A visit to Under Canvas is glamping at its best!
I grew up camping with my family. Despite the downsides to roughing it, I remember loving our adventures in the outdoors and the fond memories they created. My husband and I have taken our two kids camping a handful of times, and while it’s been fun, I didn’t realize the work involved with packing everything and setting up camp for a family, not to mention the hassles of bad weather or sick kids while on a trip. So when I heard about the Under Canvas experience, I thought it might be the best of both worlds. With upscale, safari-inspired accommodations, Under Canvas offers outdoor camping with a lot less work. Under Canvas has 12 locations in the U.S., from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rushmore, but the closest to Atlanta is the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. So, we packed the essentials— no camp stove needed—and made the 4-hour drive to check it out.
Situated on 182 acres near the entrance of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the location is ideal. The first thing that struck me driving into the property was its simplicity: just 40 canvas tents arranged in clusters surrounded by woods. The main lobby tent is the first to greet you with stylish West Elm furnishings, communal games and an alfresco dining area with a fire pit.
After checking-in and getting a run down on the property, including how to work our tent’s wood-burning stove and shower, we made our way to our accommodations. Furnished with a king-sized bed and queen-sized sleeper sofa, it was the perfect setup for our family, although separate “kid tents” look ideal for older offspring. Our Suite tent felt luxurious with its private shower, sink and flushing toilet. Safari-level tents don’t offer bathrooms, but a well-equipped, shared bathroom facility on property earned five stars from my daughter. We visited Under Canvas in the heat of summer, but I could see how using the wood-burning stove would be delightful during cooler fall temperatures. Instead, we spent the hottest part of the day on our outdoor deck lounge chairs with fans. Luckily at night, the temperatures dropped low enough that I didn’t miss air conditioning and slept peacefully surrounded by the sounds of nature.
Most of our days were spent off-property at the national park seeking out hiking adventures, but we fueled up each morning with a top-notch breakfast—everything from yogurt parfaits and breakfast sandwiches to French toast.
Coffee, tea and fruit-infused water is available all day for guests. In the afternoons, we looked forward to returning to camp where we played board games in the lobby, listened to live music over craft cocktails and enjoyed yard games until dinner time. The cafe menu offers a selection of changing dishes fitting the season and local produce. As the sun set, we chatted with other guests over fireside s’mores, a sweet treat offered nightly. My kids also participated in crafting activities and trivia. The property also offers complimentary yoga, painting and more. I think the best part of our visit was spending time together minus any Wi-Fi or cell service— and of course, not having to dismantle our camp when it was time to go. Instead of exhaustion, I returned home rejuvenated. My kids are already asking when we can go back.
UNDER CANVAS, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS
Rates start at $199
2023 Dates: April 6 – Nov. 27
2024 Dates: April 4– Dec. 2
Giannina S. Bedford is multi-faceted writer and editor. Her work covers design, travel, food and business. She’s penned Simply Buckhead’s home feature since inception and held a variety of editorial roles at the magazine. Her freelance work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, USA Today, Virtuoso Life, Hemispheres and TravelandLeisure.com. She also contributes regularly Atlanta Business Chronicle. Fluent in Spanish, Giannina was born in Miami and grew up in Brazil, Chile, Hawaii and Australia. She currently lives in Dunwoody with her two kids and husband.