THE BEST AGRITOURISM: FARM STAYS, DUDE RANCHES & VINEYARD HOTELS IN THE USA IN 2020
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The farm stay vacation tradition in the USA is more about guest ranches, and you will find a huge number of these around the country, especially in the West. You will also though find many smaller, more classic farm stays too, many of them organic, and, especially in California, many good vineyard stays. Though it is true an Italian or Austrian style agritourism industry might possibly be a long way off in The States, awareness of, and the popularity of, the farm stay concept is growing rapidly. CLICK HERE TO READ OUR USA RURAL TOURISM GUIDE:
The USA has so many iconic regions, but none more so than the ‘Wild West’. Not so wild these days granted, but in terms of geography anyway, still not fully tamed. And you’ll find hints of the old Western culture everywhere, not least in its many guest ranches where horse back riding is almost a compulsory activity.
It’s a region full of tough, defiant landscapes that in times gone by let only the most determined through. Whether it be from the towering Rocky Mountains that guard the east, or the sprawling dry deserts at its core, the West once made the balmy beaches of California and the green green forests of Oregon and Washington feel a million miles away.
A million miles away they may not have been but the sheer scale of the region is awe inspiring. The Rockies, one of the world’s great mountain ranges, rise and fall from Montana and the Canadian border to over a thousand miles south and New Mexico. And all along never failing to assert themselves as an unconquerable, true wilderness.
The most mountainous state though ironically enough is the most populated and the most visited. That is Colorado, which has a full fifty mountains over 14,000 feet and also has the Rockies only really major urban area; the peaceful, prosperous city of Denver, itself on a mountain plain over 5,000 feet in elevation. Denver is the base for the United States’ biggest ski industry as well as some of its best hiking and mountaineering.
Among the others, Idaho is less visited and less populated and has, for the most part, a wild, remote feel. It is a magnet though for the more adventurous, less time constrained traveler with a lot of outdoor sports including some famous stretches of whitewater rafting.
Montana to the north, big sky country as it is called, is further away again from the tourist scene. It acts as a kind of passing through state for visitors from Canada but has a rich variety of wild landscapes, with the lakes, forests and huge mountains of the west, the Glacier National Park in particular, blending in to the dry prairies of the east. And along the way small sleepy towns, cattle and guest ranches and long forgotten gold mines appear here and there. A farm stay vacation here usually means a guest ranch stay and these are supremely popular with both foreign and domestic visitors.
Wyoming is of course home to Yellowstone National Park one of the world’s most famous parks. That and the nearby Grand Teton National Park see visitors in the millions each year. Yellowstone alone gets nearly 4 million annually, but apart from that most of the state is dry scrubland but with a real frontier, old West feel.
The desert states of Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada are tough lands, with long straight empty roads running through vast stretches of equally empty desert plains, broken here and there by bare rocks, cactus trees and the odd small town or ranch house. Farm stays in Arizona are the most popular, or in this case guest ranch stays, with a lot of horse back riding and tapping in to that 19th century cowboy spirit.
California has an identity and a dynamic all of its own. The great El Dorado for so many in years gone by was once a barren dry frontier land, but is now home to some of the United States’ greatest urban centers. It’s not all urban obviously though and with its great deserts and stretches of beautifully isolated coastline, it is in most parts a lonely, peaceful paradise.
It is also the home of the USA’s wine industry. California’s wines are internationally appreciated and many vineyard owners have developed a nice, European style, side industry of wine tours and of course vineyard hotels, some of which are quite plush and luxurious affairs.
Traveling north in California you come to the Redwood National and State Parks, with their world famous giant redwood trees, travel further north still and the states of Oregon and Washington offer more of the same; Great green forests and rocky coastline under gray and cloudy skies, beautiful and awe inspiring in a very different way to southern California but offering the same peace and tranquility. Those gray and cloudy skies produce a lot of rain though you should be warned, especially between October and early May.
Our Recommended Agritourism Farm Stays in Western USA: Farmstays/West-USA
The South of the USA is a country within a country, a nation within a nation, and though these days tied peacefully to the North and the West, in some ways it can feel as different to them as Canada is to the United States. It has a rich, spirited history and a variety of cultures within its never quite defined borders. The states of Florida and Texas for example, though southern by geography, have themselves distinct identities. Texas is never fully Western, never fully Southern but always Texan, and is a big enough and confident enough state to get to decide for itself.
And some parts of rural Florida still have a quite southern feel but the dominance of Cuban flavored Miami and the sunshine state vacation reputation of Florida’s coastline means it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the South. The great plains of Oklahoma too are caught between the South, the Mid West and the West and could easily fit into all three.
Beyond that though the likes of of Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama leave no doubt as to where in the world you are. With long straight roads passing some of the classic rural southern landscapes, large fertile farmland with old wooden shacks and barns baking in the humid summer heat. And of course its the music that evolved in these regions that had such a part to play in their identity. Jazz and blues, gospel and country music are still the soundtrack to these landscapes for people the world over and making cities like New Orleans Louisiana, and Memphis, Tennessee internationally famous.
The iconic Appalachian mountains runs down through the North East of the south; Kentucky, Tennessee, the Virginias and the Carolinas, and on to Georgia, with a good part of the famous 2,000 mile Appalachian trail there to be hiked through in some of those states. The Appalachian Trail is one of the world’s great hikes. It mainly follows the mountain ridges of the range and can have some tough ascents, especially across the likes of Blood Mountain in Georgia and the beautifully remote Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. The entire trail runs almost exclusively through wilderness, though it is surprisingly well controlled with all overnight staying hikers needing a permit and it has many lodges and shelters long the way.
Being strongly rural, when it comes to a farm stay vacation, the southern USA has a lot to offer but is still struggling to fully market its potential.
Our Recommended Agritourism Farm Stays in Southern USA: Farmstays/South-USA
THE MID WEST
The great plains of the Mid West will be America’s heartland for some, and a fly over between coasts for others. Middle America, they call it, traditional, conservative and straight laced, miles away both literally and metaphorically from the liberal east and west coasts, but in some ways it contains all of the major ingredients that form our image of America. It has the urban edge of the coasts in major cities like Chicago, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan, the frontier cowboy land feel of the old West in states like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and Iowa and hints of the South in the state of Missouri, where, just outside St. Louis, the great Mississippi river converges with the Missouri before continuing on down to become the heart and soul of the great southern state that bears its name.
it is an enormous area that would take almost years to explore properly. As mentioned it has two of America’s greatest rivers and in one way, all of its great Lakes. And beyond that it has the Great Plains, the huge expanse of farm land that has fed America for generations. It also has the beautiful wilderness of the Northwoods of northern Minnesota and the spectacular Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota, home to Mount Rushmore, rural Mid West’s most famous tourist attraction. You’ll find guest ranch stays in abundance around the midwest, especially in Montana, though more the European type farm stay is, as of 2020, still a lot less common.
Our Recommended Agritourism Farm Stays in the Mid West USA: Farmstays/Mid-West-USA
THE NORTH EAST
The North East is the United States‘ smallest region, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in influence and historical importance. The North East was the birthplace of the modern nation, having the original 13 states that would become the first United States after the War of Independence.
It is of course a strongly urban area, being the site of some of the country’s most important cities, New York, Boston and Washington D.C. But it does have some areas with a very rural character too; plenty of agricultural land with a burgeoning farm Stay industry, especially in Vermont, and of course the iconic fall foliage of New England is famous throughout America and beyond. Fall being also the grape picking season for southern New England’s somewhat less known wine industry.
There are wilderness areas too; around the Catskill Mountains in New York state for example, whose forests and hills have long been alternative medicine for those of the Big Apple and its associated mental illness.
There is also the Pemigewasset Wilderness of New Hampshire, though a popular hiking area, its sheer size, 45,000 acres in total, makes it easy to find a space to call your own. And it is in the state of Maine where the great Appalachian trail begins, or ends depending on your point of view, running south from there all the way down to Georgia, over 2,000 miles away.
Our Recommended Agritourism Farm Stays in North Eastern USA: Farmstays/North-East-USA
Despite its tiny population and despite the fact that it’s a full two thousand miles out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the tropical paradise of Hawaii never has trouble attracting visitors. Seven million a year come to the islands, most of them from mainland U.S.A. Most come for the beaches but Hawaii also has a few venues that offer a very rewarding farm stay vacation experience.
With such a huge tourist industry it does appear sometimes like a kind of Polynesian Disney Land, but despite this, much of the native Hawaiian culture remains intact and much of the landscape still remains untouched by the ravages of mass tourism. The farm stay concept here have become very popular in recent years, and is appreciated by many as a more gentle form of tourism, one that is more in keeping with the true, original, spirit of the islands.
The natural beauty of Hawaii is quite extraordinary: Pristine white sandy beaches, thick green jungle valleys, jagged volcanoes and tall cliffs surrounded by the warm blue waters of the Pacific.
Honolulu, on Oahu Island, is its only major city and the neighboring resort of Waikiki is the biggest center of tourism on the islands. Outside of that the Big island, also called, rather confusingly, Hawaii Island is popular too but is a lot less populated both by residents and tourists and so can be a more low key, rural type, or farm stay type getaway. So too the smaller islands of Maul and Kauai.
There isn’t much to worry about the weather here, it is as you would imagine, warm and sunny year round though December to March it can rain quite a bit its never enough to put off its loyal army of visitors.
Our Recommended Agritourism Farm Stays in Hawaii: Farmstays/Hawaii
Though not an obvious choice for a traditional farm stay, in a country not short on wilderness Alaska has wilderness like no other. This huge state, with just Canada and Russia for neighbors, has a coastline longer than all the other 50 states put together, is a place where human hand has barely reached, and is abundantly rich in all sorts of wildlife; bears, moose, bald eagles and wolves.
All roads lead to and from Anchorage here, its only major urban center. Just south of Anchorage lies the spectacular Prince William Sound and Kenal Peninsula but it’s not like Alaska is so lacking in spectacular areas that any one needs to be highlighted. Much of the interior and the north especially is completely stunning with the huge mountains of the Alaska, the Brooks and the Chugach ranges overlooking giant glaciers, forests and fast flowing rivers.
The biggest mountain of them all; Mt. McKinley is at the center of the Denali National Park one of America’s most stunning parks and one which sees many visitors, though nothing on the scale of those of mainland USA. Farther east the Wrangell St. Elias National Park is less visited, more remote and definitely attracts more of the adventurous type of traveler. There aren’t many farm stays in Alaska yet, but that is due to change in the near future.
Our Recommended Agritourism Farm Stays in Alaska: Farmstays/Alaska
A SELECTION OF OUR RECOMMENDED FARM STAYS, DUDE RANCHES & VINEYARD HOTELS IN THE USA:
>> MAP SEARCH: CLICK HERE TO SEE ALL OUR RECOMMENDED FARM STAYS, DUDE RANCHES & VINEYARD HOTELS IN THE USA IN 2020