State Park Vacations & Road Trips

My sister, Jenny, and her husband, Lucas, live in Argentina, so it was a treat to reunite with them at a state park last weekend. My parents engineered the reunion at a hotel inside Rocky Gap State Park in Maryland.

The combination was perfect: reuniting with faraway family, being in a peaceful setting free from cars and commerce, and relaxing into all-the-comforts lodging.  We didn’t even have to fight D.C. traffic because the two-hour drive brought us in the opposite direction of the crowded beaches.

State parks are on my new list of kid-friendly get-aways. An even less expensive option would have been to stay in a cabin, and it would still be considered “glamping.” According to our friends Rob and Michele, who meet friends at a campsite in Ohio every year, cabins have separate bedrooms, kitchenettes, and air conditioning.

There is something wholesome and deliciously slow about vacationing in a natural setting like a state park.  Besides roasting marshmallows, going canoeing, seeing bald eagles, and picking wild raspberries, the satisfaction for me was the quiet. Fewer distractions and noise meant it was easier to connect with the people I love. Quiet rural settings, as I mentioned last week, have been proven to clear and calm our brains, and I noticed that. I was able to relax, and at the same time, crystallize some thoughts about growing the blog.


If you are also going on a road trip this summer, here’s a packing list for you:

The Family Road Trip Packing List

Have you ever vacationed in a state park? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.


Share this post:


  • Anonymous July 9, 2012, 3:14 pm

    So funny you posted this. After 3 days of NO power from the derecho, my young kids and puppy started to really suffer from the heat so I threw them in the car to go to my parents’ place in Virginia Beach northend near Seashore State Park. Beause my kids are so young, most days I drove into the park because it is on the Bay (so no waves and I could take the dog). We love that state park. They have cabins and camping there. There are also running and hiking trails and a marina. I did my marathon training runs through one part, so scenenic and relaxing. This particular park allows those on bikes on foot and in a car with a handicap permit in for free, others pay a nominal fee. We even saw 3 weddings there on the beach last week! Hope your electricty is back, my neighbor is STILL in the dark. From your fan in the 22301

    PS we made the raspberry sorbet again today

    • Amy July 9, 2012, 9:16 pm

      Hey there!

      First of all, I’m so glad you are liking the sorbet recipe. We just made blueberry sorbet and it was delish.

      I’m so sorry to hear that your power got knocked off for so long, but it looks like you made lemonade out of lemons! Your seaside state park sounds heavenly.

      Thanks for writing in!

  • Jen @ Jen Spends July 9, 2012, 12:09 pm

    We use parks quite a bit, just like my parents did while I was growing up. On July 4th we spent the afternoon at Chittenango Falls having a little picnic and then hiking. My son loves exploring “forests”. Now that we have a dog, it’s nice having places to get away where we are able to bring him along. We’ve never camped or otherwise stayed for more than a day at a park, but after visiting Letchworth State Park last year, I was definitely interested in renting a cabin there!

    • Amy July 9, 2012, 9:14 pm

      Hi Jen,

      I agree with your son –there is something magical about forests. We don’t often get that experience anymore of being surrounded by trees, with no blacktop, cars, or noise.

      I think we might try the cabin thing to next time!

  • Bettie July 9, 2012, 8:35 am

    That looks like a great reunion! I wish we were more outdoor activity lovers but unfortunately, I can’t say I enjoy this too much. So our vacations are more expansive, and that is why we don’t get a lot of them.

    • Amy July 9, 2012, 9:13 pm

      Hi Bettie,

      I know what you mean — I don’t consider myself a really outdoorsy or sporty person, but I do like to get outside. What I loved about this place was that there was a hotel inside the state park — the best of both worlds!

      Take care,

  • Laura July 9, 2012, 6:57 am

    There are so many our family loves!
    Every year we go to Frisco or Ocracoke, NC . Beach camping in the dunes with a tent is not for the faint of heart, mind you, but for $12 per night you get to sleep next to the ocean!

    We just tried Lake Cordorus in PA this year which was wonderful – except you can’t swim in the lake and had to take the kids to their overpriced pool.

    I grew up camping at Lake Moomaw in western VA and still think that is the best, especially during the weekdays when it can be so quiet and still. We are going back there next summer!

    • Amy July 9, 2012, 9:11 pm

      Hi Laura,

      I love the idea of beach camping! And how you try to going during the week when there is more quiet.

      Thanks for writing in,

  • Victoria@Snailpacetransformations July 8, 2012, 3:42 pm

    Our family discovered the fun of camping in state parks last summer after purchasing a second hand tent trailer with cash for our family. For less than $200 for an entire weeks worth of fun for a family of five and that included the extra groceries and fun events like renting a pedal boat they really cannot be beat for frugal family trips.

    • Amy July 8, 2012, 9:25 pm

      Hi Victoria,

      Wow, $200! For a week’s vacation, THAT is what I call frugal. It sounds like it was a really good time, and I love that you can keep repeating it, now that you have the tent trailer.

      Thanks for sharing, Victoria!

  • Nikki O July 8, 2012, 10:12 am

    Looks like a great family get together! We’re currently “glamping” right now at a cabin in Lancaster, PA. It’s just my hubby, me and our two boys, but we’re having a great time! And with the heat wave this week, we’ve been very thankful to have air conditioning!

    • Amy July 8, 2012, 9:23 pm

      Hi Nikki,

      I’m honored that you wrote me from your vacation cabin! And yes, you are very lucky to not only be in a natural setting away from it all, but also to have air conditioning!

      Have a great rest of the trip,

  • Kevin July 7, 2012, 9:49 pm

    We do an annual back to school camping trip at various state parks near Washington, DC. Last August, we went to Rocky Gap State Park with 10 other families in tow. Kids always love it and it gives the adults a chance to have introspective conversations about life and love. This year, we will attend a park on the Eastern Shore with no less than 12 families in tow. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you.

    • Amy July 8, 2012, 9:21 pm

      Hi Kevin,

      So cool that you have been to Rocky Gap too! I love that you had the same bonding experience there. I’m impressed that you are including so many families — what a fun way to catch up with friends.

      Thank you for writing in,