Camping–an iconic pastime with roots steeped in cowboy history and Americana tradition. There is nothing like pitching a tent on a cool summer night, campfire ablaze, telling a scary story or two. All nostalgia aside, there are a few things that detract from the experience: mosquitoes, no indoor plumbing, and sleeping on the cold, hard ground.
Glamping, the blended word for glamorous and camping, is a modern movement that has made its way from Europe to the United States, picking up speed over the last decade. It takes everything you love about traditional camping and adds plenty of luxury to the experience.
The more notable glamping trend of today, however, means spacious tents with comfortable furniture, modern amenities and sometimes, the all-important if you live in Florida–air conditioning.
If glamping sounds like the kind of outdoor fun you’d like to have, but don’t want to invest in your own glamping gear, you’d be pleased to know that one of the best glamping resorts is right here in central Florida.
Westgate River Ranch is best known for its rodeo held every Saturday night, that draws cowboys and cowgirls from all over the state for a night of barrel racing, bull riding, and a calf scramble.
On its 1,700-acre property, surrounded by 400,000 acres of state and federally protected wilderness, River Ranch is home to a hamlet of glamping tents and a charming village of luxury teepees.
River Ranch has been open since the mid 1970’s, with Westgate Resorts picking it up and adding it to their list of properties in 2000. The glamping tents and teepees weren’t added to the resort until 2013 when Westgate completely remodeled the property.
Ray Duncan, who wears many hats at Westgate, mainly of the cowboy variety, is the general manager of the resort, the rodeo announcer on Saturday night, and the preacher at the on-site church on Sunday morning.
Ray gave the Haven team a tour of the resort, focusing mainly on the glamping tents and luxury teepees.
First, we stopped to see the glamping tents which did not disappoint. They have the capacity to sleep 4 people comfortably with a king bed and two single beds. Each of the 20 air conditioned, canvas tents comes fully furnished with a gas grill, microwave, mini fridge, picnic table and screened-in porch.
Separate from the tent, across the path is a private bathroom for each tent. The glampers have a personal concierge that assists in planning activities and making sure anything they want or need is available to them. Every night, a fire is lit for the glampers, complete with s’mores.
Each morning, they wake up to a tray of cinnamon rolls and coffee to start their day.
“This is an alternate vacation experience that they’ll get nowhere else in Florida because of our unique location.”
Ray had this to say about glamping at River Ranch, “This is an alternate vacation experience that they’ll get nowhere else in Florida because of our unique location.” That unique location lends itself to an almost endless variety of wildlife from wild hogs, whitetail deer, alligators, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, and the Osceola turkey, which according to Ray, can only be found here in this part of central Florida. The amenities are a plus, but the camping experience and being in the great outdoors is what really makes the experience special.
River Ranch offers a ton of activities for its guests to choose from. There’s horseback riding, trap and skeet shooting, archery, a full-service marina where you can bring your own boat or rent a pontoon boat, airboat rides down the Kissimmee River, swamp buggy rides, a petting farm, pony rides, a 9-hole championship golf course, a driving range, bicycle rental, and a basketball court. Naming off the amenities, Ray said, “We’re all about good, clean family entertainment and there’s plenty to keep you busy while you’re here visiting with us.”
Next, we moved on to the teepee village, about which Ray explained, “The glamping was so popular, we got the idea for the deluxe teepees.”
Interior of teepee.
Takoda Village is the name of the teepee camp. The name Takoda, which means “friends of everyone” is an indication of the kind of memories and friendships you’ll make while glamping and enjoying the best of what nature has to offer.
The shining jewel of the Takoda Village is the palm thatch Chickee hut, built for the resort by the Seminole Tribe.
The hut acts as a meeting space and common area within the village, offering a look at an authentic Native American structure.
According to Ray, “The best way to describe the teepees is a 5-star hotel room wrapped in a teepee tent.”
The teepees tower impressively to the Florida sky and are a roomy 651 square feet. They sleep four, with 1 king bed and 1 sleeper sofa. The décor consists of all leather furniture, a claw foot tub, a double-sided fireplace, and breathtaking chandler. It comes with all the same amenities of the glamping tents, and then some. It’s an exclusive experience with access to any of the activities on the property.
Interior of glamping tent.
Ray suggests booking a glamping tent or teepee at least a month in advance to be sure you’re able to reserve one for the time you want, as their limited number and popularity means they go fast.
The glamping trend is sure to keep going with its nostalgic history and modern twist. Glamping is perfect for a romantic weekend for 2, girl’s weekend or a family adventure with the kids. Whether you decide to glamp it on your own or head out to Westgate River Ranch for a one-of-a-kind experience, one thing is for certain–you’ll have fantastic time. Happy glamping!
Screened in porch of glamping tent.
Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo 3200 River Ranch Blvd. River Ranch, FL 33867