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‘Glamping’ under the stars on a weekend escape to Tucson

Camping has never been my thing. If the choice is between sleeping in a bed indoors or in a sleeping bag outdoors under the stars, I’ll take the bed. But what if I could sleep in a bed indoors but also under the stars? I discovered that it’s possible at Under Canvas Tucson, a 26-tent “glamping” (luxury camping) site that recently opened adjacent to Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. Not only that, but Under Cover Tucson glampers have access to dining and activities at Tanque Verde Ranch, a 10-minute walk. Luxury camping while playing cowboy? I couldn’t resist. I booked an Under Canvas Stargazer tent and a flight to Tucson. The tab for two: $249 a night for a Stargazer tent (other tents, some without toilets or showers, start at $174); $300 a day for food and activities at Tanque Verde; $44 for museum admission, plus flights and car rental.

THE BED

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My husband, Paul, and I were enchanted by our rustic-chic tent outfitted with leather chairs, cowhide rugs and a king-size bed. We were grateful for the indoor toilet, sink and shower.

At Under Cover Tucson, the Stargazer tent features a skylight over the king-sized bed that offers guests a view of the stars.
At Under Cover Tucson, the Stargazer tent features a skylight over the king-sized bed that offers guests a view of the stars. (Paul Boorstin)

Best of all, a skylight revealed the stars above. A small wood stove kept us warm for a few hours, but when the fire went out, the temperature dipped into the 40s. Because I’m the “sleep-with-the -windows-open” member of our family, I was cozy under a pile of blankets. Paul was cold. Thanks to a fleece zip-up sleeping-bag liner provided by reception, the next night he was a happy glamper.

THE MEAL

We enjoyed green chile enchiladas for dinner one night in Tanque Verde’s historic lodge that dates to 1868. Another night we attended a cookout complete with a singing cowboy and s’mores. The next morning, we took a breathtaking horseback ride through the cactus-covered foothills to a hearty chuckwagon breakfast of blueberry pancakes, eggs, biscuits and bacon.

THE FIND

Tucson friends recommended that we stop at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum before checking into our glamp site. We spent four hours there. The 97-acre botanical garden, zoo and natural history facility, with two miles of outdoor trails and plenty of helpful staff and docents, was an ideal place to learn about the desert’s flora and fauna.

THE LESSON LEARNED

Guests at Under Canvas summer glamping sites near Yellowstone, Glacier and Zion national parks are not allowed to have food in their tents because of bears. At Under Canvas Tucson, the no-food-in-your-tent rule is meant to keep away javelinas, which look like small wild boars. When I spotted a family of the scruffy critters near the cookout, I resisted the urge to toss them a snack.

Under Canvas Tucson, 14301 E. Speedway, Tucson; (520) 303-9412. Open through mid-April. (Most other Under Canvas glamp sites are open only in the summer.) No pets. Tents are not wheelchair accessible.

Tanque Verde Ranch, 14301 E. Speedway, Tucson; (800) 234-3833. Wheelchair accessible.

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, 2021 N. Kinney Road, Tucson; (520) 883-2702. Wheelchair accessible.

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