If there’s one thing to know about me, it’s that I don’t do camping. In fact, the last time I went tent camping, I was in the seventh grade. A few years ago, a friend even gave me one of those funny Anne Taintor makeup bags that proudly proclaims “I love not camping” – my attitude in a nutshell.
But when I heard about Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel’s “Kids Kamping” package, I immediately signed up. Because “camping” in a swanky hotel in downtown Chicago is just about the only kind of camping I can get behind. I brought along my two nephews (ages 2 and 5), both novices to the camping scene, who loved the experience from beginning to end.
Kids Kamping aims to recreate the camping experience indoors, complete with a tent set up in the hotel room (and given to the guests to take home afterward). The boys couldn’t wait to immediately dive into the perfectly sized tent, and were delighted by the Radisson Blu Teddy bears and crayons and coloring books waiting on their pillows.
To no one’s surprise, they didn’t end up actually sleeping in the tent. Between the incessant whispering, a foot to the face while getting settled, and the discovery of the fun noise the nylon tent makes, we inevitably all ended up snuggling in one of the room’s queen size beds. We fell asleep not to the sound of chirping crickets or foraging raccoons, but car horns, ambulance sirens and even a knock for turn-down service. And in the morning, I was able to squeeze out a few more minutes of shuteye by convincing the boys to play with their toy cars in the tent (sadly not soundproof).
As for the other amenities, the milk and cookies delivered while we were exploring the hotel were a welcome treat. And while some of the “camping” aspects are better experienced in warmer weather (the kids’ splash pool and fire pit for s’mores were closed), we still enjoyed an early morning swim in the lane pool and roasted our marshmallows from the s’mores kit over a [probably unauthorized] indoor fire. And come Chicago’s coldest months, we’ll all take any excuse we can get to even pretend to be in the great outdoors.
The package also includes breakfast in the hotel’s upscale Filini Restaurant, which, while not exactly designed for kids, clearly understands the child’s mindset with Mickey Mouse pancakes (featuring a banana as his mouth!) the boys wolfed down. I enjoyed a slightly more sophisticated breakfast from the lovely buffet. And the hotel clearly employs some well-connected staff, as evidenced by our friendly waitress, who gave us the phone number of none other than Santa Claus himself. (I’m still not sure if she thought my energetic nephews belonged on the nice or naughty list.)
All in all, our visit got me reconsidering my stance on camping – as long as it’s of the urban variety. And the boys enjoyed a fun intro to the camping concept, which they can re-create in their backyard with their brand new tent – provided they can actually fall asleep next time, of course.