Thank you to Thousand Trails for hosting our family at Forest Lake Preserve for 2 days & nights. All thoughts shared are my own.

What's the best way to kick off summer vacation? For my family, it's always with some type of trip. This year, we're fortunate to have a few different trips planned. One of the trips on our family's summer bucket list was to go camping. My son (6 years old) has been wanting his daddy to take him on a camping trip for a while now, but hubby wasn't so sure that he could handle our little guy on his own. We also have a 14 mo-old daughter, and traditional camping just isn't going to work for us until she's a little bit older. We found the perfect solution to make everyone in the family happy, and we didn't even have to travel far from home to find it.

Forest Lake Preserve is a little gem tucked away in Advance, NC- just about 35 minutes from where my family lives. This popular family campground is situated on 306 acres of forests, green fields, and rolling hills, and offers a prime recreation spot along the banks of the Yadkin River. I'll be honest- I haven't been much for camping in the past. The thought of not having running water or not having a bathroom at my disposal are sort of dealbreakers for me. Forest Lake Preserve is a part of Thousand Trails, which has hundreds of RV & Camping Resorts all over the country. We recently packed up our car and headed to Forest Lake Preserve for two nights. We were given the opportunity to stay in one of their beautiful cottages, and couldn't wait to check it out and explore the resort.

Upon our arrival, we checked in at the ranger station. The community is gated, and everyone has to have a code to get through the gate. It made me feel extremely safe and secure knowing that we were being watched over and protected by the staff of Forest Lake Preserve. The staff was incredibly friendly, and we were given everything we needed to help us become acclimated to our home away from home for the next couple of days, including lots of literature about the surrounding area, a map of Forest Lake Preserve, activity schedules, special event mentions, and more. We were handed the keys to our cottage and were personally escorted to our campsite.

When we arrived at out cottage (Dogwood), we were so excited! My son (B) couldn't wait to hop out of the car and check out the ‘tiny house' we'd be staying in. One of the guys back at the ranger's station heard we were staying in Dogwood and promptly told me that we had the best cabin at the property. He was right! Forest Lake Preserve has several small cabins and a few cottages (larger than the cabins- they sleep 6 people) along the lake and the beach. The cottages are situated right along the beach (man-made white sandy beach along the lake), and overlook the lake.

When we walked into our cottage and got the lay of the land, we were blown away by how beautiful it was. It was so well laid out, and truly had everything we needed. The furniture was modern and comfortable, and just the right size to accommodate our little family. The living area included a sleeper sofa, coffee table, side table, and had a hutch with the television (Dish Network TV), and a fireplace that you could simply switch on with a button on the wall. The sliding glass doors opened up directly out onto the very long deck along the back of the cottage, overlooking the lake. There were so many windows and so much light in the cottage- I loved basking in the sun and letting all of that light into our living space while we were there.

The cottage also had a very functional kitchen, which was fully stocked with everything we needed to cook with and dine in. There was a four person table with chairs by the window, with a view of the lake. All of the appliances were very updated- some of them nicer than what I have at home! There was glassware and there were plenty of dishes, as well as a coffee maker, utensils, pots and pans, and kitchen tools. There was also a ton of storage space, and a built-in pantry in the hallway. We unpacked our things right away, and had plenty of space in the fridge and pantry for all of the food we brought along with us. We planned to cook and to use the grill that was located outside at our campsite.

We had plenty of room to enjoy this wonderful space! I loved the little kitchen. It was really well thought out. I was sure that me being in the kitchen early in the morning would wake B up, since he was sleeping directly above the kitchen in the loft, but he slept right through me making any early morning noises. That gave me the opportunity to enjoy a cup of coffee out on the deck before anyone else was awake each morning- and it was so peaceful! I miss it already!

The bathroom was small, but also very well laid out. I was amazed by how many drawers, cabinets and storage compartments there were in there! Everything was super clean, and all linens (including towels for 6 people) were provided. The shower was spacious, and there was also a tub, which my little man loved, and enjoyed!

There was one bedroom in our cottage, and it was located next to the bathroom. It was also pretty spacious and had a queen size bed. There were nightstands next to each side of the bed, which gave me plenty of space to store my breast pump, and all of the stuff I need to go along with it. We did bring the Pack n'Play along for Baby S, but realized there wasn't enough room to set it up in our bedroom, so she wound up sleeping with us, which was just fine. I'll take all the baby snuggles I can get before she grows up! The bed was so comfy. We had two fabulous night's sleep in this bedroom. The pillows were great, too! I always bring my pillow from home along on trips, but I could have left it behind on this one.

More storage! There was a ton of storage in the bedroom- lot's of drawers, and two wardrobes with sliding glass mirror doors. The top cabinet above the drawers housed a small flat screen television, which had open air channels.

Upstairs, there was an open loft, which was so cool! B had the loft all to himself, and he absolutely loved it! There were two twin mattresses up there, side by side, with pillows and blankets. There was also a little night table with some storage in between the beds. B immediately filled the drawers with his stuff, and claimed his bed. He was over the moon to have this whole area to sleep and play in. Hubby and I went up there a few times, but couldn't stand up without bumping our heads. Baby S also thought it was a fun space to play around in. B slept really well up there, and definitely wants to go back with his cousins. There was even room for a couple of sleeping bags on the floor up there!

B and his baby sis had a lot of fun playing in the loft at the Dogwood cottage. The cottage was so much fun, and it was very relaxing. We loved being able to grill right outside the door, and even had our very own campfire. The deck on the back of the cottage was amazing and had a table with an umbrella and four chairs. It was so nice to sit out on the deck and relax by the lake, watching the ducks swim by. We could have just stayed in the cottage for two days, without any extra activities, and we would have been happy as clams. However, Forest Lake Preserve has tons of on-site activities, and amenities, and we were pretty excited to check those out. We stayed in on Thursday night and reserved Friday for our day of fun and exploration around the resort.

Our friends at Thousand Trails hooked us up with some pretty cool gifts, which were waiting for us when we arrived at our cottage. We received two Thousand Trails backpacks, and they were filled with goodies! We used our backpacks on our nature walk. There are lots of trails around the campground, which you can get to by walking, or by golf cart. We also received Thousand Trails coffee tumblers, towels, and blankets! Thank you, Thousand Trails!

Stay tuned for our next Thousand Trails post, in which I'll share even more about the wonderful activities we enjoyed during our stay at Forest Lake Preserve!

To learn more about Thousand Trails or to find a property near you, visit the Thousand Trails website. You'll be able to search for properties, make a reservation, or learn more about a Thousand Trails Membership! It would be so cool to have an annual pass and to be able to camp all summer long in an RV or enjoy tent camping. Don't forget- many Thousand Trails properties have cabins that you can rent, too! Right now, there's a Father's Day special going on, where you can get $100.00 off an annual camping pass from Thousand Trails!

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