Campground owner Mark Kasper shook his head in disbelief when his 79-year-old mother, Phyllis, climbed a 30-foot staircase and rode his park’s 300-foot long zipline, literally dangling alongside a river that skirts the west end of the park.
That was four years ago, and to this day, 83-year-old Phyllis Kasper holds the record for being the oldest person to ride the zipline at Lazy River at Granville, a 195-site campground in Granville, Ohio, just east of Columbus.
But don’t think for a moment that the elder Kasper will surrender her title easily. “She told me that if anyone older than her rides the zipline, she’ll wait until she reaches that age and ride it again,” Mark Kasper said. “We hope she will.”
Lazy River at Granville is one of many privately owned and operated campgrounds across the country that are investing in unique and challenging physical activities to keep their guests entertained, said Linda Profaizer, president and CEO of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.
“Many campground operators believe they can gain a competitive edge if they offer unusual activities that aren’t typically seen at other campgrounds, RV parks or resorts in their immediate area,” she said.
And their efforts aren’t solely aimed at providing unique activities. Some parks are also distinguishing themselves from their peers in the industry by offering unique accommodations.
One case in point is Treehouse Camp in Rohrersville, Md., near the Appalachian Trail. This campground offers a chance for guests to escape to the forest, while spending the night in tree house cottages that literally stand on stilts, 8 to 10 feet above the ground.
“We have really happy guests,” said Louise Soroko, the park’s co-owner. “The kids really have a lot of fun here, and when the kids are happy, the parents are happy. I had a dad who was here a few weeks ago and his daughter said, ‘Daddy, I want to stay here forever.’”
Here’s a sampling of other privately owned and operated campgrounds, RV parks and resorts across the country that offer unique activities and accommodations:
- Beaver Lake Campground in Custer, S.D.: This 81-site campground, located roughly 20 to 25 minutes from Mount Rushmore and Wind Cave National Park, offers a 360-foot-long water slide as well as cabin and teepee rentals. The park also offers more than 40 bicycles for guest use.
- Camp Dakota Family Camping and Paintball in Scotts Mills, Ore.: This park, located in the foothills of the Cascade mountains, roughly 35 miles east of Salem, offers numerous activities, including paintball, gold panning, treasure hunting with metal detectors, ATV trails and an electric RC racing track. The park also offers yurt and teepee rentals in addition to tent and RV sites.
- Camp Taylor Campground, Columbia, N.J.: This park, located just one hour from New York City, has a wolf preserve on site with 25 arctic and gray wolves, so you can literally hear them howl at night. Deer and bear sightings are also common here. The campground has RV sites as well as remote tent sites along with a modern restroom facility and camp store.
- Coloma Resort in Coloma, Calif.: This Sierra Nevada park, located near the site where gold was discovered in California, offers a challenging ropes course as well as opportunities for gold panning, white water rafting and even classes in yoga. For those who don’t have their own RV or tent, the resort also offers tent cabins and RVs, park models and bunkhouse rentals.
- Heavenly Acres in Stanardsville, Va.: This campground, located not far from Shenandoah National Park, has train cabooses that have been remodeled into cabins. Each caboose comes equipped with a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom. The park, which also offers fishing, mountain bike trails and hayrides, also offers standard cabins and RV sites.
- Pineland Camping Park in Arkdale, Wis.: This campground just installed PineZilla, the world’s largest inflatable waterslide, which stands over four stories tall and features a 175-foot-long slide with a 45-degree descent at the drop zone.
- Redbeard’s Ranch in Lebanon, Mo.: This campground offers quiet campsites on a wooded 295-acre ranch with weekend bow hunting of whitetail deer and wild turkey. The park, which is located along the Niangua River, also offers weekend classes in fly-fishing, along with canoe, raft and kayak rentals and hayrides. The park also offers three heated Sioux Indian-style teepees, which are popular with families, as well as a fully furnished, luxury “Glamping” tent cabin.
- Sandy Pines in Hopkins, Mich.: This membership resort campground, whose amenities include a lake, spraygrounds, swimming pools, miniature golf, an 18-hole golf course and a fitness center, has recently added a ropes course.
- Santa Cruz/Monterey Bay KOA in La Selva Beach, Calif.: This park features numerous unusual activities, including a mechanical bronco bull that guests can ride, a jumping pillow, a climbing wall, miniature golf, banana bike rentals, and an outdoor movie theatre. Accommodations include bare bones cabins and luxury park model cabins, which KOA markets as “Kamping Lodges,” as well as Airstream travel trailers.
- Sweetwater Campground, RV Park & Riding Stables in Loranger, La.: This park, located in the hill country of Loranger, roughly 50 miles northwest of New Orleans, offers daily guided horseback riding as well as periodic rodeos. “It’s very exciting here,” said Rita Robichaud, the park’s co-owner. “Our rodeos include a yearly series of 10 youth rodeos with sheep, calf and steer riding, goat-tail pulling, calf roping, saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, bull riding and more.” Other park activities include hayrides, arts and crafts classes, dances and horseshoe tournaments. The park also has a restaurant on site, which serves “all you can eat catfish” on Friday nights and steak specials on Saturday nights.
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Canyon Lake, Texas: This park’s activities in addition to weekly themed weekends and special events, include laser tag and a jumping pillow and an on-site gem mine. The park also offers a shuttle for guests who like to go tubing on the Guadalupe River.
- Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Castle Rock, Colo.: This park’s amenities include a mining sluice, park model cabins, teepees, yurts and safari tents. Special activities this summer, in addition to Yogi’s weekly themed weekends and special events, include a magician’s camp and theatre camps.
For more information, visit the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds’s Web site, www.gocampingamerica.com.