Are you plotting an RVing trip to the Philadelphia area? We found there weren’t a lot of campground options close to the city, so on our 2016 summer tour of Pennsylvania we settled upon the Philadelphia/West Chester KOA. This spot offers some great services if you plan to spend time touring our nation’s first capital.
The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA was one of two private campgrounds we stayed at this past summer. And it was here that we cemented our love-hate relationship with KOAs. We love that when you pull in you know you will be in a clean campground, feel safe, be close to major attractions, and have lots of great amenities. However, we are not fans of the increasing costs (and hidden fees!) to stay at private campgrounds like KOAs. Now that our kiddos are getting older, we are finding that many private campgrounds tack on an extra per night fee for older children. Some places will add a nightly pet fee. And many private campgrounds will charge a per person fee for friends to just visit you at the campground.
During our stay at the Philly KOA we made plans to rendezvous with the families of two guys who were in our wedding. Since we all have young kids, the thought of trying to meet at a restaurant did not sound like a great way to catch up and fellowship, so we made plans to have everyone over to the campsite for a campfire dinner. When I talked with the campground manager (and owner) I learned that even though our friends were not going to use the pool or any other amenities, the adults were still assessed a $5 per person fee just to be on the property for a few hours. Although we completely understand the need for private campgrounds to charge a fee for people and children who are using amenities like the pool, it seems the policy should take into account people who are simply visiting out of town friends or family.
We are still glad we stayed at the Philly/West Chester KOA because they have some really great amenities related to touring Philadelphia. One that we used was the dog walking service. For $5 per dog, per walk KOA employees will come to your camper and make sure your furry friends are taken care of while you are away for the day touring Philly or the surrounding region. If you plan to tour Philadelphia but would prefer not to have to drive into Philadelphia (more on that in another post on Parking Panda), the campground also offers van shuttle and guided tours that leave right from the campground store. (As of 2016, the fee was $75 for adults and $37.50 for those under 17).
Campground: While the campground was clean and sites were all fairly level there are several areas of this campground that I found problematic:
- The entrance lane and area in front of the store where you check in and out is very congested at certain times of the day and routinely blocked with rigs.
- There are several very steep roads in the campground that are gravel. While there were many large rigs up at the top of the hill, I am sure the hills tested their low end torque and brakes!
- The sites tended to be either full sun OR they were shady sites with lots of difficult obstacles. If you look closely at the pictures below, our site was typical of the shade sites. It was quite the challenge to get the camper in at the right angle so that I could open the slide and not hit anything. I had to have the back of the camper hanging over the back of the pad and I had to use a tri-levler upside down to put the stabilizer jack down. These shaded sites were also so narrow that the picnic table and campfire ring were very crowded in the site and we had barely any room to set up our camp chairs.
Bathrooms: We have yet to stay at a KOA that has not had top rate bathrooms and this KOA was no exception! The main shower house near the office was clean and practically brand new. The smaller shower house on top of the hill was older but it was also very clean.
Amenities: They have a whole host of amenities most of which cost an additional fee. The pool is very nice and they have a lifeguard on duty.
Touring: The Philadelphia/West Chester KOA is located about one hour northwest of downtown Philadelphia. Also nearby is the famous Brandywine Battlefield and Longwood Gardens. While we did not have enough time to visit these attractions we have friends who rave about Longwood Gardens. We drove into Philly (which was far less intimidating than I expected and I found it easier than Washington D.C. or Pittsburgh) and parked a few blocks northeast of the National Park, near the Betsy Ross House. More details about that can be found in our post about using Parking Panda, but the short version is that it was a positive experience. While in Philadelphia we toured the following in a day:
- Independence Hall: We highly recommend paying the small fee to reserve timed tickets, especially if you want a specific tour. If you don’t reserve tickets ahead of time, then the earlier in the day that you can arrive, the better your chances of getting tickets.
- Liberty Bell: Learn from us and start your visit at the visitors center, then view the Liberty Bell on your way to tour Independence Hall. We did it in the reverse order and it meant we ended up doing a lot of extra walking back and forth.
- US Mint: Often an overlooked (free!) tour but I have to say the kiddos really enjoyed seeing how coins were minted!
- Ben Franklin’s grave
- Campo’s Deli: We found this deli listed as one of the top spots in Philly to snag a cheese steak–and it won our business because it was the only spot we could find that offered gluten-free rolls! Even though we ate around 3:30, the place was still hopping! (However, we’ve decided we’ll stick to our Primanti Brothers cheese steak! So much better! No offense to the Philly cheese steak diehards!)
Dates of Stay: 7/10-12/16
Cost: $63.03 per night, plus an additional $20 for our campfire guests.