First visited in the 1980s on a trip with a large family group, and I have continued to return every ten years or so to enjoy again the Bar-D Chuckwagon dinner and show. The Bar D has played host to three generations of our family since that first visit thirty years ago. It has gone through a few changes since then, and the location is well off the beaten path, but we still find it well worth the trip when we’re anywhere near Durango or Silverton.
There are a few signposts to guide the drive from Durango. Parking is plentiful. On arrival, you buy or pick up your reserved tickets. There are a few touristy gift shops here – spend some time there if you like, but the real attraction is the meal and show. If you can afford to do so, I suggest you arrive early enough to upgrade your meal to the rib eye—it was fairly tender and quite tasty on the night we last visited and the better option compared to past trips when we stayed with the beef and chicken combo. Tip: Tables are assigned in order of arrival, so arrive early if you can and send at least a few people in your party to the stage and dining area early for better seat selection at your particular table. Another tip: Take a jacket—even in summer, the evenings can be chilly.
Bar-D is not cheap, in the $25-35 range for adults, depending on choice of meal, but it’s the chuckwagon experience that you are buying. With the show and the food, it is not a bad value, particularly if you like this kind of entertainment.
The dinnerware is rustic, not deluxe – aluminum plates and cups from memory; you’ll be eating on a picnic table. If you need a hand with your plate (disabled, children, or just need a hand), there are plenty of staff available to assist you to your table. Our steaks were good but cooked to “well done” (if you’re visiting from Europe, be prepared for a steak that is extremely “well done”). The sponge cake was missable, but everything else was cooked to our liking and the portions were generous. And the kitchen offers seconds until the food runs out—a big plus with our 17 and 18 year old sons. The meal is served and done in a matter of perhaps 35-40 minutes, after which dishes are cleared away. Speaking of which, an older lady seated at our table, but not in our party, was a slower eater, and the woman who came by to clear the dishes could have shown a little more patience and understanding … several of us had to tell her to back off, and the guests finally prevailed. It was more awkward than it needed to be, but other than that the service was warm and friendly.
The program has changed a bit over the years with shifting public tastes and new performers. On the whole, I may prefer the programs from years gone by, but a few of the newer numbers in the routine had us all laughing. Some of the performers come and go, but it’s good to see a fairly steady cadre who’ve been with the Bar-D for many years. The show can be enjoyed by people of all ages, but some of the humor—all of it clean, I hasten to add—could be lost on younger children, who may not understand some of the dry wit. If I could change anything, I wish the show were lengthened by 15 minutes or so, and perhaps include only one patriotic number at the end. I don’t disagree with the sentiment, and maybe it is just me, but it feels just a tiny bit overdone compared to the last time we visited.
You might take a camera. Except for those who are cooking or attending to other chores behind the scenes, the cast are available both before and after the show, and all are approachable for a chat, photo, autograph, etc. If you’re a big fan of their music, recordings are offered for sale both before and after the show.
All in all, the Bar-D is still one of the highlights of our occasional trips to the four corners area and very recommendable if you plan to be nearby, especially if you enjoy the chuckwagon experience or live musical shows and entertainment themed around the Old West.
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