Exploring a State Park or National Park this Summer! How to Choose?

In state parks and national parks alike you’ll find things like caves and waterfalls, mountains and valleys, wide-open fields, and pristine lakes and seashores

There’s one thing you know for certain: you’re looking to get away, get outdoors, and go exploring. But where are you going? Chances are you want to visit a place where the natural world is front and center which means state parks and national parks are two of your best options. These special, protected environments are available for public use and offer plenty of opportunities for exploration, recreation, and adventure. Whatever outdoor activities you’re enthusiastic about it’s guaranteed that both national and state parks afford plenty of access to a variety of great places to pursue them.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But in any case, you have no bad options! No matter which type of park you choose to visit, you’ll be able to explore endless trails, campsites, and outdoor adventure opportunities. So make your choice and get out there!

In the southeastern corner of Georgia lies the Okefenokee Swamp, a 438,000-acre wetland. The cypress-filled wilderness—with its labyrinth of black canals inhabited by some 12,000 gators—is a long drive from anywhere. The Native Americans aptly called the swamp the “land of trembling earth” because the unstable peat deposits covering much of the swamp floor tremble when stepped on.

Okefenokee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Spanish moss-laced trees sway in the breeze. A carpet of yellow bonnet lilies floats on top of the glossy dark waters of this refuge, home not only to alligators but also to turtles, black bears, herons, and many other creatures. At night, you hear the barred owls hooting deep within the forest.

More on state parks: 16 of the Best State Parks in America

One noise missing is the beep-beep of mobile devices. Cell phone service is spotty at best and honestly, you’ll be delighted by a break from the digital world. 

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors have three main entry points to choose from, each about two hours from the next. Stephen C. Foster State Park is the western entrance to the Okefenokee. It’s nestled within the much larger Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge but it offers much that the bigger reserve does not include campsites with electrical hookups, running water, and access until 10 p.m.—a plus for the stargazers attracted by its International Dark Sky designation in 2016. The park is 18 miles from the closest town of Fargo, Georgia.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Park staff removed 13 streetlights and switched many bulbs to light-emitting diodes (LED). They worked with a local power company to install state-of-the-art lighting which casts downward rather than outward. The staff even retrofitted outdoor lighting on park cabins to be motion-activated.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These days, Okefenokee’s 120 acres of state park have more fans than ever. Since the pandemic started, they’ve seen an uptick in visitation even in the summer when numbers are normally low. That’s no anomaly. As travelers seek new options for enjoying the outdoors, state parks across the country have reported rising attendance.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Surprisingly, as of 2019, they were already welcoming about 2.5 times more visitors than their higher-profile, federally funded counterparts despite having only 16 percent of the acreage. While many state campgrounds do book up fast, a relatively local audience means that visitors at this southern George park tend to be more evenly distributed throughout the year which preserves the low-key, less crowded atmosphere. People can be out relaxing in nature without encountering the Instagram swarms angling for photo ops in the more famous parks.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Crowd volume is also helped by the simple fact that there are more state-run options for travelers to choose from. America’s State Parks alliance tallied nearly 6,800 reserves while the National Park System manages just 423.

More on state parks: 12 of the Best State Parks for Summer Camping

As national parks introduce timed entry tickets and day-use reservations in an attempt to tackle overtourism these laid-back siblings feel all the more inviting. Of course, 50 states mean 50 different systems for camping permits, and from park to park amenities are even more variable. Some sites are tricked out with golf courses, zip lining, and RV hookups; others, such as Maine’s Baxter and California’s Sonoma Coast state parks don’t even have running water.

McKinney Falls State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As demand grows, so, too, do the choices. Texas’s first new state park in 25 years, Palo Pinto Mountains will open next year on nearly 5,000 acres halfway between Abilene and Fort Worth. Visitors will be able to hike, bike, and ride horses over the hills. There will be fishing and canoeing on Tucker Lake and campsites where you can stargaze. Once the park opens, one of the first things visitors will see is a sweeping view of the hills from a road built along a ridge. That was on purpose—to awe people on their way in and out.

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And Michigan just announced $250 million in funding for state parks including $26.2 million to create one in Flint—a key investment in the community as it continues to move past its water crisis.

Older sites are getting new energy, too. Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee opened a $40.4 million, 85-room lodge this past January.

Dead Horse Point State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In five Minnesota parks, all-terrain electric wheelchairs with continuous-track treads for navigating rugged ground will be bookable as of this summer.

More on state parks: The 15 Best State Parks for RV Camping

Still, state parks grapple with the same challenges national ones do—and then some. One big concern is having enough help to manage maintenance, ticketing, and other operations.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pennsylvania recently announced the creation of three new state parks. The state’s 2022-23 spending plan includes $56 million to add the new state parks to what is currently a 121-park system. The three will be the first new state parks in Pennsylvania since 2005 not counting Washington Crossing which was transferred from the state Historical and Museum Commission. The money will also help develop the state’s first park for the use of all-terrain vehicles and similar motorized recreational vehicles.

Elephant Butte Lake State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Delaware State Parks which have been filled with a growing number of visitors in the past few years is getting $3.2 million to upgrade some facilities. The goal is to increase the number of attractions in the popular state parks drawing even more tourists to the state. A record-breaking 8 million people visited state parks in 2021 exceeding previous attendance numbers. State officials say this year’s numbers are on track to top that total. Since 2011, reservations and occupancy for camping nights in the parks have grown 124 percent. In 2011, 67,000 nights were reserved, while last year, total reservations approached 150,000.

More on state parks: 7 of the Best State Parks in Texas to Take Your RV

Worth Pondering…

When your spirit cries for peace, come to a world of canyons deep in an old land; feel the exultation of high plateaus, the strength of moving wasters, the simplicity of sand and grass, and the silence of growth.

—August Fruge

Walmart Goes Camping

Walmart adding mini-stores to campgrounds

Walmart is known for its mammoth superstores that sell everything from groceries to treadmills. For thousands of RV travelers, though, its stores are appealing for a different reason: Spacious parking lots where people can relax and stay overnight for free.

The company has allowed overnight parking for RVers in many of its 4,700 US lots going back to the days of founder Sam Walton in the mid-twentieth century. Even RV enthusiasts Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife, Ginni Thomas, have been known to stay at Walmart.

End of the Commons General Store, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But parking at Walmart is getting harder to find. In 2010, about 78 percent of Walmart stores allowed overnight RV parking. Now, it’s close to 58 percent, according to Jim O’Briant who runs OvernightRVParking.com, a website that tracks more than 14,000 free RV parking locations in the United States and Canada.

This presents a problem for scores of self-proclaimed nomads just looking for a place to settle after dark. RVers looking for a place to park overnight for one night will need to find other places.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walmart is now taking camping to a whole new level. The mega-retailer recently announced (July 28, 2022) a partnership with Getaway, a health and wellness hospitality company to build small retail stores that will offer supplies to visitors spending time in nature. The companies say the partnership’s goal is to help consumers “live better by aiming to make traveling to nature even easier and convenient.”

Founded in 2015, Getaway, a network of modern cabin retreats said in a news release that it has averaged “above 84 percent occupancy over the year across Outposts” and recently announced nine new Outposts will open amounting to 28 total locations before the end of 2022.

Denham Springs, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the release, Getaway offers guests Wi-Fi-free stays in nature at its campsite-styled Outposts which are located less than a two-hour drive from major cities across the country. Getaway builds collections of tiny cabins, called Outposts. More “glamping” than camping, Getaway cabins have kitchens, toilets, and queen-size beds.

The new alliance which designates Walmart as Getaway’s first official retail partner will introduce innovative offerings for guests starting this fall at The General Store by Walmart.

Yoder Popcorn, Shipshewana, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A mini-retail experience at select Getaway Outposts, The General Store by Walmart will include seasonal products sourced from Walmart and curated by the outdoor experts at Getaway. Items may include hiking gear, leisure activities, and equipment including FujiFilm cameras, Lodge Cast Iron Skillets, Pendleton Outdoor Blankets, and Burt’s Bees lip balms to name a few. The everyday items will be available at the Outpost saving guests from having to travel off the property if they forgot an item at home.

Savannah’s Candy Kitchen, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the time of check-in for the next six months, guests will also receive Welcome Kits which will include ingredients to make the ultimate camping treat: s’mores.

The General Store will also feature quality goods from small businesses within the community furthering Getaway and Walmart’s commitment to supporting local communities, the retailer said. The items on sale at the General Store will also be available on Walmart.com via a dedicated Getaway shopping page for travelers to shop in advance of their visit.

Le Petite Gourmet Shop, La Grande, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The General Store by Walmart will make its debut later this month at Getaway Hill Country, in Wimberly, Texas with additional locations to open by the end of the year. Wimberly is 37 miles southeast of Austin.

Meanwhile, there are plans to open four more General Store locations through the end of the year. The planned locations include: 

  • Getaway Machimoodus in Moodus, Connecticut
  • Getaway Big Bear in Running Springs, California
  • Getaway Western Catskills in Roscoe, New York
  • Getaway Ozark Highlands in Osceola, Missouri
Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

 “At Getaway, our mission is to help people disconnect and spend time in nature,” said Carlos Becil, chief experience officer of Getaway. “In partnering with Walmart, we are able to amplify our efforts to a larger audience and provide our guests with more free time, helping them prepare for their stays and enjoy the comforts of nature once they arrive.”

In addition, Getaway guests who visit any Outpost during the next year will also receive a complimentary trial of Walmart’s membership program, Walmart+.

Peanut Patch, Yuma, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If this latest retailing venture is successful, WallyWorld may well export the mini-stores idea to campgrounds where you and I might actually stay.

Worth Pondering…

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.

—Anne Lamott

Uncover Your Different in The City Different

Santa Fe is known as the City Different and within one visit you will know why

Santa Fe, New Mexico is a city unlike any other truly living up to its tagline, The City Different. With legendary history and culture around every corner, an art scene that spans from traditional to contemporary, award-winning cuisine that’s as eclectic as it is sumptuous, and countless experiences to encounter you’re sure to uncover something different about yourself when you visit.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Established back in 1607, Santa Fe first became a capital three years later making it both the oldest capital city in the country and the oldest European settlement west of the Mississippi. It also served as the capital of the Spanish Kingdom of New Mexico, the Mexican province of Nuevo Mejico, and the principal city for the Spanish Empire north of the Rio Grande.

Of course, people had been living on and near the site of the city long before its Western founding—namely, communities of Pueblo Native Americans. Records show villages in the area dating back to the 11th century.

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience it: Remarkably, buildings from the start of the Spanish era still stand. The Palace of the Governors has stood since the early 1600s—today, this historic adobe structure serves as New Mexico’s history museum detailing the intervening 400-some years of life in the state. There’s a wonderful (daily) Native American market here where you can buy jewelry and tokens straight from the artists.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The San Miguel Chapel, aka the oldest church in the country or just “the oldest church” also dates back to the early 1600s. Yes, it’s still standing—and conducting services twice a day (once in Latin).

Related article: Wake Up In New Mexico

As in the 1600s, so today: A significant part of Santa Fe’s culture is connected to the 23 Native American Tribes, Nations, and Pueblos who reside in New Mexico. Since each tribe comprises its sovereign nation, the rules, language, and culture change depending on who you’re visiting. Eight of the state’s 19 Native American Pueblos are located north of Santa Fe. Today, you can visit many of them—and you should.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience it: Numerous Indigenous celebrations are held throughout the year with three notables in January alone: King’s Day Celebration, St. Ildefonso Feast Day, and St. Paul’s Feast Day. Public events ramp back up in July and August with the anniversary of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt and Santa Clara Feast Day (August 12, 2022).

The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was a revolution against Spanish religious, economic, and political institutions imposed upon the Pueblos. It is the only successful Native uprising against a colonizing power in North America.

La Fonda © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Fonda Hotel doesn’t just occupy the oldest hotel site in Santa Fe—it occupies the oldest hotel site in the country. Records date way, way back to 1607, right around when the city was founded. The digs inside are a bit more modern, however—their much venerated La Plazuela restaurant serves tasty, tasty, tasty modern Southwestern cuisine surrounded by skylights and the hammered tin of a 1920s-era patio. For some amazing margaritas try the adjacent La Fiesta Lounge (it happens to be a favored stop on the Margarita Trail).

La Plazuela restaurant at La Fonda © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Thanks to its old roots, La Fonda (Spanish for “the inn”) is the only hotel on the historic Santa Fe Plaza making it an excellent launching pad for exploring the heart of the city’s downtown buzz. Here’s what you’ll find nearby.

Related article: 4 Things to Know Before Visiting New Mexico

Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, a Victorian-era cathedral built by Archbishop Lamy and featured in Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop (yes, that Archbishop). If it looks incomplete, that’s because it is—the project ran out of money and the two towers were never finished.

Palace of the Governors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Palace of the Governors, once a fortress where Governor Lew Wallace wrote the classic Ben Hur is now a 400-year-old museum where members of the local Pueblo communities display handcrafted jewelry under its block-long portal.

Museum of Contemporary Native Arts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Between the plaza and the cathedral is the IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, a culture-spanning collection of the new art of and by North America’s indigenous peoples and the only one of its kind in existence. It all started with a student honors program and now it’s the largest collection of contemporary Native American art in the world.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Considering just how many people work in the creative sector in Santa Fe, it’s no surprise that some of them are well-known faces. Perhaps the most famous of the local artist contingent was Georgia O’Keeffe, a 20th-century painter known for her vibrant depictions of flowers. Game of Thrones writer George R.R. Martin currently resides in Santa Fe and other notable past residents have included D.H. Lawrence and Willa Cather.

Loretto Chapel © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors are drawn to Loretto Chapel to see the spiral staircase that leads to the choir loft. The staircase—with two 360-degree turns, no visible means of support, and without the benefit of nails—has been called the Miraculous Staircase.

Related article: Spotlight on New Mexico: Most Beautiful Places to Visit

Experience it: It would only be fitting to see O’Keeffe’s work in the place that inspired it. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, located downtown, features not only her paintings but exhibits on her creative process as well. You can also venture north to Ghost Ranch, one of O’Keeffe’s first homes.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get the full picture of the city’s cultural diversity with a visit to Museum Hill. These are four cultural experiences in one: Start with the retablos and Santos at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art (the only museum of its kind in the country), and move on to the Kachina carvings and pottery at the Museum of Indian Arts and Culture, note the colors and textiles at the Museum of International Folk Art, and wrap it all up with a wander around the Wheelright Museum of the American Indian, home to some of the best Native American art in the state.

If you have time to spare, head to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden on Museum Hill. It’s a little oasis full of colorful gardens and orchards, native plants, and notes of Southwestern architecture that bring it all together.

Plaza of Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For 400+ years, Santa Fe has improved with age. America’s oldest capital city experienced waves of migrations along the three trails that led here—and more recently via the rails, Route 66, and the Interstate. Artists, chefs, wellness experts, and other creative dreamers all bring their culture, talents, and experience with them when they meet Santa Fe’s unique blend of Anglo, Spanish, and Native Cultures against a backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains’ majesty and the spectacular sunsets over the Jemez range—nothing short of magic transpires.

The early Native American inhabitants called it Dancing Ground of the Sun while the founding frontiersman at the turn of the 20th century referred to it as The City Different. These still hold today as you’ll see for yourself.

New Mexico Museum of Art © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wander the halls of the New Mexico Museum of Art, Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, or check out the more than 250 galleries concentrated on Canyon Road, downtown Lincoln Avenue, and Railyard District.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you’re hitting up a local-favorite diner for traditional New Mexican cuisine or looking for one of the city’s many imaginative twists on the original, New Mexican food is hard to beat. The keystone ingredient is chile—green is usually spicier than red but if you’re not sure which one to order, you can always say “Christmas!” and try both. (Tip: Try both and decide for yourself)

Related article: Top 9 Things to See and Do in Santa Fe

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Experience it: Eat everything you can in Santa Fe. Try a breakfast burrito smothered with green chile at Tia Sophia’s then head over to Tortilla Flats— next to Meow Wolf—for their red chile pork ribs. If you aren’t busting at the seams with New Mexican food by this point, go for the sopapillas at La Choza.

If you hit your chile quota (apparently some people have one) try Jambo for some great jerk chicken or Cowgirl BBQ for their ribs sans chile. To get the best deals at tons of different restaurants around town, consider planning a trip during Santa Fe Restaurant Week (late February) when restaurants offer special prix fixe menus.

Worth Pondering…

I’m in love with Santa Fe;

Like it better every day;

But I wonder, every minute

How the folks who aren’t in it

Ever stand it, anyway.

Not to be in Santa Fe.

—Mae Peregine, 1915

10 of the Hottest Cities in America

It’s summer. It’s hot. That’s what summers do.

Some of the most populated cities across the United States are also some of the hottest places to be during the summer with temperatures regularly climbing above 100 degrees F.

Many cities don’t come close to the extreme heat experienced in Death Valley, California; however, the population in Death Valley is just a small fraction of that of many towns across the country.

Cities are warming at twice the global average because buildings and pavement absorb and trap so much heat. Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Miami have named chief heat officers to find ways to prevent the often deadly impacts of extreme heat. 

From the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the deserts of the Southwest, here are 10 of the hottest cities across the United States with a population of over 250,000.

Desert Botanical Gardens, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is home to over 1.6 million people and regularly experiences some of the highest temperatures of any city across the country. The temperature climbs above the 100-degree mark daily from the end of May through the middle of September. These blistering hot days are followed up by warm nights with the low temperature sometimes failing to drop below 90.

Phoenix recorded its hottest summer ever in 2020 with 50 days at or above 110 degrees and a record 28 nights when the temperature never dropped below 90 degrees. 

Papago Park, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat is killing about 300 people per year in Phoenix. 

Phoenix is trying to beat the heat by turning its black asphalt streets gray. A special sealant reflects rather than absorbs the hot desert sun.  

Related: Excessive Heat Warnings: Safety Tips for RVers

America’s hottest city is working to avoid getting even hotter—starting with its streets. As heat waves across the country continue, Phoenix is covering black asphalt roads with a gray sealant that reflects the sun rather than absorbing heat. Mayor Kate Gallego says the sealant which has so far been used on 73 miles of city streets reduces the temperature of asphalt by 10 to 12 degrees.

Phoenix as seen from Hole in the Rock at Papago Park, Phoenix © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to cool pavement the city is creating 100 cool corridors and planting hundreds of trees whose shade can drop the ambient air temperature by about 30 to 40 degrees compared to full sun. Phoenix is also experimenting with reflective roofs and cooling sidewalks. 

Lake Mead National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is a popular tourist destination in the southwestern United States but visitors may want to plan to visit areas with air conditioning during the summer months. The city averages over 70 days a year with temperatures in the triple digits and has reached its all-time record high of 117 on several occasions.

People traveling to popular tourist destinations nearby such as Lake Mead National Recreation, Red Rock Canyon, or the Hoover Dam should also expect to encounter extreme heat and should take the proper precautions to stay safe.

Sabino Canyon, Tucson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Tucson, Arizona

Tucson sits on the edge of the Sonoran Desert and is nearly as hot as Phoenix located 100 miles to the northwest. One of Tucson’s hottest summers in recent years occurred in 2013 when the city climbed into the 100s for 39 consecutive days including all of June.

Monsoonal thunderstorms can provide temporary breaks in the extreme summer heat but they can also kick up dust storms called haboobs that can greatly reduce visibility and cause dangerous travel conditions.

Olive grove in the Central Valley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Riverside, California

While the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean help to limit temperatures along coastal areas of Southern California areas father inland can experience much hotter conditions. Riverside, approximately 50 miles east of downtown Los Angeles has recorded triple-digit heat every month from April through October with an all-time high of 118. This is higher than the record in Las Vegas and just a few degrees shy of the record high in Phoenix.

Related: Dust Storms and Haboobs: Safety Tips for RVers

The Alamo, San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio is home to more than 1.5 million people and experiences long stretch with temperatures in the 90s during the height of summer. On average, the city reaches the 90-degree mark more than 110 days out of the year as well as several days in the low 100s. August is the hottest month of the year in San Antonio with an average high temperature near 97, one of the highest averages across the entire country among major cities.

Lake Okeechobee west of Miami © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Miami, Florida

Although the mercury in southern Florida doesn’t climb as high as it does in the southwestern United States during the summer, Miami’s proximity to the tropics can make it feel oppressively hot, especially for those not accustomed to the high humidity levels. Miami has never recorded a temperature of 100 but the strong summer sun paired with the humidity can send the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature over 110 on the hottest afternoons of the year.

Miami is also one of the warmest cities in the country during the winter with afternoon temperatures often climbing near 80.

Gulf Coast south of Houston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Houston, Texas

Tropical moisture from the Gulf of Mexico has a strong influence on the weather pattern along the coast of Texas including in Houston, the state’s most populated city with over 2 million people. The humidity helps to boost the AccuWeather RealFeel temperature above 100 daily. Moisture from the Gulf also helps to fuel rain and thunderstorms making Houston the wettest among the county’s hottest cities averaging over 100 days a year with rain.

Lake Kaweah east of Fresno © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Fresno, California

Outside of the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Desert, the Central Valley is California’s hottest region with temperatures often reaching the triple digits. This includes Fresno, home to over half a million people. In 2018, the city experienced 30 consecutive days with a temperature at or above the 100-degree mark, the longest stretch in the city’s history.

Related: Heat Alert: The Hidden Symptoms of Extreme Heat

Texas Ranger Museum in Waco, southwest of Dallas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Dallas, Texas

Located farther inland from the Gulf of Mexico than Houston or San Antonio, Dallas can experience some of the hottest weather of all of Texas’ major cities. Being farther away from the source of tropical moisture allows temperatures to be slightly higher than near the coast with daily highs in the mid- to upper 90s from the end of June into early September.

Although the summer heat can be more intense in Dallas than Houston or San Antonio, the city experiences cooler winters with temperatures frequently dipping below freezing.

Disney World © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Orlando, Florida

One of Florida’s hottest cities is also one of its most popular tourist spots with a record-setting 72 million people visiting in 2017. Unlike Miami, temperatures in Orlando can occasionally reach the 100-degree mark with an all-time record high of 103. Overnight temperatures also remain warm as they rarely dip below 60 from June through September.

Orlando also remains warm throughout the winter with afternoon highs in the 70s and overnight lows that rarely drop below 30.

Worth Pondering…

It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility.”

—Yogi Berra

The Storied History of Old Ironsides

Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!

USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned warship still afloat. Naval officers and crew still serve aboard her today. The USS Constitution is operated by the United States Navy, a partner to the National Parks of Boston. Across the pier from Constitution in Building 22 is the USS Constitution Museum. The Museum serves as the memory and educational voice of the USS Constitution and provides engaging and hands-on experiences for all visitors. Here you can explore how the ship was built, sailed, and preserved.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located inside Boston National Historical Park as part of the Charlestown Navy Yard in Charlestown and part of Boston’s Freedom Trail, USS Constitution is open for public visitation, FREE OF CHARGE, throughout the year.

Before independence, the thirteen American colonies enjoyed protection from pirates and foreign navies under the British Royal Navy. However, once the United States gained recognized independence the young nation had to defend itself. Congress authorized the construction of the six warships in the Naval Armament Act of 1794. These warships became the new United States Navy. Each of the six was built at different seaports along the eastern coast.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The wooden-hulled, three-mast USS Constitution was launched from Hartt’s shipyard in Boston’s North End on October 21, 1797. It was designed to be more heavily armed and better constructed than the standard ships of the period.

The ship served initially in the French-Quasi war and later became the flagship of the Mediterranean fleet fighting its first engagement against Barbary pirates of North Africa.

Related: Boston Freedom Trail

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The greatest glory for USS Constitution, however, came during the War of 1812. It was during this war in the battle against the HMS Guerriere the ship earned the nickname Old Ironsides when the crew of the British ship noticed their canon shots simply bounced off the ship’s strong oak hull they proclaimed: “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron!”

Later, it continued to serve as a flagship in the Mediterranean, African, and Pacific fleets into the 1850s. During its time as African Squadron flagship, it captured its last prize, the slave ship H.N. Gambril in 1853. It was also a training ship during the Civil War and carried freight to the Paris World Fair of 1878 until it finally retired from active service three years later continuing light work until designated a museum in 1907.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The USS Constitution received numerous visitors over the years but deteriorated and required extensive restoration work again. President Roosevelt placed the ship on permanent commission in 1940 which protected the vessel somewhat from further deterioration and it was assigned to serve as a brig for officers awaiting court-martial.

The funding for true restoration finally came in the 1970s in preparation for the US Bicentennial celebrations. Indeed, an entire tract of land in Indiana was set aside to supply the white oak needed for repair work. The grand ship sailed again leading a parade of tall ships through Boston Harbor for Operation Sail firing its guns for the first time in over 100 years.

Boston skyline from USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The most comprehensive and historically accurate restoration to date occurred from 1992-1996 and the ship sailed under its power for its 200th birthday in 1997 then again in 2012 to commemorate its victory over the HMS Guerriere that earned its nickname. A further restoration project was conducted from 2007-2010 which returned the ship as accurately as possible to its original War of 1812 configuration.

Boston skyline from USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the ship keeps a crew of 60 officers and sailors to aid in its mission to promote understanding of the US Navy’s role in war and peace. The crew is all active-duty Navy sailors—an honorable special duty assignment. It is also crewed, maintained, and restored by the civilian Navy staff of the Naval History & Heritage Command Detachment Boston.

Related: Lucky A: USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the USS Constitution itself, there is also a museum you can visit which has a lot of interesting artifacts and exhibits covering the history of the landmark. Whether you’re interested in period artwork, arms, and armament from the time, navigation equipment that was used hundreds of years ago, or historic texts describing the story of Old Ironsides, there’s plenty to see here that will please any history buff.

There are almost 2,000 different artifacts and 10,000 archival records you can see at the USS Constitution Museum. There is simply no way I could describe them all here, so check the USS Constitution Museum Collection list to find out what you can see on your visit.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know before you go

The USS Constitution is located at the end of the Freedom Trail. It’s about a 15-minute walk from the Copp’s Hill Burial Ground. One can walk there easily by following the Freedom Trail.

An excellent way to get there is by using the MBTA Water Shuttle which is a bargain at $3.25.

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you have an MBTA Subway Pass it is free and is a short boat ride over to Charlestown which also doubles a scenic harbor cruise.

A shuttle departs from Boston’s Long Wharf at the New England Aquarium and will whisk you over to the USS Constitution in 10 minutes.

Related: Corpus Christi: City by the Sea

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The USS Constitution is open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis during their operating hours. Be aware that visitors must pass through a security inspection and show federal or state photo identification such as a driver’s license or passport before embarking on USS Constitution. Visitors under the age of 18 do not require a photo identification card.

Worth Pondering…

Old Ironsides

Ay, tear her tattered ensign down!

   Long has it waved on high,

And many an eye has danced to see

   That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,

   And burst the cannon’s roar;—

The meteor of the ocean air

   Shall sweep the clouds no more!

—Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935)

9 Beautiful Places to Escape the Summer Heat

It’s hotter than blue blazes!

It’s been a long, hot summer—and it’s likely to just keep getting hotter. That jug of fresh iced tea isn’t meant to be sipped inside with the shades drawn and that blow-up kiddie pool you’ve outgrown doesn’t have to be your only means of summer heat relief. Because I have good news! There are quite a few places you can go to escape the heat—and none of them involve jetting to the Southern Hemisphere.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historical weather data shows the five coolest summer states also happen to be filled with excellent RV camping destinations, too. The five best places to stay cool in summer are Oregon, Washington, California, Colorado, and Alaska. These cool summer states are geographically immense. Each state gives you tons of camping choices from busy national parks to remote coastal and mountain destinations.

RV owners like us are lucky. Finding the coolest camping destinations in the summer is pretty easy. With a full tank of fuel and one turn of the key, our homes on wheels carry everything we need for a summer escape away from hot spots to a cool river, mountaintop, or breezy beach. Most of us will put in a few hours of driving to reach the coolest place to camp in August.

Glacial Skywalk, Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cool off with a trip to the mountains, the water, or up north. I’ve hand-selected nine places where you can beat the heat this summer while avoiding airport woes such as lost luggage, canceled flights, tarmac delays, and labor shortages—you know, all of the fun things people are dealing with right now not to mention the heightened cost of air travel.

Mountains

Higher elevations provide sweet relief from the sweltering heat and humidity of summer. Here are three wonderful mountainous locales where you can escape the heat.

On the road to Mount Lemmon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mount Lemmon, Arizona 

Mount Lemmon, an oasis in the middle of the desert, is 20 degrees cooler than Tucson on average. Driving up the mountain, the plants slowly change from cactus and shrubs to oak and ponderosa pines. The area offers hiking, camping, and fishing. While you are up there, consider stopping by the Mount Lemmon Cookie Cabin for cookies, pizza, chili, and sandwiches. While you’re at 9,000 feet, check out the Arizona stars at the Mount Lemmon Skycenter.

Get more tips for visiting Mount Lemmon

Lassen Volcanic Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, California and Oregon

For truly unusual and spectacular views, pack up the RV and head for the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway connecting California’s Lassen National Park with Crater Lake in Oregon. The north-to-south route covers about 500 miles tracing along geological formations created by volcanic activity of the Cascade Mountain Range.

The drive ventures through the majestic Shasta Valley and offers unobstructed vistas of Mount Shasta, the second tallest volcano in the country. There are countless things to see and do during a visit, but don’t miss Petroglyph Point, one of the country’s largest and most accessible panels of Native American rock art.

Get more tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Stowe Community Church © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe is a Vermont Ski town that is lovely to visit in summer thanks to an Alpine setting that doesn’t get too hot and lots of outdoor activities. For fun summer hiking, choose trails that lead to waterfalls like the easy Bingham Falls Trail in Smugglers Notch State Park or Moss Glen Falls trail in nearby Putnam State Park.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you want a lazy day, head out of town and stop by Cold Hollow Cider Mill for a good picnic— sandwiches with Vermont cheddar cheese and hard and soft cider. Take your lunch to nearby Waterbury Center State Park on the Waterbury Reservoir. 

Trapp Family Lodge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Trapp Family Lodge (yes, those Von Trapps). In addition to its hiking and mountain biking trails, the Alpine resort offers tennis, rock-wall climbing, swimming pools, and more. They brew their excellent Austrian-style beer in their bierhall where you can dine without staying at the lodge.

Get more tips for visiting Vermont

Near Water

When it’s hot outside we all want to be near a lake, river, or ocean destination. Here are three fabulous destinations to beat the heat near the water.

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Are you ready to hit the beach without the crowds? Where you can find a piece of the coast to call your own? Cumberland Island is Georgia’s southernmost island and a place where you can truly get away from the modern world. With no bridge to come to Cumberland Island travelers have to use a ferry or private boat to get to this beautiful place which is managed by the national park service. 

Cumberland Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although Georgia’s Atlantic coastline is only about 100 miles long, the Peach State is home to 30 percent of the barrier islands along the Atlantic Seaboard. And Cumberland is the largest and fairest of them all with the longest expanse of the pristine seashore—18 glorious miles of deserted sand. Truly, this is a bucket list destination.

Get more tips for visiting Cumberland Island

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee is the largest lake in New Hampshire located in the Lakes Region. It is approximately 21 miles long (northwest-southeast) and from 1 to 9 miles wide (northeast-southwest) covering 69 square miles—71 square miles when Paugus Bay is included—with a maximum depth of 180 feet. The center area of the lake is called The Broads.

Lake Winnipesaukee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The lake contains at least 264 islands, half of which are less than a quarter-acre in size, and is indented by several peninsulas yielding a total shoreline of approximately 288 miles. The driving distance around the lake is 63 miles. It is 504 feet above sea level. Winnipesaukee is the third-largest lake in New England after Lake Champlain and Moosehead Lake. Outflow is regulated by the Lakeport Dam in Lakeport, New Hampshire, on the Winnipesaukee River.

Experience the beauty of Lake Winnipesaukee during a narrated scenic tour aboard the historic M/S Mount Washington. Learn about the history of the region and local folklore surrounded by some of the most beautiful scenery in New England.

Get more tips for visiting Lake Winnipesaukee

La Conner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

La Conner, Washington

La Conner is one of those places that people love to visit—time and time again. The reasons are many but one that stands out is that there are so many things to do in—and around—La Conner. A waterfront village in northwestern Washington, La Conner is nestled beside the Swinomish Channel near the mouth of the Skagit River. La Conner is a unique combination of a fishing village, artists’ colony, eclectic shops, historic buildings, and tourist destination. Relax by the water, enjoy fine restaurants, and browse through unique shops and art galleries.

Get more tips for visiting La Conner

Northern States and Canada

When the going gets hot, the hot head up north! Here are three great northern destinations that put plenty of space between you and the equator.

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville, Oregon

Jacksonville is nestled in the Siskyou Mountain foothills along the Rogue River Valley and is easy to fall in love with. The little town is at the Heart of Rogue Valley wine country which includes the Applegate Valley Wine Trail. Though sometimes busy the small-town ambiance (population 2,860), gorgeous setting, and beautifully preserved late 1800s architecture combines to make a very attractive town. The little gem of a town is highly walkable and has at least one of everything—except chain stores. Everything from wine to cheese to chocolate, art, and fine dining.

Get more tips for visiting Jacksonville

Banff National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Banff and Jasper National Parks, Alberta

If you Google “Canada nature,” you’ll see pictures of Banff National Park in the Rockies—and for good reason. Canada’s oldest and most popular national park is Mother Nature’s best. Anywhere you look, there are jagged peaks sprinkled with fluffy powder, bluer than blue glacial lakes, and majestic wildlife.

Icefields Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After visiting Banff, take the Icefields Parkway—one of the world’s most scenic drives with more than 100 ancient glaciers—north to Jasper. One of Canada’s prettiest and wildest national parks, Jasper is massive at 4,247 square miles, making it the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies. And it’s a great place to spot wildlife including black and grizzly bears, elk and moose, and big horn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats.

Get more tips for visiting Canada’s Mountain Parks

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray, British Columbia

Wells Gray is not as highly acclaimed as Mount Robson or the national parks in the Canadian Rockies. And having been there, I have no idea why. I mean… this place is awesome!

Wells Gray Provincial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wells Gray has something to offer every outdoor interest: lush alpine meadows, excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities, hiking, boating, canoeing, and kayaking. Guiding businesses offer horseback riding, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, and hiking. The history enthusiast can learn about the early homesteaders, trappers, and prospectors or about the natural forces that produced Wells Gray’s many volcanoes, waterfalls, mineral springs, and glaciers.

Many people head to Wells Gray for the lakes but there are also over 40 named waterfalls in the park. Many of them are in remote corners of the park but eight of them are easy to reach from Clearwater Valley Road.

Get more tips for visiting Wells Gray

Your summer vacation does not have to be hiding indoors in front of the air conditioner trying to stay cool from high temperatures or unbearable humidity. There are lots of places where you can enjoy beautiful pleasant temperatures while spending time outside. Whether you prefer cities, towns, or national or state parks, mild summer weather is available in many spectacular destinations.

Worth Pondering…

It’s a sure sign of summer if the chair gets up when you do.

—Walter Winchell

Riding the Cog to the Top of the World

At 6,288.2 feet, Mount Washington is the highest peak in New Hampshire. Ride in style to the summit on a historic cog railway that has been operating since 1869.

“The Second Greatest Show on Earth!” That’s what showman P.T. Barnum proclaimed in 1869 as he stepped down off the train and marveled at the view from Mount Washington’s rocky summit. High praise indeed from the man whose grand circus occupied the primary spot!

Today, more than 150 years later, the Mount Washington Cog Railway continues to attract passengers from all over the world for its dramatic ascent to the summit of the highest peak in the Northeast.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Cog is the first mountain-climbing cog railway in the world. With an average grade of 25 percent (some sections approach nearly 38 percent), it’s also the second steepest. Motor power is primarily provided by a fleet of seven powerful biodiesel locomotives. And with a nod to its steam heritage, the railway also continues to operate a pair of coal-fired steam engines.  

Located in the heart of the majestic White Mountains region of New Hampshire, Marshfield Base Station is 6 miles east of Route 302 on the western face of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The adventure begins at Marshfield Base Station, elevation 2,700 feet

Marshfield draws its name from two significant historical figures: Sylvester Marsh, the visionary who created the Cog Railway, and Darby Field, believed to be the first European mountaineer to reach the summit of Mount Washington in 1642. In his time, the mountain was known to the native Abenaki people as Agiocochook (“the place of the Great Spirit”) and Waumbik or “white rocks” to the Algonquins.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Open year-round, Marshfield Station features an interactive and informative Cog Railway Museum (admission is free), a gift shop stocked with Cog gear and local specialties, and a convenience store/food court for last-minute necessities and hot and cold snacks. A wraparound observation deck provides beautiful panoramic views of the railway and the mountain.

Related article: The Uniqueness of the White Mountains

The ticket office is on the lower level and boarding gates are just outside the door. Same-day tickets are usually available but advanced reservations are always highly recommended.

There’s always plenty of free parking at Marshfield with dedicated lots for buses and RVs.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All Aboard

15 minutes before our scheduled departure we were lined up at our gate ready to board.

The brakeman was stationed out on the front deck for the up-mountain trip to the summit. On the return trip down the mountain, the brakeman was at the brake wheels at the other end of the coach.

After a quick introduction and safety orientation, the dispatcher cleared our train for departure. The brakeman gave the engineer the “ALL CLEAR!” signal and with the blast of smoke and steam, our excursion to the top of New England was underway.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s all uphill from here

Once our train has cleared the steel bridge spanning the Ammonoosuc River, we felt a burst of acceleration as the engineer brought the locomotive up to its maximum speed—5mph! Dense forest brackets the right-of-way on either side as your train makes its way up Cold Springs Hill, the second steepest part of the railway at a grade of nearly 35 percent.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Waumbek passing loop is next, with 2,100 feet of double track governed by two solar-powered hydraulically operated switches. The second track, installed in 2000, allows as many as seven trains moving in opposing directions to operate on the mountain at the same time. Here we also saw the Waumbek Tank where our steam engine stopped briefly to top off the water level in its tenders.

Crossing the Upper Waumbek switch put the train back on single track now following a narrow ridge line. Halfway House, the elevation of 4,300 feet is on the right, and looking at the reflection of the coach in the building’s window as we passed we got a sense of just how steep the climb is here.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old Man of the Mountain was a rock formation on the side of Cannon Mountain that had long served as the symbol of the State of New Hampshire. That formation suddenly collapsed back in 2003 taking with it part of the state’s identity and its most popular attraction. Someone noticed a remarkable facsimile of the Old Man on Mount Washington which is next to the tracks just ahead of us at this point. They installed a white background behind it to make the old man’s profile a little clear.

Related article: Smile of the Great Spirit: Lake Winnipesaukee

And just past Profile Rock, we came out onto the most impressive part of the entire railway—a high trestle known as Jacob’s Ladder.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacob’s Ladder and the Summit Cone

As the train passed Profile Rock, the mountain’s true character begins to reveal itself. The dense and rocky forest on either side drops away, the air freshens and the wind picks up, and when the weather is clear you realize that the train has been following a narrow ridge between two deep chasms—Burt’s Ravine on the left and the Ammonoosuc Ravine on the right. And then just as suddenly you’re nearly 25 feet above the surface of the mountain. Welcome to Jacob’s Ladder!

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

300 feet long and curving to the left, the train is now climbing at a 37.41-degree grade—that’s a 37-foot elevation change for every 100 feet of forwarding movement. Jacob’s is the steepest section of the Cog Railway and the steepest railroad trestle anywhere in the world.

Once across the trestle, we passed Frog Rock, a brightly painted boulder used by train crews as a location marker in bad weather. We were now at a tree line roughly 5,000 feet above sea level and climbing along the side of the summit cone toward an area known as Skyline. As the tracks turned to the southeast and began to level out on the left we saw the Northern Presidentials: Mounts Clay, Jefferson, Adams, and Madison and beyond the mountains of western Maine.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hiking is a popular pastime in the White Mountains and on either side of the train we saw piles of rocks or cairns marking various trails. Running parallel to the tracks on the left is the Gulfside Trail, the local stretch of the much longer Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT runs nearly 2,200 miles up the east coast from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in northern Maine.

Ahead on the right but still several hundred feet higher is our destination: the Sherman Adams Visitor Center on the summit of Mount Washington.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is Mount Washington State Park, a 60.3-acre parcel perched on the summit of the Northeast’s highest peak and surrounded by the extensive 750,000-acre White Mountain National Forest.

After a routine safety stop at the summit switch followed by the “all clear” signal from the Brakeman, our train slowly came up over the final slope and then leveled out at the platform.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With conditions at the top quite different than those at the base station we were glad we’d brought warm jackets. Leaving the coach we noticed that it was much windier than it was at the Base Station. After all, the subarctic tundra up here is similar to that of far northern Canada and hurricane-force wind gusts occur on the summit an average of 110 days per year.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Trains layover at the summit for approximately one hour, plenty of time to explore the Sherman Adams Visitor Center and its rooftop observation deck, Extreme Mount Washington (an interactive weather exhibit), a cafeteria, and two gift shops. You can send a card to friends and family with a unique Mount Washington postmark from the summit Post Office.

Related article: Central Vermont: Montpelier, Burlington & Barre

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Home of the World’s Worst Weather!

Much has changed since Henry David Thoreau wrote about Mount Washington’s dramatic and unpredictable weather in 1839 but the weather certainly hasn’t. On a clear day, visitors enjoy spectacular panoramic views from Quebec to the Atlantic Ocean or they may experience a taste of the “World’s Worst Weather”—it can snow on the summit even in summer. Weather is the story on this mountain.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The first weather station on the summit was operated by the U.S. Signal Service from 1870–1892. The modern observatory was founded in 1932 and on April 12, 1934, the highest surface wind speed ever directly observed by man was recorded at the summit: 231 mph! The highest temperature ever recorded at the summit is 72 degrees F and the lowest not including wind chill was -47 degrees.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downbound Train: Return to Marshfield

Upon reboarding the train we noticed that the seats had been flipped back to face down the mountain. The locomotive was now at the lead end of the train and the Brakeman was inside at the brake wheels.

While the route down the mountain is the same, the vista seemed wider. We could appreciate the ruggedness and vast expanse of this sub-arctic terrain as it all unfolded in front of and around us. 

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the tracks curved to the left and pitched over onto Long Trestle and Jacob’s Ladder the entire length of the railway could be seen ahead and below—Halfway House, the Waumbek passing loop, and Marshfield Station. We could follow the line of Base Station Road out to Route 302, the red roofs of the Omni Mount Washington Resort, and the ski slopes and gondolas at Bretton Woods.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter comes early

Winter comes early to the higher elevations of the White Mountains and by the first week of October, the summit usually sees a frosting of feathery rime ice (frozen fog) and snow. Columbus Day weekend marks the end of the season for Mount Washington State Park as well as the Mount Washington Auto Road.

Mount Washington Cog Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shortly after the State Park summit facilities shut down for the winter, the Cog Railway summit operations cease as well. Weather permitting through the end of October and then again in the early spring, they may run trains up as high as Skyline but the primary destination throughout the winter is Waumbek Station (elevation 4,000 feet).

Related article: Boston Freedom Trail

Note: Plan to arrive 45 MINUTES before departure time to allow plenty of time for ticketing and restroom visits. All trains board 15 minutes before departure time.

Worth Pondering…

What New England is, is a state of mind, a place where dry humor and perpetual disappointment blend to produce an ironic pessimism that folks from away find most perplexing.

—Willem Lange

Colonial Williamsburg: World’s Largest Living History Museum

Colonial Williamsburg is the world’s largest living history museum with 301 acres featuring iconic sites, working trades people, historic taverns, and two world-class art museums

The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation operates the world’s largest living history museum in Williamsburg, Virginia—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous settlement in the New World.

Meet a Nation Builder like George Washington or Edith Cumbo and admire the craftsmanship of some of the best artisans in the world. Connect with your family over a horse-drawn carriage ride, world-class dining, and a Haunted Williamsburg ghost tour.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Williamsburg

The city was founded as the capital of the Virginia Colony in 1699 and it was here that the basic concepts of the United States of America were formed under the leadership of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, George Mason, and many others.

Named Williamsburg in honor of England’s reigning monarch at the time, King William III, the colonial mecca also became a center of learning. The College of William and Mary founded in 1693 counts political leaders such as Presidents Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, and John Tyler as graduates.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During its time as the capital of Virginia, Williamsburg flourished as the hub of religious, economic, and social life in the state. A palatial Governor’s Palace was built as were markets, taverns, a theatre, a church (those living in the New World were required by law to worship in the Church of England), and countless homes. Market Square was the site of celebrations, festivals, fairs, contests, and even puppet shows; tradesmen, such as wig makers, tailors, blacksmiths, and cabinetmakers, practiced their craft along Duke of Gloucester Street. Restaurants and taverns offered onion soup, ham, carrot and chicken dishes, pudding, and pie.

Related article: Historic Triangle: 400 Years & Counting

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to see and do in Colonial Williamsburg

Here is an overview of the essentials for a visit to Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Governor’s Palace: Experience the grandeur of royal authority in Virginia just before its collapse in the Revolution. The Governor’s Palace, home to seven royal governors and the first two elected governors in Virginia was built to impress visitors with a display of authority and wealth. Tours every 7-15 minutes

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Raleigh Tavern: The Raleigh Tavern served as a critical stage for Virginia’s political ambitions amid intensifying debate about liberty, ultimately leading to our nation’s independence. Learn about different perspectives on the extraordinary events that took place here on tours offered every 20 minutes.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wetherburn’s Tavern: Merriment and conviviality were specialties of the house at Wetherburn’s Tavern. Get a glimpse into the private lives of Henry Wetherburn, his family, and his slaves who made the tavern one of the most successful of the 1750s. The tavern and the dairy out back are both original buildings.

Related article: 8 U.S. Towns Stuck in Time

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Everard House: Visit the home of Thomas Everard, a wealthy planter and civic leader. One of the oldest houses in Williamsburg, the Everard House is furnished with 18th-century antiques and was meticulously restored to its early appearance.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

R. Charlton’s Coffeehouse: Step back into the time of the Stamp Act and learn about the fashionable world of the coffeehouse where Williamsburg’s citizens and visitors met to share news, transact business, and debate politics. Meet people of the past and converse over coffee, tea, or velvety chocolate prepared in the 18th-century style. Tours offered every 15-20 minutes.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Anderson Blacksmith Shop: The Revolutionary War wasn’t won through battles alone. Virginia desperately needed a new armory to keep pace with the might of British industry. Watch blacksmiths take red-hot iron from the fires of their forges and hammer it into a variety of tools, hardware, and weapons.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Brickyard: Discover the process of making bricks that will be used in building projects around town. During the summer, brickmakers mold and dry thousands of bricks. In the autumn, the bricks are baked in a giant wood-fired oven. Keep an eye out, too, for masons using these bricks in all sorts of projects around town.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foundry: The Geddy family included gunsmiths, cutlers, founders, and silversmiths. On the site of their home and shop, watch founders cast and finish buckles, knobs, bells, spoons, and other objects in bronze, brass, pewter, and silver.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Guardhouse: The Magazine stands as a symbol of the Crown’s commitment to the common defense and the expansion of its empire. Visit the Guardhouse and discover how this military storehouse and Virginia’s diverse peoples shaped an empire and defined a new nation.

Related article: 10 Towns Older Than America

Gunsmith Shop: See how gunsmiths made rifles, pistols, and fowling pieces using the tools and techniques of their 18th-century predecessors and uniting many skills from forging iron to working wood.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Presbyterian Meetinghouse: In a time when only the Anglican Church was Virginia’s official religion, what did everyone else do on Sunday? Although Catholics and other non-Protestants were denied religious freedom, the government allowed many dissenting Protestants to worship in meetinghouses like this one.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Public Gaol: Thieves, runaway slaves, debtors, and political prisoners once paced the cells of the Public Gaol as they waited to be tried—or hanged. Perhaps its most notorious inmates were several pirates who had served under Blackbeard and were captured with him in 1718. Self-guided exploration of the cells where prisoners were held as they awaited trial and punishment.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arboretum & Gardens: More than 30 maintained gardens dot the 301-acre living history museum. The collection features 25-period species of oak trees. The Arboretum is home to 20 Virginia state champion trees and two national champion trees—the jujube and the Paper Mulberry.

America’s Historic Triangle

A visit to Colonial Williamsburg isn’t complete without visiting all the historic sites the area is known for. Must-sees include the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown and Yorktown Battlefield (where the American Revolution was won), and Jamestown Settlement (where America’s first permanent English colony came to life).

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Details

Colonial Williamsburg is open 365 days a year. Most Historic Trades and Sites are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. After hours, check out Evening Programs which run well into the evening. The Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg are open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Restaurant and store hours vary.

Admission tickets are required to enter buildings and experience programming in the Historic Area. With your ticket, enjoy interpreter-guided tours of the most iconic sites including the Capitol, Governor’s Palace, and Courthouse. Tradespeople work and share their craft in workspaces, gardens, yards, and at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Your admission ticket also grants you access to multiple programs throughout the day on the Charlton and Play House stages as well as the newly expanded and updated Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg including stage programs and performances twice a day in the Hennage Auditorium. You’ll also be able to take advantage of a complimentary shuttle service and get seasonal discounts on carriage rides. Check the events calendar and seasonal activities pages to see what’s open and happening during your visit.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg offers several admission options and special offers to customize your visit. Tickets and passes currently available include:

  • Single-day ticket ($46.99)
  • Multiday ticket ($56.99)
  • Annual pass ($74.99)
  • Art museums single-day ticket ($14.99)
  • America’s Historic Triangle ticket ($109.90)

Worth Pondering…

The truth is, I love history and studied it in college with a particular focus on early American history. My love is so deep, in fact, I went to school at The College of William & Mary in Colonial Williamsburg.

—Alexandra Bracken

The Best RV Camping August 2022

Explore the guide to find some of the best in August camping

But where should you park your RV? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Here are 10 of the top locations to explore in August. RVing with Rex selected this list of 5-star RV resorts from parks personally visited.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in June and July. Also, check out my recommendations for August 2021 and September 2021.

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hee Hee Illahee RV Resort, Salem, Oregon

With a combination of 24 back-in sites (35 feet long x 20 feet wide) and 115 pull-through sites (75 feet long x 14 feet wide) available year-round even the biggest rigs will have no issue finding a suitable spot. All sites include electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), water, sewer, wired and wireless Internet, and coax television hookups along with a picnic table. Park amenities include a fitness room, seasonal pool, year-round spa, laundry facility, secure showers/bathrooms, and book library. The resort is located a short distance off Interstate 5 at Exit 258.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Custer State Park, South Dakota

Located in the rugged Black Hills of South Dakota, Custer State Park protects 71,000 acres of terrain and a herd of some 1,300 bison—one of the largest publicly owned herds on the planet and known to stop traffic along the park’s Wildlife Loop Road from time to time. The park has nine campgrounds to choose from, including the popular Sylvan Lake Campground. Many sites include electric hookups and dump stations.

Wahweep RV Park & Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wahweep RV Park and Campground, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Page, Arizona

Centrally located at Wahweap Marina, the campsites are about one-quarter mile from the shore of Lake Powell. Wahweap offers plenty of fun with a wide variety of powerboats and water toys. You can also enjoy the restaurant, lounge, and gift shop at the Lake Powell Resort. This RV park/campground is a great place to enjoy the off-season solitude of Lake Powell. The campground offers 139 sites with 30 and 50-amp service, water, and sewer. Sites accommodate up to 45 feet. The season is an ideal time to visit nearby attractions including Rainbow Bridge, Antelope Canyon, Vermillion Cliffs, and Horseshoe Bend. 

Whispering Hills RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whispering Hills RV Park, Georgetown, Kentucky

Whispering Hills RV Park is nestled in the heart of horse country in Georgetown, north of Lexington. The park is located approximately 2.5 miles off I-75 at Exit 129. Whispering Hills offers 230 full-service sites including nine new premium pull-through sites in the 70-90 foot range. Amenities include a swimming pool, basketball court, laundry facility, book exchange, fishing pond, bathhouses, picnic tables, and fire rings at most sites. Our pull-through site was in the 60-foot range. Most back-in sites tend to be considerably shorter and slope downward. Interior roads and sites are gravel.

Columbia Riverfront RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington

Developed in 2006 by former RVers, Columbia Riverfront RV Park is a 5-star resort. A quiet getaway on ten acres of beautifully maintained property right on the sandy beach of the Columbia River, Columbia Riverfront is big-rig friendly. With a view of the Columbia River out of our windshield, our pull-in site was 45 feet in length with room for the toad. Utilities including 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable are centrally located. Pull-through sites in the 85-95 foot range are also available. Wi-Fi works well. Interior roads are paved and sites are crushed gravel and level. Columbia Riverfront is located 22 miles north of Portland, Oregon, in Woodland off I-5 (Exit 22); west 3.25 miles on Dike Access and Dike roads.

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort is a luxury RV Resort nestled along the banks of the beautiful French Broad River. A 5-star resort with 25 riverfronts (drive-in sites) and 30 river views (back-in sites), Two Rivers Landing offers 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV conveniently located centrally. Interior roads are paved; individual sites are concrete, 70 feet in length, and 22 feet wide. All sites are surrounded by beautiful landscaping. Our drive-in site faced the river. Wi-Fi worked well. A beautiful sunset looking out our front window. This is resort living at its best.

Jekyll Island Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia

The Jekyll Island Campground is the most affordable, convenient accommodation located near Driftwood Beach. Choose from RV and tent sites as well as amenities like free Wi-Fi, shower facilities, and onsite laundry. The campground offers 175 campsites on 18 wooded acres on the island’s north end. Options range from tent sites to full hook-up, pull-through RV sites with electricity, cable TV, water, and sewage. Wi-Fi and DSL internet are free for registered guests. The campground also will offer private yurt experiences beginning in 2023.

Fort Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Camping, Fort Langley, British Columbia

Downtown Fort Langley is only a short walk across the Fraser River Bridge from Fort Camping which is part of Pathfinder Camp Resorts. With over 155 short-term RV sites as well as tent cabins, Fort Camping is located in the heart of a fast-growing and popular tourist town which offers endless activities onsite as well as fine dining and shopping experiences nearby. Pathfinder Camp Resorts operate Fort Camping under a license granted by Metro Vancouver Regional District.

Stephen C. Foster State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

This southern Georgia state park is known for being one of the primary entrances to the legendary Okefenokee Swamp. The camping is great and comfortable here and the paddling and photographic opportunities are top-notch. Add to that the fact that the fishing in the lake is excellent for warmouth, bluegill, catfish, and chain pickerel. Choose from 65 campsites with electricity, nine cottages, a lodge, or a pioneer camp, and be ready for a cool experience.

Reunion Lake RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Reunion Lake RV Resort, Ponchatoula, Louisiana

Reunion Lake RV Resort is a gated resort with top-rated facilities and service and all-concrete roadways. Built around a scenic lake the park offers an adult pool with a swim-up bar, poolside cabanas, a lazy river with a tiki bar, a giant hot tub, a fitness center, a family pool, basketball, and pickleball courts, a fenced-in dog park. Our Premium pull-through site will accommodate any size rig.

Worth Pondering…

Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.

—John Ruskin