There’s often someone in the family (hint: it’s usually not the kids) who’d prefer not to camp. But there’s no doubt that camping is a great experience for children. So what do you do if one parent says no to camping? There’s always RV camping, but if you’re not ready for that quite yet, how about glamping?
On a recent trip to Flying Flags campground in Buellton, California, I realized there are a variety options for getting the camping experience without actually going camping. From primitive camping to very luxurious guest houses, glamping falls somewhere in the middle and is truly a unique experience.
Let’s first talk about Buellton. Just north of Santa Barbara and a little over two hours from Los Angeles, it’s a perfect escape when you need some new scenery and fresher air. Solvang, a quaint Danish village, is only a few miles down the road from Buellton and a fun place to stop for lunch before you settle in to your camping trip.
At Flying Flags campground there are RV sites, primitive campsites, cottages and safari tents for glamping. The prices for the safari tents are much higher than primitive camping, but when my son excitedly unzipped the safari tent exposing a room that looked like it was straight out of a Ralph Lauren or Restoration Hardware catalogue, I knew it was going to be worth it.
Our glamping tent included two queen-sized wrought iron beds with very comfortable pillows, a TV, wi-fi, microwave, cooking supplies, heat and air, a front porch with chairs for relaxing, and a back porch with a large dining table and gas grill/ food prep area. In all, there are nine safari tents to choose from, some with bunk beds.
The safari tent village has its own restroom and shower facilities, communal fire pits and assigned parking nearby. With all of this, we were officially not camping.
It’s only a short walk to either of the two heated pools, the playground or the sports field. The day we arrived, we took a picnic basket to the sports field and snacked as we watched the kids play soccer and wiffle ball on the large grassy sports field.
The Flying Flags area is thoughtfully designed, with a vintage California feel and plenty of tables for having an outdoor meal. As the sun set and the warm air turned cool, crisp and scented by lavender and sage, campers began firing up their grills. Little by little kids left the sports field for dinner, and when it was nearly dark, we headed back to the tent and cooked dinner on our grill. The rustic outdoor tables are large enough for two families to eat together. And with cutlery and dinnerware provided, you can skip the paper and plastic. Washing up is easy in the outdoor sink next to the grill.
After dinner, we pretended we were “real” camping by roasting marshmallows over the fire pit outside of our tent. And when it came time for bed, the one biggest difference between this and camping was: a warm shower!
This was only day 1, and the following days consisted of swimming, relaxing, swimming, playing on the playground and sports fields, swimming and more swimming. The swimming pool next to the check-in and general store is better for older kids who might want to take a break in the game room or hit up the ice cream parlor.
We took a short trip to Santa Ynez and walked around the quaint town known for its wineries, restaurants and boutiques.
Even closer to flying flags are several restaurants in the area if cooking on the gas grill is still more work than you want to do. A local favorite, Pea Soup Anderson, is close enough to walk to, and the Firestone Brewery is only a few minutes away by car.
Now that we’ve been glamping, can we ever go camping again? Of course we could… but do we have to?
Best time to go: Year Round
Good for: All ages!
Watch out for: Cars driving around the campground; mosquitoes in the summer; raccoons if trash left out
Get there: Highway 101 North to CA 246 toward Lompoc/ Solvang; Right on Avenue of the Flags
Wear: Layers, insect repellent, sunscreen, swimsuit, sunglasses, hats, flip flops, athletic shoes
Bring: Water, groceries, lighter, tablecloth, picnic basket, balls and sports equipment
Nearby eats: Campfire Cafe (on-site), Pea Soup Anderson, Firestone Brewery, Taco Roco