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My Upstate New York road trip was fast coming to a close. Keuka Lake and Corning were in the rearview, and after a weekend in Rochester I gave my sister Margaret a big goodbye hug and pointed the car back towards Albany. But I had one more stop to make before I’d hit home.

In many ways, I saved the best for last. Of-the-moment Ithaca, after all, is the destination that kicked off this trip in the first place. I’m always thrilled when I see something about Upstate New York slide across my virtual desk, so I was intrigued when, months before, I’d received a press release about a new glamping initiative in Ithaca. I knew I had to go. And thus, my Upstate New York road trip was born.

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Glamping, for the uninitiated, is exactly what it sounds like — glamorous camping. opened in the summer of 2014 to much fanfare. This summer, they doubled their number of tents. Stepping into the lobby — a luxurious tent with carpeted floors and a host typing away on a laptop — it was easy to see why this fresh concept so resonates with travelers.

Bearded Bartender was my co-pilot on this adventure and we were giddy as we unzipped our tent to have a peek at our home for the next two days.

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Talk about gorgeous! I loved our lush back deck, our elegant writing desk and our oh-so-comfy bed. A few things were noticeable — and thankfully — absent, like TVs, wifi codes, and electrical lights and outlets. Firelight Camps is all about unplugging and engaging with the place and the people — or pups — you’re with. My heart ached when I saw dogs are welcome, as at this point I’d yet to scoop my own up for the summer.

I’m no stranger to glamping — in previous travels I’d bedded down in a luxury tent at Tomorrowland festival in Belgium as well as at a coastal tent resort in Peru. But it was a thrill to give it a try so close to home.

Glamping in Ithaca at Firelight Camps

Firelight Camps Ithaca

Firelight Camps Ithaca

Firelight Camps Ithaca

Firelight Camps Ithaca

While Firelight Camps doesn’t serve meals other than breakfast — yet — Ithaca’s famed dining scene is just a few miles away. Starting the day in the lobby tent is yet another exercise in local pride thanks to New York-sourced and organic artisanal treats.

Firelight Camps Lobby Tent

Firelight Camps Lobby Tent

Firelight Camps Breakfast

Firelight Camps Breakfast

Firelight Camps Breakfast

And after busy days out we returned to that lobby tent once again for complimentary happy hour showcasing Finger Lake wines every evening from 5-6pm. Fellow vagabonds will feel right at home with their hosts — the Frischs, cofounders of Firelight Camps, recently returned to Ithaca from their last project, opening a boutique hostel in Nicaragua. I chatted to husband Robert about my own recent travels in Nicaragua while grabbing a few of wife Emma’s homemade s’more kits to roast over the campfire. Travel talk and gourmet treats — I was, quite literally, a happy camper.

I was looking forward to meeting other fellow s’more enthusiasts and glamping devotees at Firelight, though when we visited in May the campfire crowd was noticeably thin. I think in retrospect the few minor things that we didn’t love about Firelight — there were few other guests, the bathhouse and other elements were under construction and our hosts seemed a tad distracted by it — had to do with it being very early in the season.

Happy Hour at Firelight Camps

Happy Hour at Firelight Camps

S'mores at Firelight Camps

What to do when we weren’t soaking up the sweetness of our tent? We spent our days wine tasting, hiking, driving through Ithaca and the ginormous Cornell campus, and relaxing in the onsite spa. Firelight Camps is on the grounds of Ithaca institution La Tourelle, and using the facilities of the free of charge is one of several extra perks Firelight guests receive as a result.

Of course, I had to have a treatment — for research! — and loved every moment of my sixty minute Swedish massage experience, from the heated massage table to the waterfalls in the tranquil waiting room. Additional spa offering include a maple walnut sugar scrub using local maple and a wine trail body wrap taking advantage of the antioxidant properties of powdered regional grape seeds.

Ithaca Town

Ithaca Town

Speaking of wine, I couldn’t leave the Finger Lakes without checking out a few more vineyards — this time, on the Cayuga Wine Trail. First stop? , a recommendation I’d picked up after asking for tips on . Lucs won us over with a fun tasting, whimsical bottle designs, and wine slushies. Yes, you read that right — wine slushies.

Next, we hit up , which had a kickin’ gift shop. While the ciders weren’t quite my favorite, it was refreshing to take a break from the vino. And there will be more opportunities or that soon, as a new cidery up the street was under construction when we drove by.

Lucas Vineyards

Bellwether Cider Tasting

Bellwether Cider Tasting

Bellwether Cider Tasting

The Tasting Room at Americana Vineyards

Our final stop was , where the insanely friendly sommeliers poured me yet another wine slushie (can we talk about this being the greatest hybrid to ever happen to the alcoholic beverage industry or what) and BB regretted agreeing to be the driver this day. Spitting out at a tasting is never fun — I don’t care how fancy they make those silver spitoons — and having a tipsy, slushie-swilling blonde in the passenger seat probably only rubs salt in the wound.

Thankfully there were plenty of places to wash down our wine back in Ithaca. Our tour of local favorites included , , and , which I see has sadly shuttered since.

Eating in Ithaca

Our final adventure in Ithaca was the one that launched — you know the ones. We had to see one of these gorges for ourselves, and thankfully we didn’t have to go far. Firelight Camps backs right onto the idyllically-named Buttermilk Falls State Park, and a path literally around the back of our tent led us right down into the heart of it. After scampering around Lake Treman and along Buttermilk Creek, we started the actually gorgeous half-mile Gorge Trail, and after admiring the falls from below returned back up via the three-quarter-mile Rim Trail, which was a little less impressive.

While we could have continued all the way back up to the campgrounds on our own steam, at this point we took advantage of La Tourelle’s pickup service and hitched a ride back to Firelight instead. You know, again — for research.

Hiking at Buttermilk Falls

Hiking at Buttermilk Falls

Hiking at Buttermilk Falls

Hiking at Buttermilk Falls

Hiking at Buttermilk Falls

Ithaca really is gorges — and Firelight is too. Driving beautiful backroads on our return trip to Albany, I knew it wouldn’t be the last time I laid eyes on them.

What about you? Are you a camper, a glamper, or a hotel-room-please-and-thanks-er? I’ll see you in the comments!

Many thanks to for hosting me in Ithaca. As always, you get my honest thoughts and opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

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61 Comments...
  • Sarah
    September 17 2015

    The waterfalls are dreamy! Loving the upstate posts – I’ve recently been researching a little road trip in the area through the parks so thanks for the posts 🙂
    Sarah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Awesome! That makes me happy to hear… I bet this trip would be gorgeous in the fall.

  • Kristin
    September 17 2015

    This looks awesome! I have always wanted to try glamping and love upstate NY – keeping this one in mind for the next time I’m out that way!
    Kristin recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      I think this would be a pretty awesome introduction. Let me know if you give it a try!

  • Kacy
    September 17 2015

    This looks amazing! I absolutely have to go. Close to wineries and hiking? Comfy bed and the great outdoors? Love!!!
    Kacy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Let me know when you do! I’d love to hear about it… especially if you bring your pup 🙂

  • Marni
    September 17 2015

    Glamping actually looks amazing – particularly there – and I love your waterfall pictures. I love camping and I love wineries, so I’m sure I’d have no trouble with being remote for a bit. I’ll have to keep it in mind for a next summer weekend getaway, since it’s only about 4 hours from me!

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Nice! It was about a three hour drive from my hometown of Albany, if I recall correctly, and it was a gorgeous drive.

  • Emily
    September 17 2015

    I’ve been waiting for this post and was SO happy to see it in my inbox! Ithaca is a really magical place and am glad you got a wine slushie and hit up CTB and Viva. I’m dying to go back this summer and would love to check out Firelight next time!
    Emily recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      I bet you’d love it! Driving through Cornell was a pretty fun part of the trip too. I went to a teeny tiny school and we both just marveled at how overwhelmingly big it was!

  • Definitely not a camper, BUT you were the one to convince me to become a sometimes hostel-er (your Maui posts got me to stay at the Banana Bungalow!), so I’m thinking I’m going to have to give being a glamper a go at some point 😉
    Amanda | Lesson Plans & Layovers recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Yay! 🙂 That makes me smile to hear. It’s always great to give the ‘ol comfort zone a stretch, eh?

  • Beth
    September 17 2015

    What an unbelievable experience … I gotta save up a bit of money and try a weekend of glamping soon!
    Beth recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Keep an eye out for deals… they had a pretty great Groupon Getaway out for a while!

  • Sara B
    September 17 2015

    I’m headed to Albany next weekend and now I REALLY wish I had time to check out Ithaca and this Gorges area as well! Dang it looks awesome! Also, side note, do you have a post where you cover how you edit photos? The colors are SO vivid yet still lifelike! What’s your secret!? 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Just years of messing around in Photoshop, I think! Oh, enjoy Albany! That’s my hometown. What do you have planned? I’d suggest brunch at City Beer Hall followed by a wander around the Empire State Plaza, and dinner at Peck’s in Troy followed by a drink at the wine bar around the corner. Enjoy!

      • SaraB
        September 24 2015

        My boyfriend grew up outside Albany in Selkirk and I’ll be meeting his fam (ahhh wish me luck!) but we’ll be staying in the city so we’re not at the mercy of relatives. Hehe. Oh man I think you just planned our Saturday or Sunday for us! That sounds awesome! I’m writing these places down right now 🙂 Thanks so much!

  • Edward Smith
    September 18 2015

    Interesting…Loved the pictures

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Thanks Edward! It was an awesome trip!

  • Julie
    September 18 2015

    My love for Ithaca runs deep! My sister lived there for about 5 years and I visited all the time, but avoiding winter visits like the plague. It’s one of my favorite American towns, hands down. Did you guys visit the farmers’ market? There are these burritos there…delish!

    I just wish I was in Ithaca right now!!!
    Julie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Sadly we were there mid-week, so no farmers’ market for us! Yeah, I can’t imagine winters would be too lovely. Did you see that whole thing about the Ithaca tourism website telling people to go to Florida instead last winter? Brilliant PR move, got them tons of press!

  • Dominique
    September 18 2015

    Copious amounts of alcohol tastings, hikes to falls to burn all the calories consumed, and chilling at camp fires? I wouldn’t have enjoyed these awesome activities staying in a tent, but glamping looks fantastic! I’m not very outdoorsy but I could be convinced to stay here for a couple of days! Thanks for all your “research” 🙂
    Dominique recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Ha, it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it! 😉

  • Jade
    September 18 2015

    This looks so luxurious!
    I’m usually a bare bones camper but really starting to feel like glamping is a must-try.
    And it seems you can’t go wrong with a campsite near multiple vineyards!

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      No, you really can’t! Can’t believe I went so long without visiting the wine region that’s basically in my backyard…

  • Francesca
    September 18 2015

    I love camping, but I think I could be converted to glamping. And wine slushies? Be still my alcoholic-heart!
    Francesca recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      They were SO GOOD. And also a great indicator of how this wine region doesn’t take itself too seriously 🙂

  • Emma
    September 18 2015

    Thanks for the great writeup and stunning pics Meihoukai! Hope you come back to experience the newly renovated bathrooms and hoppin’ campfire scene, and so I can have a chance to meet you too! 🙂

    Happy travels,
    E

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      I’d absolutely love to return someday! I can imagine it’s onward and upward for Firelight Camps!

  • That looks so lovely! This is the first year in a long time that Tom and I didn’t visit New York in the summer. It has made us extra keen to go back next year and now glamping in Ithica has topped the list of new things to do in one of our favorite places.
    Jenny @ Till the Money Runs Out recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Ithaca is definitely having a moment… everyone I know in New York seems to planning a trip there or talking about the one they just got back from. It’s the spot!

  • Katie
    September 18 2015

    Whoa whoa. These pictures! Blown away even more than usual. I’ve never glamped, explored upstate New York, or had a wine slushie…and I’ve never been more inspired to try all of them! Of all your recent New York posts, this has to be my favorite.
    Katie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      I’m so glad you guys have enjoyed seeing a bit of my extended backyard! Makes me excited to explore even more of New York next summer…

  • Janice Stringer
    September 18 2015

    looks amazing!

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      It was 🙂 Thanks for reading Janice!

  • Julia Nix
    September 19 2015

    The reappearance of bb’s sexy biceps. ha, you go girl!!!!!!!!!

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Glad to have them back on the blog 😉

  • Alana | Paper Planes
    September 19 2015

    This is gorgeous!
    Alana | Paper Planes recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      I know, right? Perfect mix of laid back and luxury!

  • Sky
    September 19 2015

    Ithaca is another semi-local area that I’ve been “planning” on visiting for, oh, two years now? I’ve never glamped but I am sure as hell not a camper.
    Sky recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      This might be a pretty good special occasional splurge, Sky 🙂 You could ease yourself into the whole camping idea!

  • Barb
    September 20 2015

    This place looks adorable! Amazing photos, the waterfalls are wonderful!
    Barb recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Thanks Barb. It was so gorgeous, it was a joy to photograph.

  • Ashley
    September 20 2015

    Firelight looks so, so lovely, and your photos are fantastic! I’ve never been glamping, but dying to try it! Also, wine slushies are amazing. Dangerous, but amazing, ha.
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Yes, I can testify firsthand that they go down a little toooooo easy, ha.

  • Britt
    September 20 2015

    I love camping, but glamping looks like the best of both worlds!

    As does a couple of days just drinking wine and cider 😛
    Britt recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Anywhere with a complimentary happy hour goes way up in my personal ranking, indeed!

  • Izy Berry
    September 21 2015

    great post i am a camping girl i love the nature
    Izy Berry recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      I have to say I don’t know if I can really say I’ve given real camping a try. But I think I know myself well enough to know I’m more of a glamping girl anyway 🙂

  • Elisa
    September 21 2015

    Those tents are incredible! Glamping is the best..
    Elisa recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 24 2015

      Can’t disagree on that point! Thanks Elisa!

  • Anna
    September 24 2015

    Wow, that is definitely fancy! I could go for something like this right now – in fact, I could see myself just taking a week and working from this kind of setting!

    • Meihoukai
      September 27 2015

      I’m not sure if they have wifi (if so only in the lobby tent) but sometimes I get my best work done when I’m offline… so I agree!

  • Natalie
    September 27 2015

    This is so timely…I’m working on a post on my recent glamping trip in Cascade, Idaho. We didn’t do any amazing hiking or visit any wineries though. Your pictures made the trip look amazing! Thanks for sharing.
    Natalie recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 28 2015

      I’ll have to keep an eye out for it — I love reading about different glamping experiences around the world!

      • Natalie
        October 3 2015

        It’s posted now if you want to check it out.
        Natalie recently posted..

  • Kristin
    October 7 2015

    How funny, I followed your blog for Asian travel trips when I was living in China and now you are visiting my new home, Ithaca. Though I would have given you recommendations on some different (and slightly better tasting) wines to try!

    • Meihoukai
      October 8 2015

      It’s all subjective, right? 🙂 Luckily I got to taste wines from some of the vineyards we didn’t get the chance to visit at Firelight, so that was fun!

  • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer
    September 3 2017

    This is pretty awesome Meihoukai! I have wanted to go glamping for a while and I hope I can do it upstate this fall!
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      September 21 2017

      I still recommend this place to my friends in real life ALL the time — it’s amazing! I can’t give it enough thumbs up.