The late September shift from muggy bug-swatting to crisp, starry nights begs for campfire chats and waking beneath a canopy of multicolored leaves. But we hear you: It’s too cold out. I don’t have the gear. I’m just not that outdoorsy. That’s why we’re digging the glamping surge across the Midwest. Sure, you’ve been able to rent a yurt here or there for years, but fancy camping is reaching new heights. In downtown Chicago, you can book the lavish Lotus Belle tent on the 16th-floor terrace of The Gwen hotel—for a cool $5,500. For a modest family budget, even the mega KOA campground chain has added covered-wagon suites and canvas tents with queen beds. Some of these retreats roll out full-on hotel treatment (duvets and private bathrooms). Others are more rustic, asking you to haul your gear down a short trail or light a woodstove for heat.
Admittedly, it’s a bit ironic to see these structures of survival morphing into Instagram-candy vacay suites. But when they nudge more people into the outdoors and extend the fall camping season, we aren’t judging. In fact, we’ll point you down some of our favorite paths.
Nomad Ridge at The Wilds | Cumberland, Ohio
Leave the kiddos at home for an adults-only overnight safari at a wildlife park run by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in southeastern Ohio. Yurts perched on a hilltop come stocked like a hotel room—electricity, coffee maker and all. Step outside in the morning, and through the fog you might spot zebras, rhinos or other African animals grazing in the pastures. From $325.
Nomad Ridge at the Wilds. Photo Courtesy of Grahm S. Jones/Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore | Keystone, South Dakota
Ponderosa pines poke at the sky above this rocky western landscape. But below the tree line (and 31/2 miles from the stone-faced presidents), a new spread of white tents softens the landscape. In spring 2018, Under Canvas Mount Rushmore opened a choose-your-glamour-level campground. Deluxe tents include a deck and private bathroom with hot water. All guests can buy adventure packages and enjoy cafe-style dining on-site. From $189.
Under Canvas Mount Rushmore. Photo by Cadey Reisner.
The Fields | South Haven, Michigan
When you arrive, park at the front and catch a shuttle through the blueberry fields for the final 1/4 mile to the glamping site. It’s a tangible shedding of daily cares. Ten chic tents opened this summer, each with pillow-top beds, nice bathrooms, woodstoves and playful flair, like vintage baseball equipment and games. Start your day with a chef-prepped farm breakfast in an outdoor gathering space before doing some yoga or wandering the trails. From $325.
Want to go road biking or explore the Lake Michigan coast (just 6 miles from your blueberry farm retreat)? The team at The Fields can help guests arrange personalized excursions in the area. Photo: Ryan Donnell.
Afton State Park | Hastings, Minnesota
When fall and winter nights dip below freezing, brush up on your woodstove knowledge in advance. Or recruit friends to feed logs through the night. Bunks sleep up to seven in two spacious yurts, just 20 miles east of the Twin Cities. Bring flashlights, bedding and matches for the barely-off-the-grid stay in the St. Croix River Valley. You can follow trails to wildflower and prairie fields or head next door to Afton Alps for disc golf, foot golf or traditional golf when snow isn’t covering the slopes. From $55.
Hardy campers brave the cold even through winter in the Coyote (ADA-accessible) and Gray Fox yurts in Afton State Park. Photo: Wander the Map.
Bayfield County Rustic Yurts | Bayfield County, Wisconsin
Lake Superior shimmers just beyond two isolated yurts outside Bayfield in northern Wisconsin. Near Cable, 55 miles inland, a third yurt accesses the famous American Birkebeiner Trail. The properties are managed by the local Forestry and Parks Department. Pack it in at least 1/2 mile on foot to reach each spot. From $70.
Photo courtesy of Happier Camper.
Pro-Tip: Bring a Camper Why settle for a glamping site when you could take your cushy pad with you on any road trip? Happier Camper sells an ultralight, retro-looking Swiss Army knife of campers (starting at $24,950). With modular cubes and cushions, the HC1 travel trailer can seamlessly reconfigure from a living space into a kitchen or a hauling bed. Go off the grid for days with the water tank and solar options. happiercamper.com