31 May

RVFTA #144 What’s New at Camp Jellystone, 2017?

One of our favorite annual family camping experiences is visiting a variety of Yogi Bear’s Camp Jellystone Parks. Jellystone campgrounds have cornered the market on family fun, and we want to share some of the things that we think they are doing right.

It’s important to realize that Jellystone Camp Resorts are individually-owned franchises, so the activities and amenities vary from park to park. In this podcast episode we are specifically talking about the features of the very best ones we have visited.

5 Things Jellystone Campgrounds are Getting Right

We visited our first Jellystone Park about 5 years ago, and had an amazing family vacation at the Luray Jellystone in Virginia. Since then, we have seen the franchise grow and many of the campgrounds invest in resort-like amenities. Jellystone knows it’s customer and is doing all the right things to make family camping a more fun experience for the young and, ahem, not so young.

So what are some of our favorite things trending within the Jellystone system?

  1. Planned Group Recreation–kids love good old fashioned summer camp activities like relay races and water balloon fights. Jellystone Parks are putting more organized sports recreation on the activities calendar and we love it.
  2. Limiting Additional Add On Expenses–we think the trend is toward including more, not less, in the cost of your campsite. We hate being nickel and dimed on paying for extra activities within a campground, especially after you have paid a premium cost for your site. Many of the Jellystones are including mini golf, paddle boats, pedal carts, and water slides with your stay. This is how we think it should be.
  3. Upping the game for teens and tweens– Jellystone Parks are paying attention to the teen and tween crowd, adding large water features, zip lines, ninja training courses, and teen-only laser tag. These are the types of thing your big kid will beg to do over and over again.
  4. Customer service training— We are continually impressed by the young staffers at many Jellystones Parks. These teenagers and college students are friendly and engaging, bringing just the right amount of ‘cool’ to rule enforcement. They are everything you want in a camp counselor, so we know they are being trained well by management.
  5. Upgrading the campsite experience–Many ‘resort campgrounds’ put a ton of money into amenities, but scrimp on site maintenance and landscaping. Jellystone Parks are developing resort-style campsites with concrete pads, upgraded fire pits, and space to spread out.

5 Fun Facts about Yogi Bear and Jellystone Parks

Where did these Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Camp Resorts come from anyway? We dug into some historical Americana, and learned more about the history of Yogi Bear and his namesake campgrounds. Did you know…

  1. Yogi made his debut in 1958 as a supporting character in the Huckleberry Hound Show, and didn’t get his own show until 1961.
  2. Yogi’s personality and mannerisms are said to be based on Art Carney’s Ed Norton character on The Honeymooners.
  3. Yogi Berra sued Hannah Barbera for defamation, but later dropped his suit when the studio claimed the name similarity was merely a coincidence.
  4. Animation historians link Yogi Bear and his antics to social unrest in the 60’s. They say Yogi represents a figure bucking against what society expects from him.
  5. Doug Haag, the founder of the first Jellystone Park, also considered Paul Bunyan, Pocahontas, and Robin Hood as recognizable figures to brand his campground around. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out how he landed on Yogi Bear…

What’s New with Camp Jellystone?

Michele Wisher, the Vice President of Promotions and Marketing for Leisure Systems, had a lot of news to share on this podcast episode. And as a mom of three, she spend a lot of time giving tips on how to save some dough. Here are links to the promotions and deals that we discussed:

  1. S’more Deals
  2. Yogi Rewards
  3. 2017 Great American CampOut 
  4. Jellystone Park Tiny Home RV Tour

More Jellystone Content

Want to hear more abut the Yogi experience? We paired this episode with a Campground of the Week review of our recent stay at the Hagerstown Jellystone in Maryland. Check out Campground of the Week episode #83 to hear all the details about this amazing park.

You can also check out Jellystone podcast episodes from years past…

A big thanks to our sponsors for supporting weekly content for all our camping and RV fools:

See you at the campground!

Stephanie + Jeremy

Play
10 Apr

Celebrating a Birthday at the Campground With Friends…and Bad Weather?

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We used to scoff at camping close to home and would never have celebrated a birthday or holiday at the campground.  But things have changed.  Last year we realized that we could camp close to home and still get the kids to their baseball games (read about it here).  This year we realized that we could camp close to home and have a slam dunk birthday party with family and friends. When the campground calls us, we must go! Even when other responsibilities are calling our names.

Read More

04 Feb

RVFTA #74: Booking the Perfect Campground

Booking the Perfect Campground blog

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are dishing all our tips for finding the perfect campground and booking the perfect campsite. It’s trip planning season and if you want the magic to happen, better make those reservations now. We have given seminars on this topic and written articles, but this is the first time we put in all in one podcast.

And we have a giveaway to help you plan those trips! Good Sam has given us 5 copies of the Travel and Savings Guide (chock full of awesome articles, wink, wink). What do you have to do to win?

  • Head over to our forum, register, and introduce yourself on Roll Call forum thread. Three people with introductions will win copies of the Guide! Don’t fret if you have already said hey. You are in it to win it.
  • Look for a contest photo to be posted this week on Instagram. Like the photo and tag a friend who might think that RV Family Travel Atlas has got it going on.

There are two segments that center on tips for booking your campground reservations. First we talk about picking through the catalogs, apps, ratings, and reviews to find a campground that will suit your style. Then we move on to all of the questions you should ask yourself before booking your campsite.

Do you want every campground to be a #win? It’s gonna take a little work, but the payoff is worth it.

And we don’t completely ignore RV shopping because many of our listeners are right in the thick of it. On this episode, you will also hear a great interview with Jim Waters, the marketing coordinator for Lance Campers. He will share some information about the 50 year old RV company and talk about the newest, lightest Lance truck camper release for 2016. The 650 is built for a half-ton short-bed truck, so it should be of interest to anyone looking for a comfortable camper with a small footprint.

You might think that you have oodles of time to plan those summer vacations. But we know that the best campsites are selling like hotcakes. You are listening to Episode #74: Booking the Perfect Campground!

Play
02 Feb

A Case for the Campground (or, why it’s okay if you don’t plan on boondocking this year)

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If you hang out in RV social media circles, you probably have noticed the increase in boondocking, or wild camping, content. You might see an Airstream in the middle of a desert with snow-capped mountains in the distance. Or a Class C sitting at the edge of a rocky shoreline without another RV in sight. Blog posts offer GPS coordinates for remote, wooded locations, and many apps help you find isolated BLM lands on which you can park your rig.

The appeal is obvious. First of all, wild places are beautiful. RVers generally have a healthy appreciation for the natural world, so the more of it, the better. What is more romantic than having a beautiful place all to yourself? Secondly, these spots are free. For people like ourselves who want to camp as much as possible, a free campsite is a very attractive option.

And then there are the photos. In our increasingly visual social media landscape, how awesome is it to get pictures of your RV smack dab in the middle of nowhere, without the clutter of other rigs and people?

As solar energy becomes more ubiquitous, tanks become bigger, WiFi becomes stronger, and generators become cheaper, it is easier for the average RVer to enjoy the comforts of the RV lifestyle without the drag of a campground price tag.

The conversation about boondocking pops up in the RVFTA world on a regular basis. People ask us, when are you going to start boondocking? Why don’t you do it already? Don’t you think you are missing out on an amazing experience? Is what you are doing really authentic?

We have discussed this issue many times on the podcast, and in emails with our listeners. But most of the time, the question is framed in terms of what we are not doing…i.e. boondocking. But we actually look at the issue differently. Instead of believing that we are giving our kids a less authentic camping experience, we actually think we are giving them exposure to a remarkably valuable environment, and one that is difficult to find in our present day culture.

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Many people who boondock want to get away from it all, disconnect, unplug. Most of us feel this pressing need on a daily basis. We crave a break from the busyness, a bit of quiet amidst all the noise. The irony is, of course, that as we have become more connected on social media we have become less connected with our neighbors, our community members, and even our co workers.

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A recent article I read in the New York Times, Friends at Work? Not So Much, was talking about how as a culture we are underestimating the value of forming new friendships at work. When I can stay connected with my old friends on Facebook, why bother going through the hassle of getting to know Bob in the break room?

I, of course, immediately thought of the campground. In our opinion, campgrounds are not a necessary evil, a place to stay now until we can build up our courage to take our children out into the middle of nowhere. Campgrounds are actually places where a lot of things operate according to the pre-technology norms of 20 years ago. You are pretty much expected to wave and say hi to someone as they walk by. It is still considered polite to strike up friendly conversation with a stranger. And kids are constantly forming pick up games with children they met five minutes ago.

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Playdates? Not at a campground. You’ll just see a mob of kids moving from campsite to campsite. Sharing toys, making up games, and getting really dirty.

I understand the desire people have to get away from it all and find some peace and quiet. But in a way, I believe we have a little too much peace and quiet in our lives already. Too much time spent in front of screens with headphones in our ears, looking at pretty pictures that other people have posted on social media.

We don’t just love our RV. We also love and appreciate our time at public and private campgrounds, meeting  new people, having pleasant conversations, and connecting more with each other.

The pictures aren’t as pretty perhaps, but I’ve got the squeals of my happy boys as they enjoy an epic water gun war with a bunch of friends they just met. And that’s a pretty authentic experience to me.

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Have an opinion about the campground versus boondocking? We would love to hear it! Share away in the comments below…

See you at the campground. ~Stephanie

23 Oct

RVFTA #59: Getting the Most Bang for Your Buck!

On this week’s episode of RV Family Travel Atlas, we are talking about getting the most bang for your buck by taking advantage of the many rewards and memberships programs available in the campground industry.

We reached out to Jellystone Camp Resorts, Good Sam, Kampgrounds of America, and Thousand Trails and asked them to tell us about the costs and benefits of their company’s programs.

Maybe one of these memberships is the perfect fit for your family. Maybe all four have something to offer your RVing crew. The bottom line is that it depends on where you camp and how often.

Our guests on this episode:

Follow the links above to find out more information about any of these programs.

And listen at the end of the show for a special sneak peak from the RVFTA Podcast Network and our brand new podcast, Girl Camper: Going Places, Doing Things. 

This great new show with Go RVing blogger, Janine Pettit, is full of inspirational stories and practical travel tips. Oh, and we are simply in love with the logo…

girl camper

 

Play
09 Jul

Great Smoky Mountains Shakedown (Part Two) With the Townsend KOA

After three full days of exploring the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains, we were in no rush to leave. I was getting used to putting the boys to bed each night then soaking in the indoor hot tub at the Cherokee KOA. But there was so much more to do and see.  So it was onward to the Tennessee side of America’s most visited national park.

We chose the Townsend/Great Smokies KOA because of its great online reviews, its proximity to Cades Cove and the Sugarlands Visitor Center, and its close (but not too close) proximity to the zaniness of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge.

We had reserved a deluxe patio site back in January, and when I booked the site it was one of two left in the campground for the fourth of July weekend.  It was in the front of the campground near the playground, the pool, and the camp store.  It was busy and bustling in our area, but the proximity to the playground and pool were good for our kids.  If you want peace and quiet, the sites by the river would be better. These deluxe sites are lovely, particularly the large stone fire pits and attractive landscaping.

The playground was designed by the folks who design playgrounds for Disney. It quickly became kid headquarters each afternoon when we returned from our adventures in the park.

The pool was also a perfect place for a refreshing post-hike dip.

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If you want to book a riverfront site at the Townsend KOA we advise that you book VERY early.  This is a popular campground and we spoke to several families who have been coming here for decades.  This friendly couple booked their riverfront site well over a year in advance.

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The campground also has a packed schedule of activities.  We didn’t make the apple pie eating contest, but you better believe that we made the super soaker hayride.  General Manager Mark Chipperfield rallied the troops and explained that he had high expectations for our performance in battle.

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Mark was one of the friendliest general managers that we have met in our travels, so we didn’t let him down. We would head into battle with this guy any day. As long as he provides the hayride and the buckets of water.P1140386

 

There are great adventures to be had both on the campground and in the mountains around it.  The 11 mile, one way loop road around Cades Cove is one of the park’s most famous attractions. It provides a magical window into the region’s agricultural past, and its beauty is breathtaking.  There are many stops along the way, some with spectacular views and some with historical homes, mills, churches, and graveyards. This flat valley area surrounded by mountains is also a great place for spotting deer, foxes, and bears.

In spring and summer the road is closed to automobiles every Wednesday and Saturday morning until 10 a.m. so that hikers and bikers can enjoy its natural beauty without traffic.

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The Townsend KOA is also close to dozens of world-class family hikes. We left early one morning for the North Fork Auto Road and hopped on the Trillium Gap Trail. Destination? 1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back to Grotto Falls.  This hike is unique because you get to walk behind a waterfall.

We went on July 4th, and the falls were very crowded.  But all of the hikers were happy to be out in the fresh air celebrating their freedom.  Hiking in one of America’s greatest National Parks was a perfect way to spend Independence Day.

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The campground is also a fairly short drive to Newfound Gap Road (which cuts through the park and crosses state lines) and all of its magnificent attractions.  We drove the long and winding road to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park,  for the short but vigorous hike up to the observation deck.  It was a bit of a bust. We were socked in by the fog.

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So we decided to head back down to earth where the weather was dramatically different. We ended up enjoying a delicious and adventurous lunch at Chimneys Picnic Area, which was highly recommended by our Missouri podcast correspondent, Kerri Cox.  We loved Chimneys. Thanks Kerri. We owe you a picnic lunch!

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Our family adventures in Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been amazing.  But our boys always love their time at the campground best.  We spent each afternoon and evening back at the KOA enjoying activities at the pavilion…

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tubing on the Little River…

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listening to impromptu jam sessions by our neighbors.

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and we also indulged at the campground’s very own bakery/ice cream/fudge shop.  I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but they offer free samples of the fudge. Try to control yourself.

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The Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park is blessed with many good campgrounds.  But some of them are great. The Townsend KOA is one of the great ones.  Maybe it’s because of its location on the river, or its proximity to Cades Cove, or its great managers and team.

If you are looking for a campground that is close to all of the action, but also peaceful and relaxing, you couldn’t make a better choice than the Townsend KOA.

We have been frequent KOA customers over the last five years, but this was a sponsored trip.  Our opinions are always are own.

26 Mar

5 Reasons to Camp Close to Home

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I’ll admit it. For the last five years I have resisted every one of Jeremy’s efforts to camp near our home at the Jersey Shore. It just seemed so silly to me. If I was going to go through the bother of packing up the camper, I wanted to get away. Away, away. Like, a minimum of two hours.

But this season, circumstances conspired and I finally agreed to a local camping trip.

The ironic part? I was already loving the whole ‘local camping trip’ thing before we had even hitched up and pulled out.

Planning, packing, departing, returning home…every step had a relaxed and mellow feel to it that I don’t normally experience during a weekend camping trip.

Between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, I had an epiphany: there really are some benefits to a RV Staycation. (Yup, I said it…)

So even though my favorite part of RVing will always be exploring places away from my home, I’m giving you 5 reasons why staying at a local campground can be a really great experience.

1. Dewinterize the camper in a low-risk environment.

A lot of RV experts recommend season opener trips–short trips near your home to test out the camper systems after a long winter sitting in the driveway. Although Jeremy and I recognize the value of this practice, we have never been able to squeeze in a camping trip prior to our Spring Break vacation.

Well, last year we opened up our RV down in Myrtle Beach only to find out that a pipe had burst. Yeah: big mess, far from home. We couldn’t use the RV kitchen sink for the whole trip. It wasn’t such a big deal doing our dishes at the bathhouse, but it certainly convinced us to make sure everything was working before heading out for a 10 day vacation.

2. More flexibility with arrival and departure times.

When we are going away for a weekend, departure and arrival times play a huge role in our planning. Friday rush hour traffic can be a nightmare, but we also worry about arriving too late at the campground. Likewise, Sunday return traffic can be congested, but we always want to get home early enough to get ready for the work week ahead.

Knowing that a campground is only 30 minutes away relieves that travel stress. I don’t have to worry about rush hour, and even if we are running late it is no big deal. This past Sunday, we got home right before dinner and I was still able to run to the grocery store without feeling much of a time crunch.

A little less time on the road turned into a lot less stress in the scheduling department. I was pretty impressed.

3. Test out new sleeping arrangements, schedules, or gear.

Any parent knows…just when you think you have everything down, something will change. We are continually adapting to the changing needs of our little guys and this camping season is no different.

Last weekend we moved Wes from a crib into the back bunkhouse with the big boys. We had no idea how this would go and it was a relief to know we could abandon the whole operation if need be.

Lucky for us, Wes slept like a champ in his bunk with bed rails. Now we can breath a little easier about our longer trip to Myrtle Beach.

4. Don’t miss out on important weekend commitments.

All it takes is one birthday party or t-ball game to keep many families from going on the weekend RV trip. We find that the spring weekends can quickly fill up with communions, graduations, BBQs, and more.

This past weekend helped me realize that we really could have the best of both worlds. Visiting a local campground means that we can have our campfire on Friday night and then drive back into town for a morning t-ball game. Camping close to home is the perfect option if you don’t want a single scheduled event to derail the whole weekend.

5. Be a tourist in your own backyard.

I’ve talked about this before, but its funny how many ‘local attractions’ you miss out on when you live in a place. Something as simple as parking your RV in a local campground can change the way you think about and plan your weekend.

Princeton is less than an hour away from our home, but we have never taken the boys there for a day trip. Last weekend seemed the perfect time to visit the downtown, and we had a wonderful day checking out an independent bookstore, coffee roastery, and children’s library. Now we can’t wait to return.

The bottom line?

After five years of resistance, I now can’t wait for the next time we camp close to home. It is a wonderful way to experience many of the benefits of RVing while avoiding the stress points of family travel.

So what’s your take? Do you camp locally? Tell us about your favorite hometown campground…

 

 

15 Nov

Win a 2-Night Stay at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA!

Read about why we love this campground so much…and then enter to win your own weekend getaway!

[contesthopper contest=”3949″]

21 Oct

Happy Halloween, From the Philadelphia/ West Chester KOA

Our friends often ask us if we really think weekend RV trips are worth the work. We tell them that getting on the road on a Friday afternoon may require some extra effort, but it is worth it every time.  Why?  Because of magical weekends like the one we just spent at the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA.  Weekends that are filled with action and adventure and relaxation.  Weekends that bring our family closer together, and leave us dreaming about our next trip.

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Over the last four years, the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA has become one of our family’s favorite places for a weekend getaway.  The campground is less than two hours from home, but it feels like it’s a world away.  It is nestled among gently rolling hills in the heart of southeastern Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley.  In the past we have always visited in the spring, when the countryside is bright green and in full bloom.  But this fall we decided to join owners Gary and Lori Levesque for one of their popular, activity-filled Halloween weekends.  Between the spectacular fall foliage and the campground Trick or Treating, we may have just discovered our next great family tradition.

The fun started right away on Friday night with a flashlight hayride.

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And continued all day Saturday with pumpkin painting in the Liberty Lodge.

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We really enjoyed watching the boys take their time and craft their individual pumpkin masterpieces. Even Wesley, our 18 month old, joined in on the action.  But the real magic happened when the pumpkins were placed together to dry for that evening’s festive Halloween party.

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The highlight of the weekend for our twin five year old boys, Max and Theo, was Trick or Treating around the campground. The cabins and RV’s were decorated with lights, pumpkins, cobwebs, ghosts, and skeletons, and it was so easy for the boys to collect their buckets of loot as we meandered through the campground at sunset during a perfect fall evening.

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After the boys filled their buckets with candy we all headed to the Liberty Lodge for pumpkin pie and spooktacular live music.  The band played ghoulish party hits like the Monster Mash and Werewolves of London, then a rousing version of the Hokey Pokey that had everyone on the dance floor.  When we returned to the camper the boys were exhausted and fell asleep the second their heads hit their pillows.  Then it was date night for mom and dad around the campfire.  For us, weekends don’t get much better than this.

But it wasn’t all Halloween all of the time. This KOA is located along the banks of the Brandywine River and it is a perfect place for families to fish, kayak, or canoe.  The campground rents canoes at a reasonable price, but this time we brought our own kayak and the adults took turns enjoying the quiet beauty of an autumn afternoon.

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Yes, the campground is beautiful, but one of the reasons we love this destination so much is its close proximity to wonderful, family-friendly attractions like Longwood Gardens and Winterthur Museum, Garden, & Library, two amazing trips guaranteed to delight no matter your age.

Longwood Gardens is the former home of Pierre S. DuPont, and is truly one of our country’s great horticultural treasures. Although the Flower Garden Walk is always spectacular, the highlight for us is the magical Indoor Children’s Garden.  Our boys love to get wet in one of the many whimsical fountains and then run through the bamboo maze and bang on the xylophones at the music station.  If you go, make sure to bring towels and extra clothes for the kids! Also bring a picnic lunch to eat while you watch the Open Air Theater Fountain Show just outside the Conservatory.

Longwood Gardens

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Winterthur was founded by Henry Francis du Pont and is filled with rolling meadows, sparkling green woodlands, and secret gardens that will surprise and delight your entire family.  No signs saying “keep off the grass” found here.  Only room to run free. Again, there is plenty of horticultural interest, but our boys spent most of their time in the Enchanted Woods where fairy houses, tea rooms, mushroom gardens, and giant birds’ nests kept them spellbound for hours. An added bonus is that the gourmet cafeteria is actually very kid-friendly and affordable, offering delicious comfort foods that will please everyone.

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Wintertur

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So as you can see, we love our weekend adventures.  But are they worth it for your family?  We encourage you to hit the road and find out.

***

To learn more about the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA tune in to the upcoming episode of our podcast RV FAMILY TRAVEL ATLAS, available here on the blog and on iTunes.

We are repeat customers of this campground, but this trip was sponsored by Kampgrounds of America.  As always, all opinions expressed are our own.

17 Oct

RV Family Travel Atlas: 8 Tips for Campground Owners

On Episode 5 of Family Travel Atlas, we are sharing 8 tips for campground owners (whether they want them or not). We also discuss those short weekend trips and decide whether they are worth all the work. Our campground review this week takes us to Midcoast Maine, where Moorings Oceanfront RV Resort pretty much knocked our socks off.

As always, we will give you some online recommendations, and let you know what our readers (and listeners) are saying.

We really want to hear from you! If you have an opinion about any of our podcast topics, let us know in the comments below. And make sure to answer our Camping Question Friday on Facebook.

Play
07 Aug

Campground Review: Twin Mountain KOA, New Hampshire

After spending six nights at the Woodstock/Lincoln KOA in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and thoroughly exploring Franconia Notch, we were just not ready to leave the Granite State.  For every family friendly activity or outdoor adventure that we completed, we heard of three more that we wanted to try.

So we did what we have done so often before.  We pulled out the KOA Catalog and looked for a suitable place to spontaneously extend our family vacation.  The Twin Mountain KOA seemed to fit the bill perfectly.  It was less than an hour north but it opened up a whole new world of possibility for family friendly adventure.  Where the action-packed Woodstock/Lincoln KOA served as a perfect base camp for exploring Franconia Notch, the quieter, and more secluded, Twin Mountain KOA would do the same for Crawford Notch.

Lucky for us, they had a full hook up site available in the last row, up the hill a bit, where the sites are wooded, quiet, and private.  The campground has several distinct areas, and this turned out to be our favorite.

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We loved sitting around the campfire at night and watching the stars and listening to the full symphony of the forest around us.  The boys loved playing on, and jumping off, the large rock that separated our site from the one next to us.

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The campground also has about 16 cabins that are positioned in cozy and private nooks around their property.  We met a friendly family from the Lakes Region of Maine that was staying in one of them for the fourth year in a row. They were clearly happy campers.

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In the row below ours (the campground gently slopes up the side of Cherry Mountain) there is a charming and deeply shaded area for tent camping that is perfect for large groups.  It was also nice for an early morning or late evening stroll or bike ride.

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And don’t forget the brand spanking new teepee from the Pacific Northwest.

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The Twin Mountain KOA has a wide variety of options for all kinds of camping families.  But we would advise that you book a spot in the back of the campground near our site. The pull throughs at the front of the campground where a bit too close to the road for our taste.

The rustic camp store and game room are also positioned near the front of the campground.  The friendly work campers brew good coffee there all day long and guests can often be found conversing or reading the newspaper on the comfortable couches and chairs. The open field in front of the camp store served as a great place for fun and relaxation.  If a new playground were installed here this area would be just about perfect.

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On our first night at the campground the twins ended up kicking a soccer ball around with a French-Canadian boy who could very well be the next Pele.  At one point Theo was guarding the makeshift goal and this young dynamo blasted a shot that richochet off his chest and left him slightly stunned.  Max found this quite funny. Theo was impressed but not amused.

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Later that night, after we had put all three boys to bed, we were relaxing around the campfire when the owner, Tyson Taylor, pulled up in his cart and asked us how we were doing.  Tyson was kind and conversational and charming in every way.  He chatted with us for about 15 minutes and shared recommendations for hikes and bike rides in the area. We eventually noticed that Tyson liked to make the rounds and chat with his guests every night–and we looked forward to his visits–as did everyone else judging by the laughter and lively conversation.

During our stay at the Twin Mountain KOA we visited Santa’s Village, drove to the top of Mount Washington, hiked, swam, and played under waterfalls in Crawford Notch, and enjoyed starry and moonlit nights back at the campground. I left feeling so happy that we extended our White Mountains vacation by four days.  And so thankful that my family is flexible and adventurous.

Happy and thankful.  The way that I feel at the end of every camping trip.

Onward.

 

 

17 Jul

Campground Shrimp Boil: An Easy Summer Dinner for a Crowd

While planning our trip to Cape Cod, I was lucky to connect with a dear friend from childhood. When Simone found out where we would be staying in Eastham, she booked a nearby campsite with her family, and they drove out from the Boston area to meet us.

I had invited them over to have dinner at our campsite one night, and I realized I needed to pick a meal that was easy to make so I could spend as much time with Simone and her family as possible. I also needed to pick something that could feed a crowd since I would be cooking for 13 people.

Immediately I knew I would do a Shrimp Boil, my go-to meal for easy entertaining in the summer. I make this dish often at home, and the recipe I used in Cape Cod is by no means original. There are many different versions, but my favorite is this one from the Food Network.

Why does this make a great camping dinner?

  •    Everything is cooked in one pot. (I use my outdoor kitchen stovetop)
  •    The ingredients are simple. (No long list of items that you don’t keep in your RV)
  •    The food is best eaten with one’s hands. (Fewer dishes equals more happy)

What will you need in the kitchen? (For those of us who don’t keep much in our campers)

  • A large stock pot
  • A good knife and cutting board
  • Slotted Spoon and Ladle
  • Colander
  • Large serving platter (if you don’t normally keep one in your RV, one of those large disposable foil trays will do just fine.)

How do you make a Shrimp Boil?

I eyeball everything in this recipe (no measuring) and it always comes out great. I also increase or decrease the amount of shrimp, potatoes, and corn depending on how many are eating.

1. Fill your large stock pot with 4 quarts of water. Cut two lemons in half, squeeze in the juice, then throw the lemons in the water with 1/2 cup of Old Bay, 8 crushed garlic cloves, one quartered red onion, and a bunch of sprigs of thyme. Bring it to a boil and let it cook for 5 minutes.

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2. Throw in a pound of baby potatoes and cook for 10 minutes.

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3. Throw in your corn on the cob, shucked and broken in half, and cook for 5 minutes.

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4. Throw in your pound of shrimp (I also use much more!), and cook for 2 minutes.

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5. Put a few tablespoons of butter in the bottom of your serving dish and place a few ladles of your cooking stock over it. Mix it together so the butter melts.

6. Drain everything from your stock pot in your colander and place the corn, potatoes, and shrimp in your serving dish. Mix with the butter sauce.

7. Dive in!

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I usually serve this meal with grilled clams and watermelon, extra melted butter, hot sauce and slices of lemon.

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If you have some none seafood eaters, you could easily throw a steak or chicken on the grill alongside the clams to make everybody happy.

Let us know if you try it!

Happy camping. Happy Eating.

 

 

15 Apr

How We Roll When a Campground Rocks! (Myrtle Beach KOA)

When we pulled into the Myrtle Beach KOA and saw families lounging by the pool and kids romping through the spray ground my son Max asked, “can we always come back here?”  Both of the boys were still buckled up in their car seats but they knew that this campground was going to be special–and they were so right.

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We had just pulled in, but it was quickly becoming apparent that we had discovered one of our new favorite places on planet earth.  We had also finally put the long, cold New Jersey winter somewhere far, far behind us. The sweet smell of Wisteria was filling the air and the warm South Carolina sun felt luxurious on our bare arms.

I could pretty much just write a three word review of the Myrtle Beach KOA–THIS PLACE ROCKS!–and call it a day.  But I want to take a minute to tell you, and show you, why this campground has got these campers so excited.

Jeremiah, the manager, is warm and welcoming, and every single member of his team has been friendly and helpful.  When we reserved our site a few months ago I asked to be close to the playground, but not too close.  Viola–no problem!  He placed us on a perfectly positioned full hook-up pull through.  Just as requested.

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The site is also surprisingly spacious and private.  Our 33 foot White Hawk fit with extra room to spare for setting up a comfortable base camp.

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The playground, which is set along the banks of a shady lake, has been perfect for Max and Theo–and for Wes, who is becoming quite the ambitious little explorer.  He practically walked to the pool by himself yesterday!

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And who wouldn’t love the two wooden bears on a tree stump right in front of the playground–just one of the many small touches that make this entire campground feel cared for and visually appealing.

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Wesley was also pretty excited to feed the ducks–and the purchase price of the duck food goes directly to KOA’s awesome Care Camps charity for kids with cancer.  Definition of a win-win, right?

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Did I mention the bounce pillow with lake view?  If you’re camping with kids this place is simply over the top my friends!

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For the boys the best thing about the Myrtle Beach KOA may just be the sprayground, pool, and kiddie pool complex–and the fact that South Carolina is warm enough for swimming in April.  THIS is why Stephanie really wanted to drive here for our spring break.  Little did she know that Wes would take such great joy in splashing her during our first family swim of the season.

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In my opinion, the best thing about the Myrtle Beach KOA is its incredibly lovely and unique location.  The campground is one block from the main drag in town, and two blocks from one of the East Coast’s most popular beaches. But the location is secluded, deeply wooded, and filled with tall trees. The word “oasis” comes to mind.  The lake that cuts through the middle of the campground also gives this KOA a charming and rustic feel.

I can only think of one major problem with this campground.  They also have the same problem at the Cape Hatteras KOA.

It’s just crawling with pirates.

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Captain Max says “its time to walk the plank!”

But I say, welcome to spring! And welcome to Season 5 of Lively Little Campers!

Onward.

 

 

20 Sep

The Last Great Hayride: Allentown KOA, Pennsylvania

We had another lovely stay at the Allentown KOA last weekend.  It served as a convenient base camp for exploring the gently rolling hills and picture perfect farms of the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania.  The campground itself is deeply wooded and tucked away, far from traffic. A gentle stream also meanders through the property and many of the sites rest directly on its banks.  We were travelling with our good friends again and we had booked “buddy sites” so our campers could face each other, creating a large common area in the middle.

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The sites also allowed us to sit around the campfire and watch the boys on the nearby playground–which was filled with unattended kids of all ages.  Things got dicey over there a few times, and the boys occasionally ran back to the campfire crying, but overall, they had a blast.  We sent them back to the playground each time, not because we wanted to relax around the campfire with our friends, but because we are always looking to develop our children’s “social skills.”

My favorite part of the whole weekend may have been the Saturday night hayride.  I love me a good hayride–and this was the best one I have ever been on.  But it almost didn’t happen.  The boys were having so much fun “socializing” on the playground that they didn’t really want to come.  Theo, in particular, was being very whiny.  But Stephanie and I forced the issue and made them go.  I am so glad we did.  The boys enjoyed every second and talked about it for the rest of the night.

The owner drove us around the entire campground and then surprisingly, drove us up onto a high ridge that runs the entire length of the property.  The ridge ride added an element of adventure that you just don’t get on your average hayride.  We could see the campfires being lit below us as each family settled in for the evening.  On the way down our driver popped the gearshift into neutral and let the tractor race down the hill.  I held onto the boys tightly as they laughed and screamed.

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When we reached the bottom we drove past our campsite and waved at mommy, who was relaxing by the campfire.

When we hopped off of the tractor I made sure that we all thanked the owner for the extra-long ride.  He told me that “tonight was special” and that the new owners were not going to take the tractor up on the ridge anymore.  I didn’t know that the campground had been recently sold. But I suddenly realized that this kind man, after 26 years of ownership, had probably just completed his last hayride.  I felt a little sad for some reason.  But at the same time I felt like I had been given a special and unexpected gift.

29 Mar

Beach Camping with the Comeback KOA: Cape Hatteras, North Carolina


We had one week of summer vacation left and our wanderlust was getting the best of us again.  I was watching the weather reports for three different regions.  Would we spend our last week of summer vacation hiking in New Hampshire? Or visiting family and listening to bluegrass in The Blue Ridge Mountains? Or being beach bums in the Outer Banks?    
It was 72 hours before our planned departure date and we still hadn’t made up our minds.  All of the options seemed awesome and we really wanted to take all three trips.  Stephanie and I agreed that we would make a final decision that night when she returned from teaching a workshop at her school.
When she walked in the door eight hours later she told me that she had some “news” for me.  I thought that she had made up her mind about the camping trip—but instead she told me that she was pregnant!  We were going to have a very busy and exciting year in front of us—so we decided that it was definitely time to spend a week being beach bums in North Carolina.
The Cape Hatteras KOA is my favorite place for beach camping on the East Coast.  The Atlantic Ocean is right on the other side of the dunes and the waves are consistently good for surfing.  I had packed my boards and I was itching to catch some waves.  But when we pulled into the KOA my kids wanted nothing to do with the ocean—they had seen the bounce pillow, the pirate playground, and the brand new pool!  I could hear the waves crashing over the dunes but they would have to wait.
We had camped at the Cape Hatteras KOA before when the boys were toddlers.  But that was before Hurricane Irene destroyed much of the campground.  We knew that much of the KOA had been rebuilt but we didn’t know just how extensive the redesign was.  The new pool was ridiculously nice.  In fact, it is the nicest pool that I have ever seen at a campground.  There are two lanes for lap swimming, an area with slides for the older kids, and an absolutely lovely walk-in low end where my kids spent about three hours every day.  The campground is also filled with brand new elevated cabins that boast views of the ocean and the sound.

 

I woke up early on our first morning and brewed some fresh coffee and walked up to the beach to check the waves.  The surf looked really good.  The waves were about waist high and glassy and there were plenty of them.  The water was warm and crystal clear and I surfed all morning.  When I headed back to our campsite I was completely exhausted.  But when you have twin boys exhausted just doesn’t cut it.  It was time to head to the bounce pillow, and then to the playground, and then to the pool.
We settled into a very relaxing routine at the Cape Hatteras KOA.  We would wake up early every morning and head to the beach—then after about an hour I would head to the pool with the boys and give mom some relaxing reading time in her beach chair.  Mom would steal an hour or so for herself and then meet us at the pool.  We ended our days by taking part in the many activities that the campground offered on-site.  We indulged at the ice-cream social, made new friends on the daily train ride, and had a blast making tie-dye shirts for the boys.

Our week at the Cape Hatteras KOA was exactly what we had hoped it would be–relaxing and easy.  There are plenty of things to do on the Outer Banks, but we spent most of our time having a blast right on the campground.   Daddy surfed, mommy read on the beach, and Max and Theo showed off their sweet new goggles at the pool.   A beautiful double rainbow spread across the ocean on our last night—promising us many great camping trips to come—and another little camper to share them all with.
28 Mar

Mad Squirrels and Free Coffee: Rip Van Winkle Campground

Rip Van Winkle Campgrounds: Saugerties, NY
Before we officially move on to Season 4 we would like to recap a few of our adventures from last summer and fall that didn’t quite make it onto the blog.
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We wrapped up our three stop trip to New York State with a four day stay at Rip Van Winkles Campground in Saugerties.  Our last stop, at Branches of Niagara, was pretty awesome: zip lining, fishing, kayaking, and, well–Niagara Falls.  So the bar was set pretty high for the last stop of our grand tour.
When I booked Rip Van Winkles back in the cold of winter I had been seduced by their website’s description of a “clear mountain stream” and “an old fashioned swimming hole.”  Unfortunately, when we checked in at the camp store and asked for directions to the swimming hole we were told that it had pretty well run dry.  Man was I bummed!  But fortunately, the friendly worker behind the front desk proceeded to ask me if I wanted a cup of coffee and then informed me that it was free all day everyday for registered guests.  The river may have run dry but the free coffee was flowing!  And I must say–they made a pretty good brew…
The campground itself was huge, and it was a surprisingly long drive just to get to our site.  This was both good and bad.  Our sites were incredibly spacious and private.  They were more like the kind of sites you would get at a state park, not at a private campground with full hookups.  If you take a look behind Theo in the picture above you can see our camping buddies RV at the adjacent site–if our site was spacious then the two sites together were huge.  It actually took a little stroll through the woods to get to their site.
But the hugeness of the campground was also a disadvantage–particularly when it came to entertaining the little campers.  We couldn’t walk to the pool–we had to pack up the crew into the truck and drive.  The playgrounds, which they called “fun zones” were also spread throughout the campground–and were not exactly in great shape.  There were more snakes playing at the “fun zones” than there were children.
But the natural setting of the campground was woodsy and lovely and deeply relaxing.  If you are camping without kids I would highly recommend Rip Van Winkle.  If you are camping with kids just don’t plan on spending much time utilizing their amenities.  You won’t really have to anyway.  Downtown Saugerties is lovely and the campground makes a great base camp for exploring the Catskills.
If you go you also need to watch out for the mad squirrels.  These energetic critters ate through the screen on our camping buddies hybrid and reeked complete havoc inside.  They had the munchies something fierce!
They must have overdosed on the free coffee back at the camp store.  I know I did…

 

28 Aug

Campground Review: Branches of Niagara, Grand Island

Three generations of my family recently enjoyed an action packed, two week RV trip through upstate New York.  We kayaked and swam in the Finger Lakes, hiked past 19 waterfalls along the gorge path at Watkins Glen State Park, cliff jumped into a crystal-clear swimming hole near Buttermilk Falls, felt the rush of cool mist blowing off of Niagara Falls, and toured lighthouses and ate like kings and queens in Woodstock and Saugerties.
The highlight of our trip, though, may have been the time we spent at one of America’s most exciting new campgrounds.  Our three day stay at Branches of Niagara, in Grand Island, managed to be both thrilling and relaxing.   Branches is only a ten-minute drive away from America’s oldest and wettest state park, but an even greater adventure can be had right on the grounds of their activity-filled property.
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The 70 acre campground has 80 sites and 14 log cabins situated around a surprisingly lovely 8-acre man-made lake that is rimmed with wild flowers and marsh grasses.  The camp store, activity center, and bathhouse are also log cabins, and they give Branches a warm and rustic look and feel.  The sites where our party camped, numbers 22 and 24, were spacious and well shaded, backing up to deep and quiet woods.  Both sites included water and 30 Amp service, and both felt secluded and private but were just a short walk to all of the amenities.  Full hook up sites are also available throughout the park.
 During our first day at Brancheswe headed into Niagara Falls State Park.   We purchased Discovery Passes and proceeded to work our way through all of the major attractions.  We started with the Maid of the Mist boat ride, which comes astonishingly close to the base of Horseshoe Falls.   Then we proceeded to get completely soaked on the Hurricane Deck during the Cave of the Winds tour along the edge of Bridal Falls.  Both of these activities were awe-inspiring and invigorating…and we should have stopped there.
Unfortunately, we decided to head over to the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and the Aquarium of Niagara—which were mildly interesting—but not worth the walk.  Then we finished our day by watching the corny and disappointing Niagara: Legends of AdventureIMAX movie.   Our entire family was exhausted by the time we ended up sitting around the campfire back at Branches.  So we decided to spend the next day relaxing at the campground.  That is, if you call zip lining with three year old twins relaxing!
The next morning, after eating a healthy breakfast, the entire group headed over to the Eagle Zipline and the adults proceeded to take turns soaring over the lake and hamming it up for the cameras.  Then, after a solid hour of zip lining, we decided to get the kids equipped for some nice, relaxing fishing.  The lake was well stocked and the boys were thrilled to catch a couple of fish with their new poles. After lunch, we saw two staff members bringing the zip lining equipment over to the Hummingbird Line which is designed for younger campers.  I was a bit scared to bring our boys up there but Mom was confident that they would be brave and have fun.  She was so right—but what else is new?
When the boys glided across the lake their gigantic smiles lit up the whole campground.  We finished our day off with some lake swimming, kayaking, and a trip to the on-site Wildlife Show.  It was a great day of camping and we packed in enough adventure for the entire trip.  The Activity Center at Branches of Niagara is clearly the beating heart of the campground.  I highly recommend that you buy the activities pass, which costs an extra 20 dollars per night, per site, but includes unlimited group access to canoe and kayak rentals, and more importantly, to the aforementioned Eagle and Hummingbird zip lines.
Branches of Niagarais a beautiful campground and its Activity Center is world class—but I was even more impressed with the young staff of the campground.  Each staff member made us feel like they were there just to make sure that our family was having a great time.  Not a good time—but a great time.  When we showed up late for the hayride and the tractor was full the driver promised that he would take another trip around just for us.  After exiting the bath house one evening a staffer asked me if anything needed to be cleaned up.  When we showed up at the Activity Center on our last morning another staffer offered us free coffee and asked us about the next leg of our trip. The spirit of this place was just fantastic.   After three years of extensive RVing I would clearly call it one of our family’s favorite campgrounds.
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If you go, bring citronella candles to ward off the bugs and, more importantly, bring a sense of child-like wonder and adventure.  This campground felt like our personal playground during our too short, three-night stay—and it will feel that way for your family too.  When my boys get a bit older I would like to show them Niagara again—and I would also like to take them back to Branches. I can’t wait to show their older selves the beauty and grandeur of the falls, and I also can’t wait to watch their smiles light up the campground again when they graduate from the Hummingbird to the Eagle.
22 Aug

Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort: Keuka Lake, New York

Campground Review: Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort

Bath, New York

The Finger Lakes region of New York State has a seemingly endless number of beautiful state parks with lovely campgrounds–several of which are located right on the lakes.  But if you are looking for a private campground, with a pool and full hookups, things get a bit trickier.
There are several nice looking campgrounds in the region–but I couldn’t find any gorgeous options that were lakefront.  After camping right on the ocean near Acadia National Park last summer this was a small disappointment. Our Lively Little Campers love water: they love lakes, they love streams, they love rivers, they love the ocean, and perhaps unfortunately, they even love puddles.  In fact, they may love puddles most of all.
So if we can’t find a waterfront campground I start looking real close at pictures of pools.  Because the Lively Little Campers also love pools!  Hickory Hill Family Camping Resort has a lovely pool.  In fact, they have two pools–and a brand new spray-ground.  Bingo!
I was convinced that this was the perfect place for my family and  I spent the cold winter months dreaming about the pool and envisioning Stephanie and myself slicing across the nearby lake on our kayak.
And both of these things did happen–but not without a little irritation first.
While we were on the road en route to the campground our camping buddies, who had arrived early, called us with a scouting report.  They said the campground was lovely–but that the staff wanted all of us to wear paper ID bracelets all week.  We had to have them to get into the pool and we were expected to wear them from check-in to check-out.  They were the kind of bracelets that you get if you want to be able to drink at a concert–you know the kind–irritating and uncomfortable.  I wasn’t going to a concert and I wasn’t planning on saddling up to any bars at the campground to order a drink.  We have seen these kinds of bracelets at other campgrounds recently, and man are they annoying.
Campground owners need to realize that paying customers DO NOT WANT TO WEAR ID TAGS!  They itch and they lower our “vacation mojo” quotient.  When we registered at the front desk we let our complaints be known and the staff tried to explain that they were just trying to keep non-campers (neighborhood folks) out of their brand new splash-ground.  I had no problem bringing the tags to the pool with me but I was not going to wear them otherwise.  Stephanie explained that our kids would probably rip them off while playing if they didn’t accidentally break one of their fingers while rough housing first.  This, for some strange reason, caught their attention (apparently campground owners worry about liability issues).
While we were discussing the bracelet problem two teenagers came in asking for new ones because they had “accidentally” ripped off.  The staff looked befuddled with their own rules.  But they were responsive and agreed that just bringing them to the pool would be fine.  From that point on we had a lovely, lovely stay.  I just hate starting out a vacation with irritations like this–doesn’t everyday life have enough of them? Don’t we go camping to get away from such trivial things.  “Hey campers, enjoy the mountains and the lakes and the pool and the ice cream–just don’t forget to wear your itchy ID bracelet!”  That’s just not for me.
Hickory Hill is located about 10 minutes from Keuka Lake–perhaps the loveliest of the Finger Lakes.  The drive from the campground to the lake was also very pretty–and the roads were filled with wineries and farmers’ markets.  The campground made a great base for our explorations of the region.  It was comfortable and attractive and many of the sites were spacious and private.  We spent our mornings at the lake and our afternoons chilling at their pool and running through the spray-ground.  We kept our ID bracelets in mommy’s purse and it didn’t even matter–no one was checking them anyway.  The friendly staff was too busy making sure everyone was having a great time.
Campground owners beware–ditch the bracelets!  Why not keep a guest list with the lifeguard?  It’s your job to keep unregistered guests out.  I go on vacation to leave my job behind…
19 Apr

Campground Review: Mama Gertie’s Hideaway

Swannanoa, Western North Carolina

The Lively Little Campers are also lucky little campers.  Max and Theo just happen to have two loving grandparents who live in Asheville, North Carolina–surrounded by the stunning beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The boys have visited Ami and BeBop in Asheville many times, but we have never had the pleasure of camping there.  That all changed last week when we kicked off the 2012 camping season with a seven day stay at Mama Gertie’s Hideaway in nearby Swannanoa.
Last summer while staying in Asheville we scouted out the two area KOA’s and were not particularly thrilled–as both were close to highways with relatively small sites.  So when we started planning this most recent trip we had no idea where to stay.  I spent countless hours pouring over my Trailer Life directory and I put on my captain internet costume while I slogged through dozens of campground reviews.  This probably sounds painfully familiar to many of you campers out there, right?
My extensive research narrowed down the options to a couple of spots.  But to make the final decision I felt that it would be necessary to put some boots on the ground.  BeBop (aka grandpa) was given an advanced scouting mission that he tackled with his usual tenacity and style.
The end result: Site 19 at Mama Gertie’s Hideaway.  An absolutely beautiful, quiet, peaceful, and private spot nestled right over a gurgling stream.  The rear bed in our camper (Max and Theo’s “clubhouse”) literally looked right over the water.  The gentle sound of water rushing over rock whispered us to sleep each night.
As an added bonus there was also a Jayco RV dealership and a great diner called The Breakfast Shoppe within walking distance of the campground.  The salesman at the dealership allowed the campers to investigate his complete line of travel trailers and hybrids with no pressure added and the cook at the diner made the boys Mickey Mouse shaped pancakes.  I don’t know about you, but eating Mickey Mouse pancakes and looking at Jayco RV’s is a pretty good way to waste away a morning.
Mama Gertie’s Hideaway was truly a lovely campground, and it was situated in a great location just east of Asheville.  But when you’ve got three year old twin boys who love to run, scoot, slide, and swim–beauty and serenity are not the only qualities that this mama and papa look for in a campground.  The boys have their camping wish list too.  Unfortunately, Mama Gertie’s had no playground, no pool, no open field for play, and the roads were too steep for scooting.
BeBop’s fact finding mission uncovered all of this before we booked but we decided to go for it anyway.  It was too cold for swimming and we would be spending most of our time at the grandparent’s house anyway–and they have the world’s best scooting road right in front of their home.  And to be fair–Mama Gertie’s lack of amenities and activities is reflected in their bargain price.  Our site was 32 dollars a day and they offer discounts for Good Sam and AAA members.  They also offer a free night after six nights paid–perfect for our itinerary.
If we camp in the Asheville area again this summer we have already decided to look elsewhere–somewhere with a little more action for the boys.  I will, however, miss the peacefulness of Mama Gerties.  And if peacefulness is what your looking for then I can suggest no better place.
Onward!
21 Oct

CAMPGROUND REVIEW: Pleasant Acres Farm Campground

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When Stephanie and I decided to buy our first pop-up camper we were hoping that we would travel a lot and travel cheap.  We have owned our Flagstaff 625d for about 18 months now and we have spent 48 nights camping
.  Not shabby, right?  We would never have been able to spend 48 nights in hotels.  Just too expensive.  Besides, as we mentioned in a previous post, when it comes to family vacation time–we pretty much hate hotels.  Camping really is so much cheaper.  Sometimes….
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Pleasant Acres Farm Campground lived up to its name and then some.  The place was pleasant, they owned some serious acres (300 of them!), there was a farm with plenty of animals, and a quiet, peaceful, and cozy campground.
This part of Sussex County can, at times, look like central Ireland.  On a cool fall day it’s almost hard to believe that you’re in New Jersey. Particularly if your driving around with Van Morrison playing on the radio.When you pull up to the camp-store at Pleasant Acres to register the first thing to strike you is the gorgeous view of theKittatinny Mountains.  Unfortunately, the second thing to strike you is the price of camping.
Pleasant Acres charges 52 bucks a night for a nice sized site with full-hookups.  However, they charge an extra six dollars per buckaroo, and we’ve got two of those. With tax that’s almost 70 dollars a night.  Luckily, we had a Go Rving coupon that gave us one free night.  Love that coupon book! It has saved us over 200 dollars.  You can get one too when you buy an RV from a participating dealer.  That coupon really took the sting out of the price.
While we were registering the staff member informed us that there would be an all you could eat french toast breakfast the following morning–and that pretty much made the sting go by-by.  Free french toast? For the whole family?  All you can eat?  I stopped  feeling bad about the price of camping and started feeling bad for the campground owners.  Our crew could easily eat about 20 dollars worth of french toast.  Why plan on eating lunch later?  This is why they invented brunch for God’s sake.  Game on!
Our camping buddies had selected our site this time and they did a great job.  They picked two sites together that were actually called a “buddy site” on the campground map.  If you head up to Pleasant Acres with friends I would recommend these two sites.  They were quiet, grassy, shaded, and close (but not too close) to the bathrooms.  The bathrooms and the showers were also exceptionally clean.
After we set up camp we sneaked in a campfire before the rain started to pour.  It rained throughout the night but the sun began to shine during the french toast buffet in the morning. After a hearty and heavy breakfast the boys discovered the superball machine in the arcade and it changed our weekend in a profound way.  I think one of those balls is still bouncing around the campground somewhere.  Chasing superballs all over North Jersey is a great way to burn off breakfast calories.
The boys really enjoyed scooting around Pleasant Acres and visiting the animals around the pond.  Stephanie and I enjoyed the peacefulness of the campground and its proximity to High Point State Park and other family friendly activities (see previous posts).  It was another great weekend for the Lively Little Campers even though our campfire was rained out Saturday night.  We spent a peaceful night reading in the pop-up while the boys snoozed away.  There was a country band playing at the campground’s pavillion, but the quiet pitter-patter of the raindrops on the canvas was good enough for me.