This was my family's first trip to Jellystone. My wife and I have camped everywhere, state parks, private campgrounds, backwoods trips, and everything in-between since we were kids up until our son (now 3 1/2) was born. This was our first camping trip since he was born, and we decided to book Jellystone since they advertised it to be focused on kids. A stay at Saco, Acadia, or anything else would have been focused on adults, and we wanted his first experience to be about him.
Right after I booked and paid for Jellystone, I saw the negative posts on Trip Advisor, and I got really skeptical, and honestly, as we pulled off the exit in Ashland, I was really scared to see what we would find.
Well, day one, we loved it. And after day 8, we still loved it, and we are planning on making it a tradition for at least the next few years.
To clear the air on some of the negative posts -
First, we are not lower class people - we've vacationed in 5-star resorts in Vegas, Montreal, Orlando, Spain, and Aruba. We know the difference between a resort and a campground. So we set our standards on par with other campgrounds, not with vacations in general. I think the majority of negative posters were looking for a resort, and ended up at a campground.
Next, folks complain of "white trash" staying at the campground, and people were smoking and drinking, and there were thousands of screaming kids. Well, think about it. In Aruba, what do folks do during the day while on vacation? I'm certainly not white trash, but while at the Wyndham in Aruba, it's not uncommon to see droves of kids playing in the pool while the parents sit in the beach chairs sipping on cocktails. So yes, while on vacation at Jellystone, you could find me with a beer in hand most times past noon. It was, after all, my vacation. And I've never been to a campground anywhere where folks weren't drinking and smoking. As for screaming kids - it's a campground themed for kids! That's like complaining there are too many kids at Disney! As far as "white trash", yes, there were some families staying there who you may not invite to your next dinner party at home, but it's a campground. Most campgrounds I've stayed at - there have been groups of bikers, young couples just looking to party, trashy families, homeless folks who were having "extended" stays, etc. Here at Jellystone, there were only families with kids - no indigents, no bikers, no frat parties - just families. Yes, some were on the lower end of the income scale, but you will see this at ANY campground.
Second, as for the condition of the campground, it was not NEARLY as bad as most folks claim. The main pool was re-done, the hot tub was new, the kiddie pool was all re-painted, most of the fences and buildings were painted within the past few years. Sure, there were a couple of building that could use a fresh coat - but they were not in bad condition. It's an old campground, but they do a pretty good job updating and maintaining. With a place like this, you can't possibly have the resources to paint, fix, and update EVERYTHING every single year. But what they have worked and looked pretty good.
Next, the cabins and the sites. Our cabin was very clean and in very good shape. I didn't see ANY run-down cabins. The rental RV's all looked new, with small yards, grills, and patios. The pull-in RV sites looked decent. The only thing negative I could say is that some of the tent sites are close together, on hills, and in full sun. But if you are that descriminating about your accommodations, pony up and rent a cabin or RV.
Next, the claims that the camp is a "ripoff" and everything is overpriced - simply NOT true. The camp store was very well stocked, and the prices were probably 20% higher than if you went to the supermarket that was only 3 miles away. This is normal for a camp store. Showers are 25 cents for 9 minutes of very good hot water. A canoe or kayak is $12. A pedal cart is $6 for your ENTIRE stay. Firewood is $5 a bundle, or $3 across from the park. Most activities were free. Bingo costs a candy bar to play. The snack bar was surprisingly reasonable in their pricing, had a good variety, and the food was decent - for a snack bar. I spent the entire time waiting to get raked over the coals for something, based on posts here, but no one was looking to take me for a ride. A $2 ice cream, a $6 six-pack, $5 firewood, a $4 cheeseburger, a 25 cent shower, or a $12 canoe rental did not seem unreasonable to me.
The showers could use some attention, but otherwise, there are bathrooms everywhere, and for the most part, they were clean. I never found the too-small bathrooms with a hook hitting me in my head - which seems to be a common point here - but if they do exist, just go to a different bathroom!
The staff. There were a lot of staff members here. Staff in the checkin and camp store. Staff in the snack bar. Staff at teh pool. Staff at the river beach. Staff running activities. Maintenance staff. Cleaning staff. Management. It seemed there was always a staff member close by, and for the most part, they were all VERY friendly and VERY accommodating. Yes, the majority of the staff are teenagers. Most folks don't make a career out of being campground summer help, so teens are the ones who are conveniently available. The cleaning staff were very good and very friendly. But I did on occassion see some uppity camper ask them questions obviously not relevant to their job - and were not happy that they didn't get the right answer. But think about it - if you were at a hotel in Aruba, would you be asking the cleaning lady about a charge on your bill? And yes, teens being teens, they try to be helpful, but after a 12-hour day of work, sometimes they can get lazy, or drop their guard and have an attitude. Like the teen who got yelled at when she decided to ignore an unruly 5-year-old who kept asking her if Cindy wore underwear and wanted to know what color they were. But if you ask me, the teen's attitude was appropriate, and the parents should have focused on telling their brat that was not an appropriate question.
As for the activities, what more can you ask for? The bears raise the flag each morning, followed by free hay rides. You can play on the beach by the river (no, it's not tropical white sand...but neither is any river-side beach in New England), rent a canoe or kayak, play in the kiddie pool, play in the big pool, go to the snack bar and dance with the bears at lunch, there are parades and theme nights, free movies outdoors nightly, candy bar bingo, art and crafts, playdough workshops, an arcade, a basketball court, a volleyball court, DJ music nights, dance parties, pancake breakfasts, and all sorts of other fun stuff.
Bottom Line: If you have a family with small kids and know what it means to camp - this is a GREAT place. If camping is not your style, or you have unreasonable expectations on what a campground should offer - than this is NOT for you.
I will be back, and I'm looking forward to it. It's on par with other campgrounds, and if you have kids, than this is the ELITE campground.
So, if you think adults drinking beer on vacation is sinful, and kids running around while at camp is a negative thing, just stay home. And please don't come here if you are easily offended by fading paint at a campground in the woods.
- Also Known As:
- Yogi Bear`s Jellystone Park Hotel Ashland
- Yogi Bears Jellystone Park Ashland