“Glamorous camping” has social distancing built in

An offering from Glampstars.

The celebrations industry got crushed during Covid. No gathering, no partying, no fun. For locals who count on drawing crowds to the Hudson Valley, it was a scary time. But that makes our recovery all the more sweet.

“During Covid, I had nothing,” said Nicole Friedman, who owns Saugerties-based Glampstars (https://www.glampstar.com), a glamping business that provides on-site luxury tents for campers and events. Now, she says, the phone is ringing off the hook.

Glamping, or “glamorous camping,” is the latest in luxury camping. Experiences can range from a furnished tent to tiny houses with butler service. Not only do glamping sites provide fun and comfortable accommodations, but they often serve as a lovely setting for celebrations like weddings and reunions.

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Glampstars provides a service that, while not unique, is different from many Hudson Valley glamping venues. Instead of maintaining her own campground, Friedman sets up specialty accommodations wherever an event is being held. She travels all over the Hudson Valley to create a luxurious camping experience in fields, back yards, campgrounds and campsites.

Friedman originally got the business idea, she said, one Saturday night when she was bartending for a caterer. “I saw people in a field boarding a school bus to go to a hotel,” she said. How much better it would be if they could just stay there, she felt.

On the other hand, Friedman noted, people don’t want to go buy a tent and a sleeping bag and everything else needed for a night or two.

Modeled after a successful Australian business Friedman saw on Instagram, Glampstars provides everything needed for a comfortable stay anywhere in the Hudson Valley.

Friedman’s dome tents are fifteen feet across and nine feet high. They are set up with mattresses, linens, rugs, ottomans, low tables, chairs and chandeliers.  Friedman has 20 tents with lots of furnishings, and she’s in the process of acquiring more.

But in early spring, 2020, after four successful years, Glampstars went on hold as the pandemic gripped the nation. Friedman’s already-booked weddings were moved ahead a year or simply canceled. So were other events: girls’ weekend getaways, anniversary parties, birthday parties … all canceled. The one wedding that did proceed, said Friedman, changed the order from 20 tents to just four. Friedman said she survived on unemployment.

Covid was hard, said Friedman, but since March of this year Glampstars has rebounded better than ever. “We have weddings coming up, a bar mitzvah, a whisky lounge for a party,” said Friedman.“We set up tents for a family at Nickerson Campground [Gilboa, New York] so they could stay for a week.”

Accommodations at Outlier Inn.

While COVID completely shut Glampstars down, business surged at Outlier Inn (https://www.outlierinn.com), a more traditional type of glamping campground. “We were completely slammed,” said Josh Druckman, owner of the twelve-acre property in Mountaindale. Covid closed the events part of his business, but his accommodations were booked solid.

“People were coming to quarantine and stayed long-term,” said Druckman. His short-term rentals were even busier.  Prior to the pandemic, Druckman said,  most short-term rentals were on the weekends, or included guests attending an event on the property. 

Half of Outlier Inn consists of year-round, indoor cabins and a recording studio. The glamping side includes tiny houses and two geodesic domes. Nearby outhouses serve for bathrooms, and there are outdoor showers and outdoor kitchens for cooking. 

The property can accommodate 35 people for glamping, said Druckman, plus 40 people in cabins, totaling 75 people in all. 

“Because people could work remotely, there was no difference between weekends and weekdays,” said Druckman.“People were checking in and checking out every day of the week.”

It took a lot of work, said Druckman, but “it was so gratifying just being able to offer people a safe place to escape, to take some time away from craziness.”

For a year, Outlier Inn hosted no events. That started to change early this summer. “A whole group of friends who hadn’t seen each other in a year rented the entire property for a get-together,” he said.

With long trestle tables and fairy lights strung outdoors for dining and dancing, Druckman hopes to increase his wedding business going forward.  “Weddings postponed from last year are happening this summer,” he reported.

With long trestle tables and fairy lights strung outdoors for dining and dancing, Druckman hopes to increase his wedding business going forward.

A treehouse at Treetopia.

Treetopia in Catskill offers even more glamping luxury (https://www.treetopiacampground.com). 

Not only does Treetopia host weddings, reunions, retreats and other events, said owner Jenny Yu, but Treetopia also creates its own fun for guests. Yu said Treetopia’s celebrations include Christmas in July, when everybody decorates golf carts for Christmas and parades them around, monthly music fests with local bands and a Fourth of July extravaganza. 

The newly renovated 42-acre campground got off to a shaky start when Yu and her family bought it in October, 2019, four months before the first wave of the pandemic hit. 

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“There was a New York travel ban. We’d planned on renovations, but we had to stop work,” said Yu.“It was hard to get contractors and materials. It was extremely scary.” 

Now, two years later, the renovations are finished and Treetopia is in full swing. For weddings and other events, they have two pavilions and a barn. Often, said Yu, the happy couple books one of Treetopia’s “specialty accommodations,” like a vintage Airstream or a treehouse, and shoot their photos there.

Yu explained that Treetopia has three kinds of glamping, depending on the type of experience a camper wants.

“The most rustic mimics traditional camping,” said Yu, “but we’ve done the hard work for you.” Waterproof tents are set up in the forest on wooden platforms with beds, nightstands, chairs and a cooler. Tents can be clustered together for friends or family. For cooking, campershave a communal water source, shared grills, or they can rent a standing, propane grill. An on-site store sells food and ice.

Campers use a fully air-conditioned bathroom trailer, said Yu, as well as a new bathhouse, with toilets as well as indoor and outdoor hot showers.

Another kind of glamping at Treetopia is all about treehouses. Yu said they now have four. The tree-houses are two-storied platforms with electricity and running water. On the ground floor, there’s an open living space and a kitchenette with seating. On the second floor, there’s a glamping tent with bedroom furniture and a view across a ravine. “When you walk out of the tent in the morning,” said Yu, “you really feel like you’re in the trees.” Treehouse dwellers also use the bathhouses. 

For campers who prefer a more home-like experience with en-suite facilities, Treetopia provides four vintage airstream RVs, a tiny house and a cabin. 

Glamping is ideal, said Yu, for people who want to get together and celebrate. So far this year, Treetopia has hosted a high-school reunion and a teambuilding retreat for a nonprofit organization. This fall, a local couple and their guests will stay together at Treetopia, enjoying theirpre- and post-wedding events on site.

Yu said she’s happy when local people choose Treetopia for their events. “We’ve received a lot of support from Greene County,” said Yu. “We want to give back to the community as much as we can.”