Camping is a fun, affordable option for a family vacation that’ll get those kids out into the fresh air strolling through forests, telling campfire tales, seeing stars at night and waking up to the sounds of creatures stirring.
But what if you don’t feel like, well, dealing with camping? Not everyone wants to haul supplies, set up a tent and sleep on the ground. Fortunately, there’s that sweet spot between roughing it and renting a hotel room. It’s called glamping (glamorous camping for the uninitiated), and Bay Area families have embraced this trend with enthusiasm. Maybe that’s because there are unique choices in stunning locations nearby, from more rustic bargains to luxurious options with onsite restaurants and even spas.
So, brave the great outdoors but sleep with a roof over your head and, if possible, visit the swimming pool.
Sure, this popular spot is a bit of a splurge, but where else around here can you see zebras, giraffes, wildebeests and other species roaming around before bedding down in an elaborate tent imported from Botswana? There’s even a café on site. Although last year’s fire threatened the fate of this North Bay staple, the 400-acre property escaped destruction and remains open for business. $400-475. Safari West, 3115 Porter Creek Road, Santa Rosa. 800-616-2695. safariwest.com/plan-your-visit/spend-the-night.
Bothe-Napa Valley State Park
For a glamping experience that’s a bit easier on the wallet, check out these yurts and restored cabins in the middle of Napa Valley wine country. There’s a large swimming pool near the campground, and great food and wine are just a short trek away. $55-175. 3801 St. Helena Highway, Calistoga. 707-942-4575.
AutoCamp Russian River
Ever wanted to stay in an Airstream camper? Try one on this property in a tranquil redwood grove or stay in cushy canvas tents or a handcrafted hut. Amenities include bathrooms, hotel bedding and bath products, a clubhouse and a short walk to the river. While children are welcome here, the place values its serenity and discourages noisy disruptors. $160-250. 14120 Old Cazadero Road, Guerneville. autocamp.com/guides/location/russian-river.
Monterey Bay KOA
The kids will delight in this campground’s features that include a new swimming pool and a large playground, an outdoor cinema, games, bikes and a dog park. You can stay in an Airstream here or settle into a deluxe cabin with bunkbeds, a sleeper sofa and a shower. Don’t need the in-house bathroom? More basic camping cabins are also available. $157-293. 1186 San Andreas Road, Watsonville. 800-562-7701. koa.com/campgrounds/santa-cruz.
Traditional hotel rooms are an option, but you can also stay in one of this lodge’s canvas tent bungalows, pet-friendly campground cabins or the more luxurious Douglas Fir cabins with fireplaces, skylights and a deck. The property also hosts its own spa, bar and grill, hot tub and sauna. $127-382. 2001 Rossi Road, Pescadero. 650-879-1100. costanoa.com.
Ventana Big Sur
This five-star, dog-friendly resort along the Pacific coast offers luxury glamping in safari-style canvas tents tucked into the forest. Its Redwood Glampsites are closest to the main resort, which has a restaurant, pool, spa and other amenities. But to really get away, stay in the more remote Canyon Glampsites that are only accessible by foot. $375-625. 48123 Highway 1, Big Sur. 800-628-6500. ventanabigsur.com/glamping.
Big Basin Tent Cabins
Stay among old-growth redwoods in the Santa Cruz mountains when you rent one of these tent cabins in Big Basin Redwood State Park. The basic accommodations are on raised wooden platforms with canvas over a wooden frame and come with double beds and a lockable door. Deluxe cabins include bedding, towels and curtains, and camping packages offer cooking supplies and a cooler. $99-159. 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek. 800-444-7275. bigbasintentcabins.com.
Dhyana Levey is Bay Area Parent’s amusements columnist.