We started camping with our son when he was right around a year and a half old (18 months). Often, we had friends and family think we were crazy for bringing our little lad camping at such a young age, but as we discovered, it was one of the best ways for us to develop a love for outdoors and a connection as a family from a very young age!
Within 6 months of getting our camper when our son was small, we camped over 7 times and over that time, it was evident that our little guy LOVED going camping! His love for camping inspired us to throw him an adorable camping party for his second birthday that was high on fun, but easy on the budget, especially since we had plenty of camping gear on hand!
Because we wanted to keep his party budget friendly, I designed invitations that looked like postcards that were coming from a summer camp or campground that featured simple tent and campfire graphics and we printed them on inexpensive card stock. I also used the same graphics and fonts to create a banner through Vistaprint with one of their coupon deals and it came out adorable! Party favors included small lanterns we found in the Target dollar spot for a $1 each and carabiners and compasses that we picked up as well for the parents. Still, almost 5 years later, these lanterns are going strong and we have guests from the party telling us how much they and their kiddos loved the favors!
When it came to activities, we brought out camping games that we usually bring on our camping trips for extra entertainment like bean bag toss and ladderball. This entertained the adults as well as the kids. We created a cute scavenger hunt card to let the little ones explore and mark off as they go as well as provided camping themed color sheets. Also, because his birthday is in the heat of the summer and we have a pool, it was a no-brainer to make the party a swimming party as well. We called the pool, “Lake TurningTwo” and encouraged the kiddos to jump in and have a ball. We even featured some “fish bobber” floats throughout the pool that were super cute.
When we had started camping, we used this tutorial to build our son a small A-Frame tent from a twin bed sheet we had on hand as something he could use for indoor pretend play when the weather was bad. It turned out to be the perfect prop, along with some tree limbs and tissue paper, for a cute play area and “photo booth” for the kids and families. We also put out “camping chairs” for everyone to sit and relax and an extra “tent” (canopy) for extra shade for guests that included some fun lantern lights hung for some extra flair that we usually hung on our camper awning on trips.
We set up the party table with things we had on hand; a brown twin sheet was used as a table cloth and other details included some lanterns, a small mini Christmas tree without ornaments, an old “gone fishing” sign we had inside our camper for decor, as well as the cake, cupcakes, s’mores, and chips served up in brown paper bags cut in half to give a “rustic” look. We also had the reusable birthday banner that we created the year prior to give some color and pep to the event.
In order to keep the menu for the party authentic but simple since the kiddos were young, we had hot dogs, chips, and fruit pouches for the kiddos while the adults dined on more mature versions of the classic camping fare- chicken sausages, pasta salad, and fruit. Of course, a camping themed birthday party wouldn’t be complete without s’mores, and we featured several versions of the camping classic without requiring a campfire. We also included a birthday cake and cupcakes that featured fondant decorations obtained from a local cake decorator that featured a tent, campfire, and little marshmallows. Drinks included “bug juice” (juice pouches), water, lemonade and iced tea. All refreshments were inexpensive and easily prepared in advance and fit the tone of the party perfectly.
It’s been almost five years and we are now approaching our son’s 7th birthday and this party still remains both his (and our) favorite party to date. In fact, as we approach his next birthday, we have mentioned this idea to him again, but with the option to do a backyard camp out with a few of his friends and more focus on the outdoors and some of the things he has learned through his experiences in Cub Scouts. What is great about a camping themed party is that it is timeless and appeals to kids (and grownups!) of all ages!
If you head up north on Interstate 55, just a little north of Hammond, Louisiana, you can make a stop for a fun family weekend at one of our favorite private campgrounds, Indian Creek Campground in Independence.
Just 5 minutes off the interstate and along the Natalbany River in Independence, Indian Creek is a small family owned campground who prides itself on promoting a fun and festive family atmosphere. Several years ago, the Bowman family moved to Louisiana from up north and took over the campground and have made many changes and upgrades while preserving a rustic yet well managed property for guests to enjoy. Since we began camping as a family in 2013, Indian Creek has been one of our holiday mainstays, especially for Halloween and Easter. The staff always takes special care and attention to create activities and entertainment for their guests that create lasting memories and fun for families.
Indian Creek has 185 campsites in a wooded, natural environment. Sites are mostly level, but not paved and most have full hookups and options for both 30 & 50 amp electrical. Our favorite sites are located in what we call “The Island” which is a small section of land between the ponds and trails and are nice and secluded for family gatherings and provide close access to bike trails, fishing, and the Natalbany River. Campsites vary in size; some are large and others may be close to your neighbor. All are shaded as there are adequate trees. All sites come with a picnic table and daily trash pickup. Upon check in, the staff is incredibly friendly and accommodating and will provide an escort to your site and assistance in backing in, if necessary. Because this campground is rustic, there is no cable television. A wifi network pops up, but we have never even asked for the password as they keep us plenty busy with their activities throughout the weekend. Fire rings and fire pits are not included and are requested for campfires, for safety reasons. Rates for campsites for regular weekends vary on electric hookups, weekend rates and/or holidays but range from $34 – $49; but are reasonable for the service, atmosphere and activities provided. There are also cabins and primitive sites available to rent.
When it comes to activities, especially when it comes to holidays, Indian Creek does not disappoint. Halloween, July 4th, Thanksgiving Weekend, and Easter are all some of our favorites. Halloween features 3 weekends of trick or treating, site decorating, pennies in a haystack, pumpkin decorating, costume contests, and even a haunted house! Thanksgiving weekend features a visit from Santa for the kids, a white elephant gift exchange and Easter always includes a visit from the Bunny, an egg hunt, egg toss, and egg decorating contest! Bingo is also a big hit at Indian Creek along with karaoke, live music, and bonfires for holiday weekends.
Other amenities include bike trails, a pool that has just recently been updated, a sun deck, splash area, several playgrounds for the kids, a catch & release fishing pond, paddle boats, canoes, a camp store, basketball court, horse shoes, laundry facilities and of course, a bath house. There is one bath house at Indian Creek that has several showers as well as restrooms and sinks. The bath house is always clean and well equipped. The bath house is centrally located on the grounds as well. Laundry facilities are located at the bath house for a fee.
Since 2013, when we started camping at Indian Creek, we have watched the owners of go above and beyond to make continual improvements on the grounds and with their facilities. They have added new playground equipment, televisions in the pavilion, upgraded the pool and sun deck, and kept the grounds well maintained.
Indian Creek is also an RV Park and there are several families that prefer to leave their campers there permanently as a weekend getaway. While some families may not prefer this option, we have discovered that those families are just another part of the Indian Creek family. Because we have gone there a few times a year for 5 years, those families and the owners remember us and treat us, too, like part of the family and that’s something we do truly enjoy about making our yearly trips there.
If you are looking for a family oriented campground that offers a rustic atmosphere, fun activities, and clean, well maintained amenities, look no further than Indian Creek Campground! Maybe we will see you there!
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OVERALL RATING: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Indian Creek Campground is located at 53013 West Fontana Road, Independence, LA.
If you have access to Facebook and you live in Louisiana, it’s likely you have heard of Reunion Lake, a new RV resort opened just one hour north of New Orleans, in Robert, Louisiana. Located right off the Interstate 12 corridor on the Robert (Highway 445) exit, Reunion Lake has a little something for everyone in your family, especially if you are looking for someplace to relax and make camping friends.
Modeled as an RV resort, Reunion Lake is equipped with 230 paved campsites that circle the large manmade lake and resort activities. Amenities include both adult & family pools, a lazy river, hot tub, kayaking, paddle boarding, a water activity playground within the lake, an outdoor movie amphitheater, fishing, a dog park, bath houses, a snack bar, camp store, arcade, fitness room, a meeting room and a lounge.
Arrival at Reunion Lake is easy, you can check in upon arrival and sometimes staff will check you in with tablets and give you your armbands without you having to leave your vehicle. Other times, you will be required to go inside, but check in is easy. Reunion Lake operates on the wristband policy, all guests must wear a wristband. One of the things we liked about this was that children and those under 21 had specific colored bands while the adults who could access the adult pools and bar had bright green bands that were required for entry. The armbands are used to provide pool access but also charging capabilities for the onsite activities, swim up bar, and snack bar. Campsites can have up to 8 guests, but only 4 guests are included in the cost of the campsite. There is an additional $10 charge for extra guests. One thing to note is that Reunion Lake does not allow day passes; guests must be registered with a campsite in order to enjoy the resort. This is to protect the privacy of guests.
The whole campground is paved and campsites are all level concrete pads with full hookups, including cable television. WiFi isn’t included in the cost, but you can purchase access for an additional fee. Campsites are easy to back into and come with a fire ring, picnic table, and a small grassy area. There is not a lot of shade at most campsites, and while the campsites are spacious, the sites are very close. You may here kids running around in your neighbor’s camper or feel like your picnic table is close to your neighbor’s hookups. This is the only drawback. This is something to be expected at an RV resort, where guests spend most of the time enjoying the amenities rather than lounging around their campsite. There are two large bath houses that are air conditioned and provide private, individual shower rooms. They are very clean and well maintained. As a whole, the resort and campground is very clean and you will often see staff members picking up trash and maintaining the appearance of the resort.
When it comes to amenities, Reunion Lake does not disappoint. One of the features that we enjoy is that the pool areas are well spaced out. Because there are both adult & family pools, this prevents overcrowding and other concerns about inappropriate language and behavior for those with children. The family pool is also several levels with shallow areas that are perfect for small kids. It is also nice to note that the pool is easy to view from chairs all around the area, which is nice as you can keep watch over kids without having to get in the pool. The lazy river is fun, too, which requires that everyone has a tube, although they allow you to bring your own if you want. On all of our visits, the pools have been clean and well maintained throughout the day. The pools and lazy river are included in your stay. If you are looking for fun on the lake, you can pay the $25 per person per day fee that gives you access to paddle boards, kayaks, and the large floating water play ground that looks like a blast! We have tried the paddle boards in the past, but have not tried the new water features as our son isn’t able to do it on his own and it would be very costly for us.
We have thoroughly enjoyed other amenities as well, including movies in the amphitheater and the large playground that is shaded next to the lake. The kids have played for a while in there, having a great time building in the sand and climbing the rock wall. In the coming months, there will be pickle ball and basketball courts added and we look forward to giving that a try as well. There is even a gated area for dogs to run and play that also includes a dog washing station, should you need it. We have not tried this, but we thought this was a clever idea.
When it comes to kids, Reunion Lake is incredibly kid friendly. While Reunion Lake does allow guests to rent and/or bring golf carts, the resort does not allow loud music on them. Somehow, this prevents a bit of a golf cart parade, and golf carts are generally used simply as a mode of transportation rather than to “coast” through the campground. We were comfortable letting our son and his cousins ride scooters and bikes on our visits as well as to head by the lake to fish. Also, by providing a pool dedicated to family and another for adults only, the atmosphere at the family pool remained kid friendly; we really enjoyed that. There is also a nice sized arcade and a great playground that our kids thoroughly enjoyed. Our son always gets really excited when he knows we are headed there for a camping trip.
When it comes to the staff, Reunion Lake’s employees are incredibly accommodating and friendly. Sometimes, they go out of their way to help guests by offering rides on a golf cart or bringing you a drink from the bar so that you don’t have to leave your pool chair. We have even met the General Manager on occasion, he makes it a point to say hello to guests and to make sure everyone is having a great time. Even better, upon checkout on a Sunday, we especially love the delivery of a dozen donut holes from the staff. We feel like this is a nice little touch that our little guy always looks forward to!
Overall, we really enjoy our visits to Reunion Lake. Every time we have gone, we have managed to score a site at the last minute because of a cancellation, and we are thrilled that each time we have gone, more improvements and attention to detail have been made. We are looking forward to seeing the next phase of their expansion and we will surely be back next summer for another visit!
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OVERALL CLEANLINESS ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
OVERALL RATING ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Remember when I mentioned how much I hated all of the brown in our camper and how I couldn’t wait to get rid of it?
We JUST finished our first step in making changes within the camper. I got together with my mom and we sewed (ok, she sewed, I just advised) new curtain valences for the camper. Prior to our changes, all of the valences were dark brown and were either curtain valences or, like in the dinette, cornice board valences. I couldn’t STAND them. To me, they looked like something straight out of the 80’s, and while I love the 80’s and all of their awesome movies, music and tv shows, I don’t like the overabundance of drab brown colors!
Back when we first bought the camper, I purchased this adorable camper themed fabric from a seller on Etsy. We used a yard of it to cover the small throw pillows that came with the camper. I loved that fabric so much I ordered four more yards and decided to use it to make curtains to replace all of the ugly brown!
We simply just measured all of the windows and made simple rod pocket valences that would fit the existing hardware (which was the classic u-shaped adjustable rods) and changed them out. The windows in the rear slide and in the living area had the valences with additional side curtains that were connected by tension as well. We removed those altogether. When it came to the dinette, that was a little more complicated.
The dinette valences were cornice-board style and the blinds were screwed directly into the cornice board. We had to remove those from the cornices and then screw them into the wall instead of into the board, as that is how the accordion shades were installed on the other non-cornice board windows throughout the trailer. This was simple and easy. Once we had those, we purchased some additional u-shaped rods for around $1.50 each and installed those with the included hardware, flush to the ceiling. The end result made a HUGE difference in the brightness of the trailer. While it is still heavy on the brown, the slight change brighten up the interior quite considerably!
The next step in the interior transformation includes covering the cushions of the dinette and jacknife sofa. I can’t wait to see how those changes will brighten up the camper even more!
After spending 10 hours in the car on the way up, our second day in the Smoky Mountains started out a little slow. We started our day at breakfast in the hotel and then at the arcade for a bit before heading a little further into Sevierville to Forbidden Caverns and to the Little River Gem Mine.
Both my husband and I had a similar memories of visiting caverns as kids and we wanted to create a similar memory for our son, .. so off we went to explore! We couldn’t wait for him to experience underwater streams, rock formations, etc. and to explore and see what we don’t have in Louisiana–underground caves!
The drive from our resort to Forbidden Caverns was only about 15 minutes and it was a beautiful, scenic one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The road was dotted with farms, hills, and valleys and lots of unique barns, grist mills and other scenery. It was very quaint and had a lot of charm! Before we knew it, we were pulling in and grabbing our sweatshirts to explore the caverns below.
Tours start on the hour and we arrived about 10 minutes before the tour was to start. This gave us time to explore the gift shop and explain to our son that it would be dark and that it could be slippery. The tour was very entertaining and our young guide was very knowledgeable about all of the formations and the history of the area! I think our favorite part was seeing the large breaks in the rocks as well as the underwater stream that flowed below. We really enjoyed our experience and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to explore caverns but doesn’t want a super tough workout. We were able to do this hike through the caverns without much effort or complaint from the little guy. Also, be sure to bring a sweatshirt if you get cold easily as the temperature in the caverns is around 54 degrees.
Also, while we were there, we took a drive about 10 minutes from the resort to the Little River Gem Mine, where we mined for gems and had a great time. When we pulled up, we were not sure what to expect, but the experience was really fun, especially for our ive year old son. For the price of $20, he was given a bucket and he was able to pan for gems. The experience was great for him– and the gal there was knowledgeable about all of the stones he came across. He came home with a big ole pan full of all sorts of beautiful stones that we now have on display in our home!! I can’t begin to rave about how much fun we all had panning for gems and learning about the different rocks from the lady that was helping us. Right next door to the gem mine, there is also a large antique store that I thoroughly enjoyed peeking in with the hopes of finding some Shawnee dishware for my mom, but I didn’t find any, much to my dismay.
After our adventures, we headed back to the resort for some more pool and fun time, but that was just the beginning of our adventures around the mountains!
Read More about our Smoky Mountain Vacation:
Sometimes a family just wants to go camping, but doesn’t want to travel too far or to someplace too complicated. Located along the Tchefuncte River in Madisonville, Louisiana, Fairview Riverside State Park is a great small park for a family wanting to get away and get reconnected with the outdoors.
Fairview Riverside State Park is located on Highway 22 in Madisonville and just minutes from downtown Mandeville and Covington. It is about a 45 minute drive across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway from New Orleans and is a great respite from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Home to the Otis House, a 19th century Queen Anne style home, Fairview Riverside is a small state park with a lot of character. It is also home to a small campground that has 72 RV ready sites as well as 20 primitive sites. Amenities at the park include a fishing pier, boat launch, playground, bath houses, hiking and biking trails along with tours of the Otis House. This is a beautiful state park with many centuries old moss covered oak trees and scenery that is serene and peaceful. The location is also within a 10-15 minute proximity to restaurants, entertainment, and stores if you need any essentials. There is a neat Maritime Museum nearby and lots of great dining along the river in Madisonville.
Campsites are spacious and relatively easy to back into. Most sites are level and concrete pads are provided. There are ample trees and the sites are shady and spacious. Campsites come with water & electrical hookups, but no sewer. There is a dump station nearby. Roads are all paved and the campground is easy to navigate. Bath houses are very well maintained; they are spacious, clean, air conditioned and have ample hot water and good water pressure. Each bath house has several individual showers and toilet areas, that are separate rooms and are very private. Sometimes, we will use bath houses when camping and in the case of this state park, we were glad to use them to save time and space in our camper in the evenings.
There are two playgrounds; one in the day use area as well as one in the campground. Both are well maintained and provided plenty of fun for the kids. If you like fishing, Fairview is right along the Tchefuncte River and has a fishing pier available as well. We did not catch any fish, but we did enjoy watching the boats travel along the river and at least trying to catch a few! Because the campground was small, we were also able to let our kids ride bikes while still being able to watch them. Also, there were not a lot of guests when we stayed, so the campground was pretty quiet and free from lots of car traffic, we were able to enjoy the peace and quiet of the weekend. The ample space for the kids to play and explore was fantastic; it allowed their imaginations to shine and take over for the weekend! The state park does mention that they offer wifi, but we were not able to get a good enough signal for much at all.
The only park staff we encountered was the clerk at the front entrance and that was pleasant. There were no rangers that we came across during our stay. We are not sure if that was because of state budget cuts or because the park is generally quiet and does not require any intervention. Overall, the park was clean and well maintained. If you are looking for a no-fuss camping experience with the charm of natural beauty, Fairview Riverside State Park is a great option!
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Sometimes, we take vacations that are not in our travel trailer—this year, instead of taking our annual beach trip to Gulf State Park, we opted to take a trip to the Smoky Mountains and stay at the Wilderness at the Smokies Resort in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Wilderness at the Smokies is a large, sprawling hotel and water park resort that has both indoor & outdoor waterparks, a large arcade and family entertainment area, restaurants, café, and comfortable rooms. It is located about 30 minutes off Interstate 40, in Sevierville, TN, right outside the tourist center of the Smoky Mountains: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. It was about a 20 minute drive to everything.
The resort had an indoor water park that featured a surfing simulator, wave pool, 4 water slides, a regular pool and a spray park area. Our son, who is 5, was able to ride almost all slides and had a blast on them. He especially was a fan of the surfing simulator! The pools were all clean and well maintained and there were adequate lifeguard staff on standby for any emergencies.
There was also two outdoor water parks. The main water park was located at the larger resort of Wilderness at the Smokies and it featured a second spray park area that had features for younger kids, 6 waterslides, a lazy river, and wave pool. Our 5 year old son was tall enough to ride the racing slides and also play in the lazy river, wave pool, and other areas. I had a spectacularly relaxing time getting stuck in a raft in the lazy river. There were also plenty of lifeguards on hand to ensure safety, and many were very friendly and amenable if you had questions or concerns. The second water park was at the Stone Hill Lodge across the street and featured a pool, bucket spray feature area and several more waterslides. Personally, I preferred this pool area because it was smaller and easier to keep an eye on my son while I sunbathed. This pool area is more suited to younger kids.
If you are tired of being in the water parks, there is also a large arcade area that features miniature golf, bowling, a ropes course, arcade games, laser tag, and a rock climbing wall. Gaming cards can be purchased in the Adventure Forest arcade and it covers all of the arcade area attractions. There is also “happy hour” in the mornings where these games are half off!
There are also restaurants at Wilderness at the Smokies—we only tried the breakfast buffet. The breakfast buffet at the Thirsty Miner restaurant features Kids Eat Free (8 and under) but we feel like there was not a lot of value with regards to what was offered for breakfast for the cost incurred ( around $15 per adult). The breakfast was okay, but it was typical breakfast fare with nothing exceptional or innovative. We also did eat pizza at the café in the arcade and in the pool area, once again, it was adequate, but nothing to write home about. We never did get ice cream or anything else at the resort, but we were pleased with the proximity of the hotel to several supermarkets, pharmacies, and restaurants to cover any other incidental needs.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay at Wilderness at the Smokies and would likely consider coming back! We enjoyed all of the fun activities for the kids, the central location to the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area and the value for our stay. We have already recommended it to other friends and family! Although, next time we head to the Great Smoky Mountains, we think we may do it in our RV!