Our Globetrotting Grandmom will tell you she likes camping. But what she really means is she likes the great outdoors and a night sky filled with twinkling stars. What she doesn’t like is sleeping on the hard ground as night critters roam freely around the campsite. On a recent adventure with her grandson to Westgate River Ranch, she found the perfect way to enjoy the great outdoors without sacrificing creature comforts and without complaining—glamping!
Glamping: The Solution for Outdoor Enthusiasts Who Prefer a Comfy Bed
Camping always sounds like a good idea. Sleeping out under the open sky, watching all the twinkling stars, listening to the crickets—wait, there are bugs? I’ll be honest. I like the IDEA of camping, but the reality of spending the night in a sleeping bag on the hard ground, well, that’s not so appealing. But glamping is another story. With the benefits of a soft bed, real furniture and upscale touches, glamping gives you all the benefits of spending time in the great outdoors without sacrificing comfort—and you don’t have to share the ground with the bugs.
I recently had the opportunity to experience glamping with my six-year-old grandson, Benjamin. Our destination: the Westgate River Ranch in Central Florida. Located along Highway 60 in the heart of Florida, the Westgate River Ranch has been a place filled with family fun since the 1960s. It’s evolved into the largest dude ranch east of the Mississippi River. Situated on 1700 acres and surrounded by over 400 acres of protected wetlands, the ranch is an oasis of moss draped trees, pastures of grazing livestock and serene waterways. And at its center, the answer to my camping dilemma—glampsites!
Glamping Tents are Nice…Really Nice!
We arrived at the Westgate River Ranch on a sunny Florida afternoon. After checking in and picking up our golf cart, we set out to find our home for the night—and we liked what we found. The glampsite is comprised of 20 canvas safari tents set on platforms amid trees with branches just low enough for climbing. Each tent has a picnic table along with a charcoal grill.
Benjamin was delighted at the real canvas tent complete with zippers and tie-backs. I was THRILLED with the king-size bed, two additional twin-size beds and two chest of drawers. And I was even more thrilled with the air conditioning – yes, air conditioning in a tent. Do you have any idea how fabulous that is in Florida?
Each unit has its own bathroom located in a brightly lit and secure bathhouse just across the path. This was not your typical campground bath house. The private bathroom comes with a sink, shower, and a real toilet—I am not a fan of compost toilets, but really, who is? Soft fluffy towels are provided as well as amenities: soap, shampoo and conditioner. And, each individual bathroom is locked for privacy.
Oh, did I mention we had our own Personal Glamping Concierge? Yes, that’s right. Our concierge was there to make any reservations we needed for activities and handle special requests. You don’t get that when you’re sleeping on the ground!
Adventures Abound at Westgate River Ranch
After a fun night of exploring, making s’mores, and chatting with our glamping neighbors, Benjamin and I settled in for a good night’s sleep. When morning arrive—and it arrived very early with an excited little boy in the tent—we unzipped our tent and found a lovely surprise. Our Personal Glamping Concierge had left us a pot of fresh coffee and a basket filled with fruit and sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls.
We had a full day ahead, starting with a lesson in archery which Benjamin passed and I failed miserably. Up next was a visit to the petting farm where peacocks strutted about, their iridescent blue and green plumage on full display. And baby goats wandered freely about hoping to pick up a little extra food.
One of our biggest adventures was an airboat ride on the Kissimmee River. The captain pointed out wildlife along the way. We spotted baby alligators with mama gators nearby keeping a watchful eye. Egrets, herons, hawks and bald eagles also made appearances as we sped through the murky waters. At one point we were under the close observation of a herd of cattle grazing near the riverbank.
We ended our day at the adventure park. With miniature golf, a bungee jump, zip-line, rock-climbing wall and a mechanical bull—Benjamin thought he had hit the adventure jackpot. He tried it all and was especially proud of himself when he made it to the top of the rock climbing wall.
The ranch also offers horseback riding, swimming, golf, trap and skeet shooting, hayrides, swamp buggy rides and a full service marina. On Saturday nights, the championship rodeo takes center stage with trick riding, bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing.
Want More Luxury? You Can Have That too!
If you want to amp up the luxury quotient, check out Westgate River Ranch’s latest addition: Takoda Village. Located in an exclusive section of the ranch amid 100-year-old oak trees, Takoda Village is comprised of ten 651-square-foot Native American themed Luxe Teepees outfitted with a double-sided stone rock hearth fireplace, screened private patio deck, leather chairs, a king bed, full sleeper sofa, air conditioning and heating. And each Luxe Teepee has its own private ensuite bathroom with vanity and porcelain cast iron claw bathtub and shower. You may actually forget you’re in the woods, at least until you step outside and take in that night sky with all those twinkling stars!
What You Need to Know
Traditional glamping accommodations are priced around $199 for double occupancy. The rate includes lodging, linens, toiletries, breakfast basket and a Personal Glamping Concierge. Additional fees apply for certain ranch activities.
Luxe Teepees in Takoda Village start at $450 per night with a two night minimum. Rates are all-inclusive.