When Brawly Beard saw the campground, his excitement almost got the better of him.

"It was awesome! I liked it so much, I almost died," exclaimed the 6-year-old.

The big space, the Nerf guns, the tents, the endless possibilities for games - all are reasons Brawly was so excited to be camping. And it didn't matter that he wasn't actually outdoors.

Brawly was at Urban Campout, an indoor camping facility in downtown Tulsa that offers overnight and day camp packages to individuals and groups.

The campout, at 1209 S. Frankfort Ave., contains everything from a picnic area and surround sound stereo system, to artificial campfires and a starry ceiling reminiscent of a night sky. The facility is located on the third floor of the building that houses Just Camp, a retail store that sells camping gear.

Brawly was on a field trip with First Christian Church's Kidz Klub, and he and the 19 other kids at the campout last week were getting as much fun out of their three-hour stay as they could.

Kennedy Taylor, a teacher at the church program, said camping is a great activity for kids.

"It stimulates all their senses," Taylor said. The physical activities also help stimulate kids' motor skills, she said.

And the reason that camping may appeal to so many children, she said, is that the activity encourages creative thoughts.

Seana Wilkerson, director of the campout, agreed. "The back stories they create are fascinating."

As for Brawly and his camping buddy, Katelyn Rex - also 6 - their imaginations led them to experience a weather emergency. As the pair sat in the tent they "choosed," Katelyn said, "Brawly, pretend it's a tornado."

"Tornado Red Alert! Tornado Red Alert!" she yelled, diving under one of the raised air mattresses set up in the tent.

Katelyn was enjoying her time among the tents, fake grass and pretend fire pits.

"You actually feel like you're camping," she said. But there is one thing about outdoor camping that she enjoys better - making s'mores.

Some other campers also missed the s'mores and roasted marshmallows of their outdoor camps.

But for Sophia Koenigsknecht, 8, the trade-off was worth it.

"I like to stay indoors," said Sophia, who generally sticks to the trailer when she's camping with her family.

Her idea of a fun camping experience involves telling ghost stories, watching movies and playing games. She's not a fan of the actual outdoors part, which often involves bugs and animals, she said.

Wilkerson said Urban Campout is perfect for people who like to camp but don't like some of the things that come as part of the natural package - bad weather, bugs or places the kids could run away.

"It's all the fun of camping, without all of the negative aspects," she said.


Successful camping

Seana Wilkerson, director of Urban Campout, also serves as a counselor for campgoers.

She offers tips for a successful camping experience, whether indoors or outdoors:

Have a good attitude and be a good sport.

Great company makes for a great camp, so camp with people you enjoy spending time with.

Be sure you have the right equipment: coolers for your food, materials for your games, and bug spray and sunscreen if you'll be outdoors.

Depending on the size of your group, have some ideas of games that will keep the kids entertained, like Capture the Flag or freeze tag.

Enjoy nature, whether that be the stars and the landscape outdoors, or catching the sunset while you're indoors.


Nour Habib 918-581-8369

nour.habib@tulsaworld.com SUBHEAD: Kids enjoy the pretend fire pits and starry ceiling.