The Best RV Camping June 2023

Explore the guide to find some of the best in June camping across America

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 June. RVing with Rex selected this list of campgrounds and 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 April and May. Also check out my recommendations from June 2022 and July 2022.

Smokiam RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smokiam RV Resort, Soap Lake, Washington

Smokiam RV Resort has undergone a full renovation with new premium big rig friendly RV sites, remodeled restrooms/shower facilities, renovated playground area, new cabin rentals, Tepee rentals, a sandy beach with a new dock and watercraft rentals, a renovated clubhouse for groups/events/adults and families, new café and espresso bar, a new miniature golf course, and 900 feet of sandy beach. Our site, D-3, is one of the ten new premium pull-through sites facing Soap Lake. These sites are extra long and extra wide designed for RVs up to 45 feet in length. 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Soap Lake is a unique mineral lake, world-renowned as “nature’s spa”.  One of only two similar lakes in the world, its waters have the most diverse mineral content of any body of water on earth and have long been believed to have healing properties. 

Cedar Pass Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cedar Pass Campground, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Located near the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the Cedar Pass Campground has 96 level sites with scenic views of the badlands formations. Enjoy the stunning sunsets, incredible night skies, and breathtaking sunrises from the comfort of your RV. Camping in Cedar Pass Campground is limited to 14 days. The campground is open year-round with limited availability in the winter season. Due to fire danger, campfires are not permitted in this campground and collection of wood is prohibited. However, camp stoves or contained charcoal grills can be used in campgrounds and picnic areas.

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jackson Rancheria RV Resort, Jackson, California

New in 2008, Jackson Rancheria RV Resort is part of a casino complex. Big rig friendly 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Wide, paved interior roads with wide concrete sites. Back-in sites over 55 feet with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range. Amenities include walking trails and dog park, heated pool and spa, and laundry facilities. We would return in a heartbeat. Reservations over a weekend are required well in advance. Jackson Rancheria is conveniently located in the heart of Gold Country.

My Old Kentucky Home State Park Campground © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

My Old Kentucky Home State Park, Kentucky

The farm that inspired the imagery in Stephen Foster’s famous song, “My Old Kentucky Home, Good-Night!” is Kentucky’s most famous and beloved historic site. Built between 1812 and 1818, the three-story house was originally named “Federal Hill” by its first owner Judge John Rowan. Located near Bardstown, the mansion and farm was the home of the Rowan family for three generations, spanning a period of 120 years. Tour the historic mansion, enjoy a round of golf, camp at the campground, stroll the grounds and explore the interpretive panels, and see the Stephen Foster Story in the summer months. Admire the beautiful grounds of My Old Kentucky Home State Park in the 39-site campground. Convenience is guaranteed with utility hookups, a central service building housing showers and rest rooms, and a dump station.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon

New in 2002, Jack’s Landing RV Resort offers 54 RV sites adjacent to Interstate 5 (Exit 58). The nicely landscaped park has paved roads and concrete parking pads. Jack’s Landing is big rig friendly with pull-through sites in the 70-75 foot range (also back-in sites) and conveniently located 30/50-amp electric service, water, and sewer connections, and cable TV. Paved sites and fairly wide paved streets. Pleasingly landscaped and treed. The main office has restrooms, showers, a laundry, gym, and small ball court. Only negative is freeway noise.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia

Coastal Georgia RV Resorts offer 105 spacious sites, all 35 feet wide with lengths ranging from 60 to 70 feet. Most sites are pull-through with full hookups including 30 and 50 amp service and tables. The Resort’s roads are all paved. Fire rings are available at the Pavilion. Amenities include a game room, conference room, two bath houses, two laundromats, a dock, and a store where you can find RV supplies as well as LP gas. The resort also offers a swimming pool, horseshoe pits, and shuffleboard courts. Cable TV and Wi-Fi is included. From I-95 (exit 29) and US 17, go ½ mile west on SR-17, turn left onto US-17 south for ¼ mile, turn east onto Martin Palmer Dr for 1 mile and enter straight ahead.

Sea Breeze RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sea Breeze RV Community/Resort, Portland, Texas

Wake up to sunshine, sea breezes, natural beauty, and a panoramic view of the Corpus Christi Bayfront at Sea Breeze RV Community/Resort. Sea Breeze RV is a clean and quiet resort that features 50/30-amp electric service, water, and sewer. Interior roads and sites are gravel. Phone service is available. There are bay view sites and a private lighted fishing pier. The pool is heated and complete with a waterfall and a beautiful view of the Corpus Christi skyline. There is a large laundry room with exercise equipment, TV Lounge, bathrooms, and showers. A large fully equipped clubhouse is used for planned seasonal activities. Wi-Fi is available. From our long 75-foot pull-through site we enjoyed a panoramic view of Corpus Christi Bay with the causeway and city skyline and amazing sunrise and sunset!

Blake Ranch RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Blake Ranch RV Park and Horse Motel, Kingman, Arizona

Easy-on easy-off (I-40, Exit 151), Blake Ranch RV Park is a convenient location to overnight and for a longer stay to explore the area. The RV park offers long and wide and level pull-through and back-in sites with 30/50 electric, water, sewer, cable TV, and Wi-Fi. Amenities include a park store, private showers and bathrooms, laundry facilities, a dog run, a recreation room, and a horse motel. There’s plenty to do and see in the area. The park is 12 miles east of Kingman and Historic Route 66 and the ghost towns of Chloride and Oatman are easy day trips.

Sunny Acres RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sunny Acres RV Park, Las Cruces, New Mexico

A 12 acre park, Sunny Acres RV Park offers big sites and lots of space. The park is away from interstate noise with access to I-10, I-25, and US-70. Amenities include large 40 foot wide sites, wide gravel streets throughout park, full hookups with 30 or 50 amp electric service, cable TV, free high speed Internet, laundry facilities, and private restrooms and showers.

Holiday Park of Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Located a half mile off I-75 (Exit 1), Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga offers 170 campsites with water, sewer, 30/50 amp electric, and cable TV connections. Most sites are pull-through, graveled, and level with some sites up to 70 feet for big rigs. Amenities include a newly renovated pool, fast speed Internet, playground, bath house, laundry room, facility, meeting room, outdoor pavilion, and dog park. Our pull-through site was in the 65-foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and Cable TV centrally located. Interior roads and individual sites are gravel. Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga is located on a Civil War battlefield which served as a skirmish site in 1863 preceding the Battle of Chickamauga.

Worth Pondering…

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

—John Ruskin

10 Amazing Places to RV in June 2023

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in June

It shows considerable wisdom to know what you want in life.

—P.D. James

English novelist Phyllis Dorothy James, writing as P.D. James, introduced Scotland Yard detective Adam Dalgliesh in her 1962 debut novel Cover Her Face. This insightful observation by a secondary character comes at the end of The Private Patient, the 14th and final novel in James’ popular series published nearly half a century later in 2008. The full quote notes that it takes wisdom to determine what you want, “and then to direct all your energies towards getting it.” James could very well have been reflecting on her own lengthy career as a successful novelist when she penned this scene which offers the reminder that achieving a happy life requires both thoughtful contemplation and focused sustained action. 

As a great thinker once said, “June is bustin’ out all over.” I’m certainly feeling this. The garden of life is ripe with new possibilities, new floral fragrances, and new reasons to be outside. It’s a great month to travel in an RV. Summer presents unlimited road trip possibilities, doesn’t it?

So put on some SPF (I admittedly never do) and live your best life.

If life is a highway, I’m going to drive it all day long—or at least for a few hours and then stop to get some rest. Sleep is so important.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in April and May. Also, check out my recommendations from June 2022 and July 2022.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Gawk at the biggest tree on Earth

Because it is the world’s largest tree in terms of volume, the General Sherman Tree is, without a doubt, one of the most well-known attractions in Sequoia National Park. The enormous Sequoia which now stands 275 feet in height but is constantly growing was given its name after the American army leader William Sherman. The width of the tree’s trunk at its base is an astonishing 36 feet and it continues to be wide as it rises above the earth.

General Sherman Tree © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The sequoia grove of Giant Forest, home of General Sherman, is also the headquarters of other large trees not seen in any other parts of the US. Meanwhile, Converse Basin Grove is home to the 269-foot Boole Tree, the sixth-largest in the country in terms of volume. Another famous tree in the park, albeit it’s already fallen, is the Tunnel Log, a tree that can be driven through.

>> Get more tips for visiting Sequoia National Park

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. 300 limestone caves carved over 250 million years ago

If you’re worried about overheating in New Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert, rest assured: Things cool down quick inside the 100+ millennia-old limestone caves that make up Carlsbad Caverns National Park which you can explore on a self-guided tour or a ranger-led tour for an additional fee.

The 357,480-square-foot Big Room—the largest single cave chamber in the US—is the most popular cave drawing some 300,000 visitors each year. Other areas, like the Hall of the White Giant and the Spider Cave require crawling. If you’re visiting between May and October stick around for the Bat Flight Program when hundreds of thousands of Brazilian free-tailed bats exit the cave at dusk to forage for food.

Make a reservation online at a cost of $1 per ticket prior to your visit and purchase an entry pass upon arrival in the park. Kids under 16 get in free while adults must pay a fee of $15 per person. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Out of one beautiful form into another

Lassen Volcanic National Park is home to steaming fumaroles, meadows freckled with wildflowers, clear mountain lakes, and numerous volcanoes. Jagged peaks tell the story of its eruptive past while hot water continues to shape the land.

Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northeastern California has the four types of volcanoes found on Earth—cinder cones, composite, lava, and shield volcanoes—with 300 active domes. Lassen has a fraction of Yosemite’s visitors but has many similar landscapes and geothermal sites. You’ll come across sulfur vents, fumaroles, mud pots, wildflower meadows, mountain lakes, waterfalls, lava tube caves, and boiling hot springs. Don’t miss the Bumpass Hell trail leading to the largest of the eight hydrothermal areas and the easy-to-reach Kings Creek Falls.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are 150 miles of trails in the park, 700 flowering plants, and 250 vertebrates. Hike the Cinder Cone Volcano in the park’s Butte Lake section and you’ll see breathtaking 360-degree views of the Painted Dunes and the volcano’s crater. The most famous volcano in the park, Lassen Peak, also offers skiing in the winter.

>> Get more tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Kachina, Owachomo, and Sipapu natural bridges

Natural Bridges National Monument sits 6,500 feet above sea level, is home to a variety of plants and animals, and is the oldest National Park Service (NPS) site in the state of Utah. Offering the chance to explore three natural bridges, Kachina, Owachomo, and Sipapu were formed where streams eroded the canyon walls. The monument was established in 1908. This NPS site is a great out-of-the-way find. 

Natural bridges are different from arches in their formation; carved over streams that have eroded them as opposed to arches which are formed by seeping water and frost. Here, you have beautiful bridges over a stream bed which changes in appearance according to time of day, time of year, and viewpoint. Since the bridges are off the beaten path there is a better opportunity for an uncrowded, quiet tour of a unique landscape.

>> Get more tips for visiting Natural Bridges National Park

President Theodore Roosevelt © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Living history performance of President Theodore Roosevelt

On June 23, 2013, Grand Canyon National Park will host President Theodore Roosevelt Salutes the National Park Service. This special program is a living history portrayal of the 26th President of the United States as performed by Joe Wiegand at 8:30 pm, Sunday, June 23, 2013 at McKee Amphitheater located on the South Rim behind Park Headquarters near Parking Lot A. 

Joe Wiegand entertains audiences nationwide with his portrayal of President Theodore Roosevelt. As Theodore Roosevelt, Joe offers his audiences a unique, one-man show bursting with adventure, laughter, and inspiration. Enjoy Theodore Roosevelt’s adventures as rancher, Rough Rider, and father of six in the White House. Relive the establishment of America’s great national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife reserves. Hear the amazing stories of the frail young boy who built his body and dedicated himself to the Vigorous Life and the Square Deal. From bear hunts to the Panama Canal, from Africa to the Amazon, Theodore Roosevelt’s delightful stories come to life.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt, considered by many to have been America’s Conservationist President, protected approximately 230 million acres of public land during his presidency. In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited Grand Canyon and said, “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness.”  

>> Get more tips for visiting Grand Canyon National Park

Jasper National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Jasper makes list of top national parks in the world

Jasper has been named one of the 30 best national parks across the globe. Outside, an online publication has included the picturesque spot on its list of must see destinations. Jasper is the only Canadian entry.

Jasper can sometimes be overshadowed by its cousin to the south, Banff, but the park is the definition of wild and scenic. It’s the largest park in the Canadian Rockies as it has one million-plus more acres than Banff.

Jasper is also host to a robust population of wildlife including black and grizzly bears, elk and moose, and big horn sheep and Rocky Mountain goats making it a popular tourist destination for travelers to explore.

Glacial Skywalk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Jasper SkyTram gives you 50 miles of views from 7,472 feet up Whistlers Mountain. As a dark-sky preserve, the park strives to eliminate any light that could interfere with views of the universe at night making it a destination for stargazers and astronomers. It’s also a fantastic road trip destination: The Icefields Parkway, one of the world’s most scenic drives, features more than 100 ancient glaciers and a glass-floored observation walkway 920 feet above Sunwapta Canyon.

Fort Frederica National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Centuries old conflict decided on St. Simons Island

Wandering around Fort Frederica National Monument offers both a step back to the very beginnings of Georgia’s colonial history and the chance to absorb what continues to make this area magical—the river, the marsh, the tides, the uncompromising beauty of St. Simons Island. While the fort played a pivotal role in Georgia’s history—the 1742 victory of its British troops over Spanish soldiers ensured its future as a British colony—what remains is largely underground.

You’ll want to track down a ranger to get a real appreciation of the garrison and a sense of what makes this site special. It’s the stories of the people. Fort Fred was a military installation and a fort but it also was a village. There are always going to be stories of people’s lives—the adventures, the challenges, the drama.

>> Get more tips for visiting Fort Frederica National Monument

Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Historic gold rush town

Jacksonville is a historic Gold Rush town that earns the title, Heart of the Southern Oregon Wine Region. The Schmidt Family Vineyard is an excellent option with delicious wine and food as well as gorgeous gardens and vineyards.

Lining the main street are numerous independently-owned shops and restaurants that are just waiting for you to discover them. Antiquing is especially popular with plenty of unique furniture, decor, and clothing finds.

The town is also home to annual events each month. Enjoy the live music at the summer-long Britt Music & Arts Festival, the Jacksonville Wine Cruise in May, and the city-wide Garage Sale in September. There is also plenty to do in the great outdoors including jet boat adventures and hiking trails. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Jacksonville

Museum of Appalachia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Museum of Appalachia

Located in Clinton, Tennessee, the Museum of Appalachia is a living history museum, a unique collection of historic pioneer buildings and artifacts assembled for over a half-century. The Museum portrays an authentic mountain farm and pioneer village with some three dozen historic log structures, several exhibit buildings filled with thousands of authentic Appalachian artifacts, multiple gardens, and free-range farm animals, all set in a picturesque venue and surrounded by split-rail fences.

Strolling through the village, it’s easy to imagine we’re living in Appalachia of yesteryear cutting firewood, tending livestock, mending a quilt, or simply rocking on the porch, enjoying the glorious views.

>> Get more tips for visiting Museum of Appalachia

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Grand Canyon Star Party

Each summer, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona invites visitors to watch “an assortment of planets, double stars, star clusters, nebulae, and distant galaxies” dance above some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth during its Star Party which will take place from June 10 through June 17 in 2023.

Events begin on both the North and South Rims at 8 p.m. but according to the National Park Service (NPS) the best viewing is after 9 p.m.

“Skies will be starry and dark until the moon rises the first night. It rises progressively later throughout the week of the Star Party,” the NPS said on its website.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each night of the event, park rangers on the South Rim will lead tours of the constellations at 9, 9:30, and 10 p.m. and will host a night sky photography workshop at 9:30 p.m. Throughout the week, various speakers are slated to hold nightly presentations at 8 p.m. starting with park ranger Ravis Henry who will discuss how the stars are seen through the Navajo culture lens. Other speakers include NASA scientist Julie McEnery who will speak about the next NASA flagship telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope which is scheduled to launch in May 2027 and Dr. Vishnu Reedy, professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona will lecture about how astronomers mitigate the threats of meteor impacts.

On the North Rim, the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix, Arizona will set up telescopes on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge and guide visitors in identifying constellations.

The 2023 Star Party is a free and open to the general public. The park entrance fee is good on both South and North rims for 7 days. No additional tickets or sign-up is required.

The event begins at sunset although the best viewing is after 9 pm and many telescopes come down after 11 pm; however, on nights with clear, calm skies, some astronomers continue sharing their telescopes into the night.

Worth Pondering…

It is the month of June, The month of leaves and roses, when pleasant sights salute the eyes and pleasant scents the noses.

—Nathaniel Parker Willis

Happy Memorial Day

Take a moment to learn the true meaning of Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day! In addition to its associations with white pants, barbecues, parades, and the unofficial start to the summer season, this annual holiday observed on the last Monday of May honors the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day when it was first celebrated in the mid-late 1800s. After the Civil War ended in 1865, Americans began holding yearly tributes to fallen soldiers which included decorating their graves with flowers. It wasn’t until more than a century later, though, that it became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades.

Gettysburg National Military Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The birthplace of Memorial Day and early observances 

The Civil War which ended in the spring of 1865 claimed more lives than any conflict in U.S. history and required the establishment of the country’s first national cemeteries.

By the late 1860s, Americans in various towns and cities had begun holding springtime tributes to these countless fallen soldiers decorating their graves with flowers and reciting prayers.

Did you know? Each year on Memorial Day a national moment of remembrance takes place at 3:00 p.m. local time.

National D-Day Memorial, Bedford, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is unclear where exactly this tradition originated; numerous different communities may have independently initiated the memorial gatherings. And some records show that one of the earliest Memorial Day commemorations was organized by a group of formerly enslaved people in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865. Nevertheless, in 1966 the federal government declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day.

Waterloo—which first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866—was chosen because it hosted an annual, community-wide event during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Decoration Day

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

The date of Decoration Day, as he called it, was chosen because it wasn’t the anniversary of any particular battle.

Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery and 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the 20,000 Civil War soldiers buried there.

Many Northern states held similar commemorative events and reprised the tradition in subsequent years; by 1890 each one had made Decoration Day an official state holiday. Southern states, on the other hand, continued to honor the dead on separate days until after World War I.

Saratoga National Historic Park, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of Memorial Day

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars including World War II, The Vietnam War, The Korean War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For decades, Memorial Day continued to be observed on May 30, the date General Logan had selected for the first Decoration Day. But in 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act which established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May in order to create a three-day weekend for federal employees. The change went into effect in 1971. The same law also declared Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Chickamauga and Chattanooga Military Park, Georgia and Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Memorial Day Traditions and Rituals 

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem (In Flanders Fields by John McCrae).

National Museum of the Pacific War, Fredericksburg, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a less somber note, many people take weekend trips or throw parties and barbecues on the holiday, perhaps because Memorial Day weekend—the long weekend comprising the Saturday and Sunday before Memorial Day and Memorial Day itself—unofficially marks the beginning of summer.

Worth Pondering…

I think of a hero as someone who understands the degree of responsibility that comes with his freedom.

—Bob Dylan

These National Parks Are Hosting Free Stargazing Festivals This Summer

Here’s what you need to know about visiting the parks after dark

As magnificent as the United States’ 63 national parks are during daylight hours, after the sun sinks beyond the horizon these beautiful expanses (often far from city lights and carefully managed as dark-sky preserves) take on a stellar new look. In celebration of the constellations, various national parks hold festivals and evening events to teach visitors about the night sky.

Here’s what you need to know about four of the biggest astronomy parties in the United States national parks.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon Star Party

Each summer, Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona invites visitors to watch “an assortment of planets, double stars, star clusters, nebulae, and distant galaxies” dance above some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth during its Star Party which will take place from June 10 through June 17 in 2023.

Events begin on both the North and South Rims at 8 p.m. but according to the National Park Service (NPS) the best viewing is after 9 p.m.

“Skies will be starry and dark until the moon rises the first night. It rises progressively later throughout the week of the Star Party,” the NPS said on its website.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Each night of the event, park rangers on the South Rim will lead tours of the constellations at 9, 9:30, and 10 p.m. and will host a night sky photography workshop at 9:30 p.m. Throughout the week, various speakers are slated to hold nightly presentations at 8 p.m. starting with park ranger Ravis Henry who will discuss how the stars are seen through the Navajo culture lens. Other speakers include NASA scientist Julie McEnery who will speak about the next NASA flagship telescope, the Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope which is scheduled to launch in May 2027 and Dr. Vishnu Reedy, professor of planetary sciences at the University of Arizona will lecture about how astronomers mitigate the threats of meteor impacts.

On the North Rim, the Saguaro Astronomy Club of Phoenix, Arizona will set up telescopes on the porch of the Grand Canyon Lodge and guide visitors in identifying constellations.

The 2023 Star Party is a free and open to the general public. The park entrance fee is good on both South and North rims for 7 days. No additional tickets or sign-up is required.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The event begins at sunset although the best viewing is after 9 pm and many telescopes come down after 11 pm; however, on nights with clear, calm skies, some astronomers continue sharing their telescopes into the night.

Dress warmly. Temperatures drop quickly after sunset—even during summer months.

Related article: The Grand Canyon Is Hosting a Star Party This Week—and It’s Totally Free

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon Astronomy Festival

Taking place from June 14 through June 17 this year, Bryce Canyon’s Astronomy Festival in southern Utah happens to fall during the new moon when stars, planets, and meteorites are most visible.

Each night, volunteers from the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will bring their telescopes to share during the nightly stargazing sessions which will start at 10 p.m. across the road from the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center.

According to the park, the festival will also “include nightly lectures from leading academics in astronomy as well as park staff and planetarium educators who will share their expertise and research delving into the origin of stars and the universe itself.” Some of those lecturers will include Planetarium Educator Dr. Amy Sayle who will teach about legends surrounding the stars, former Northern Arizona University professor Dr. David W. Koerner whose presentation will focus on cultural astronomy and the arts, and astronomer Dr. Tyler Nordgren who will explain the magic of eclipses.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All the sessions are free but some talks require reservations which can be made at the visitor center any time during the days preceding the festival. It’s worth signing up early as this year’s festival is happening in conjunction with Bryce Canyon’s centennial celebration, a time that is expected to be busier than usual in the park.

Each night of the festival, shuttle service will continue to limited locations between 8 p.m. and 12:15 a.m. Parking will be limited at Evening Program and Telescope locations so the park strongly recommend parking at the Shuttle Station in Bryce Canyon City (2 miles north of park entrance) and riding the Star Shuttle into the park. Shuttles arrive at each stop every 15 minutes. Use of the Star Shuttle is free with park admission.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As always, attending the festival is free with park admission.

Overnight temperatures are typically in the 40s Fahrenheit. A light jacket is a good idea if you plan to be outside for awhile after dark. While red light flashlights are okay, no white light flashlights be used due to their negative effect on night vision. After using a white light, it can take well over thirty minutes for your eyes to begin to readjust to the profound darkness of Bryce Canyon.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands Astronomy Festival

In 2023, the Badlands National Park’s annual Astronomy Festival which is held in partnership with the NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium will take place from July 14 through July 16 in the South Dakota park.

Per the National Park Service, “Novices and experts alike will enjoy the spectacular dark night skies of Badlands National Park at public star parties each evening. During the afternoon each day, a variety of family-friendly activities will provide opportunities for visitors to learn about the night sky, the sun, and space exploration.”

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Astronomers (and their telescopes) from the Black Hills Astronomical Society, Badlands National Park, Dark Ranger Telescope Tours, and the University of Utah will be on hand throughout the festival to lead guests in for day and night observations.

Lectures will be held each night at 9 p.m. starting with a deep-dive on NASA’s space telescopes with NASA scientists Tom Durkin on the 29th, an explainer on Lakota Tribal beliefs around stars with Megan Ostrenga of The Journey Museum in Rapid City on the 30th, and a family-friendly show about the universe with Kevin Poe of Dark Ranger Telescope Tours on the 31st.

Additional events will be announced closer to the festival.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This free event is made possible through funding and support from the Badlands Natural History Association, NASA South Dakota Space Grant Consortium, Dark Ranger Telescope Tours, Black Hills Astronomical Society, The Journey Museum and Learning Center, International Dark Sky Association, University of Utah, Badlands National Park Conservancy, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, and Badlands National Park.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah Night Sky Festival

Discover the Park after dark during the 2023 Night Sky Festival!

So far, only the dates for Shenandoah’s Night Sky Festival in Virginia have been announced: August 11 through August 13. But according to the National Park Service, the three-day event will include “stargazing, Ranger talks, kids’ activities, and guest presentations ranging from topics such as space weather, space travel, and our future in space.”

If you plan on attending one of the outdoor evening activities, be sure to be prepared for the weather and bring a flashlight with a red filter. All events are free with park admission.

Related article: Shenandoah National Park is Hosting a Night Sky Festival This Weekend—and It’s Free

Other Dark Sky Festivals

Great Basin National Park:

Great Basin Astronomy Festival will host its event September 14-16. Check back for more details closer to the event.

Glacier National Park:

Glacier National Park plans to offer Logan Pass Star Parties for the 2023 season. Check back for the exact dates and more details closer to the summer season. If you plan to attend it is important to come prepared. Wear warm clothing and be prepared for wind in St. Mary. Bring a headlamp or flashlight so you can safely move around in the dark. Seating is not provided at the Dusty Star Observatory so bring a chair for a more comfortable viewing experience.

How to attend the national park astronomy festivals?

Tickets to all the astronomy festival events are free though attendees still need to pay the park entrance fee. At Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon, that’s $35 per vehicle, $30 per motorcycle, or $20 per person entering by foot, bicycle, or park shuttle bus. And for Badlands and Shenandoah, it’s $30, $25, and $15, respectively. Entrance passes can be purchased online or at the park entrance.

Related articles:

Worth Pondering…

I have long thought that anyone who does not regularly—or ever—gaze up and see the wonder and glory of a dark night sky filled with countless stars loses a sense of their fundamental connectedness to the universe.

—Brian Greene

7 Explosive Facts about Volcanoes

The word volcano comes from the Roman name Vulcan—the Roman god of fire

Volcanoes are some of Earth’s most fascinating features. They are both creators and destroyers: Their lava cools and builds new land while their eruptions of ash and rock have buried cities such as Pompeii and even blocked out the sun’s rays. Volcanoes have also inspired artists, writers, and scientists for centuries. Read on for some explosive examples of how volcanoes have changed the world.

Lassen Peak, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. There are three main types of volcanoes

The simplest type of volcano, cinder cone aptly describes how this type of volcano forms: As lava bursts out of the earth, it cools and falls back to the surface as pebbly textured cinder piling up around the original site of the eruption. The cinder eventually forms a dark, smooth-sided cone. When looking at a map, you will find that thousands of cinder cones exist in western North America and in other volcanic areas of the world.

Some of the Earth’s grandest mountains are composite volcanoes—sometimes called stratovolcanoes. They are usually tall with steep even sides and are formed by repeating layers of lava flows, volcanic ash, cinders, blocks, and volcanic bombs. These mountainous volcanoes often result in huge eruptions of thick lava and tephra (small rocky fragments) that build up over time. About 60 percent of the world’s volcanoes are stratovolcanoes and they include Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon, Mount Garibaldi in British Columbia, and Mount Shasta in California. Some composite volcanoes rise over 8,000 feet above their surroundings.

Shield volcanoes are built almost entirely of fluid lava flows. Lava erupts or pours out of multiple vents in all directions and spreads out over land. Shield volcanoes build up slowly by the growth of thousands of lava flows that spread widely over great distances and then cool as thin sheets. Crater Lake was formed when a massive shield volcano Mount Mazama collapsed in on itself. Snow filled the crater with water, creating a lake. Further eruptions created a small island in the middle of the lake. The Hawaiian Islands are made of a chain of shield volcanoes including Kīlauea and the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa. 

Mount St. Helens, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Eruptions are measured by the volcanic explosivity index

The power of a volcanic eruption is measured on a scale from 0 to 8 called the Volcanic Explosivity Index (VEI), according to the amount of lava, tephra, and ash that spews forth. An eruption with a VEI of 0 is basically dormant; each subsequent number indicates a tenfold increase in ejected material. The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens was a VEI 5. The most recent megacolossal eruption took place in 2022 at Hunga Tonga Ha’apai: The blast destroyed 90 percent of the South Pacific island and merited a VEI of 6.

>> Related article: See Steaming Volcanoes at This Eerie National Park

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. The Ring of Fire is Earth’s most active volcano zone

About 1,350 potentially active volcanoes dot the Earth today and about 75 percent of them can be found along a 25,000-mile-long horseshoe-shaped ribbon that borders the Pacific Ocean. This Circum-Pacific Belt, more commonly known as the Ring of Fire is home to some of the most volcanically active areas in the world including Southeast Asia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Alaska, and parts of the contiguous United States. 

The volcanoes are clustered near subduction zones—unstable areas where one of Earth’s heavy tectonic plates slides under a lighter one. The movements trigger earthquakes as well as a buildup of magma (molten rock) where the plates scrape together. Magma often escapes through the lighter plate as a volcano.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. The U.S. has a surprisingly high number of volcanoes

Three volcanoes in the Lower 48 have erupted since the Declaration of Independence was signed: Mount St. Helens in Washington, Mount Hood in Oregon, and Lassen Peak in California. Mount St. Helens: Eruptions and/or lava dome growth occurred in the late 1700s, 1800-1857, 1980-1986, and 2004-2008.

Lassen Peak: A series of steam blasts began on May 30, 1914. An eruption occurred 12 months later on May 21, 1915. Minor activity continued through the middle of 1917.

Mount Hood: After being dormant for over 1,000 years, Mount Hood had an eruptive period beginning in 1781 that lasted for about a decade. In the mid-1800s, local residents reported minor explosive activity.

>> Related article: Celebrate Volcano Week!

Due to the statehoods of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959, the U.S. now ranks first in the world in the number of potentially active volcanoes per nation with 162. They include the planet’s largest active volcano, Hawaii’s Mauna Loa which rises 2.5 miles above sea level and 10.5 miles above its base on the bottom of the ocean. Alaska’s Novarupta volcano in present-day Katmai National Park and Preserve had the biggest eruption of the 20th century beginning on June 6, 1912 with a VEI of 6.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Volcanoes can change Earth’s climate

The biggest eruptions can shoot tons of ash and gas high into the atmosphere where they can block some of the sun’s radiation and be dispersed around the world by air currents. These aerosols can actually change Earth’s climate for a few years.

In April of 1815, the eruption of the volcano Mount Tambora rocked modern-day Indonesia. The blast, nearly 100 times as large as that of Mount St. Helens in 1980 sent a massive cloud of miniscule particles into the atmosphere. As the particle cloud blew its way around the globe it reflected sunlight causing a meteorological phenomenon to which we now refer as the year without a summer.

In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo’s eruption in the Philippines sent ash into the stratosphere and cooled the globe for about two years.

>> Related article: Rivers of Ancient Fires: El Malpais National Monument

When the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted in January 2022, it sent a tsunami racing around the world and set off a sonic boom that circled the globe twice. The underwater eruption in the South Pacific Ocean also blasted an enormous plume of water vapor into Earth’s stratosphere—enough to fill more than 58,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. The sheer amount of water vapor could be enough to temporarily affect Earth’s global average temperature.

Mount St. Helens, Mount St. Helens National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. A volcano made the loudest sound ever recorded

When Krakatau blew its top in August 1883, it released a boom that geologists believe was the loudest sound in recorded history. The 310-decibel cataclysm was heard over 2,000 miles away in Australia where ranchers thought it was a rifle shot; people 3,000 miles away thought it was a cannon blast from a nearby ship. In addition to the eardrum-busting noise, the volcano released 6 cubic miles of material into the atmosphere, triggered tsunamis that killed 36,000 people and coated the sea in layers of floating pumice.

The closest we’ve come to a repeat of Krakatoa was the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai eruption near the Polynesian island of Tonga in January 2022. Sonic booms were felt as far north as Alaska and researchers more than 6,000 miles away at Boise State University in Idaho recorded subterranean frequencies equivalent to about 100 decibels.

Fortunately, this blast wasn’t nearly as deadly with three fatalities recorded. Still, it wreaked a lot of havoc. Tonga was largely cut off from the rest of the world for days, ash blanketed large swaths of the surrounding area, and tsunamis caused major damage along the coastlines. On one of the closer outlying islands all the homes were destroyed. The volcano had created its own new island several years before; that was entirely obliterated along with large chunks of two nearby islands.

Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Volcanoes are erupting, spewing ash on three continents

Active volcanoes prompted ash warnings and set nerves on edge in Italy, Mexico, and the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month. 

Mount Etna showered ash over Catania in eastern Sicily on Sunday, May 21, 2023 and forced the temporary suspension of airport operations. Lava flows were reported in January and an explosion on May 14 produced an ash admission. Activity at Mount Etna has been observed and recorded for more than 2,500 years, making it one of the oldest continuously monitored volcanoes.

>> Related article: On the Road to Mount St. Helens

Volcanic ash from Popocatépetl triggered the temporary closure of Mexico City’s Benito Juárez International Airport on Saturday, May 20. Flight delays related to the presence of ash also were reported Monday. People were urged not to travel within a 7.5 mile radius of the volcano and to avoid the crater “due to the danger of falling ballistic fragments,” according to Mexico’s National Center for Communication and Civil Protection Operations. The volcano has experienced explosions, tremors, and exhaled vapor, gas, and ashes for weeks, according to monitoring reports from the national center and the National Autonomous University of Mexico. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Nyamulagira volcano in the Democratic Republic of Congo also continued ongoing eruption and lava flow. Nyamulagira is Africa’s most active volcano. An eruption began in the summit crater on March 14 and active flows were seen on May 7 and May 12, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. The volcano has been active since April 2018.

As of April 14, 2023, 49 volcanoes around the world were in continuing eruption status, according to the Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program. Last week, 24 were in some stage of active eruption, according to the program’s latest weekly report.

The Popocatepetl volcano reputedly 730,000 years old is the second-highest peak in Mexico; Citlaltépetl is roughly 500 feet higher. It is the second-highest volcano in North America; Hawaii’s Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world soars roughly 30,000 feet over the ocean floor.

The Mauna Kea volcano on the island of Hawaii is the tallest mountain on Earth if you measure its height from its bottom on the ocean floor; it rises to a height of over 33,000 feet.

Worth Pondering…

Each volcano is an independent machine—nay, each vent and monticule is for the time being engaged in its own peculiar business, cooking as it were its special dish which in due time is to be separately served. We have instances of vents within hailing distance of each other pouring out totally different kinds of lava, neither sympathizing with the other in any discernible manner nor influencing other in any appreciable degree.

—Clarence Edward Dutton, Report on the Geology of the High Plateaus of Utah (1880)

National Road Trip Day

Today is National Road Trip Day

Memorial Day is the unofficial kickoff to summer and millions of Americans take a vacation over the holiday weekend primarily by car or recreational vehicle. The Friday before Memorial Day has been declared National Road Trip Day. 

Today is National Road Trip Day and I’m celebrating two kinds of road trippers, the tourist and the pilot. Sightseeing tourists like to take their time choosing scenic routes with numerous breaks for exploring, hiking, and photography while pilots are on a mission to get to their destination with as few breaks as possible. However, you like to road trip, be sure to drive safely.

Plan your route with a full tank of fuel, snacks, music, and other travel necessities along your route no matter which kind of road tripper you are.

In case you care, today is also National Cellophane Tape Day, National Grape Popsicle Day, National Cooler Day, and National Don’t Fry Day.

Road tripping on the Bush Highway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s National Road Trip Day: Check out these interesting facts about the Interstate Highway System

The interstate highway system was officially born on June 29, 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. Eisenhower’s interest in the concept was piqued during his tour of the German autobahn system in World War II when he was Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. Initially, he saw its significance in terms of military logistics. Today, almost everything we use in daily life—food, apparel, furniture, appliances, tools, building materials, medical supplies, you name it—has traveled an interstate highway on its way to a local store.

Road tripping along the Covered Bridge Scenic Byway, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some interesting facts about the Interstate System, some of which have practical value:

  • Even-numbered Interstate highways always travel east/west
  • Odd-numbered Interstate highways always travel north/south
  • The side of the small sign with the exit number will tell you whether the exit is on the right or left
  • On one- or two-digit Interstates, the mile marker numbering begins at the southern or western state line
  • If an Interstate originates within a state, the numbering begins from the location where the road begins in the south or west
  • The Interstate Highway System stretches 47,622 miles and includes 10 transcontinental routes varying in length from 18 miles to over 3,000 miles
  • Longest Interstate: I-90, 3,085 miles (Seattle to Boston)
  • Shortest Interstate: I-97, 17 miles (Annapolis to Baltimore, Maryland)
  • State with the most Interstate mileage: Texas, 3,232 miles
  • State with the most Interstate routes: New York, 29 routes
  • Interstate routes across the most states: I-95, 16 states (Florida to Maine)
  • Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico use their own interstate system as they are not connected to the rest of the country
Road tripping in Sequoia National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s National Road Trip Day: Check out the history and significance of the day

Whether it’s to pay tribute to fallen national heroes by visiting war memorials across the country or an excuse to get out of town for a change of scenery, the road trip has been loved by Americans throughout history. From great works of literature inspired by the road to songs that we know and love—road trips mean something to everyone which is why it’s exciting that the road trip has a special day of its own.

National Road Trip Day is the day when families hit the road and find out the wonders that await them on the journey. Road trips are a great way to relax and spend time with your family and friends. In simple terms, a road trip means a journey or trip on the road.

Road tripping in Custer State Park, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Road Trip Day became an official holiday in 2019, thanks to Pilot Flying J, the largest travel center operator in North America. They chose the Friday before Memorial Day because of the long weekend ahead and with May being the start of summer it kick-starts the travel season, too. Since travel stories are ingrained into the very history of America with wagon trains heading west in the 1840s and Native Americans exploring the country long before that—it makes sense to observe a day that celebrates travel by road.

Looking back at history, the concept of the road trip was described back in 1888 in Germany. The first recorded road trip across the U.S. began in 1903 with a bet. Someone bet Horatio Nelson Jackson (a physician and automobile pioneer) that he could not travel from San Francisco to New York City in less than 90 days. Accompanied by mechanic Sewall K. Crocker and a dog named Bud, they set off in a 20-horsepower Winston to prove them wrong. Despite numerous mishaps, Jackson and Crocker completed the trip in 63 days.

Road tripping on Route 66 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the 1930s, the famous Route 66 opened America to cross-country travel. Many began to migrate west while others took to the road for vacations. By the 1950s, America was the world’s largest car manufacturer and nearly 75 percent of American families owned a car which became a symbol of American pop culture.

Road trips became the typical holiday of the American middle classes leading to a boom in drive-ins and roadside motels. Hippies in the ’60s then converted the road trip into a full-blown lifestyle, turning vans and buses into homes on wheels.

Road tripping in Amish Country, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s National Road Trip Day: Tips for planning a road trip

Everything is in the planning. It can be a lot of fun and relieve a lot of stress along the way.

Use a travel app: Apps are everything, so why not leverage technology to help you plan your route.

Soup up your ride: Check everything out beforehand from wipers to registration papers, leave no stone unturned.

Plot a course: Keep in mind important factors like traffic flow, bathroom stops, and roadblocks/diversions.

Compile a playlist: The majority of travelers say that what you listen to can make or break your trip experience, so prep well.

Stakeout your take-out: While snacks are essential, plan your meals and take-out stops in advance, too.

Road tripping in Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s National Road Trip Day: Take healthy habits on your road trip

So while you’re checking your budget and consulting maps and travel guides, here are some health-related factors to consider.

Stay hydrated, but wisely: Travel with water bottles and a cooler rather than sodas.

Build in breaks: When you’re sitting in the car or RV for hours at a time, blood doesn’t pump as well throughout the body. It’s a good idea to stop every two to three hours just to get up and stretch and walk around to get the blood flowing.

The sun doesn’t shine just at the beach: It’s blasting through the windows. Don’t forget sunscreen and sunglasses while you’re driving.

Road tripping in White Sands National Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How to spend National Road Trip Day in 2023?

National Road Trip can be celebrated by planning a quick road trip with family and friends. You can spend the day hitting the road to discover unknown destinations or attractions. You can drive a scenic byway or All-American Road. You can even finish it by watching a road trip movie.

Worth Pondering…

Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.

—Emma Chase, Tamed

16 Under the Radar National Monuments to Visit

For travelers who love to avoid the crowds, these 16 lesser known national monuments may be perfect spots for your next road trip

Since Wyoming’s iconic Devils Tower became the first U.S. National Monument in 1906, America is now populated with well over 100 of these unique cultural and geographic gems. In addition to volcanic landscapes like Malpais and Mount St. Helens and Utah’s oft-photographed Cedar Breaks there are numerous others that you might be less familiar with—and which absolutely merit a visit. From ancient petroglyphs to the geological wonders these are 16 under-the-radar national monuments to visit.

Cedar Breaks National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Cedar Breaks, Utah

Like a mini Bryce Canyon, minus the crowds, Cedar Breaks contains a stunning assortment of hoodoos and cliffs in southern Utah. Technically an amphitheater, the monument is three miles wide and 2,000 feet deep, filled with craggy rock formations jutting up from the base like natural skyscrapers. Considering the monument’s high elevation, it gets cold and snowy in the winter which lends vivid color contrast from the white powder atop the orange-hued hoodoos and lush green forests surrounding it. It’s a popular destination for snowmobilers as well who can ride along the rim and gaze out over the illustrious expanse.

>> Get more tips for visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Petroglyph, New Mexico

Located on the western edge of Albuquerque lies one of the most concentrated collections of ancient petroglyphs on the continent. Native American tribes settled here hundreds of years ago and they left their mark in the form of symbols carved into volcanic rock across the desert terrain. With around 24,000 images and symbols, there’s plenty to see here. In addition to the petroglyphs, the monument contains hiking trails throughout its 17-mile park along with dormant volcanoes and canyons.

>> Get more tips for visiting Petroglyph National Monument

Organ Pipe National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Organ Pipe Cactus, Arizona

Some folks might be surprised to learn that Arizona has another national park unit dedicated to the preservation of a rare cactus. Saguaro National Park in Tucson is famed far and wide while Organ Pipe Cactus is more of an under-the-radar gem. Located along the Mexican border at the southern edge of the state, the monument is the only place in the U.S. where the organ pipe cactus grows wild. One glimpse at this sprawling, soaring species will clue you in to where the cactus gets its name. An ideal place for desert camping and hiking, the monument also has horseback trails, scenic drives, and biking opportunities.

>> Get more tips for visiting Organ Pipe National Monument

Natural Bridges National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Natural Bridges, Utah

Since natural bridges are formed by running water, they are much rarer than arches which result from a variety of other erosion forces. Natural bridges tend to be found within canyons, sometimes quite hidden whereas arches are usually high and exposed as they are often the last remnants of rock cliffs and ridges. The amazing force of water has cut three spectacular natural bridges. These stunning rock bridges have Hopi Indian names: delicate Owachomo means rock mounds, massive Kachina means dancer while Sipapu, the second largest natural bridge in the state, means place of emergence. A nine-mile scenic drive overlooks the bridges, canyons, and a touch of history with ancient Puebloan ruins.

>> Get more tips for visiting Natural Bridges National Monument

Mount St. Helens National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Mount St. Helens National Monument, Washington

National park-like amenities like the Johnston Ridge Observator tell the story of America’s most infamous active volcano while guided cave walks are available in the monument’s expansive Ape Cave lava tube. Gorgeous wildflower-packed views of the volcano can be enjoyed in spots like Bear Meadows while those seeking a closer view of the crater rim may drive to the Windy Ridge viewpoint or even summit the rim of the 8,365-foot volcano with a permit.

>> Get more tips for visiting Mount St. Helens National Monument

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. There’s something for everyone here. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations. In the area known as Chain of Craters, 30 cinder cones can be found across the landscape. La Ventana Natural Arch is easily accessible. Trails lead up to the bottom of the free-standing arch for a closer look at this natural wonder.

>> Get more tips for visiting El Malpais National Monument

Canyon de Chelly National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

A one-of-a-kind landscape and the cherished homeland of the Navajo people, Arizona’s Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a truly special place. Sheer cliffs rise on either side of this flat-bottomed, sandy ravine. Native Americans have worked and lived there for thousands of years and today Navajo people still call it home. South Rim Drive and North Rim Drive, each more than 30 miles long, are excellent driving routes along the canyons. The scenery is spectacular, including the White House Ruin cliff dwellings and the 800-foot sandstone spire known as Spider Rock.

>> Get more tips for visiting Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Grand Staircase-Escalante, Utah

Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument is phenomenal whether you’re traveling along Scenic Byway 12 or on Highway 89. This area boasts a mixture of colorful sandstone cliffs soaring above narrow slot canyons, picturesque washes, and seemingly endless Slickrock. The monument is a geologic sampler with a huge variety of formations, features, and world-class paleontological sites. A geological formation spanning eons of time, the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument is a territory of multicolored cliffs, plateaus, mesas, buttes, pinnacles, and canyons. It is divided into three distinct sections: the Grand Staircase, the Kaiparowits Plateau, and the Canyons of the Escalante.

>> Get more tips for visiting Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

Hovenweep National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Hovenweep, Utah and Colorado

Human habitation at Hovenweep dates to over 10,000 years ago when nomadic Paleoindians visited the Cajon Mesa to gather food and hunt game. These people used the area for centuries following the seasonal weather patterns. By about 900, people started to settle at Hovenweep year-round, planting and harvesting crops in the rich soil of the mesa top. The towers of Hovenweep were built from about 500 to 1300. Similarities in architecture, masonry, and pottery styles indicate that the inhabitants of Hovenweep were closely associated with groups living at Mesa Verde and other nearby sites.

>> Get more tips for visiting Hovenweep National Monument

Montezuma Castle National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

11. Montezuma Castle, Arizona

Montezuma Castle National Monument is dedicated to preserving Native American culture. This 20 room high-rise apartment nestled into a towering limestone cliff, tells a story of ingenuity, survival, and ultimately, prosperity in an unforgiving desert landscape. Although people were living in the area much earlier, the Sinagua began building permanent living structures—the dwellings you see at the monument—around 1050.

>> Get more tips for visiting Montezuma Castle National Monument

Tuzigoot National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Tuzigoot, Arizona

This village was built high on a limestone ridge over a hundred feet above the floodplains of the Verde River. It has clear lines of sight in every direction and can easily be seen from many of the other hills and pueblos in the area. Tuzigoot was a prime spot to build with excellent views, easy access to reliable, year-round water, and floodplains where cultivation of water-intensive crops like cotton was relatively easy.

>> Get more tips for visiting Tuzigoot National Monument

El Morro National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. El Morro National Monument, New Mexico

Rising 200 feet above the valley floor, this massive sandstone bluff was a welcome landmark for weary travelers. A reliable year-round source of drinking water at its base made El Morro a popular campsite in this otherwise rather arid and desolate country. At the base of the bluff called Inscription Rock are seven centuries of inscriptions covering human interaction with this spot.

>> Get more tips for visiting El Morro National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Arizona

Explore the mystery and complexity of an extended network of communities and irrigation canals. An Ancestral Sonoran Desert People’s farming community and Great House is preserved at Casa Grande Ruins. Archeologists have discovered evidence that the ancestral Sonoran Desert people who built the Casa Grande also developed wide-scale irrigation farming and extensive trade connections which lasted over a thousand years until about 1450.

>> Get more tips for visiting Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona

A Wonderland of Rocks is waiting for you to explore at Chiricahua National Monument. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base seemingly ready to topple over at any time. The 8-mile paved scenic drive and 17-miles of day-use hiking trails provide opportunities to discover the beauty, natural sounds, and inhabitants of this 12,025-acre site.

Aztec Ruins National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico

Built and used over a 200-year period, Aztec Ruins is the largest Ancestral Pueblo community in the Animas River valley. Concentrated on and below a terrace overlooking the Animas River, the people at Aztec built several multi-story buildings called great houses and many smaller structures. Associated with each great house was a great kiva—a large circular chamber used for ceremonies. In addition, they modified the landscape with dozens of linear swales called roads, earthen berms, and platforms

>> Get more tips for visiting Aztec Ruins National Monument

Worth Pondering…

The time to prepare for your next expedition is when you have just returned from a successful trip.

—Robert Peary

Tips for Driving an RV in Windy Conditions

Driving an RV in heavy winds can be quite a challenge. Here’s some advice for all RVers encountering windy road conditions.

Almost anyone who has ever had the displeasure of driving an RV in high winds will tell you that it can be a very stressful white-knuckle experience.

No one likes driving an RV in high winds but the situation is likely to present itself sooner or later. For this reason, I’m sharing some suggestions to help keep you safe on the road in windy conditions.

Hang onto your hats, let’s go.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why RVs are vulnerable to heavy winds

RVs are especially vulnerable to heavy winds because of the large surface area of the RV which leaves no place for the wind to pass through to relieve the pressure. The wind simply pushes against the sides/front/rear of the RV and can literally move the rig no matter how heavy it is.

Travel trailers are susceptible to trailer sway in heavy winds. This can lead to driver over-correction resulting in a back-and-forth rocking that can send the trailer out of control.

It can be tiring to drive or tow an RV in high winds and sometimes it’s downright dangerous. It’s at these times when you need to find a safe area to pull over and stop driving until conditions improve.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When it’s too windy to drive an RV

High winds are capable of overturning an RV. The longer and taller the RV, the more surface area the wind has to push against. But this can happen with any RV. Even smaller RVs are taller than a typical vehicle so we’ve all got more surface area.

There are numerous factors involved that may make it too windy to stay on the road so there is no specific wind speed to watch for. But I’ll cover some of the ways you can determine what’s safe, what’s not, and when it’s time to get off the road.

>> Related article: 7 Driving Tips You Should Know

Bottom line… I don’t think taking chances driving an RV in dangerously high winds is ever wise.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions

There are four primary factors to consider when driving your RV in windy conditions:

  • Wind speed
  • Wind direction
  • Driving speed
  • How heavy the RV is loaded in relation to its GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating)

All of the factors noted above combine to create greater potential for problems. The higher the wind, the faster you drive, the closer your vehicle is to its maximum allowable weight, and the more direct the wind is to a 90-degree crosswind, the more dangerous it is to drive in windy conditions.

Higher wind speed, directly on the side of a heavily loaded RV = SLOW DOWN! If it’s still not a stable drive, find a safe place to stop and take a break!

If the wind is causing you to leave your lane while you’re driving, it’s always time to stop. None of us wants to tip over but swerving in your lane is also very dangerous—to you and to others on the road.

You’ll notice that of the four factors listed above, only one is under your direct control as you’re rolling down the road and feeling pushed around—driving speed. I’ll get to more on that below.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Can wind actually tip an RV over while driving?

YES, the wind can tip your RV over especially while you’re driving it. (There’s far less chance of the wind toppling an RV that’s parked.) The force of the wind combined with the force of wind being generated by your rig can combine to tip your RV over completely. This is why it’s important to always be aware of how your rig is behaving on the road and respond accordingly based on conditions.

How much wind can a parked RV withstand?

A parked RV can withstand far more wind than a moving RV. The likelihood of wind tipping over a parked RV is low but you may feel the rig rocking uncomfortably especially if you don’t have leveling jacks.

>> Related article: RV Weight Distribution Tips for Packing your RV

Leveling jacks can help to stabilize your RV in heavy winds. If possible, you may also want to park your RV so that the front or rear of the rig is facing into the wind. This way, the full strength of the wind isn’t hitting the largest side of the RV.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a safe driving speed in windy conditions?

RVs vary so much in size, shape, and weight that there’s no way to suggest a single driving speed that’s safe for every RV in every wind condition. The important thing to remember is that the more vulnerable your rig is to the wind (see the four conditions above), the slower you need to drive (again, the primary factor that you’re in control of while rolling down the road).

While longer, taller RVs can act like a sail and catch a lot of wind, all RVs are susceptible to being affected by high winds. So all RVers should take safety precautions!

One factor that each of us has a considerable degree of control over is weight. Making sure to avoid overloading your rig is key for many reasons, including stability on the road.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

How much wind is too much?

Again, there’s no one set wind speed that triggers a get off the road response from every RVer. There are simply too many factors at play. But there is a way to know when you should slow down or get off the road altogether.

Keeping in mind what I mentioned earlier—that driving speed is the variable that you have the most control of while underway—I recommend using that as your primary control factor.

I suggest using a bottom-up approach to anything related to driving speed. By that, I mean that you should start slowly and work your way up as conditions allow. It’s far easier to increase your speed if you’re driving a little slower than needed than it is to be forced to slow down (possibly suddenly) because things are getting hairy.

If the wind (regardless of its speed) is pushing your rig around, causing you to sway in (or out of) your lane, or causing you to feel uncomfortable, that’s your sign to slow down. And if necessary, find a place to stop and wait for better conditions.

Any time we’re not in complete control of our RV, we shouldn’t be driving.

What are wind restrictions?

You may sometimes see overhead signs warning of high winds. Some areas may even implement restrictions to limit high-profile traffic during extremely windy conditions. Typically, the vehicles that are restricted in those zones are large trucks and RVs so always check the area you’ll be traveling in for potential wind restrictions. These are put in place for your safety and for the safety of others using the roads in that area.

>> Related article: Dust Storms and Haboobs: Safety Tips for RVers

There may also be wind restrictions placed on bridges that span across the water due to the wind gusts that often occur in these open areas. Doing a little research prior to hitting the road and staying alert for changing conditions can save you a lot of stress and keep you safe.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving tips for windy conditions

Following are some tips for driving an RV in high winds. All of them will help to keep you safer on the road in windy conditions.

1. Slow down

When driving an RV in heavy winds adjust your speed. In two words, this simply means SLOW DOWN. If you feel your rig being pushed around your first reaction should be to slow down. If it’s still not feeling stable, slow down more. Or get off the road at the earliest safe spot.

2. Check the weather forecast and wait if necessary

Check the weather forecast and give yourself the benefit of a plan B that allows you to wait out the wind. The winds won’t blow forever and you just might enjoy an unexpected day of relaxation while you wait.

3. Drive with both hands on the wheel

Since you should always keep both hands on the wheel anyway, this should probably go without saying. But I’ll say it anyway: when you’re driving in windy conditions keeping both hands on the wheel is more important than ever. You just don’t know when a gust of wind is going to hit your rig in just the wrong way and you’re going to need to have full control.

Having both hands on the wheel keeps you prepared for the unexpected (at all times) and is the habit of every good defensive driver.

4. Be careful while driving on bridges and overpasses

Bridges and overpasses are common places for gusty side winds, so be alert. Also, large trucks passing your rig may create the same sort of wind disturbance, so be prepared when being passed.

But be sure to avoid overcorrecting as those gusts come and go. As with so many situations involving driving safety, reducing your speed should be a natural first response.

Take extra care when driving an RV in high winds © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Take breaks often

When you’re driving in winds that aren’t excessive enough to pose a danger, you may be able to continue driving comfortably, at appropriate speeds. Even so, taking routine breaks is important. Operating an RV in windy conditions is more tiring and stressful and taking breaks keeps you in better condition to drive safely.

>> Related article: 10 RV Driving Tips

6. Check weather forecast ahead and wait, if necessary

Before starting on an RV trip, I suggest you check the weather forecast. You probably know exactly where you are going and you may even be aware of known problem areas along your path.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

Chattanooga: A Little City That’s Big on Outdoor Adventure

Chattanooga is a premier outdoor destination

Located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains along the beautiful Tennessee River, Chattanooga is one of America’s most spectacular cities. The so-called “Scenic City” offers stunning natural landscapes including Ruby Falls, the largest underground waterfall in the US, and Rock City, a mountaintop vista dotted with massive, ancient rock formations and over 400 native plant species.

The city was a major railway hub throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, hence the Chattanooga Choo-Choo which was originally a reference to the Cincinnati Southern Railroad’s passenger service from Cincinnati to Chattanooga and later the title of a 1941 Glen Miller tune. The walkable downtown is a maze of historic stone and brick buildings featuring gourmet kitchens, craft breweries, and distilleries. It’s easy to love the ‘Noog!

Chattanooga and the Tennessee River © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga is one of the country’s premier outdoor destinations starting with the hiking trails that are just a stone’s throw away from downtown. If you want an urban hike that leads you to unique city views and doesn’t require a walking pole, check out Stringers Ridge, 92-acre park located 2 miles from downtown Chattanooga. Okay fine…you can still bring a walking stick if you really want to. The highlight for hikers is the view from the observation deck.

This particularly postcard worthy ridge-top view can be reached by accessing the Cherokee Trail (a double-track path that used to be an old road traversing the ridge). It’s a great spot to snap a photo, hang out for a while with a book in hand, or catch a sunrise or sunset. Though Sunset Rock at Lookout Mountain might offer a higher vantage point, the view from Stringers easily offers a better view of the actual downtown district and provides an “outside-looking-in” kind of experience where you can see cars driving over the bridges but barely hear their motors’ roar.

Lookout Mountain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The hike from Lookout Mountain’s historic Cravens House to Sunset Rock is another option when seeking a Chattanooga hiking experience. One of the best things about Cravens House is that it serves as a gateway to a number of Lookout’s greatest trails. From it, hikers and trail runners can string together a route that suits whatever mood they’re feeling on a given day—whether it’s a 4-mile loop with a major climb up the burly Gum Springs Trail, a less strenuous 4.5-mile loop that works its way up to Point Park before zig-zagging down the front of the mountain or even a 10-mile loop that links together seven of Lookout Mountain’s trails to create one of the crown jewel trail running experiences in the city.

>> Related article: The Chattanooga Choo-Choo, More Than a Hotel

The most straightforward route you can choose is the 1.5-mile (3-mile round trip) hike to Sunset Rock offering the best seat in the house to…yep, you guessed it—the sunset.

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winding wooded lanes, dazzling panoramas, and a labyrinth of diverse trails make Signal Mountain a nature lover’s heaven. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Chattanooga, Signal Mountain offers unlimited outdoor adventures and views that stretch on for miles. While even a drive around the densely forested mountain town is a more-than-satisfying way to spend an afternoon, taking a stroll (long or short) on some of Signal’s beautiful trails is the best way to experience its wide variety of spectacular natural offerings.

If you’re looking for a trail with views that make you stop and ponder the meaning of life, you need to hike the 5.1-mile out and back trail at Signal Point. You can even stop for a swim in Rainbow Lake but don’t expect a lake filled with rainbows. The lake features a dam built in 1916 that creates a short but powerful waterfall and a swinging bridge that spans the creek. You can terminate your hike here or opt to take a two-mile tour around the lake.

Lookout Mountain © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Descend 260 feet by elevator into Lookout Mountain and hike the cavern trail on a guided tour to Ruby Falls, the tallest and deepest cave waterfall open to the public in the United States. Visitors can also opt for an after-hours tour guided by the glow of hand-held lanterns. Outside the cavern, visitors are invited to soar through the treetops on 700 feet of zipline at Ruby Falls’ High Point ZIP Adventure.

Set off on a self-guided tour through Rock City Gardens for a bird’s eye view from high atop Lookout Mountain. Climb the wall at Lover’s Leap where you can “See Seven States.” Kids will enjoy a visit to Fairyland Caverns, natural caves that have been transformed into blacklight dioramas of classic fairy tales. 

Chattanooga Choo-Choo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chattanooga has long been famous as a transportation hub―this is the city, after all, made famous when Glenn Miller and His Orchestra wrote The Chattanooga Choo Choo about the city’s train station for the 1941 movie musical Sun Valley Serenade

But even though the Choo Choo is now a hotel and hasn’t hosted a locomotive in decades, Chattanooga is still an easy-to-access travel destination thanks to its expanding airport and its location at the crossroads of several state and federal highways. 

Chattanooga Choo-Choo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Indeed, Chattanooga was the headquarters of one of the early auto clubs dedicated to building one of the country’s first Interstates―the historic Dixie Highway which ran from Chicago to Miami. It’s still easy to get around by car but the free electric shuttles that connect Chattanooga’s busiest tourist districts as well as a slowly expanding bus network makes public transit a snap.

Chattanooga is right on the Georgia border, two hours from Atlanta as well as Nashville, Knoxville, and Birmingham―and it’s at the intersection of Interstates 75, 24, and 59 as well as US Route 27, and State Routes 153 and 319 (known locally as DuPont Parkway).

Lookout Mountain Incline Railway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sitting astride the Tennessee River and wedged within the hilltops of the Cumberland Plateau, Chattanooga is one of the South’s prettiest cities. And thanks to its ultra-fast public internet, the so-called Gig City has become a tech hub supporting a bustling community of startups, software companies, and venture capital firms. Combine that with the down-to-earth charisma of the region’s top rock climbing, cycling, and hiking activities and you have one of the most interesting destinations in the South.

>> Related article: Death Knell of the Confederacy: Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park

You don’t have to break the bank, either, to get a little taste of everything Chattanooga has on deck. From public sculpture gardens to city parks, from historic sites to quirky craft markets, there’s a lot you can do in the Scenic City for free.

Sugar’s Ribs BBQ, Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nestled in a curve of the wide and winding Tennessee River, Chattanooga lies between the misty Appalachian Mountains and the lushly forested Cumberland Plateau. With such a stunning natural location, it shouldn’t be a surprise that this small city has become a major hot spot for outdoor and adventure-minded visitors.

Worth Pondering…

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Hi there Tex, what you say
Step aside partner, it’s my day
Bend an ear and listen to my version
Of a really solid Tennessee excursion

Pardon me, boy
Is that the Chattanooga choo choo? (yes yes)
Track twenty-nine
Boy, you can gimme a shine
Can you afford To board a Chattanooga choo choo
Then you know that Tennessee is not very far
Shovel all the coal in
Gotta keep it rollin’
Woo, woo, Chattanooga there you are

—Songwriters Mack Gordon and Harry Warren, first recorded 1941 by Glenn Miller

The Best and Worst Times to Travel This Memorial Day Weekend + Top Destinations

Expert advice for your long weekend travel

Roughly 42.3 million people will travel 50 or more miles from home this Memorial Day weekend, a 7 percent increase over 2022. This year, 2.7 million more people will travel for the unofficial start of summer compared to last year, a sign of what’s to come in the months ahead.  

“This is expected to be the third busiest Memorial Day weekend since 2000 when AAA started tracking holiday travel,” said Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of AAA Travel. “More Americans are planning trips and booking them earlier despite inflation. This summer travel season could be one for the record books especially at airports.”  

Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Memorial Day road trips are up 6 percent over last year. 37.1 million Americans will drive to their destinations, an increase of more than 2 million. Fuel prices are lower this holiday compared to last year when the national average was more than $4 a gallon. Despite the lower prices at the pump, car and RV travel travel this holiday will be shy of pre-pandemic numbers by about 500,000 travelers. 

Nearly 3.4 million travelers are expected to fly to their destinations this Memorial Day, that’s an increase of 11 percent over last year. Air travel over the holiday weekend is projected to exceed pre-pandemic levels with 170,000 more passengers—or 5.4 percent more—than in 2019. Despite high ticket prices, demand for flights is skyrocketing. This Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005. 

More people this holiday are taking other modes of transportation like buses and trains. These travelers are expected to total 1.85 million, an increase of 20.6 percent over 2022. 

Santa Fe, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Best/worst times to travel and peak congestion by metro  

INRIX, a provider of transportation data and insights expects Friday, May 26 to be the busiest day on the roads during the long Memorial Day weekend. The best times to travel by car or RV are in the morning or evening after 6 p.m. The lightest traffic days will be Saturday and Sunday. Major metro areas like Boston, New York, Seattle, and Tampa will likely see travel times double compared to normal. 

Boston Freedom Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Top destinations

AAA booking data for the Memorial Day weekend shows tourist hotspots like Orlando, New York City, and Las Vegas are top domestic destinations. Cruise port cities in Florida and Alaska as well as Seattle are high on the list given the 50 percent increase in domestic cruise bookings compared to last year. Other popular U.S. cities this Memorial Day include Denver, Boston, Anaheim, and Canton (Ohio), home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

For purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as the five-day period from Thursday, May 25 to Monday, May 29. The five-day holiday length is consistent with previous holiday periods. 

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Welcome summer with a Memorial Day getaway

As the weather warms up and the days get longer, the urge to book vacations is heating up too. And what better way to start the summer than with an easy-to-get-to destination in the United States—but where to go for Memorial Day 2023? Experts suggest that the ideal roadtrip would take place within three hours of your home.

I’ve rounded up some of the best spots in the country that either have opportunities to celebrate America’s heroes with parades or special events or have great ways to kick off the summer with outdoor adventures.

Charleston © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Immerse yourselves in the performing arts in Charleston

Beginning over Memorial Day weekend, Spoleto Festival USA brings two weeks of theater, opera, jazz, and symphonic and choral music performances to charming Charleston, South Carolina. The festival fills Charleston’s historic theaters, churches, and outdoor spaces with performances by renowned artists such as Yo-Yo Ma and Esperanza Spalding as well as emerging performers.

Local highlights include:

  • Walk along Charleston Waterfront Park for lovely views of the Cooper River
  • Stroll along King Street
  • Dine on Southern cuisine

Get your motor running in Indianapolis

“Gentlemen, start your engines.” Who hasn’t heard the immortal words that launch the Indy 500 race every year? So why not take a trip to Indianapolis to spend Memorial Day weekend finding out what all the excitement is about? Other than the actual race, Motor Speedway mania will be revved up with 500 Festival celebrations that include road races, parades, and activities for kids.

Local highlights include:

  • Wander through the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum
  • Chase after your kids at The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis
Fort Adams © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Walk in the steps of heroes in Newport

Newport, Rhode Island, will host the dramatic and acclaimed Boots on the Ground for Heroes Memorial which is on display for the public during Memorial Day at Fort Adams. The moving memorial features nearly 7,000 military boots each affixed with an American flag and bearing the name of an American service member killed in action in the Global War on Terror. The historic fort that dates back to 1799 is also open for self-guided tours for visitors looking to explore one of the most complex fortresses in the country.

Local highlights include:

  • Visit The Breakers and other historic mansions
  • Take a sailboat along the Atlantic Coast
  • Explore the Newport Cliff Walk
Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the Secret Coast of Mississippi

Bursting with southern hospitality and charm, Mississippi’s Secret Coast boasts 62 miles of scenic shoreline and welcomes families and visitors with warm weather and sunny skies. Another draw: the annual Sounds by the Sea, an open-air Memorial Day concert featuring patriotic selections and fireworks presented by the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. Bring your picnic basket, blanket, and lounge chairs and enjoy the music and show, all overlooking the Gulf of Mexico.

Local highlights include:

  • Visit the Biloxi Lighthouse
  • Dine on Gulf seafood, including oysters
  • Tour Bay St. Louis, a historic beach community with a quaint and funky Old Town
Palm Springs © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep your eye on the sky in Palm Springs

On May 29, Palm Springs Air Museum in California hosts Flower Drop & Air Fair, an annual Memorial Day ceremony. Throughout the day, visitors can watch air shows, visit flight exhibitions, and see a World War II reenactment. The ceremony culminates with the Flower Drop Memorial Service, a fly-by with planes in “missing man formation” (a salute to fallen military members) followed by a B-25 Mitchell Bomber that drops 3,000 red and white carnations on spectators below.

Local highlights include:

  • Take a detour to Joshua Tree National Park
  • Ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the longest rotating tram in the world
  • Play golf and tennis
  • Hike the Indian Canyons

Worth Pondering…

And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free. And I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me.

—Lee Greenwood