Let the Good Times Roll in Mobile: Birthplace of Mardi Gras

Everywhere else, it’s just a Tuesday

When you think of Mardi Gras you likely think of New Orleans, beads, and the rowdiness of the French Quarter. The Big Easy has a long and illustrious history with Fat Tuesday, but, believe it or not, it’s not the birthplace of the celebration in America. For that, you have to go about 150 miles east to Mobile, Alabama.

Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to ancient Rome and pagan celebrations of Saturnalia and Lupercalia. When the Roman Catholic Church rose to power, Church leaders were looking for ways to make it easier for pagans to adopt the faith. Rather than the winter and spring festivals they encouraged a carnival on the day before Lent which starts 46 days before Easter.

The practice migrated to other countries with large Catholic populations at the time including France, Germany, Spain, and England. Traditionally, people would binge eat and drink, scarfing down all the meat, eggs, milk, and cheese in their homes.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The gorging was celebratory since fish and fasting were close to the only things on the menu until Easter. The practice came to be called Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday in France.

In 1699, a French Canadian explorer with a mouthful of a name, Jean Baptiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville, landed on the coast of present-day Louisiana. The spot is about 60 miles south of where New Orleans would eventually be founded and Bienville named the place Pointe du Mardi Gras because of the impending holiday. The crew celebrated though it was likely a quieter celebration than today.

In 1702, Bienville founded another town, Fort Louis de la Louisiane. The small settlement celebrated the first official Mardi Gras in what is now the United States in 1703. Fort Louis de la Louisiane eventually turned into Mobile, Alabama, and served as the first capital of the original Colony of French Louisiana. The city of New Orleans, for comparison, wasn’t even established until 1718, 15 years after the first Mobile Mardi Gras.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The French, Spanish, British, and, eventually, Americans all came through and left their mark on Mobile changing how the festival is held. Celebrations waxed and waned over the years as the economy rose and fell, wars came and went, but still, Mardi Gras lives on.

Now on Mardi Gras, clusters of costumed people travel from the banks of Mobile Bay on Government Street, up old and tightly crowded Dauphin Street, and into the center of the city.

The secret societies that dominate the celebration organize themselves on floats just as their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents did before them. Crowds along the street cheer them on and marvel at the costumes catching trinkets and MoonPies thrown from above.

Fewer balconies line the streets of Mobile than New Orleans and fewer tourists come to the city for Mardi Gras but the look and feel is familiar. There are kings and queens, princesses, and debutants. Mobile’s Mardi Gras drinking scene lacks 24-hour bars and a rich cocktail history like New Orleans but it has its own perks.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People can buy 16-ounce to-go drinks in plastic and styrofoam cups from licensed bars and restaurants in the downtown district. MoonPies get more attention than cocktails but bars make MoonPie-inspired cocktails like the ice cream heavy Chrissy (basically consists of vanilla ice cream, vodka, and the hazelnut flavored liqueur, Frangelico) and MoonPie Martinis (served in three popular MoonPie flavors—orange, banana or mint chocolate).

“There is no way to truly tell you what it’s like. You have to experience it,” says Steve Joynt, who runs Mobile Mask, the Mardi Gras guide for the area. “From parades to balls to block parties and parties in private homes, Mardi Gras is what each individual makes it.”

Joynt adds, “Mobile’s Mardi Gras is different from others in a thousand different ways and it’s the same in a few very important ways: It’s a community celebration and an excuse to come together, enjoy each other’s company, and have some fun.”

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras 2024 FAQs

When is Mardi Gras 2024? Mardi Gras 2024 or Fat Tuesday is on Tuesday, February 13.

What does laissez les bons temps rouler mean? Parisians are not likely to understand this Cajun French phrase but when you visit the Gulf Coast during Mardi Gras season you’ll hear the locals use this literal translation of the English phrase let the good times roll.

Who can go to a Mardi Gras ball in Mobile? Mobile Mardi Gras ball attendance is invitation only. Members of Mardi Gras Crews who organize the balls can invite non-members to the lavish celebrations.

When did Mobile first celebrate Mardi Gras? Mobile is proud of its Mardi Gras heritage and claims the first official Carnival celebration in the United States. It was started in 1703 by Frenchman Nicholas Langlois when Mobile was the capital of French Louisiana.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What is a mystic society? Mystic societies are secret societies that organize parades and balls during Mardi Gras season. They date back to 1704. The oldest existing parading society is the Order of Myths. Mystic societies each have their own traditions, rich with symbolism and ritual.

What is King Cake? A King Cake is a traditional Mardi Gras pastry with roots in Christian tradition. Traditionally, you start enjoying King Cake on January 6, an epiphany. The pastry is a cakey bread dough formed into a ring and decorated with Mardi Gras colors, gold, purple, and green. Bakers do get creative. A bakery in Daphne, for example, offers a crawfish King Cake.

What are MoonPies? MoonPies come in many different flavors including chocolate, banana, mint, and peanut butter. A MoonPie is made up of marshmallows, graham crackers, and chocolate. The MoonPie got its name in 1917 when a coal miner asked a traveling salesman from the company for a snack as big as the moon. The MoonPie website reads, “It was filling, fit in the lunch pail, and the coal miners loved it. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mardi Gras language: Learn the lingo before the big day

Fat Tuesday, King Cake, Carnival, and Krewes are all popular terms during the Mardi Gras season but what do they mean?

Learn some of the most popular lingo before hitting the parades:

  • Epiphany: Held on January 6, this is a Christian holiday that celebrates the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus. This is also known as the start of the Mardi Gras season.
  • Lundi Gras: This is the French term for Fat Monday which is the day before Mardi Gras.
  • Mardi Gras: The French term for Fat Tuesday which is the day of the Mardi Gras celebrations.
  • Ash Wednesday: This signifies the end of the Mardi Gras season. All the craziness of Mardi Gras comes to an end when the clock strikes midnight on Ash Wednesday.
  • Carnival: The term Carnival means farewell to meat which signifies the temporary period before lent. Those who take part in lent can indulge in their humanly desires. The Carnival season begins on Epiphany and ends on Fat Tuesday.
  • Mardi Gras Ball: A ball is held after each parade float rolls through the streets of Downtown Mobile. At the balls the royal court is introduced along with dancing and costumes.
  • Floats: Mardi Gras floats are extensively decorated trailers driven by trucks during the parades. Many floats throw an assortment of beads, candy, and Mardi Gras-themed items. Each year, those participating in the parade make sure ensure that their floats and costume match the year’s theme.
  • Krewe: These are the people that make up the different Mardi Gras organizations. They ride on the floats while also funding and creating the parade.
  • Royal Court: These consist of honored members within an organization or krewe. The court normally includes a king, queen, dukes, maids, grand marshals, and more. The royal court is presented at the organization’s balls where they wear elaborate costumes. In order to become part of a royal court, most people have to be on a waiting list for years.
  • King cake: This is a festive-looking cake that uses Danish dough, cinnamon, glaze topping, and sprinkles. There is also a plastic baby that is hidden within the cake which is meant to represent baby Jesus on the Epiphany.
  • Moonpie: MoonPies are dessert sandwiches that come in multiple different flavors and sizes. These are very popular to use as parade throws.
  • Doubloon: There are large coins that are made out of aluminum and used as Mardi Gras throws.
  • Throws: These are the material goods that krewes throw from floats during the parades.
Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And last but not least:

Laissez les bons temps rouler: This is a popular Cajun-French saying during the carnival season that means Let the good times roll.

Worth Pondering…

It’s a great party, and anyone who doesn’t enjoy Mardi Gras is not of this world.

—Franklin Alvarado

Snowbird Guide: States with the Least Snow

Planning for a future RV snowbird road trip? Need to know where it doesn’t snow? Here are the top six states with the least snow to get you started on your plans.

The seasonal migration of Canadian and American snowbirds from the greater north into southern states like Arizona, Texas, Alabama, and Florida and then back home again requires good planning.

There are many logistical issues to consider when traveling and one of the first decisions is how you’ll get from point A to point B.

Here are a few great articles to help you do just that:

Planning for the best and preparing for the worst will help you keep safe during your snowbird travels whether in sunny weather or adverse road conditions.

Here are the top six states with the least snow to get you started on your plans.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 6: Georgia

When it comes to Georgia and snow, it’s all about what area you visit. For example, parts of northern Georgia can see up to as much as three inches of snow each year. If you want to avoid snow altogether, stick to central and southern Georgia where less than an inch of snow a year is the norm. By the way, the higher snow totals in northern Georgia are due to the Northeastern mountain region.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Georgia:

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

# 5: Mississippi

If you hate snow and want to avoid it at all costs many areas of Mississippi are bound to deliver. The Gulf Coast and southern regions of Mississippi see an average of half an inch of snow or less each year. Central Mississippi usually gets less than an inch of snow but northern Mississippi can get up to two inches though it’s infrequent.

It’s worth noting that the Gulf Coast of Mississippi is a popular vacation destination. Winter months offer high temperatures in the 60s. Cities throughout the Gulf Coast like Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis offer a variety of holiday events throughout the winter months. 

Another great winter event in coastal Mississippi is, of course, Mardi Gras. Though more commonly associated with Louisiana, Mardi Gras has a 300-year history on the Gulf Coast. Numerous Mardi Gras events take place beginning in January and into February.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 4: Alabama

The Alabama Gulf Coast and southern Alabama are a great escape from the white stuff. Most cities in these regions average .2 inches or less of snow a year—not exactly the best destination for cross-country skiers. That isn’t to say snow is completely out of question. Some cities in Alabama have seen record snowfall amounts of more than 13 inches.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Alabama:

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 3: Louisiana

Average snowfall throughout Louisiana is an inch or less making the state a consistently snow-free destination. Winter highs are likely to be in the mid-60s. In addition to its temperate climate, Louisiana has one impressive draw for winter traveling: Mardi Gras!

Mardi Gras has been openly celebrated in New Orleans since the 1730s. The Mardi Gras traditions began in France and then spread to French colonies. It was brought to New Orleans by a French–Canadian explorer in 1702. The traditions and celebrations have slowly grown over time to become what New Orleanians call the.

The Carnival season begins on January 6 or King’s Day kicking off a long stretch of celebrations and events. The date of Fat Tuesday changes every year and is always the day before Ash Wednesday (February 13, 2024). Bacchus and Endymion are two of the biggest parades of the season and happen the weekend before Fat Tuesday.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Louisiana:

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

# 2: Florida

Summing up the average snowfall in Florida is easy: none. Don’t believe it? It snowed in Florida 16 times in the entire 21st century. Simply put, temperatures don’t drop low enough.

The average high is in the mid-60s. The consistent weather and lack of winter precipitation make Florida a great destination for vacationing. Florida is the number one destination in the United States for Canadian transplants and one in four residents in Florida are seniors.

Florida is home to several attractions that make it a desirable vacation destination. One of the most well-known is Disney World and some of the winter months are the least busy at the park.

Consider planning a trip in early to mid-December or January to mid-February. If you are looking for something a bit different consider a visit to the Kennedy Space Center or Everglades National Park.

By the way, I have a series of posts on Florida:

# 1: Hawaii

YES, HAWAII DOES GET SNOW!

Just not very much! But how practical is it to get your RV there? So Florida could be in this number 1 spot.

Are you really surprised? Of course not!  Much like Florida, Hawaii’s average yearly snowfall is non-existent. It also boasts highs in the 80s and lows in the upper 60s.

Weather like this should certainly make you consider saying Aloha to Hawaii in the winter months.

The only place you are likely to see snow in Hawaii is at the top of the state’s three tallest volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakala.

Worth Pondering…

My parents didn’t want to move to Florida but they turned sixty and that’s the law.

—Jerry Steinfeld

Snowbirds Bound for Florida and Alabama will Find Expanded and New RV Parks and Resorts

Snowbirds bound for Florida and Alabama this winter will find both new and expanding RV parks and resorts as well as new amenities at many of the parks they enjoy

“RV resorts in Florida and Alabama keep getting bigger and better. So new and returning snowbirds are not only finding new RV resorts but existing RV resorts with more spaces and more amenities to enhance their stays,” said Bobby Cornwell, president and CEO of the Florida and Alabama RV Park and Campground Association.

Below are highlights of new, recently expanded and improving RV parks and resorts across Florida and Alabama as well as information on plans for new parks and park expansions expected to take place next year.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New RV resorts planned in Florida

Dreamin’ n’ Driftin’ RV Resort in Lake City

This scenic 100-site park is now open. Developed on a 33-acre lot that includes eight acres of century-old live oak trees with Spanish moss, the resort features large, 80-foot by 40-foot RV sites with 30 and 50 amp electric service, a walking and workout trail, a community center and swimming pool, and a one-acre dog park. Fifty of the 100 sites will be long-term sites with 25 sites being for seasonal and 25 for overnight campers.

Dreamin’ ‘n ‘Driftin’ RV Resort offer top-tier amenities at affordable rates:

  • Monthly stay: $550.00 + electric
  • Nightly rate: $55.00
  • Special rates available for snowbirds

Panhandle RV Resort in Gretna

Groundbreaking is expected during the first quarter of 2024 on this resort 30 miles west of Tallahassee which is expected to have 217 sites and open by late 2024. The resort will have state-of-the-art amenities including large, spacious concrete RV sites with full hookups, a fitness center with a pool and hot tub, Wi-Fi-enabled laundry services, pickleball courts, clean and private showers and restrooms as well as an entertainment barn for outdoor entertainment, an indoor venue for indoor activities, and a convenience store.

Madison Station RV & Golf Resort in Madision

Developed by Southeastern Resort Development, this 95-site park is now open. Amenities include a swimming pool, lit pickleball courts, premium Wi-Fi, and a 2-acre dog park. Rates start at $52.14.

Roserush Luxury RV Resort in Brooksville

This park 50 miles north of Tampa expects to open this fall with 50 premium RV sites and 12 luxury glamping tents overlooking a small lake and fountain. This will be a luxury boutique destination resort in close proximity to I-75 and the Gulf. Nearby activities include golf, biking, hiking, mountain biking, zip lining, boating, and ATVing.

Clerbrook RV Resort, Clermont, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Southern Sands RV Resort in Arcadia

Zeman RV Resorts is building this 184-site resort as the latest addition to its Signature RV Resorts series. The resort is expected to open December 1 with an introductory construction rate as the park’s amenities are built out. The amenities are expected to be completed by May.

Florida RV resorts that opened earlier this year

Sun Outdoors Islamorada in the Florida Keys

This all-ages 136-site resort in Islamorada opened in May and features RV sites and rental accommodations with ocean views. Amenities include a heated swimming pool, state-of-the-art clubhouse, and poolside cabanas. Daily rates start at $103.

Florida RV resort expansions

Bay Bayou RV Resort in Tampa

This park plans to have eight premium RV sites in the Bayou Grande area of the resort by mid-November. The rest is along with its first pickleball court, a custom-made Gymtainer with commercial exercise equipment and restroom facilities. A Zen garden is also being added as part of the expansion effort.

Bay Bayou RV Resort offer 300 full size lots with winter rates (January-March) starting from:

  • Daily: $102
  • Weekly: $540
  • Monthly: $1,875 + electric

Breezy Oaks RV Park in Bushnell

Breezy Oaks RV Park is conveniently located right off of I-75 (Exit 309) in Bushnell surrounded by the Withlacoochee State Forest and located within forty minutes of Orlando and Tampa. All 217 sites in this park have been hard-wired with high-speed Internet service. Park owner Mike Wood is also planning to expand the park with another 181 sites available during the winter of 2023-2024.

Caladesi RV Park in Palm Harbor

The latest improvements at this park include a new gym and the installation of a new ventilation system in the park’s bathhouses. The park also continues to upgrade its campsites, putting limestone rock over the soft sand.

Peace River Thousand Trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cooper Lake RV Community in Interlachen

New owners have expanded this park with 30 additional lots and finished a clubhouse with bathrooms and showers and a multipurpose room. Other improvements include the asphalting of all roads, the addition of a community park, and the provision of Wi-Fi service throughout the park. Park owners are continuing to level the existing lots and add new landscaping.

Located east of Gainsville rates are reasonably priced:

  • Daily $45
  • Weekly: $250
  • Monthly: $650-700 (includes electric, water, sewer, and basic Wi-Fi

Jasmine Breeze RV Park in Old Town

Located on the Suwannee River this park is more than doubling in size from 18 to 40 to 45 RV sites. Nightly rates are $70, weekly $300, and monthly $800 + electric.

Terra Ceia Village RV Resort in Palmetto

This Encore resort has added 180 RV sites with 50 amp, full hookup, back-in and paved options. A new swimming pool, clubhouse, fitness center and four pickleball courts were also included in the expansion. Discounts are available for Thousand Trail members.

The Glades Resort in Moore Haven

Ninety-seven large pull-through RV sites are being added to this central Florida park with completion targeted for early 2024. Amenities include its own championship 9-hole golf course, an onsite restaurant, and its own freshwater marina along the Caloosahatchee River just 14 miles west of Lake Okeechobee, 11 miles west of the Moore Haven lock and 4.5 miles east of the Ortona lock.

Orlando Thousand Trails © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Creekside RV Resort in Punta Gorda

The newest park in Punta Gorda, Creekside plans to begin construction next summer on its third phase which will include approximately 100 RV sites.

Florida RV resort improvements

Coastal River RV Resort in Steinhatchie

Located in Big Bend region of Florida, this park is updating its electric utilities and Wi-Fi, building a dog park, installing new tiny home rentals and adding gravel to its RV sites.

Cross City Campground and RV Resort in Cross City

Several improvements are underway at this park which was acquired by new owners in August. Improvements include the renovation of the swimming pool, clubhouse, office, bathrooms and laundry area, and the installation of new fencing and signage. The Wi-Fi system is also being updated and gravel is being added to the campsites. A 40-site expansion is planned for 2024.

Ramblers Rest RV Resort, Sarasota, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fisherman’s Cove RV Resort in Palmetto

This resort has added artificial turf to the entire clubhouse area. An artificial turf putting green has also been added as a new amenity. The resort is surrounded by 24,900 contiguous acres of serene aquatic preserve and also county and state parks such as Robinson Preserve, Emerson Point, and Terra Ceia State Park.

Flat Creek Family Campground in Chattahooche

Formerly Triple C’s Campground, this park which is just west of Tallahassee has added new outdoor fitness equipment, created walking trails on the property, and made other improvements to promote wildlife viewing.  

Idlewild Lodge & RV Park in Lake Panasoffkee

Recent improvements to this park include cabin renovations and paved RV sites along with several new amenities including pontoon boat rentals, kayaks, bait and tackle, a concrete boat launch, boat slips, vending, recreational area, laundry machines, an on-site café, pool-side cabanas. Idlewild is also a host to Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures. Swamp Fever guests can sign up for the interactive alligator experience and ride an airboat deep into the shallow waters of the Lake Panasoffkee forest where snakes, turtles, cranes, and alligators are aplenty. Idlewild was founded in 1992 as a fish camp built on three acres with 10 cabins and 10 RV sites. Located on the western perimeter of Lake Panasoffkee, Idlewild sits across a 9,911-acre state park preserving Lake Panasoffkee’s vast floodplain forest, natural springs, pine flat-woods, freshwater marshes and oak scrub forest.

Seasons in the Sun RV Resort in Mims

Neat Titusville this 55-and-over Zeman active lifestyle resort is upgrading its bathhouse and laundry area with higher quality materials as well as new machines and more machines for guest use.

St. Augustine Beach KOA Holiday in St. Augustine

The latest improvements at this park include a new open-air steel pavilion. Other improvements include a new climate-controlled bathhouse with six family-style bathrooms, three bathrooms with toilets and sinks, and an indoor 24/7 laundry facility.

Eagles Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sun Lake RV Resort in Ruskin

This park is upgrading 12 RV sites into super sites with pavers, adding a fenced-in dog park, and remodeling a double-wide for use as an Airbnb rental. An artificial turf putting green is also being added as a new amenity.

Sunshine Village Resort in Webster

This RV and manufactured housing resort is adding spacious new homes including 3 bedroom, two-bathroom models by Nobility and Champion. New activities are also being added for the upcoming winter season including dinner murder mysteries, Karaoke, a senior prom event, and catch-and-release fishing at Sunshine Pond which was stocked last season and is now thriving.

The Surf RV Resort in Palmetto

This 55-and-over resort has enlarged its pool lounging deck to allow for an additional 120 loungers. New loungers have also been purchased for the pool area. Astro turf has been added along the length of the pool deck by the main lake. The resort which now offers annual stays also has fully restricted access with the recent installation of new 6-foot-high black vinyl chain link fencing around three sides of the resort.

The Tides RV Resort in Palmetto

This 55-and-over Zeman Signature Resort has added a second dog park with separate sections for little dogs and big dogs. Pool gates have also been upgraded making them easier to open and close.

The Waves RV Resort in Naples

This 55-and-over Zeman active lifestyle resort is continuing to upgrade the interiors of its clubhouse and resort office.

Zachary Taylor Waterfront RV Resort in Okeechobee

This resort has added a new laundry room with all new machines.

Lake Osprey RV Park, Elberta, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

New Alabama RV parks and resorts and expansions

Island Retreat RV Park in Gulf Shores

A brand new Jayco travel trailer has been added to this 173-site park as a new rental RV unit for Snowbirds. Laundry and bathhouse facilities have also been updated while concrete pad replacements continue.

Homestead RV Community in Theodore

This park is adding a saltwater pool, shuffleboard and pickleball courts, and a large pool house complete with an event center large enough to accommodate 100 people. Continuously driving technology, Homestead RV Community has been actively beta-testing products for Marine Sync, Wild Energy, and CampLife and will soon be testing state-of-the-art pedestals for Motion Power.

Sun Outdoors Orange Beach in Orange Beach

This resort has added 330 new RV sites some of which have outdoor kitchens. The expansion also includes the construction of new amenities including a clubhouse, swimming pool, lap pool, bar, restaurant, arcade, playground, and dog washing stations. The new RV sites are currently open while most of the new amenities will be completed later this year.

Bella Terra of Gulf Shores © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Birmingham South RV Park in Pelham

The latest improvements at this 99-site park include eight RV sites that have newly poured concrete. Paving improvements have also continued in various sections of the park. Last year, the park made improvements to its front entrance with new paving, landscaping, and a stormwater drainage system.

Kick Back Ranch in Ramer

Located near Montgomery, this park is expanding its general store and adding more farm animals to the property this fall. Other improvements include building more rooms with kitchens. Kick Back Ranch supports agritourism and will provide even more opportunities for all ages to explore agriculture, farming, forestry, and conservation with learning stations throughout the property.

Worth Pondering…

The very name Florida carried the message of warmth and ease and comfort. It was irresistible.

—John Steinbeck

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!

SOUTHWEST

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

Arizona

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

Utah

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

California

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. 

SOUTHEAST

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

Georgia

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

Alabama

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

Louisiana

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

Kentucky

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

Florida

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

Texas

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!

MIDWEST

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

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

Indiana

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 Ultimate Guide to the Alabama Coastal Birding Trail

Birds of a feather flock together

Whether you’re a serious or beginner birder, you’ll get caught up in the excitement of birding on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Gulf Shores and Foley are a popular home base for those who like to get out, explore, and see a wide variety of bird species year round.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a paradise not only for birders but for visitors with many different outdoor interests. The Coastal Birding Trail features six birding loops in Baldwin and Mobile counties totaling over 200 miles. Each loop covers different ecological regions representative of the northern Gulf Coast and enables birders to experience different assemblages of bird species within each region.

The beauty of the Alabama Gulf Coast is no secret. Residents and visitors alike enjoy the natural elements Alabama’s beaches offer. However, humans aren’t the only ones who love to explore the Gulf Coast as you can find plenty of stunning coastal birds here. When you’re on the hunt for the perfect piece of paradise to watch these beautiful birds, consider these 15 places perfect for birders.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fishing and Education Pier

For those looking to watch seabirds, Gulf State Park’s Fishing and Education Pier is the place for you. Located on the Gulf of Mexico in Gulf Shores, this pier offers a prime viewing spot for gulls and terns as well as ruddy turnstone, sanderlings, and herons. For $2, guests can walk along the pier and enjoy the incredible view. You may also spot a variety of sea life as the pier is a popular fishing spot.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulf State Park

There is something for everyone at Gulf State Park. The beach pavilion provides picnic tables as an escape from the beach, the nature center is a great place for the kids to learn, the swimming pool provides refreshment for guests, and the Lake Shelby day use area offers kayaking and canoeing. For a change of pace while visiting check out the fishing and education pier, miles of biking on the Backcountry trail, beautiful flowers in the butterfly garden, and additional education at the interpretive center.

>> Related article: Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

Gulf State Park offers a diversity of habitat for residential and migrating birds. Osprey, herons, rails, owls, woodpeckers and much more frequent the Park. Look up in the sky for a nesting bald eagles souring above. When storms occur in the Gulf of Mexico, the wind pushes a water column of the open ocean to the shoreline, look for rarities such as Magnificent Frigatebirds and Northern Gannets.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park

The Mobile Delta wetlands in Spanish Fort are where you’ll discover Meaher State Park. This 1,327-acre park is situated in the wetlands of the Mobile Delta and is a day-use, picnicking, and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors.

There are two nature trails with a lovely view of the Mobile Delta. Birders can expect to see herons, red-tailed hawks, egrets, and even bald eagles. It’s a great place to bring the kids and get them hooked on birding.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman. The park offers a 300-foot pier with a 200-foot “T” for your fishing pleasure. Access to the pier is included in the park admission fee. Enjoy a self-guided walk on two nature trails including a boardwalk with an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile Delta.

5 Rivers Delta Resource Center

5 Rivers Delta Resource Center’s name recognizes the five rivers of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta which include the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee, and Blakeley Rivers (from west to east) that flow into Mobile Bay. The Center itself sits on the banks of one of the canals of this vast delta. These drainages encompass over 250,000 acres of meandering waterways, floodplain forests, and extensive wetlands. The center features an exhibit hall, theater, gift shop, Delta boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The decks of the Delta Hall and the perimeter trail around the facility provide excellent vantage points to observe birds of the surrounding marsh and waterways. In spring and summer, look for Brown Pelican, Osprey, King Rail, Marsh Wren, and several species of herons and egrets. Occasionally, Least Bittern and Purple Gallinule may be encountered along the margins of the emergent marsh. Painted Bunting may also be possible in the thickets near the buildings. Check here for migrants in spring and fall.

Battleship Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Battleship Park

Battleship Park is a military history park and museum on the western shore of Mobile Bay. Battleship Park presents the birder with a diversity of habitat to explore and a great variety of birds to observe. Pinto Pass and the mudflats of Mobile Bay filled with waterfowl in winter and shorebirds during migration, short grass lawns for dowitchers and Black-bellied Plover, salt water marsh with herons and egrets. During low tide this area is filled with herons, egrets, and occasionally ibis, especially in late summer. Black-necked Stilt may be around any time of the year and in summer, Gull-billed Tern is present.

Grebe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile Bay Mudflats

The Mobile Bay Mudflats are a good place to look for herons, egrets, and Boat-tailed Grackles any time of year. An assortment of sandpipers and plovers are regular during spring and fall migration. During high tide in winter, American Coot and waterfowl are regular. Mudflats or mud flats, also known as tidal flats, are coastal wetlands that form when mud is deposited by tides or rivers. They are found in sheltered areas such as bays, bayous, lagoons, and estuaries. The best viewing at the Mobile Bay Mudflats is during low tide when the mudflats are exposed. 

>> Related article: The Underrated Coast

Great blue heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wade Ward Nature Park

Wade Ward Nature Park is a 12 acre natural area, a rarity in the midst of such a vibrant resort city (Gulf Shores). It offers the birder scenic boardwalks overlooking canals and coastal salt marsh. It features a pavilion, benches, and scenic boardwalks. The Nature Park provides ideal habitat for bitterns and rails. Even in close proximity to the downtown commercial bustle, wildlife such otters, pelicans, and the occasional alligator can be seen hunting and fishing in its shallow water and wetlands.

Wade Ward Nature Park is located just two blocks north of Gulf Place, the main public beach. It is a public pedestrian access to a pocket of natural wetlands and waterways found in between the beach condominiums and commercial buildings in Gulf Shores.

From a comfortably dry, elevated boardwalk, you may enjoy beautiful views of the wetlands that connect Little Lagoon and Lake Shelby. Wildlife such otters, pelicans, and the occasional alligator can be seen hunting and fishing in its shallow water and wetlands.

Little blue heron © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Weeks Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

In nearby Fairhope, the Weeks Bay Estuarine Research Reserve public research and education facility includes some 9,000 acres of protected habitats bordering Weeks Bay and Fish and Magnolia Rivers. Complete with an interpretive center, indoor displays, live animals, and forested boardwalk nature trails, the Reserve is part of a national network of coastal reserves established as living laboratories for long-term research projects. Well-known for birdwatching, Weeks Bay also participates in the Alabama Coastal BirdFest held each year during early fall (September 27-30, 2023). This event is a great way to see and learn about the area’s birds and their habitats and no previous birding experience is required.

Historic Fort Gaines on Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama Coastal BirdFest takes attendees into the Mobile Delta, to the Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary, historic Fort Morgan, and the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, among other locations. The four-day event also includes workshops on subjects such as hummingbirds, the basics of birding, monarch butterflies, and, new this year, workshops on how to use common birding apps, such as eBird and Merlin Bird ID, and understanding bird box design for specific species. 

Fairhope Municipal Pier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope Municipal Pier and Beach

Fairhope Municipal Pier is a good location for winter ducks, loons, gulls, and terns. Check the pilings in all seasons for loafing gulls, terns, and pelicans. A scan or walk along the beach can yield wading birds, peeps, and other shorebirds. Designed for both strolling and fishing, the pier features benches, covered areas, restrooms, a marina, and a restaurant. There is no cost to walk but a saltwater license is required for fishing.

>> Related article: Mobile Bay: Gateway to the Gulf

The park is home to a lovely rose garden and fountain, plus picnic tables, pavilion, duck pond, tree trail, and a large sandy beach. Non-residents are charged park admission during the summer season. In addition to the waterfront park, numerous bluff top parks extend along the bay front.

Foley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Graham Creek Nature Preserve

Home to boundless plant and wildlife species, the 500-acre Graham Creek Nature Preserve in Foley offers many recreational opportunities and educational programs. Pine savanna habitat features wild flowers and pitcher plants. See endangered plants up close while exploring 10 miles of trail, two handicap-accessible boardwalks, a kayak launch, and four disc golf courses. 

Graham Creek also offers other leisure activities such as an archery park made for all sizes and a playground with an outdoor classroom perfect for kids. There are many pet-friendly areas. Enjoy the interpretive center and don’t miss the chance for birdwatching. Bring your gear and hit the water from the kayak launch. The preserve also hosts events throughout the year including Feathered Friends Day and eco-educational activities.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge encompasses some of Alabama’s last remaining undisturbed coastal barrier habitat. The name Bon Secour comes from the French meaning safe harbor, very appropriate considering the sanctuary for native flora and fauna the refuge provides.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge consists of approximately 7,000 acres of coastal lands ranging from constantly changing beach dunes to rolling pine-oak woodlands. There is something for everyone at the refuge from a quiet stroll among the dunes to world-class birding opportunities and trail.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bon Secour represents an important stopover and staging habitat for neotropical migratory songbirds during the fall and spring migration along the Alabama coastline. Migratory birds utilize this area for resting and building fat reserves critical to successful migration.

The Jeff Friend Trail is a one-mile loop to Little Lagoon. Habitats along the trail include maritime forest, freshwater marsh, and open water along the north shore of Little Lagoon. A small observation deck, accessible to those with disabilities, midway down the trail at Little Lagoon provides a great place to set up a spotting scope and scan the water.

In winter, look for Bufflehead, Common Loon, and Horned Grebe. And, in spring, Osprey, Sandwich Tern, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow are regularly seen. Expect to see Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Summer Tanager, and Northern Parula during the summer. Chuck-will’s-widow and Great Horned Owl are commonly heard at dusk and dawn.

Great horned owl © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Morgan

Fort Morgan is a Third System masonry fort built between 1819 and 1833. The fort was named after Revolutionary War Hero Daniel Morgan. Standing guard where the bay meets the Gulf of Mexico, the fort played a significant role in the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864. Used intermittently through the Spanish American War, World War I, and World War II, the site showcases the evolution of seacoast fortifications and adaptations. 

During spring and fall migration, dozens of migrant species flock to Fort Morgan on their journeys to escape the cold. One of Fort Morgan’s best spots to view birds is the Stables located near the eastern sea wall. Here you’ll find a variety of passerine migrants enjoying the comfortable coastal weather. During spring and fall, The Audubon Birding Society hosts a banding station event that visitors are welcome to attend. 

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lillian Swamp Forever Wild Tract

Lillian Swamp encompasses nearly 3,000 acres managed for conservation by the ADCNR State Lands Division and hosts a variety of habitats representative of the lower Coastal Plain. At any time of year, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, Brown-headed Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Brown Thrasher, and other resident species are common in the piney uplands and adjacent thickets.

In spring and fall, varying assemblages of migrants can be seen depending on weather conditions. Continuing north on the road, the piney uplands transition to forested swamplands and open pitcher plant bogs. These areas are good for wintering sparrows, migratory shorebirds, waterfowl, and an assortment of waders. Recent notable winter sightings include Rusty Blackbird, a species of high conservation concern. Osprey and Bald Eagle are seen regularly year around particularly along the Perdido River to the east.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bayfront Park

Bayfront Park on Dauphin Island has many species of local and migratory birds that visit in the spring and fall to take advantage of its fresh water and to shelter themselves among the trees and reeds. Brown Pelicans are ever-present soaring on the wind-wave formed as bay breezes blow up against and over dense stands of pines. Gulls, terns, and Double-crested Cormorants roost on the pilings.

>> Related article: Marvelous Mobile Bay: Dauphin Island

From the parking area, walk the boardwalk to an inland marsh. Look closely for Least Bittern and Clapper Rail. During fall and winter, Virginia Rail and Sora are regular but secretive. Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, and Boat-tailed Grackle are also common.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Audubon Bird Sanctuary

This lush sanctuary on Dauphin Island consists of approximately 164 acres of maritime forest, marshes, dunes, a lake, swamp, and beach. Multiple walking trails, some handicapped accessible, allow the avid birder miles of habitat for spotting neo-tropical migrants in the spring and fall as well as native species all year long.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Island has been named one of the top four locations in North America for viewing spring migrations and the sanctuary has gained it recognition from the National Audubon Society as “globally important.”

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before.

—Robert Lynd, The Blue Lion and Other Essays

Alabama: 15 Road Trips Ideas for Every Interest

No matter what your interest is, Alabama has a trail for that

Take a journey back in time, explore Alabama’s rich cultural heritage, see the wonder of the spring or fall bird migration, or just enjoy a peaceful drive through a blend of brilliant autumn foliage. Alabama has great adventures for every interest on the many tours and trails just waiting to be discovered.

Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter what your interest is, Alabama has a trail for that. I’m not talking about hiking, biking, or walking trails. I’m talking about road trips that wind their way across the state and highlight the state’s diversity and history. There is a trail for every interest. Are you into art? There is a trail for that. History? There is a trail for that.

The Alabama Department of Tourism has established 19 different trails that take visitors to incredible history, natural wonders, dining, and more. Let me introduce you to the fabulous trails of exploration in Alabama.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dolphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nature Trails 

We’ll begin with a collection of stops that highlight Alabama’s incredible beauty and wildlife.

Dauphin Island Sea Lab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. A Circle of Colors Trail

As the greens of summer surrender to glittering yellow poplars, scarlet dogwoods, orange maples, and golden hickories, Alabama unfolds its patchwork quilt of color. Fall colors begin showing in the mountains of North Alabama in early October and then sweep across the region. Colors will be at their peak from late October to early November.

The Circle of Colors Trail is a winding circuitous route that takes you across the northern half of the state from Oak Mountain State Park in Birmingham to the Bankhead National Forest near Huntsville and points in between to experience glorious fall colors in the Southern Appalachians.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Alabama Birding Trail 

Alabama is a birding paradise with forests, mountains, meadows, swamps, and beaches creating a plethora of avian habitats. Even if you aren’t a diehard birder, you will love visiting one of the 280 stops along the Alabama Birding Trail that takes you to some breathtaking landscapes and of course, opportunities to spot over 430 species of birds—bald eagles, osprey, a variety of tanagers, well, you get the idea. 

The birding trail has been divided up into eight separate geologic regions: the Appalachian Highlands, Black Belt, Coastal, North Alabama, Piedmont Plateau, Piney Woods, West Alabama, and Wiregrass Regions.

Flower Trails

Alabama is dotted with gorgeous botanical gardens that brighten every season with brilliantly colored and fragrant blooms. And there is a trail for that.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Alabama Garden Trail

Gorgeous, immaculately-maintained landscapes are on display all across the state, and thanks to the wide range of climates and types of soil in Alabama, you will find a variety of stunning settings as you travel.

The Alabama Garden Trail takes you to six spectacular gardens from Bellingrath Gardens near Mobile where over 300 species of azaleas light up the 35-acre estate and rows of live oak bring a Southern charm to the grounds of the Huntsville Botanical Garden in the north where limestone columns from the old historic courthouse act as the focal point for the expansive grounds.

The trail also makes stops at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Mobile Botanical Gardens, and Dothan Botanical Gardens as well as Aldridge Gardens in Hoover near Birmingham.

Art and Antique Trails 

Whether you are looking to purchase antiques, collectibles, or an inspiring work of art, travel the backroads of Alabama on these aptly named trails.

Alabama mural © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Alabama Mural Trail

Towns and cities big and small across Alabama have embraced mural art to grace the sides of buildings and bring a sense of community to the town.

The Alabama Mural Trail leads you to a diverse set of detailed mural art that brings to life moving moments in the town’s history like a depiction of the Freedom Rider’s bus from the height of the Civil Rights Movement in Anniston, historical figures like the almost photo-like mural of the Temptations lead singer Eddie Kendricks who was born in Union Springs, or the dazzling nightlife of Mobile brought to life in the Bar Light mural along the city’s Dauphin Street.

Gulf State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Alabama Antique Trail

From upscale galleries to multivendor malls, the Alabama Antique Trail provides a mixture of antiques and vintage collectibles throughout the state. Discover items from Alabama family estates, original pieces from antebellum homes, and European and Oriental imports selected from abroad by antique dealers or brought by early settlers. The trail offers glassware, pottery, silver, porcelain, military items, books, art, signs, historical papers, and American, French, Japanese, Chinese and English furnishings from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries.

Stop highlights include visits to the Antique Mall of Memories in Alexander City, rummaging through the aisles in the historic 1935 Bank of Dadeville at Old Bank Antiques, and Winter Valley Antiques in Cullman that spans two buildings, one of which was once a chicken coop.

Fort Toulouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

History Trails 

Alabama’s many history trails lead to spectacular ornate antebellum homes, sites from the Civil Rights Movement, Native American historical sites, and more, all with helpful and knowledgeable guides.

Mobile walking tour© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. April Walking Tours

Many of the towns across the state hold annual historic walking tours annually in April where you will visit historic antebellum mansions such as the Oakleigh and Conde-Charlotte mansions in Mobile, centuries-old cemeteries including the Florence City Cemetery that was established in 1819, and sites of the Civil Rights Movement such as the Rosa Parks bus stop and the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery.

Community leaders will guide these free tours through the historic districts or courthouse square areas of their hometowns. The hour-long tours start at 10:00 a.m. on April 2, 9, 16, 23, and 30.

Creek Indian houses © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Civil War Trail 

The Alabama Civil War Trail not only includes battlefields but also many other historic locations that bring the story of those tumultuous years to life.

Stops along the route include visits to the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery where Jeff Davis was sworn in as the president of the Confederacy, the Winter Building (also in Montgomery) where the order to fire on Fort Sumter in South Carolina was sent by telegraph thus beginning the war, and Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park in McCalla where the enormous stone furnace that once made munitions for the Confederacy has been completely rebuilt.

Along the coast, the Battle of Mobile Bay Civil War Trail spotlights Fort Morgan and historic Fort Gaines.

Jasmine Hill Gardens © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Native American Trail 

For thousands of years before white settlement, the place that is today called Alabama was home to many different cultural groups of Native Americans.

The history of Native Americans in Alabama is bittersweet. The Native American Trail allows us to explore their bittersweet history in the state from its earliest residents 10,000 years ago at Russell Cave National Monument in Bridgeport and Mound Island in Mobile to the tragedies that led to the Creek Indian War at Fort Mims in Stockton and the eventual start of the Trail of Tears with the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.

Fort Jackson © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Covered Bridge Trail 

Along the dusty backroads of Alabama, you will be treated to a rare sight. The state once had many covered bridges that took horses and pedestrians across narrow gorges. Today, the number has dwindled but these bridges are still exciting pieces of history to view.

Some have been moved to historic locations like the oldest bridge, the 1850 Coldwater Creek Covered Bridge in Calhoun County while others remain in place where they have stood the test of time including the longest remaining in the state, the 324-foot Swann Bridge over the Black Warrior River in Blount County.

The Covered Bridge Trail takes you to these and several other bridges in the northern half of the state. Be sure to make plans to attend the annual Covered Bridge Festival (October 8, 2022) where the three bridges of Blount County are celebrated—Swann, Easily, and Old Horton—with a good old-fashioned fall festival featuring plenty of music, arts, and crafts, and food.

Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. U.S. Civil Rights Trail

The U.S. Civil Rights Trail spans the country but is primarily centered in the Southeast where marchers and activists challenged segregation and social injustice in the 50s and 60s, often facing violence and death in the process as they tried to make the country live up to its promises.

Wetumpa Historical District

11. Alabama Civil Rights Museum Trail

The Alabama Civil Rights Trail is part of the larger, nationwide trail, leading you to a collection of historic sites from that period including the infamous Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the incredibly moving National Memorial for Peace and Justice that honors the over 4,000 blacks who were murdered across the South. The memorial features giant steel columns hanging from the ceiling with the names of victims listed by county.

Auburn © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sports Trails

There is more to sports in Alabama than football. These sport trails show you what I mean.

Fishing at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

12. Alabama’s Hunting and Fishing Trail for People with Disabilities 

The state has made it possible for people with physical disabilities to hunt and fish by joining together state and private landowners to establish this string of outdoor locations called the Alabama Hunting and Fishing Trail where they can enjoy their favorite sports just like everyone else.

Each location has special ramps and access points and when it comes to hunting, days are restricted to only allow those with disabilities to participate. Hunting and fishing licenses are required.

Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

13. Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail     

A golf trail is just that—a collection of courses that together promote a certain state to the world as a golf destination. Just about every state has them from California to New York, from Wisconsin to Florida, and every state in between. But there had to be a first—the granddaddy of them all—Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail!

The trail features 26 courses and 468 incredible holes across the state with each course designed by the famous course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. to fit that particular region’s stunning landscape.

Jim ‘Nick’s BBQ © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dining Trails

College football and barbecue are probably the first things that come to mind when Alabama is mentioned. But there’s so much more to the local food scene. In a state that is home to rich farmland and game hunting and is also bordered by the Gulf of Mexico, food and mealtime are a semi-sacred part of life.

Lambert’s Cafe in Foley © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

14. Food and Wine Trail

Any way you slice it—be it the fried green tomatoes at the Irondale Cafe in Irondale, crawfish pie at Ca-John’s Bar and Grill in Faunsdale, or meatloaf at G’s in Huntsville—Alabama has culinary boasting rights to some of the most distinctive cuisine in the country.

Dreamland in Tuscaloosa and Big Bob Gibson’s in Decatur top Alabama’s list of award-winning barbecue joints where you will never get tired of licking your fingers. When it comes to deliciously different you’ve got choices ranging from freshly squeezed lemonade at Toomer’s Drugs in Auburn, key-lime milkshakes from Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain in Foley, and orange rolls at All Steak in Cullman.

Music

Fusing the sounds of Rock, Country, Blues, and other genres, Alabama possesses a distinctive musical identity all its own.

Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

15. Hank Williams Trail

Hank Williams was born in Mount Olive on September 17, 1923. By the time of his death 29 years later, he had left behind a monumental legacy of such hits as “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I Saw the Light,” “Jambalaya” and “Cold, Cold Heart.”

With his band the Drifting Cowboys, he played engagements across the South. Hank became country music’s first superstar selling 10 million records from 1947 to 1953.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For more on Alabama, check out these articles:

Worth Pondering…
Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

—Lynyrd Skynyrd (1974)

America’s Least-Visited States and Why You Should Go To Each

You’re likely missing out on some of the most beautiful places in the US

Even the most traveled RVers have inevitable gaps on their “where I’ve been” map. It’s a big country out there and clocking all 50 states is a fairly universal bucket list goal. Still, some of the less known states are passed over—and that is a shame. Now more than ever, we’re daydreaming about hitting the Interstate in search of wide-open spaces, desert expanses, serene beaches, stunning mountain vistas, and near-empty hiking trails.

After crunching the numbers I’ve identified 11 of the less-visited states, many of which were obvious, some of which were shocking. Digging deep to find out what makes each a destination in its own right: small-town charm, amazing food, fantastic beer, and sweeping landscapes.

Looking for a hidden gem? Then make a plan to visit these roads less traveled!

Snake River at Twin Falls © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Idaho

Annual visitors: 34.3 million

Why you should visit: For some ungodly reason, Idaho is forever associated with its primary agricultural product. And look, I love taters as much as the next person. But find yourself on the shores of Redfish Lake with the snow-capped peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains reflecting in clear waters and you won’t be thinking about your next meal. You’ll be thinking about how Idaho is darn near perfect and wondering where all the people are. 

Lava fields in Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s got all the jagged mountains, wild whitewater, and pristine lakes of places like Colorado or California but it doesn’t pack in the hordes of tourists. While everyone else is clogging up Jackson Hole, an easy jaunt over the Tetons and the Wyoming state line will drop you by two of the best small towns in the state, Driggs and Victor. Spots like Stanley and Coeur d’Alene are also cool resort towns with friendly people and spectacular scenery. And of course, there’s brewery-packed Boise that’s one of the most underrated places to live in the US.

Massachusetts State House © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Massachusetts

Annual visitors: 29.3 million

Why you should visit: There are sports to be watched, history to be learned, and great food to be had in Boston but it’s the boatloads of seaside towns that make shockingly under-touristy Massachusetts such a gem.

Hyannis harbor © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Amble around little Cape Ann fishing villages like Rockport where you can hang with lobstermen and chow down on some fresh, fresh seafood. Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are the more well-known escapes with spectacular seal- and shark-watching opportunities along the National Seashore.

For a whirlwind tour, hop on a train from Hyannis to Buzzards Bay on the Cape Cod Central Railroad, an oceanside journey that ambles through cool little towns and cranberry bogs. The town of Salem is extra fun to visit around Halloween; history nerds should also visit Plimoth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village, two living museums from the colonial era.

Historic Jacksonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oregon

Annual visitors: 29.1 million

Why you should visit: Oregon’s presence on this list proves that many have yet to discover this Pacific Northwest dreamland and even those who know Portland likely have no clue to the scope of the state’s wonders. Oregon packs a massive diversity of ecosystems into its borders from a coast overflowing with natural beauty and shorelines to the dense forests blanketing the land.

Oregon Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here, the Columbia River Gorge forms a border with Washington made of sheer cliffs and waterfalls. Mountains like Hood, Bachelor, and the Three Sisters cast shadows over green valleys, roaring rivers, and high-desert landscapes. You’ll find the continent’s deepest lake at Crater Lake National Park.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Alabama

Annual visitors: 28.7 million

Why you should visit: In Alabama, you can drink in two states at once at the Flora-Bama bar near Orange Beach or participate in its famous annual mullet toss (fish, not hair). If you’re not into throwing fish and/or drinking, you can explore 35 miles of gorgeous coastline, most notably, Gulf Shores, the prettiest place in the state and home to Gulf State Park. Truly, this is a state that at once embraces its stereotypes (“roll Tide!!”) and shatters them. 

USS Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are landmark historical sites from the Civil Rights movement all across the state including the Civil Rights Institute and the famous 16th St Baptist Church in Birmingham plus the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma. There’s also baseball history—the oldest stadium in America is Rickwood Field in Birmingham. And pay homage to one of the greatest to play the game at the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum in Mobile (located at Hank Aaron Stadium).

Finally, the largest space museum in America is in Huntsville. The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is home to the famous space camp.

Newport Ocean Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rhode Island

Annual visitors: 26.2 million

Why you should visit: Get some inspiration by taking the cliff walk through Newport’s historic mansions. Rhode Island boasts 400 miles of coastline (it’s not called the Ocean State for nothing) and some of the warmest water in New England.

Historic Newport © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re still hanging in Newport, Second Beach is your move for a day on the water. To round things out, you’ve got the Pawtucket Red Sox (or Pawsox)—a fun minor-league alternative to Fenway—way more breweries and distilleries than a state its size needs. Oh yeah, and Del’s Frozen Lemonade. Do NOT leave without trying a Del’s Frozen Lemonade.

Ole Miss © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mississippi

Annual visitors:  24.7 million

Why you should visit: This is the birthplace of American music. Start your sonic education in Tupelo (Elvis did) where you can walk up three different music trails—through cotton fields, churches, train depots, and nightclubs—to learn about the roots of blues and country music.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mississippi is also home to three of the five driving trails on the Americana Music Triangle, a 1,500-mile highway route through five states with historical stops related to countless genres of music from the region including blues, jazz, country, rock & roll, R&B/soul, gospel, Southern gospel, Cajun/zydeco, and bluegrass.

There are also 26 miles of pristine water and white sand beaches here without anywhere near the number of tourists or tacky T-shirt shops you’d find in Florida. And unlike other beach towns on the Gulf, Biloxi, Gulfport, and Bay St. Louis have casinos.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

North Dakota

Annual visitors: 22.6 million

Why you should visit: Teddy Roosevelt loved North Dakota so much that he bought a ranch here then made it a national park. Today, North Dakota has 63 national wildlife refuges and 13 state parks and offers visitors the chance to see not only pronghorns and buffalo but the world’s largest buffalo—Dakota Thunder—can be seen at the National Buffalo Museum in Jamestown.

Medora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But it’s not all rural land and Bull Moose. Fargo is one of America’s most underrated cities tucked into an overlooked state. Amid its highly walkable streets, you’ll find a food scene that goes beyond hot dish and into fine dining and international fare plus a vibrant brewing community. 

Sky Mountain Gulf Course, Hurricane, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah

Annual visitors: 20.7 million

Why you should visit: While it’s easy to make a case for Utah being America’s most stunning state, surprisingly it remains under-visited. Yet it’s been at the forefront of daydreams thanks to its otherworldly landscapes, unmatched stargazing, and relative isolation. Time to pack up the RV and see what the fuss is all about!

Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Utah’s open landscapes can be tackled in several ways whether it’s via a journey through the Mighty Five— Zion and Bryce among them—hiking its equally mind-blowing state parks or cruising a scenic stretch of road like the Hogsback (Scenic Byway 12).

For a more metropolitan experience, the cities are stereotype-smashers: Against the backdrop of its gorgeous namesake, Salt Lake City has emerged as a preeminent western destination placing it on the top tier of relocation wish lists. Park City, meanwhile, is so much more than Sundance: a world-class ski destination and postcard-perfect mountain town. Regardless of where you land, one thing remains constant: Wander in any direction and you’ll likely be greeted by an image that will sear itself into your memories.

New River Gorge Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

West Virginia

Annual visitors: 15.9 million

Why you should visit: They don’t call the Mountain State “almost heaven” because of the strip clubs though the state does boast the most per capita of any state in the Union. It’s because of stunning outdoor attractions like the 25-mile North Fork Mountain Trail—one of the few trails labeled as “epic” by the International Mountain Bicycling Association—where you can ride backcountry ridges whilst soaking up the views over Seneca Rocks.

Glad Creek Grist Mill, Babcock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re into water sports, brave the Gauley River, one of the five best whitewater rivers in the world and home to a 14-foot raftable waterfall. Or visit the newly-minted New River Gorge National Park. If you’re into land sports, catching a football game at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown (especially at night) is one of the most unique experiences in college football.

Custer State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

South Dakota

Annual visitors: 13.5 million

Why you should visit: South Dakota is one of the country’s most beautiful states. It’s also one of its most misunderstood. But once you’re here, you’ll discover why all those Smash Mouth fans keep coming to Sturgis every summer.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a drive along the Needles Highway near Mount Rushmore National Memorial through fascinating rock formations or drive any stretch of the Badlands to see scenery like nowhere else in the world. Custer State Park is one of the few places in America where buffalo on the road can cause a traffic jam; the annual Buffalo Roundup takes place here when thousands thunder through the park as rangers round them up for medical checks and counts.

SoDak’s roadside attractions are also among the quirkiest in America. Take I-90 east from the Black Hills and you’ll pass ghost towns, a dinosaur sculpture park, the famous Wall Drug, and the World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell. You’ll end up in Sioux Falls, one of those small cities that feels a hell of a lot bigger than it is, and a great place to spend a weekend.

Montpelier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Vermont

Annual visitors: 13 million

Why you should visit: More or less everything you’ve heard about Vermont is true: This is a state that takes tremendous pride in its artisan everything, so much so that if you sit down for a meal at one of Burlington’s fantastic restaurants, you’ll likely discover everything from the garnish to the cheese to the chair you’re sitting in was made by some master craftsman in the same zip code. The craft beer scene is unparalleled, a true destination for beer nerds where hazy IPA pioneers The Alchemist holds court alongside legends like Hill Farmstead and the actual Von Trapp family who ensure the hills are alive with lagers. 

Ben & Jerry’s © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s a land of general stores, covered bridges, sugar shacks, ski towns, and vast wildernesses. There is no place where the leaf-peeping is as vivid. It’s exactly what you expect, yet somehow so much more.

Worth Pondering…

My favorite thing is to go where I’ve never been.

The Ultimate Coastal South Road Trip: From New Orleans to Savannah

Discover the sights, sounds, and tastes along this Coastal South road trip

The dog days of summer are the perfect time to embark on a great American road trip.

One such road trip links two of the South’s most historic and poetic cities: New Orleans and Savannah.

Cajun cuisine © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Along the route, explore the Gulf Coast—balmy shores full of quirky beach towns, Cajun culinary magic, and breweries—as well as the white-sand beaches of the Eastern Seaboard between Florida and Georgia.

Pack your sunscreen and bathing suit, and throw on a blues and Southern rock playlist. This weeklong road trip through America’s warmest (both in climate and culture) region awaits.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start your trip in New Orleans

The Big Easy. N’awlins. The Birthplace of Jazz.

New Orleans is one of America’s most storied and with deep French, Spanish, and African roots culturally distinctive cities. As the saying goes, New Orleanians are perpetually either throwing a party or recovering from one. For those seeking revelry, look no further than the French Quarter or Frenchmen Street—the latter is also one of the best places in New Orleans for live music.

Like Las Vegas, New Orleans doesn’t have open-container laws. So snag yourself a daiquiri while you stroll and admire the city’s inimitable architecture, street music, and local characters.

Related article: The Ultimate Deep South Road Trip: Savannah to Charleston

Dine at one of New Orleans’ legendary restaurants—perhaps Commander’s Palace, Arnaud’s, or Galatoire’s.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis is about an hour and a half east of New Orleans.

As with Louisiana, the French colonized these shores in the late 17th century. I recommend taking Highway 90 from New Orleans. This route follows the coastline and is far more scenic than the slightly more expedient Interstate 10.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

After the revelry of New Orleans, Bay St. Louis, a quiet and breezy beach town is the ideal place to catch your breath.

For those interested in blues history visit 100 Men Hall. This hallowed music venue has hosted the likes of James Brown, Etta James, and Muddy Waters. The current owner, Rachel Dangermond continues to host musicians and uses the hall for events in support of coastal Mississippi’s African American community.

The gorgeous Pearl Hotel overlooks the ocean and sits within easy walking distance of the restaurants, beach bars, and ice cream parlors of Bay St. Louis. Right across from Pearl Hotel is The Blind Tiger, a beach bar serving up delicious “royal reds,” deep-water shrimp, a coastal Mississippi delicacy.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gulfport, Mississippi

Driving east from Bay St. Louis, you’ll soon arrive in Gulfport.

Be sure to start the morning with a coffee and plate of biscuits at Fill-Up with Billups, an old-fashioned gas station converted into a diner.

Related article: The Underrated Coast

Boasting a dozen well-known casinos, Gulfport is a popular gaming destination. But if gambling isn’t your thing, Gulfport also boasts world-class charter fishing and is home to Chandeleur Island Brewery.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Biloxi, Mississippi

About 30 minutes down the coast from Gulfport is Biloxi, the Playground of the South.

Long renowned for the abundant shrimp, oysters, and crabs of its warm waters Biloxi suffered tremendous destruction from Hurricane Katrina.

Now, nearly 20 years later, Biloxi is on the rise again with a slew of busy casinos, booming commercial and recreational fishing industries, and killer dining and drinking. If you’ve had your fill of gambling, take a shrimp boat tour with Capt. Mike at Biloxi Shrimping Trip. He takes passengers out into Biloxi Bay to learn about the world’s favorite crustacean.

Mississippi Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Just east of Biloxi Bay, this small town is a leafy artists’ colony that punches well above its weight for dining, coffee, and nightlife. It’s sprawling with live oaks and buildings bedecked with wrought-iron balconies and the old French influence is palpable.

Buccaneer State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ocean Springs comes alive at night. To find a bustling patio bar and live music, just walk up Main Street after dark. Check out Maison de Lu for excellent French-inspired seafood with a Gulf twist. And don’t leave Ocean Springs without getting a cup of joe at Bright-Eyed Brew Co., a local roastery adored by both visitors and locals.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile, Alabama

Continuing east and crossing state lines, Mobile is about an hour from Ocean Springs.

Related article: Experience the Alabama Gulf Coast along the Coastal Connection Scenic Byway

If you have time, keep to coastal Highway 90—it’s a much prettier drive than the inland Interstate 10 as noted previously.

Mobile Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As with New Orleans, Biloxi, and most older Gulf Coast settlements, the French founded Mobile in the late 17th century. Mobile also claims to be home to North America’s oldest Mardi Gras.

Beer aficionados should check out Braided River Brewing Co., a recently opened brewery that’s already garnering national awards.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a sports fan be sure to pay homage to one of the great ones at the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum located adjacent to Hank Aaron Stadium. Aaron was one of the best to ever play this game. Aaron played 23 seasons. He came to the plate almost 14,000 times. He hit .305 with 755 home runs and 6,856 total bases—more than 700 total bases beyond everyone else. The gap between Aaron and No. 2 on the list, Stan Musial, is more than 12 miles worth of bases.

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fairhope, Alabama

Consistently ranked as one of the nation’s coolest small towns, Fairhope is an upscale beach town about an hour southeast of Mobile. With wooden piers stretching out over blue waters, white-sand beaches, and gorgeous architecture, Fairhope is a town that seduces visitors to stay permanently. What’s more, Fairhope boasts some of the South’s best restaurants. Check out Tamara’s Downtown for scrumptious Gulf Coast delicacies.

Fairhope is undeniably posh (golf carts are the preferred means of transportation here). However, it also has a funky side, evidenced by the ample coffee shops, breweries, and the fact that the town once had a flourishing nudist colony.

Tallahassee, Florida

Welcome to the Sunshine State!

Tallahassee is about three hours east of Fairhope. Home to nearly 35,000 college students, Florida’s capital is one of the country’s most notorious college towns. As you would expect with an overpopulation of 18-to-22-year-olds, Tallahassee brims with rowdy bars, late-night eateries, and youthful verve.

Amelia Island near Jacksonville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Jacksonville, Florida

Another 2½ hours of driving will take you from Tallahassee to Jacksonville and the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Jax is the largest city in the U.S. in terms of geographical breadth. It’s also the hometown of Southern rock legends the Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

In Jacksonville, the characteristic form of the Florida beach—that is, powdery white sand against placid, turquoise water—is fully realized. Not to mention that Jacksonville’s beaches are far less crowded than those farther south. For fun in the sun, head to Neptune Beach near downtown Jacksonville.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Savannah, Georgia

Head north up the coast for about two hours to reach Savannah, the final stop on our jaunt through the coastal South. Savannah is one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and boasts some of the most stunning examples of the South’s grandiose pre-Civil War architecture.

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Unlike Atlanta, a city Gen. Sherman burned to the ground during the Civil War, the Union Army spared Savannah its torches—some say because Sherman had a local mistress who convinced him that her city was too beautiful to destroy. Either way, posterity is grateful that Savannah remained intact as the Historic District—with its stately fountains, mansions, and lush public parks—is a national treasure.

Related article: The Perfect Georgia Coast Road Trip

St. Marys, Georgia (just north of the Florida/Georgia state line) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bottom line

Whether your thing is American history, beautiful cities, fabulous cuisine, or gorgeous beaches, the coastal South makes for a fantastic road trip.

This route links the old and superlatively poetic cities of New Orleans and Savannah. It shows you the best of coastal Mississippi, the Gulf Coast, North Florida, and the southern reaches of the Eastern Seaboard.

Worth Pondering…

The journey not the arrival matters.

—T. S. Eliot

Where the Rivers Meet the Sea: Mobile-Tensaw River Delta and Meaher State Park

Second only to the Mississippi River Delta in size, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta is an environmental showplace that is 45 miles long and over eight miles wide

“It is arguably the biologically richest place,” scientist E.O. Wilson said, describing the importance of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta on a global scale. “The delta floodplain forest and swamp, and the area immediately around it including the Red Hills to the north has more species of plants and animals than any comparable area anywhere in North America … it is a place yet completely unexplored, sort of like the upper Amazon.”

Fishing in the Mobile-Tensaw Delta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Delta proper is a vast jungle wilderness where dozens of river channels braid together and twist apart creating hundreds of islands large and small. Those islands and channels are populated with numerous creatures capable of killing a grown man: bears, alligators, bull sharks, bobcats, feral hogs, and five species of venomous snakes.

There are 300 bird species and an untold variety of insects, amphibians, and reptiles. But more than anything, the Delta is the place where all the water running downhill from the rest of the state meets the sea.

Camping at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Mobile-Tensaw River Delta is Alabama’s largest wetland ecosystem and the nation’s second-largest river delta. It is approximately 45 miles long, averages eight miles wide, and contains over 400 square miles of wetland and associated upland ecosystems. The Delta is characterized by a large number of tributary rivers, streams, bayous, and creeks which form a maze of waterways including the waters of the Tensaw, Mobile, Tombigbee, and Alabama rivers.

Related: Mobile Bay: Gateway to the Gulf

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park

A 1,327-acre state park is situated in these wetlands and is a day-use, picnicking, and scenic park with modern camping hook-ups for overnight visitors. Meaher’s boat ramp and fishing pier will appeal to every fisherman. A self-guided walk on the boardwalk will give visitors an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile-Tensaw Delta.

Camping at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher State Park is the perfect access point to this massive natural wonder. Since the Delta empties into Mobile Bay, it is a productive estuary with numerous species of fresh and saltwater fish which makes Meaher State Park an angler’s dream. And, you might also see an alligator or two.

The park offers a 300-foot pier with a 200-foot “T” for your fishing pleasure. Access to the pier is included in the park admission fee. An Alabama freshwater fishing license is required. The most common freshwater and saltwater fish are abundant in the area.

Camping at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There is also a boat ramp with access to Blakeley River located on the east end of the park. Entry is $4 per boat. The ramp is accessible from 7 a.m. until sundown.

You may also choose to walk the park with your camera, binoculars, or even your favorite pet. There is a second boardwalk for walking only where you might see some of the delta’s most unique flora and fauna.

Camping at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meaher’s campground has 61 RV campsites. Each site is paved, roughly 65 feet in length with 20-, 30- and 50-amp electrical connections as well as water and sewer hook-ups. You have a grill and picnic table at your site and plenty of space between you and the next camper.

Related: Marvelous Mobile Bay: Dauphin Island

The campground features an air-conditioned/heated main shower house equipped with laundry facilities and a smaller bathhouse equipped with restrooms only.

Camping at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electrical connections. All of the tent sites have a grill/fire pit and picnic table available. Primitive camping is also offered (group and individual).

The park also has four cozy bay-side cabins (one is handicap accessible) overlooking Ducker Bay.

Meaher State Park is stop #26 on the Coastal Alabama Birding trail guide. This trail will take you on over 200 miles that loop around Mobile and Baldwin counties.

There is a $2 per person park entry fee to enter Meaher State Park for day use only. You might choose to go fishing, hiking, picture taking, birding, etc. If you choose to go boating there is a $4 per boat entry fee. Camping fees vary.

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Area

The Mobile-Tensaw Delta Wildlife Management Area is comprised of a variety of habitats-from flooded hardwood bottoms to freshwater marshes. The area has a variety of habitats for birders to explore.  Located along the east bank of the Tensaw River is an 850- acre parcel comprised of flooded hardwood bottoms along the river to upland hardwoods and pines. Additionally, there is a lake and peripheral freshwater marsh. During the breeding season, common species include a red-shouldered hawk, barred owl, red-eyed vireo, prothonotary warbler, and northern parula. In the summer months, swallow-tailed kites may be spotted flying along the river banks just above the tree line.

Related: Sweet Home Alabama: Mobile

Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5 Rivers Delta Resource Center

5 Rivers Delta Resource Center’s name recognizes the five rivers of the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, which include the Mobile, Spanish, Tensaw, Apalachee, and Blakeley Rivers (from west to east) that flow into Mobile Bay. The Center itself sits on the banks of one of the canals of this vast delta. These drainages encompass over 250,000 acres of meandering waterways, floodplain forests, and extensive wetlands. The center features an exhibit hall, theater, gift shop, Delta boat tours, canoe and kayak rentals, hiking trails, and picnic areas.

USS Alabama Memorial Park on Mobile Bay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s the ultimate place to begin your adventure into over 250,000 acres of scenic waterways, woods, and wetlands. Or, simply soak up the natural beauty and history of the region with plenty to do and see at the facility itself.

USS Alabama Memorial Park on Mobile Bay © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The decks of the Delta Hall and the perimeter trail around the facility provide excellent vantage points to observe birds that are representative of the lower Mobile- Tensaw Delta marsh and waterways. In spring and summer, look for brown pelican, osprey, king rail, marsh wren, and several species of herons and egrets. Occasionally, the least bittern and purple gallinule may be encountered along the margins of the emergent marsh. Painted bunting may also be possible in the thickets near the buildings. In fall, you may see rafts of American white pelicans foraging. In winter, the vegetation along the water’s edge is good habitat for gray catbirds and a variety of sparrows. Across from the Delta Hall are hiking trails that meander through a grove of live oaks.

Related: Going Mobile

Mobile-Tensaw Delta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile Tensaw River Delta Facts

  • Habitats include: Bogs, bottomland hardwoods, freshwater and hardwood swamps, freshwater wetlands, maritime forests, mesic flood plains, pine savanna, riparian buffers, submerged aquatic vegetation, and tidal brackish water marshes
  • It contains one of the most extensive and significant wetlands in the United States and represents one of Alabama’s most intact preserved areas
  • It is one of the few breeding localities in the state for the mottled duck and purple gallinule
  • The Delta plays a vital role in maintaining the area’s ecological balance by filtering impurities from up to approximately 15 percent of the nation’s fresh water
  • The Tensaw and Mobile rivers are named after local tribes that once inhabited the area, the Taensas and the Mauvillas
Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Delta was also the site of the initial settlement of the town of Mobile, established in 1702 by a French expedition led by Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville

Worth Pondering…

In the end, we only conserve what we love.

We only love what we understand.

We will understand what we are taught.

—Baba Dioum, Senegalese poet

The Best States for Snowbird Camping

One of the best parts of the RV lifestyle is the ability to simply follow warm weather wherever it may lead

While the pandemic increased the appeal of camping and outdoor recreation in the last 18 months, Google Trends data confirms that interest has in fact been growing rapidly for longer than that. Overall search interest in RVing was flat or on a slight decline for most of the 2000s and early 2010s. In more recent years, interest has grown rapidly, reaching an all-time high in 2020. Now, search interest in RVing during the offseason is comparable to peak season search interest from a decade ago.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This interest is also apparent across different demographic groups. The population of older Americans and Canadians—who have long been a major segment of the RV market—is growing as more Baby Boomers reach retirement age. But demand for RVs is also strong among Millennials and Gen Z, 49 percent of whom grew up with RVing and tend to be married, educated, and full-time working parents. Around two in five RV owners are aged 18 to 44, showing that camping and RVing have wide appeal.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While overall interest has increased, camping and outdoor recreational activities still follow seasonal patterns with most campers venturing outdoors during the summer months when temperatures are warmer. However, many states have excellent camping options year-round. Southern states from east to the west offer temperate winter climates, less precipitation, and ample natural attractions and parklands to entice outdoor recreation enthusiasts.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

However, there is considerable variance across the Sunbelt states and within each state. For instance in Arizona expect freezing temperatures and snow in Flagstaff and sunny and warm temperatures in Phoenix, Yuma, and Tucson.

Rockport-Fulton, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While there are many factors to consider when determining the best states for warm winter recreation, I selected average maximum temperature, average minimum temperature, average monthly precipitation, and the total land area allocated to parks and wildlife.

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

Weather statistics are long-term averages for December–February, sourced from NOAA, and land area statistics are from the USDA. In the event of a tie, the state with the higher average winter maximum temperature was ranked above.

Related: The Absolutely Best State Park Camping for Snowbirds

Based on the above model, here are the 10 best states for warm winter camping.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Alabama

Composite index: 62.6

Average maximum temperature: 57.7

Mobile, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 35.3

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 5.2

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 548,000

Okefenokee, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Georgia

Composite index: 67.5

Average maximum temperature: 58.6

Cumberland Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 35.9

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 4.3

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 747,000

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. North Carolina

Composite index: 67.8

Average maximum temperature: 51.9

Average minimum temperature: 30.3

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 3.8

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 1,575,000

Related: Parks That Snowbirds Should Explore This Winter

Mainstreet Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. New Mexico

Composite index: 69.9

Average maximum temperature: 49.3

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

Average minimum temperature: 21.2

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 0.7

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 2,720,000

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

6. Nevada

Composite index: 70.5

Average maximum temperature: 42.8

Above Hoover Dam, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 20.7

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.1

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 6,580,000

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Louisiana

Composite index: 74.5

Average maximum temperature: 61.4

Avery Island, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 40.4

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 5.1

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 1,276,000

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. California

Composite index: 79.3

Average maximum temperature: 53.5

Related: 10 RV Parks in the Southwest that Snowbirds Love

Coachella Valley Preserve, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 33.6

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 3.9

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 19,623,000

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Texas

Composite index: 83.3

Average maximum temperature: 59.7

Padre Island, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 34.9

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.6

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 3,167,000

Ajo, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Arizona

Composite index: 85.7

Average maximum temperature: 54.9

Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Average minimum temperature: 29.7

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 1.2

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 7,704,000

Related: What Makes Arizona Such a Hotspot for Snowbirds?

Venice, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Florida

Composite index: 87.5

Average maximum temperature: 69.9

Average minimum temperature: 47.4

Average monthly precipitation (inches): 2.9

Total parks and wildlife area (acres): 3,920,000

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While this model provided useful fodder for further discussion, it yielded both predictable and surprising results. It is no surprise that Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California ranked 1-4, but I had to wonder how North Carolina made the list while South Carolina and Mississippi did not.

Worth Pondering…

As Anne Murray sings in the popular song, “Snowbird”:

“Spread your tiny wings and fly away

And take the snow back with you

Where it came from on that day

So, little snowbird, take me with you when you go

To that land of gentle breezes where the peaceful waters flow…”