Camping Holiday

Camping near the coasters: Exploring Kings Island Camp Cedar, new Cincinnati-area outdoor resort

MASON, Ohio – I couldn’t quite make out the screams coming from Kings Island’s newest roller coaster, Orion.

What I could hear, from the front porch of my cottage at new Kings Island Camp Cedar: my neighbors chatting around a campfire, the sounds of kids playing in the pool and the low hum of traffic on I-71.

If you’re craving a secluded, nature-filled getaway, this isn’t it.

If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a convenient place to park your camper, ride coasters and entertain your kids, you may want to check out Kings Island’s new camping resort, located on previously vacant land about a mile north of the Cincinnati-area amusement park.

The $27 million, 52-acre resort opened in mid-July after a series of construction-related delays pushed back the opening by more than a month.

The property includes 184 full-service sites for recreational vehicles (no tents allowed), plus 73 cottages, with more on the way. There are two pools – one for adults only – a full-service restaurant, bar, coffee shop, camp store, plus a food-truck alley with more places to drink and dine.

My daughter and I rented a cottage there last month, spending a steamy August day exploring the place.

My assessment: It’s clear that developers were in a rush to open, as parts of the complex were still under construction during my visit. Landscaping is incomplete and maintenance has some kinks to work out (our bathroom door was stuck open during the latter part of our stay, for example).

Give it a bit more time, however, and this place is likely to become a popular spot for Ohio travelers looking for a relaxed, family-friendly destination close to some of the state’s top attractions.

Kings Island Camp Cedar

Hornbeam Lodge, with a restaurant, camp store and more, at new Kings Island Camp Cedar near Cincinnati.

Kings Island Camp Cedar

There are 73 cottages at Kings Island Camp Center, with more on the way.

Kings Island Camp Cedar

The family pool, Deerfield Springs, at Kings Island Camp Cedar near Cincinnati.

Stay a little longer

The property is a partnership between Kings Island, which operates the resort, and two private developers that built and own it.

It’s part of Cedar Fair’s ongoing effort to expand the company’s reach into overnight accommodations, encouraging guests to stay longer and spend more.

Sister park Cedar Point, for example, features five overnight properties, including two that are currently undergoing extensive renovations, Castaway Bay and Sawmill Creek. Cedar Fair also recently added a hotel outside Carowinds, its park in North Carolina, and owns numerous other overnight properties throughout the country.

Camp Cedar is the first Cedar Fair-operated lodging for Kings Island (although the park had a previous campground on land now occupied by Great Wolf Lodge).

One of Camp Cedar’s biggest attributes is its proximity to the park – just across Kings Mill Road from the entrance to Kings Island, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. Park-related perks include discount tickets, a complimentary shuttle to the Kings Island entrance, and early access to select rides, a benefit previously available only to season passholders. On the morning after our stay, my daughter and I entered the park at 10:30 a.m., 30 minutes before official opening, and were able to ride two of the park’s most popular coasters, Orion and Diamondback, before most guests had arrived.

I was surprised, however, that several Camp Cedar guests I chatted with weren’t even going into the park. Among my fellow guests in mid-August:

* A family from Avon Lake, who canceled a trip to Disney World because of increasing COVID numbers in Florida, and traveled to Cincinnati instead. They were planning to spend one day at Soak City, Kings Island’s outdoor waterpark.

* A family from nearby Pike County, trying out their new RV for the first time. They weren’t planning to visit the park, but instead were taking a trip to the Newport Aquarium in northern Kentucky and planned some back-to-school shopping.

* Season passholders from Dayton, who were curious about the new resort, and were staying in the cottage adjacent to mine.

Kings Island Camp Cedar

Interior of a Hickory cottage at Kings Island Camp Cedar.

Kings Island Camp Cedar

Campground are at Kings Island Camp Cedar near Cincinnati.

Kings Island Camp Cedar

Bocce and cornhole at dusk at the new Kings Island Camp Cedar, north of Cincinnati.

The cottages come in several different configurations, sleeping between four and eight. My daughter and I stayed in a Hickory cottage, with a separate bedroom, hallway bunkbeds, a queen mattress in a loft area, plus a pull-out bed in the small living room, a bathroom, full kitchen and front porch. It was way more than we needed for our short stay, although it would have been tight for eight.

These places aren’t cheap – we paid $280 plus tax and resort fee for one night, but prices come down considerably on days Kings Island isn’t open (weekdays this fall, for example, run $110-$150).

The campsites run $60-$110, depending on the day, and seem to have much more availability than the cottages.

Communal areas include Hornbeam Lodge, Coyote Creek Camp Store, the Dry Bean Coffee and Gelato, plus the Ironwood Grill & Tap restaurant, where my daughter and I both had a delicious salad for dinner.

We also:

* Spent an hour in the pool during the steamy afternoon of our arrival. There are two pools here, including family-friendly Deerfield Springs, with a waterfall, mini slide, zero-depth entry, cabanas to rent and other amenities.

* Enjoyed an ice cream cone at Belize Street, a collection of to-go food vendors near the pool, offering burgers, tacos, wings, plus drinks, set up around communal, outdoor seating.

* Watched families play bocce and cornhole at communal courts. In addition, the resort offers organized children’s activities some days, including bingo, trivia and story hour.

There are golf carts to rent, a fitness center and an off-leash dog park.

We also took a stroll along the Little Miami Walking Trail, a path that winds through the woods at the rear of the property.

Much of the land, however, could use more trees. Campsites, in particular, were in need of more shade and more mature landscaping, which hopefully will be added in the months to come. In addition, I’d avoid the sites at the southwest side of the property, which are very close to a McDonald’s and other commercial properties adjoining the resort.

My biggest concern about the place was its location – it’s awfully close to commercial properties on Kings Mill Road, as well as Interstate 71.

But I suppose that’s one of its biggest benefit too – not quite close enough to hear the coasters, but almost.

Kings Island Camp Cedar information and reservations: visitcampcedar.com

Golden anniversary: Kings Island, which opened in 1972, is set to celebrate its golden anniversary next year with new food offerings, entertainment and special events. Details and dates will be announced later, according to park spokesman Chad Showalter.

In the meantime, the park has temporarily closed its iconic Eiffel Tower for the rest of 2021. The attraction, built to one-third scale of the Paris original, is getting a new paint job in preparation for the anniversary year. The 314-foot-high tower, which features an observation deck at the top, is one of the park’s original attractions.

Kings Island hours for the rest of 2021:

The park is open Sept. 4-6 and 11-12, closed Sept. 18-19. The park’s popular Halloween Haunt, HalloTween and Tricks & Treats Fall Fest events run Friday through Sunday, Sept. 24-Oct. 31.

The park’s popular holiday-themed WinterFest event, canceled last year, will return in 2021, running Nov. 26-Dec. 31.

For hours and ticket prices: visitkingsisland.com

Read more:

Cedar Point, all Cedar Fair parks expected to be cashless in 2022

Kings Island news

Kings Island will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022; the park’s iconic Eiffel Tower attraction recently closed for an anniversary paint job.