Kathy A. McDonald
Love the great outdoors but hate the idea of sleeping on the ground in a lumpy sleeping bag and taking cold showers? Then the increasingly popular trend of “glamping” (glamour + camping) is for you. Across North America, resorts and campgrounds are adding elegant outdoorsy options for overnight stays that feature pre-pitched tents and cabins with hotel-like amenities, such as fine dining, soaking tubs, plush bedding on real beds and even maid and butler service.
The glamping travel trend can be traced to the mobile camps of professionally outfitted deluxe African safaris. More recently, outdoor European summer festivals, like England’s Glastonbury music fest, have popularized ultra-chic camping that comes with pricey creature comforts (sheepskin rug floors!) and draws bold names such as Kate Moss, Sienna Miller and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Nature With All the Niceties
Going glamping means you can enjoy first–class accommodations without forgoing the eco-friendly, get-away-from-it all appeal of camping. “Glamping spots are typically in pristine locations, not tarnished by tourism, and have a much smaller footprint than a luxury hotel,” says Jennifer Domansky, editor of GlampingGirl.com, which lists more than 20 glamping destinations.
You’ll find glampsites in some of the most awe-inspiring places in the U.S. and beyond. The Treebones Resort in Big Sur, Calif. overlooks miles of dramatic coastline and offers yurts -- circular, tent-like structures that are a modern adaptation of the shelters used by Central Asian nomads -- that include plush beds, polished wood floors and French doors that open out to a redwood deck. At the Resort at Paw’s Up, which is nestled on the banks of Montana’s Blackfoot River, the canvas tents feature art-adorned walls and heated floors; a private master bath is a short walk away along a solar-lighted path. The Cedar House Inn & Yurts is located at the foothills of the Appalachians in North Georgia and offers bed-and-breakfast yurts (breakfast is served at the property’s inn).
Go Glamping: Save Your Romance
When he talks about taking a vacation where he can pitch a tent, she pitches a fit. Glamour camping is a cozy, and very comfortable, alternative to separate vacations. “Glamping is a good middle ground for couples, if one of them is a camper and the other shivers at the idea,” says Terri Bowman, general manager of El Capitan Canyon, just north of Santa Barbara, Calif., where 135 tents and cabins are set on 30,000 acres in the midst of a wildlife corridor. “The die-hard camper can sit outdoors by the campfire while inside the cabin there are nice linens and everything you’d expect from a hotel.” El Capitan Canyon’s most elaborate wood-frame cabins are tricked out with soaking tubs, outdoor decks, hand-hewn picnic tables and fire pits. (Comfort at that level doesn’t come cheap; rates go up to $350 a night.)
Unlike a typical camping trip where every meal needs to be prepped and packed in advance, most glamping spots offer dining or easy-to-cook meals. At El Capitan Canyon, glampers can eat at the on-site restaurant or order a BBQ kit with all the fixin’s, from tri-tip steak to ready-to-toast s’mores. At Montana’s Paw’s Up Resort, each of the resort’s swanky tent camps has its own dining tent serving three meals a day, inclusive in the nightly stay rate.
Off the Grid and Do-It-Yourself Glamping
Some glamping spots, like the Jalama Cañon Ranch 130 miles north of Los Angeles, let you go completely off-the-grid, and are remote enough so there’s no light pollution at night and constellations are brilliant. On Washington State’s San Juan Island, the Lakedale Resort’s canvas tents are without electricity and Wi-Fi, but the pillow-top beds and sparkling lakes soothe those suffering from Blackberry or iPhone withdrawal.
For the truly budget conscious, it’s easy enough to create your own glamp-out. “Glamping is more of a lifestyle than a destination: you can turn any camping trip into glamping,” says Domansky. She suggests bringing special supplies like champagne and flutes or flavored marshmallows for gourmet s’mores. Glamorizing your campsite is the first step to traveling-in-style in the great outdoors.
Kathy A. McDonald is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who specializes in the intersection of Hollywood, culture and lifestyle. She regularly contributes to the Los Angeles Times and Variety, among other publications.
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