A Better Bus Ride To Camp: Where To Stop?

February 13, 2012

This post is written by Zach Kreeger, Area Director in Broomfield, CO.

In our area, we train ourselves to truly believe that camp starts when the first kid shows up to the bus – not when we get off the bus at a YL property. In the previous ‘Better bus ride to camp’ articles, you’ve read about bus program and games – all of which are awesome! What I want to throw out is where you choose to stop. Especially for those of us who make the 18-48 hour bus trips, these stops are game changers for kids and leaders alike. What am I talking about? In-N-Outs, Burger Kings – all those are great – but I’m talking about the Big Kahuna’s.

First of all, it’s helpful if these locations are close to camp so that if something goes wrong with your bus ride, you can cancel that stop and still get to camp on time. Second, safety can’t be over communicated. Be it people, activity, whatever, you’re unloading a bus of kids and setting them free after being caged for a day. Be clear and careful. When/where are we meeting back up. ‘You have to go with a leader,’ ‘Don’t buy assault rifles or heroin,’ etc…

Thanks to many of you for commenting below and submitting the following ideas. Keep em’ coming!

General Ideas (That Could Work For Many Camps)

Goodwill stores- buy funny clothes for camp


Major League Soccer games

Major League Baseball games: If you’re on a long trip chances are you’ll drive through a big enough city that they would have a baseball team. Get tickets in a group far enough in advance and you could get bleacher seats or better for a pretty good price. It’s a good 4 hours so not too short but not too long to delay the trip. Memorable time for kids and a new experience for many too. Great way for everyone to end a day on the bus before entering into an overnight ride. -Travis Rieth, Holland, MI

Hot New Summer Movies

Alpine slides like this can be found in Colorado, Wisconsin, Utah, and a few other places. (via Cody Sletten)

Indoor Trampoline Parks like JumpSkyHigh.com 

Gymnastics gyms with foam pits!

Amusement Parks

I believe choosing a good place to stop for lunch on the way to camp is crucial, especially for any trip over 5 hours. Usually the bus driver has a good idea. Also, I’ve worked at a Chick-Fil-A before and they will at times help you out and make a boxed lunch for you or cut you a deal if you bring a ton of people. And it’s always good to try to call ahead so they are ready.

A great stop whether heading north to Timberwolf, Saranac, or Lake Champion from the south or if you are heading south to sharp Top, Windy Gap or Rock Bridge from the north…. Stopping in Cleveland Ohio to Go to Cedar Point is a Must!!!! Best Roller Coasters and the Nicest staff at any Park in America hands down. They also offer group discounts. -Geoff Foster

If you’re looking for a place to stop as you travel through western Kansas, the town of Colby has the easiest-to-access Starbucks at the Oasis Travel Plaza. It’s right off I-70 and offers a great bathroom break if necessary. If you are coming from the east, it’s a good place to stop because that means you will have been without Starbucks for at least four hours, if not more. 🙂  -Jay

Beyond Malibu/Malibu Club

We may stop in Kellogg Idaho on our way from billings mt to Malibu. At silverwood they have watersides and an amusement park. -Jenny Dow




If you’re going to Castaway from the south, you could always stop at the Mall of America in Minneapolis. -Sean Foster

Clearwater Cove


Crooked Creek/Frontier Ranch/Trail West/RMR/Wilderness

Alpine slides like this can be found in Colorado.

There are a ton of places if you are going to camp in Colorado. Noah’s Ark in Buena Vista is great to white water raft. There are natural hot springs all over the state. If you are going to crooked creek a must stop is Lewis sweet shop in Empire. This is the little town when you get off I-70 onto hwy 40. They have a cool atmosphere and great ice cream.

Last year our area went to jump street in Denver on the way to Crooked Creek. Theres nothing better than a bunch of high schoolers and indoor trampolines. -Wes Emery

We haven’t done this in a while, but we used to stop at Beau Jo’s Pizza in Idaho Springs, CO along I-70 on our way to Crooked Creek from Beaumont, TX (21 hours). Great pizza, can accommodate large groups, and you can get great pictures with the atmosphere of the restaurant. -Kyle Burdick

If you are traveling through St. Louis on your way to/from CO…forget the arch…there are tons of FREE & AWESOME museums. no joke. -Julia

If you’re headed out to Colorado, and have raised a good amount of money, a white water rafting day is great. You get the kids doing something adventurous and new and it gives the leader a time to shine and step up with kids in the individuals rafts. -Drew Mendoza

We head to Frontier Ranch or Crooked Creek (from Georgia). It’s always fun to stop in St. Louis at The Arch. We also like to stop in Denver and go to a Rockies game or just to hang out in downtown.

When we go to Frontier or Crooked Creek, it’s always fun to take our South Georgia kids to spend time in Denver. Just walking around and shopping at REI can be a blast. Also recommend the Old Spaghetti Factory in downtown Denver.

Sky ridge park in canon city is a fun stop on the way to Crooked Creek. “scream till daddy (or the busdriver) stops!”Miniature golf, go carts, snack bar. -Becky

Trail Dust Steak House in Denver, bring lots of old ties from dads and make kids wear them, then they cut off your tie and nail it to the wall.  Line dancing too. And a big indoor slide.

In heading from Charlotte, NC out to any of the Colorado camps, our trips always stop at CasaBonitaDenver.com …it’s a ridiculous restaurant with a ton of different rooms including indoor cliff diving from the entertainers! Great times!

Lake Champion/ Saranac Lake

When I was in high school we went to Saranac Village and on the way back we stopped at Niagara Falls! I could not think of a more perfect way to end the best week of my life! We got there in the evening so it was pretty cool to watch the sunset while there. The views are free and there are some ice cream shops and things like that.- Eric Decker

On the way to Saranac from the south, just off the NY State Thruway – Six Flags Great Escape Lodge – Indoor Water Park. Check it out: http://www.sixflagsgreatescapelodge.com/  -Marcus

Lost Canyon

On the way to Lost Canyon on Leader Retreats and Student Winter Camps, we have occasionally stopped close to or in Flagstaff to go sledding. It’s a great time to be together and laugh hysterically. We’ve only needed first aid one time! Definitely worth the risk! Flagstaff is a very under rated place to hang out or grab some great food. -John Lunsford

On the way to Lost Canyon through Flagstaff are the Lavatubes. Pretty sweet short stop, 3/4 mile long hole in the ground created by lava. -McGuire

On your way to Lost Canyon, it would be fun to stop at bearizona in Williams, Arizona. Never been but sounds like a blast! -Joshua

If your traveling west to Lost Canyon, Sliderock State Park is a pretty cheap, fun, and safe stop. Usually $150 for the entire bus to unload, soak up some sun, play in the water, cliff jump (okay 10 feet high if your lucky), get some energy out and rinse off.-Zach Kreeger

Also Lost Canyon is close to the Grand Canyon…which is not lost. It is absolutely an amazing and worshipful experience but if you’re a 16 year old boy, it might just be a big lame hole in the ground. I’d suggest Sliderock.- Zach Kreeger


If you are in California. You must, must, must, stop at In n’ out. It’s a requirement.

Pico Escondido

There’s a sweet HUGE cliff you can jump off into the ocean, the property staff at Pico know about it, so ask them to take you there.  Also, the first church in the America’s is in Santo Domingo.


If you’re on your way down to Rockbridge (from up North, coming down I-81) I would suggest stopping at Shenandoah National Park. You have to drive up a mountain, but it is highly worth it. Some great hikes and it is only a couple hours away from Rockbridge! -Joe Vickers

Whenever we go to Rockbridge we always stop at the tamarack but it is always super busy. It would be nice to know another place where we could stop to save sometime and money. -Sean Whelan

If you are going from Georgia to Virginia (Rockbridge) we always stopped at the Ocoee River in Tennessee and rafted, it’s awesome. Also, you should watch the Sandlot at least once per trip. -PJ Smith

Sharptop Cove

Whirly Ball in Atlanta is fun! On your way to Sharptop. And the Braves game if their in town!

Stone Mountain Laser Light Show! Fo sho!

Atlanta Braves game! American’s team!

On our way back from SharpTop to NC, we went midnight bowling at Golden Park (108 Balcome Blvd, Simpsonville, SC) from 12-2am! http://www.goldenpark.net/ -Ashley

On our way to Sharptop Cove we stop in Chattanooga, TN and there are so many fun things to do. If you are looking for a place where kids can burn energy at eat all at once, the Chattanooga mall food court is a solid choice. If you want to do something adventurous and fun there are plenty of outdoor things to do in Chattanooga where you can hike, sit in a park or play spike ball! -Kenz

One of the best places to stop on your way to Windy Gap has to be Six Flags, Georgia, Or if your on a budget go to a Braves game in Atlanta. Or swing through Cleveland, TN and go to the Ocoee River to go white water river rafting where the Olympics took place. Can’t beat that. -Derek Wells


Disney World! Sea World!


On the drive to Timberwolf we always stop at Cabelas. Always so much fun. -Nicole

If you are going to TimberWolf you should stop at the Tanger Outlets!

To start off a great Trip to TimberWolf Lake there is nothing like gulping down a slushy at Quik Trip in KC! Woot Woot!

When we went to Timberwolf Lake last summer, we stopped and had a couple hours on the beach at Lake Michigan. It was a great time for kids to stretch, get some fresh air, play in the water, build sand castles, etc.

Washington Family Ranch: Canyon (YL) Creekside (Wyldlife)

Deschutes River rafting with the Imperial River Company in Maupin, Oregon is a great activity when going to Washington Family Ranch!

Windy Gap

If going to Windy Gap, go raft the Nolichucky. It’s a lesser known river, but lots of fun.

Tupelo Honey in Asheville has pancakes that are world famous, but long waits and not for a large group.

On the way to Windy Gap we always stop in Gastonia, NC at the local Goodwill to pick up general ridiculous clothing as well as our outfits for dress up night. Always have a great time!- Zach

One of the best places to stop on your way to Windy Gap has to be Six Flags, Georgia, Or if your on a budget go to a braves game in Atlanta. Or swing through Cleveland, TN and go to the Ocoee River to go white water river rafting where the Olympics took place. Can’t beat that. -Derek Wells

Woodleaf/ Mountain Lodge

If you are in California. You must, must, must, stop at In n’ out. It’s a requirement.

If you’re traveling west to get to Woodleaf, check out the Emerald Pools. It’s a bit hairy for your bus driver to get back in there but if you can, budget 2 hours to pull just off the highway, scamper your way back into the woods and do some of the best cliff jumping in all of NorCal. Varying heights make it easy for any kid who wants to do it (10, 25, 35 – up to 65 feet – although we wouldn’t let our kids go over 25). MAKE SURE TO TELL PARENTS – also be very clear as to rules you communicate to kids (we’re not going higher than this ledge, one at a time, etc..) Find it on YouTube or here. -Zach Kreeger

What other ideas are out there? Do you stop prior to arriving at camp? World’s largest ball of earwax? Baseball Hall of Fame? The home of Miley Cyrus? Crocodile farm?

What do you know about? Camp Property Staff, I’m looking to you too! Please leave a comment below. Once we get a lot of comments we’ll take them and add them to this post, clearly divided by the camp/state.

Here are the first 3 posts in this “Better Bus Ride” series

A Better Bus Ride To Camp: Part 1

A Better Bus Ride To Camp: Part 2

A Better Bus Ride To Camp: Part 3

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