Full disclosure: I never went camping as a kid. Not once. Just didn't come from a very tent-pitching, fire-starting kind of family, I guess. But now that I have two kids of my own, I'm determined to introduce them to the joys of vacationing in the great outdoors. The hiking! The fishing! The marshmallows!
The only problem is deciding which amazing family-friendly campsite to visit first -- there are so many stellar spots across the country. At least I've got them narrowed down a little bit!
These are the top 8 super cool campgrounds on my list ...
1. Silverton, Colorado. Helen Olsson, author of The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping With Kids, turned me on to this awesome idea: Since little ones aren't so great at hauling gear, get llamas to carry your loads of stuff! Camping outfitter Redwood Llamas offers both full-service pack trips (including guide, tents, llamas, and meals) and drop-camp options (everything but the gear and food).
2. Mount Desert Island, Acadia National Park. I've only been to Acadia National Park in Maine once -- but I've been dying to go back ever since. It is, in a word, beautiful. Like, majestically, magically beautiful. The two main campgrounds on Mount Desert Island, Blackwoods Campground and Seawall Campground, are surrounded by woods and are just a 10-minute walk from the ocean.
3. Niobrara River Valley, Nebraska. This wide, relatively shallow river is ideal for canoeing and/or kayaking with kids. Rock formations and waterfalls make for gorgeous scenery, and don't forget the binoculars for bird-watching!
4. Anastasia State Park, St. Augustine, Florida. Sand dunes, salt marshes, and the oldest Spanish fortress standing in America make these preserved wetlands a must-visit for intrepid explorers.
5. Macedonia State Park. If you like to hike, Connecticut's Blue Trail System can't be beat -- views from Cobble Mountain make for perfect photo-ops and there are tons of fresh water streams for fishing.
6. Yosemite Pines, California. Not so ready to rough it? You'll get the full camp out experience here, plus a swimming pool, Wi-Fi, petting zoo, and activities from gold-panning to ice cream socials.
7. First Landing State Park, Virginia. The state's most popular park offers swimming and boating in the Chesapeake Bay, fishing, hiking, and more -- plus it's pet-friendly and gives visitors the choice of ground or cabin camping.
8. Devil's Lake State Park, Wisconsin. The Ice Age Trail is just as dramatic as it sounds: Picture 500-foot bluffs looming over a 360-acre lake. Keep your eyes peeled for badgers!
Does your family have a favorite campsite?
Image via Brian Fitzgerald/Flickr