It had been fifteen months of making memories in our own home, in the small vicinity around our home, and in our neighborhood, when we decided it was time to venture out. Our COVID-19 vaccines had gone well, and after some conversations with our incredible primary care provider, we felt like a little trip in the right setting could do us all some good.
But where? Where does a family that still has to be safe go for some fun and adventure?
Airplane travel and hotel stays are still not ideal or safe situations for us. Most vacation rentals are barely accessible – even when they are listed as such (ahem, Airbnb and VRBO – please consult with people who know what accessibility means before allowing a client to call their space accessible). And camping is nearly out of the question, unless you’re one of those people who books the ADA cabin at a state park a full year (or two!!) in advance of your camping trip. I may be a born Canadian and a naturalized American, but when it comes to planning in my personal life – I’m as Arab as they come.
A couple years ago, my boss mentioned visiting Jellystone Park in Waller, TX with family. She even said she thought she saw accessible cabins on the property. The memory of that conversation stuck and after some googling and a day of contemplation, we booked a cabin for five days. Go big or go home.
The accessible cabin that we stayed in had two levels, with a wheelchair ramp that ran along the side of the structure. The ground floor had a bedroom, a bathroom with a roll-in shower and grab bars throughout, kitchen, and a pull-out couch. The upper level is a loft that in my opinion is only big enough for small people, which was perfect because we have two littles who LOVED sleeping in there.
The cabins come equipped with all of the necessities – beds, linens (for a small, nominal fee), kitchen utensils, a pot, frying pan, coffee maker, toaster – etc. You just have to bring your clothes, toiletries, food, firewood, and the fixings for smores. We didn’t know what to expect, so I brought everything (typical Arab mom move), but next time we’ll just use what’s available onsite.
The cabins were clean when we arrived, had running air conditioning (which is necessary for us since people with multiple sclerosis are temperature sensitive), and were a decent size. Something I wished had been considered when the ADA cabins were built was the distance from main activity areas. The ADA cabins are the furthest away – and you can’t use a golf cart if your ADA person is wheelchair bound. It would be nice if there were some ADA cabins closer to the main grounds – and it looks like the property was under renovation in some areas so there may be hope!
The property management company, Northgate Resorts, owns more than a few of these Jellystone Parks in Texas and in other states – as well as other family resort parks like Jellystone – and I was told that many of these properties offer ADA compliant cabins or accommodations – whoo hoo!!
Jellystone Park is designed as a one-stop-shop for family fun. Everything is right there. Wanna pan for jewels? Check. Wanna veg out on the lazy river? Check. Wanna zip down a water slide 1,000 times? Check. Arts and crafts, mini putt, big bouncing pillow, funnel fries by the pool? Check, check, check, and quadruple check.
You never have to leave the park. Ever. And why would you? Look at those happy faces!
Even if you forget something, you’d probably be able to find it at the Ranger Station – a reasonably priced cross between a convenience store and a gift shop.
Things to be aware of before planning a trip – the food options are really limited to delicious fried things. We packed a cooler with easy to prepare meals – most of which were from Costco. Bug spray is absolutely necessary – and not the kind a granola mom keeps in her purse. We’re talking the good stuff with DEET. And the best spot at the pools at this property – the umbrellas nearest the waterslides. Trust me. If you need to keep cool, again – MS + heat = bad situation – that seating area is the shadiest, and the breeziest.
For us, the best part of every fun-filled day was sitting by the camp fire in the evenings, listening to Queen on Pandora (Jellystone Park has wifi), or singing camp songs I learned 20 years ago as a camp counselor. The other day…I saw a bear…goodness, I was rusty. We were all so happy to have enjoyed a whole day together, that not a single complaint was filed about the singed marshmallows on those hot summer nights.
We absolutely loved our time at Jellystone Park. It was such a special gift to be able to share outdoor time with our children in an environment like this – sort of like camping, with fewer jagged edges under our sleeping bags, indoor plumbing, and air conditioning in 100+ degree Texas summer weather.