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Into the woods: The joys of fancy camping

Surely it wasn’t what Thoreau had in mind when he paddled his boat on Walden Pond or sought out the mysteries of the Maine wilderness. Still, modern-day “glamping”(derived from “glamorous camping”) has fulfilled the needs of many travelers in search of nature – but not the daunting details that go with roughing it.

Unlike a traditional outdoor adventure, glamping provides touches of home and in some cases, the perks of a resort hotel. Instead of pitching your own tent and rolling out a sleeping bag in the woods, you might spend the night in a comfortable bed in a heated cabin…with great access to Wi-Fi.

It’s a trend that’s been gaining traction locally.

But why glamp when you could just stay at a hotel? Most hotels aren’t quite so accessible to nature, say glamping aficionados. Glamping sites are usually located steps from hiking trails, woods, and ponds and lakes, making outdoor activities immediately accessible.

Amanda Widzinski of Buffalo had her first glamping experience with sister, Liz, in November 2014. The two stayed at Ruby Hill Cabins in the Pines in Wells, N.Y., which they’d discovered online through Airbnb. Their accommodations exceeded expectations. “It was a small log cabin with a loft bedroom, furnished with woodsy decor and modern appliances,” Widzinski said. “We had an entire home to ourselves, were able to cook, and it was also situated in the woods.” Although the temperatures dropped into the 20s, the cozy cabin near Lake Algonquin made the sisters’ outdoor retreat a perfect fall getaway – and they plan to do it again. Amenities at the Ruby Hills Cabins include Internet, TV and indoor heating.

Western New Yorkers eager to try glamorous camping don’t have to travel all the way to the Adirondacks, though. Closer to home, there’s The Woods at Bear Creek in Cattaraugus County. Dubbed a glamping resort, The Woods is open all year round, and is one of the few places where Western New Yorkers can experience authentic glamping, said Mike Crimi, executive director. Located off Route 16 in Franklinville, the 750-acre facility has rolling hills, lakes, hiking trails, tennis courts and a zipline course. The property’s 16 cabins — heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer — are fully furnished and feature hardwood floors, leather furniture, comfortable beds, flat-screen TVs, Wi-Fi and 24-hour concierge service. There are no individual kitchens; glampers enjoy meals in the resort’s full-service restaurant. “We do everything for you,” Crimi explains. That includes lighting the fire pit at your cabin each night.

In winter, glampers can take advantage of cross-country skiing, and during summer, they can stay in safari-style tents with carpeted floors. “You can get as exotic as you want,” said Crimi. The family-friendly camping resort is located on the former site of Camp Lakeland, a popular children’s camp that was run by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo.


According to, the history of glamping likely dates back to the heyday of the Ottoman Empire, when wealthy sultans moved around easily — and comfortably — in lavish silk tents known as yurts. In the early part of the 20th century, when curious aristocratic travelers from Europe or the United States traveled to Africa, they went on safaris that, while exposing them to the wildlife of a new continent, still afforded them their upper-class luxuries. Modern-day glamping, which is popular in Europe, is still a relatively new phenomenon in the United States, though its popularity is increasing. When it opened last summer, The Woods at Bear Creek was one of the first dedicated glamping facilities in New York State, said Crimi.

Darien Lake Amusement Park, which has offered  traditional camping since it opened in 1981, recently added glampsite vacation packages. Guests can stay in ready-made waterproof tents on platforms, sleep in queen-size beds, and access chairs, tables, fire rings and electrical power. All you need to bring are your own linens, sleeping bags and air mattresses for the kids.

The KOA Campgrounds  on Grand Island, open from April through October, also offer upscale amenities like a pool, Wi-Fi and cable TV.

“I would recommend glamping to anyone who appreciates nature but also appreciates the comforts of home,” says Widzinski. Crimi is a bit more direct. Glamping, he says, is for people who want to enjoy the outdoors, but don’t want to do any of the work. “As you get older,” he adds, “you don’t want to sleep on the ground in the cold.”

Glamping: Where to start

  1. The Woods at Bear Creek
  2. Darien Lake
  3. Niagara Falls/Grand Island KOA

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