As the mother of four boys, Bridget Bender knows all about the work that goes into a family vacation.
“Vacations for Mom aren’t always that exciting because she has to do all the packing and all the organizing, figure out all the crafts and all the games,” says the Brand Strategy Manager and Co-owner of Jellystone Park Camp-Resort in Caledonia, Wisconsin.
“I like to pick places where I don’t have to make the fun — where someone else is doing the crafts and cleaning up the glue, and where Mom and Dad can relax and enjoy their vacation, too.”
That’s what makes Jellystone Park in Caledonia the perfect getaway for families looking for hassle-free fun and lots to keep the kids entertained. Bender says first-time visitors are always surprised by the resort, which is located just 75 miles north of Chicago (an easy one-hour, 10-minute drive) and about 20 miles south of Milwaukee.
“People say, ‘Oh my goodness, this is like an oasis. This is so close but you feel like you’re Up North,’” she says. “We’re lucky enough to be close to everything, but it feels like we’re not.”
Jellystone Park in Caledonia’s spacious grounds accommodate everything from simple tent sites to premium spaces with concrete pads and full hookups. Comfortable cabins have basic amenities or, for those who want to go all out, full kitchens for the ultimate glamping experience.
“You can tell your friends you went camping, but it’s really not camping,” Bender says with a laugh. “The cabins sleep six, seven or eight and are a great value for a bigger family that would need to book at least two hotel rooms.”
While Bender calls spending the night “the icing on the cake,” many families come just for the day to enjoy Jellystone Park in Caledonia’s sister property, Bear Paw Beach & Adventure Island. This resort has a five-acre sandy beach and the Midwest’s largest floating water park and obstacle course, which Bender calls “a mixture of Ninja Warrior and Wipeout.”
“It’s really incredible in terms of size, and we’re even adding new pieces this year,” she reports. “It’s super fun and I love hearing kids giggle at their parents trying to do the course, especially since the obstacles are usually something the kids can do better.”
Nine cabanas, rented in three-hour blocks so everyone can get a turn, give families their own special private and shaded space for the day, and they’re so popular that more will be added this summer. Further enhancing the resort feel, waitstaff deliver food to your cabana or beach lounge chair, including alcoholic beverages. As Bender puts it, “When I am on vacation I want those fried cheese curds or that fruity drink with tons of calories.”
There’s tons to do on the Jellystone Park side, too. Yogi Bear’s Picnic Splash is a colorful area of waterslides and sprayers for kids of all ages. There are elaborate waterslides, a “Water Wars” area where kids can use a giant slingshot to shoot water balloons, and a regular pool for those who just want to swim.
Dry activities include 18 holes of miniature golf, a large inflatable “jumping pillow,” laser tag, blow ups, and a full basketball court, baseball diamond, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, fishing pond, outdoor mini-theater, plenty of playground space and even an indoor game room.
As if that’s all not enough, there are organized activities from morning till night, several snack bars, a well-equipped store and Theme WEEKends with special events like Glow Stick “Hey! Rides” throughout the park, DJ and campfires at the beach or an old-time carnival. Beloved characters Yogi Bear, Cindy Bear and Boo Boo enchant small children as they wander about for pictures or host pint-sized adventures.
“The kids love doing anything that involves a character,” Bender says. “There is a little log cabin we call Yogi Bear’s Cave where kids can peek in the window and see Yogi Bear. He’ll read them a story or they tuck him in at night. It really brings those magic touches and special experiences that you don’t have to travel to Florida to get.”
Learn more about Jellystone Park in Caledonia at jellystone-caledonia.com.