It’s summertime, and families are on the hunt for fun and inexpensive getaways the whole family can enjoy. Camping close to home near national attractions tops the list of options. Tents, small campers and large RVs are among the popular choices for enjoying time in nature.
Camping with the family isn’t a new trend. However, it has grown in popularity since the COVID pandemic. According to data compiled by Kampgrounds of America, 57 million households flocked to the great outdoors last year, and this newfound love of camping doesn’t appear to be reversing itself anytime soon.
Never camped before? No worries! Families new to camping can get their feet wet by checking out some campgrounds close to Pittsburgh.
One of the most popular destinations is located an hour east of Pittsburgh. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park™ Mill Run caters to families looking for good old-fashioned fun, said park manager Tracy Czambel. “From Memorial Day to Labor Day, we pretty much have activities happening every hour on the hour,” she said.
The park has a different theme every weekend. “We have hero weekends to honor police, nurses, and other heroes in our community,” said Czambel. “We do Halloween in August and October, sports weekends, wet ‘n wild country western, pirates and mermaids. You name it, we have a theme for it.”
Every June, the park gives back to its loyal customers with a special anniversary weekend to commemorate the grand opening of the original campground in 1974. “They get to come for the rate of the year we opened,” Czambel said. “All cabins are 20 percent off as well.”
The gated camping park has 290 sites that include cabins. Some sites have full hookups with water, electricity, sewer and cable. Others are deluxe tent sites with water and electricity. Group tenting also is available. All registered guests receive a keycard that allows them to enter (and re-enter) the park.
Want to bring Fido with you on your camping adventure? “We have pet-friendly cabins and a dog park,” said Czambel. “People are very attached to their animals, and we welcome them here in the park. We’ve got probably the most pet-friendly cabins that I’ve ever seen.”
There’s hardly a shortage of things to do while camping at Jellystone. Among the most popular attractions are the carousel, fire truck, train, and wagon rides; the jumping pad and snowless snow tubing track; mini-golf with the bears; paintball and laser tag, and the swimming pool with pool games.
A full-service restaurant on-site is ideal for campers who enjoy preparing their meals, but who also want a break from cooking during their getaway. They can grab breakfast, lunch, or dinner there before stopping at the milkshake saloon, said Czambel.
Guests who can’t find enough to do on-site can leave the campgrounds to explore other nearby attractions, said Czambel. “We’re three miles from Fallingwater, 10 miles from Kentuck Knob and 40 minutes from the Flight 93 Memorial,” she said.
Jellystone’s camping season runs from April 1 through the end of October. They keep a few campsites open year-round for people who like to travel. Also, their convenient location just 12 miles from Seven Springs makes them a popular option for skiers in the winter.
Czambel said that park employees go out of their way to help new campers have a positive experience. They can seek out help with hookups for their campers or any other issues they’re having.
“Our motto is ‘Making Memories,’” said Czambel. “I’ve been here 27 years, and the kids I saw when I worked activities years ago are bringing their children in now. It’s exciting to see.”
Find out more about the park or make a reservation by visiting https://www.jellystonemillrun.com.
Another family-friendly camping option close to Pittsburgh is the Pine Cove RV Resort in Charleroi. It’s ideal for summer vacations for families looking for an RV adventure nearby.
Owner Jim Rock said that he and his wife built the RV park around an existing swimming pool 19 years ago. Avid RVers themselves, they decided to share their love of camping with the community. “After years of camping, we toured the country for six months,” Rock said. “After all the people we met, we thought it was a great idea to build something like that that would fit in with our private swim club.”
Before building their RV resort, the Rocks talked to people at home shows about what amenities they wanted when camping.
Pine Cove features 57 campsites. To enter the campground, you must be a member of the private swim club or a registered RVer. “We fill up pretty quickly, so I recommend making reservations as soon as you know you want to camp in the area,” said Rock.
The campground is popular with families because of the pool and other amenities offered. They have electricity, water and Wi-Fi available. “We also offer sewage hookups, which isn’t standard with some campsites,” he said. “We have city water, not well water, which is a big deal for some people.”
Pine Cove’s pool is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day. However, you can camp at the site from April through the end of October. “We extended our campground dates beyond the pool season due to demand,” said Rock. “We’ve always been busy, even before COVID, but there is definitely a boom out there.”
Learn more about Pine Cove or make a camping reservation on their website at http://www.pinecovebeachclub.com.