5 Must-See Stops on a Road Trip Across America

Every RVer’s bucket list should include at least one road trip across America.

Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Remember the Alamo! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Want to make it extra memorable? Consider stopping at one—or all—of these must-see places along the way.

The Alamo

One hundred seventy-nine years ago The Alamo was the site of a pivotal moment in the history of the Texas Revolution where 250 or so Texian and Tejano defenders held off an estimated 1,500 Mexican soldiers for 13 days. The Alamo is remembered as a heroic struggle against overwhelming odds—a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. For this reason the Alamo remains hallowed ground and the Shrine of Texas Liberty.

If you travel to San Antonio to take in The Alamo, you’ll almost certainly visit the River Walk. They’re just a couple blocks apart, connected by an “alley” with waterfalls, snazzy shops, and lush gardens.

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway and colloquially known as the Main Street of America or the Mother Road, was one of the original highways within the U.S. Highway System and continues to captivate people around the world. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Route 66

No matter where you decide to go on your road trip, a stop along the historic Route 66 is absolutely mandatory. Nicknamed Main Street of America and the Mother Road, the famous highway holds a special place in American consciousness and evokes images of simpler times, mom and pop businesses, and the icons of a mobile nation on the road.

Completed in 1938, Route 66, which once served as the main corridor taking drivers from Chicago to Los Angeles, sparks excitement and a feeling of freedom in many travelers who love the open road.

Sedona

Sedona and Red Rock Country
Sedona and Red Rock Country, a vacation hotspot, has appeal for every member of the family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sedona easily makes the “A” list of RV destinations due to its rugged western appeal and colorful rock formations. Tourists come from around the world to absorb the natural wonders of Red Rock Country and Sedona, its centerpiece. Located at the base of Oak Creek Canyon, another scenic destination, Sedona is renowned for its stunning rock formations such as Coffee Pot Rock, Cathedral Rock, and Courthouse Butte, as well as its surrounding lush forests.

Sedona has developed into a center for traditional and contemporary arts and offers a variety of galleries, boutiques, and specialty shops. The Sedona community offers so much—history, archeology, arts, culture, hiking, biking, off-road adventure, and spiritual and metaphysical meditations.

Santa Fe

A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A block east of Santa Fe Plaza is St. Francis Cathedral, named for Santa Fe’s patron saint, St. Francis of Assisi. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A combination of altitude, desert, and pueblos has produced a magical city that bears little resemblance to nearby Albuquerque or anywhere else for that matter. Santa Fe is the United States’ longest continuously occupied state capital. Located high and dry in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, this well preserved center of Southwestern art and architecture attracts visitors with its galleries, cuisine, and play of light on its adobe buildings.

Santa Fe is referred to as “the city different,” a city that honors its Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo heritages and embraces its natural environment unlike any other in the United States. A city whose beautiful, brown adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape and a city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals.

Alabama Gulf Coast

Mix two parts sugar-white sand with one part crystal blue water. Add a generous helping of Southern hospitality, and you have the key ingredients of the beautiful Alabama Gulf Coast.

Fresh seafood is the standard along the Gulf Coast. Seafood markets offer shrimp, oysters, crab, and snapper. There are numerous seafood restaurants with an endless assortment of dishes.

One of the most charming small towns in America, Fairhope is located on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay. A growing arts center with quaint boutiques, specialty shops, bookstores, cafes, and galleries line its quaint downtown streets. From the business district, Fairhope Avenue funnels toward grand homes and parkland down to the Fairhope Pier and Mobile Bay. The pier’s picturesque setting makes it a wonderful place to view gorgeous sunsets.

Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Sparkling turquoise Gulf waters and stunningly white sand await the RVer on the Alabama Gulf Coast. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

If you ever plan to motor west
Travel my way, the highway that’s the best.
Get your kicks on Route 66!

—Bobby Troup

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RV Around Texas

With 267,000 square miles of amazing opportunities and unforgettable destinations, an RV visit to Texas is always exciting.

Our Texas RV Travel Bucket List continues.

San Antonio River Walk

The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The famed San Antonio River Walk is 2½ miles of beautifully landscaped waterfront with hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and shopping and is one of the main tourist attractions in the state of Texas. Historically, the waterway was used by Spanish explorers to provide water to their missions. In 1929, Robert H.H. Hugman submitted his design plans to turn the area into a beautiful urban park with apartments, dining, shopping, and boat rides.

Since 1938 the River Walk has been a hub of culture for San Antonio. You can learn about San Antonio’s history aboard a river cruise, people watch as you enjoy delicious food on many of the restaurant’s outdoor patios and simply enjoy this beautiful piece of the Lone Star State.

The World Birding Center (WBC)

The World Birding Center (WBC) is a network of nine unique birding sites in the Lower Rio Grande Valley along a 120-mile corridor following the Rio Grande from Roma to South Padre Island.

The mission of the WBC is to protect native habitat, while increasing the understanding and appreciation of birds and wildlife.

Combining Birding and Photography with our life on the road is like enjoying pecan pie with Blue Bell ice cream for dessert following a turkey feast on Thanksgiving Day! © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
In addition to nearly 30 bird species found nowhere else in the US, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is home to an astonishing concentration of more widespread birds. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Drive through subtropical Texas to share the borderlands mix of Texan and Mexican heritage, and take time to look for any of the more than 500 bird species that have been documented in the region.

Three Texas state parks are part of the WBC. They contribute to the Valley’s reputation as a nature destination where visitors come from around the world. Like us, many stay for months at a time, to enjoy the climate, culture, and access to hundreds of species of winged creatures.

The WBC’s network of nine nature sites include Roma Bluffs, Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Quinta Mazatlan, Old Hidalgo Pumphouse, Edinburg Scenic Wetlands, Estero Llano Grande State Park, Harlingen Arroyo Colorado, Resaca de la Palma State Park, and South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center.

Galveston

The Bishop’s Palace is recognized as one of America’s finest examples of Victorian exuberance and Gilded-Age extravagance. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Bishop’s Palace is recognized as one of America’s finest examples of Victorian exuberance and Gilded-Age extravagance. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the oldest cities in Texas and a major port, Galveston sits on a barrier island two miles offshore, surrounded by 32 miles of sandy beaches, numerous attractions, and one of the largest and best-preserved concentrations of Victorian architecture in the United States.

Once known as “the Wall Street of the Southwest,” Galveston later became the site of the worst natural disaster in U.S. history.

But the Hurricane of 1900 changed everything. Galveston’s prosperity suddenly came to a halt on September 8, 1900, when the deadliest natural disaster in United States history hit Galveston Island.

Centerpiece of today’s city is the Victorian restoration, in which many neighborhoods have been restored to their 19th-century splendor.

Galveston boasts four districts on the National Register of Historic Places: The Strand National Historic Landmark District, East End National Historic Landmark District, Silk Stocking District, and Central Business District. Galveston is home to three National Historic Landmarks: Tall Ship Elissa, East End, and The Strand. There are approximately 1,500 historic buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.

One of the most popular of these landmark districts is The Strand National Historic Landmark District, formerly known as “Wall Street of the Southwest” and now home to more than 100 shops, antique stores, restaurants, and art galleries. The Strand has one of the largest and best preserved concentrations of Victorian, iron-front commercial architecture in the United States.

Today, this barrier island city, situated approximately 40 miles southeast of Houston, is a living history adventure.

Texas Spoken Friendly

Please Note: This is part 2 of an on-going series on our Texas Bucket List

Worth Pondering…

Winter Texan is Better Than No Texan

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San Antonio River Walk: Jewel of the City

San Antonio is best known for being the Home of The Alamo and the San Antonio River, the center points of numerous activities in the downtown area. The river actually has its headwaters in northern San Antonio and travels southward through the city. The Alamo is part of a chain of five Spanish missions that still stand along the river and served as religious institutions and economic centers 200 years ago. The five missions are somewhat connected by their proximity to the river and signage linking them along a route called the Mission Trail.

The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio’s Paseo del Río, or River Walk, ranks No. 1 or No. 2 each year as the most popular tourist attraction in Texas, with up to 3 million people visiting from throughout the world. The other No. 1 or No. 2 is The Alamo. It’s a moot issue really. If you travel here to take in the River Walk, you’ll almost certainly visit The Alamo, and vice versa. They’re just a couple blocks apart, connected by an “alley” with waterfalls, snazzy shops, and lush gardens.

Native Americans who once gathered in the grassy plains and rolling hills of what is now Central Texas had a special name for the clear waters burbling forth from limestone outcrops. They called the main life-giving stream Yanaguana, which means refreshing waters. You will know what they meant as soon as you step down from street level, slip into the shade of towering cypress trees, and feel the cooling river breezes.

Renamed the San Antonio River in 1691 by Spanish explorers, the river has since brought settlers, ranchers, farmers, craftsmen, artists, and many others from around the world to its meandering banks. A tapestry of modern buildings, colonial missions, museums, historic neighborhoods, and a diverse international culture has sprung up around the famed river.

What started as the vision of a young architect, in 1929, has grown, over the decades, into one of the world’s most distinctive meeting places.

The River Walk extends from a wiggle of the San Antonio River, shaped much like a bent horseshoe, in the heart of downtown.

The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks, lined with restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America’s favorite river walk, the San Antonio River Walk or Paseo del Rio, was built by the WPA (Works Progress Administration) as a flood-control project from 1939 to 1941 and now makes a splash controlling the flood of more than five million visitors annually to its cypress-lined cobble- and-flagstone paths along both sides of the narrow San Antonio River.

After the city created a River Walk District and a commission to oversee it in 1962, business leaders formed the Paseo del Rio Association to promote it. The 1968 HemisFair revitalized the downtown with the construction of the Convention Center, Tower of the Americas, and other distinctive structures.

The San Antonio River Walk is a public park, open 365 days a year. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River, one story beneath downtown San Antonio. An important part of the city’s urban fabric, the River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks, lined with restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels. It connects the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall, Arneson River Theatre, La Villita, San Antonio Museum of Art, and Pearl Brewery.

The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel.

Entertaining 35 to 40 minute-long narratives of the rich history of the river and attractions seen along the route including historical details that cover two and a half miles of the beautiful San Antonio River Walk. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In May 2009, the new Museum Reach portion of the River Walk opened. It features over one mile of new River Walk footage, beautiful landscaping, and lighting at night. It begins at the Holiday Inn El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel and ends at the Pearl Brewery Complex. The Museum Reach section stretches 1.7 miles north, passing the beautiful San Antonio Museum of Art, a lock system for the river boats, and the oldest VFW Post in the State of Texas. Landscaped with native plants and small water cascades, the route features art installations under every bridge.

Details

Rio San Antonio Cruises

Rio San Antonio Cruises has an exclusive contract to provide sightseeing barge service as well as water taxis service. Both services operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

San Antonio River Tours

Entertaining 35 to 40 minute-long narratives of the rich history of the river and attractions seen along the route including historical details that cover two and a half miles of the beautiful San Antonio River Walk.

Rates: $8.25/adult; $6.00/senior

Rio Taxi Service

With 39 stops along the beautiful River Walk, the Rio Taxi service provides the opportunity to relax on your way to your favorite restaurant or River Walk hotspot. Tickets are available on the Rio Taxi boat.

Rio Taxi Yellow Rates (Downtown Reach up to Lexington Street):
$5.00 one way; $10.00 24-hour day pass; $25.00 three-day pass

Rio Taxi Red Rates (Museum Reach north of Lexington):
$10.00 24-hour day pass; $25.00 three-day pass

Rates (Downtown and Museum Reach):
Combination Red/Yellow 24 Hour Pass: $15.00

Worth Pondering…
Texas is a state of the mind.

Texas is an obsession.

Above all,

Texas is a nation in every sense of the word.

—John Steinbeck

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San Antonio: An Enchanting City

Texas is big, beautiful, and diverse. It’s easy to think of Texas as a whole country—800 miles wide and nearly that far from north to south. The state encompasses sunny seacoast to mile-high mountains, dense forests to cactus-studded desert, and great cities to small villages and towns.

The first thing many visitors notice about the Alamo is its small size, especially when compared with the buildings of the surrounding city. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Texas is the only state that was once a sovereign nation, the republic of Texas. Texas had its own armed forces including a Navy, currency, and representatives to the United States.

Arguably, the state’s most beautiful city, San Antonio has much to offer. Fantastic museums, San Antonio River Walk, La Villita, HemisFair Park, Tower of the Americas, El Mercado, King William Historic District, and, of course, The Alamo are but a few of its highlights. And if you like the Alamo, you’ll love the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a string of several 15th- and 16th-century Spanish missions in and around the city.

Without the modern skyline of Houston or Dallas, attractive and festive San Antonio looks nothing like the stereotypical image of Texas, despite being pivotal in the state’s history. Standing at a geographical crossroads, it encases the complex social and ethnic mixes of all Texas. Although the Germans, among others, have made strong cultural contributions, San Antonio’s heritage is Hispanic. Though now the seventh largest city in the U.S., it retains a relaxing feel and is one of my favorite places to spend a few days or a week or more.

Founded in 1691 by Spanish missionaries, San Antonio became a military garrison in 1718, and was settled by the Anglos in the 1720s and 1730s under Austin’s colonization program.

The River Walk has grown to a stunning eight miles and will stretch to 15 miles by 2013. Each part offers a unique look and feel. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio is most famous for the legendary Battle of the Alamo in 1836, when General Santa Anna wiped out a band of Texas volunteers seeking independence from Mexico. After the Civil War, it became a hard-drinking, hard-fighting town at the heart of the Texas cattle and oil empires.

Major floods in the 1920s wiped out much of the downtown area, but the WPA (Works Progress Administration) program that revitalized two of the city’s prettiest sites, La Villita and the River Walk, laid the foundations for its future as a major tourist destination.

You could spend weeks in this city and still not experience everything it has to offer. So take your pick, and enjoy!

The Alamo

Is it possible to look at this icon of Texas history too much? I don’t think so. I feel the ghosts of the March 6, 1836, battle every time I enter.

La Villita (Little Village)

This 250-year-old Spanish settlement was reconstructed during the 1930s to preserve the unique buildings. La Villita is now an historic district set up as a living community of working artists, restaurants, specialty shops, and plazas.

Spanish Governor’s Palace

The restored building is the former home of the first governor of the area when Texas was a Spanish colony. Furnished in period pieces, the site is a fascinating glimpse into how the elite lived in that era.

El Mercado (Market Square)

The shops in the largest Mexican market outside Mexico are filled with beautiful terra-cotta pieces, leather goods, embroidered clothing, and much more. Once you’ve exhausted your financial reserve and have more packages than you can carry, enjoy lunch or dinner at either Mi Tierra Cafe or the Pico de Gallo.

Hemisfair Park

Located in downtown San Antonio, the 750-foot-tall Tower of the Americas provides guests the most spectacular view of the Alamo City. Enjoy the gorgeous panorama from the Tower's revolving Chart House Restaurant, take in the scenery from the Observation Deck or experience the thrilling 4D Theater Ride. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In honor of its 250th birthday, San Antonio hosted the 1968 HemisFair. The Tower of the Americas was constructed for this event and continues to tower 750 feet above the city. Operated by the University of Texas, The Institute of Texas Cultures houses fascinating exhibits from each of the cultures that settled Texas. The Instituto de Mexicano, representing the culture of Mexico and the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center are also located here.

McNay Art Museum

Formerly the private residence of Marion Koogler McNay, this 1920s mansion on the outskirts of the city has handsome tile floors and a Moorish-style courtyard. Gothic, medieval, late 19th and 20th century American and European paintings, sculpture, graphic arts, rare books, and exhibits are all featured.

King William Historic Area
Named for Kaiser Wilhelm of Prussia, the district is a 25-block area near downtown on the south bank of the San Antonio River. During the late 1800s the King William District was the most elegant residential area in the city. It was zoned as the state’s first historic district, and has once again become a fashionable neighborhood.

Worth Pondering…
There is a growing feeling that perhaps Texas is really another country, a place where the skies, the disasters, the diamonds, the politicians, the women, the fortunes, the football players and the murders are all bigger than anywhere else.

—Pete Hamill

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