An epic glamping trip with the versatile new Mercedes-Benz GLA SUV
Horseback riding, an al fresco movie night and sleeping under the stars: what it was like for one writer to escape the city for a pre-lockdown visit to Glen Oro Farm
Glen Oro Farm is a 200-acre equestrian sanctuary an hour and a half north of the city that’s been owned and operated by the same family for over 50 years. Their herd of horses is used for private lessons, group trail rides and cross-country events, and they have their own event pavilion and farm-to-table vegetable garden. At the end of the summer, the family decided to add a variety of heated canvas tents and star-gazing sleeping domes. Now, the historic property is a fully winterized glamping eco-retreat, where city folk can escape for a weekend of peaceful solitude, immersive nature hikes and much-needed horse therapy.
The location is mostly sold out for the rest of the winter, so when Mercedes-Benz organized an exclusive midweek glamping excursion pre-lockdown in November for a lucky few, I jumped at the chance to experience the farm for myself. Guests were all lent access to a fleet of sleek black Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC SUVs for the road trip, which helped make the experience as smooth as possible—starting by using the voice activated MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) navigation system to be led along the quickest route to the farm. The GLA features Augmented Reality navigation, which takes live video from the vehicle’s front camera and super imposes directional info. This was very useful on country roads that aren’t always clearly marked.
Inside the car, the displays were minimalist and modern and the technology, especially the high-res centre display touchscreen, was insanely intuitive. Though it’s a relatively compact SUV, and can effortlessly maneuver busy Toronto streets and cramped parking spaces, the panoramic sunroof made the inside feel airy and spacious, and there was more than enough room for all our camping gear. We arrived mere days after one of the area’s first snowfalls, and the car’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive handled the winding, icy rural roads with ease.
On arrival at the farm, we were greeted with welcome cocktails and snacks in the tented, socially distanced lounge, which was kept cozy with standing heaters. We then settled into our rooms, which were either canvas glamping tents or geodesic pods, which – mirroring the GLA’s panoramic sunroof – had see-through ceilings for nocturnal star gazing. To match the luxury we had become accustomed to in the GLA, they were all outfitted with full bathrooms (complete with hot water for morning showers and compost toilets), king-sized beds draped in crisp white linens, rustic tables and chairs, vintage leather sofas and sumptuous finishes like woolen blankets, slippers and candles galore. Stoking the wood-burning stove made it feel like a true camping experience, but we didn’t miss the GLA’s heated seats and climate control too much, because, and the device gave off enough warmth to stay toasty even on a particularly freezing evening (the electric blanket on the bed didn’t hurt either).
The entire event was catered by the Food Dudes, who, for dinner, fed the crew an incredibly gourmet two-course meal consisting of their famous Rasa chopped salad, along with either beef tenderloin, seared trout or cauliflower steak. After dinner, the group gathered around a crackling bonfire to roast marshmallows for the ultimate Canadian dessert: s’mores. In the meantime, the fleet of GLAs had been lined up in front of a giant outdoor screen, warmed up and filled to the brim with movie snacks. As we settled into the heated seats and tuned the radio for a pop-up Drive-In Movie experience, the adjustable power seats made sure the space felt as comfortable as a sofa back home. Plus, the car’s dual-zone climate control was appreciated for those of us whose plus ones had differing temperature preferences.
The next day, after being delivered piping hot breakfast sandwiches in bed, we hiked around the expansive property, scaling a scenic hill and learning about the fascinating history of the property from co-owner Luke Sedgwick. Then it was time to visit the gorgeous antique stable for a guided horse-back ride through the trails. Clomping through the snowy grounds on the backs of these majestic creatures made us feel like old-school pioneers – definitely a change of pace from the sporty GLA’s 221 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The sweet-tempered animals are guaranteed to lift anyone’s spirits.
After a half day of chilly outdoor adventure, it was a treat to be able to sink into the GLA’s Artico leather seats, throw on a podcast and enjoy the smooth ride and luxurious features on the way back to the city. We couldn’t think of a more perfect car for spontaneously taking you anywhere life takes you—whether that’s urban streetscapes or rugged rural campgrounds.
For more information about the versatile Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC SUV, visit mercedesbenz.ca.