Nature has been the ultimate respite during this pandemic. It’s accessible, it’s an easy place to social distance, exercise, and generally remind yourself that the world outside your house does indeed continue to exist. Allerton Park has long been a favorite destination for our family, and has continued to be over these past several months. The nature trails, manicured gardens, Robert Allerton’s eclectic collection of sculptures; it’s a soul restoring sort of place.
They recently reopened lodging in the park, with COVID-19 protocols in place. Currently, they are offering a Glamping Getaway package to those interested in a brief escape from the walls they are seeing a whole lot more of lately. Understandably, everyone has their own threshold for how far they are willing to venture outside of their homes right now. Our family has traveled a couple of times, but in a very restricted fashion. After looking into the precautions that Allerton has put in place, I felt relatively safe planning an overnight stay there.
My 15 year old daughter and I booked a room in The House in the Woods. The house, built in 1917 and originally the farm manager’s cottage, is just a bit past the visitor’s center in between the path to the Sunken Gardens and the path to the Sunsinger statue. Yes, there is a horror movie titled The House in the Woods. I’ve never seen it, but it’s probably something I wouldn’t want to watch before staying here. The house, of course, isn’t scary. We did notice there is a basement and an attic, two inherently scary spaces in an old house, but we tried not to think about it. It has eight rooms, some with one queen bed and some with two, and it’s very cozy and comfortable. Currently, unless you are traveling with a group, they are only booking one room at a time in The House in the Woods and the Gate House. I appreciated this accommodation; you don’t have to worry about sharing space — and therefore air — with anyone else.
We rolled up to the mansion to check in. The mansion is currently closed to the public, so only a staff person is there. They have distancing markers on the floor, a touchless hand sanitizer dispenser by the front desk, and masks are required by all who enter. We were the only people there besides staff member Dustin, who was very helpful. There is plexiglass installed at the check in desk as well.
The Glamping Getaway package comes with a few extras: A drawstring bag with guides to finding plant life and wildlife on the trails, as well as a guide to identifying clouds; flashlights in case you’d like to do a little night hiking (my daughter gave hard pass to this adventure); and your own personal fire pit assembled and lit for you when you’re ready (thanks Dustin!).
We checked in around 4 p.m. and set out to do a little hiking. I’m embarrassed to say that in all of my visits to Allerton, I’d never actually seen the Sun Singer. I’ve spent most of my time in the gardens and on the trails on the south side of the park. The House in the Woods is in the perfect spot to hit the north side trails and find the Sun Singer. On the way, we found The Death of the Last Centaur.
The Greenhouse Café isn’t currently open, so if you are planning to stay on the grounds you need to either plan ahead and bring food with you in a cooler (they do have some water, soda, wine, and beer available for purchase at the front desk) or zip on in to Monticello to pick up food. We opted for the latter. Way back in another life I was a teacher in Monticello, and one of my fond memories of that time was lunches at The Brown Bag. Lucky for me, it was open until 7 p.m. and did curbside pickup! Since this isn’t a food review, I’ll let you read our review from a couple of years ago. Bonus: Pies by Inge is located within The Brown Bag, so we got a couple of slices of pie because why wouldn’t we?
Dustin got our fire pit set up and started after we returned to the house, and we spent some time sitting out by the fire as darkness fell. We heard a few owls hooting in the woods around us, and stayed out until we started to feel a little alone in the darkness and ready for the coziness of our room. I would’ve loved to spend more time venturing out on the trails the following day, but other obligations called us back to town.
Our mini getaway was a wonderful respite from the stress of all that is life right now, and it’s one where we felt safe and socially distanced. If The House in the Woods doesn’t strike your fancy, you can also book a room in the Mansion or the Guest House.