As the temperatures spike and mosquitoes descend, outdoorsy types — even those who haven’t canoed or performed a running cannonball in decades — think back to halcyon summers at overnight camp. Though most adults can’t swing two months at a bucolic escape, vacationing in a feels-like-camp setting is doable. These spots conjure that nostalgia for the whole family:
The irony that this former Prohibition-era speakeasy, brothel and mobster retreat has morphed into a fabulous family getaway is not lost on its owners, Tereasa Surratt and David Hernandez. Their vision, a lost-in-time camp brimming with Pendleton-style blankets, creaky cots and cookouts (strictly D.I.Y., there is no restaurant) is manna to those drawn to no-frills, old-fashioned fun. “This is not a modern luxe joint designed to look old: it’s just plain old,” the brochure reads.
Lodging is a mash-up of rustic lakeside cabins tricked out with flea market memorabilia; a bunkhouse (the reimagined brothel); and a cluster of platform tents, tepees and two small cabins (rented for $1,200 as a cluster that sleeps 12). Half the fun? Meal-making. Guests bring coolers of food (there is a tented mess hall for preparation and storage) and cook over outdoor grills. Between archery, canoeing, volleyball, tennis, shuffleboard, swimming and hiking, children will hopefully collapse after the nightly bonfire so parents can kick back in an Airstream-turned-wilderness lounge. Starting rate is $550 for the three-bedroom cabin which sleeps six.
Nantahala Outdoor Center has been offering water-based adventures in North Carolina (and provides a training ground for several Olympic whitewater athletes) for approximately 40 years. Its 500-acre base camp, at the intersection of the Nantahala River and the Appalachian Trail, offers bare-bones platform tents (rented as a cluster to groups, starting at $100 per night), trailside cabins ($200 per night, sleeping 6) and a hostel-style bunkhouse ($40 per night). Attractions include mountain biking, hiking trails, four zip-lining courses over waterfalls, and, of course, whitewater rafting (the area has both Class II rapids for young children and Class III for teens). There are two casual restaurants on site, and swimming and fishing happen on Fontana Lake, about 10 minutes away.
This Appalachian retreat’s cottages, gazebo and great lawn were featured prominently in “Dirty Dancing,” the nostagia-laced movie set at the fictional Kellerman’s Resort. Mountain Lake Lodge offers many of the Borscht Belt activities depicted in the sleeper hit: beach volleyball, horseshoes, bocce ball, lawn chess and badminton. All have a frozen-in-time appeal, but its modern-day activities are equally enticing. There is a five-story water slide, an aerial course with multiple zip lines and an Escape Room cabin challenge. If you can wrest the children from all of this, there are also 22 miles of hiking trails in and around the property. Accommodations include refurbished cabins and rooms in the main lodge. Family rates start at $365 per night, and include breakfast.