50 of America’s Most Spectacular RV Trips

You might have seen it on a shelf and thought, “I should pick that up.”

The Breakers is the grandest of Newport’s summer “cottages” and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial preeminence in turn of the century America. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the national bestseller, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”

Sometimes the best adventures are those in your own backyard.

Here, in alphabetical order, are 50 things to do or see in your RV before you die:

Mystic Seaport, Connecticut

Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea includes three major components for visitors: a re-created 19th-century coastal village with historic ships, a working preservation shipyard, and formal exhibit galleries. It consists of more than 60 original historic buildings, most of them rare commercial structures moved to the 37 acres site and meticulously restored. Founded in 1929 Mystic Seaport also boasts four vessels that are designated National Historic Landmarks.

Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville is country music and all that goes with it—glittering rhinestones; cowboy hats; red, white, and blue leather boots; and songs with titles like Thank God I’m a Country Boy and On the Road Again, Country Roads and I Fall to Pieces.

Also known as “Athens of the South,” downtown Nashville is set around magnificent Greek revival architecture. But the Greek revival lost out to country music when radio station WSM began broadcasting the Grand Ole Opry, making Nashville “Music City, USA.” Downtown, the Ryman Auditorium is known as the “Mother Church of Country Music.” And just around the corner is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

New Orleans, Louisiana

When most people think of New Orleans, images of beads and floats and Mardi Gras may come into mind. Others may think of great food, cool jazz, and fabulous architecture.

New Orleans is one of the most visually interesting cities in America and of significant historic importance.

The phrase “Laissez les bon temps rouler”—Let the good times roll—is exemplified by Bourbon Street’s non-stop party atmosphere. But for many visitors to New Orleans, it’s all about the food. Seasonings are the lifeblood of good New Orleans cooking.

Newport, Rhode Island

Driving around Newport you can’t help but gawp at the turn-of-the-20th-century mansions—Italianate palazzi, Tudor-style manors, faux French château, all set in elegant formal landscaping, with imposing gates or walls to keep out hoi polloi (for example, you).

It’s incredible to imagine the sort of wealth that built these homes, even more incredible to realize that these were just these families’ summer houses—offhandedly referred to as mere “cottages”.

If you tire of Newport’s spectacular coastal scenery, awe-inspiring architecture, there’s always shopping in thriving downtown Newport. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park’s true distinction lies in its stunning diversity. Few places on earth have so much of everything: human and natural history, unusual flora and fauna, utter wilderness, and spots for every kind of outdoor recreation.

The park divides neatly into three major areas—the glaciered mountains and high country of the interior; the lush rainforest of the west-facing valleys; and the rugged wilderness coastline. It’s a landscape that renders a quick visit nearly impossible.

The Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Wright Memorial Bridge is just three miles long, but by the time you’ve crossed it you realize that you’ve arrived in an entirely different place. The bridge spans the Currituck Sound, connecting mainland North Carolina to the 130-mile string of narrow barrier islands known as the Outer Banks.

Along the way are historic sites, quaint villages, a variety of recreational activities, breathtaking views, and acres of unspoiled beauty. Because the waterways and coast along The Outer Banks is in constant motion, its wide variety of climates, wildlife, and landscape are ever changing.

Please Note: This is Part 6 of an 8-part series on 50 Places to RV Before You Die

Worth Pondering…

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.
Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

—Mark Twain

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2011 Top 10 Great Neighborhoods in America

The Great Neighborhoods designation is part of the American Planning Association (APA) Great Places in America program, which began in 2007 and recognizes unique and exemplary streets, neighborhoods, and public spaces each year.

Highland Park, Birmingham, Alabama

Built around swales and ridges at the foot of Red Mountain, picturesque Highland Park continues to attract generation after generation of new residents with its enduring and distinctive public spaces, diversity of uses, University of Alabama’s Birmingham campus, medical facilities, popular businesses, and entertainment districts.

Northbrae, Berkeley, California

Nestled in the rolling foothills amidst outcroppings of volcanic rock, Northbrae stands out for its spectacular vistas of San Francisco Bay, environmentally sensitive design, connections to a unique network of 136 paths and steps crisscrossing Berkeley, and two nearby commercial areas for shopping and entertainment.

Ansley Park, Atlanta, Georgia

Large expanses of lush green parks are the hallmark of this 107-year-old garden suburb, which reflects design principles espoused by Frederick Law Olmsted. The brainchild of attorney and real estate developer Edwin P. Ansley, the 275-acre neighborhood was designed so that no home is more than a 10-minute walk from one of 14 parks, five of which create a continuous link from northeast to southwest.

The Pullman Neighborhood, Chicago, Illinois

The Pullman District was the first model of a planned industrial community in the United States and is designated on the National Register of Historic Places. (Credit: city-data.com)

Pullman’s timeless features have contributed to the renaissance of this handsome former company town. An experiment in industrial order and community planning, the neighborhood features a design that was intelligent in 1880 and “smart” today.

Gold Coast & Hamburg Historic District, Davenport, Iowa

Spectacular vistas, superb architecture, and active residents distinguish the Gold Coast-Hamburg Historic District, among Iowa’s oldest residential neighborhoods. Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River afford unsurpassed views of the water, Davenport’s downtown, and the Illinois side of the Quad Cities. Lining the neighborhood’s streets are some of the city’s largest and most opulent houses, built between 1840 and 1910 by prominent citizens, many of them German.

Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood, Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Recognized for its Southern charm, the picturesque Hattiesburg Historic Neighborhood retains many of the bucolic features that helped shape this urban treasure 127 years ago. Streets are lined with mature oaks and crape myrtles.

Dundee-Memorial Park, Omaha, Nebraska

A sense of community is palpable in the Dundee-Memorial Park neighborhood, where residents and merchants have sought National Register status, funded a streetscape plan, restored historic street lamps, and pushed to be declared a neighborhood conservation and enhancement district. A mix of uses, from quaint shops and restaurants to lovely early 20th century homes and inviting parks, infuses the neighborhood with vitality.

German Village, Columbus, Ohio

Unpretentious, renovated houses and cottages stand shoulder to shoulder. Small,

meticulously maintained front yards front tree-lined streets with brick sidewalks and cultivated village planters. German Village has remained true to its mid-19th century history, architecture, and character despite periods of disinvestment, decline, and near ruin.

Swan Lake, Tulsa, Oklahoma

As the name implies, Swan Lake is filled with beautiful swans and a majestic fountain. (Credit: tulsahomeforsale.net)

Replete with swans—real and handcrafted—Swan Lake is an idyllic neighborhood a mile and a half from downtown Tulsa. The neighborhood has made frequent use of the bird as a decorative motif ever since architect Joseph Koberling incorporated a swan into the facade of his French Eclectic-style stone house in 1944.

College Hill, Providence, Rhode Island

College Hill brings the past into the present. Its history reaches back to 1636 as the site of Rhode Island’s first permanent Colonial settlement. Cobblestoned Benefit Street, known as the Mile of History, is lined with 18th, 19th, and 20th century municipal structures, churches, and gracious homes. Two educational institutions—Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD)—have contributed to the neighborhood’s vitality and character together with residents and organizations, including the Providence Preservation Society (PPS).


American Planning Association (APA)

The American Planning Association (APA) is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.

Website: planning.org

Note: This is the second of a three-part series on the American Planning Association (APA) Great Places in America program.

Part 1: 2011 Top 10 Great Public Spaces in America

Part 3: 2011 Top 10 Great Streets in America

Worth Pondering…
This is not another place.

It is THE place.

—Charles Bowden

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