It wasn't that long ago that Phoenix was a Wild West town, home to farmers, ranchers, and cowboys driving cattle across the desert. Phoenix still maintains strong ties to its rollickin', rambunctious Old West past, so the city is a great place to fulfill any long-held fantasies of riding a mustang off into the sunset. From old-school saloons to stables where beginners can get their feet wet, saddle up for some of the best ways to unleash your inner cowboy across Phoenix!
First things first: You'll want to brush up on your cowboy skills at the Arizona Cowboy College. You'll learn how real ranch hands ride horses, rope cattle, sort and pen cows, and tons more from real experts. They offer one-day, three-day, and weeklong sessions— multi-day workshops include meals and accommodations in their bunkhouse, just like real cowboys.
After Cowboy College, you'll be an old pro. Put your skills to use on the City Slicker Cattle Drive put on by Fort McDowell Adventures-- they offer it to the general public one Friday a month, or you can rustle up a group of 10 friends to go with you. They also offer trail rides for those who are still getting used to being in the saddle! You can also book a more relaxed trail ride, which will offer stunning desert views and have you feeling the spirit of the West.
Add some historical context to your cowboy adventure at the Pioneer Living History Village. The 90-acre 1800s village features authentic 19th century buildings and painstakingly researched authentic recreations, along with costumed interpreters who can give entertaining and in-depth information on everything from blacksmithing to ranch life. Stop by the schoolhouse, the jail, the opera house, and the church to learn what life was really like back in the Wild West!
By now, you're probably starting to get the hang of the whole cowboy thing, so it’s about time you started to dress the part. Watson's Hat Shop is descended from one of the oldest hat shops in the whole country and uses equipment that dates back to the 1860s. They offer custom-made hats such as dress hats and Aussie-style lids, and they can help you pick out the style that fits you best. Their selection of cowboy hats is most impressive, though. You can learn all about the different styles of cowboy hats, from incredibly accurate historic recreations to stylish takes on the design. Any purchase you make is guaranteed to stand up to even the most intense cattle drive.
For a meal fit for a cowboy, head to The Stockyards Restaurant, one of the most revered steakhouses in the city. They’ve been serving up juicy cuts of beef since the late 1940s, and their menu offers some old-school options. Try the Cattle Baron's cut or the Cowboy's cut of prime rib with whiskey sweet potato mash and cowboy beans for a classic meal. Or, get adventurous with calf fries, calf's liver, buffalo ribeye, and wild boar and venison sausage.
If you're looking for a restaurant with a Wild West atmosphere, Rustler's Rooste can't be beat. From the moment you arrive and meet Horny, the live bull who lives outside the restaurant, you'll feel like a real cowboy. Part of an old salt mineshaft is also nearby, and you can even take a tin slide down into the dining room (or feel free to take the stairs!). The menu features steaks, barbecue, chili and more, which you can enjoy while you listen to the live Western music and line dance the night away. And make sure to take a moment to soak in the breathtaking view of the city and Camelback Mountain in the distance-- it's utterly gorgeous!
Rawhide has tons of different ways for you to unleash your inner cowboy. The town is free to visit, and there are lots of attractions, shows, rides, and games you can take advantage of. The Six Gun Theater puts on gunfights by the resident Rough Riders, and you can take a stagecoach ride, pan for gold, ride a mechanical bull, or visit the animals in the petting zoo. Make sure to stop by the post office, which features the mailbox used by notorious outlaws Frank and Jesse James when they lived in Oklahoma!
Most cowboys have to sleep under the stars and rough it, but if you prefer your creature comforts, then book a stay at the Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass. It blends rugged Western vibes with resort amenities. They have an onsite equestrian center, a huge pool that features a waterslide that was inspired by the Hohokam ruins of Casa Grande, and a spa with treatments inspired by Native American medical and spiritual practices.
Now that you've got the hat, the history, and the horseback riding experience, you can put it all together on a guided tour through South Mountain Park. Ponderosa Stables has horses and trails that can fit any level of rider, whether you still feel like a beginner or consider yourself a seasoned pro. You'll meander through the foothills of South Mountain, passing through stunning desert terrain as your guide tells you all about the landscape and the Western way of life. Look into their breakfast rides, lunch rides, and steak dinner rides for something extra special.
End your cowboy journey with a big ol' plate of brisket and ribs at the Buffalo Chip Saloon & Steakhouse. The saloon is actually part cowboy bar and restaurant, part dance hall, and part rodeo, with live bull riding and line dancing several nights a week. You can just grab a cheap, cold beer and watch the fun, or enjoy s'mores while hanging out around a campfire-- they even have activities for kids here. And rest assured that The Chip isn't some kitschy tourist attraction... you'll see plenty of regulars, dressed in their cowboy best.
From cattle roping to line dancing, Phoenix is the perfect place to embrace your inner cowboy. Dust off your boots and get ready for a Wild West adventure. Yee-haw!
It's time to go beyond. Follow trails that reveal mighty mountaintops. Wander among iconic landscapes beneath picture-perfect skies. Let the Sonoran Desert be your guide to limitless adventure.