By Amy Lynch and Marshall King
Indiana is a major player within the booming RV industry. According to data from the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association and the Recreational Vehicle Indiana Council, the Hoosier state produces more than 80 percent of all RVs manufactured in America, including motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth wheels and pop-up campers. In Indiana alone, the RV industry provides 22,469 direct jobs, and pays $1.5 billion annually in direct wages. Overall impact on our state’s economy? A whopping $9.5 billion per year. “The camping lifestyle appeals to all age groups, and because RVs have become more user- friendly over the years, more people are opting to enjoy this way of traveling,” says Matt Braun, owner of Braun’s Fun Time Campers in Indianapolis. “When we’re at home, we get distracted by our to-do lists. Being outdoors and enjoying what God gave us provides the ultimate way to enjoy quality time for families.” Braun’s Fun Time Campers has been in business for 40 years, and Matt’s seen a lot of changes over time, including an interest in “Glamour Camping.”
“Some of today’s buyers want all the comforts of home, including comfortable mattresses, heat and air conditioning, and bigger high-end bathrooms,” says Matt. “And outdoor kitchens are the rage. Campers want to be outdoors with access to cooking appliances and refrigerators so they can enjoy being outside with friends and family while preparing meals.” And today’s RVs offer these amenities.
Last summer, Matt’s family parked a 35-foot travel trailer in Brown County for the month of June, and used it as a weekend getaway, so all they had to do was “show up” on the weekend and enjoy time together. “For me, being in the RV business gives me the opportunity to share this lifestyle with so many people. And knowing that I’m contributing to quality family time is what keeps me going.”
Indiana’s State Parks and campground resorts make it easy to go rving without going far. Throughout the Hoosier state, camping is gaining major ground as a staycation opportunity thanks to scenic destinations, appealing accommodations and upgraded amenities. “Camping has become increasingly popular in recent years,” said Christie Sorrels, business services program director for Indiana’s DNR Division of State Parks. “Reasons include a greater emphasis on healthy initiatives and getting people outdoors, the desire to honor traditions that have been instilled in families over the years, and the overall affordability of camping in Indiana.”
For many campers, the chance to spend some time relaxing in the great outdoors with family and friends is a big part of the experience. “Indiana visitors enjoy the community and atmosphere that comes with camping in our state parks,” Sorrels said. “Whether it’s sitting around a campfire cooking dinner or telling ghost stories, going for a hike or riding a bike in the woods with your family, or attending a program at one of our nature centers, there are countless opportunities to disconnect from the outside world and reconnect with nature, friends and family.” Within the past few years, Indiana State Parks have upgraded several campsites to 50-amp service, and refurbished restroom and shower facilities.
Privately owned campground resorts — all accessible within a two- or three-hour drive from Indianapolis — are also upping their antes to compete with larger camping destinations and theme parks in southern states much further away.
“With parents and their kids leading such busy lives, we offer the chance to spend quality family time with each other in a fun, safe outdoor atmosphere,” said Dave Lovell, Resort Marketing Manager at Lake Rudolph Campground & RV Resort in Santa Claus, Ind. Lake Rudolph is one of the top ten best campgrounds for families in the United States according to TravelChannel.com, named a Top Destination RV Park by Good Sam, and a two-time National RV Park of the Year; and is the closest lodging and camping to Holiday World Theme Park & Splashin’ Safari Water Park. Open May through October, Halloween is one of their busiest times and lasts for seven weeks beginning mid-September.
But the fun doesn’t end there; you can stay in one of their Christmas Cabins the first three weekends of December while visiting the town of Santa Claus and the famous Santa Claus Christmas Store located at 33 N. Kringle Place. You will love the smell of gingerbread and freshly baked goods the minute you walk through the door. Santa Claus, Indiana is proud to be one of only two towns in the world with that name and is known as “America’s Christmas Hometown.” Santa’s Elves, a group located there, has been responding to children’s letters from around the world since 1914. In the last three years, Lake Rudolph resort invested several million dollars into the property, adding a water park, spray grounds and a new miniature golf course; upgrading Wifi capabilities; adding dozens more cabins and cottages: and improving roads, buildings and playgrounds. Lake Rudolph’s family fun amenities include Santa’s SplashDown WaterPark, the giant Blitzen Bay swimming pool, Dasher Splasher splash pad, playgrounds, basketball courts, horseshoe pits, fishing, paddleboats, kayaks, gem mining, mini golf, game rooms, camp store, Blitzen Kitchen Ice Cream & Pizza, and much more. Visitors can rent golf carts to cruise around the grounds, or hop on a shuttle bus for a ride to Holiday World and Splashin’ Safari right next door.
Don’t have an RV? No problem, of the 516 sites available, 284 are equipped with an RV, cabin or cottage available to rent and ready to go. “Lake Rudolph continues to add luxury vacation rentals,” Lovell said. “We’ve completed a new section featuring 14 brand-new Rudolph’s Christmas Cabins available for the 2017 season, and we’re also adding 25 more Holiday Cottages.” Bring your own RV or tent, Lake Rudolph also offers several options including full-hook up sites with concrete pads.” Jellystone Park at Lake Monroe just south of Bloomington, one of seven Jellystone properties in Indiana, has also made strides to give campers more of the contemporary features they want. The past two years have seen renovations to the resort’s White Pine Cabins and Hoosier Hideaways, the addition of four Cozy Lodges, and an expansion to the on-site store with increased inventory. “We have a variety of accommodations, so even if you don’t camp with an RV or in a tent, you can stay in a cabin with all the comforts of home,” said Michele Wisher, VP of Marketing and Promotions for Leisure Systems, Inc., Jellystone’s parent company. A wide selection of family-friendly amenities and activities make Hoosier campground resorts a one-stop vacation destination. “We have swimming pools, a jumping pillow, playground, wagon and train rides, hiking trails, themed weekends from May to October, daily activities in the summer – lots of things to keep kids busy,” Wisher said.