Summer conjures images of parades, Fourth of July celebrations and eating hotdogs and watermelon while taking in the crackling sounds of festive fireworks with our loved ones. This year we decided to watch some fireworks while nestled in a tricked out tent on a family “glamping” vacation. What is glamping, you ask? It’s a hybrid type of camping with a bit more style and comfort thrown in for good measure. My memories of camping harken back to the days when our family literally pitched a tent in the wilderness of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and with a wing and a prayer we hoped to endure the animals and bugs. I remember the experience as both terrifying and liberating, and of course there was lots of work. After finding the right spot, we then embarked on the laborious process of erecting our ramshackle tent (there always seemed to be extra parts!) and building a campfire. The reward at the end of all the work included a delicious dinner cooked over the campfire under a starry sky, and yes, baked beans, hot dogs and s’mores somehow taste better while camping, even with all the smoke and the charred ends. Glamping gives on a whole new meaning to the camping experience and raises the bar quite a bit by offering luxury amenities. Many true campers may scoff at the indulgent accessories and comforts of glamping, but for those who rarely camp but relish the experience of being outdoors with nature and sleeping under the stars, this promises to be a rewarding experience without most of the hassles.
After I did a little research it appears glamping has been a popular luxury hobby and activity in several parts of the world for quite some time, like luxury safaris in Africa, but most recently it has become a popular family vacation option in the United States with over seven top-notch facilities around the country. There is Normandy Farms in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which has been around since 1971 and now offers deluxe options for onsite cabins and lean-to sites. The facilities offer traditional camping experience at the seashore but with more options, and of course one can still be in touch with nature. If the rugged nature of Northern California is more to your liking there are glamping facilities in Big Sur, California, providing retro, indulgent options. They offer vintage Airstream campers rebuilt and stocked with modern amenities for camping, all with breathtaking mountain views and gorgeous sunsets in the peace and tranquility of remote California. However, the luxury camping that caught my eye the most was at Paws Up in Montana in the Blackfoot Valley and throughout the wilderness of Montana. They offer luxury safari-style tents throughout the property that is one-part cowboy experience and another part luxury get away all set beneath towering pines. There are fine linens, art hung on the tent walls, electricity, en-suite (er, tent) bathrooms, and fine dining. This is not your ordinary camping experience, and it raises the luxury bar to another level. They boast on their website that this is the “Original American Safari” experience. With rugged terrain, crystal clear lakes and streams, unspoiled wilderness and truly breathtaking Rocky Mountain views, the Paws Up territory served as the shooting location for A River Runs Through It.
After a busy work year, finding time to sneak away for a week of outdoors relaxation with the family but with someone else pitching that tent and preparing the food, sounds quite enticing. We can still enjoy the simple wonders of nature, maybe dip our toes in a lake or run through the grass, ride through the forest on horseback, yet arrive back to a perfectly set-up, luxury campsite and a three- or four-star meal prepared by a trained chef. Glamping may just become our go-to vacation this summer, a unique way to take in the wonders of nature all the while still enjoying a little pampering and luxury.