The Art of “Glamping” 

Ok. I have a confession. The last time my husband and I were out camping together was 14 years ago! We did an 8-mile canoe stretch up and down The Peace River (actually he was the one canoeing and I was taking pictures…ha!) We set up camp and passed out for 14 hours!! I kid you not. Therefore, we never got the full camping experience. It’s definitely been on our radar for some time now. With two kids ages six and three, it seemed like glamping would be the perfect fit! We’ve passed the Westgate River Ranch and Rodeo dozens of times when traveling out to the west coast of Florida and even drove through on our way back from our favorite place…Disney, way back when. We knew that one day, we would come back and man are we glad we did! 

The property is set on 7,000 acres of beautiful Florida land, first acquired back in 1982. We were amazed at the fact that it was within driving distance of where we live! When you drive through the real life dude ranch, you’re transported back to a much simpler time. When cell phones and internet didn’t exist. A time when you could just enjoy each other’s company, without daily distractions. 

There are several places you can “camp out” while visiting Westgate River Ranch…from rail car cabins, a motel like cabin or you can set up a tent or an RV, if you so desire. Then there are the teepees, which come with all of the comforts of your home including a full-size bathroom inside. We opted for the “glamp” tents. The perfect mix of camping and comfort. There are only about 15 or so, each boasting a comfy king size bed, two twin beds, a refrigerator, microwave and even air conditioning and lights. Each glamping tent comes with your own picnic table, a propane grill and front porch to enjoy your coffee, pastries and fruit delivered each morning! I’m sure you’re asking yourself…ok, but what about the bathrooms? Well, there’s an outhouse (which we were lucky to be the closest to), that comes with your own bathroom and key. I was pleasantly surprised by the bathroom, because I think they were recently updated. I was expecting a woodsy, bug infested place to hurry up and get cleaned off. Instead it was actually more of a respite! You entered the air-conditioned rooms with a card key and they came with an endless supply of towels, not to mention they were very clean, which to us, was the most important part. Our glamp site was situated right in front of a private airport, where we were able to catch a glimpse of some prop planes taking off! The kids went wild!

I would highly recommend renting a golf cart to get around the property as there’s a bunch to see and do. Having the freedom to whiz around, made the experience that much sweeter! We came on a Saturday so that we could specifically enjoy a hayride dinner and see the Rodeo! An old-fashioned tractor-pulled hayride took us through the back of the property and lush landscape, while a man sang classic country songs on his guitar. Breathtaking views of the wilderness spanned as far as the eye could see, where we encountered grazing bulls and cows and several birds. The ride was followed by a traditional cookout dinner, that was just what the doctor ordered. BBQ chicken and ribs, hot dogs, coleslaw, baked beans and mac n’ cheese, followed by some good ole fashioned peach cobbler. It was the perfect dining experience to welcome us to the ranch. After a quick break, we got ready to watch the rodeo and man was it a sight to see! The kids loved seeing the bull riding competition and there were some pretty awesome horse stunts…the energy was palpable! Following the show, everyone made their way outside for a street party! The music blared, while we danced! People were sitting by the fire enjoying their beverage of choice, some decided to make their way into the saloon, while the kids could play a variety of activities. From mechanical bull riding, to bounce houses, bungee jumping, zip lining, rock climbing and mini golf. We made our way back to the campsites where we enjoyed s’mores by the fire. Did I mention each group gets their very own s’mores kit? I must say we had quite the incredible first day! 

The next day was Sunday and we just hung out and made our own breakfast, lunch and dinner (of course followed by s’mores)! We ventured out to explore the resort that takes you back to the good old days. There was a little “town,” with a general store, a gym, a post office and a kid’s area. You could venture out to trap and skeet shoot, test your skills with bow and arrow shooting or visit the full-service marina and restaurant, where you can book an airboat ride or pontoon boat. We decided to make our way over to the little farm on property. The kids loved riding the ponies (especially our 3-year-old daughter) and petting all of the baby goats, that were simply walking by. I was absolutely fascinated by the peacocks who were showing off their feathers and we all loved seeing the sheep and pot bellied pigs that were quite vocal! 

There are some wild horses and bulls they keep on property as well, which are a sight to see! We went over and were able to pet and feed the horses some apples…such an out of body experience for all of us. As for the bulls, you may want to steer clear of those, one of them got a little upset that we were even watching them and charged after us! Luckily, there was a fence to keep them away, but not going to lie, we were all a little shook! Now we just laugh and joke about that one time we got charged by a bull! 

Monday morning we got up and made our way over to the marina for a “swamp buggy tour.” Our guide “Moby” took us through the swamps and marsh, where we spotted an alligator, making the trip worth it, especially for our 6-year-old son! The ride was bumpy and muddy and  it gave us the opportunity to ride through the rugged wooded trail and head out into the wilderness with nothing visible for miles. It was quite the beautiful ride and well worth it! 

That night, we ventured out to the restaurant called “The Smokehouse Grill,” located at the marina. There you can find a number of traditional dishes served in mini skillets, if you’re not in the mood to cook. Although a nice respite, in all honesty some of the best meals we had were simply sitting outside of our tent as a family enjoying some of our own home cooking, because after all that’s part of the experience, am I right?

All in all, I would highly recommend a trip to Westgate River Ranch and Rodeo, especially in the glamping tents! I loved being able to spend some quality time without distractions with my family. One lesson I learned from the trip is “It can wait..” Literally anything you have going on. It’s a perfect chance to shut down any anxiety or stress you have, because there’s nothing like being one with nature with the ones you love most. 

-Briana D. 

Purchase my cheat sheet list of things to bring on your next glamping or camping trip!

Glamping Cheat Sheet

Purchase my cheat sheet list of things to bring on your next glamping or camping trip!

$10.00

There’s even a recipe for an easy one skillet meal! 

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