Entertainment

Family farm near Oklahoma City offers camping in air conditioned Conestoga wagons

There are two amenities my husband requests when I’m booking lodging during our frequent travels: a king-size bed and air conditioning. So guess how many times we’ve been camping in 20 years of marriage?

If you guessed none, you would have been correct until three weeks ago. That’s when we spent the night camping in a Conestoga wagon at Orr Family Farm, 107 acres of land on the southern edge of Oklahoma City. I lured my husband there, and was interested myself, because sleeping in a covered wagon sounded fun if it came with the promise of a big bed, cool air and access to a real bathroom.

Purists will say this isn’t really camping. For us, this was as roughing it as we’ve ventured since booking a cabin advertised as rustic a decade ago in a South Dakota state park. I might mention here that I made us vacate that cabin after 15 minutes and head to a roadside motel, fleeing a swarm of recently-hatched moths that violated one of my topmost lodging requests.

Orr Family Farm offers glamorous camping — aka glamping — or in even trendier terms, a tiny home experience in a 180-square-foot canvas dome. There are 13 stationary wagons and one teepee (four more scheduled to be available by Sept. 21) set up in camping circles. Our circle had five wagons around a central fire pit and was just steps from a building that housed a private full bathroom for each of the wagons.

Conestoga Wagon Co. makes the 25-foot-long, 10-foot-wide wagons in Bloomington, Idaho. Steps on one end of the wagon led to a zippered, canvas door to the wagon. Inside we had the king-size bed, a set of bunk beds, as well as a table, microwave, refrigerator, overhead lights and five electrical outlets. Our wagon slept four, though other configurations slept six or eight.

City slickers like us, hardcore campers and levels in between have been booking overnights since last fall, when founder Glenn Orr added the wagons at his 15-year-old family activity attraction.

The novelty of the wagons, and now teepees, combined with the existing activities at Orr Family Farm are attracting even those accustomed to camping in remote parks rather a parcel of land where housing developments are within view and you’ll hear light street noise after guests have left the fire pits and settled in for the night.

Our consensus: staying overnight at Orr Family Farm is worth the 170-mile drive from Wichita and would be even more fun with a group of friends or by bringing school-aged kids. Here are insights from our stay to help you plan an overnight there.

Planning a stay at Orr Family Farm

First, know that Orr Family Farm is seasonal but offers lodging year-round. The spring season for activities runs Saturdays and Sundays from spring break in March to late May. The fall season brings operating hours on the last two Saturdays in September, daily in October and the first two Saturdays in November.

Even when the farm is not open to the public, overnight guests can access about 20 of the activities, from giant jumping pillows to human foosball to oversized lawn games. Fishing in Hidden Lake, the property’s main pond known to have 6- to 8-pound large mouth bass, is reserved as a perk for visitors staying the night. There is also an indoor 19-foot-long Michael Phelps-branded swim spa — a combination hot tub and pool with the option of a swim current — that overnighters can reserve for an hour.

Some prefer to come in the off season, especially locals who know that in-season crowds there can be overwhelming. If there’s an activity on the website you’re especially interested in, call before booking to ask if it’ll be accessible.

In early August, we were one of just two wagons booked on a Friday night. The other group included five 12-year-old girls celebrating a birthday organized by a contender for world’s best aunt. All of the girls had been to the farm before on field trips or family visits, but this was their first overnight stay. They said they loved having it all to themselves and didn’t seem to miss any of the stations that were unavailable.

Another perk to staying in the off season: we didn’t have the extra cost of day passes. Overnight stays in the wagons range from $195 in the off season to $215 in October, their peak month. Teepees range from $225 to $250. When the farm is operating, overnight guests pay $15.95 per person for two days of access; that’s the same cost of daily admission. The idea is that you can check in for lodging at 4 p.m. on a Friday, for example, and pick up your pass to enjoy the activities until the farm closes at 9 p.m., then use the pass again on Saturday, when the farm is open 10 a.m to 9 p.m.

We toured the teepee and it feels even more spacious than the wagon. The one currently available to rent is wheelchair accessible; others will not be. They are built in Bend, Ore., and will have two layouts with sleeping for four or five.

Bring your own food and drink. A single serving s’mores kit is provided to each guest but you’ll likely want to roast more marshmallows. The camping host provides wood and gets the fire pit blazing for you. They offer separate roasting skewers for hot dogs and marshmallows. There is a charcoal grill at each wagon as well; bring your own charcoal or purchase it on site.

We put the air conditioning to the test and it passed. Oklahoma was under a heat advisory the weekend we traveled and we stayed cool with uncomfortable heat and humidity on the other side of the canvas. Orr said he stayed in the wagon on a frigid night last winter and he stayed warm.

If having a real bathroom is important to you, call before booking to find out which camping circles have availability. Each has a different bathroom situation, from private to shared and from being in a building to being on mobile trailers with showers, sinks, mirrors and toilets.

I’m happy to report we made it through the night. While we didn’t sleep as soundly as at a Marriott, or at home, it gave us a new experience. We can finally say we’ve been camping together. Sort of.

Orr Family Farm in south Oklahoma City

What: Conestoga wagon and teepee glamping

Where: 170 miles south of Wichita

More info: orrfamilyfarm.com

Why is it called a Conestoga wagon?

The wagons at Orr Family Farm are based on the distinctive horse-drawn freight wagons that first were used in Pennsylvania’s Conestoga River region in the mid- to late-18th century before helping pioneers expand westward.

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments