the world's smartest travel social network
Summer in northern New Jersey can get pretty hot, sticky, and gross in late July, so the idea of a refreshing excursion to a nearby water park was greeted with thumbs-ups from my wife Sue, our teen son, and our tween daughter.
We had some choices:
Looking west, I learned that the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania (a few miles from the PA/NJ border) had several water park choices:
Continuing my Pocono water park search, I discovered Camelback Resort in Tannersville, PA - which offered a slew of very attractive features
With so much to experience and only a day to jam it in (Monday afternoon through Tuesday afternoon), we packed up our SUV, jumped onto Route 80 West, and headed to Camelback for some quick, wet fun.
The 453-room Camelback Lodge and its indoor Aquatopia water park opened its doors in May 2015. A second phase of the resort, with a spa (Serenity Spa), and a gourmet burger restaurant (Trails End Pub & Grille) opened in late July. Camelback Mountain - the nexus of the property - has actually been a seasonal skiing, snowboarding, snowtubing, and outdoor water-park destination since 1963, and the just-launched Camelback Lodge provides winter guests and summer visitors with year-round accommodations, dining options, and additional activities.
Especially since Camelback Lodge is so new, it’s in immaculate shape. The lobby is wide with towering ceilings, and the design is rustic yet cleanly contemporary. While there’s a steady hum of animated bustle throughout the day from guests arriving, departing, or on their way to/from an adventure, it’s also possible to hang and relax in the generous seating areas.
Activity-wise, the lodge boasts a variety of in-house options for younger kids - including a game room; "Polka Dot Pots" pottery painting; party rooms; the Oasis Kids Spa; and the Arcadia Entertainment Center, which features mini-golf, a ropes course, laser tag, and a rock wall. There are also restaurants (buffet-style dining at Hemispheres and small plates, sushi, and salads at Neptunes), a World Bazaar & Coffee Shoppe, and a concierge area to help guests to plan and navigate their Camelback explorations.
Prevalent throughout the lodge is an exotic, Indiana Jones-esque, travel theme. This world-discovery motif represents the adventures of fictional legendary explorer Kartrite Van Der Berris, whose way cool relics, tools, and journals are on display in the lobby’s Grand Library and also in Aquatopia (more on that later).
Check-in was a breeze, as was room entry with our wristbands, which doubled as our room keys. The room itself - a "King Bunk Suite" - was tidy with lots of storage space. The only downside was that it was a bit snug in terms of its layout - which, to be fair, does make sense - given the many daily and nightly activities to choose from at Camelback, the only time to really be in one’s room should be to sleep and recover for the next day’s big action.
Sue and I shared the indulgently comfortable king bed, our daughter slept in a just as cozy sofa sleeper, and our son had his own bro cave in a sequestered bunk bed area.
A big plus: the in-room refrigerator. Having access to chilled water, fruit, and leftovers that we stored was a convenience that came in quite handy between meals.
The energy in Aquatopia is loud and joyous. There are plenty of attractions for little kids as well as a host of age appropriate water rides for tweens, teens, and grown-ups.
The space is clean, colorful, and dense with action. Kartrite Van Der Berris’ global travel artifacts appear throughout, around, and over Aquatopia, with an actual Sno-Cat truck integrated into an Arctic Circle display, a replica DHC-2 Beaver Float Plane suspended from the ceiling, and maps and journals depicting Kartrite's international travels posted on beams, fences, and walls.
Noteworthy attractions that we experienced - and that we thought were kuh-RAZY exciting - included:
The geek in me was wowed by Aquatopia’s engineering: the design, plumbing, electricity, HVAC, and construction of the park and its attractions - from floor to the quite high ceiling - was really impressive. But impressive without fun doesn’t a cool water park make, and Aquatopia presented many ways for entrants of all ages to have a LOT of fun.
Miscellaneous additional details about Aquatopia:
As closely packed as Aquatopia is, Camelbeach’s layout is vast and spacious, covering 20 airy acres.
(NOTE: It’s not hard to be consumed by Camelbeach’s many water rides and slides, but if you take a second look up, you’re sure to be impressed by the incredible beauty of the lush green mountains that surround the property. IMHO, its proximity to the natural surroundings of the Poconos makes Camelback an aesthetically superior alternative to the concrete fabricated vibe of typical theme or water park environs.)
Here’s what we checked out:
TAKEAWAYS FROM THE TRIP