As a mother of four boys, Bridget Bender knows all about the work that goes into a family vacation.
“Mom’s vacation isn’t always that exciting because she has to pack and organize everything, figure out all the crafts and games,” says the Brand Strategy Manager and co-owner of the Jellystone Park Camp Resort in Caledonia, Wisconsin.
“I like to look for places where I don’t have to have fun – where someone else is doing handicrafts and cleaning up the glue and where mom and dad can relax and enjoy their vacation.”
That makes Jellystone Park in Caledonia the perfect getaway for families looking for stress-free fun and lots of fun for the kids. According to Bender, first-time visitors are always surprised with the resort, which is just 75 miles north of Chicago (an easy one-hour 10-minute drive) and about 20 miles south of Milwaukee.
“People say, ‘Oh my god, this is like an oasis. It’s so close, but you feel like you’re up north, ”she says. “We’re lucky to be close to everything, but it feels like we aren’t.”
Jellystone Park on the extensive grounds of Caledonia has space for everything from simple tent sites to premium rooms with concrete slabs and full connections. Comfortable cabins have basic amenities or, for those who want to give it their all, a fully equipped kitchen for the ultimate glamping experience.
“You can tell your friends that you went camping, but it really isn’t camping,” says Bender with a laugh. “The cabins offer space for six, seven or eight people and are excellent value for money for a larger family who would have to book at least two hotel rooms.”
While Bender calls the night “the icing on the cake”, many families only come for the day to enjoy Jellystone Park in Caledonia’s sister hotel Bear Paw Beach & Adventure Island. This resort features 5 acres of sandy beach and the largest floating water park and obstacle course in the Midwest, which Bender calls the “Mix of Ninja Warrior and Wipeout”.
“It’s really amazing for the size, and we’re even adding new pieces this year,” she says. “It’s great fun and I love hearing kids giggle at their parents trying to take the course, especially since the obstacles are usually something the kids are better at.”
Nine cabanas, rented in three-hour blocks for everyone’s turn, give families their own private and shady space for the day and are so popular that more will be added this summer. To further enhance the resort feel, staff will deliver groceries to your cabana or beach lounge chair, including alcoholic beverages. As Bender puts it, “When I’m on vacation, I want that fried cheese curd or that fruity drink with tons of calories.”
There is plenty to do on the Jellystone Park side as well. Yogi Bear’s Picnic Splash is a colorful area with water slides and sprayers for kids of all ages. There are elaborate water slides, a Water Wars area where kids can shoot water balloons with a giant sling, and a regular pool for those who just want to swim.
Dry activities include 18 holes of mini golf, a large inflatable “jump cushion,” laser tag, explosions, and a full basketball court, diamond baseball, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, fish pond, outdoor mini theater, and plenty of playground space and even an indoor game room .
As if all of that weren’t enough, there are organized activities from morning to evening, several snack bars, a well-stocked shop and themed weekends with special events like Glow Stick “Hey! Park rides, DJs and campfires on the beach, or an old-time carnival. Beloved characters Yogi Bear, Cindy Bear, and Boo Boo enchant young children as they search for pictures or host pint-sized adventures.
“The kids love to do anything that involves a character,” says Bender. “There’s a little log cabin we call Yogi Bear’s Cave where kids can look in the window and see Yogi Bear. He’ll read them a story or they’ll stick him in at night. It really brings those magical touches and special experiences that you don’t have to travel to Florida to get them. “
Learn more about Jellystone Park in Caledonia at jellystone-caledonia.com.