RVING FOR HISTORY BUFFS: 10 MUST SEE PLACES
When many people think about RVing they think of parking next to the lake for a weekend of ﬁshing or heading to the mountains for hiking, but RVing is also the perfect way to get out and explore North America’s rich history.
We spent four years touring the United States in our RV. Much of that time was dedicated to visiting historical sites from Key West to Alaska and San Francisco to New York City and hundreds of places in between. Narrowing down my list to 10 places was next to impossible. It would have been much easier to write 100 Must See Places but for the sake of length and your time I whittled the list down to ten. I chose RV-friendly places in a variety of locations around the country and most have the added beneﬁt of natural beauty for outdoor enthusiasts.
For early American history, it doesn’t get much better than Boston. Boston is home to the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile marked path through downtown that passes by 16 historical signiﬁcant locations. It starts at the Boston Commons and winds its way down to Bunker Hill. While not a part of the Freedom Trail, the Boston Tea Party Ships and Museum offers an
in- depth look at an event that changed the course of history. Not far from Boston you’ll also ﬁnd Plymouth Plantation, a living history museum about the early settlement of Plymouth Colony. Campgrounds are limited to the outskirts of Boston. We’d recommend camping at one of the numerous campgrounds between Boston and Cape Cod so you can experience Boston’s history and spend a day or two experiencing the beauty of Cape Cod.
The history of Charleston, South Carolina is one of the most enduring in the country. Founded by the English in 1670, Charleston began as a small seaport settlement. By the 18th century it had grown into a wealthy city. The bloodiest four years in America began in April of 1861 when Confederate soldiers opened ﬁre at Union-occupied Fort Sumter in the Charleston Harbor. The Civil War devastated Charleston but the lack of funds forced the city to repair instead of replace buildings thus preserving a large array of signiﬁcant architecture. Start your visit at the Charleston Visitor Center for suggestions from their friendly and helpful staff and be sure to watch, Forever Charleston, to get an overview of the city’s history. Must-sees include Fort Sumpter National Monument, a walking tour of historic downtown self-guided or otherwise, Battery Park, and Charleston City Market. A handful of campgrounds are on the outskirts of the city including Edisto Beach State Park where you can camp on the coast. Or consider staying further south and add a day trip to Savannah, Georgia to your history tour.
Located just outside Detroit, MI, Dearborn is a haven of history in the Midwest. The must-see attraction is The Henry Ford. The Henry Ford Museum of Innovation is nothing short of spectacular. Step onto the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, see past presidential cars, learn about manufacturing, and even see early RVs. Head over to Greenﬁeld Village where you can ride in a Model T, explore Thomas Edison’s lab, and see the workshop where the Wright brothers thought to reach for the sky. There are a number of campgrounds located outside the Detroit area. If you want to spend some time enjoying Lake Erie, we suggest Sterling State Park Campground located south of Dearborn on the lake.
New Orleans, LA
In 1803 the United States bought approximately 827,000 square miles of land for 15 million dollars from France. Known as the Louisiana Purchase, this territory located west of the Mississippi included New Orleans. New Orleans’ history is as rich and varied as its food. Stroll the famous French Quarter and visit the St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1724, St Louis is the oldest continuously active Catholic cathedral in the United States. Ride one of the continuously operating streetcars in the world. You’ll also ﬁnd museums galore including The New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park and The National World War II Museum. As for places to camp you’ll ﬁnd RV parks within walking distance to the French Quarter or pick one of the many nearby campgrounds located and drive in for the day. For more tips on visiting New Orleans with kids check out RVing in New Orleans.
A history trip isn’t complete without a visit to our nation’s ﬁrst capitol city, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The main course is Independence National Historic Park. Independence NHP is an urban park that contains historical delights like the Liberty Bell, the Benjamin Franklin Museum, Carpenter’s Hall, and Independence Hall, where both the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were signed. In addition, there are many other smaller sites that commemorate the people and places of our rich history. Consider visiting nearby Valley Forge located northeast of the Philadelphia to learn more about place where the American Continental Army spent the harsh winter 1777 and 1778. Campgrounds are speckled all around the city, including one in downtown.
Santa Fe, NM
Santa Fe is the oldest capitol city in the United States and the oldest European community west of the Mississippi. Explore ancient Native Americans petroglyphs or visit the Palace of the Governors, one of the nation’s oldest government buildings. Currently, the Palace of the Governors serves as New Mexico’s History Museum. Just outside of the city, you’ll ﬁnd Pecos National Historical Park where the remains of Indian Pueblos teach us about the ancient peoples who once thrived in this high desert. History, art, and culture are rich in Santa Fe and there are plenty of outdoor adventures to be had as well. All of this makes it a wonderful stop for RVing history buffs.
St. Augustine, FL
Along the sandy shores of the Atlantic in northern Florida, lies the oldest permanent European settlement in the United States, St Augustine. St. Augustine was founded in by Spanish conquistador, Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1565. St. Augustine has been the home to a wide array of cultures from Native Americans, Spanish settlers, British soldiers, and unconventional millionaires, all who have left their mark on this beautiful coastal city. Visit the Castillo de San Marcos, a 17th-century Spanish fortress, walk through the historic district, and spend time at the beach. If you can get a spot (reserve early), stay at Anastasia State Park located across Matanzas Bay from downtown St. Augustine.
Of course, no list of best places for history buffs is complete without our nation’s capital city, Washington D.C. It might surprise you that Washington D.C. is very RV friendly. Well, you won’t be parking on the National Mall, but there are plenty of options nearby making an RV trip to Washington D.C. educational and affordable! The list of attractions in D.C. is long and ever growing so plan accordingly. For an in depth look at our favorite places to visit while RVing Washington D.C. check out this post.
Known as the Historic Triangle, Williamsburg, Virginia is where American history comes alive. You’ll be able to walk through and touch hundreds of years of history in the living history museums. From the Native Americans who ﬁrst called this area home to the ﬁrst settlers founding Jamestown in 1607 to the Battle of Yorktown, history is thick around Williamsburg. Plan on spending multiple days to tour Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, Colonial Williamsburg, American Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown, and Yorktown Battleﬁeld. There are a number of campgrounds to choose from in the area. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Yellowstone National Park, WY, ID, MT
National parks and RVing are like ice cream and cake. They just ﬁt together. Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park is America’s ﬁrst national park and, depending on who you ask, the second oldest in the world. This history with its unmatched geological wonders makes it a must see for RVers. Be sure to attend a ranger program or two discussing the history of the park. It’s fascinating to hear how conservancy and culture has changed over the years. Today you wouldn’t think of intentionally feeding bears but back in the 1900s it was a common occurrence and there are pictures to prove it! You’ll ﬁnd numerous campgrounds located in and around the park. If possible plan a visit early or late in the season to avoid crowds.
Are you a history buff? Where are some of your favorite places to Go RVing?