For most of America, Memorial Day weekend this year means only one thing: long hours on line waiting to see Phantom Menace. But if you can bear to wait a week to discover the fate of Anakin Skywalker, forgo space cowboys for a dude ranch in the Catskills. So what if it sounds like a Mel Brooks movie: At the Pinegrove Dude Ranch in Kerhonkson, the kids get an outdoor workout with real horses just two hours from the city by car or bus -- and it's a bargain. The main attractions, of course, are four-legged -- as in riding lessons, trail rides, and cattle herding -- but the ranch also offers archery, swimming, skiing, tennis, and golf. There's a day camp and nursery for the youngest, and separate, less-structured programs for teens. At night, roast marshmallows around the campfire, square-dance, or hop on a hayride. (There's also a "saloon" and a disco.) It sounds corny, but isnt that the point? Pinegrove's innocent kitsch is a low-budget alternative to the overpriced, Disneyfied kitsch that passes for family entertainment everywhere else. And Star Wars will still be around next weekend.
DETAILS Pinegrove Dude Ranch (800-346-4626; two-night packages, which include meals, snacks, and all activities, start at $229 for adults; children 416 are half-price, younger kids free); Shortline Bus (736-4700; $48.75 round-trip between the Port Authority and Kerhonkson; children 511 are half-price, younger kids free). Pinegrove will pick guests up at the bus station.