PLEASE NOTE: This post was written in 2016, and while it should still give you a good overview of the experience, it is also possible that it may contain some outdated information. Please check their website for the most current information, especially about things like schedules and pricing.
Thank you to Lake Compounce for providing complimentary admission to the campground and the park for the purpose of writing this post. All opinions are 100% my own!
First things first, I probably should let you all know that we are not “campers”. Have we camped before? Yes. Did one of us complete the mandatory Outward Bound survival training? Yes. Did one of us spend every summer at an overnight camp in Nova Scotia for about 12 years? Yes. Did one of us once book a campground for a week’s vacation and bale on night four because it started raining and got too cold? Yes. Yes I did. And, I am not ashamed of that. But when I found out that Lake Compounce opened up a campground that had tipis, I was like “I must go to that place”. I just needed someone who was just the right mixture of insane and adventurous to join me. And, I did. And her name is Jocelyn. And she joined us with two of her three kids (Miss M and Mr. E) And, “go to that place” we did! And, dare I say despite what nature threw at us- we had fun! We filled up the minivan with more stuff than I knew was necessary for one night, and hit the road. This is the story of three kids, two moms, and a tipi.
Bear Creek opened up its campground in July of 2014, so everything there is relatively new. The main attraction is that it is located on the property of Lake Compounce Amusement Park. As such, most of the people staying on site are also there to see the park. There are discounts offered for admission to the Amusement Park as well as a free shuttle that runs back and forth. Your parking pass for the campground also allows you to park at Lake Compouce. Additionally, it is probably about a 10-15 minute walk between the two if you are feeling extra adventurous. The entrance to the campground is located at the back of the Lake Compounce parking lot, there was a giant sign that helped guide our way.
At first glance, there are some obvious cosmetic things they are still working on – such as grass and trees – but the bones are in place for a fantastic campground. It is clean and safe, and they have a fun activity schedule for younger campers that includes games, crafts, and outdoor movies. Security was obvious during our stay, the staff was extremely friendly, and everyone seemed to honor the camp quiet hours.
After passing through the entry gate, we pulled up in front of General Store and checked-in.
At check-in I signed a few papers, was given a map of the campground and the activity list for the week, and my parking pass. I asked where we could park, and they told me we could pull right into the campsite. While we’re at the General Store, I should probably give you the lay of the land since this is the center of the campground.
As you can see from the map above, the General Store building is the hub of the Campground. Aside from the pretty amazing store, the showers, bathrooms, and laundry are also located here. There is also a changing table.
There are a couple of video games, an ATM, and an air hockey table.
I should also mention that the General Store has just about everything you could possibly need that you may have forgotten (or didn’t know you needed) They have flashlights, and firewood. Firestarters, and s’mores ingredients. Eggs, milk, beverages, bread, and poptarts (my favorite emergency food) They also have a decent selection of card games and other toys to purchase that would keep your little ones occupied. We thought we brought just about everything we needed, but it’s nice to know this store is here if you have an emergency. The store itself stays open one hour after the amusement park closes – so, for us that was 9:00 PM.
They also have plenty of firewood to purchase, since you are not allowed to bring your own into the Campground.
Next to the General Store, you will find the newly constructed Pavilion. Here you will find some BBQ grills and tables. This is also where most of the activities (weather permitting) will take place. If it’s raining (more on this later) all activities will be moved to the General Store.
We could see the tipis from the General Store, so the kids were already pretty excited. After check-in, I headed back to the car and told the kids we were staying in Tipi 2! We drove around and checked out our home for the night. We opened up the doors to the minivan and the kids made a beeline to Tipi 2.
The look on their faces when we walked into the tipi was pure joy. I mean, the tipis are kinda amazing. We have a small tipi playtent set up in Miss Cs room, but this one was huge. All five of us fit inside pretty comfortably.
Each tipi comes with four cots – a fifth can be requested. There is also a mini fridge (with an even minier freezer), a lamp, and a fan (yay!) The tipis themselves have been constructed on a wooden platform so the ground is fairly dry and even. There is a big hole in the top of the structure – and yes water can get in (as we would quickly discover) but, this is camping after all.
Make no mistake – this is camping – not to be confused with glamping. Although the tipis are lovely they are still quite rustic. The major difference between tent camping and the tipis is that we didn’t have to construct this ourselves. Also, there is an electrical hookup and the fan. I cannot stress enough the importance of bug spray and citronella candles. Although there is a “door” to the tipi, we found that it was much cooler inside if we left it open.
There are 5 tipi campsites arranged in a circle. I can imagine reserving a couple of these for the nights with other friends and families and having a lot of fun. On this specific night, we seemed to be the only tipi setting up camp for the night.
We arrived at Bear Creek Campground at 5:30 on Thursday night. I had previously checked their activity schedule and noted that there was usually something scheduled for 6:00. I thought it would be a fun way to kick off our camping adventure. Unfortunately, at precisely 5:45 the sky decided to open up and explode into a thunderstorm.
When it’s raining, all activities are moved to inside the General Store. So, we ran between thunder rumbles to the General Store for the 6:00 activity – which was Glitter Art. I’m a big fan of glitter – I’m an even BIGGER fan of glitter activities done outside my home. Miss C and her friends started dripping glue over a sheet of construction paper and covering it with the sparkle stuff.
By the time we finished our glitter art, all that was left of the storm were giant puddles. The air had cooled off considerably, and we headed off to the playground. The playground is located a short distance from the Tipis. It is a small playground that contains all the basics: swings, a seesaw, a digger in a sandpit, and a basketball court.
We played for a bit, then headed back to the General Store for our next activity.
At 7:00, the schedule read “Pirates and Fairies”; however, due to the weather it was changed to Disney Trivia. We were sort of hesitant to give this a try (since ⅔ of our players cannot write yet), but I am really glad we gave it a go. The kids had a great time trying to figure out the answers to the questions. In the end, it was a tie and we all won a magic rock! I have to say – they were pretty proud of those rocks!
Next it was time for dinner – and, since it was also National Hotdog Day, we decided to make this campfire classic. Each of the tipis has a fire ring with a grill on top. The fire ring and grill were both very clean and made it pretty easy to make a fire. As I mentioned earlier, you cannot bring in your own firewood. You must purchase it at the General Store. You can also purchase firestarters and other materials/equipment for grilling there if you did not bring your own.
Fire has such a calming effect on kids. They all just sat down and watched the fire get bigger until it was time to put our hot dogs on the grill.
We’ve enjoyed our fair share of BBQs and hot dogs this summer, but there is something so satisfying about cooking over an open flame. I also don’t usually get cheers and applause when we have hot dogs for dinner at home. So, having my little audience cheer me along as the hot dogs popped and sizzled was pretty fun for everyone
Since we were only spending one night in the tipi, we didn’t bring much in the way of cooking supplies. If you don’t want to survive the week on hot dogs and chips, then you have to bring your own pots, pans, etc.
Who can go camping and not have s’mores. Not us! So, we handed each kid a roasting stick and got going. As to be expected, we basically just set a lot of marshmallows on fire, but somehow managed to eat our combined weight in marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackery goodness.
I’m not going to lie – I had been sort of dreading bedtime since I came up with this crazy idea. Miss C. has been known to freak out in hotels because “the blanket was not over her toes”. So to start the process, we took a walk guided by flashlights over to the bathrooms for some tooth brushing. (The bathrooms are only about a one minute walk from the tipis, and the building itself is very well lit. But you will probably want to use your flashlight to get to and from in the dark.)
I think this was when I really started to appreciate the magic of childhood. When you take something pretty mundane – like brushing your teeth – and, add some flashlights, and new surroundings, it becomes the coolest thing ever! I don’t think I have ever seen kids so excited to brush their teeth.
Now, here we were at 10:00 pm, in the middle of nowhere (I mean, really it’s Bristol, Ct and there’s a 24 hour diner about a mile away — but STILL!) and, I was trying to hide my panic/fear. The kids were all still pretty amped up from the mixture of fresh air and s’mores, so we decided to put a movie on for them. But first, Miss C insisted on putting on a lightshow. She had been talking about the lightshow for a little while, but I didn’t really know what she was talking about until she turned off the table lamp, and started doing some interpretive dance with her flashlight. Mr. E and Miss M just sat and watched and applauded.
I actually started to have crazy thoughts like do we really need to watch a movie? Or can Miss C just entertain the others until she dances herself into exhaustion? But before I had a chance to find out the answer, they had all actually agreed to watch Finding Nemo (on a device we brought with us–there are no TVs in those tipis!), climbed into their cots, and snuggled up for bed. After we tucked them in, Jocelyn and I went outside and sat by the remnants of the fire and enjoyed some “quiet time”.
It probably took the wee ones about 30 minutes to drift off into dreamland, but once they were out, they were OUT. Which brings me to my next biggest fear – sleeping through the night in the tipi. There are no shades in the world that would stop that sun shining through the hole at the top of the tipi. It’s the middle of summer – so sunrise is around 5:30 am. I mean, this can’t end well, right?
While us moms were sitting around the fire, we placed a few friendly bets on what time the kids would get up. We also noted that Lake Compounce doesn’t open until 11:00 am and strategized some ways to survive would could be the longest morning ever.
To answer your question: I was the first one up at about 6am shortly followed by Jocelyn. About an hour later, the kids finally started to wiggle in their sleeping bags – they made it until 7:30 in their cots and I did a little victory dance in my head. WE SURVIVED A NIGHT IN A TIPI! We made it through a thunderstorm, high humidity, and sweltering heat. And we were all still smiling!
Our morning was relatively low key. The kids wanted to play a little in the playground, the moms wanted to grab a cup of coffee at the General Store. Some of us showered, we all brushed our teeth, and before we knew it Kyle The Crocodile was walking around the campground for his morning wake-up call. Since it was already about 90 degrees, we met Kyle (who must be extraordinarily hot in that costume) at the pavilion. We all gave Kyle some hugs, and said bye bye to our tipi.
Check-out is at 10:30am, so we got everything packed up, cranked the AC in the minivan and headed over to Lake Compounce. We had a lovely day exploring all the kiddie rides at the park – we especially enjoyed all the hydration stations located around the park. Lake Compounce is an OAAM favorite, so be sure to read our tips for the park here.
I frequently ask myself, will she remember this. To be quite honest, usually I am not that sure. Except for this time. I am about 90% sure that Miss C will remember her night in the tipi. Were there low points? Yes, I probably could have lived a pretty full life without ever knowing what it feels like to be trapped in a tipi during a thunderstorm with lightning crashing all around you (it’s the luck of the draw with weather when you’re camping, right?! All part of the experience! 🙂 ). But, the high-points outweighed these minor blips for sure. Sitting in our chairs around the fire, telling “spooky” stories, watching the stars come out – this is the good stuff, and I am so happy that we had this experience.
Ally Noel is a regular contributor to Out and About Mom. She is a mom, a wife and an educator living in Norwalk, CT. Her personal blog, LuCk, includes everything from play-based learning activities to unique party and playdate inspiration. Browse all her Out and About Mom posts here. Find out more about Ally here.
Bear Creek Campground at Lake Compounce
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Bear Creek Campground is open May 2nd, 2016 through October 30th, 2016.
Check in varies by site type:
Cabins and Tipis: Check in begins at 3pm
Tents and RV’s: Check in begins at 12pm
The General Store will open at 8am daily and close one hour after Lake Compounce closes. Please note fall and spring hours differ.
Security personnel can be found around the clock in the gatehouse near the campground entrance.
The hours for Lake Compounce can be found online here.
The Tipi Campsites are $74.00/night Mon-Thurs and $89.00/night Fri-Sun night.
Additional pricing information can be found here.
Stroller Friendly: Yes
Coffee Mug Friendly: Yes
Restroom: Yes. With showers!
Baby Changing Station: Yes
Food for Sale: Yes
Outside Food Allowed: Yes
Cash Required: The machines in the laundry room are coin operated.
Dress Code: Dress for the elements. Also, bring shower shoes 🙂
Age Recommendations: You could bring kids of any age here (depending on your/their tolerance level for camping and everything that comes with it), but most of the activities are geared towards kids ages 3+.
Evening/Weekend Hours: Yes
Discounts: Discounted tickets to Lake Compounce can be purchased at the Camp Store. Discounted tickets are not available during the Haunted Graveyard at Lake Compounce.
Birthday Party Venue: No
Tips & Things to Bring:
What We Packed:
The following is a list that was recommended to us by Bear Creek. The * indicates an item that can be purchased at the General Store.
- Campfire Cookware (pots/pans)
- Plates, napkins, silverware and cups *
- Sleeping Bags and/or sheets and a comforter *
- Bug Repellent *
- Tinfoil to grill on *
- Additional chairs to enjoy the campfire. *
- Flashlights or Lanterns *
- Gallon water jugs *
- Extra Batteries *
- Extra propane for any item you may bring that requires it.*
- Bikes for the kids to ride! (Don’t forget your helmets!)
- Charcoal *
We would also recommend the following:
- Flip flops for the bathroom/shower
- Citronella Candles or Bug Repellent Incense (for use outside the tipi)
- Phone/Device Chargers
- Outdoor toys
- Glow Sticks
- Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
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