When it comes to camping, we are usually state park fans. Most Pennsylvania state parks come with playgrounds, small camp shops, good hiking and fishing, and somewhere to swim – either a man-made beach or pool. Also, you can stay at a state park for less than $30 a night. The downsides are that there are rarely full hook-ups (or even water) and that liquor is prohibited (although if you don’t get rowdy and use unmarked cups you’re usually fine). Also, the bathrooms tend to be dirty because they only get cleaned once each day.
In the past, we’ve stayed at a few private campgrounds, but we’ve never tried a KOA (Kampgrounds of America). We have friends who are kind of new to camping, so we wanted to give them the full hook-up experience. Upon recommendation for some regulars, we booked two sites at Nittany Mountain KOA in New Columbia, PA over Labor Day weekend.
Even though the weather was quite rainy, the kids had an absolute blast all weekend. The grown-ups were relieved there was so much for the kids to do. The highlights for us were all the activities: petting zoo, dance party, bounce pad, mini golf, etc. The kids’ favorite part was the free zip-line. I was most impressed with how quiet it was.
The only drawbacks were the price and the lack of security. We paid $200 for three nights. That is pretty standard for KOAs and it is how they can provide all those amenities and services, so I understand the cost. What I don’t understand is why that cost doesn’t include decent security. At both the private and public campgrounds we’ve visited, there is almost always visible security patrolling the campground. Not once did I see anyone driving around to make sure all was well. As a result, we encountered large cliques of teenagers, most of whom were from seasonal sites. Some of the cliques were fine, but there was a lot of foul language around little ones and some bullying going on around the playground. At one point, the adults in our party had to stand in the playground like we were on playground duty until they stopped blocking the younger ones from using the playground equipment. Once, a group of teenage boys dismantled some of the toddler equipment and our girls had to report it to management. A more-present security staff would go a long way toward discouraging this kind of behavior.
Overall, we had a very nice weekend, but I don’t see us becoming KOA regulars. Particularly if we are camping at a distant location where sight-seeing is our main goal, I can’t see paying that amount when we wouldn’t be around to use all the amenities. That being said, I can definitely see us staying at another KOA in the future.