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One of my very favorite things about staying at all different KOA properties across the USA, is meeting their owners and seeing the unique twists they bring to their campgrounds. We were fortunate enough to be staying at the St. Louis West location when three generations of the Bell family were too. The Bell Family are the owners of three different KOA locations- their newest one in St. Louis, San Diego Metro and Grand Canyon/Williams in Arizona.

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Three generations of the Bell Family at the St. Louis West KOA location.

Ted and Carol Bell purchased the San Diego KOA back in 1968, putting this popular campground under their direction for over 45 years now. Ted, at 85, is still in the business and very passionate about all of the construction projects around the campgrounds. Carol used to do all of the books until taking a more hands off role.

Ted and Carol’s only son, Mike, is President of the family company. He and his wife, Rowena, are owner operators of the San Diego location. This park is under a huge redevelopment plan including the addition of an upscale cafe/restaurant, The Sandcastle Cafe, on the property for the very first time. We had the pleasure of spending some time with Mike And Rowena while they were in St. Louis visiting their oldest son and his family.

Third generation kids Josh, Clint and Molly are all involved with the campgrounds now. There was never an expectation from Mike and Rowena that their kids had to join the family business. Josh, Clint and Molly were always encouraged to pursue their own dreams and all went away to college. They also lived in various places, pursuing different job choices for many years. How neat that they have made their way back to the family business and all have various roles in the company at this time. Even their spouses all have unique roles!

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Our kids loved renting these fun bikes to cruise around the St. Louis West KOA!

Josh and his wife, Nannette, are hands on owners of the St. Louis West KOA and have done an amazing job with this property since taking it over just a year ago. Josh does anything and everything as I witnessed firsthand. From the first time he answered the phone when I called to make my reservation, I knew this was going to be a great place to stay. Nannette is in charge of marketing for all of the family campgrounds and has done an awesome job with their store. You would be hard pressed to find a cuter KOA store than theirs! She has brought in popular gift lines such as Natural Life, Danica Studio swedish dishcloths and the infamous poopourri, as well as many other adorable lines. If you live in the St. Louis area, it’s worth it to just come shop here for any gifts you may need for an avid camper! Very fun!

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Middle brother Clint manages and runs the San Diego park while his wife, Courtney is an avid foodie who’s been put in charge of food and beverage.

Daughter Molly Crawford runs the large activities program in San Diego, as well as merchandising. Her husband Ryan currently has a job outside of the family company but is an avid camper/outdoorsman so he brings a different set of eyes to the table. Molly, along with Mom Rowena, also owns a company creating competitive dance costumes for studios across the United States!

So far there are six little Bell family proteges, two coming from each set of parents!

About the Bell family KOA year round properties:

SAN DIEGO METRO

San Diego has a rich staff of employees, some who have been with them for the past 20-30 years. The campground offers a large summer activity schedule as well as monthly themed weekends like Chocolate weekend in January and a wellness weekend in March, that I’m really hoping to be at! In April, you can come learn all about your RV if you are a new owner or thinking about buying one, at their Shake Down for your RV weekend.

With the addition of their upcoming property restaurant, San Diego Metro KOA will be branding themselves a KOA Resort property, under the new brand positioning recently put into place by KOA corporate to help campers better understand the offerings of each park.

GRAND CANYON/WILLIAMS

The Bell family purchased this location in 2007 after a fire had burnt all of the campground’s main facilities. They were able to build the park back up and it is now a KOA quintessential Journey branded park. It’s close proximity to the Grand Canyon makes it a popular stop and it offers food service at the Cowboy Cafe as well. It is unique in the fact that there is another KOA just 5 miles away!

ST. LOUIS WEST

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St. Louis West will soon implement some deluxe cabins this fall so that they can be a KOA Holiday branded property. They are also working on a plan to have the best internet service they can provide guests.

According to Nannette, “Folks don’t know how to do downtime anymore. We thought people would want to come here and unplug but people don’t want to do that. We find they want even more wifi to stream their netflix and surf the web, so we want to provide that.”

St. Louis offers a summer activities schedule full of fun happenings for kids and their families. Our kids had to be back at the campground one night for Bingo and the next for the flashlight lollipop hunt.

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Thanks Bell Family for a great time! We look forward to visiting with you on your properties closer to our Arizona home soon!

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When you think of St. Louis, Missouri, you most certainly think of the Gateway Arch. We absolutely started off our day by visiting the iconic Thomas Jefferson Westward Expansion Memorial. Who knew it was even called that really? I’m telling you we are learning so much through our travel!  As great as it was to visit the Arch, we found something even more exciting for our family- City Museum.

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Have you ever seen anything like this? We were recommended to the City Museum by a teacher friend who lives here locally. We followed her advice and the Museum invited our family to come spend our Saturday here! Now mind you that any place with the word Museum in it’s title is questionable to our tweens. “Museum” has a connotation of being boring and perhaps a little too educational in their eyes. We honestly haven’t done many museums along our route because we prefer to spend the majority of our time outdoors. But, this Museum is unlike anything that exists anywhere else we have ever been! We were fascinated by this unique, urban spectacle. The City Museum is a definite highlight of our St. Louis memories! You have to check it out the next time you are in Missouri if you haven’t been already!

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Let’s start with the fabulous rooftop. It opened just five years ago and costs an extra $5 in addition to your $12 general admission ticket. The rooftop is open weather permitting and is tons of fun! There is a cool cafe up here too where you can get drinks and snacks, including beer.

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It’s best to wear comfortable clothes and definitely old athletic shoes! A couple of our kids sneakers got roughed up here so be sure to not wear anything you care a lot about! Pants are even smart to wear, even though the kids get hot running all around! We even saw what must’ve been City Museum veterans wearing knee pads!

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There is no map or brochure to navigate the building. A lot of it is ever-changing I guess. The 3rd Floor was where we spent a lot of time. It is home to a number of attractions including Skateless Park, which is a collection of skateboard ramps, minus the skateboards, with rope swings tied in front of the ramps and mats to land on. We would’ve liked to have seen the Everyday Circus that performs daily but the timing just didn’t work out for us. Just around the corner from the Circus, is Art City where guests can try different art techniques. Beatnik Bob’s is an interesting spot across from the Circus, featuring vintage video/pinball games, and a concessions stand with candy and ice cream. Everywhere you look there is something interesting to look at or climb on or through!

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It was honestly tough to get too many pictures here as the kids were off and running the entire time! I’m so happy that our four are old enough to fend for themselves because this is a place where young ones could easily get lost. There are so many places to climb and explore! If you are lucky enough to snag a parking spot in the Museum parking lot (which we did), it is only $5! There is plenty of parking in the surrounding areas too. There are lots of good food options here as well, so you don’t have to worry about going hungry! Our favorite was the BBQ cart outside of the ball pit area just outside of the entrance. And what museum stays open on a Saturday summer night until midnight? This one! We were all worn out way before that but next time I’m going to shut the place down!

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Ever since we left Mount Rushmore, we have been cruising around the Midwest states. Our first state to venture through was Iowa. Unfortunately, we were on our way to Omaha, Nebraska so we didn’t have much time for this little state. So, what do you do when you only have a few hours to spend in an unknown state? Check the map and the internet and there you have it. LeMars, Iowa- the Ice Cream Capital of the World! We took a picturesque country backroads drive on I-75 to get there and were pleasantly surprised at the cute little town of LeMars! The sad part about the drive was passing through Minnesota for a short amount of time and knowing that our old Woodbury home and friends were just a few hours north of us and we weren’t able to go see any of them!

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LeMars is the home of Blue Bunny Ice Cream, so we visited their flagship store and we weren’t disappointed!

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We shopped a bit along the cute main street before heading into one of the coziest, inspiring coffee shops I’ve ever been in- Habitué! Everyone in this coffee shop was so friendly. I felt right at home. It made me wish I had more time to just sit and relax before we had to hit the road. Who knew that when I struck up a conversation with a cute lady sitting in a booth there, that she was the owner of Habitue, Cheryl Wells. Who also knew that her husband is part of the Wells Family that owns Blue Bunny as well! I loved the simple, small town feel and energy in LeMars and I would love to come back one day and enjoy a latte with Cheryl and her friends!

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You know you’re in Iowa when……

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You can buy fresh picked corn on the cheap out of a truck alongside the road!

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Outside the bathrooms at Blue Bunny are reminders that things aren’t always so calm in Iowa!

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