This review of our week at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park Niagara Falls is coming at you a bit late. We’ve been home for two months now and I haven’t had much time to write since getting home due to the craziness we’ve been through with our little guy’s health. I’ve got some quiet time this afternoon and decided it was time to write this review, before I forget everything about our experience!
First, a little back story. We have previously stayed at Jellystone in Fremont, IN. This particular campground wins awards year after year and sets the bar incredibly high for what a family campground should be. Last February, we tried to book a return trip for a week in a cabin for July. They were already fully booked FOR THE ENTIRE MONTH. And so, we had to come up with a Plan B. That ended up being our trip to Niagara Falls. We decided to give the Jellystone Campground at Niagara Falls a try, since that had been part of our Plan A.
Obviously, it wasn’t as good as the campground in Fremont–if it were, it would win all the awards. But it was a nice little campground with a lot going for it and a few things that could use some improvement.
We stayed in a Ranger Smith Cabin. Yes, my boys are all in Boy Scouts and my kids know how to do real camping. But that’s not a vacation in my eyes. GIVE ME ALL THE AIR CONDITIONING.
The cabins were cute and had just about everything we could possibly need. The kitchen was fully stocked with pots and pans and dishes. It had a full bathroom, and two bedrooms–one with a queen sized bed, and one with two sets of bunk beds. There was also a pull out sofa bed. So all in all, the cabin could sleep eight. The air conditioning worked extremely well. So did the smoke detectors–they went off every time I opened the oven, haha! The front porch was great for reading and chatting with our “neighbors” (my aunt and uncle and some of their kids came along on the trip).
The one really weird thing about the cabin was that there was virtually no storage space. The kitchen was so fully stocked with dishes that there were no empty cabinets for food. We ended up piling all our groceries on the kitchen table and eating outside. And we just lined up our Thirty-One totes along the walls to hold shoes and toys and pool gear. There were no shelves anywhere to put anything on. There was one closet with a few hangers and the larger bedroom did have a shelf. But the living space, as lovely and open as it was, could really use some shelving. We’ve stayed in many similar cabins before and never ran into anything like this. It got really frustrating at times to just have stuff EVERYWHERE.
One other weird/frustrating thing was that you got one set of towels and washcloths for your entire stay and if you wanted clean ones, you had to wash them yourself. I don’t really want to do laundry on vacation and these cabins cost enough per night to justify expecting clean towels to be available. I called the office to ask for new ones at one point and was simply told no. Sigh. I know it’s not the end of the world but we only had five washcloths for five people for six nights. Ew?
We loved the set up of the campground. It’s small and there is no lake–and that was a good thing in my book, because the kids could wander around without me worrying about them. Even the little guy was able to take off with the big kids from time to time because we felt safe enough in such a small space. The Ranger Smith Cabins were all together close to the pool and camp store and straight across the campground was the activity center–we could pretty much see the kids walking to either location without a problem.
The activity schedule was very full and the kids enjoyed it immensely. They loved going from activity to activity and each night they spent time highlighting all the things they wanted to do the next day. They played Marco Polo in the pool, tie dyed shirts, played candy bar bingo, went to a board game night, watched a movie, went on hay rides, and so much more. Also, the Yogi Bear characters came out often and were fabulous to interact with. I’m a Disney girl and I’m used to how stingy Disney can be with characters. This Jellystone location did a great job with having them out and about all day.
The downside to the activities was the staff. There were a few older staff members (and by older I mean over twenty) who did a great job, even a fantastic job. But most everything was run by inexperienced teens and I don’t know how many times I had to will myself not to rip an iPhone out of one of their hands and remind them they were supposed to be WORKING. Often we’d go to the activity center and there would be three staff members “working” but all three would have their backs to the kids and never look up from their phones. Frustrating to say the least. But again, the older staff members were wonderful. The teens just really needed some supervision and should not have been trusted to run things on their own.
The Pool & Waterslide
The pool was small and to be honest, I never got in it. I have to be HOT to swim and it was warm that week but I was never hot enough to justify getting in the water. The kids did swim, though. They really enjoyed the waterslide. Compared to the waterslides at our last two family campgrounds (Jellystone in Fremont and Rudolph’s Campground in Santa Claus, IN), the one at Jellystone Niagara wasn’t anything special. It was just an inflatable slide that they deflated each night. It cost extra–you could pay per turn or by the day. The kids tried it a couple times to make sure they liked it and then paid by the day the rest of the week. In fact, I think they spent most of their vacation dollars on that water slide. I never used it but the kids all raved and raved about it.
There is no restaurant on the campground. This was another big adjustment from our previous experiences. There was a little ice cream shop but I never saw anyone working there and quite honestly couldn’t figure out how to place an order.
The camp store had plenty of snacks like chips and candy available. Otherwise, the campground is super close to Walmart, so we just ran over there whenever we needed anything.
One night my aunt and uncle ordered pizza to be delivered but they had a heck of a time figuring out which Domino’s would deliver–and then had issues with the delivery driver not being allowed past the gate. But instead of calling my aunt and uncle to come meet the driver at the gate, the driver just left. Sigh. that wasn’t the campground’s fall by any means, but be careful if you get delivery–you must meet them at the camp store parking lot.
Our kitchen had a gas stove and there was a grill outside.
All in all, we sure didn’t go hungry over the week but I definitely missed having a snack shack sort of place to go grab a pretzel or a slice of pizza like we had done at other places.
A few things to know:
There are no golf carts rentals at this campground so the whole place is much easier to navigate, especially for kids. At Rudolph, we stopped letting the kids walk anywhere without an adult because the golf cart situation was OUT. OF. CONTROL. I was pleased to see the lack of carts here. There is one that the staff uses, but that is it.
Jellystone Niagara campground is bike-friendly, although there’s really no NEED for a bike. It’s small enough to walk quickly anywhere you want to go. But it’s flat and easy to ride a bike if you really wanted to.
Most of the roads are gravel. Bring some kind of shoes that you don’t mind putting on wet feet to walk back and forth to the pool. My little guy, for whatever reason, only brought sneakers. I carried him back from the pool many times because he couldn’t get his feet into his shoes when he was dripping wet. Oops! Luckily Walmart is super close and we grabbed a pair of sandals for him.
There is an ATM available in the camp store. If you are crossing over into Canada from the US, this is important to know. You’ll want Canadian cash! My bank doesn’t let me use my debit card over the border other than at ATMs, so I just went and got cash out every day.
Jellystone Niagara offers a shuttle service over to the Falls. For us, it worked out cheaper to take the shuttle than to pay to park at Table Rock, but you have to do the math on your family to see what option is better. Our driver was wonderful and informative. He gave us a history lesson on our drive over and dropped us off right at Table Rock Welcome Center. For our return, a shuttle showed up within minutes of us arriving at the pick up spot. We found it to be well worth using.
In Summary, overall Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Niagara Falls Campground was a lovely place to spend a week with family. The kids had a great time and were so busy with activities that I managed to read two entire books. But there were definitely some glitches, such as the teenage staff not being well supervised.