Jellystone Park is located outside of Hagerstown, MD, about 2 hours from Baltimore/Annapolis. Take Route 70 West past Frederick. The park is tucked in a weird sort of location near small rural towns and upscale housing developments.
Jellystone is close to several attractions, including Civil War history sites, a lovely county park and the Potomac River.
Fun Things to Keep in Mind:
- Jellystone has themed weekends. The follow through on themes (ours was Christmas in July) is a little lame, but the kiddos thought it was cool. They were mad I didn’t decorate our cabin from chimney to porch.
- Most families rent a golf cart to get around the campground, which I found to be a fun idea, but counter to the idea of being active outdoors. The park is not large and it’s easy to walk anywhere.
- Facilities include a bathhouse for roomier and family showers, a video game room that requires purchase of tokens, a snack hut featuring typical junk food and ice cream, several playgrounds and some pet friendly areas.
- Staff rides around in golf carts with extra wood and supplies on hand. They are exceptionally friendly and helpful.
- There is a day use fee, paid per person. While visitors of overnight guests can come for the day (they pay the day use fee), the park is not open to day traffic.
- At different times of the year, a two night stay is required.
The Bottom Line:
- Hubby calls this a home-away-from-home for hillbillies.
- I call it a great place for the kids to run and play, as long as you can ignore some of the details and keep it in perspective.
- The kids say…”It was AWE-SOME> Why did daddy make us leave?
What’s the Scoop?
I’m an outdoors kind of gal, sadly stuck in suburbia far from the kinds of adventures I crave. I’m not technically far. The Blue Ridge, Allegheny and Appalachian Mountains are within driving distance. The beach is just two hours away.
But the reality is that my kids are little and my husband has been largely away on travel for the past several years. They are too big for the bike trailer and too small for long hikes. And honestly, I developed a weird sense of insecurity about the outdoors.
What if #1 got lost in the woods? What if #2 came across a bear while picking berries? What if the wolves that were re-introduced near my mom’s cabin decided we taste like little sandwich cookies? What if some creep came up on us from out of the deep dark woods and we were never heard from again? Like those ladies in Colorado who were randomly attacked on a morning hike and had to fight their way back home with multiple broken bones and a lunatic chasing them?
What if..what if…Roughing it alone in the wild suddenly became something I was…well, frankly scared of. This is new for me. I’m an independent kind of girl. What I am NOT is a wimp.
Anyway, my goal for this summer was to expose my children to The Great Outdoors. Preferably in places where lions, tigers and wolves (there are bears in Maryland, so that remains an issue) wouldn’t threaten our fun.
I made reservations for a lovely campground near the Delaware Sea Shore. I borrowed a nice big family-sized tent. The children got new sleeping bags and sturdy shoes. And then it stormed. Major–the thunder and lightening kind that #2 says he doesn’t mind but when you check his pulse his heart is exploding kind.
So I planned a backyard campout. It was suddenly so hot and humid I could hardly breathe, let alone imagine sleeping without A/C.
After those failures-to-launch, I made reservations for Jellystone Park in Hagerstown, Maryland.
I had never been to Jellystone before, and neither had any of my friends. I had no idea what to expect beyond what I saw on the company’s website. But it looked like a lot of fun and it was located in Western Maryland, which is typically much cooler than the low-lying intertidal areas of Maryland that are wickedly hot and humid.
Let me break it down like this:
Jellystone is an awesome place for kids to be outside in a traditional, old fashioned setting where they think they are camping…but really aren’t.
There is a great pool with a large waterslide located in the center of the facility. Right next to it is a playground, outdoor movie theater and jump pillow. My kids could have spent hours on that pillow. At first, I was wary of it–there were some crazy kids (an entirely family of which sported real, true mullets that they didn’t even wear with pride–they were so offhand about their ‘dos, as if it was completely normal and they were totally fine being the progeny of no less a hero than Joe Dirt) who evidently were not taught how to play well with others and a lackadaisical teenage “lifeguard” who seemed to be dozing off in the sun.
Then I figured out that there is an activity schedule. Little kids get the pillow first thing in the morning while the older ones (God Bless Them) are sleeping in. Older kids get the pillow later and so it goes all day until dusk.
I also figured out that the kids who didn’t have mullets or mohawks wanted one, and that all boys of any age are going to push, shove and shout when they get excited on the jump pillow. In fact, what better way to get all that testosterone energy out than by jumping?
#1 liked Cindy’s Arts & Crafts Center, where she made tie-dye T Shirts and danced to a great band one evening. Both kids were enamored by a tiny little landscaped pond by the activity center, where a lovely frog resided. I managed to catch it for them one night while it hid under a utility truck.
He also liked The Ranger Station, where there was a plethora of cheap, obnxious toys he JUST HAD TO HAVE alongside marshmellow sticks, propane and various emergency trailer tools.
Near the ranger station is a nice little putt putt course and another pool. Both are close to the campground (really everything is) but situated in quiet pockets away from the center of the facility.
It’s that heartland of the property that got to us adults.
We were housed in a Comfort Cabin, which was advertised as:This 14′ x 24′ cottage sleeps four and has two separate sleeping areas: one room has a set of bunk beds and the main room has a double bed. The main room also contains a kitchette with a full size refriderator, microwave, coffee maker, toaster, dishes, silverware and tableware for four people. The bathroom has a shower, sink and toilet. Cable TV, ceiling fan, heat and air conditioning are included. This cottage also has an eight ft screened in front porch with a table and four chairs. Outside you will find a picnic table and fire ring for your use.
This sounded good enough for my family of four. Now take this next bit with a grain of salt, because what’s good for one may not be good for another, and we weren’t exactly at The Ritz. We pulled up to the cabin and I thought it was great–actually, I was pretty excited. But when you pass the picnic table (cute), fire ring (nice touch), and patio table on the screened in porch (handy), you enter into the cabin. Rude awakening: it’s one room with a double bed snugly fit between two walls and directly across from the kitchenette (just a few feet away in fact), which holds some dishes, a coffee maker, a couple cabinets and a fridge. The second room has one set of twin bunkbeds, both covered with a mattress pad. It was the pad that got me. So skeevy. If I had known, I would have brought a pad…and sheets…and bed bug spray. It was dirty. There is no getting around that. For a moment I considered making the kids sleep in the back of the truck.
The bathroom was standing room only, with a small sink, toilet and tiny stand up shower.
There is electricity. The TV is the size of a large book, roughly. There is no stove, but there is a microwave and anyway there is a fire ring. The intent is to spend time outside afterall. For breakfast I brought my griddle, ran an extension cord to the trailer electric hook-up, and whipped up bacon, pancakes and eggs in proper fashion. My husband teased that I fit right in with the locals and I told him I was just reliving my childhood.
Can you hear me click my heels? “There’s no food like camp food. There’s no food like camp food….”
My husband is the one with much to say about the accomodations.
I can roll.
He wants room service.
For him, the cabin, which was situated between a family reunion housed in a camper trailer and various tents on one side; a husband, wife and little girl on the other side and another family reunion in a larger cabin just beyond that, was simply too close to other people. He is a security, safety minded person, so he was pretty freaked out at the feeling that any skeevy Joe could snap up his kids and run for the hills.
I don’t disagree. It was cramped and not at all private. For me, the beds were an issue. A double bed cost $222/night. Couldn’t it have at least been a Queen? But a queen would not have fit in the space.
And they were just plain gross.
When I later called the campground, they said that guests are expected to clean and that a crew is sent around for last minute touch ups before the next guests arrive. To be fair, there are luxury cabins, which are larger. I didn’t see the inside, but can only assume they offer more space. They are priced at $263/night. Like all other sizes of cabins, they are sandwiched between activity centers or tent sites.
I just kept thinking that I could be at Great Wolf Lodge or the Hyatt Cambridge for about $139/night.
But that line of thinking is spoiled and contrary to the point: time in the great outdoors. And it’s just downright…snobby.
The campground in general is quite cramped in summer. I don’t know what it’s like in fall, though we will find out as I think it will have a huge cold, scary, creepy factor for Halloween that the kids will adore.
There are just so many campsites, and every inch of ground is considered marketable property. Tent sites abound along the entry to the heartland, as I call it. Camper trailer sites are situated mostly on the back of the property. Looking around, I didn’t see or hear anyone else complaining. Hubbie was so agitated though that he left the property to explore the surrounding area. He found Antietam and dragged us there for the afternoon…
My greatest complaint about Jellystone, besides the total lack of privacy and skeevy beds, is that the management doesn’t seem to consider the wide range of ages that visit. The outdoor movie started at 9 and blasted until 11. That meant that our cabin windows were vibrating to the sounds of “Elf” and my little toddlers couldn’t get to sleep until close to midnight. I can tell you the next day wasn’t nearly as much fun as it could have been with some rest–for everyone.
Teenagers played basketball, and as teenagers do, were swearing, cursing and yelling, until dark. Several golf carts were raced through the campgrounds by young folks engaged in age-appropriate, absolutely mindless fun. What stood out is that the staff is largely hands-off unless an emergency occurs, an event is about to start, or you hail them yourself.
Feel free to share...