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Not in the holiday spirit yet? It’s not too late to visit your local museum or historic site. Many locations decorate for Christmas and some even host special holiday tours. When we are in Florida, we love to visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation during the holidays. They have an area called Homefront, USA (it depicts a hometown during WWII) which they decorate for Christmas. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed this holiday season load your kin into the old Family Truckster and plan on visiting a local museum. It’s what Clark would do. 😉

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Photo by H.S. Cooper © Chevy and USS ORLECK (LA)

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Chevy and USS ORLECK (LA)

We had an interesting “visit” to the USS Orleck in Lake Charles (LA). You can read more about it in the Our Travels section.

If you find yourself in Corpus Christi (TX) and have already toured the USS Lexington, make sure to plan a trip to the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History. The museum is situated on the scenic waterfront and offers visitors a glimpse of everything from dinosaurs to coastal ecology.

The museum has several great exhibits. One worth noting is the mudéjar-style dome ceiling in the Cultural Encounters exhibit. It was originally in a building in Spain – around 1535. So don’t forget to look up! 😉

Parking in front of the museum is limited as well as the parking area across the street. So make sure you leave the rig parked in a local campground and just take the tow vehicle. Current admission is $9 for adults and $7 for seniors/children.

If you find yourself in Rockport (TX) make time to visit the Texas Maritime Museum. The museum’s permanent exhibits focus on maritime history, boat and ship building, commercial and sports fishing, as well as modern-day oil and gas exploration. The second floor also has an incredible display of artwork devoted to Texas lighthouses. And the third floor is actually an observation tower with a great view of historic Rockport and Rockport Beach. There are a few larger exhibits outside. The museum also has a small library and gift shop.

Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors. Parking is limited, so take your tow vehicle. And while you are there, don’t forget to visit the Rockport Aquarium (free) and Bay Education Center (free) – all within walking distance.

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Marine One

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Marine One @ the National Museum of Naval Aviation

Need something to do this holiday weekend? U.S. National Parks will waive entrance fees February 14th – 16th in honor of Presidents’ Day. From Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace to LBJ National Historical Park, there are some great presidential parks and historic sites to visit.

If you want to spend a little more money on your Valentine, consider visiting a site like George Washington’s Mount Vernon or Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And don’t forget to look in your own backyard. Many museums offer presidential “surprises” like the photo above of Marine One at the National Museum of Naval Aviation.

And don’t forget to mark the opening of National Park Week (April 18th-19th, 2015) on your calendar as the next fee-free days for U.S. National Parks.

On this date three years ago…

We were in Texas, enjoying the beautiful Hill Country. We made a trip to Austin to visit the Texas Forces Military Museum. This museum is located inside Camp Mabry and has a variety of exhibits – from the history of the Alamo to a piece of the Berlin Wall to modern weaponry.

The fun thing about traveling the country is that you are bound to met people from an area you’ve visited. When we come across some Austinites we always joke about meeting Audie Murphy there. Usually confused by our encounter with this famous hero, we have to elaborate about posing with the Audie Murphy statue (across from the military museum).  Unfortunately we have yet to met one that has visited the museum!

Most military bases have some sort of museum and they are often free (but rely on donations) to the public. There is a great deal of history at these museums – and you will be surprised what you see! If there is a base in or near your area, look online to see if they have a museum. Because you just never know when you’ll run into the Three Modern Nomads – chances are we’ve already been there! 😉

While driving along Hwy. 98 the other day, we discovered the Baldwin Country Heritage Museum in Elberta (AL). If you find yourself in the region you will definitely want to find time to stop in.

The museum offers a variety of indoor exhibits as well as outbuildings and farming equipment. Outbuildings include a general store, old schoolhouse, church, blacksmith shop, potato shed and pole barn. The goal of the museum is to share and preserve the cultural heritage of the community. They do a wonderful job of showcasing the variety of crops and specialties of region – from potatoes and oysters to turpentine and honey.

 The museum is currently open Wednesday – Saturday and has free admission (although donations are appreciated to keep things running). Parking is adequate for a tow vehicle; however, if the museum is busy, you may find trouble parking the Big Rig.

For more information you can visit their page at FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/BCHeritageM

If you find yourself near Milton (FL), not far from I-10 is the West Florida Railroad Museum. This is a great little stop if you have the time. The museum area occupies an old freight and passenger depot that was built in the early 1900s at the site of the original 1882 depot. They have several cars in their collection, including dining cars, flat car, box cars, former Pullman sleeper and two cabooses. They also have a model railroad building, an outdoor scale railroad and gift shop.

The museum is free to the public, but does rely on donations to stay open. It is operated by volunteers so the museum is only open on Fridays and Saturdays. Parking is limited and there is no room to park a RV – so if you go, take the tow!

For directions and hours, please visit their website at: http://wfrm.org/index.html

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © B&O Civil War display

If you find yourself in Baltimore, make sure you plan a visit to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum. This is the birthplace of American railroading! They have some of the oldest railroad equipment on display that truly transport you back to early days of railroading.

During the time of our visit, they were celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Civil War with a special exhibit “The War Came By Train”. A very interesting series of displays from different views.

Although we have been to bigger train and transportation museums, this one stands-out with the incredible roundhouse. A must-see for train enthusiasts.

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©Roundhouse

In addition to the numerous trains and rolling stock on display, there is also a model train gallery, working model train exhibits, dining ware exhibit, clock and code exhibit, snack bar and gift shop. In addition, you can ride the train for one mile.

Admission to the museum is rather high and unfortunately we went during an event and it was even higher. So call ahead to make sure it’s standard admission. The train ride is an additional charge, although I honestly wouldn’t recommend this because the view is very disappointing.

Parking is free. They advertise RV and Bus Parking, but the museum is located in a section of town filled with one-way and tight-cornered streets. We found ample parking for our dually in Lot B. So make sure you have a map in the event your GPS fails to keep up with the web of streets.

For more information: www.borail.org

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©B&O Exhibit

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Fort McHenry National Monument

If you find yourself near Baltimore, don’t forget to take a day to visit Fort McHenry National Monument by the harbor. The fort and grounds have a fascinating history… and the Battle of Baltimore in 1814 was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to write the Star-Spangled Banner!

Entrance into the fort is $7 per adult; children under 15 are free. You can visit the park without paying admission – although you will only have access to the picnic grounds, visitor’s center, gift shop and movie.

Now the area is not Big Rig friendly, so don’t even think about taking your RV! If you are staying in the area you can take the water taxi or drive (but follow directions carefully as there is a great deal of traffic).

For directions and additional information, please visit their website at: http://www.nps.gov/fomc/index.htm

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Pythian Castle

If you have ever seen “Haunted Collector” on the SyFy Channel, then you probably recognize Pythian Castle. This historic landmark is located in Springfield (MO) and can be toured. They offer historic and haunted tours.

This unusual structure was built by the Knight of Pythias in 1913 as an orphanage and senior home. In the 1940s, the government took over the property for injured WWII vets. A lot of “souls” have visited this landmark.

If you find yourself near Springfield and want to stop for a tour – be advised that Pythian Castle is located near the downtown area and streets are narrow for wide-turning RVs. Although there is ample parking at the castle, you would be better off just taking a tow vehicle.

For information on tours and times, visit their website at: http://www.pythiancastle.com

You just never know what kind of history you are going to dig up (hmm… poor choice of words, perhaps!) at a cemetery. Like the time we were gold panning along the Yuba River (CA) and found a small trail leading to a cemetery. The small cemetery revealed to be the resting place of a Captain Thompson and his descendents – a ship’s captain until his crew abandoned ship for the promise of riches in California’s gold fields. And there are those with a voiceless past, like the Yuma Territorial Prison Cemetery (AZ) where there are no grave markers, just rows of rock mounds… It really is amazing what you can learn at these locations. So why not plot… uh, I mean plan, a trip to visit a historic one near you?

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Rose O’Neill home and statue

So you planned to take that dream trip across the country to a national park or visit that must-see museum only to find out it’s closed… What’s a family to do about vacation plans now?

There are many wonderful hidden treasures across the USA and if you take a closer look, a few are probably right in your own backyard!

The first thing to do is visit an area’s local tourist or visitor center website. Often they will list attractions, recreation and events and have links to other websites that contain more details. Don’t forget to look for small museums, historical sites and botanical gardens! And there are still places that offer free admission, but appreciate donations. Your support of these smaller attractions and non-profit organizations helps keep them open. You may find yourself enjoying the less popular attractions as they are not as crowded and their volunteers are eager to share information about the site with visitors.

So before you begin to panic about your upcoming travel plans, browse the web! Like TV shows? Find out about your favorite and visit places from the show, like the Walton’s Mountain Museum (Shuyler, VA). Enjoy history and art? Check out Rose O’Neill’s home “Bonniebrook” (Walnut Shade, MO). Love sci-fi? Drop by the International UFO Museum & Research Center (Roswell, NM). The possibilities are endless!

If you had planned to stay in a park lodge or campground, don’t fret! Most private campgrounds offer cabins with basic bunks and beds to deluxe cabins completely furnished.  Ask if they have discounts, as most campgrounds will offer a free night if you stay longer than a week. Although private campgrounds are a bit higher priced than national and state parks, consider ones with additional amenities like playground, scheduled activities/events, ice cream socials, free breakfast, Cable TV and WiFi to get the most for your money.

This is a beautiful country and there are plenty of ways to experience and explore the USA outside of it’s national parks and museums.

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Walton's Mountain Museum

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Walton’s Mountain Museum

  

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © California State Railroad Museum

Looking back…

We spent the summer of 2008 exploring California. One interesting thing about California is the railroad history. Now, who doesn’t love trains? We enjoyed visiting the different depots and train-related attractions. Our favorite was the California State Railroad Museum. It is definitely the largest train museum we’ve ever visited. The museum is located in Old Sacramento or “Old Sac”. This area contains many historic buildings and even wooden boardwalks. It really is hard to imagine you are in a state capital. If you find yourself in Sacramento you should plan to spend a day in Old Sac and visit the train museum.

Slideshow images from our visit: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/california/train-museum/

Photo by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Titanic Museum

The one thing I would not have expected to see in the Ozarks! And don’t even get me started about King Kong across the street! 😉

Photo by H.S. Cooper © RFM Steam Engine

Photo by H.S. Cooper © RFM Steam Engine

If you find yourself along highway 65 in the southern part of Missouri, make sure to plan a day at the Ralph Foster Museum near Hollister (MO). The Ralph Foster Museum is located inside the College of the Ozarks and offers visitors three floors of items related to the Ozark region.

Although the museum covers everything from handmade dolls and antiques to weapons and natural history, one of the most popular attractions is the original truck used in “The Beverly Hillbillies”. The museum is air-conditioned and has an elevator for those who are limited on stairs.

While you are there, don’t forget to visit the Edwards Mill and other attractions located on the campus grounds.

Admission to the Ralph Foster Museum is $6 for adults and $5 for seniors. Since the museum is located on a college campus, parking is only for smaller vehicles. So leave the rig and take the tow.

For more information and museum hours, visit their website at: http://www.rfostermuseum.com/

Photo by H.S. Cooper © RFM Doll Room
Photo by H.S. Cooper © RFM Doll Room
Photo by H.S. Cooper © Pioneer Village

Photo by H.S. Cooper © Pioneer Village

Looking back…

In 2007 we found ourselves stopping in Cashmere (WA) at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. We were actually headed for a festival in Leavenworth and, instead, spent the majority of the day in charming Cashmere.

If the name sounds familiar to you, perhaps you’ve had some candy from Aplets & Cotlets Candy Kitchen? It didn’t take us long to find our way there and view candies being made. And, of course, we tried all the free samples! 🙂

There are a handful of antique shops and malls in Cashmere. One in particular had a diner inside that offered “spirited” chili! In addition to antiques, there are several wineries in the area. However, if you are planning to visit those, I would definitely recommend more than a day-trip.

Another stop we made was the Cashmere Museum & Pioneer Village, which is a great attraction for the admission price (I see the current price is still only $4-5). There are twenty buildings on the grounds and, honestly, I wish we would have had more time to really soak up the history that day.

If you find yourself in this region, make sure you plan to stop in Cashmere… especially if you have a sweet-tooth! 😉

More information on this area can be found at: http://cashmerechamber.org/about/

 

Photo by H.S. Cooper © SOPWITH

Photo by H.S. Cooper © SOPWITH

If you find yourself near Ozark, Alabama, you might want to visit the U.S. Army Aviation Museum at Fort Rucker. It is located off Highways 84 and 231.

The museum has a number of aircraft on display, in addition to some interesting exhibits like a piece of red cloth from the Red Baron’s plane, a section of the Berlin Wall and a solo cycle.

Admission is free and the museum is open every day (except Sunday and major holidays). The only requirement is that anyone over 16 years of age must show photo I.D. at the gate and the vehicle owner’s may be asked to show proof of vehicle registration and insurance. There is adequate parking for your tow (no RVs) unless there is an event underway, then you may find yourself parking in the grass.

For more information, visit their website at: http://www.armyavnmuseum.org/

Photo by H.S. Cooper © ARMY AVIATION MUSEUM

Photo by H.S. Cooper © ARMY AVIATION MUSEUM

 

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © PONCE DE LEON LIGHTHOUSE

If you’ve been driving I-95 or US 1 for awhile and find yourself near Daytona Beach…and you need to stretch your legs… why not climb a lighthouse? Ponce de Leon Lighthouse in Ponce Inlet is the tallest lighthouse in Florida towering 188 feet. That’s 203 steps (ground floor to gallery deck) for those breaking in new walking shoes. 😉

The lighthouse and museum grounds are open year-round and admission is only $5 per person. Driving directions and additional information about this beautiful lighthouse can be found at their website.

http://www.ponceinlet.org/visit-us.cfm

PLEASE NOTE: This lighthouse is located at the end of Ponce Inlet and parking at the lighthouse is limited to smaller vehicles. No over-sized parking is available.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper © KEEPER’S COTTAGE

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©SRSP VILLAGE
One of several buildings at the Florida pioneer village inside SRSP.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©MASTODON
Mastodon remains were found below the Silver River.

If you find yourself near Ocala, Florida, you should make a visit to the Silver River State Park. The park is just a mile south of Silver Springs and has a variety to offer – from hiking trails leading to the river, camping and picnic areas, to the Silver River Museum and Florida pioneer village. Entrance fee for vehicles is $6 (max of 8 people) and museum admission is $2 (the museum is only open weekends and holidays).

For more information, please visit these websites:

Silver River State Park

Silver River Museum

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©SEMINOLE DOLLS
Saw palmetto dolls made by Seminoles are on display in the Silver River Museum at SRSP.

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©

Photo taken by H.S. Cooper ©SINK HOLE TRAIL
Be mindful of wildlife and gigantic mosquitoes when you walk the trails.

When in Pensacola, don’t forget to take time to visit the National Museum of Naval Aviation and the Pensacola lighthouse. Both are located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station and are FREE! Citizens just need to show proper photo ID at the entrance gate. You will be given a dash pass to display while you are visiting.

Even if you have been there before, the museum has a new addition you should see – Hangar Bay One.

Be prepared to spend several hours at the museum complex. There are two floors of exhibits, Hangar Bay One, as well as other attractions (IMAX theater and FREE trolley tour). The museum also has a restaurant, gift shop and library/gallery to enjoy.


 

National Museum of Naval Aviation

Free Parking and Admission (see website for additional IMAX prices)

Museum Open Daily (except holidays) 9 am – 5 pm

www.navalaviationmuseum.org

And again, don’t forget to visit the haunted lighthouse while you’re there! ;)

Pensacola Lighthouse

Located across from the National Museum of Aviation

Free Parking / Free Admission to Museum

$5 for Lighthouse Climb (see website for additional prices and special events)

Open Monday – Saturday 10:30 am – 5:30 pm

http://www.pensacolalighthouse.org/

Check their websites for special Blue Angels dates, especially if you want to view them from the top of the lighthouse. Additional cost for lighthouse climb during Blue Angels schedule.

MORE PHOTOS: https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/florida/national-museum-of-naval-aviation/

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/florida/national-museum-of-naval-aviation/hangar-bay-one/

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/florida/national-museum-of-naval-aviation/trolley-tour/

https://hscooper.wordpress.com/photos/florida/pensacola_lighthous/

Waltons Mountain Museum
Waltons Mountain Museum

Children are getting out of school, summer is around the corner and money is tight. What’s a family to do about vacation?

There are many wonderful places with small or no admission fees all over the country. In fact, if you probably take a look, a few are in your own backyard!

The first thing to do is visit an area’s local tourist or visitor center website. Often they will list attractions, recreation and events and have links to other websites that contain more details.
Vikingsholm Castle

Vikingsholm Castle

 

Don’t forget to look for small museums, historical sites and botanical gardens!  Often these places have discounted admissions on families or larger parties, free days or reciprical agreements with other attractions (offering discount rates or free admission). And there are still places that offer free admission, but appreciate donations. Although you should leave an appropriate donation or the suggested donation amount if one is posted.

You may find yourself enjoying the less popular attractions as they are less crowded and their volunteers are eager to share information about the location.

So before you rack up $50-70 a person heading to Disneyland or Six Flags this summer, surf the net! Consider driving to the Waltons Mountain Museum ($6), visiting the International UFO Museum & Research Center ($5), trekking to Vikingsholm Castle ($6.50 to park) or discovering the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit for free on a Tuesday…

If you don’t have a RV or tent, don’t fret! Most campgrounds offer cabins with basic bunks and beds to deluxe cabins completely furnished. Often even deluxe cabins cost less that a hotel stay. Ask if they have discounts, as most campgrounds will offer a free night if you stay longer than 4-5 days or during the weekday.

Vacations don’t have to be expensive to be fun. There is a great deal in this country to see that is educational and fun for the whole family that won’t break your budget!

International UFO Museum and Research Center

International UFO Museum and Research Center

NOTE: Waltons Mountain Museum is in Shuyler, VA (around 160 miles from Washington, DC); the International UFO Museum is located in downtown Roswell, NM; Vikingsholm Castle is located inside Emerald Bay State Park on Lake Tahoe (California side); the Smithsonian Marine Ecosystems Exhibit is located in Fort Pierce, FL on the beautiful Indian River Lagoon. This is just a few of the thousands of attractions across the U.S. that are inexpensive and family friendly.
 
Bodie State Historic Park, CA

Bodie State Historic Park, CA

I recently read an article on places you “must” visit in the United States before you die and I was shaking my head in disbelief. The writer focused more on expensive lodging (and wine) and it read like an advertisement in a hospitality trade magazine.

I always wonder how much travelling the writers of these “must visit” articles have done and the reasons they pick various destinations. The usually do not explain their criteria for choosing these “must visit” sites.

Of course, that prompted me to think of places that I personally recommend folks visit! My criteria for these are based on the following: historic significance, photographic opportunities, expense and remoteness.

I think historic significance is very important. It makes your trip more than just a vacation; it makes it a learning experience. Opinions vary on the subject of what is beautiful, so I think a photographic opportunity is a good way to describe an area. It may not be breathtaking to someone, but they’ll find their camera memory card full when they leave! With the economy these days, most folks have found a tighter budget, especially dealing with travel and vacations. These destinations are either free or have a modest admission charge. They also have other sites or attractions nearby that are affordable to the average family. Remoteness is another criterion, as some of those “must visit” destinations are so far off the map that they are not practical for most families to visit. These destinations are accessible to anyone – no need to parachute in or trek 30 miles through the jungle to get to it! And most are great spots for RVers and families to spend some quality time.

Many state or national parks are either free or involve a small fee. If you plan to experience a few of America’s incredible parks, take advantage of purchasing an annual National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass ( http://www.nps.gov/ ) . If you are 62 or older, it only costs you $10!

Here are 49 destinations – one in each state that that I have visited (sorry Hawaii… haven’t got to you yet!) that I recommend seeing if you get the chance. A few states have numerous sites of interests (like lighthouses).

 1) U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Huntsville – AL (Great museum and exhibits; also home to the U.S. Space Camp. This is very educational for all ages.)

2) Gulf of Alaska, Seward – AK (Take a glacier cruise and experience glaciers, whales and the most beautiful scenery you can imagine! If you take the train from Anchorage, make sure you allow enough time to explore Seward before or after your cruise.)

3) Grand Canyon National Park – AZ (After touring the park, I took a helicopter tour – amazing!)

4) Crater of Diamonds State Park, Murfreesboro – AR (Hunt for precious stones and diamonds at the only diamond site available to the public. Keep what you find!)

5) Bodie State Historic Park, Bridgeport – CA (A modern day “ghost town” kept exactly as it was when the state acquired it. Be prepared to spend the day to enjoy this amazing look at our past!)

6) Mesa Verde National Park, Cortez – CO (Anasazi ruins that you won’t forget! Dress for walking though.)

7) Lighthouses – CT (There are a handful of breathtaking lighthouses that shouldn’t be missed!)

8 ) Lighthouses – DE (The thing I like about this region of the U.S. is the lighthouses and there are some interesting ones in DE.)

9) Orlando / Kissimmee / St. Cloud – FL (There is so much to see and do in Florida, that I couldn’t narrow it down to that “one thing”. This region is great because it’s only 2 hours from the coast and pretty much anything you like to do is nearby! From theme parks to flea markets to nature walks and great food – it’s all here!)

10) High Falls State Park, Jackson – GA (Interesting history how this area became a “ghost town”. Now it’s a beautiful park with great places to hike and camp along the river.)

11) Ghost Towns – ID (Many people don’t realize that Idaho has a number of ghost and mining towns left to explore. A few of the state park sites offer gold panning as well.)

12) Super Museum, Metropolis – IL (Yep, Superman! Kids will love it and adults will remember the good old days. IL is actually a “super” state, with the Dick Tracy museum.)

13) Shipshewana – IN (From flea markets and shopping to experiencing the Amish culture, there is something for everyone here.)

14) Covered Bridges / John Wayne’s Birthplace, Winterset – IA (If you enjoyed the movie and book about Madison County, it is definitely a must see. Although a few driving tours are not good for RVs or big rigs. If you like trains, you may want to head over to Boone and hope on the B&SV!)

15) Wetlands and Wildlife National Scenic Byway – KS (From sandhill cranes to bald eagles, an amazing route!)

16) Mammoth Cave National Park – KY (A must see if you enjoy exploring caverns. They offer a variety of tours and have senior rates. If you aren’t a cave person, then the next spot to see in KY would be Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.)

17) North & South Toledo Bend – LA (This region has so much to see and do it would keep an active family very busy for several weeks. From historic sites to aquariums to outdoor activities!)

18) Lighthouses / Bridges / Waterfalls – ME (Too numerous to list, but if you haven’t visited a lighthouse, you haven’t experienced ME!)

19) Assateague Island National Seashore – MD (See the wild horses at Assateague Island, but remember they are wild and are not tame animals. Respectfully observe from a distance.)

20) Salem – MA (Rich in history and plenty to see and do!)

21) Mesick – MI (Go mushroom hunting! Although it is not recommend for big rigs to go into the parks. Find a campground to unhook your tow. There is nothing like getting up before the deer and tromping in the woods for morels!)

22) Voyageurs National Park, International Falls – MN (A water-based park that is great to canoe or kayak.)

23) Gulf Islands National Seashore – MS (Before another hurricane hits the Gulf coast – go see it!)

24) Meramec Caverns, Stanton – MO (Missouri is a great state for touring caves and families will love this one. It’s open year-round and we actually toured the caverns in the winter.)

25) Wild Horse Island State Park, Kalispell – MT (Don’t miss this park on your way to Glacier National Park!)

26) Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park – NE (Lots of birding opportunities in NE, but don’t forget about the past!)

27) Hoover Dam / Lake Mead / Las Vegas – NV (RVers will be stopped by Homeland Security to search your rig before crossing Hoover Dam and once at the dam, be prepared for congestion as you navigate the winding way down. Hoover Dam tours are rather expensive for families, but watch the movie VEGAS VACATION before you go so you know what you missed on the “dam tour”. 😉 )

28) Shaker Village, Canterbury – NH (Lots to do in NH, but this is a great stop that is often overlooked.)

29) Lighthouses – NJ (Plenty of really neat lighthouses in NJ, especially Cape May.)

30) International UFO Museum & Research Center, Roswell – NM (Roswell is really a neat tourist stop that has a little bit everything. Their museum and art center is also well worth a visit!)

31) Sleepy Hollow – NY (Where else can you visit Headless Horsemen Bridge, Sleepy Hollow cemetery and Sing Sing Prison Museum on the same day?)

32) Nantahala National Forest, Bryson City – NC (Catch the train along the Tuckasegee River and through Nantahala Gorge, then visit the outdoor center and go white water rafting. It’s a beautiful area and incredible drive.)

33) International Peace Gardens, Densieth – ND (Why not visit Canada while you’re there? Park also has building remains from the World Trade Center.)

34) National Museum of the USAF, Dayton – OH (Great museum and lots to do around the Dayton – Cincinnati region – from great food to flea markets and King’s Island.)

35) Museums, Tulsa – OK (A variety of great museums in Tulsa that appeal to all ages.)

36) Sea Lion Caves, Florence – OR (See Stellar sea lions year-round and get an amazing view of the OR coast and Heceta Head lighthouse – which is just “down the road”.)

37) Lancaster County – PA (Really worth visiting and especially experiencing a buggy ride!)

38) Heritage Walks – RI (They call their historic walking trails “heritage walks”. A lot of great historic buildings and sites to see – especially like Southeast lighthouse at Block Island.)

39) Myrtle Beach – SC (Great destination for families and RVers – plenty to do for all budgets! We usually state at Ocean Lakes Family CG – it’s like a city itself and right on the ocean.)

40) Badlands National Park – SD (If you can’t make it to the Grand Canyon and are already heading for Mount Rushmore, then you must stop at the Badlands. And while you are in SD, don’t forget to visit Wall Drug or Corn Palace!)

41) Gatlinburg / Pigeon Forge / Sevierville – TN (This area is not only beautiful but great for all families. From scenery to outlet malls, to trolleys and fun centers, to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – this region in the Smokey’s offers a little bit of everything.

42) The Alamo, San Antonio – TX (Many sites to see in Texas, but a visit isn’t complete until you visit the historic Alamo and experience San Antonio’s River Walk.)

43) Arches National Park, Moab – UT (We actually visited this park in the winter and it was incredible with the snow! If you don’t like crowds, winter is perfect for visiting this park. Just be prepared for the winter weather and pay attention to the local forecast.)

44) Connecticut River Byway – VT (Scenic byway that goes for hundreds of miles and has plenty of covered bridges to keep your camera busy!)

45) Blue Ridge Parkway / Shenandoah Valley, Waynesboro – VA (Start at Waynesboro, VA and head south along “America’s Favorite Drive” to enjoy the Parkway, Shen Valley and continue south to the Great Smoky National Park ending in North Carolina. And don’t forget to explore the historic towns along the way!)

46) Olympic National Park / Hurricane Ridge, Port Angeles – WA (If you only visit one place in WA, this is the place. ONP has so much to offer – from the Hoh Rainforest to Mt. Olympus. You need at least a week in this area – more if you want to hike and explore everything the Olympic Peninsula has to offer. And don’t forget to catch a ferry from Port Angeles to Victoria, BC for a day trip to Canada.)

47) Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park – WV (Great place to hike and explore the past!)

48) Botanical Gardens – WI (Surprisingly, WI has some great gardens. And most U.S. botanical gardens have reciprocal agreements for members. So if you belong to one botanical garden, see if you get in others free or for reduced cost.)

49) Yellowstone National Park – WY (Spend at least a few days to enjoy the area and take advantage of activities, such as fishing and hiking. We especially enjoyed a small bus tour which focused on the geological formations.)

Feel free to add your own “must sees” by commenting. And if you’ve been to Hawaii – don’t hold back! I want to know where to go when I finally get there! 😉

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park, WA

Hoh Rainforest - Olympic National Park, WA

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