Wednesday, May 15, 2024
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Rustic Retreats

A venue with Western surroundings takes a meeting beyond the boardroom and into the open range

By Amy Durham

From replicas of Old West towns to barns converted into banquet halls, Texas has no shortage of rustic venues. The state’s unique history includes barn dances and rodeos, so it makes sense that locals and visitors alike still enjoy gathering in places that act as reminders of life on the range.

Being in a space that sits on acres of land is a different experience than being in the conference room of a hotel. While each type of venue has its place and purpose, the benefit of a rustic venue—whether in the country or a country oasis in the city—is its ability to make a big impression on attendees and create a truly Texas experience they will remember for years.

“One of the most impactful trends we have seen, and continue to see, is a focus on providing unique experiences for event attendees,” says Lindsay Barker, director of Wichita Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The days of attending a convention or meeting, sitting in a room for eight hours of class and speeches, and then being finished for the day are long gone.”

So put on those boots and jeans and go all-in on Western-style fun. These rustic venues are sure to have planners and attendees tipping their hats to Texas.

Lazy S Hacienda in Weatherford
Lazy S Hacienda in Weatherford || Courtesy of Lazy S Hacienda/Wiley Photo Film

Texan Tried & True

Re-creating a Texas town from the early 1900s, Star Hill Ranch comprises 22 historic buildings that were relocated and restored on the property. The ranch is 30 minutes from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and has capacity for up to 2,000 people in its indoor and outdoor spaces. Attendees can stroll the main street in the evening under the glow of twinkle lights, and planners can host outdoor events in the plaza. Gather in the banquet hall—which is a converted schoolhouse—or the Fitzhugh Building, a 1914 chapel and community center that seats 300 attendees. Don’t forget drinks at the saloon when the day is done.

For some attendees, a real rustic retreat in Texas might not be complete without a hunt. Joshua Creek Ranch offers outdoor sporting adventures in a luxury resort setting located 45 minutes northwest of San Antonio. With over 7,500 square feet of indoor space, the ranch can host 250 attendees. On-site lodging in private ranch houses offers single occupancy for 30 but can accommodate up to 100 overnight guests. Ranch chefs specialize in wild-game recipes during hunting season and local Texas fare the rest of the year.
“A custom itinerary including private venues, food service, overnight accommodations, and outdoor sporting activities combined with our spectacular location in the beautiful Texas Hill Country makes Joshua Creek Ranch a truly unique destination for hosting events and special occasions for groups of all sizes,” says Kevin Welborn, managing director.

Wide-Open Spaces

For large groups, venues with maximum space combine with Western charm to create an inspiring event. River Ranch Stockyards has indoor and outdoor space for 1,000 attendees. Located in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District, the venue is versatile for both casual and formal events. Three indoor spaces include the Old Town Room, with replica wooden fronts of a saloon, mercantile, chapel, and jail lining the walls; the Trophy Room with a rustic stage; and the Westfork Room with a stone fireplace and adjacent patio. Book activities outdoors and give attendees a mechanical bull ride, photo ops with a live longhorn, and even a bull-riding show in the on-site rodeo pen.

Circle R Ranch sits on 60 acres in Flower Mound, a suburb of Dallas. Two large facilities on the property look like big red barns, and the surrounding land is ideal for large outdoor events like company picnics or field days. The Western Pavilion offers 27,000 square feet of enclosed space for up to 1,000 attendees. A 5,000-square-foot patio, stage, two game rooms, and four main bars give planners flexible setups. For a homier setting, the Chisolm Ranch House offers 5,000 square feet across the main area with a fireplace and stage, and the sunroom features views of the ranch. The on-site rodeo arena can be booked for live rodeo shows.

Star Hill Ranch || Courtesy of Amanda Pomilla Photography

Banquet in a Barn

For a serene setting, Rustic Hart Ranch and Venue sits on 14 acres just south of Wichita Falls. The barn, complete with wood floors and a Western bar with a painted-on Texas flag, seats up to 150 banquet-style. Mesquite trees grow throughout the property and offer multiple outdoor green spaces for meetings under the blue sky, creating a relaxing place to learn and connect. “Planners have transformed the typical convention or meeting into an informative and enjoyable experience for attendees,” says Barker.

For an elevated event, Lazy S Hacienda offers an elegant aesthetic in Weatherford. The 5,500-square-foot building, modeled after a Spanish hacienda (a style of large estate), has rustic wooden ceilings and an open floor plan resembling the inside of a barn. Attendees also have access to 2,000 square feet of outdoor meeting space. The venue is set on 40 secluded acres but is just three minutes off Interstate 20 outside of Fort Worth. The property adheres to sustainability standards with water conservation fixtures, solar panels, and energy-efficient HVAC and electrical systems.

A rooftop deck provides attendees with unobstructed views of the sunset over the plains, and a helipad makes for a quick getaway or a surprise adventure for attendees.
Cowboy culture extends to every corner of the state, so you won’t have to look too far to find the right rustic retreat for your next meeting.