The Ultimate RV Lifestyle Destinations Guide: RV Trip Ideas Based on Location

Looking for exciting RV trip ideas and travel suggestions?

This ultimate guide brings all of my destination resources to one place! Browse LOTS of RV road trip ideas based on location or interests.

We have been living the RV Snowbird Lifestyle for over two decades, cataloging our trips from year to year. I’ve shared countless articles and resources to help fellow RVers enjoy similar travels. Now, I’m bringing it all together in this ultimate destinations guide filled with many great RV trip ideas.

You can use this guide as an index to discover new ideas or dig deeper into places or things you’ve always wanted to see. I’ve organized it into two parts: location and activities/interests.

So, whether you’re interested in Arizona or scenic drives, Texas or birding, Georgia or hiking, you’ll find excellent resources to help with planning your next adventure!

RV trip ideas based on location

In this section, I organize my many location-based articles and resources into an easy-to-scan index. You’ll see helpful articles and links to useful resources.

When something catches your interest, click through to the links to learn more!


The Southwest has stunning and unique landscapes you can’t see anywhere else in the world. We have fallen in love with the Southwest—Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and California.  From red and orange rock formations in the desert to green and lush mountains, there’s so much to see in this one area of the country and hiking and birding that can’t be beat. Then there is the beautiful national parks, state parks, and regional/county parks—and, of course, the Grand Canyon.

Cathedral Rock, Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Visit Arizona for the iconic red rock formations of Sedona to the majestic Grand Canyon. Or for the vibrant cities such as Phoenix and Tucson which offer a range of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Mexico

New Mexico is a great destination for RVers due to its diverse landscapes and rich cultural heritage. From deserts to mountains, RVers can enjoy a range of scenic drives and outdoor activities. The state is also home to a number of historic Native American pueblos as well as Spanish colonial missions which provide a unique cultural experience.

New Mexican cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, Native American, and Mexican ingredients and techniques. While familiar items like corn, beans, and squash are often used, the defining ingredient is chile, a spicy chile pepper that is a staple in many New Mexican dishes. Chile comes in two varieties, red or green, depending on the stage of ripeness in which they were picked.

D. H. Lawrence, writing in 1928, pretty much summed it up: “The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning shine high up over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul.”

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Every state thinks its fun. Every state claims to have something for everyone. But not every state has five national parks (The Mighty Five), 46 state parks, five national historic sites and trails, and a dozen national monuments and recreation areas. While it’s mathematically impossible to finish your Utah bucket list, I’ll help you plan the trip you’ll be talking about forever!

Coachella Valley Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


What is the quintessential wine experience in the Golden State? Where are the must-see natural wonders? Which beach is best? How do you decide which theme park to visit? Where best to spend the winter? Scroll through my favorite places to go and things to do and start dreaming about your next California adventure today. 


Over the last decade, the United States’ southeastern portion has become the ultimate place to visit for people who love outdoor activities and sports. You will find plenty to do from whitewater rafting to camping and hiking the trails when you visit the area. The twelve states located in the Southeast include Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Kentucky.

Jekyll Island Club © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


From the mountains down to the coast and everything in between, Georgia offers well-known and off-the-beaten-path experiences in cities both big and small. From ghost tours and island resorts to hidden gems here are a few can’t miss attractions, stays and towns when visiting Georgia.  

Edisto Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Carolina

South Carolina is a state of variety with beautiful beaches, remote islands, charming cities and towns, watery wilderness, great golf, interesting history, rolling hills and mountains, and much more. From the Upcountry mountains through the vibrant Midlands and to the Lowcountry coast, the Palmetto State amazes.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


From the foothills of the Appalachians through countless river valleys to the sugar white beaches of the Gulf, natural wonders abound. The 22 state parks which encompass 48,000 acres of land and water provide opportunities to fish, camp, canoe, hike, and enjoy the great outdoors.

Bayou Teche at Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Break away from the Interstate and take a road trip down one of Louisiana’s 19 scenic byways. From historic treasures and music festivals, to country kitchens and coastal wetlands teeming with wildlife, each drive offers you an authentic taste of Louisiana food, music, culture, and natural beauty. Start planning your trip here.

Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


With everything from world-class horse racing to world-class bourbon, the list of things to do in the Bluegrass State seems almost endless. But with so many options, where do you even start? Here are a few experiences that stand above the rest.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


The Sunshine State connects you to natural landscapes, vibrant wildlife, and a host of outdoor activities and interactions.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Mention Texas to someone from another state and they might picture cowboys herding longhorn cattle across the open range or scheming, wealthy oil barons a la TV’s Dallas. The Lone Star State which was admitted to the United States after winning its own independence from Mexico still sometimes seems—as the state tourism slogan goes—like a whole other country. And, boy, do we have a LOT of helpful articles on this popular RV destination!


The Midwest, also known as America’s Heartland, lies midway between the Appalachians and the Rocky Mountains and north of the Ohio River. The Midwest is generally considered to comprise the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota.

Holmes County © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Ohio is home to a wide range of attractions from sprawling parks with stunning waterfalls to bustling cities and college towns. 

Shipshewanna © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


Appreciate a slower pace of life in a state known for its rural charms, Amish communities, and architecturally impressive cities.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Dakota

North Dakota has uncrowded, wide-open spaces, and amazing vistas that take your breath away at must-see national and state parks, and recreational areas.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota

An often overlooked travel destination, South Dakota is a land of breathtaking scenic beauty.

Here’s the thing, visit South Dakota once and the place SELLS ITSELF. Much more than just the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park, and the Badlands, SoDak is the most scenic places you knew nothing about. Until now!

Worth Pondering…

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.

—Gandalf the Wizard, Lord of the Rings

The Best RV Camping November 2023

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

Where should you park yourself and your RV this month? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.

Maybe you’re an experienced RV enthusiast, or maybe you’ve never been in one—regardless, these RV parks are worth your attention. After finding the perfect campground, you can look into RV prices, and the different types of RVs, and learn how to plan a road trip. Who knows, maybe you’ll love it so much you’ll convert to full-time RV living.

I didn’t just choose these RV parks by throwing a dart at a map. As an RVer with more than 25 years of experience traveling the highways and byways of America and Western Canada—learning about camping and exploring some of the best hiking trails along the way—I can say with confidence that I know what makes a great RV campground. From stunning views and accommodating amenities to friendly staff and clean facilities, the little things add up when you’re RV camping. And these campgrounds are truly the cream of the crop.

Here are 10 of the top RV parks and campgrounds to explore in November: one of these parks might be just what you’re looking for. So, sit back, relax, and get ready for your next adventure at one of these incredible RV parks!

RVing with Rex selected this list of parks from those 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 September and October. Also, check out my recommendations from November 2022 and December 2022.

Picacho Peak State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Picacho Peak State Park, Eloy, Arizona

Visitors traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. Enjoy the view as you hike the trails that wind up the peak and, often in the spring, overlook a sea of wildflowers. The park offers a visitor center with exhibits a park store, a playground, historical markers, a campground, and picnic areas.

Many hiking trails traverse the desert landscape and offer hikers both scenic and challenging hikes. The campground has a total of 85 electric sites suitable for RVs and/or tents. Four sites are handicapped-accessible. No water or sewer hookups are available. Access to all sites is paved. Sites are fairly level and are located in a natural Sonoran Desert setting.

Hollywood Casino RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Hollywood Casino RV Park, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Hollywood Casino RV Park offers the tranquil beauty of the outdoors with waterfront views and on-site shuttle service to the casino with three restaurants. The park is big-rig friendly featuring 80 back-in sites and 14 back-to-back pull-through sites.

Our site backed to a treed area on a bayou and is in the 55-60 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV. All interior roads and sites are concrete. Site amenities include a metal picnic table and BBQ grill on a concrete slab and garbage canister.

Holiday Travel Park of Chattanooga © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. 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, bathhouse, 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.

Orange Groove RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Orange Groove RV Park. Bakersfield, California

Orange Groove RV Park is a unique full-service RV park and resort. It’s a 40-acre orchard on the eastern edge of Bakersfield where you park your RV between row after row of beautiful orange trees. Easy-on, easy-off (SR-58 at Exit 119), the 177 pull-through sites are 65 feet and 90 feet long plus extra wide which makes coming and going a breeze. You just pull right in, pick an orange and enjoy.

All utilities including 30/50-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV are centrally located. Our Wi-Fi was super fast (Site #160). We’ve previously stayed in the following sites: 135, 136, 154, 158, and 162. This park is a popular overnight stop for snowbirds with many arriving after dark. The nearby California Fruit Depot offers free samples, good quality, and excellent prices for Medjool dates, oranges, grapefruit, pistachios, and more.

Lakeside RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana

Easy-on, easy-off (Interstate 12, Exit 22), Lakeside RV Park is big-rig friendly with 127 back-in and pull-through sites. Our back-in site was in the 55-60 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, and sewer centrally located. Site amenities include a picnic table and fire pit.

The park features a beautiful 17-acre fishing lake, a large pool with lounge chairs, a family game room, laundry facilities, an enclosed dog park, a children’s playground, modern bath facilities, free Wi-Fi, and two large lake-view open-air pavilions. All interior roads and sites are concrete.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Meaher State Park, Spanish Fort, Alabama

This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of Mobile Bay and offers picnic facilities and modern camping sites with utilities. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman. A self-guided walk on two nature trails includes a boardwalk with an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile Delta.

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites with 20-, 30- and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hookups. The campground features a modern bathhouse with laundry facilities. Located near Meaher State Park is the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center; which features a natural history museum, live native wildlife, a theater, a gift shop, and canoe/kayak rentals. 

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

7. Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia

The Okefenokee Swamp is the backdrop for a unique camping experience among the swampy lowlands and wildlife of south Georgia at Stephen C. Foster State Park in Fargo. A certified dark sky park by the International Dark Sky Association, this park has minimal light pollution so guests can experience some of the darkest skies in the Southeast. Stand beneath a sky full of stars and see the Milky Way stretched out above you while watching for the occasional meteor streaking across the night sky.

Whispering Oaks RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Whispering Oaks RV Park, Weimar, Texas

Whispering Oaks RV Park sits on 6 beautiful acres with large live oak trees. Located on I-10 midway between San Antonio and Houston (Exit 219), the park offers 51 large, level, full hook-up sites including 42 pull-through spaces. All sites have 30/50-amp service, fire rings, and picnic tables, and can accommodate any size rig including 45-footers with toads. Interior roads are asphalt and sites are gravel with grass between sites. High-speed Wi-Fi is available throughout the park.

Barnyard RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina

Barnyard RV Park offers 129-level and grassy sites with paved interior roads. All sites include water, sewer, electric (30 and 50 amp), and cable TV. Most sites are pull-through and can accommodate large units including a tow car. Amenities include bath and laundry facilities, Wi-Fi available at the site, and a dog park.

Barnyard RV Park is located 8 miles from downtown Columbia. From Interstate 20, take Exit 111 west on US-1 to the park. On weekends, experience Southern hospitality at the huge Barnyard Flea Market. The RV Park is located behind the Flea Market.

Rincon West RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Rincon West RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona

Situated near the beautiful Tucson Mountains, Rincon Country West has 1100 spaces, including deluxe, pull-through RV sites, and a train depot. Amenities include full hookups with 30/50 amp electricity, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, gated entry, private mailboxes, gated entry, laundry, showers, heated pool and spas, exercise room, woodworking shop, pottery room, lapidary room, card room, arts and crafts and sewing rooms, billiard room, tennis, pickleball, shuffleboard, and bocce ball.

Worth Pondering…

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

—John Ruskin

4 of the Most Underrated, Crowd-free National Parks in America

Tired of crowds? Try these underrated national parks instead.

Contrary to popular belief, fall is the ideal season to visit America’s national parks. Summer is beautiful and all but there’s only so much one can tolerate with the scorching temperatures, parking lot road rage, and crowds swarming like they’re at a rock concert.

Come fall, however, the tides start to shift—kids are back in school, campground availability becomes less of a challenge, and in many parts of the country, the foliage turns scenic drives and trails into luminous leafy tunnels. Also, bears go back into hibernation so that’s one less thing to worry about. 

This is all well and good for clamorous national parks like Zion, the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Grand Canyon but it’s even more true of America’s more underrated gems. Of the 63 national parks not including the more than 400 national monuments, memorials, and scenic byways overseen by the National Park Service (NPS) a good chunk of them are far-flung places you’ve likely never heard of—let alone traveled hours out of your way into the vast wilderness to visit. 

These are places with the same level of staggering natural beauty as the well-trod parks minus the crowds and the calamity (looking at you, reckless Yellowstone tourists). When it comes to underrated natural beauty not ruined by overcrowding, these are the best of the bunch. Follow the links below for more details about each park and the can’t-miss ways to visit each one.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, West Virginia

Even though New River Gorge National Park and Preserve is the newest national park in the country upgraded from a national river in 2020 there’s nothing youthful about this ancient landscape. Flowing northward through mountainous Appalachia in West Virginia, this mighty waterway is among the oldest rivers in the world, carving and splashing its way through a 53-mile canyon of trees, hills, and cliffs. Famed as a mecca for white-water rafting and rock climbing along with ample activities both on land and on water, this sleeper hit of a park puts the gorge in gorgeous. 

Marvel at the third-highest bridge in the U.S. The New River Gorge Bridge is to West Virginia as the Space Needle is to Seattle—a feat of architectural prowess and innovation ascending to staggering heights. A centerpiece attraction in the park, it’s the longest steel span bridge in the western hemisphere designed to significantly reduce travel time for drivers on roads. Now listed on the National Register of Historic Places it’s an essential sight in New River Gorge best seen from the Canyon Rim Visitor Center north of the bridge.

New River Gorge National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Get wet in one of the oldest rivers on the planet. For a waterway that might be as old as 360 million years, the New River is certainly still spry and lively. Adrenaline junkies come from far and wide to suit up and float the river navigating white water that can reach as high as Class V rapids. Altogether, the park protects 53 miles worth of river from Bluestone Sam to Hawks Nest Lake with the more intense rapids accumulating in the lower gorge. Experienced rafters can hit the river themselves or licensed outfitters in the area provide guided trips.

Get more tips for visiting New River Gorge National Park

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

An optimal example of quality over quantity, Congaree National Park is smack dab in the middle of South Carolina’s murkiest floodplains. At just 26,000 acres, it’s a tiny but mighty park that has the mystical look and feel of a mildly haunted forest with some of the tallest trees east of the Mississippi thrown in for good measure. It may look like a giant swamp but Congaree is a huge floodplain of its namesake Congaree River where the constant ebb and flow of water levels is a healthy part of the natural ecosystem filtering nutrients down into the roots of loblolly pines and tupelos so colossal and towering that they block out the sun.

Though it may look like a big ol’ swamp it’s a massive floodplain. The river routinely floods carrying vital nutrients down into the roots of skyscraping giants like loblolly pines, laurel oaks, and swamp tupelos. This being flat-as-a-flapjack South Carolina, the trails are all easy (albeit occasionally muddy). An absolute must is the mud-free elevated Boardwalk Loop Trail which winds through high-canopy forests so dense it gives the park an eerie, Blair Witch Project kind of vibe. But don’t worry—the only wildlife you’re likely to see are owls, armadillos, and otters.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paddle Cedar Creek. South Carolina is infamously flat and considering the watery focal point here paddling is the main draw. Guests can book a guided kayak or canoe trip with an area outfitter (or bring your own) on Cedar Creek, a moody waterway that meanders through the thick of the forest like a wooded labyrinth. The slow-moving creek is also gentle as can be which means you won’t have to work too hard to paddle in either direction—rather, sit back and enjoy the peaceful journey through an ominous forest so quiet that the only sounds are distant woodpeckers and hooting owls. The longest journey is a 15-mile float from Bannister’s Bridge to the far-mightier Congaree River.

Hike the Boardwalk Trail. Although the park is flat and hiking is really more like scenic strolling, the Boardwalk Trail is a beauty to behold getting visitors up close and personal to the park’s most epic plant life. The easy—and dog-friendly—trail traverses a 2.5-mile boardwalk loop starting at the visitor center and passing through trees, over creeks, and alongside rivers. The boardwalk is raised several feet off the forest floor, so it’s accessible—even during heavy rain—and it’s a lot less muddy than some of the other trails through the woods.

Get more tips for visiting Congaree National Park

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico

A gypsum dune field so vast that it’s visible from space, White Sands National Park truly looks out of this world. This New Mexico park located in a southwestern region of the state once awash in a prehistoric sea is now home to the largest gypsum desert on Earth with dunes 30 feet deep and 60 feet tall stretching for 275 square miles.

Soft and silken, the dunes look more like granulated sugar than sand and the fact that they’re made of gypsum means they don’t absorb heat from the sun so you can walk barefoot without burning your soles. With mountains looming in the distance and rockets roaring in the background from the nearby missile range it doesn’t get much more otherworldly than this.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Slide on a sand sled. Because the dunes are snow-white it feels appropriate that sledding is one of White Sands’ premier activities. But unlike snow, sand is not naturally slick which is why waxed plastic saucers are recommended—and available for rent or purchase from the gift shop at the entrance visitor center.

The entire park is accessible for sledding and exploring but sledders are reminded not to slide down dunes that lead towards roads or ones that end on a hard surface (spoiler alert: the area at the base of the dunes is not as soft as it may look). 

Explore the dunes via the Alkali Flat Trail. The longest of the park’s five designated trails this is a five-mile loop at the end of the scenic Dunes Drive with mesmerizing desert views that extend to the horizon. Clip-on shoe covers are a wise choice since you’ll 100 percent be shimmying up and down a plethora of tall dunes through shifting sands and unstable surfaces as you follow the red diamond trail markers. Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and ample sunscreen are also advised along with plenty of water.

A bit easier, the Dune Life Nature Trail is a one-mile loop through the grassier portion of the park where you might see tracks in the sand of critters like kit foxes, badgers, and lizards. For something truly unique embark on a guided full moon hike offered once a month by reservation.

Get more tips for visiting White Sands National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

An underrated park Lassen Volcanic is the the least visited national park in California. With its thermal features, soaring peaks, volcanic history, and shimmering lakes it feels like a mini-Yellowstone with a fraction of the crowds. Nestled in a quiet section of central northern California it’s a place where rugged extremes and intensity like the fuming mud pots in Bumpass Hell are juxtaposed by the peaceful bliss of Manzanita Lake. Like Yellowstone, too, Lassen Peak is also an active volcano that could blow at a moment’s notice.

The key difference here, though, is that, unlike the global catastrophe that would ensue from a Yellowstone eruption, Lassen is far tamer. When it last erupted in 1917 shattering a lava dome, spewing a fine layer of ash, and triggering avalanches and floods it certainly caused damage and disarray but it wasn’t the end of humanity. Rather, nowadays the 10,457-foot mountain is a requisite hike for park-goers, and the sleeping giant forms an almost cinematic-like backdrop from many prized vantage points in this explosive, fiery, and gorgeous park.

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hike to the top of Lassen Peak. It’s a five-mile round-trip journey to the cratered summit where panoramic views of the Cascade Range (including Mount Shasta in the distance) await. The trail gets quite steep at points and much of it is in the direct sun so plan accordingly. Even in the height of summer, traces of snow can be found at the top so proper hiking boots and layers are especially recommended for fall.

Another iconic area to explore is Bumpass Hell, a moderate three-mile trek through the largest hydrothermal area in the park, home to vibrant hot springs, bubbling mud pots, and acidic boiling water. Due to its high elevations, it’s an area prone to lots of snow which means it’s closed in the winter and into late spring.

Paddle Manzanita Lake. In the shadows of Lassen Peak this regal-blue lake offers the ultimate in tranquility. Rental equipment for paddle boards and kayaks is available at the Manzanita Lake Camper Store and the utter stillness of the water makes it a lovely place for a leisurely float in the sun. Fishing for trout is another popular pastime here as is strolling the flat trail that surrounds the lake and picnicking in the area.

Get more tips for visiting Lassen Volcanic National Park

Worth Pondering…

Two roads diverged in a wood, and

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

— Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

National Chocolate Day: Where Did Chocolate Come From?

October 28 is National Chocolate Day, a great day to indulge in some trivia and history on this sweet treat. Dig in!

If there’s no chocolate in Heaven, I’m not going.
―Jane Seabrook, Furry Logic Laugh at Life

I’m a big fan of chocolate. But you’ll never see me with a Russell Stover’s box or Whitman’s Sampler. No shade to anyone who loves that kind of thing but give me a single morsel of pure chocolate over a box of cream-filled confections any day.

National Chocolate Day on October 28 recognizes one of the world’s favorite tastes. While many specific chocolate-related holidays exist throughout the year, National Chocolate Day celebrates all things chocolate.  

National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

An age-old world-famous treat

Chocolate has been around for over 3,000 years. It was born in Central America and can be traced back to an ancient civilization of people known as the Olmecs. The Olmecs who lived along the Gulf Coast of Mexico from about 1600 BC to around 350 BC introduced it to the Mayans who then passed it on to the Aztecs who then shared it with European explorers.

And it was European explorers who eventually brought chocolate to Florida in the mid-1600s. Of course, back in those days, chocolate was very different than it is today. It was usually consumed as an unsweetened beverage, not a sweet, solid bar or chunk.

National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where does chocolate come from?

Chocolate is made from cacao beans—the seeds inside of the large, gourd-like fruit of the tropical Theobroma cacao tree. Humans have been cultivating cacao for at least three millennia. The plant grows in Mexico, Central America, and Northern South America. (Today, cacao trees are also grown in Africa, Malaysia, and other hot, humid locations near the Equator.) Historians document the earliest known use of cacao seeds at around 1100 BC.

Once extracted from the cacao fruit, the beans which are naturally quite bitter are fermented for days. Once fermented, the beans are dried, cleaned, and roasted. After roasting, the shell is removed to produce cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are then ground into cocoa mass which is pure chocolate in rough form.

The cocoa mass is usually liquefied and then molded with or without other ingredients. At this point in the process, it is called chocolate liquor. The chocolate liquor may then be processed into two components: cocoa solids and cocoa butter.

  • Unsweetened baking chocolate: cocoa solids and cocoa butter in varying proportions
  • Sweet chocolate: cocoa solids, cocoa butter or other fat and sugar
  • Milk chocolate: sweet chocolate with milk powder or condensed milk
  • White chocolate: cocoa butter, sugar, and milk but no cocoa solids
National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heavenly and healthy

The Aztecs believed cacao had magical, even divine properties. The word chocolate originates from the Aztec xocoatl which means food of the gods in their language. As it turns out, the Aztecs weren’t far wrong.

Today, we know that dark chocolate is rich in minerals like magnesium and zinc and also in antioxidants—substances that shield our body’s cells from damage. Scientists say that eating 6 grams of 70 percent dark chocolate a day (that’s 1-2 squares) can reduce high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the risk for diabetes. It can also reduce inflammation in the body. As if we didn’t already have enough reasons to heart chocolate! Can chocolate also cure a cough?

National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why is dark chocolate so healthy?

First of all, while many sweet snacks are simply vehicles for empty calories, dark chocolate has great nutritional value. It’s loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals including high concentrations of potassium, copper, magnesium, and iron.

Health benefits of dark chocolate

Here’s a look at some of the other important roles chocolate can play in promoting good health:

  • Brain booster: Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain which improves cognitive function. The copper in chocolate can also reduce the risk of stroke.
  • Damage dampener: Dark chocolate is full of antioxidants that fight damaging free radicals in the body. Free radicals cause oxidation in cells which is implicated in both aging and cancer.
  • Heart helper: The magnesium in chocolate helps to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease. Eating dark chocolate also improves blood flow and can help prevent the formation of blood clots as well as arteriosclerosis which is a fancy name for the hardening of the arteries.
  • Mood manager: Dark chocolate contains several chemical compounds that can improve your mood. Key among these is phenylethylamine which causes your brain to release endorphins that make you happy. Phenylethylamine is the same chemical our brains produce when we’re falling in love. No wonder eating chocolate feels so good!
  • Pep producer: Dark chocolate contains at least two stimulants, caffeine and theobromine, which help you to feel more awake and alert. Because chocolate contains much less caffeine than a cup of coffee it may be more easily tolerated by those who are sensitive to caffeine.
  • Sugar stabilizer: Unlike many sugary snacks, dark chocolate has a low glycemic index so it won’t cause dangerous blood sugar spikes. In addition, flavonoids found in chocolate can help reduce insulin resistance by encouraging your body to use insulin efficiently. Finally, because chocolate promotes healthy circulation, it can also protect against damage to the extremities caused by type 2 diabetes.
  • Tooth toughener: In addition to being a stimulant, theobromine also hardens tooth enamel. So, far from causing cavities eating dark chocolate can prevent them.
  • Cough quieter: Turns out, that chocolate quiets a cough better than cough medicine. A research group from London randomly prescribed a group of patients either regular cough medicine or a chocolate-based medicine. Patients on the chocolate-based medication reported that their coughs settled down more quickly than those on regular cough syrup. Scientists believe the properties of cocoa help relieve irritation and inflammation. So go ahead and enjoy that piece of your favorite chocolate when you feel that throat tickle,
National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History of National Chocolate Day

As mentioned earlier, the history of chocolate goes back over 3,000 years. Aztecs loved their newly discovered liquid chocolate to the extent that they believed Quetzalcoatl, the god of wisdom, literally bestowed it upon them. Cacao seeds acted as a form of currency. And this was back in the bitter chocolate days. Once chocolate turned sweet in 16th-century Europe the masses caught on and turned chocolate into a powerhouse treat.

Several present-day chocolate companies began operations in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Cadbury started in England in 1868. Milton S. Hershey, 25 years later, purchased chocolate processing equipment at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He started the company by producing chocolate-coated caramels. Nestlé, dating back to the 1860s, has grown into one of the largest food conglomerates in the world.

National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Chocolatey trivia

As you nibble on brownies and truffles, give the following fun facts about chocolate a read. We hope they’ll make your National Chocolate Day all the more mouth-watering!

  • It takes approximately 400 cacao beans to make one pound of chocolate.
  • In 1828, a Dutch chemist by the name of Coenraad van Houten invented Dutch cocoa powder by removing natural fats (cocoa butter) from chocolate liquor, grinding it up, and adding alkaline salts to cut its bitter taste.
  • The first chocolate bar was created in 1847 by Joseph Fry who discovered that a moldable chocolate paste could be made by adding melted cocoa butter back into Dutch cocoa.
  • The first-known printed recipe for brownies appeared in The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook in 1896 although the dessert was flavored with molasses instead of chocolate. Chocolate wasn’t added to the recipe until the cookbook’s 1906 edition.
  • During the American Revolutionary War, chocolate was included in soldiers’ rations and was even given to soldiers in lieu of wages.
  • The world’s largest Snickers candy bar was 12-feet-long, 2-feet-tall, and weighed more than two tons! And yes, it was edible.
  • A four-story-high Hershey’s Chocolate Bar replica sits outside of the Hershey’s Chocolate World attraction in Niagara Falls, Ontario. (In comparison, a life-sized Hershey bar is about 6 inches tall.)
  • The Lindt Home of Chocolate Museum in Zurich, Switzerland, houses one of the world’s largest chocolate fountains. At 30.5 feet tall, it holds nearly 400 gallons of real, liquid chocolate.
National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other chocolate holidays to nibble on

In addition to National Chocolate Day, be sure to revel in these other holidays that honor chocolate:

  • National Hot Chocolate Day: January 31
  • National Cream-filled Chocolate Day: February 14
  • National Chocolate Covered Nut Day: February 25
  • National Chocolate Covered Cashews Day: April 21
  • National Chocolate Chip Day: May 15: May 15
  • National Chocolate Ice Cream Day: June 7
  • National Chocolate with Almonds Day: July 8
  • National Milk Chocolate Day: July 28
  • National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day: August 4
  • National Chocolate Pecan Pie Day: August 20
  • International Chocolate Day: September 13
  • National Chocolate Covered Anything Day: December 16
  • National Chocolate Candy Day: December 28

Don’t see your favorite chocolate listed then create your own national chocolate day

National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By the numbers

  • $10,000: Price of Swarovski-studded chocolates
  • $260: Price of a 1.76-ounce To’ak chocolate bar
  • 400: Number of cacao beans it takes to make one pound of chocolate
  • 8: Number of years it took to perfect the recipe for milk chocolate
  • 90 million: Number of chocolate Easter bunnies manufactured every year
  • 36 million: Number of heart-shaped chocolate boxes sold every Valentine’s Day
  • 1828: Dutch chemist Coenraad Van Houten invented a hydraulic press that could separate the cocoa butter from the cacao, thereby producing a powder
  • 1847: British confectioners invented the first chocolate bar
  • 1875: Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter joins forces with M. Henri Nestlé, then a baby-food manufacturer who had invented a milk-condensation process; together they found a way to bring milk chocolate onto the market and would go on to form the Nestlé company
  • 20: Percentage of all dark chocolate consumed in the U.S. 
  • 22 pounds: Amount of chocolate that would need to be eaten to kill a person
National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Chocolate Day activities

Try making your own truffles: It may seem difficult but it’s actually easier than you think. All you’ll need is some cream, some chocolate chips and a tiny bit of time.

Tour a local chocolatier: Get an up-close look at the process that chocolate goes through from bean to bar at a local chocolate factory or chocolatier. Most places have tours available to the public and are more than happy to share their knowledge, experience, and love of the chocolate profession and trade.

Share chocolate with your friends: Chocolate is amazing, friends are amazing, and human connection over chocolate is one of the most beautiful things. Most people like chocolate, and really, even if they don’t, you know they’ll appreciate the offer to spend a moment with them and chat.

National Chocolate Day © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Four dreamy facts about chocolate

1.  Chocolate is technically a vegetable: Chocolate comes from the cacao bean which grows on the cacao tree.

2. White chocolate is not chocolate: As it contains no cocoa solids white chocolate isn’t chocolate.

3. The first chocolate beverage: Hot chocolate was brewed in Aztec culture and tasted really bitter.

4. Cacao beans as currency: The Aztecs valued cacao beans so much that it was used as currency.

Worth Pondering…

All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.

—Charles M. Schulz: Cartoonist

Halloween Colors: The History and Meaning behind Orange, Black, Purple, and Green

Here’s when—and why—these hues became linked to the spookiest day of the year. Much like red and green at Christmastime, you can’t escape black and orange during the Halloween season.

In celebration of the spook-filled holiday, campers deck out their RVs with door decorations, painted pumpkins, and seasonal accents in the classic color combo. Then there are the Halloween costumes and candy offerings lining the store shelves most of which incorporate touches of black and orange in one way or another.

But when—and why—did these traditional Halloween colors become tied to the haunted happenings on October 31? And, at what point in time, did purple and green get thrown into the mix? Below, I break down the history and meaning of these festive hues so you can decorate, dress up, and celebrate with purpose this year. Or, at the very least, impress camping friends with some useful Halloween trivia.

Halloween decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Halloween colors and their meaning

Orange and black

While it might seem that black and orange have been around forever as the official colors of Halloween, that’s not the case according to Lisa Morton, author of Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween.

In the first few years of the 20th century, party guides were being published that called yellow and brown Halloween colors thanks to the holiday’s association with the fall harvest; yellow was for corn/maize, and brown was for hay and dried husks.

But make no mistake: Orange is in honor of the jack-o’-lantern which made its way into Halloween culture around 1910. According to Morton, it became the “undisputed king of Halloween” because of the jack-o’-lantern’s prominence on postcards and in advertising.

As for black, it likely came from black cats although bats contributed to that as well.

Halloween decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Purple and green

Purple and green have crept into the Halloween palette over later decades. The introduction of green may have been inspired by the emerald complexions of witches in film, notably Margaret Hamilton’s turn as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Before that witches were typically shown with just human skin tones and dressed in red.

Color expert Kate Smith wrote about the significance of purple on “Purple has long been associated with wealth and royalty as the purple dye was precious and expensive. If green is the color of spring then purple conjures up autumn, fading light, and shorter days.” 

Halloween decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Smith also noted that the rich color is “associated with an escape from reality and magical images.”

According to Amber Dunford, design psychologist and style director at, purple evokes mystery and spirituality which complements our modern interpretation of Halloween. Green is at the opposite end of the color wheel making it a nice contrast to purple.

These cooler color additions balance out the warmth of the orange harmonizing the two color temperatures nicely. The addition of green could be a nod to the external world as we transition into fall hues around this time and the last of the summer greenery might be found lingering in some landscapes.

Halloween decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The psychology of color

Color is the first thing we assess when viewing an object making it one of the most powerful and memorable design aspects from a psychological perspective, according to Dunford. People often react to color before they even respond to an object’s shape, texture, or scale. This tendency makes color a very powerful tool in marketing and one that becomes difficult to look past once it becomes ingrained in our psyche.

Whether you prefer the classic Halloween colors or enjoy the expanded palette that includes green or purple, one thing’s for sure: When you see these colors, you’ll think of Halloween.

Halloween decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More on colors

Researchers estimate that some 300 million people around the world are colorblind, most of them male. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those with an exceedingly rare genetic condition that allows them to see nearly 100 million colors—or 100 times as many as the rest of us. It’s called tetrachromacy or super vision and it’s the result of having four types of cone cells in the retina rather than the usual three. (Cones help our eyes detect light and are the key to color vision.) Because of the way the condition is passed down via the X chromosome, the mutation occurs exclusively in women.

One tetrachromat describes her ability this way: “If you and I look at a leaf, I may see magenta running around the outside of the leaf or turquoise in certain parts where you would just see dark green. Where the light is making shadows on the walls, I’m seeing violets and lavenders and turquoise. You’re just seeing gray.”

In short, tetrachromats see colors within colors and even the tiniest change in the color balance of a particular hue will be apparent to them. It’s estimated that 12 percent of women have a fourth retina cone but only a fraction of them experience tetrachromacy. In total, only about 1 percent of humans have the condition. The rest of us will just have to close our eyes and imagine what it’s like.

Halloween decorations © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Numbers don’t lie

  • 120: Current number of Crayola colors
  • 23: Percentage of women whose favorite color is purple
  • 164 million: Americans who wear glasses
  • 63: Different colors on the world’s national flags

Worth Pondering…

Color is one of the great things in the world that makes life worth living to me and as I have come to think of painting it is my efforts to create an equivalent with paint color for the world—life as I see it.

—Georgia O’Keeffe, American painter, 1887-1986

10 Amazing Places to RV in November 2023

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

The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

—C.S. Lewis

Though best known for his fantasy series The Chronicles of Narnia, C.S. Lewis was also an accomplished poet and literary scholar. During the Second World War, he hosted a series of radio talks for the BBC including a sermon aimed especially at young wartime scholars trying to find their paths (from which this quote comes). His words ring just as true now as they did in that fraught time: If we worry too much about the future, we might miss the opportunities waiting for us right here in the present moment.

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in September and October. Also, check out my recommendations from November 2022 and December 2022.

Urbanna Oyster Festival © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Oyster Lovers Experience

An evolution of Urbanna Days that began in 1957, the Urbanna Oyster Festival (67th annual, November 3-4, 2023) as we know it today hosts over 50,000 people in the square mile town over two days. Visitors flock from all over to celebrate the oyster!

In 1988 it was designated as the “official” oyster festival of the Commonwealth of Virginia and maintains that title today.

Come by BOAT or come by LAND! The charming Town of Urbanna closes its streets for this big celebration of everything OYSTER! It’s foodie heaven with over 50 food vendors and every kind of OYSTER! Raw, steamed, roasted, Rockefeller, fried, stewed, oysters in a pot pie and festival food fare like BBQ and crab bisque.

Arts and crafts, antique auto shows, children’s activities, and live bands are spread throughout the town.  The town marina offers historical boats and exhibits on the conservation of the Chesapeake Bay, watermen, and the oyster industry.

Chiricahua National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Wonderland of Rocks

It’s been more than two years since West Virginia’s New River Gorge became America’s most recent national park and since then outdoor recreation has continued to soar in popularity. The National Park Service manages more than 400 sites across the United States but less than 20 percent (63) are national parks with the scale and amenities that can support heavy visitation. Currently, 20 states do not have a national park.

There are many benefits to having a national park. They can be a boon for regional tourism and bring federal resources for conserving land that may be vulnerable to development or invasive species.

So where could the next national park be? The U.S. is full of worthy candidates. However national parks are created through congressional legislation, and many considerations include available infrastructure such as roads and restrooms. Community advocacy can help fuel the effort. With strong local and federal support, Chiricahua National Monument stands a good chance of becoming America’s 64th national park.

 It’s easy to see why the homeland of the Chiricahua Apache Nation is often called a Wonderland of Rocks. The monument is a labyrinth of towering stone spires (hoodoos) and eye-popping balanced rock formations. Arizona’s representatives in Congress have already introduced a bipartisan national park re-designation bill and advocates see the creation of such a park as an opportunity to establish a long-term working relationship between the NPS and tribes with ancestral roots in national park lands.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Chihuahuan Desert landscape

Gleaming gypsum crystal dunes roll as far as the eye can see at White Sands National Park. With waves towering up to 60 feet tall, the composition of the Northern Chihuahuan Desert landscape is constantly changing due to wind and weather patterns. Hardy plants like yuccas, grasses, and shrubs have evolved to survive in the shifting sands, adding texture to the spectacle of shapes and shadows that define the scenery.

This remarkable landscape is fit to be appreciated on camera, by foot, on Dunes Drive by bike (or car), and famously on saucer sleds down the dunes. Like many national parks in the country, White Sands is remotely located and can require around an hour or more of travel time from your accommodation. The journey is well worth it!

Lake Martin © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Lake Martin

Tucked into the heart of Louisiana’s Cajun Country and part of The Nature Conservancy’s Cypress Island Preserve, Lake Martin is part of a larger cypress-tupelo swamp. Popular for fishing and general outdoor recreation, Lake Martin is a great place for spotting wildlife. It’s also a nesting spot for waterbirds including herons, egrets, neotropic cormorants, roseate spoonbills, white ibis, and anhingas. Check out the visitor center and adjacent boardwalk for a quick tour, or stroll the 2.5-mile levee walking trail.

Arizona 89A from Prescott to Sedona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Outdoor activities and wine in small-town Arizona

Halfway between Prescott and Sedona, you’ll pass through the community of Cottonwood in the heart of the Verde Valley. Cottonwood makes a fantastic base camp to lace up your hiking boots and explore the outdoors. On the banks of the Verde River just outside of town, you can camp, swim, fish, and hike at Dead Horse Ranch State Park. Just a short distance from there, discover American Indian history among ancient hilltop pueblos at Tuzigoot National Monument.

The Verde Valley is one of Arizona’s three nationally recognized viticultural (wine-growing) areas. Save some time to stop and sample the local wines in any of the tasting rooms in Old Town Cottonwood.

The above towns and attractions are just a glimpse of what you’ll find in North Central Arizona’s wild canyons and valleys.

Shiner © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Hit the road, Texas-style

Akoozie in the gift shop at the Spoetzl Brewery demands, Eat Meat. Drink Beer. That pretty much sums up any good day trip to Shiner, a small town that’s home to roughly 2,000 souls and the famed brewery that produces iconic Shiner beers.

For the meat, options abound along the route to Shiner. For lunch, consider a stop in Lockhart for some of Central Texas’s best barbecue. There’s Smitty’s Market where the line starts right next to the open pit and the ’cue is served on sheets of paper, old-school style like all the best Texas barbecue. Other celebrated Lockhart options include Black’s Barbecue and Kreuz Market.

There’s also City Market and Luling BBQ literally across the street from each other in the town of Luling.

The beer part of this adventure, naturally, happens most deliciously in Shiner. Czech and German immigrants founded a brewery here in 1909 after discovering artesian water. Bavarian Kosmos Spoetzel bought the operation, named it for himself, and continued using traditional methods as its brewmaster from 1914 to 1950. Today, Spoetzel is one of the largest independent craft brewers in the country selling beers in all 50 states and Mexico, every drop of it brewed here.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

If you love outer space, this visitor center is a must-see. It’s one of the most highly-rated destinations in the country and almost everybody reports that they loved their experience. You could easily spend an entire day here learning about the history and the future of space travel.

Guests have access to a variety of activities and learning experiences. You can touch a real moon rock, speak to astronauts, and get up close and personal with a rocket.

Tons of tours, videos, and exhibits are suitable for all kinds of people. The only downside of this experience is the price point. It’s a bit discouraging to see that entrance fee, especially if you have younger kids who might not get their money’s worth. Overall, this place is worth a visit though!

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Why I LOVE Utah

If you have never been to Utah, make sure and put it on your list of places to visit! We fell in LOVE with Utah for so many reasons. Number one is all of the National Parks in the state like Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands. But also so many state parks and the beautiful Scenic Byway 12. The scenery is constantly changing and each place has its unique beauty. From high in the mountains with aspens and cooler temps to down in the canyons or red or white rock faces and warmer temps. Utah is an adventurers’ paradise!

That’s why I wrote these five articles:

Tombstone Courthouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Spending a perfect day in Tombstone

Start the perfect day in Tombstone with a hearty breakfast at O K Café Tombstone then visit the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park where the history of the Wild West comes alive.

Afterward, take a trip to Boothill Graveyard for a unique, albeit somber, experience, as it’s the final resting place for many of Tombstone’s early residents.

Have lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for a taste of authentic Western cuisine in a setting that’s straight out of the 1880s. After the meal continue the day’s excitement with a stagecoach tour around Tombstone offering a different perspective of this historic town.

The evening’s entertainment is a performance at the Bird Cage Theater, a haunted landmark that once served as a saloon, gambling hall, and brothel. Finally, end the day with dinner and a nightcap at Crystal Palace Saloon.

Celebrating pecans © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Louisiana Pecan Festival

This celebration of one of the South’s top crops offers a unique autumn attraction for up to 75,000 attendees each year in Colfax, Louisiana. Held on the first full weekend in November (November 3-5, 2023), the Louisiana Pecan Festival typically kicks off on Friday with Children’s Day which features a petting zoo, rock walls, games, and other free family-friendly activities. Festival attendees will enjoy a parade, live music, arts and crafts booths, a cooking contest, carnival rides, and fireworks throughout the weekend.

Visitors can sample and purchase pecan specialties including pies, pralines, jams, and candies as well as catch numerous live performances by the Louisiana Pecanettes dance team composed of local high schoolers. This event is also a great place to gobble goodies like funnel cakes, fried chicken, and alligator on a stick from vendors.

Worth Pondering…

When the Frost is on the Punkin

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,

And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,

And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,

And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;

O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,

With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,

As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

—James Whitcomb Riley

8 of the Creepiest Place to Visit

From haunted hotels to abandoned asylums with a few clowns for good measure

You don’t need to wait for Halloween to visit a haunted house. There are plenty of sites and ghost towns that are reportedly haunted year-round in America. Every state has its own urban legends and places where only the brave tread (and ghosts are reported to patrol). We’re talking old state hospitals, murder sites, homes with talking dolls, and hotels so disturbing they’ve served as the setting for some of the most iconic horror movies.

No matter what scares you, there is a place to freak you out. Whether you want to take a guided tour or a bone-chilling solo walk into the darkness, I’ve got the spots for you. Here’s where you can go to truly embrace the Halloween spirit this year—no costumes required.

Jerome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jerome Grand Hotel, Jerome, Arizona

Located in the scenic hillside town of Jerome—an old gold mining hub once known as the Wickedest City in the West and today, one of Arizona’s coolest small towns—is the Jerome Grand Hotel formerly known as the United Verde Hospital. Originally built in 1917 (and rebuilt in 1926 after a mine explosion destroyed the first), the Great Depression caused the hospital to take a serious downturn; by 1950, it had been abandoned entirely.

The hospital sat essentially dormant until it reopened as the Jerome Grand in 1996. Much of the building’s original structure and facilities have been restored and many of its spirits still linger: the specter of a maintenance man found dead in the basement in the 1930s, human-shaped figures that roam the hall, children who run and laugh in the corridors, and even the spirit of a cat who scratches at guests’ doors at night begging to be let in.

The Clown Motel, Tonopah, Nevada

Long a destination for people who can’t say no to a dare, this old-school motel is home to a collection of 2,000 clown figures and some seriously ghostly vibes (owner Hame Anand says he’s seen ghosts but most of them are friendly, if that helps).

That’ll happen when you park a decades-old motel next to a dilapidated cemetery in a small town dotted with mining ruins. But hey, there’s a bonus: When Anand bought the motel a couple years ago he did some renovations to make the rooms more comfortable so at least you’ll be wetting a very comfortable bed. He also embraced the scariness by converting some rooms into horror themes, in case clown motel in the middle of the desert wasn’t creepy enough

Mount Washington Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Omni Mount Washington Resort, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire

The tale of Carolyn Stickney sounds like the worst Disney princess story ever: She married the hotel’s founder who died right before construction was completed. She then remarried into European royalty, but alas, she too passed soon after.

She never checked out of Mount Washington, though; she appears in people’s photos as a hazy apparition, floats around the hallways, and is a regular fixture in room 314, apparently her favorite place to challenge the notion of five-star accommodations. The four-poster bed she slept in remains in the room where you can still hear her voice, some say.

Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Horse Tavern, Newport, Rhode Island

Like many a campfire tale, this one begins with two drifters. They showed up at the tavern in the 1720s looking for a room. The next day, the owners found one dead by the fireplace and the other completely vanished.

A specter now chills by the fireplace daring people to solve his mysterious death. There have also been encounters with a colonial-looking dude in the upstairs bathroom and mysterious footsteps all over the place. 

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas

It might seem like an obvious pick but the Alamo is far more than just a place elementary school kids’ visit on field trips. During the infamous siege of 1836, thousands of men were killed and their bodies dumped unceremoniously into mass graves so it’s no wonder a few of their disembodied spirits remain pretty pissed off.

Several security guards have reported hearing footsteps in the middle of the night, some have seen a small blonde-haired boy wandering the gift shop, and a ghastly John Wayne—yes, that John Wayne—reciting lines from his 1960 film on the subject.

USS Lexington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

USS Lexington, Corpus Christi, Texas

Known locally as the Blue Ghost—a nickname originally given to the ship during its service in World War II—the Lexington has long been considered by Corpus residents to be occupied by spirits. An engine room operator who was killed during one of the ship’s battles is said to roam the boat at night and visitors claim to have witnessed doors slamming and lights flashing on and off at random.

That’s right—flickering lights in a 75-year-old ship with absolutely no explanation whatsoever. Luckily, this national treasure doesn’t shy away from allowing curious guests to explore the grounds so be sure to check the website for admission times and safety precautions while the truly brave can even snag an overnight reservation via a special one- or two-night program.

Yuma Territorial Prison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yuma Territorial Prison, Yuma, Arizona

Yuma Territorial Prison‘s population was made up of thieves, murderers, and the occasional polygamist and over 111 inmates died here making it one of the more ghoulish state parks in Arizona. To this day, guides at the park report feeling a cold chill when passing by Cell 14—where John Ryan imprisoned for crimes against nature committed suicide.

Even more unnerving is The Dark Cell which is exactly what it sounds like: a dark crypt where rowdy convicts were sent for acting up. Accounts cite that two inmates who were literally chained to ring-bolts up here had to be urgently transferred an insane asylum upon their release from isolation. More recently, one reporter tried to spend two days in the Dark Cell. She didn’t make it past 37 hours and cited she felt she wasn’t the only one in the chamber.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Colonial Williamsburg, Williamsburg. Virginia

As an early American settlement, numerous historic houses in Colonial Williamsburg are believed to be haunted by past residents. One such property, the Peyton Randolph House housed the Peachy family who rented the property to many guests during their residency including a young unnamed soldier attending the nearby college, William & Mary.

Unfortunately, the young man fell ill during his stay and never recovered. He died in the home and today there have been multiple accounts of visitors spotting a young man walking sadly through the house or hearing heavy footsteps above their heads even though no one is upstairs. Take a complete tour of Colonial Williamsburg’s creepiest locations on the Colonial Ghost Tour, a roughly hour and a half moonlit tour of the haunted historic grounds.

Worth Pondering…

Her beauty climbed the rolling slope, it came into the room, rustling ghost-like through the curtains.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald, Tender Is the Night

25 Questions to Ask When Booking a Campsite

Know before you go!

The wonderful web is so informative for campers. In fact, RV park websites carry an abundance of information—even offering ways to reserve sites online.

However, many of us simply prefer to call and SPEAK to a human! (You’ll see a few reasons why here: Don’t Book a Campsite Online. Call the Reservation Desk!).

Perhaps you’re new to RVing or require specific amenities for your stay. Overall, sometimes it’s easier just to call rather than go through a computer and stumble over the reservation process. Asking detailed questions and speaking to an RV Park representative can better help you get a site that comfortably accommodates your rig and personal preferences.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check out the list of questions below. Some may not apply to you, however, a few listed below may help spark your memory to ask for your next traveling endeavor.

Call the reservation desk and ask these questions to get your ideal site, savings, and campground information for an exceptional experience. 

(Ask all that apply to you. Simply fill in the blanks with your information or preferences.)

1. Do you have site availability for the dates ___ (your preferred date of arrival and departure) that can accommodate a ___  (pop up, travel trailer, 5th wheel, Class A, Class B, Class C, Big Rig towing, etc.)?  My rig requires a site with  ___ (30, 50 amp power, sewer, water).

It may be useful to have your rig requirements and information written down especially for those new to RVing. (After all, that’s a lot of specifications to remember,) That way, the reservation desk can assess all the information given and determine site availability and specific RV accommodations. 

2. Can I select a site? (Some campgrounds allow you to book a specific site upon making the reservation, whereas others assign sites.) 

 3. Can the site comfortably fit my rig and tow vehicle? (Otherwise, you may have to park your tow/toad vehicle in the overflow parking.)

Clinton-Knoxville North KOA, Clinton, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Do you have pull-through sites/back-in sites/pull-in sites? (Some travelers prefer pull-through for quick and easy departure in the morning. Others may prefer back-in sites given the layout or how their windows face the rig. Pull-in sites generally are for motorhomes; for example, pulling in a site right on the waterfront.)  

5. What are your rates? Do you have season specials, weekly/long-term rate plans, RV club membership discounts, or military discounts that would apply to my stay?

6. What is your cancellation policy? (This is always good to know before booking a site so that you’re not left with an unknown cancellation fee if unable to make the trip.)  

7. Does your campground have pet restrictions? Are certain breeds excluded? (If you’re traveling with pets, you must make sure they’re allowed on the property.)

SeaWind RV Resort, Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Do you have wheelchair accessible sites and amenities?

9. Do you have cable TV?

10. Do you have Wi-Fi? How well does it work? Do you offer a VIP Wi-Fi service/access for those working remotely?

11. Is your pool/spa open?

12. Can we receive mail or packages?

13. Are the GPS directions correct?

14. What time is check-in/check-out? Can you accommodate early arrival, late checkout, or after-hours check-in?

15. Do you have a “10-Year Rule”? Can you accommodate older RVs? (This rule is often enforced at upscale RV parks and implies that units older than 10 years are too weathered, worn, or could be a potential liability on the premises. However, some campgrounds are more lax towards this regulation and accept older RVs as long as they are in good working order.)

Columbia Riverfront RV Park, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

16. Can we have visitors? Do you charge for visitors?

17. Do you have overflow parking for additional vehicles/boat trailers/car haulers?

18. Do you allow tents on RV sites? (Some campgrounds will cater to tent campers on RV sites whereas other parks specifically state that there are no tents allowed.)

19. Is propane available onsite? If not, is there propane nearby?

20. Do you have any activities scheduled during our stay?

21. Do you offer rentals? (Cabins, trailers, yurts, golf carts, canoes, kayaks, bikes)

22. Do you allow campfires? Do you sell firewood? (Some state or county regulations may prohibit fires and/or bringing your firewood to the property.)

CT RV Resort, Benson, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

23. Do you have sports equipment, games, books, and/or movies to check out? (Many campgrounds with tennis courts, clubhouses, basketball hoops, etc. offer free equipment for their guests to use.)

24. Where is the nearest hospital, emergency care, veterinary clinic, or dog boarding nearby?

Knowing where to go in the event of a health crisis will spare you from having to deal with a crisis while trying to find emergency care. It just makes sense to ask ahead of time.  

25. Do you have a camp store or is there a grocery store nearby?

RVING IS BEING adventurous.

Worth Pondering…

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

—Lewis Carrol

Horses Are the Heart of Kentucky’s Unbridled Spirit

A ride through the Bluegrass State reveals a legacy of thoroughbred horses and horse racing, bourbon, intriguing history, natural attractions and beauty, and much more

Kentucky bills itself as a place of Unbridled Spirit. After numerous RV trips around this diverse state, I have to agree.

Kentucky scenic byway past horse farms © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lexington and Georgetown

Horses, the royalty of Lexington, live in barns of beauty surrounded by velvety green fields of Kentucky bluegrass. Miles of fences and traditional hand-laid limestone dividers partition the farms where they reside. A few horse farms even open their doors to visitors—truly a worthwhile stop.

The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington showcases thoroughbred equines with live horses in numerous venues and informative exhibits in the American Saddlebred Museum. Retired racehorses reside in the park and they and their histories are introduced to visitors. Costumed equestrians ride various breeds around an outdoor ring during the Parade of Breeds show, accompanied by commentary.

Horse Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors have an opportunity to take photos, pet the horses, and chat with the riders at the end. Guests can board a horse-drawn wagon for a tour and catch a glimpse of the sculptures that dot this 1,200-acre working farm.

The Kentucky Horse Park Campground offers 260 campsites with electric (50, 30, 20 amps) and water hookups. All sites are 55-foot paved back-in spots. In addition, some electric-only and primitive sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Two dump stations are provided.

The campground makes a great base for exploring the Lexington area which boasts one of the largest concentrations of horse farms in the world. Driving along the Bluegrass Country tour route takes you past many of them. Intricate iron entrance gates and impressive homes stand on many farms in the rolling green countryside.

Keeneland © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On a morning visit to the Keeneland racecourse, you can rub elbows with equestrians during breakfast in the Track Kitchen and observe the athletes’ workouts on the track. This famous and historic horseracing arena attracts visitors year-round. Even when races are not in session, Keeneland’s significance and extensive history make it a popular Lexington destination. Horses began racing at Keeneland, one of the top Lexington attractions in 1936 and since then, annual races have become a traditional event.

Keeneland is also host to practice meets for jockeys and horses preparing for the Kentucky Derby as well as a series of horse auctions throughout the year. Visitors to Keeneland can view the racecourse, visit the indoor facility, and tour the sales complex. Keeneland’s website offers a calendar of upcoming events and ticket-purchasing options.

Horse farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Kentucky Horse Park Campground’s proximity to nearby cities and towns also proved to be very convenient. Interested in seeing how cars are manufactured? Explore the visitor’s center at the Toyota assembly plant in Georgetown, the largest Toyota manufacturing facility in the world which offers free 45-minute tram tours on weekdays (reservations required).

Historic Georgetown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Georgetown boasts more than 200 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places making it an interesting and visually appealing place to stroll. Download the walking tour map or pick one up at the visitor’s center.

Yuko-En on the Elkhorn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the northern edge of Georgetown the Yuko-En on the Elkhorn is a symbol of friendship between the nation of Japan and Kentucky State. As a four-season garden, travelers and locals alike are welcome to visit the Yuko-En on the Elkhorn all year round. Access to the park is via the Tokugawa Gate along Cincinnati Pike which will lead visitors into the lush 5.5-acre garden.

Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm is a farm for retired Thoroughbred horses that encompasses nearly 140 acres. The unique home for horses offers an opportunity for guests to get up close to several Thoroughbreds including winners of the Kentucky Derby like War Emblem and Silver Charm and Breeders’ Cup Champions Amazombie and Alphabet Soup as well as stakes winners Ide and Game On Dude. The Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm offers daily public tours for a fee, private tours by appointment, and a visitor center.

Kentucky State Capitol © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Frankfort and Harrodsburg

A flower-lined boulevard in Frankfort leads to the Kentucky State Capitol building. Its murals, sculptures, and columns artfully combine to make it one of the most beautiful capitals in the United States. Broad steps ascend to the entrance which leads into a grand rotunda under a seven-story dome where a large Abraham Lincoln statue greets you.

Marble staircases lead to the judicial floor and the Supreme Court chambers which are adorned in rich mahogany and burnished with gold leaf. The Senate and House of Representatives chambers occupy opposite ends of the third floor.

Near the capitol rotunda is a doll display depicting each of Kentucky’s first ladies in her inaugural ball gown. It is incredible how fashion has changed through the centuries.

Floral Clock © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the grounds of the state capitol stands the beautiful Floral Clock. Its face stretches 34 feet across and is covered by flowers exclusively grown in the state of Kentucky. Beneath the clock is a pool of water that is often used as a wishing well and the coins thrown into the well are used to fund scholarships. The Floral Clock is one of the most-visited attractions in Frankfort and is open to the public every day from dawn until dusk.

Old State Capitol Building © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors also can tour the Old Capitol Building in Frankfort which served the state legislature from 1830 until 1910 when the larger capitol was built in south Frankfort. The old and new capitol buildings have striking differences. The old capitol was constructed in 1830 in the Greek revival style. Of architectural interest is the curved, self-supporting stone staircase. The first-floor library houses old books, implements, and furnishings from the 1800s.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rebecca Ruth’s is home to the famous bourbon balls, a treat that mixes chocolate with Kentucky’s best-known liquor. The candy factory and museum is open for tours Monday-Saturday for a $5.00 admission fee. Children 5 and under get in free. After the tour, guests can purchase these sweet treats to take home with them at the company store.

Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill founded in Harrodsburg in 1805 by members of a celibate religious sect allows visitors to immerse themselves in Shaker culture.

About 45 minutes south of Frankfort in Harrodsburg, visitors can enjoy a glimpse into the lives of the Shaker people. In 1805, members of this celibate religious sect established Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill which grew to 500-plus members.

Today, there are 34 surviving buildings of the 260 that were constructed during 105 years. In the Shaker faith, men and women had equal status—but everyone still had gendered roles, even eating on different sides of the dining rooms. Self-guided and staff-led tours of the village are available.

Horse farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

State and national parks

Feeling energetic? Hike up the trail at Natural Bridge State Resort Park in Slade. To get to the top of the bridge, you squeeze through a narrow fracture and climb some steps. For an easy ascent, you can take the skylift. Once at the top, you will be within walking distance of the 30-foot-wide sandstone structure known as Natural Bridge. If you want to extend your adventure, follow the 1,200-foot flat trail to Lookout Point for an incredible view of the bridge and the valley. Choose from among a dozen hiking trails that range from one-half mile to 7.5 miles.

Plenty of other fun activities beckon in and near the park. Lively music fills the air at outdoor hoedowns that take place at Hoedown Island within the park as dancers perform line dancing, Appalachian square dancing, two-stepping, and other lively dances. Throw in a fishing line or go canoeing on nearby Mill Creek Lake—maybe you will catch a largemouth bass.

Two campgrounds in the state park offer a total of 52 sites with electric hookups plus several primitive sites for tents. While here, drive to the adjacent Red River Gorge geological area for an immersion into nature. The Red River is Kentucky’s only National Wild and Scenic River. The erosive forces of wind and water have sculpted 100 arches in this area. Some of these natural phenomena will show themselves to you on the 70 miles of hiking trails.

One of the most popular attractions in Kentucky is Mammoth Cave National Park. Kentucky lays claim to the longest known cave system in the world—Mammoth Cave National Park. Before tourists started coming to the cave, mining saltpeter to make black gunpowder was conducted in the 18th century. Park rangers give cave tours that range from 30 minutes to six hours long. Some are strenuous, requiring many steps and steep grades.

Horse farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors can negotiate tight tunnels and view huge domed spaces, slot canyons, and historic structures in the park. Enjoy the waters of the Green and Nolin rivers by going fishing, canoeing, or kayaking. Or ride a bike along the 9-mile Railroad Bike and Hike Trail to visit scenic overlooks and historic sites. Other hiking trails ranging from 0.1 to 1.3 miles lead to a variety of sights.

Backcountry trails beckon adventurers to miles of forested hikes and horse trails. Everyone can find an outdoor trek that suits them. Two campgrounds here offer sites that accommodate RVs up to 40 feet with limited electric and no water hookups.

Cumberland Gap offers stunning scenery. Nestled on the border of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia is Cumberland Gap National Historical Park which offers an attractive campground. Pioneers heading west traveled through this natural pass in the mountains.

Volunteers leave the visitors center at 9:00 a.m. to lead a four-hour tour of Hensley Settlement, a remote mountain enclave founded in 1903 and occupied until 1951. After riding a shuttle up a steep gravel road through the woods, visitors embark on a stroll around the historic Appalachian farm community. Split-rail fences outline plots Hensley family members called home. The reconstructed one-room schoolhouse and log homes will transport you to simpler times.

The Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bourbon in Bardstown

Kentucky’s second-oldest city, Bardstown was first settled in 1780. Nearly 200 buildings in the historic downtown district are listed on the National Register of Historic Places including a 1779 stagecoach stop that today is the Old Talbott Tavern, the oldest bourbon bar in the world.

Bourbon distilleries are synonymous with Kentucky. Some offer tours and others offer only tastings.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Bourbon Capital of the World is home to six notable distilleries. Kentucky’s “Official Outdoor Drama,” one of the country’s most highly regarded Civil War museums and one of the most recognized structures in the world is here at Federal Hill, better known as My Old Kentucky Home.

While staying at My Old Kentucky Home Campground in Bardstown we stopped at Heaven Hill Distillery and toured its small museum which tells the story of the only original U.S. spirit.

Maker’s Mark Distillery © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loredo. After deciding on Maker’s Mark Distillery for a tour, we sipped coffee mixed with bourbon while gazing over the lush landscape. We then bought a gift bottle and hand-dipped it in the company’s traditional red wax.

Heaven Hill and Maker’s Mark are among the distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Kentuckians add this spirit to many dishes. On Route 49, to and from Bardstown, large buildings house hundreds of thousands of barrels of aging bourbon—barrels that are used only once by the distilleries.

Horse farm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Kentucky Derby in Louisville

Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, in Louisville. Choose from several behind-the-scenes tours for an up-close look at this legendary track and the equine athletes who thrill spectators here. On the 30-minute Historic Walking Tour included with admission you visit the paddock and grandstand to learn about the history of the track and horses.

A second tour visits such non-public areas as the workers village, Millionaires Row, and the Turf Club. Stable operations begin as early as 5:00 a.m. and these beautiful animals are treated like royalty.

Watching The Greatest Race on a 360-degree screen gives you the feeling that the horses in the Kentucky Derby are galloping straight at you. Colorful exhibits regarding jockeys, Derby attendees, and horses fill the Kentucky Derby Museum.

Quilt Barn Trail © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Something for Everyone

Kentucky is fortunate to have so many attractions worth visiting. It seems as though there is an attraction for everyone. Quilters can visit the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, sports-car enthusiasts can tour the Corvette factory and museum in Bowling Green, bluegrass music fans can visit Owensboro, history buffs will appreciate Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace in Hodgenville, and there are plenty of national parks such as Mammoth Cave and Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

Visitors to this beautiful southern state will be rewarded with happy memories of the unbridled spirit of Kentucky.

Worth Pondering…

Heaven must be a Kentucky kind of place.

―Daniel Boone

Cherohala Skyway Festival: Celebrating 27 Years of the Mile High Legend

The seventh iteration of the Cherohala Skyway Festival is coming up this weekend.

The Cherohala Skyway Festival is the perfect excuse to get outdoors and experience fall colors all along the Cherohala Skyway, a National Scenic Byway and one of the most beautiful drives in the Appalachian mountain regions.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway

The Cherohala Skyway was opened and dedicated in 1996. The road has been designated a National Scenic Byway. The road cost over 100 million dollars to construct.

The Cherohala Skyway crosses through the Cherokee National Forest in Tennessee and the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina. The name Cherohala comes from the names of the two National Forests: Chero from the Cherokee and hala from the Nantahala.

The Cherohala Skyway is located in southeast Tennessee and southwest North Carolina. The Skyway connects Tellico Plains, Tennessee with Robbinsville, North Carolina, and is 42 miles long. The Skyway is a wide, paved 2-lane road maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The elevations range from 900 feet above sea level at the Tellico River in Tennessee to over 5,400 feet above sea level at the Tennessee-North Carolina state line at Haw Knob.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cherohala Skyway Festival

The 7th Annual Cherohala Skyway Festival in Tellico Plains is hosted by the Charles Hall Museum and Heritage Center on Saturday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Located in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, the Cherohala Skyway Festival is an opportunity to get outdoors for a day of family fun.

There will be booth after booth of juried arts and crafts, lots of living history, and plenty of incredible food and treats.

Test your axe throwing skills at the On The Road Axe Throw trailer, paint a pumpkin, and have your face painted. You’ll find lots of free festival fun including horse-drawn wagon rides, a petting zoo, kids train rides, tractor-pulled hay rides, a huge inflatable Kids Zone, a sawdust dig for cash and treasures, and Mecca Camp’s Resort’s Game Zone.

Live Bluegrass and mountain music will fill the air all day long at the Josh Graves Memorial Music Festival.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Food for everyone

First Baptist will offer a free pancake breakfast from 8:30-10 a.m.

A & A Meat will be grilling thick slices of bologna on grilled Texas toast with grilled onions or grilled cheese sandwiches.

Cristal’s Kitchen will cook pinto beans over an open fire and serve with cornbread and relish. 

Slim’s Burger Joint offers burger and cheeseburger baskets with all the southern fixings including French Fries and Mozzarella sticks.

There will be food trucks on site including smoked BBQ and so many other favorite foods.

For dessert, try funnel cakes, kettle corn, popcorn, gourmet caramel apples, cotton candy, sno cones, and a wide variety of baked goods.

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Living history

All ages can step back in time in the Living History areas. There will be demonstrations and games showing the life of the early settlers and Cherokee in the early 1800s. Learn about the favorite games of the Cherokee, beading, and corn husk doll making. Interact with 18th-century camps and taste dishes cooked over an open fire. A Long Hunters camp will have all the camping equipment used by the early frontiersmen as they crossed the Appalachian Mountains into the American frontier.

Watch how a Native American flute is made and listen to live Native American flute music. Learn more about the Cherokee in the area and their removal through forced treaties and later forced removal through the Hall Museum’s displays in building 1 and the Tennessee Trail of Tears booth. 

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved


The festival will be held at the Charles Hall Museum complex (229 Cherohala Skyway) and The Charles Hall Field (122 Bank Street) behind the museum complex.           

From I-75, take the exit and travel east on New Highway 68 through Madisonville to Tellico Plains and the junction with Route 165. Turn right onto Highway 165 (Cherohala Skyway) and proceed to one of three parking areas: 

Turn immediately to the left onto Bank Street before Volunteer Federal Bank. Enter the field on the right at the marked entrance beside the Fire Truck across from Hardees and before Tellicafe. A parking attendant will direct you. Shuttles are available but it is just a few steps to the festival. 

Cherohala Skyway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Continue to the Hall Museum. A parking attendant will direct you to either park in the Farmer’s Market area after the Tellico Plains Library and before the Cherohala Skyway Visitor’s Center or at the parking areas at the Hall Museum entrance. There will be easy access parking in this area and an area to drop off handicapped individuals before you park.

DO NOT PARK in Volunteer Federal Bank’s parking lot until after 1 p.m. Easy parking is available in designated lots for $5/vehicle. BRING CASH! Admission to the festival is FREE as well as most activities.

Worth Pondering…

Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree.

—Emily Brontë, Fall, Leaves, Fall