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Cool Thrills at the Indoor/Outdoor Water Parks of the Poconos’ Camelback Resort


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: 

  • Breakwater Beach in Seaside Heights, New Jersey (the locale of MTV’s Jersey Shore) was possible, but we had checked it out when the pups were younger, and it was meh:  there weren’t many attractions, and the layout was pretty crunched in (the whole park covers only a small city block).
  • Six Flags’ Hurricane Harbor in Jackson, NJ was an option, but A. we had been there, B.  the drive was long, and C. the lines for the attractions were really long.

 

Looking west, I learned that the Poconos in eastern Pennsylvania (a few miles from the PA/NJ border) had several water park choices:

  • Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, PA was appealing, but its indoor water park and overall facility are more geared towards littler kids than ours.
  • Kalahari Resort in Pocono Manor, PA seemed bright and lively, but its water park is also indoors, and - call me cray cray - but I believe that water parks in the summertime should have an outdoor component (there’s something about the collision of skin-frying temperatures and the frostiness of a full body H2O dunk that’s incredibly satisfying).

Continuing my Pocono water park search, I discovered Camelback Resort in Tannersville, PA - which offered a slew of very attractive features

  • Camelbeach, the largest water park in Pennsylvania, with 37 rides, slides and attractions
  • Adventure Zone, which has a climbing wall, a Euro bungee, and a dry-mouth-inducing aerial descent appropriately called Freefall, where thrill seekers “jump and plummet from two precarious platforms into a Hollywood-style stunt airbag” 15 feet and then 30 feet below
  • Camelback Mountain Adventures, featuring a thousand-foot dual zipline, a four-thousand-foot twin "zip-flyer," a steel mountain coaster, a treetops adventure course, and a mountain Segway tour

Plus there was a tidal wave of rave Google reviews for Camelbeach (4.4 stars) and positive TripAdvisor reviews for Aquatopia (3.5 stars).

 

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.

 

CAMELBACK LODGE

 

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.
 

traveldaddyblog's Camelback Lodge album on Photobucket

 

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.

 

traveldaddyblog's Artifacts album on Photobucket

 

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).

 

ACCOMMODATIONS

 

traveldaddyblog's Camelback room album on Photobucket

 

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.

 

AQUATOPIA

traveldaddyblog's Aquatopia album on Photobucket

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: 

  • Bombora Flow Rider - Combines surfing, snowboarding, and wakeboarding as riders navigate manufactured “waves” that flow at 40,000 gallons per minute. (NOTE:  Instruction is available for first-timers. Riders can bodyboard if they’re not ready to stand and attempt to hang ten.)
  • Skydive Plummet - A high speed, 312-foot long, free fall body slide with a 60-foot vertical drop slide that levels out into a 360-degree looping flattened figure eight at over 26 feet per second.  (OK, that’s a lot of data, but it all adds up to RIGHTEOUS!)
  • Venus Slydetrap - A flume that swallows you, banks you 90 degrees, and spits you out into a plunge pool.
  • The Himalayan - A 300-foot long, head-first mat waterslide that’s billed as “the fastest slide in the park”. (Spoiler alert:  IT IS.)
  • Outa-Space Race - A 294-foot, fully enclosed body tube with twists, turns, and drops.
  • Mountain Mayhem - A ginormous, fully enclosed, 403-foot long aquatube.
  • Constrictor - A 511-foot long aquatube of spirals and high-banking turns that constricts to 54” and expands to seven feet in the corners.

 

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: 

  • Guests at Camelback Lodge don’t need to bring towels from their rooms to Aquatopia:  you simply trade a towel card (part of your check-in packet) for a clean towel at an exchange area in the water park. You can then swap your wet towels for new ones throughout your time at the park, and once you’re done, you turn in your final towel to reclaim your towel card.
  • Aquatopia is staffed by more than 120 trained and certified lifeguards.
  • The water park’s Texlon transparent roofing system allows for natural daytime lighting as well as dynamic evening lighting effects (there are multi-colored pulsating beacons in the roof).
  • Private cabanas are available for rent, with comfy seating for eight people.
  • There’s a mondo fleek swim-up bar. I didn’t get a chance to get a drink there, but it looked like a blast.
  • The fact that we were visiting on a Monday and Tuesday was fortuitous:  the lines were short for Aquatopia’s attractions, and there was plenty of room to walk around and claim a spot to sit/unpack.

 

CAMELBEACH

 

traveldaddyblog's Camelbeach album on Photobucket

 

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

  • Tube Slides - Whether you choose to descend on Sidewinder, Riptide, Twister, or Midnight Run, Camelbeach’s tube slides deliver twists, turns, drops, and a big splash at the end.
  • Titan - At eight stories tall and nearly three football fields in length, it’s “the largest water slide of its kind”.
  • Blue Nile Adventure River - A chilled-out tube journey that floats lazily around the park through waterfalls, past geysers, and across bubbling waters.
  • Checkered Flag Challenge - An eight-lane, head-first race toward the finish line (and a hella pool plunge).
  • Sandstorm - A four-person tube zips and careens through high-sided tunnel and funnels.

 

TAKEAWAYS FROM THE TRIP

 

  • To coordinate your activities with the summer heat, explore the Adventure Zone and Camelback Mountain Adventures in the mid to late morning, grab lunch at Trails End, beat the heat at Camelbeach, enjoy dinner at Hemispheres, and wrap up with some evening splash action at Aquatopia.  Then head back to your room, shower up, fall unconscious, and repeat each of the above steps the next morning.
  • To get the most out of your trip to Camelbeach and Aquatopia - and by most I mean the greatest number of the resort’s attractions - arrive after the 4pm check-in on Sunday and stay through Thursday. The lines will be much shorter than they are on the weekends, and you’ll have a lot more time to do a lot more awesome stuff.

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