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Tony Capecchi

Woodbury, Minn.

Top 5 Glamping Destinations

One of the hottest trends in travel right now is glamping, or glamour camping. It combines the nature appeal of traditional camping with first-class amenities. Think luxury canvas tents with indoor plumbing and gourmet dining dropped in beautiful, remote settings, and you’ve got the idea of glamping. 

Here are five of the best glamping destinations across North America. 

1. The Ranch at Rock Creek
Philipsburg, Montana

Since the age of 10, Jim Manley knew he wanted to own a ranch. At 33, the investment banker began searching for one to buy, with very specific criteria. Among other factors, the perfect property must have a river running through it, a nearby ski hill and the absence of both grizzlies and poisonous snakes. 

Manley and his team searched over 500 ranches in 20 years, then he discovered The Ranch at Rock Creek. “When I saw this place, I bought it that day,” he said. 

The ranch itself was homesteaded in the late 1800s, with Manley purchasing the 6,600-acre property in 2007. To complement the main lodge rooms and luxury homes, glamping tents were added alongside Rock Creek, a Blue Ribbon trout stream that soothes the soul as my wife and I discovered this past September. The glamping tents are tastefully decorated with antique artifacts from the area, and are incredibly comfortable and relaxing. 

Most of the canvas tents are closed during the winter months, however two of the canvas tents are hybrid cabins, open year-round. The media has rightfully deemed the glamping tents at The Ranch at Rock Creek as the “Taj Mahal” of tents.

In addition to top-shelf liquor and gourmet dining, the all-inclusive glamping experience also includes two privately guided activities each day. We enjoyed trap shooting, horseback riding and fly-fishing––all of which were fabulous––but it was a combination of other factors that truly made our visit to The Ranch at Rock Creek the trip of a lifetime. 

We spent a night gazing at stars while sipping cocktails in an outdoor, heated pool. Another night we rode in a circa-1850s stagecoach, sang karaoke and bowled. A third evening found us biking along the creek and spotting a black bear. The food is outstanding, the staff is warm and welcoming and the glamping tents are simply outstanding.

The Ranch at Rock Creek is the world’s only Forbes five-star luxury ranch, and there is an overwhelmingly comfortable atmosphere at the ranch that immediately puts you at ease. 

Our entire visit was magical, and it is impossible to appreciate how special The Ranch at Rock Creek is until you’ve experienced it for yourself.  

The website for The Ranch at Rock Creek is TheRanchatRockCreek.com. For more information or to make a reservation, call 877.786.1545 or email welcome@TheRanchatRockCreek.com. 


2. Dunton River Camp
San Juan Mountains, Colorado

Imagine a pristine river flowing through the Colorado Rockies with a handful of luxury, safari style tents nestled along the trees and you’ve got a good start to envisioning Dunton River Camp. Add in the freshest, locally sourced gourmet food and a wide array of award-winning wine to nourish you for tomorrow’s adventures of hiking, biking, horseback riding or fly-fishing, and you’re getting closer. But the truth is, you can’t picture or appreciate this nature paradise until you’ve been there yourself. 

“This is a place where you are truly immersed in nature,” said Christina Rossi, Marketing Director for Dunton River Camp. “It might be the last place you would expect to have a soothing massage, invigorating body wrap, or steam in a sauna, but these things are all arranged with ease.”

Indeed, guests at Dunton want for nothing. Each of the eight canvas tents includes an en-suite bathroom, gas stove and private lounging porch, where it is not uncommon to see elk or deer.

“This is about as far away from ‘roughing it’ as you can get,” Rossi said, noting that guests are consistently surprised by the spaciousness of the tents. “In our somewhat biased opinion, these tents are better than many five-star hotel rooms.”   

A collection of raving, 5-star TripAdvisor reviews––about Dunton River Camp as well as its sister property, Dunton Hot Springs––supports Rossi’s claim. To put it another way, the bed inside each luxury tent is nicer than the one in my home. Besides, there is no better sleep aid than a nightcap under the stars, a s’more by the fire, and the gurgling of the river as you plop into bed.  

Throw in Dunton’s amazing guest service and it’s no wonder why some guests choose to ignore the diverse list of outdoor activities altogether in favor of doing nothing but lounging in nature’s beauty.  

“It's about the things money can't buy, as opposed to things it can,” Rossi said. “Dunton River Camp is an incredibly unique and special place that is hard to explain. One you visit, you get it!” 

The website for Dunton River Camp is DuntonRiverCamp.com. For more information or to make a reservation, call 877.228.4674 or email reservations@duntonlife.com. The website for the camp’s sister property, Dunton Hot Springs, is DuntonHotSprings.com


3. Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort
Cariboo Mountains, British Columbia

“Siwash possesses a wonderful 'sense of place.' One can truly feel the passion that owner Allyson Rogers has poured into her resort,” said Jeneen Sutherland, Executive Director of The Magnificent 7, a collection of elite wilderness lodges. “Every detail is perfect, and the rustic elegance creates an atmosphere of a bygone era... with all the creature comforts of the present day. And the activity menu goes well beyond horse riding too!”

Tucked in 80,000 acres of rolling grasslands under wide open skies, Siwash offers accommodations in its historic ranch house, as well as spacious safari tents. For the glamping experience, you’ll snuggle comfortably into a luxury tent that hearkens back to the romantic era of Ernest Hemingway’s Africa. The two room, canvas-clad suites have a master bedroom with a curtained doorway, which when tied back offers sweeping views of the forest, meadow and lake beyond––right from the king-size bed. 

Start the day with farm-fresh food, then saddle up “your” horse and ride along old-growth forests and historic gold rush remnants until a pristine stream begs you to wet a fly for BC’s legendary wild rainbow trout. Ride along and fish the falls at Crater Lake, then return to the dude ranch for a family-style dinner at the intimate camp before retiring to your luxury tent.
 

Repeat this routine the next day, or change it up and kayak, mountain bike and hit the archery range. You’ll still have time to catch big rainbows in the on-site pond stocked with 2- to 8-pounders. 

By nature, this family-operated, eco-friendly resort is small, personal and sophisticated, beckoning to the most discerning, active travelers who seek authentic adventure and life-enriching experiences. 


 
The website for Siwash Lake Wilderness Resort is SiwashLakeRanch.com. For more information or to make a reservation, call 250.395.6541 or email reservations@siwashlake.com. 

4. Clayoquot Wilderness Resort
Vancouver Island, British Columbia

John Caton and his wife, Adele, ditched the fast-paced East Coast music industry 13 years ago to manage Clayoquot, widely considered Canada’s premier glamping destination. The Catons are still surrounded by music, but now Mother Nature sets the beat and they live in harmony with her in an 860,000-acre biosphere reserve in the center of Earth’s largest-surviving temperate rain forest.

The UNESCO site is breathtaking. Clayoquot’s 19th-century inspired African safari tents sit on the shores of the Bedwell River as it enters into the Pacific Ocean surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Upon landing at Clayoquot’s floatplane landing strip on the western edge of Vancouver Island, guests are loaded onto a buckboard drawn by two stout Norwegian Fjord draft horses and transported into the wild paradise, where whale and bear sightings are daily occurrences. 

Guided fishing excursions take three forms: fly-fishing local rivers for cutthroat trout and salmon, deep sea fishing in the Pacific for halibut, sea bass and 50-pound “Tyee” king salmon, and lake fishing on mountain waters for trout accessed after another high-altitude float plane ride. 

Owner and founder Rick Genovese is the man who made the Clayoquot dream possible, purchasing 160 acres near the current Clayoquot camp in 1998 and promptly investing $2 million in preliminary clean-up. Along the way, Genovese put glamping on the map and developed Clayoquot into one of the world’s elite luxury wilderness resorts.

The website for Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is WildRetreat.com. For more information or to make a reservation, call 888.333.5405 or email info@wildretreat.com. 


5. Sequoia High Sierra Camp
Sequoia National Park, California
 

Nestled in one of America’s most famous outdoor playgrounds, Sequoia High Sierra Camp offers a rare opportunity to explore California’s Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks. Guests at the hike-in camp experience the parks in a most unique fashion; high-end tents provide a secluded, mountain retreat. 

The surrounding scenery is legendary––from dramatic mountain peaks to cascading creeks to tranquil meadows under the open sky––and this camp allows outdoor lovers to embrace a quieter side of Sequoia and nearby Yosemite National Park. Both Sequoia and Yosemite boom during the busy summer months, but this glamping experience requires a one-mile hike into camp and rewards those who make the relatively easy walk with a more secluded stay. 

One of the most popular activities is horseback riding into the backcountry, where fishing is quite good for those inclindes.  

The website for Sequoia High Sierra Camp is SequoiaHighSierraCamp.com. For more information or to make a reservation, call 866-654-2877 or email info@sequoiahighsierracamp.com.

Keys for Kids

When people think about a kids-focused, family Florida vacation, Disney is the destination that typically comes to mind first––and for good reason. But the fact is, the Florida Keys provide unique, exciting and educational experiences that make the islands a dream getaway for kids of all ages. 

Here are three can’t-miss activities in the Florida Keys to treat your kids––and yourself––to next time you’re looking for a family getaway. 

1.) Ultimate Keys Fishing with Captain Jim Willcox
UltimateKeysFishing.com 

If Islamorada is the sport fishing capital of the world, as it’s frequently called, then Captain Jim Willcox is the reigning president. The legendary guide was named one of the top five fishing attractions on the planet by North American Fisherman, and for good reason. 

Personally, I’ve never fished with a better guide than Willcox. Our adventure––spotting alligators, sharks and manatees, cruising through the Florida Everglades and catching dozens of redfish, snook and other species––turned me into a kid, I was so excited. I also spoke with someone who has first-hand knowledge of Willcox’s ability to give kids a memorable experience. 

“As a dad, there’s nothing like seeing the pure joy of your 12-year-old reeling in fish after fish and then catching this huge shark,” says Matt Waddell, of White Plains, New York, who visits Islamorada annually for guided outings with Willcox. “Those trips are also a chance for me to bond with my sons with no video games, no phones and no TV. We just talk about what’s going on in life, but it’s not heavy or uncomfortable because they’re so excited about the fishing.”

Waddell brought his 12-year-old son out fishing with Willcox as a birthday present to the boy. After catching mackerel, blue fish, redfish, snapper, snook and trout, Waddell’s son caught a large shark.

“Jim can stop his boat in the middle of nowhere, drop in a few lines and pull out dozens of a specific type of fish,” Waddell says, “Then he’ll motor for a while, stop somewhere else, and you start catching dozens of some totally different type of fish.”

“Jim is great with kids,” Waddell said. “He engages with them really well, and he subtly teaches them without patronizing them.”

Simply put, I can’t recommend Willcox highly enough. As soon as my son is old enough, I’m calling him for sure.

For more information visit UltimateKeysFishing.com. To contact Capt. Jim Willcox dial 305.393.1128 or email captjimw@ultimatekeysfishing.com.

2.) Lorelei Cabana Bar & Restaurant
LoreleiCabanaBar.com

Yes, I am recommending a bar as a guaranteed, must-see “kids” attraction. Bring your family to Lorelei once, and you’ll see why.

For starters, the food is cheap and delicious. Secondly, Lorelei sits right on the water, facing West with nightly sunsets providing the perfect background for that family Christmas card photo that will make your relatives and friends jealous. Add to that frequent manatees swimming around, live music every night and a friendly staff that brings to life a casual, down-to-earth atmosphere and you can’t go wrong the restaurant recently named one of the top five “after-fish restaurants” in the world. 

“We have fun here,” said John Maloughey, the restaurant’s general manager. “Islamorada is a great place for kids if you like the water. We make sure we’re a family-friendly place, and people seem to appreciate that.” 

Indeed, the gang at Lorelei does more than its fair share for area kids. Each year, they run a huge youth fishing derby and give away tons of prizes. For a full month before the event, Maloughey feeds the fish at 10am every day to help the kids’ success rate for the 10am fishing event. 

 

“We get good musicians every night and we offer very affordable prices so people want come back,” said Maloughey, who himself has two adult daughters––both of whom can run their own boat. “I took both my daughters out boating and fishing since they were little,” he said. 

As far as eating out with kids goes, there might not be a better deal in all of Florida than Lorelei’s “Own Catch Dinner.” If you bring in fish you caught that day, Lorelei will expertly prepare them for you––fried, grilled or blackened––served with French fries and coleslaw for only $6.95. 

For more information visit LoreleiCabanaBar.com. To contact Lorelei Cababa, dial 305-664-2692 or email johnm@loreleicabanabar.com.

3.) Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters
FloridaKeysAquariumEncounters.com

For Minnesota residents who’ve been to Sea Life at the Mall of America, I’d describe Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters as an outdoor Sea Life … on steroids. At this easy-to-get-to and affordable attraction you get to pet sting rays, swim with hundreds of colorful fish, watch 300-pound goliath grouper eat and feed sharks by hand.



It’s right off the main drag––Florida’s scenic Overseas Highway––and is a great activity to save for a bad weather day. It’s outside, but many of the exhibits are covered by roofs to protect you from sun, rain or wind. For that matter, the aquarium is a good balance after several days of harder watersports out on the ocean. 

Here, you’re swimming in a climate controlled tank or simply reaching your hand into a gentle pool for the curious sensation of petting a sting ray. Better yet, these rays have been de-barbed.

Both my wife and I were struck by how friendly the staff members were at the aquarium. We went in the middle of the afternoon and were delighted that the aquarium wasn’t overly crowded; it’s super easy to navigate and get up close to––or inside––each exhibit. The employees seemed to enjoy interacting with the sea life and with guests.

After an afternoon of feeding the sharks, we even fed ourselves at the aquarium, getting tasty paninis from Eagle Ray Café. 



For more information visit FloridaKeysAquariumEncounters.com. To contact the aquarium, dial 305-407-3262 or email info@floridakeysaquariumencounters.com.

For more information on things to do in the Florida Keys, visit Fla-keys.com.