Camping Illinois: Best Bets and Sights

August 16, 2016

TherCamp illinoise’s no time like summer to get out and see the country, and camping Illinois is one of the best ways to enjoy both rural wilderness and the vast expanse of the prairies, all in one trip. Campers tend to travel an average of 186.7 miles for their trips, and Illinois has more than 57,900 square miles of land to choose from the next time you feel like exploring.

For family vacations or romantic getaways, there are plenty of places to see and stay in Illinois. Here are a few of our best bets and recommendations for a great trip or vacation.

  • Abraham Lincoln’s Home in Springfield: This national historic site is where our country’s 16th president lived from 1844 to 1861 before moving to the Oval Office. Learn about his legacy and lifestyle as well as some history of the area in this well-preserved 19th century neighborhood.
  • Millennium Park in Chicago: The windy city may be the third most populous area in the country, but it’s only an hour’s drive from our Milbrook Camp-Resort.  While 82% of campers like to spend one or two nights outside, many enjoy taking in the hustle and bustle of the city — if only to remind them of the peace and quiet that comes from camping.
  • Route 66 Scenic Byway: Get your kicks on this famous stretch of road that runs diagonally across the state en route from Chicago to St. Louis. Along the way, you can find some of our campgrounds for cabin camping in Illinois.
  • Shawnee National Forest: No camping Illinois trip would be complete without a visit to this national gem, located in the southern part of the state in the Ozark and Shawnee hills. This park boasts everything from lake beaches to rolling hills and rugged bluffs. Truly a must-see for all nature lovers.

It might be impossible to see all there is to see while camping Illinois in just one visit. But that’s the beauty of this state: Once you’ve visited, you’ll want to come back for more, year after year. The diversity of lands and experiences that Illinois has to offer makes it one of the best spots for camping and adventure, anytime of year.

Country Camping Meets Resort Amenities: Welcome to the Lazy River Jellystone!

August 11, 2016

I was huddled behind an old broken down bus with my sons Max and Theo, along with our new friends and campsite neighbors John and his son Austin.  It was almost dark. We were locked in an intense laser tag battle. The other team had us surrounded. It was time to make a move or lose. I was sweating and exhausted. I was also having an insane amount of fun.  Maybe the most fun I’ve ever had at a campground—and I’ve been to a few.  John made a strong run across the field and we all followed him screaming at the top of our lungs. We repositioned ourselves, finished strong, and won! As we drove our golf cart back to our site Max and Theo couldn’t stop talking about the game and how they couldn’t wait to play again.  It was a perfect ending to a perfect day of camping.

 

Our first impression of the Lazy River Jellystone Park in the Hudson River Valley of New York was of a peaceful country campground with pretty riverside sites and views of the mountains. But that is only half the story. This Yogi Bear campground also has an action packed activity schedule and world-class amenities.  Laser tag may have been the highlight for our crew, but the waterpark, Ga Ga Ball Courts, hayrides with Cindi and Yogi, miniature golf, jumping pillow, and organized arts and crafts were all awesome.  So if your family is looking for a campground that combines natural beauty with resort-like amenities, then this is a pretty tremendous option.

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We spent most of our daylight hours bouncing back and forth between the SplashPad and the heated pool.  These amenities were theme-park quality and our boys couldn’t get enough of the waterslides.  Mom and dad enjoyed ordering delicious sandwiches and wraps (and even a cold beer!) at the Tiki Bar while chatting with other parents around the pool.

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We were also impressed with how friendly and professional the entire staff was—they really helped make our stay terrific.  The general vibe at this campground is totally relaxed and totally friendly from the maintenance staff to the pool attendants to the front desk. Whoever is doing the training here deserves a high five and a big bear hug from Yogi.

 

You could spend your entire vacation at this campground and never come close to getting bored, but we recommend that you check out the surrounding area. It’s beautiful and rich in history.  Lake Minnewaska is pristine and perfect for hiking and swimming. More adventurous spirits might venture to the Shawangunk Mountains, aka “the gunks,” for mountain climbing.  The nearby town of New Paltz is cozy and charming and filled with great options for food, culture and craft roasted coffee at places like the Mudd Puddle café.

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Our favorite day trip was to Hyde Park, a National Historic Site and the former home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Our morning tour with the highly theatrical and knowledgeable “Ranger Dimitri” was fun, informative, and compelling.  We are fascinated with presidential history and this hit a sweet spot for all members of our family. The boys completed a Junior Ranger activity book and earned their badges and mom and dad dropped a few bucks in the gift shop for books and magnets.  This is a must-do day trip if you are camping at Lazy River and is only a forty minute drive through pretty countryside and across the Hudson River.

 

At the end of our stay at the Lazy River Jellystone our boys DID NOT want to leave.  We said good-bye to our new friends and took down phone numbers and email addresses.  We have heard that this campground does awesome thematic weekends in the fall and we promised to meet up again in September or October. Halloween Zombies Weekend anyone?  Sound too scary?  We would be just as happy to meet up at Celtic Weekend. Who doesn’t love a pipe band marching across the campground on a crisp fall day? We will see you there!

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

8 Great Instagram Accounts Every RV Owner Should Follow!

August 4, 2016

Have you joined in on the Instagram craze yet? We think it’s the perfect social media hub for the RV enthusiast. Even if you can’t RV 24/7, looking at campers in pretty locations is almost as good.

 

Signing up for Instagram is easy, but finding great accounts to follow can be tricky. Here are our favorite Instagram accounts for folks that love RVing.

Go RVing (@gorving)

When it comes to great pictures of RVs in magnificent locations from coastal Maine to Southern California, GO RVing’s Instagram account is the mother ship.  Their gallery provides daily inspiration for your next great road trip.

 

Go Parks (@goparks)

For stunning photographs that celebrate the beauty and historical significance of our National Parks, National Seashores, and National Historic sites there is no better gallery.  From sunrises glowing through Mesa Arch in Utah to black and white photos of John Muir in Yosemite, this account will help you find your park!

 

Vintage Camper Trailers (@vintagecampertrailers)

Can’t get enough of fun photos of vintage trailers from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s?  Then this gallery is for you! Vintage Camper Trailers features teardrops and canned hams and every historical oddity in-between! The classic cars that are often matched as tow vehicles are just the icing on the cake!

 

Hip Camp (@hipcamp)

Those of you who like to wander off the beaten track and park your rigs in more adventurous places like “farms, vineyards, and nature preserves” will find much information and inspiration in Hip Camp’s gallery.

 

Monica Bennett (@j5mm_blog) We love Monica Bennett’s RV-centric photography of the Pacific Northwest so much that we asked her to provide the cover image for our book, The Idiot’s Guide to RV Vacations.   Monica’s photos are filled with romance, wanderlust, and perhaps most importantly, the delicious local foods that she cooks while camping.

 

Mandy Lea (@mandyleaphoto)

 We started following Mandy Lea after hearing a great interview with her on the Girl Camper podcast in iTunes.  She describes herself as a “Full time teardropper, full time photographer, and full time adventurer” and her gallery has the dazzling photos to prove it.  Her feed is jam packed with waterfalls, mountains, and deserts. Take us there!

 

Jonathan Irish (@jonathan_irish)

This National Geographic contributor has a dream—traveling to, and photographing, all 59 U.S. National Parks during the 2016 centennial.  His pictures, like the parks themselves, are magnificent and breathtaking. We hope a coffee table book is in the works.

 

Peter Holcombe (@peterholcombe)

 Peter Holcombe is a professional photographer and kayaker who travels full time with his family in a Class B RV.  For beautiful photos of mountains and rivers with an emphasis on kayaking there is no better account.  His wife and daughter also crush rapids on the kayak and they are featured in many of the photographs!

 

As RV enthusiasts, Instagram is our favorite social media platform since we can enjoy beautiful images of camping even when we can’t be out in the RV. Follow these eight great Instagram accounts for your daily dose of RV therapy!

 

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

Tips for Keeping a Campground Clean

August 1, 2016

Camping isn’t just about reconnecting with family and friends — it’s about connecting with our natural environment. Part of our responsibility as campers is to keep the impact on our environment to a minimum while we enjoy it. We all know that we should “leave no trace” while in the wilderness, but that can be hard to do when camping, especially with large groups or children on family vacations. Campers travel an average of 186.7 miles to go camping and spend an average of 14 days at a campsite, which can make cleaning up an extra chore that many don’t feel they have time for.

Cleaning a campsite can be difficult, but it is also an important part of the experience. Check out these tips for making and keeping your campsite clean and pristine during your family camping vacations:

    • Less is more. When packing for your trip, be deliberate and mindful of what you are bringing. The more times you go camping, the better you should be able to plan for your next trip. Doing things like prepping for meals before you go, “undressing” snacks and toiletries products, and using versatile pieces of clothing instead of several different ones is a great way to reduce mess before you even get to the campsite.
    • Bring biodegradable soaps for washing: Soaps and laundry detergent that is biodegradable can help lessen the impact on the environment.
    • If you are tent camping, start a garbage bag as soon as you set up camp, but make sure to move it inside or into an animal or bear-proof locker before you go to bed every night. Consider using a pop-up hamper with a zipper, lined with a heavier duty trash bag.
    • Bring a mat to put outside of your tent or cabin entrance, to prevent the inside from getting messy, muddy, and hard to pack up later.

The overwhelming majority of surveyed campers said they’re planning an average of 4.9 camping trips. Whether you go on one trip or five, make sure to try that your family camping vacations “leave no trace”.

3 Simple Recipes for Your Next Family Camping Trip

August 1, 2016

When it comes to family vacations, there are so many fun activities to choose from. For Americans, however, camping is at the top of the list.

In 2010, approximately 40 million people took a camping trip, for a total of 515 million outings. Fast forward to 2014 – the American Camper Report revealed that 40.1 million Americans, or 14% of the U.S. population over the age of six, camped in 2013. As many as 99% of those surveyed in the report said that they were “likely” or “very likely” to camp again during the next year.

So, yes, some families prefer lounging on the beach or riding roller coasters at an amusement park, but the experience of tent and cabin camping is alive and well in the 21st century.

One aspect of camping is that some campers may struggle with cooking. Most of our cabins have all of the essentials you need for helping you make a fun meal, but if you are tent camping, then we have some easy camping recipes and delicious suggestions to help you enjoy the most of your family camping time!

Three Simple Meals for Campers

    1. Foil Packet Breakfast: Foil packets are great for cooking on a camping trip. All you have to do is toss it on the grill or over the campfire. For this meal, add your choice of breakfast goodies. For example, we recommend sausage, eggs, potatoes, and onions. You’ll need to par-cook the potatoes a little bit — or throw in the leftover veggies from last night’s grilling adventure.
    2. Hobo Dinner: Like the previous meal, all you need to do is throw some ingredients in a foil packet. Your hobo dinner can consist of beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Fish filets are another great candidate for this low-maintenance meal, since the foil will keep it from drying out or falling apart — two problems that tend to occur when you’re grilling fish.
    3. Orange Peel Blueberry Muffins: This one is super creative. Pour your muffin ingredients inside a hollowed out orange peel to keep them moist, and add extra flavor, while they cook over the fire.

Those were just a few to get you started as there are so many more creative ways to craft delicious meals with minimal tools and ingredients.

The 3 Best Camping Recipes For You and Your Family

August 1, 2016

camping recipesWhen it comes to vacations, a family camping trip is often the most convenient and low-cost way to get the whole family out of the house and into nature. Indeed, about 13% of adult camping participants went on trips because they wanted to spend more time with their families, and 12% of adult campers first went camping with their own immediate family.

Family camping is truly an American past-time, with American families camping around 534 million days collectively in 2011. And while it can be the best choice, it doesn’t mean it is the easiest.

Camping can require a lot of planning; from getting the necessary outdoor gear to remembering to bring appropriate clothing. However, the most important thing to consider is food. Contingent upon where you camp, there may not be many restaurants in or around family campgrounds, after all. (Plus, it’s much more fun to cook over the fire with the whole family.) Check out these awesome camping recipes for easy preparation and delicious flavors:

Omelet in a Bag
With just a gallon-sized Ziploc and boiling water, you can make easy omelettes for the whole family. Crack two or three eggs into each individual bag, and add fun ingredients, like onions, peppers, cheese, ham, sausage, and spinach. Stick them in the cooler. In the morning, boil a large pot of water and cook them for about 12 or 13 minutes. After that, pull them out of the water, slip them out of the bags and onto a plate.

Campfire Sandwiches

Without cutting all the way through a loaf of French bread, cut 12 slices about 3/4 an inch thick, which will create six sandwiches. Melt some butter and spread it with mustard on each slice. Then, fold cheese slices in half, adding ham slices into the middle, and slip them in the slits of the bread. Wrap the whole loaf in foil and place on the grill or on coals for about 20 minutes. Remove from the fire and pull apart delicious melty sandwiches!

Cake in an Orange

Cut the top off of an orange and scoop out the flesh, which you can use for juice or fruit salad in the morning. Then, fill with cake batter, cover, wrap in foil, and stick in the coals. About 20 minutes later, you’ll have a cake in an orange!

Make sure you make your reservation at CampJellystone.com and try out these fun recipes.

Family Camping Vacation Ideas: Part 1

August 1, 2016

When summer is here and the kids are out of school, it is time to think about your next family vacation! Why not try something new and go camping? Family camping vacations are one of the most popular choices for Americans, who spent in total 534.9 million days camping in 2011 alone.

People who already understand about the joys of camping cite many reasons why it makes for a great vacation. A full 87% went to participate in outdoor activities, 13% went on a family camping vacation to spend more time with their families, and 99% of all campers enjoyed themselves so much on their family vacation that they planned on going back to camp the following year.

Camping in an outdoor camp resort is also a great way to get your children involved in nature. Need some inspiration for your next camping trip? Read on for some family friendly, kid-approved games and activities!

Twig Castles

Your kids enjoy making sandcastles at the beach, so why not make some out of twigs they collect all around your campsite? Because you may have some difficulty keeping the sticks together, make sure to bring some glue, string, and scissors along.

Stories around the campfire

This old classic is a tried and true favorite. The stories can range from childhood laughs, to scary ghost stories. You can even have the group collaborate on a story: one person starts, then the next person contributes a sentence, and so on and so forth.

Scavenger hunt with a nature walk

      Mix two activities into one! Go on a nature walk or hike and have a list of things to find. Some ideas include:
      • A heart shaped leaf
      • A feather
      • A pinecone
      • Something a raccoon would like to eat
      • Something of every color of the rainbow
      • Something fuzzy
      • Something that makes noise
      • Two pieces of garbage (to throw out)
      • A piece of treasure
      Whoever gets the most on the list wins a prize!

Fairy Houses

      Make houses for homeless fairies! Collect wood, twigs, rocks, and feathers for your construction materials, and place a little door next to a tree trunk, to let the fairy know she is welcome there! Remember to make it as beautiful as you can, because fairies are picky and only deserve the best. Keep your eye out for our family vacation ideas: Part 2!

 

Living the Good Life at Jellystone Quarryville!

August 1, 2016

Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Quarryville, Pennsylvania is one of the most impressive resort-style campgrounds in the Northeast.  If your family is looking for a camping experience with off-the-hook amenities and non-stop activities then this is the place.  We pulled in on a Friday afternoon and didn’t leave the campground until checkout on Monday morning. Our three-day weekend was like a journey into a magical and adventurous kingdom made for families.

 

The first thing that impressed us was the size and quality of our site on Boo Boo Circle. It was much larger than the sites that you typically see at a private resort campground.  The RVs on either side were not directly lined up with ours so we weren’t looking at sewer hookups while sitting around our campfire.  This is a fatal flaw at so many private campgrounds—but not here.

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During our stay we walked around and saw that the vast majority of sites were just as nice as ours.  We also noticed a lot of “buddy site” options.  These allow you to camp with friends and have your awnings facing each other so you can create a large, private space in the middle.  Many of these “buddy sites” were also located next to cabins—making this campground a near perfect place for a vacation with friends and family in small or large groups.

 

We met up with friends at Jellystone Quarryville, and all of our kids had non-stop fun. Our three-year-old son loved that there was a flat, mellow “jump pad” next to the more adventurous “bounce pillow.”  This allowed him to jump with kids his own age instead of the older kids that gravitated towards the pillow.  All of the campground amenities had a similar feel—something for the little kids and something for the older kids.  There were teenagers playing a competitive basketball game right around the corner from toddlers having a blast at the large, modern playground.   There were also “Hey” rides at 4pm and 9pm—so you could choose based on your kids’ bedtime schedule. Our boys range from 3-7 years old and Jellystone Quarryville was perfect for them. But we could also bring them back as teenagers and have just as much fun.

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The resort style amenities and optional add-ons also make this Jellystone a particularly luxurious campground if you want to splurge and treat your family. We decided to rent a golf cart, and we all loved driving around the campground from one activity to the next.  The cart also made it easier to get the whole crew from our campsite to the pool.  Jellystone Quarryville takes things way over the top, actually renting out hot tubs and delivering them to your site. We were tempted to rent one for a day, because our boys would have totally flipped out, but they were sold out for the weekend. Hopefully next time!

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The weather was warm during our stay and we spent hours and hours at the pool each day, so we opted to rent a private poolside cabana and share it with friends on Saturday. This allowed all of us to take relaxing, shaded breaks between trips to the pool, hot tubs, and water slides, which were all super fun and world class. We also bought a surprisingly tasty lunch from Yogi’s “Pic-A-Nic Basket.”  I ordered a turkey club, mom got a wrap, and the boys all got cheeseburgers.  We also bought delicious homemade Amish bake goods one morning.  The quality of the amenities and food really made us feel like we were staying at a luxurious resort hotel—but we weren’t!  Our comfortable and cozy RV was right around the corner.

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On our last morning at the campground I took a golf cart drive around the campground with my friend Bill.  We wrote down the numbers of some of our favorite sites for a return trip. Dutch Country is beautiful in the fall and this Yogi is open for business.   Hopefully they rent those hot tubs in October. If so we’ll treat our crew to another special weekend that they will remember forever!

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Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co hosts of the weekly RV Family Travel Atlas and Campground of the Week podcasts, as well as the creators of the RVFTA Podcast Network. They are also the authors of The Idiots Guide to RV Vacations and the Acadia National Park Adventure Guide. After buying their very first pop up camper six years ago, Jeremy and Stephanie caught the RV bug in a big way, and now spend over 70 nights a year in their travel trailer with their three sons, Theo, Max, and Wes, and sweet Maggie the pup. You can follow along on their adventures (and misadventures) at rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

Why Should You Go Camping?

June 24, 2016

Although the amount of accessible, more luxury based trips has risen, camping remains a popular pastime because it offers benefits other vacations don’t. Most importantly, camping is a particularly easy way to rest and relax with the whole family. Indeed, getting the kids started on camping at a young age is a great way to help them make the environment and physical activity a bigger part of their lives. Among current camping participants, 85% took their first trip between birth and age 15.

However, there are many more great reasons to go camping. Check them out here before you start planning your next trip:

It’s Cheaper

Camping tends to be much cheaper than other activities — especially if you choose to drive or rent an RV instead of flying and staying in hotels. And, much of the traditional vacation luxury can still be preserved. This freedom and convenience will allow you to take more trips. The overwhelming majority of surveyed campers said they’re planning an average of 4.9 camping trips, with two-thirds planning three or more trips. Relaxing in beautiful, wooded campgrounds can be just as therapeutic as any other type of luxury vacation.

It’s Healthier

In a survey, 87% of campers participated in multiple outdoors activities. The very nature of camping vacations is that you will get a good amount of physical exercise, without it seeming like a chore. Many people prefer hiking and water sports to traditional exercise regimes because concentrating on the task at hand can make one forget that they are exercising. Not to mention exposure to wooded campgrounds and babbling brooks is good for the mind and heart.

It’s Better For Your Soul

It’s hard to deny how plugged in we really are — many of us spend eight or more hours a day staring at a computer screen. Then, we unwind in front of a different screen at night. It can be very hard to unplug, even when you are on vacation, but camping offers you a unique opportunity to have a happy medium. Although there’s Internet access at many campsites, the outdoors activities provided will make you want to put down your phone and exercise both your body and mind.

The emotional and mental benefits of exposing yourself to nature has been proven time and time again. You will feel healthier and happier after your camping vacations.

How to Choose the Right Tent for Your Camping Vacation

June 24, 2016

So, you want to go camping. It is a wonderful idea really — camping is an affordable, easy, and extremely enjoyable way to enjoy the great outdoors, your time off, and your family and friends. Indeed, in 2010 alone, approximately 40 million people went camping for a total of 515 million outings.

Once you’ve made your decision to go camping, it’s time to figure out exactly what that means. For some, it means roughing it along the trails, and for others, it means staying at a camp resort with many modern amenities. Most camping — about 70% — is done in public campgrounds, but there is still a lot of freedom when it comes to choosing where and how you will camp. If you forgo cabin camping and instead opt for tent camping, keep these things in mind when looking for your new tent and tent sites for camping!

Sleeping Capacity

How many people are you camping with and what will your sleeping arrangements be? If you have small children, it might be best to get a large tent that can sleep the whole family, whereas with older kids, it might be nice to have a kid tent and an adult tent. Make sure to use this as your guiding standard when looking at the many tent options out there.

Seasonality

Early spring or early fall camping trips are different than camping trips in the middle of the summer. Make sure to note what seasons your tent was designed for, and purchase accordingly. Regardless of when you go camping, it is a good idea to bring sleeping pads or easily inflated air mattress so that you don’t get too much contact with the ground — it can be chilly at night all year long.

Doors

You’ll want a tent with well-designed entrances and exits, especially if you end up doing a lot of going in and out. Make sure that there at least two, so no one has to do complicated maneuvers to get out to go to the bathroom at night.

More than one in 10 adult participants (12%) first went camping with their immediate family. Take the opportunity to teach your children to love the great outdoors and tent camping.

FIND A PARK NEAR YOU