I am not what you'd call an outdoorsy person. I have an asthma attack every time I go to my cottage. I wore a statement necklace on a hike in Boulder (apparently "going for a walk" in Colorado is code for a quick jaunt up a 1,300-foot mountain). And the last time I went camping, I got shingles.
So when Glamping Hub got in touch with us about a partnership between Escape Toronto, the Instagram account my boyfriend and I run together, and Firelight Camps, a luxury safari-tented campground in Ithaca, NY, I was pretty damn excited to see a few city-kid-in-the-wilderness essentials: hot showers, phone chargers, and—of course—artisanal s'more-making kits (Honey Maid crackers and a bag of Kraft Jet-Puffed would be glamping sacrilege). At risk of sounding capital-b Basic, this was my kind of camping.
A quick rundown: Firelight Camps is run by Bobby and Emma Frisch, a super-chill young couple who'd run a hotel in Nicaragua together before returning to the Finger Lakes to pitch (in both senses) their Safari-tented, kilim-rug adorned wonderland on the edge of the woods just outside Ithaca. It's since grown into a commune of 18 tents on the grounds of La Tourelle Hotel—meaning, a spa and a steak is a short walk away if you really need it.
Aside from the bed—a king-sized cloud of downy duvets and Brooklinen sheets worthy of a Cialis commercial—the highlights of our stay at Firelight were the intangibles. The way time seemed to slow way down as soon as we stepped out of the car. The way we stopped to appreciate how the cream swirled in our coffee mugs and the raindrops drummed softly against the tent canvas. The way that, by the end of our stay, the warm glow of the campfire had started to replace the icy glare of our phone screens.
Both mornings, we woke up to a complimentary (and carb-centric—the Frisches are our kind of people) breakfast—a rustic spread of bagels with whipped cream cheese, rich chocolate muffins, local preserves, coconut-quinoa granola, cold-pressed local juices and an endless supply of campfire coffee. The crowd was a comfortable mix of groups of 20-something friends and young families with their dogs (Firelight is dog-friendly—if you're interested in glamping with pets in tow, check out Glamping Hub's new pet-friendly site here).
We spent our two days exploring downtown Ithaca, Buttermilk Falls State Park, the trailhead to which was right beside our tent, and Taughannock Falls State Park, a roaring behemoth taller than Niagara Falls. At night, we sipped local libations in the tented bar (we were handed four wooden coins to trade in for drinks upon arrival—we dutifully obliged), and put the bocce ball court, life-sized chess set and bookshelf full of board games to good use.
On our last night, the smell of campfire smoke and toasted marshmallow hung in the air while Tough Old Bird, a two-man band from Fillmore, NY, performed an acoustic set under the string-lit canopy of the main tent. We lost track of time chatting with Wally (the silver fox dressed in white-on-white at 0:12 in the video below, who actually owns La Tourelle) and his two sassy granddaughters. I don't think we were able to choke out more than a couple of sentences, they had us laughing so hard.
We plugged our phones into our bedside lanterns and drifted to sleep to the sound of coyotes howling in the distance.
If this is roughing it then call me Bear Grylls, 'cause I could get used to this.
Taughannock Falls State Park—About a 20-minute drive away in Trumansburg. This chute is bananas (sorry) and a must-see if you're in the area. You can normally hike to the base of the falls, but the trail was closed for maintenance while we were visiting—luckily, there's an awesome wide-angle view from the overlook.
Buttermilk Falls State Park—A gorge-ous hike with a cascade waterfall and a swimming hole. The trailhead leads directly from the Firelight grounds.
Robert H. Treman State Park—We didn't get around to seeing this park, but if you're down to take the scenic route home, stop and get a shot of the rugged gorge and take a dip under one of the 12 waterfalls.
Cornell University Campus—Want to make your alma mater feel like a glorified Montessori? Drive through this expansive Ivy League campus, a patchwork of stately buildings crawling with vines and gleaming steel-and-glass structures.
Viva Taqueria—A California-style "Methican" joint (intended to be a hybrid of Mexican and Ithacan, and not a lispy slur) where we scarfed down tacos on a colourful patio. It's worth noting there are lots of healthy options. We just didn't get them.
Waffle Frolic—Get the salted caramel, and make it a double.
Creekside Café—This farm-to-table café in Trumansburg came highly internet-recommended, but wasn't open while we were passing through on our way to Taughannock Falls. Apparently they do a killer "Breakfast Balmy", a sandwich filled with scrambled eggs, jalapeno, pickled carrots, homemade kimchi and cilantro (I think they meant Banh Mi, which made me love it more).
Ithaca Farmer's Market—With its wooden beams and tiered geometric roof, this open-air market is so beautiful it actually serves as a wedding venue. Stop through for a burrito or crepe, and if you're lucky, some live music.
Bug spray and SPF.
A bathing suit and beach towel—there's a swimming hole along the Buttermilk Falls trail, and plenty of places to sunbathe.
A corkscrew—so you can enjoy a bottle of Finger Lakes' finest from the comfort of your tent's back porch).
Face wipes—for when you don't have the energy to walk the 30 seconds to the bathrooms for the full seven-step routine.
Yoga gear—there are sunrise sessions on Saturday mornings.
Passports (obviously) and American dollars—if you're coming from Toronto, you'll run into a few cash-only toll booths on the drive there and back.
Book on a weeknight! Not only is it cheaper, there are live music sets every Tuesday at sunset that Ithaca locals drive in to see, lingering by the campfire 'til well after dark (it's serviced until 3am).
Download the GrubHub app—there are a ton of restaurants that deliver directly to the campsite (the perfect solution if you're a few local craft beers deep by the time dinner rolls around). We had pizza one night and thai the other. Just like the pilgrims did.