Ultimate Birthday Camping Party


Even a camping birthday requires cake

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.

The awesome playground at the Santa Cruz KOA

The awesome playground at the Santa Cruz KOA

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!).

Honing skills on the endless climbing wall

Honing skills on the endless climbing wall

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 bounce pillow was a huge hit

The bounce pillow was a huge hit


Taking the bull by the horns

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.

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18 thoughts on “Ultimate Birthday Camping Party

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  3. Hey Roy, we went for a drive-by visit during Thanksgiving. Of all the KOAs I have seen I could actually see myself staying here for a few nights during the fall or spring. I think the place would be to crowded during the summer. Do you camp with an RV? It seems I’m always searching for a place that has nice amenities, but has the type of sites (trees/privacy) you find in a state or county park. We camp in a tent trailer so I know what its like to be shoved in between two motorhomes or a 5th wheel. The search continues….

    • Hey Craig – yes, we were in an RV that trip (sandwiched in between two pop-ups 🙂 ), but we do most of our camping at Sunset beach, just down the road from there. We like the “South Camp” loop, which has pretty good spacing between the campsites and easy access to the beach trail.

  4. check out the ezfirestarter.com
    and were using 2 single mantle lanterns, less packing space and works good
    and coleman compact personal lantern for inside the tent

  5. Do you feel like the gear you tested out in private campgrounds performed the same way after you started to camp in more rustic campsites?

    Heidi Ahrens

    • Heidi – I think so, it’s just that once we were actually out in the backcountry, we started wanting a few more things, like a lantern for better broad-area lighting at night, and a small hatchet for cutting kindling.

  6. I love camping and it looks like you have done an awesome job on the birthday outing and everyone had a great time. Boy, I wish they had that kind of stuff when I was young. Great post!

    • Thanks, Caroline – yes, I wonder where all that cool stuff was when I was a kid? 🙂

  7. She looks like she’s a little sweetheart…looks like it was a fun little outing for everyone. Nice post.

    • Thanks, Danny – it’s not a place I’d want to go to very often, but the kids sure had fun.

    • Jenn – I’ve got some Brats & sauerkraut going in the dutch oven now! I want to do some cake – I haven’t tried that, yet.