The Flying J Ranch
6 Flying J Road, 1028 State Hwy 48 | Alto, NM 88312
A big reason for our trip to Ruidoso was to go see the Flying J Ranch (caution: this site auto-plays Western music). Zia had been there many times as a young girl growing up in New Mexico. Zia’s daughter was making her second trip to the Flying J, the first one being when she was around three years old. This was my first time.
Like the rest of Ruidoso, Flying J was enjoying the benefits of tourist season, so the ranch was pretty crowded. However, they make parking pretty organized and easy. As soon as we pulled into the lot, a cowboy was there to herd us into our parking spot.
Inside the ranch, you find a mock-up of an Old West town with souvenir shops and treats. For the kids, there’s horseback riding, gold panning, and pistol shooting — not real pistols, of course, but they make a pretty loud “pop!” Again, the ranch was pretty crowded, so the lines for the activities were long. We judged the horseback line to be too long, so Zia’s daughter got to pan for gold for a few minutes, finding one decent-sized nugget of “gold” (aka iron pyrite).
The line for the pistol shooting was moving pretty good, so she jumped in line for quick three shots with an old-west style pistol! (Again, these are toys. They shoot a projectile with barely enough velocity to punch through a sheet of paper.)
After the pistol shooting, we headed over to watch the big gunfight between the town sheriff and a couple of “no-good hooligans.”
This “gunfight” is Rated G and appropriate for all ages. It’s wrought with enough silliness and puns to keep the young ones entertained and laughing, and some cute one-liners for the adults. I won’t give you any spoilers, but it’s a good time for the whole family. After the show, the actors were more than happy to pose for pictures with some of the kids.
You’d think that feeding a couple hundred people at one sitting would be complicated, if not downright messy. However, the Flying J Ranch has been in business for 33 years, and they know how to move people through a chow line quickly and efficiently. When I saw the number of people crowding into the dining area, I thought it would take forever – and a miracle – to get everyone fed, but we were happily filling our bellies with a delicious, chuck-wagon style meal within about 10 minutes of getting to our seats.
They file you out of the dining hall and into the kitchen by tables, after first giving you exact instructions on what to do at each food station, and even how to hold your plate! (Hold it under the spot where the applesauce goes, because it’s a metal plate and the applesauce is the only cold food you’re getting.)
You then file through the kitchen, stopping at each station for a heaping helping of each item. The food fare is pretty simple, and the Flying J Ranch website gives you a detailed description of what the meal offers, including what is and isn’t “authentic” cowboy fare (SUPPER DETAILS). What you get is pinto beans, chunky applesauce, a baked potato, brisket or chicken, a biscuit, and spice cake. Then you choose from iced tea, lemonade, water, or coffee to drink. (Served in an authentic beat-up old tin cup, just like the cowboys used!)
The only food item I can’t really write about is the BBQ grilled chicken. All five of us opted for the brisket. Also, it’s kind of a waste of time to go line by line on each food item, when two words describe them all: absolutely delicious! Nonetheless, I will give you a brief rundown. The brisket was tender, smoky and tasty; you could cut it with just a fork. The beans were excellent, and surprisingly spicy. The chunky applesauce…wow. I’m not an applesauce fan, at least not of the stuff you buy in a jar at the grocery store. The Flying J’s applesauce was like a dessert, with big chunks of sweet apples. Lastly, the potato, biscuit, and spice cake were all equally good and nicely rounded out the meal. Oh, and come hungry! There were plenty of leftovers, and you were free to return to the line for more food. I’m pretty sure the crowd ran out of room before the Flying J kitchen ran out of food.
After dinner, the Flying J cast (the same people that just spooned your food onto your tin plate) gathers on stage for about an hour long western music show. Western style music may not be your thing, but if you appreciate good showmanship, incredible musical talent, bean jokes, puns, and a little musical comedy, you’ll enjoy watching the Flying J cast perform. It’s a really nice way to sit and relax after a good hearty meal. There’s music and comedy, and even a heartfelt salute to our servicemen, servicewomen, and veterans.
Good people, good food, and fine entertainment for the whole family, the Flying J Ranch is something you must do if you’re in the Ruidoso area.