast to Thanksgiving dinner itself is designed to raise regional seafood and Montana meat, produce and grains to the level of haute cuisine.

The Ranch at Rock Creek's chefs fashioned fresh pasta with ricotta, Washington crab and basil for recent tasting menuOur culinary team fashioned fresh agnolotti with ricotta, Washington crab and basil for a recent Chef’s Tasting Menu. Photo by Evening Restaurant Manager Katie Forbes.

While parents and grandparents enjoy farm-to-table tasting menus in the Granite Lodge on Tuesday and Saturday of Thanksgiving week, kids can opt for a Flint’s Forest Rangers Kids Club dinner with counselors in the Silver Dollar Saloon. This unique feature of our kids’ program allows kids to eat fresh, local fare customized to younger palates, such as homemade pizzas or tortilla soup.

The Little Grizzlies Kids Club introduces young travelers to Montana at The Ranch at Rock Creek

In addition to three gourmet meals, our culinary team provides fresh pastries and coffee in the Granite Lodge each morning, fresh cookies after lunch and Social Hour in the Great Room at 5PM each night. The kitchen and bartenders team up to satisfy curious tastebuds with artisanal cocktails, local brews and paired appetizers made to complement dinner in the Granite Lodge.

A Ranch at Rock Creek bartender serves a Pressed Cider Martini cocktail to a guest
Events Food & Beverage Manager Christina Wernikowski serves a Pressed Cider Martini. Get the recipe here. 

Guests and families can dine at their leisure the night of Thanksgiving between 5 and 8 PM, rather than reserve a seating time. A little flexibility makes for a more relaxing holiday. We can’t wait to taste the way Executive Chef Drage and Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller work their magic. We just know we’ll be thankful for the bounty when they do.

Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller serves hors d'oeuvres during the Autumn Harvest Weekend
Executive Sous Chef Ben Miller serves hors d’oeuvres before a barn dance. 

Luxury #4 : Holistic Holidays

Our approach to Thanksgiving travel is unmistakably focused on outdoor activity. We encourage all our guests to partake in adventures twice a day.


We often refer to this exciting period of choosing and trying new pursuits as “play.” There are few environments where you can unplug and try a new physical challenge new in a safe environment—especially for adult travelers. This feeling is akin to summer camp for some, since this was the last time they had dozens of new activities at their fingertips and an almost endless horizon to explore. Meanwhile, kids four to 12 may enjoy custom Flint’s Forest Rangers Kids Club adventures.

Roping is one of the lawn games for families during the Autumn Harvest Weekend and Montana Thanksgiving celebrations

The The Spa at Rock Creek ensures that daily activities are enhanced with holistic wellness. Guests can relax during a seasonal pumpkin facial, raindrop therapy or restorative massage during their stay. They can also add in a private yoga class, family yoga class or join a complimentary group fitness class.

A group practices a warrior yoga pose during a complimentary yoga class in The Ranch at Rock Creek's Buckle Barn

The ideal Thanksgiving vacation would be nourishing to the body with fresh local feasts, to the mind with new activities and challenges and to the soul with plenty of time with the loved ones.

Thanksgiving travel to The Ranch includes plenty of fall pastoral scenes, like this Belgian draft horse near Rock Creek

During a holiday often known for its overindulgence, this year’s Thanksgiving schedule gives our guests a chance to fill up on fresh air, family time and homegrown Montana tradition. Book one of our remaining accommodations to appreciate this golden season in Montana’s Gold Country.

Interested in what’s in store for Christmas and New Year’s? Read more about our seasonal celebrations.