By Jennifer Corbin
As soon as my youngest child was out of diapers, my husband and I decided that we were going to start camping with the kids. Our first camping trip was only for a night, to see how the kids (and the adults) handled the experience. The trip was a success and much fun was had by all – with the kids already planning our next camping trip before we left the first. However, I knew that if we were going to be camping for multiple days, a state park or normal campground was just not going to suffice for day long entertainment for the kids (or the adults really). There are only so many hikes one can take!
So, I began looking for kid friendly campgrounds and stumbled upon Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp in Marion, NC. It is FOR REAL folks. Jellystone exists; it is not a mythical place! Better yet, it is located right down I-40 West and less than two hours away from the Triad. I will admit that originally I had low expectations and thought the whole concept was a little cheesy. But, I was willing to give it a try and I am thrilled that we did! Jellystone has become near and dear to my family’s hearts and given us lots of great memories!
A small, scenic lake is at the center of the campground with the camping sites all around. The campground has tent, pop-up and RV sites, as well as cabins for rent. We opted to tent camp, and the sites are shaded and flat. We recently went with friends and had a group site that held four tents and it was terrific as well. Activities include a pool and water slide, fishing (no license needed), canoeing, kayaking, pedal boats (life jackets provided), shuffleboard, sandbox, playground, putt putt, gem mining, arcade, volleyball and a nature trail. All is within easy walking distance of your campsite (although they do rent golf carts if you feel you need one).
In addition to the amenities, there are daily events with the super friendly staff and characters. The standard Yogi events include: Bubbles with Boo-Boo, Hey Rides with Yogi and Singin’ for S’mores. However, each week has a different theme that the events and activities are centered around such as Stars and Stripes, Safari, Luau and Pirates – just to name a few. The daily fun and games could include: hula hoop and watermelon eating contests, balloon races, scavenger hunts, bingo, sack races, dance lessons and more. These are great for the whole family to participate in or just the kids. Of course, camp would not be complete without crafts and some that we have done include tye-died t-shirts, candles, egg crate bugs and necklaces. The owners, Alex and Lisa (aka “Momma Bear” and “Chief”) are on-site and actively lead and participate in all of the events. By the end of your stay, they will call your kids (and yourself) by name. Now where does that happen these days?! This facility won Outstanding Customer Service awards in 2010 and 2011 and it shows!
Aside from the pool, I let my kids “run free” here. The central location of all the activities means that they are only a short distance from our campsite and I can easily locate them anywhere on the premises. My husband and I participate in events with the kids and then head back to the campsite to talk, read, nap, or fix meals, while the kids continue to enjoy all of the amenities (a single round of putt putt does me, but they can play several in a row!) This allows wonderful family time, my kids a chance to bond and Mommy and Daddy to get some R&R in as well.
On Saturday night, “Chief” plays DJ while the campers dance the night away with Yogi at the pavilion. It is always a treat to get up and do the Electric Slide and Cuban Shuffle with the kids. I also get to sneak in a slow dance with Daddy too! After the dance, a s’more by the campfire and my kids are asking to head back into the tent and fall asleep.
On Sunday morning, Yogi does a farewell tour and comes around to all the campsites for everyone to get in their final hug and picture while the kids are already asking, when we are coming back.
Even if you are not a “camper” you have to give Jellystone a try! You, and your kids, will have a great time!
Have you been? Let us know!