next to visit (* read: wake everyone up at 7am). Our cabins were pristine with heat(!!), a super comfy queen bed and a loft with two twin mattresses and actual linens! If you are worried (like I was) that your little one might sleep walk or try to come down the loft ladder in the middle of the night, there is still room for the mattress on the floor next to the bed. They have microwaves and refrigerators and sinks and private bathrooms! (Did you hear that? PRIVATE BATHROOMS!) with showers and HOT WATER!

At one point, my sister-in-law-extreme-camper giggled when I mentioned camping. “This is SO not camping,” she observed, but not in a bad way. She went on to say how easy it all was without having to pitch a tent, navigate and designate a bathroom spot, shower or bathe with cold water, etc.

We were never at a loss for things to do. We visited the Santa Barbara zoo with the little ones, we biked to the beach at sunset (with beach cruisers they provided for free), and hiked on the canyon grounds to the resident llama and goat farm, where we witnessed with our own eyes a goat giving birth to three little goat kids. That might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but now that I’m a mother myself, witnessing a mommy goat nursing her newborn little kids kind of got me verklempt. Our own human kids thought it was pretty awesome, too. We proceeded to have a campfire every night complete with s’mores, campfire songs and stargazing. One night for dinner, we cooked crab we bought from the Santa Barbara fish market. Fresh crab cooked in tin foil on a campfire dipped in lemon butter is one of the greatest joys in life, I have discovered. An afterthought: Is it considered “Glamping” when everyone takes out their iPhones to look up the lyrics to certain songs? Maybe. But it’s also simply a sign of the times. When you need to keep teenagers happy by singing a Taylor Swift song you’ve never heard before, it’s totally necessary. Side note: “You Belong With Me” is a really fun campfire sing-a-long song.

When you have successfully have met the needs of three teenage girls, three rambunctious boys under 8 years old and a three-year-old, I’d say you can pat yourself on the back and call it a great family trip. My kids may not yet know the joy of pitching their own tent and bathing in a freezing cold creek, or sleeping on dirt with bugs. Oh I’m sure we will do that too in the years to come, but “Glamping” is definitely a great way to start!


Check out El Capitan Canyon at

Family Glamping at El Capitan

accommodations. You can glamp2go rustic and get an adventure “yurt”, safari tent, go super luxe with a cabin suite, or anything in-between. We opted for the Creekside Queen cabins because each of our families have four or five people and we could get four adjacent cabins and all be together. It was perfect. But PERFECT! It was like our own private village, with the kids hopping from one cabin to the 

By Kelly Mitchell

Ah, the ubiquitous family vacation. Growing up, we had a million of them. They all seemed pretty great, too (selective memory, of course). We had a 70’s Green Chevy station wagon and my parents laid down futons, sheets and blankets in the gigantic back seat area, and my sister, brother and I put our favorite cassette tapes in our individual walkmen and off we went. There was some fighting, to be sure, but for the most part, really good times were had.

Fast forward thirty plus years. My siblings and I are still very close and like to keep the family vacation tradition alive. Aside from the fact that my parents no longer own the fabulous station wagon, the biggest difference is that we each have families of our own now. My sister has 

three teenage girls, my brother has two boys, 8 and 6, and I have a 5 and 3 year old. There are a lot more personalites that come into play now. Trying to come up with something that will tickle everyone’s fancy is next to impossible. We also have in-laws who like to weigh in on things (how DARE they)! It seems to be getting harder and harder to come up with trips that fit school schedules, activities, nap times, temperaments, personalities, and of course, budgets.

So this year my sister Susan suggested going camping in El Capitan, just a few miles north of Santa Barbara. It seemed the perfect spot because my brother and family live in the Bay area, and my sister, parents and I all reside in Orange County, so it was a pretty neutral locale as far as driving went. My brother and family, by the way, are EXTREME campers. Is that a reality show? It should be. They’d win. They have been known to go ice camping…and slept in actual homemade igloos. For real. They don’t mess around. My sister and the teenage girls are not as into camping. Like all teenagers, my nieces are into hanging with their friends, texting and Instagramming, and if they had their druthers, would probably rather not go anywhere at all. I have not yet taken my kids camping and it’s been on my to-do list. But honestly, I just really haven’t wanted to deal with it. It is SO much work and what do the little ones really get out of it? Do they star gaze and appreciate their surroundings, really? My whole job as a parent is to keep them comfortable and happy.  If only someone could put all of the fun and comfortable parts of camping and take out all the discomfort and inconveniences that camping can bring.

Enter El Capitan Canyon. Seems like someone else had that same idea and created the perfect spot for everyone. Nestled against the Los Padres National Forest with access to 3,500 acres of pristine nature preserve, the Canyon is set on 350 acres of rolling hills and creek canyons and is a five-minute walk to El Capitan State Beach. Originally a traditional campground, El Capitan Canyon reopened in 2002 as an upscale, outdoor destination.  It was one of the first places to be coined “Glamour Camping” or “Glamping.”

Luckily, we missed the recent cold storm by a couple of days, but it was still the middle of winter, which made us a  little nervous as to what exactly we would do the whole time. But as soon as we arrived and I went to check in, I knew this was going to be a classy operation. I felt like I was checking into a hotel. In the middle of a forest. I was given two keys and a menu should we choose to order a meal from the country market on site. We never did that, but we could have! We drove through a beautiful stretch of land to our cabin to unload. No cars are allowed on the premises, so we had to then drive the car to a designated area away from the cabins. I should mention that there are several options for