When we began camping as a family, some years ago, we camped at a few private campgrounds to see how the kids would react and to test all of our gear. Private campgrounds, such as KOA® or Jellystone Parks™, are good places to get some camping experience because they have stores with food and camping gear and activities to keep everyone busy.
Of course, nowadays we camp in county, state and federal parks or just go find a suitable backcountry spot on Forest Service land to camp on. Recently, however, my oldest daughter decided that for her ninth birthday she wanted to spend the weekend at a nearby KOA because some friends of ours had camped there a few times, and their kids had a lot of fun.
I briefly considered trying to talk her out of it, since camping at one of these places is crowded and less than serene, but it was her birthday and a weekend at a private campground was certainly preferable to the alternative, which might have been an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese® (yikes!).
With subdued expectations, we made the short trip over to the beach where this particular KOA was located. The Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA isn’t in Santa Cruz or Monterey, but that’s a good thing as it borders an ecological preserve and three great beaches, just outside of Watsonville, California. We got setup and walked around to check the place out. This was definitely not your average KOA, but more like an outdoor version of Disneyland®, with an awesome playground for the kids, a giant bounce “pillow”, a large swimming pool and tons of other fun stuff for the kids.
The kids all had a great time, of course – and maybe that’s one of the best reasons for visiting a place like this, as the place was filled with families so the kids make a lot of new friends and have a great time socializing. And, of course, when the kids make friends the parents do too, so we met a lot of great people. This isn’t something that I would want to do every weekend, but maybe once a year is okay.