Our first adventure in the Mantis was a visit to Shenandoah National Park while camping in Luray. We experienced the beauties of Skyline drive, stayed in a gorgeous campground, and had a mostly positive experience with the Mantis.
We’d heard many positive comments about the Luray KOA , and although we often prefer public over private campgrounds, we booked a site. Plus we have a weird tradition: our first night in a new camper is always at a KOA. With our pop up, it was the Memphis KOA. With the Cricket, it was the St Louis NE KOA. So the Luray KOA was the perfect option, although we did book the site before we bought the Mantis.
The Luray KOA is a Holiday, situated less than five miles from downtown Luray and about ten miles from the Thornton’s Gap entrance to Shenandoah. The extremely well-manicured park is in the Shenandoah valley with mountains surrounding and a clear view of a mountain sunset over a pasture in the evenings. The bathhouse is spotless and the amenities; pool, playground, outdoor ping pong table, and game room, are equally well-kept. Aside from the views and tidiness, the best feature of the Luray KOA is a massive grassy field. We saw families playing baseball, kickball, and cricket. We enjoyed the area for wiffle ball and Frisbee.
We tried to secure a site on the grassy field, but due to a booking issue, we got an upgrade to an odd pull-thru site on the end of a middle row. The site had full hookups and was shady. It had a steep slope coming off the site, but was otherwise fine. Another tradition we seem to have is always getting the oddest site in a KOA, which we suspect to due to our short camper that can fit on more sites.
We really enjoyed the Mantis in Luray. We had nice weather and ample shade, so we just ran a fan at night. The kids enjoyed their bunk beds and we really appreciated the additional floor space and storage. We have plenty of room for everything. We discovered that four bikes travel well in the front of the Mantis with the bunks folded up. Our issue we encountered: in the moderate wind, on two different occasions, the tent top blew out of the track on the bottom of the tent while we were out exploring.. We secured the tent with Gorilla Tape and sent a message to TAXA Outdoors for support. We consider ourselves fortunate that the weather was nice, a storm would have been a serious mess.
We enjoyed two days in Shenandoah National Park along Skyline Drive. Over the two days, we covered half of the drive and enjoyed several of the overlooks. We also hiked Dark Hollow Falls and Hawksbill Trail, which offered a sample of a scenic vista and an impressive waterfall. We were excited to see a black bear from the safety of the 4Runner, and we were equally surprised to spot a peacock.
We decided to checkout Luray Saturday afternoon for coffee and a snack. We discovered Gathering Grounds to fit our needs for a good coffee and the kids had house made gluten free toast, a big deal for them. We enjoyed it so much that we return Sunday for lunch.
Luray and Shenandoah were a great first stop on our three campground adventure. We were back on the road first thing Monday to get to our second stop, Dogwood Valley Jellystone, right at check-in to maximize the resort time.
Shane and Jessica
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