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Before children, camping was an adventure. We got dirty. We drank during the day. We slept on the dirt with only a thin layer of stuffed polyester protecting our bodies from the rocks. We cooked on grills powered by fires we painstakingly built from twigs and newspapers. We powered through the day and talked around the campfire late into the night. S'mores.

 

 

Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Us before kids (just in different bodies)

 

 

After my first son, Kaleb was born, I couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to do it while practicing Attachment Parenting which involves: nursing on demand (=no sleep) and still enjoy the sun and the waves that had become the staple of our annual surf camping trips. It just wasn't going to happen. And then it did. We rented a luxury RV, something I said I'd never do, ridiculing it as glamping (glamour camping) instead of actual 'set-up your own tent, shower under cold water in under 3 minutes and bring a huge cooler full of food that you hoped wouldn't spoil in the 3-5 days it would be under the blaring sun' kind of camping.

 

 

RV camper - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Ahh this is the life....

 

 

It was actually pretty great. I got to sleep with my baby in an air-conditioned, quiet bed while the rest of the crew did whatever they wanted in the outside world. Kitchen, refrigerator, private bathroom with a hot shower. Plus all the regular camping stuff we loved. So it was settled, that's how it would be and that's how it's been the times we've gone camping since.

 

 

baby love - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Thank you mommy for not making me sleep in the dirt

 

 

Kampgournds of America invited us to go camping at the  KOA Ventura Ranch campsite. The promised accommodations in a Deluxe Cabin. This would be a curious departure from our newly redefined rough and tumble camping days aboard a mobile palace. Plus, we usually glamped camped at the beach and this site was about half an hour inland.

OK, so let's talk about the location. First of all, who knew there was a secluded paradise nestled between a couple ghost towns only an hour's drive from Los Angeles? Well, maybe not ghost towns but we definitely felt like we were crossing into another world (picture the movie Deliverance), as we all craned our necks to look out the side window when we drove by a deep ravine that housed what appeared to be the remnants of a mobile home and bulldozer.

 

 

andrewluck_deliverance - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

OK, maybe not that bad but kinda scary! (Photo courtesy Warner Bros.)

 

 

My kids asked if anyone lived there. I said I didn't know. I couldn't see how they'd come and go if they did.

When we arrived at the site, we picked up our keys and got a glimpse of what awaited us for the weekend.

 

 

activity board - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

A whole roster of family fun!

 

 

They directed us to a cabin that looked like it had very little to do with camping except for the magnificent surroundings in which it was set.

 

 

cabin view - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Our weekend view

 

 

deluxe cabin - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

....and the place from which we'd be viewing it....

 

 

Camping essentials awaited.

 

 

wine and smores sticks - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Campers need s'mores kits with white wine to wash them down...all available from the campground market!

 

 

The boys couldn't wait to explore and luckily we brought their bikes.

 

 

PRO TIP: bring the bikes! - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Reporting for Adventure Duty!

 

 

PRO TIP: bring the bikes!

 

 

The thing about camping is camping people are really friendly. It's not like the real world. In this world, it's easy to meet new people and connect in warm and fuzzy ways.

 

 

dog friend - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Kaleb making new friends

 

 

Something unique to this camping site, though, was the legion of peacocks strutting their stuff.

 

 

peacock - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Hot to trot

 

 

They really were everywhere.

 

 

peacock - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Whatcha looking at?

 

 

Kaleb decided he would try to make friends with them too.

 

 

peacock with kaleb - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Here kitty kitty kitty

 

 

They may have been turned off by his assertive nature.

 

 

kaleb falling chasing peacock - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Our first camping injury

 

 

We later learned that the peacocks have been there for generations. The land used to be owned by the Chumash Indians and the Chief visited the Australian Head of State back when they still lived on the campground land and it was a custom back then - by the Australians - to gift peacocks to all new relations established between countries. So that's how they got there and I thought it was pretty cool that they're still there!

Our weekend schedule was packed but the first item on the agenda was creating s'mores by the campfire and we didn't want to miss that so we had to tear ourselves from our explorations and get some grub on.

Daddy took the lead.

 

 

barbecuing - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

The outdoors brings out the grill in a man!

 

 

hungry kids - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Is it ready yet?

 

 

eating - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Now we're talking!

 

 

eating hotdogs - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Gourmet kid dinner

 

 

Then it was time to meet the other members of our group over an old-fashioned s'mores cookout.

 

 

s'mores - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Showing 'em how it's done

 

 

making s'mores - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Fire's smokey!

 

 

burning marshmallow - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Oh oh!

 

 

eating s'mores - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

still yummy!

 

 

After all that sugar, it was time to go to bed because we had a full day planned for tomorrow.

Once we were able to wrangle the jumping jellybeans into bed, they settled nicely into their loft beds.

 

 

sleeping in loft - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

So cozy.....

 

 

bed in loft - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Ahhhh....

 

 

The next day everyone was excited to hit the rock walls after breakfast. For $10, visitors are able to scale the walls and gently return to Earth only to go again.

 

 

rock wall - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

 

 

The boys must have gone up and down 20 times each.

Mommy made it to the top - once. Almost.

 

 

rock wall climbing - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

It's harder than it looks!

 

 

There's also a track around which you can ride peddle carts.

 

 

peddle bikes - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Kaleb making more new friends.

 

 

Next, it was time to take our (my) tired arms and create a memorable souvenir: a tie-dyed KOA t-shirt.

 

 

dying shirts - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Creating art in nature is the best....

 

 

tie dying - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Nope, it doesn't wash off....

 

 

tie dying - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Kaleb making more new friends....he really is a friendly guy!

 

 

This was a fantastic project we got to take home and proudly wear our creations around town. After lunch, it was time for a little excitement: zip lining.

There are two platforms from which riders can plummet zip down. The first is 800 feet long and the second is 650. Riders speed along at 25 mph. It costs $15 for the first line and $25 for both.

After strapping on their gear, the boys were ready to go. Riders must be 70lbs. to ride alone but they can go tandem if they don't meet that requirement.

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Waving goodbye to their fans

 

 

There are 485 KOA campsites around the country. Some of them are franchises that are privately owned. Ventura Ranch KOA owner, Scott Cory, loves his work and spent the weekend helping guests in a variety of activities. This Saturday afternoon, he spent hours on the hot platform strapping people safely onto the zipline.

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Scott Cory - hands on leadership

 

 

Cory has a wonderful imagination and wants to turn the whole campsite into a nature wonderland for kids and families. He took this once dilapidated, mostly abandoned, county campsite five years ago and has already made it an escape for city families. He's got even greater plans to expand his vision. He wants to extend the length of the zip line ride. He's building more teepees and deluxe cabins and tents by next season since they're always so busy. He's also in the works of adding two new water slides to the pool area by 2018.

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Wait. Are you sure we want to do this?

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

OK, we're ready!

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

I'm gonna pee my pants!

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Don't pee your pants!!!!

 

 

zip lining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Yippeeee! (no peeeeeee!)

 

 

Next in our turnstile of activity, we got to go mining for gems in the KOA campsite quarry.....or rather mining station.

 

 

mining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Ye ol' watering hole

 

 

Mining is free but you have to buy a bag of goodies buried in sacred sand to participate. Those vary between$7-$25.

 

 

mining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Ready to get rich!

 

 

First, you dump the contents of the bag into the sifter.

 

 

mining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

 

 

Then you submerge the pans into the water to let the liquid uncover your treasures.

 

 

mining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Is this how the gold miners did it?

 

 

mining - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

OMG! Look Knox!

 

 

mining discovery - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

EUREKA! Just like the olden days.

 

 

After cashing in on our treasures, we decided to commence our new life of leisure by exploring the various nature paths surrounding our campsite (er, cabin). We heard about the lovely Big Foot Trail and found a clue on how to get there.

 

 

big foot trails - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Truly terrified.

 

 

We knew we'd be going on the Big Foot hike later with the group but we decided to see if we could find him on our own first. The trail led down to the riverbank, which of course, led to the discovery of rocks, which of course led to the activity of throwing them.

 

 

throwing rocks - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Practicing in case we actually find Big Foot

 

 

Along the way, we passed by some of the other cool accommodations available to guests.

 

 

teepee - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

What an adventure!

 

 

There is a row of super deluxe cabins which were first featured on the TV show, American Dream Builders.

 

 

super deluxe cabins - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

 

 

peacocks on cabin - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

I used to be on TV, now I just hang out with peacocks

 

 

It was a contest to see who could design the cutest little space.

 

 

inside of cabin - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

It's what's on the inside that counts anyway

 

 

Corry bought the cabins after the shows aired and now rents the spaces out for weddings and to high-end glampers.

 

 

deluxe cabin views

Would you want to get married here? I do! I do!

 

 

But back to our hike. We had had a really rough week as a family before we arrived on our retreat. Getting away from it all couldn't have come at a better time. There really is something about Mother Nature that soothes and brings out the best in everyone.

 

 

brothers - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

See? We're not even trying to kill each other!

 

 

We saw a cute little playground after our hike and the boys found what appeared to be a stranded spaceship. So we had to check it out.

 

 

spaceship toy - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Clearly a transport forgotten by NASA

 

 

They went on a short space mission.

 

 

happy kid - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Captain! I think I see life!

 

 

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That night, after dinner, we went with a bigger group on an actual search for the legendary beast, Big Foot.

 

 

Big Foot Hike - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

Spookyyyyyy

 

 

We did actually find him but for some reason, as luck would have it, my camera wouldn't take snap his picture, so you'll just have to take our word for it.

Finally, the kids couldn't stay awake another minute and mommy was yawning after our full day but we couldn't leave without lighting a campfire!

 

 

firepit - Glamping with Kids at Ventura Ranch KOA

 

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The onsite store has things like firewood in case you forget to buy it and other essentials items like wine but they don't carry butter for your corn. So if you forget that, you're out of luck.

 

 

happy campers - glamping at ventura ranch KOA with kids

Happy Campers

 

 

This was a great trip and such a short drive from our house in Los Angeles, it was nice that the kids weren't trying to kill each other or whine through the last hours of the usual drive because it only took us about 45 minutes to get there on a Friday night! Bonus points!

We had to say goodbye to all our new friends after breakfast and before Knox was even done swallowing his food, he was already asking when we could come back.

 

 

Knox with bagel - glamping at ventura ranch KOA with kids

 

 

Getting There

 

Ventura Ranch KOA is 70 miles from downtown LA. Residents will know that the drivetime depends on traffic.