This past week we took our 2nd annual camping trip to Yogi Bear’s Jelly Stone Park- Beaver Trails in Austin, Minnesota. The campground is located just off of I35 and was a little over an hour away from home for us.
Let me preface this with we intentionally went “off-season” because we have heard how packed the campground gets from Memorial Day on through to fall. We wanted the fun features of the resort, without the big crowd.
Our stay was officially Thursday-Monday, although we came home late Sunday evening because it was freezing cold (Midwest weather probs), and we’re unashamed fair-weather campers. Ha! This also gave us an extra sunny day at home to wash up the motorhome and clean it out after our trip.
What we loved:
As a mom, I appreciated the slow speed limit on the grounds (5.5mph), everyone we encountered seemed to drive slowly and look out for children (there were plenty). We were camped right next to the main road and never felt like we were in harm’s way. I did have to keep the toddler close when I saw golf carts cruising, but I would’ve had to do that at any site we camped at.
There are a number of activities that you can do at different times of the day, like:
Bike Rentals– This is free. We each checked out a bike for 30 minutes. There are super fun pedal carts, I think they were called Prime Karts. They debuted last year and we fell in love with them! This is a good way to explore the grounds and get in some exercise.
Visit the Arcade ($)- We had told our kids we’d take them to Chuck E. Cheese since we’d be so close to one, but with the weather, we bartered and instead gave them $40 for the arcade. They agreed it was a fair trade. By the end of the weekend we had put in close to $50 and came home with a plastic ring, a comb/mirror compact, and a pair of headphones. Insider Tip: Some of the games will take your coins, sometimes we told the staff and got coins back, other times we just called it a loss. Just like when we were kids, arcade games aren’t reliable and they’re a pain for everyone trying to maintain them and keep them fair. No need to avoid the arcade, just know this may happen and make the best of it anyway. The machine that takes the tickets does best if you put in a big string of them all at once. Tickets under 3-5 don’t register well (or sometimes even at all). So if you’re going to play a game, keep the tickets in the machine and don’t rip them off until you have a good sized strand going. Also, the minimum prize is 100 tickets, the machine doesn’t print you a tally ticket, so what you put in needs to get used right away. Count your tickets ahead of time. The Monster Ball Drop paid out the best. It was fun for our toddler, kindergarten, and big kids. We won the jackpot on that game twice for sure, maybe even more!
Pan for rocks ($)- We didn’t do this because we have 4 kids and I’m kind of over “things”. If you only have one or two children, or you don’t mind them bringing home some fun colored stones, go for it! I panned for gold in Alaska 17 years ago and I still don’t know what to do with that little plastic bottle of gold I brought home.
Mini Golf (free)- Check in at the ranger station for a ball and a club, then hit the course. We went a couple of times with our kids because it was free and fun. They also went with new campground friends once (we could see them from where we camped so we felt comfortable doing this).
The Jumping Pillow (free)- If you talk to anyone about this campground they’ll probably mention the jumping pillow. It’s like an inflatable and a trampoline had a baby. Ha! Imagine that! It’s a great big bouncy pillow that fits dozens of kids on at a time. Last year we jumped on it as a family, this year it had closed due to weather just as I was getting ready to go on (it was starting to rain, they’re big on safety there and thank God for that, or I would’ve probably broken my hip). Our 2 big kids logged HOURS upon HOURS on there though! Our youngest daughter can’t jump for too long (heart condition), so she played at the park near the pavilion with her little brother and was happy as could be.
At set times there were special events, each only lasting 10-30 minutes. They were a fun way to break up the day and gave us something to look forward to. We’d run to the event with just minutes to spare, be there 10-30 minutes and go back to lounging outside the camper. It was definitely ideal!
Some of the things we did include:
“Hey Hey Hey” Ride- Basically a tractor/trailer ride around the park with a character or two. We had Cindy Bear riding with us, as it was her birthday weekend.
Arts & Crafts- The kids popped into the banquet hall to color birthday cards for Cindy Bear. Hey, I even made one for her too!
Digital Scavenger Hunt- We were given a list of things to find and had to rush around the park and meet back with a completed list to get first, second, or third place. Below is a snapshot of one of the items we were looking for “Yogi Bear’s Favorite Pond”. Remember it was pre-season, the staff was busy prepping other things and this area needed a bit more communication between staff, but in the end, our kids took home a sweet prize and they were thrilled that their efforts paid off! I think they’ll be talking about this one for a long time! Thanks, Pam & Jack! Oh, I also logged like 5,000 steps on this little adventure! Again, great work out!
Cindy Bear’s Birthday Bash- I’m not even kidding, they had a full-blown birthday party for Cindy Bear (Yogi’s girlfriend) that included amazing decorations, face painting, balloon animals, cake, ice cream, and a piñata! You guys KNOW how much I like to #CelebrateAbsolutelyEverything, I was impressed!
Tye-Dye ($)- I’ve never tie-dyed before, so I really wanted to give this a try. Actually, the staff member leading this tied up the shirt for me at my request, and the kids decorated it, so I was able to take plenty of pictures. White T-Shirts were just $5 in the camp shop, so for 4 of us to make shirts it was just $20. Start to finish, this activity only took 13 minutes, and we ended up with some pretty sweet shirts! Insider Tip: There are branded shirts in the shop that cost anywhere from $8.50-$10. Our kids wanted plain white ($5) so that’s what we went with. The smallest size was a child’s size small, so keep that in mind if you have a toddler. You could tie up the sides and sleeves to make it work. Overall, it was a fun experience, and affordable.
Adventure Bound Express- This was the thing our kids most looked forward to (after the Jumping Pillow), the Adventure Bound Express Train debuted this year and it was so cool! It’s an ultra-fancy train that takes you on an adventure around the park playing music for all to hear. Adults and children alike smiled when this thing rolled up front and center to load up passengers. Campers at their site looked in awe and waved as we went by. The total train ride experience was about 10 minutes, so again, you could pop over, do the activity, and head back to your campsite to lounge.
Candy Bar Bingo ($)- Keep your quarters at home, at this Bingo parlor you pay in CANDY BARS! One candy bar gets you one bingo card. The way we played you keep the same bingo card for each round (we played 4 rounds), so you only need to take one candy bar per person. I goofed and thought we put in one bar for each round, so I had bought extra (which I have thoroughly enjoyed post camping too). Insider Tip: A 6 pack of candy bars in the camp shop is $6, you can bring your own, or buy them individually also. It’s a fun activity that is inexpensive (if you do it right).
The staff works hard to put on activities and keep things flowing smoothly for everyone in a safe and productive manner. I noticed their efforts, their patience (there were A LOT of children without parents at each activity, and just roaming the camp), and professionalism. If you see Jack around the camp, he deserves like 20 high fives, that guy rocks at what he does!
Suggestions/Areas of Improvement: When we visited last year, I boasted about how incredibly reasonable the camp shop prices were and the diversity of the products. This year I would say they’ve definitely raised and added more Yogi Bear branded products, but aren’t outrageous by any means, considering you can buy what you need and not have to leave the grounds. We did choose to make a Wal-Mart run (because we’re ridiculous and forgot our pillows, just us, the kids remembered theirs). Wal-Mart was only about 15 minutes away, as was the Spam Museum, which made for a fun little day trip.
Overall Recommendation: Without a doubt I would recommend this campground to any family or couple looking for a little getaway. The activities were geared more towards children, but the whole park was an absolute beautiful blessing and a peaceful escape from the daily grind back at home. The staff members were knowledgeable and friendly.
Oh, yes, and as far as the campsite itself, it was fair sized (our van and motorhome fit just right), well kept, and offered water, sewer, and electric. They also have cabins that I would love to try sometime for an overnight.
If you’re a family looking for the very best site, let me recommend “Apple 17”, It’s close to the park and the jumping pillow, right across from the basketball and mini golf, and a tiny walk to the bathrooms (that are super clean) and laundry. As parents, we were able to stay at our site and watch our kids enjoy the grounds while keeping them within earshot when it was dinner time.
- There are SO MANY gorgeous spots around the park for a photo op, especially near the ponds. I took my tripod and snapped a few quick pictures of our family. If I had known the weather was going to be so good I would’ve tried packing coordinating clothes and staging a few shots.
- You’ll need to purchase firewood at the Ranger Station.
- There is an RC car track. The $20 cars we had bought for the trip weren’t quite powerful enough to race through the weeds, but the kids enjoyed using them on a walk. Perhaps this will be cleaned up during regular season (remember we came home because it was sooo cold, so they still have some good weather days to put the finishing touches on everything before Memorial Day).
- Bringing your own basketball, and a soccer ball is helpful. (there’s a GaGa ball pit, I have no idea what kind of ball is actually supposed to go in there, but we used soccer).
- Pack your tennis shoes, taking family walks around the park every couple of hours was a fun way to connect and get in some exercise. Full disclosure, I wore my flats all weekend (even though my sneakers were in the camper), and I was fine, but my feet would’ve appreciated some more support.
- When it was too cold and rainy to go outside we enjoyed some family read-aloud time and card games. Pack a little something just in case you need a break from the sun, or if you have a patch of yucky weather like we did.
- Our site included a picnic table, which was excellent for eating outdoors and keeping the mess outside. We packed extra chairs for sitting by the fire but could’ve just as easily moved the picnic table closer to the fire ring had we not wanted to haul the chairs.
Alright, your turn, HAVE YOU BEEN to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Camp Resort in Austin, MN? OR What are your camping tips?