'Glamping' in Michigan at Bella Solviva

With a minivan stuffed to capacity, we recently ventured just an hour across the Canadian border for our annual family camping trip. As we drove off with our tents, sleeping bags, coolers, beach gear, air mattresses and a ridiculous amount of clothing for five people (to accommodate for warm summer days and a potentially cool night), I once again wondered why we spent days packing and preparing for just one night of camping.

We love being outside for an entire day and night but sleeping on the ground (even with an air mattress) in close proximity to other campers makes it hard to appreciate the camping experience for more than a night.

The day we got home from our outdoor adventure, a friend sent me an email about Bella Solviva, a camping resort opening in Northern Michigan next year.

Camping and resort? How could that be?

Bella Solviva owner Brad Carlson explains that his resort goes beyond traditional camping and emphasizes glamping.

Glamping? What is glamping?

Think of it as a combination of the amenities of a luxury hotel with the best parts of camping, says Carlson, who is building Bella Solviva in East Jordan, Michigan with his wife Sandy. With glamping, you get the benefit of enjoying the great outdoors sans the work and discomfort of sleeping in a tent.

When fully completed, Bella Solviva will offer guests a dozen different unconventional and luxurious accommodations, from completely furnished safari tents, tipis and tree houses to train cars, yachts and decommissioned commercial airplanes, for a total of 180 units. A bed and breakfast is also part of the long-term plans for the property.

Despite the unique accommodations, tent and RV campers shouldn’t feel left out. The resort will have 40 tent and RV sites. But, unlike traditional campgrounds, campers will have access to free ice and firewood, complementary s’mores and hot chocolate mix. To make the property even more unique, Bella Solviva will be eco-friendly, operating on solar and wind power and recycling as much as possible.

Although Bella Solviva began taking reservations earlier this month, the resort doesn’t open until May 2016. Summer rates range from $67 per night for a tent site to $997 a night to sleep in an airliner suite. All rates are listed online.

Bella Solviva is the first true glamping resort in Michigan and unlike any in the Midwest. Located on 229 acres in the Grand Traverse Bay region, the property is about a four-hour drive from most locations in the metropolitan Detroit area.

So what’s a family to do while glamping if they don’t have to spend their time setting up tents, starting a fire and cooking meals? Catered meals are optional and plans for the property include an upscale restaurant and concession area.

Carlson predicts that one of the most popular family features will be Shipwreck Island. The island, on one of the property’s two ponds, will be accessible by bridge and there are plans to sink an old boat in the pond, “making it a fantastic fantasy land for kids,” according to Carlson.

In addition to off-site excursions and organized activities for kids and teens, the property will offer a laundry list of activities from hiking and biking trails to water activities and horseback riding. There are also plan to offer geocaching, volleyball, fishing, tennis and volleyball – just to name a few. Other amenities will include a recreation center, fitness area, swimming pool and playground.

After our one-night camping trip I looked into making a reservation at Bella Solviva. Apparently I wasn’t the only one interested in glamping “up north.”

When the reservation lines opened on Aug. 6, 2015, the resort received so many inquiries that its email provider placed the resort under an automatic spam review, making it impossible for Bella Solviva to receive emails. Online reservations were not affected and the issue was ultimately resolved.

“The response we are receiving is beyond our expectations,” says Carlson. “We definitely knew there was interest but this much this quick shows us that Michigan and Midwest is embracing the idea. It’s definitely the right time and right product.”

Photos courtesy Bella Solviva

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