Last weekend we left Evelyn at home with friends and went on an Omaha staycation. We were pretty excited to check out a well-known spot around here for a unique experience. That’s right, the “glamping” bungalows at Slattery Vintage Estates!
Yes, it’s true, Nebraska does have some real wineries. Sure, the wine’s not nearly as great as the stuff that comes from California. The weather and terroir in Nebraska make it extremely difficult to produce decent wine. You can’t really blame the local vintners for trying…they’re doing their best with what they’ve got to work with.
Slattery Vintage Esates, located just south of Omaha near the town of Nehawka, is one such Nebraska winery that offers a fuller experience. There you can taste not only Nebraska wines, but wines from all over the world in their tasting room. On weekends they feature live music and dinner specials, which usually includes woodfire pizzas from their outdoor grill. And if you want to spend the night (who wouldn’t want to sleep in a vineyard?), you can do some real glamping there too!
This isn’t exactly roughing it. The glamping, or “glamorous camping”, experience features 4 bungalows set alongside the edge of the vineyard. Each bungalow is furnished with a full or queen size bed, a small bistro table, dresser and mirror, coffeemaker and cozy patio chairs out front. They score extra points for the cute deck lights hanging outside each tent. It may have been all the wine, but I slept like a baby on the comfortable bed.
That’s kind of where the glamour begins and ends though. There is no air conditioning (this is a tent, after all) and no running water in the bungalows. One of our bungalows had a funky smell to it. Upon inspection it seemed to be a musty rug that was the culprit and had to be removed. Ok, not a great start, but we can move past it.
If you decide to give it a try, make sure you make your reservation well in advance. The bungalows sell out for the summer by early spring and rent for $85/night on the weekends (breakfast and live music cover not included). We rented all four of the side-by-side bungalows for a couples’ trip.
There is a small bath house outside the bungalows, and from the outside doesn’t it just look adorable? From our experience though, I wouldn’t recommend counting on it. The solar shower ran hot water for only about a minute (not their fault, that’s how it’s designed, but something to consider) and the composting toilet is in serious need of…ehm…composting. Fear not, though, guests are free to use the bathrooms in the tasting room as long as they are open (which on the night of our stay was until 10:30 pm, so the bathroom part wasn’t a huge issue for us). And I get it, this is still camping after all, and we didn’t come expecting a 5-star hotel.
We met Jana in the tasting room, who prepped us for what would be a busy night at the vineyard. The evening’s musical guest was a Jimmy Buffett tribute band (score!) and they were expecting a pretty big crowd. Although we weren’t interested in the concert, we were still required to pay the $6 per person cover charge because we could “hear the music”, which was a little annoying. I’d rather have had Slattery include it in the price of the bungalow and not had to think about it.
At the outdoor kitchen, the winery team was prepping for an island-inspired dinner that included Jamaican jerk chicken, pulled pork, and Cubano sandwiches. All were actually really delicious, minus the chicken that wasn’t cooked long enough and was basically raw inside. The staff was genuinely apologetic though, and we were able to swap it out for a different entree.
We settled with our food back around the bungalows, away from the crowds outside the tasting room. The boys started a round of cornhole (which we brought with us) while the girls unpacked our charcuterie and cheese and sipped more wine. After a long search for firewood that was supposed to be at our camp, we sent the boys back to the tasting room to carry over firewood for our campfire later.
As the sun set over the vineyard, it was quite peaceful and calming to be outdoors and away from kids for the night. With zero cell service, it forced us to be completely unplugged, which was nice. Though, providing wireless internet access as a backup for guests would have been a nice perk.
We spent the night around the firepit swapping travel stories and making s’mores. Packing our own yard games and having great company definitely helped make the experience even more fun!
The next morning, Barb (the owner of Slattery Vintage Estates) cooked us a 3-course breakfast that included yogurt parfaits, shrimp and grits, and apple-filled pastries. It was more than enough food for a morning after drinking, and it was nice to have a hot breakfast without having to worry about cooking for ourselves.
Overall, our glamping experience was good, but it didn’t blow me away. There were a number of simple things Slattery could have done to improve our experience (a more personal check-in, stocked firewood, optional cover charge, better-tended facilities, etc). Each of these things in and of themselves could have easily been let go, but compounded one on top of the other, they put a bit of a sour note to our stay. Having heard about the great hospitality here from previous guests, I had high expectations that we’d experience that same “personal touch”. Maybe I’ve been too spoiled in the past by some amazing Airbnb hosts. Maybe the staff was too busy tending to the concertgoers that night that they didn’t have as much time for us. All in all, I felt there was something lacking, considering our stay (with extra charges for the music) came to $100 for the night, plus a good deal more spent on dinner, wine, and breakfast.
Would I do it again? Probably not. And it really does pain me to say that because I really wanted to love it! That said, I may be in the minority here, as Slattery Vintage has had a lot of praise from past guests. I’m hoping we came on an ‘off’ night and would still encourage others to try it out for themselves at least once. You’ll surely have an experience you can’t really find anywhere else this close to home.
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