Let Your Inner Child Out at Camp Woodmark, a “Summer Camp” for Adults

I have to admit to being somebody who rarely considers the Eastside of our Metro Area when it comes to planning social engagements and local excursions.  Like many, I tend to think of it more as a hub for commerce and fine dining than I do as someplace I’d want to spend my weekend.  As I recently discovered, the best part of such misconceptions is how easily they’re replaced once the reality of a situation becomes clear.

Last week I was given the opportunity to take part in the “Camp Woodmark” experience at The Woodmark Hotel, Yacht Club & Spa in  Kirkland, which just so happens to be the only hotel located on the shores of Lake Washington.  Camp Woodmark was designed with adults in mind, meaning they offer a grown-up kind of fun without any of the awkward moments or pre-teen angst from the summer camps of our youth.

Upon my arrival at The Woodmark I was cordially greeted by Brandon, one of the “camp counselors” entrusted with making each campers stay as relaxing and hassle-free as possible, who presented me with a welcome package that included several Woodmark t-shirts and reusable aluminum water bottles.  Not long after that I was on the balcony of my amazing fourth floor lakeside room, enjoying a cool breeze and feeling that there may just be some merit to escaping into your own city after all.

The Woodmark Hotel and terrace

The Woodmark Hotel and terrace

The early part of the afternoon was spent touring the hotel grounds to learn a little more about what exactly The Woodmark has to offer, which as it turns out is quite impressive.  Featuring 100 rooms, 21 of which are suites, most with views of the lake and all with luxury amenities, The Woodmark is also home to a full-service spa, two exceptional restaurants (more on those later), and is one of the premier wedding venues and event spaces on Lake Washington.

Sneaking my way around the property for a few hours left me pretty thirsty, so I headed down to The Library Bar for the first of my scheduled camp events, a summer cocktail making class with Aziz, one of the friendliest and more theatrical bartenders I’ve met in my many years of bar patronage.  Aziz was insistent that I step behind the bar and attempt to fill his very knowledgeable shoes.  Who was I to argue?  Over the hour and a half that followed, Aziz let me mix drinks for the regulars and taught me how to make some of his personal favorites, from the Shinjuku Blossom to the “Aziz You Like It,” a frothy pineapple concoction of his own creation.

Right around the time my nerve was building up (that and a healthy amount of “sampled” drinks in my stomach) to start flipping bottles a la Tom Cruise in Cocktail, it was time to pick up my wife for dinner at bin vivant.  A procession of food like no other, courtesy of head chef Scott Lents, started crossing our table almost immediately.  Scallops P.L.T. (prosciutto, bibb lettuce, cured tomato), French onion soup, beef tenderloin, rack of lamb; everything was cooked to perfection and with great attention to detail.  The wine list is enough to make even the most earnest grape nut second guess their top picks for the evening.  With one of the largest wine preservation systems of its kind in the Puget Sound region, bin vivant takes wine to a new level by making available over 80 climate controlled wines by-the-glass with a state of the art Argon gas-based dispensing mechanism.  Rounding out an amazing meal and adding to the Camp Woodmark experience are tableside s’mores, where the marshmallows (made in-house) are toasted at the table so you can immediately capitalize on their warm, gooey bliss.

Late night at The Woodmark happens to be just as appetizing too.  From 11pm-1am, guests of the hotel are encouraged to “raid the pantry,” a Woodmark tradition where you emerge from your rooms in pajamas or sweatpants, head down to The Library Bar, and then fill your arms/plates with an assortment of delectables that have been laid out buffet-style.  Some drinks, chips, and a plate of what I’m calling spicy Asian meatballs later, my wife and headed back to the room, ready to top off our tanks for the night.  My head hits the pillow finding me stuffed, relaxed, and not quietly weeping while longing for home in any shape or form; basically the exact opposite of all my previous summer camp experiences.

Kayaking on Lake Washington

Kayaking on Lake Washington

You may be asking yourself at this point, is all of this really necessary? Well no, actually, but therein lies the reasoning behind the recession-fueled staycation movement in the first place.  Perhaps it would be better if I let Brian Flaherty, general manager of The Woodmark, give you his take on the subject, “Every so often, it’s important for us to not take ourselves so seriously.  With our Camp Woodmark program, we’re encouraging adults to simply have fun while enjoying an unforgettable Pacific Northwest getaway this summer.”

The fun I had was only a small sampling of what Camp Woodmark has to offer their guests as well.  A more robust itinerary might include a cooking class with Chef de Cuisine Scott Lents, morning yoga on the lawn, kayaking on Lake Washington, or even a cruise around it aboard the 28-foot Woodmark II.  The Camp Woodmark packages start at a minimum of two nights, allowing you more than enough time to fill your stay with those “home away from home” kinds of experiences you’re looking for.  Because as I learned from my stay at Camp Woodmark, the goal of keeping it local isn’t just about trying to do more for less, it’s about taking the time to re-discover the adventures that await you in your own backyard.

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