“You’re going camping?!?!?!” a friend incredulously asks me. Not quite. I was heading to the Santa Cruz / Monterey Bay KOA to stay in a Kamping Lodge for a night. I would have the best of both worlds: the peace and nature of a campground combined with the modern luxuries of a hotel. While some enjoy roughing it in the wild, others like a comfy bed, heat, indoor plumbing, and a kitchen. Some can set up a tent in a matter of minutes while others would probably cause themselves harm. As you can probably tell from my friend’s shock, I am firmly in the second group.
My worries of being unprepared for the night went away immediately after stepping foot into the lodge. Outfitted nicer than many hotel rooms, the lodge had everything that we needed for a cozy night of dinner, board games and movies. Big enough for six adults to sleep comfortably, the lodge had linens, dinnerware, soap and even a flat screen TV. Outside we had our own patio with furniture, a fire pit and a barbeque grill. All for a price less than what you would usually pay for the same amenities in a hotel. Even if we did need anything, a quick walk to the store would have rectified that. As KOA CEO Jim Rogers explained to me, the new lodges are geared toward people who don’t usually camp. They’re for someone who says or thinks something like “I want to feel like a cowboy but I better have my chardonnay,” Rogers said. Those who like true camping need not stay away as there are plenty of tent sites, in addition to RV sites and rustic cabins, available at each KOA campground. Some even have airstreams and tree houses.*
KOA’s outdoor hospitality model means that there are always people on-site, like hotel concierges, to help you with whatever you need. A range of supervised campground activities, such as Campfire Time, Pancake Breakfast and Outdoor Cinema, keep kids entertained so that parents can enjoy some alone time. And there are certainly kids. Even at 10 in the morning on a Sunday, there were groups of kids bouncing on the Big Bouncer, splashing in the pool and running around. It was a sight rarely seen these days: kids playing outside with other kids. The amenities, convenience, affordability and close locations to urban centers of KOA campgrounds mean that many families stay at them not as pit stops but as destinations in their own rights. They’re ideal for family reunions, group outings and anyone else looking for genuine engagement with their fellow campers. If you’re the sort that hates the sight and noise of large groups of children having fun when camping, stay at a campground during the offseason.
As I packed up and left the campground, I immediately thought of when I could corral together my family or a group of friends for another weekend of camping in style.
*Each KOA Campground offers different amenities, lodging options and activities.
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