With spring break approaching and summer not too far behind, families will be feeling the need to get away. With work schedules and sometimes tight finances, we don’t all always have the luxury of taking a full week off to go on grand vacations. Even when time and money are limited though, we could all use a few days break! A small vacation to reset, refuel and create new memories with our children. These four locations in South Louisiana are all within a few hours driving distance, are perfect for a long weekend getaway and have all been approved by my four children! We have the memories to prove it!
Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Robert, La.
When my husband was in medical school and we lived in Shreveport, La., our finances were very tight. We had 4 small children and my husband’s time was very limited to spend with us. He was given a little time off the first week of June and we wanted so badly to be able to take the kids somewhere FUN, but financially doable. Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park was perfect for just that! Now, I grew up in Hammond, just 15 minutes down the road from Jellystone, yet I had never been! My family traveled a lot and I grew up going to other Yogi Bear campgrounds around the U.S., so I couldn’t wait to give my children a good ole fashioned Yogi Bear experience!
At Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park there are sets of cabins, each centered around their own pool. We chose a cabin centered around the handicapped pool, which was GREAT because it is the only no-entry pool by the sets of cabins and worked to our advantage having a 1, 3, 4, and 7 year old! It is also the only set of cabins with a pool that also has tons of grass space in the common area for the kids to run around in while you barbecue. I believe these cabins are called La Lodge and Petite Lodge (might want to call to clarify) – A MUST!
We had such fun filled days. We started every morning with a sing-along hayride! We’d plop our 4 kids up on those hay barrels and travel around the campground singing loud and proud, while Yogi Bear himself chased us down, yelling, “Hey Boo Boo! Wait for me!” We spent our day in the main pool area, where there is a deep pool, a kiddie pool and a wet-play ground. There is mini-golf, canoeing, kayaking, fishing ponds, a game room, basketball court, paddle boat rentals, and more! My girls loved the activities in the recreation center. There was a large movie screen and planned crafts throughout the day for a fee. They made tie-dyed shirts and painted pottery, while their brothers went back to the cabin to nap. There is an ice cream stand and snowballs, a cafe with homemade burgers and delicious breakfast and a general store! All in all, a fantastic family getaway for families with little children.
CONS: The cabins could use a facelift. Uncomfortable mattresses with plastic on them and you have to bring everything like sheets, blankets and towels. The cabins are sparse and definitely don’t come with the bells and whistles, but think of it as indoor camping. My kids certainly didn’t care.
Chicot State Park in Ville Platte, La.
This was another vacation we took while living in Shreveport, hubby in med school and we just wanted to get away for a few days. We went in October, when our oldest daughter had a couple of days off for fall break. Our fall break must have been different from South Louisiana’s because there was literally no one there but us. It was a little eerie, but wonderful! The cabins there are soooo beautiful. We were amazed by the large picturesque windows and huge living and kitchen spaces. There was even a screened in porch with a picnic table, where we ate all of our meals. Since it was fall, the pool was closed, but that didn’t matter to us. The kids rode bikes (we brought), flew kites, went exploring in the woods, played on the playground, we barbecued, and had nightly raccoon visitors! There is also the Louisiana State Arboretum, located in the park, with miles of hiking trails with labeled plant life. It was just a quiet, serene vacation, for families that like to be outdoors.
CONS: The cabins are booked up for months on the weekends. You might try going during the week if you can swing it.
Coushatta Casino Resort in Kinder, La.
That’s right, I am recommending a casino as a family getaway. This mini-vacation came about a couple of years ago, when my two youngest were turning 5 and 7. This was pretty much a bribe to spend money on a two night getaway for their birthdays that the whole family could enjoy instead of spending tons of money on 2 birthday parties that would last two hours. We wanted somewhere close and somewhere fun to kick off the summer with great pools. We searched several casinos and this one had the best price for our size family. The kids had a blast! There is a lazy river, a giant pool with a swim-up bar for the adults, a splash pad and two waterslides. They also sell poolside food and popsicles. There were tons of families there with small children enjoying all of the pool amenities. The hotel was nice and suitable for our family. There is also a Kids Quest area, with an indoor playground, arcade games, arts and crafts, and much more. For the kids to enjoy this area, you have to pay an hourly fee for them to pretty much babysit your kids while you go to the casino area or go eat, get a drink, etc. I was very hesitant about doing this because I had no need to go to the casino and pay for childcare, but the kids begged us to leave them because it looked like so much fun. We paid for one hour and my husband and I went and sat in one of the restaurants, had a beer, and watched some of the LSU baseball game that was on. It was kind of nice!
So the casino area … kids aren’t allowed in the casino area and have to stay on the red carpet to walk through the casino to get to the restaurants. That was a sight to see! Their eyes were huge, making sure they stayed on that carpet and gawking at the sights and sounds of the machines! They had never seen anything like it and they had lots of questions about people with oxygen tanks and cigarettes in hand! We scurried them along like little ducks, promising to answer questions in the privacy of the hotel room! The kids thought the restaurants were amazing because they had never eaten at a buffet before. Endless desserts and more servings of whatever they wanted made this, according to them, the best place ever!
CONS: The cigarette smoke. The restaurants are no smoking but they are open to the gaming area, so you get the ‘cig’ aroma while in them. Kids must also be 48″ tall to use the 2 waterslides. We didn’t know that and our boys were too short. They were disappointed at first but quickly got over it.
Grand Isle in Grand Isle, La.
Last Easter, we wanted to go somewhere for a few days, but my husband couldn’t take off the whole week from work. His business partner has a fishing camp in Grand Isle and for years has been telling us we could use it. We finally took him up on his offer and visited Grand Isle for the 1st time. I quickly realized, Grand Isle is a hidden little gem in South Louisiana. We went in April, when the weather was perfect and the ‘Isle’ wasn’t crowded. I felt like it was a tiny beach town right here in our own state! The beaches aren’t deep, white sand, but they weren’t bad either. The water isn’t clear blue, but rather a brown, gulf water, but both of these made no difference to the kids. They swam, they pl
ayed in the sand, we flew kites, listened to music on the beach, all with sunny skies and an April breeze. We went to the snowball stand barefooted and in bathing suits, we ate meals outside and underneath the elevated, local Jo-Bob’s Gas and Grill (for some reason, they think that is so fun!).
We go to the marina to sit outside and eat and watch the boats come in and to watch the dolphins jump! I’ve never seen so many dolphins up close! They come into the bay by the boat dock to eat the fishermen’s scraps. It is truly a sight to see. At night, we watch family movies, play board games, and order dinner to go from the Starfish Restaurant. We have been lucky enough to use our friend’s camp, but camp rentals are available on sites such as VRBO. It has become our little redneck, Louisiana “beach” getaway.
CONS: Brown gulf water and during the summer, it’s got to be Louisiana hot! I recommend going in the late spring or early fall.