There are men who love the wilderness: roughing it, braving the elements and expressing their inner outdoorsman. Then there are those of us who enjoy scenery and fresh air but believe that getting away should involve luxury and the basic — preferably five-star — creature comforts.
Bingemans Grand Experiences is a huge complex just outside Kitchener. There are extensive campgrounds, year-round trailers, convention centres, the Big Splash water park, the FunWorx indoor playground/arcade, go-carts, golfing, paintball and swimming pools, all spread over a verdant hillside that descends to the gently flowing Grand River. Bingemans also has glamping.
“We call it a gateway to camping,” explains company president Mark Bingeman, “for a market that wouldn’t necessarily think of camping. Glamorizing camping is a trend. No one else was doing it, so we got in on the ground floor.”
So far Bingemans has only one glamping unit, but it has been so successful and is so in demand that four or five more units will be added next season. “It’s an attention-getter,” Bingeman admits.
The lone, so far, glamp yurt is a circular tent that rests on a raised wooden platform only steps away from the river. It is surprisingly spacious despite containing two queen-sized beds, a couch, chairs, a fridge and a variety of Ikea-style end tables. The roof soars, circus tent–like, to a round skylight from which dangles a chandelier. Despite the pouring rain, it is cozy and warm, with only one tiny leak creating a small, wet stain where the canvas meets the floor. Huge side-flap windows let the outside in, without the bugs, and a sea of green foliage surrounds the structure. The view of the river from the front door and deck is instantly soothing and feels intensely rustic and remote.
Bingemans is designed as a family destination, and a little more privacy — the year-round trailer park is to the rear of the yurt, and twice people wandered past the big windows to watch the wildlife from the water’s edge — would have upped the chances of acting upon the romantic ambiance without risking exhibitionism. While not offering the same gay amenities — or nudity — of Riverside, just outside Tweed, or The Point, west of Port Dover, Bingemans is prominently listed as gay-friendly by the Grand River Rainbow Community Centre, and no one batted an eye at two men wandering together or basking near-naked side by side on the deck’s Muskoka chairs or by the wave pool.
While sampling the water park — the slides are terrific fun — my travelling companion/photographer was hesitant to ride a double inner tube down the giant Boomerang. What might people think? Even when another aqua-adventurous gay couple was spotted — creating no waves, alarms or even smirks — he was not convinced to abandon his solo voyages. Fortunately, the stunningly hot lifeguard — with tousled Bieber hair, a flattering tan and a a sun-kissed treasure trail that disappeared into a red Speedo — stepped in and informed, “It’s a much faster and fun ride if you go together.” And he was right.
Gay really is welcome everywhere, even at theme parks and campgrounds. The staff members are flawlessly chipper and helpful — from the pizza-counter girls to the butch pseudo–forest ranger at checkout who winked and asked how our night was, then added, “Hope the coyotes didn’t keep you awake.” The washrooms and showers are clean, if a little far away from the yurt, and the only other complaint would be that coffee wasn’t available until 10am unless one made it oneself — there is a firepit — or drove to the nearby Tim Hortons.
Because Bingemans is a family-oriented complex, the entertainment — a karaoke night during our stay proved that off-key versions of “Total Eclipse of the Heart” are not enhanced by the acoustics of the great outdoors — stops sharp at 11pm, and quiet time is enforced. No such kindness in the morning, when, at 7am, a fundraising walk for arthritis — sponsored by Tylenol — used the Bingemans facilities as a starting point. Motivational music blared — at least Gaga and Abba in the mix made it more palatably gay — and there was little choice but to enjoy the mist rising off the river as the sun rose on another day of luxury camping.
Photos by Raul Da Silva
Bingemans Grand Experiences, 425 Bingemans Centre Dr, Kitchener has glamping from May to October. bingemans.com