Winter 2022-23: 10 Best Things to Do in America

While summer gets all the popular attention—sun, sand, sea, surf, and so on—it’s safe to say that winter is underrated

From fishing and camping to a taste bud tour, RVing with Rex reveals unique and unusual picks for the 10 best things to do in the US this winter. Your RV bucket list just got (a lot) longer.

The best things to do this winter include many hidden gems and unique experiences. You’ll find plenty of tried-and-trued staples too. But, as is my style at RVing with Rex, I tend to embrace under-the-radar spots as well as famous attractions. You’ll likely find things to do that you didn’t even know existed!

Believing the most authentic recommendations derive from personal experiences, the list highlights the places I’ve discovered and explored on one or more occasions. But, no matter where you plan to travel you’re bound to find something unique and fun to do this winter.

Daytona Beach © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Cruise the Atlantic Coast of Florida

Location: Jacksonville to Key West, Florida

Stretching along Florida’s Atlantic Coast from Fernandina Beach to Key West is the iconic A1A highway. The famous route passes through historic towns like St. Augustine before making its way through hotspots like Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Then, stay a few days in Miami before continuing south on the Overseas Highway, a scenic 130-mile stretch of roadway connecting Key Largo to Key West in the Florida Keys.

Kennedy Space Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Discover Outer Space at Kennedy Space Center

Location: Kennedy Space Center Complex, Merritt Island, Florida

Visiting Kennedy Space Center allows you to live out the dream of being an astronaut. You can see the space shuttle Atlantis, meet an astronaut, and watch a space movie in the IMAX movie theater. For true space travel enthusiasts, consider booking one of the add-on enhancements such as the Special Interest Bus Tour or the Astronaut Training Experience. 

Mount Dora © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Wander through Mount Dora

Location: Mount Dora, Florida

Time slows down in this quaint Florida town filled with unique shops and delicious eateries.  Located approximately 45 minutes north of Disney World, Mount Dora is like a real-life Main Street U.S.A. This small town is known for its boutique stores and the downtown area is filled with eateries, tasty coffee, and ice cream shops. Cruise on Lake Dora, sip on a signature cocktail while enjoying the spectacular sunset, and slow down and take in the relaxing atmosphere. 

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Feel the warm desert air in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Location: Ajo, Arizona

The remote Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is a gem tucked away in southern Arizona’s vast the Sonoran Desert. Thanks to its unique crossroads locale, the monument is home to a wide range of specialized plants and animals including its namesake. The park lies near Ajo, 43 miles south of Gila Bend on Interstate 8. This stretch of desert marks the northern range of the organ pipe cactus, a rare species in the U.S. With its multiple stems, the cactus resembles an old-fashioned pipe organ. There are 28 different species of cacti in the park ranging from the giant saguaro to the miniature pincushion.

>> Get more tips for visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Fish and camp at Goose Island State Park

Location: Rockport-Fulton, Texas

Lapping water and Gulf breezes: We must be on the coast! Goose Island offers camping, fishing, and birding along St. Charles and Aransas bays. Camp, fish, hike, geocache, go boating and observe and take photos of wildlife, especially birds. Fish from shore, boat, or the 1,620-foot-long fishing pier. Choose from 44 campsites by the bay or 57 sites nestled under oak trees, all with water and electricity. Every camping loop has restrooms with showers. Be sure to visit the Big Tree which has been standing sentinel on the coast for centuries and has withstood several major hurricanes.

>> Get more tips for visiting Goose Island State Park

Savannah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. Sample the South in Savannah’s Historic District

Location: Savannah, Georgia

Few US city centers match the charm and style of Savannah’s Historic District. Every corner reveals an 18th-century home somehow more picturesque than the last. The area is perfect for strolling aimlessly and stopping for treats (and shade) along the way. Wander down River Street to sample the famous southern pralines at Savannah’s Candy Kitchen or indulge in a Bourbon Pecan Pie martini at Jen’s & Friends. If you’re somehow still hungry, choose from over 100 eclectic restaurants. Then, burn it all off by dancing the night away in Savannah’s buzzing nightlife scene. 

>> Get more tips for visiting Savannah

Usery Mountain Regional Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Experience the magic of the Sonoran Desert at Usery Mountain Regional Park

Location: Mesa, Arizona

Located on the Valley’s east side, this 3,648-acre park is located at the western end of the Goldfield Mountains adjacent to the Tonto National Forest. The park contains a large variety of plants and animals that call the lower Sonoran Desert home. Along with the most popular feature of the park, the Wind Cave Trail, water seeps from the roof of the alcove to support the hanging gardens of Rock Daisy.

Usery Mountain Regional Park offers a campground with 73 individual sites. Each site has a large parking area to accommodate up to a 45-foot RV with water and electrical hook-ups, a dump station, a picnic table, a barbecue grill, and a fire ring.

>> Get more tips for visiting Usery Mountain Regional Park

Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

8. Experience the quaint, seaside town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Location: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

It’s no secret that the farther west you travel along the Mississippi coast, the stronger you’ll hear the call of New Orleans. Once you hit the waterfront in Old Town Bay St. Louis, you might as well be in the French Quarter. Many locals here have New Orleans roots and this little burg is all about letting those bons temps rouler. Its artsy, funky, and quirky yet still peaceful and relaxing, with the unhurried, y’all-come-on-in attitude of a small Southern town: NOLA, meets Mayberry.

In 2010 Bay St. Louis was listed as one of the Top 10 Beach Communities in the U.S. by Coastal Living MagazineBudget Travel magazine named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” in 2013 and Southern Living magazine named Bay St. Louis one of their 50 Best Places in the South in 2016.

>> Get more tips for visiting Bay St. Louis

Fairhope © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Experience Southern Coastal Charm in Fairhope, Alabama

Location: Fairhope, Alabama

Wiry trees draped with Spanish moss frame pastel-painted bungalows in this small Alabama town. Fairhope is perched atop bluffs overlooking Mobile Bay. You can bike oak-lined sidewalks, watch watercolor sunsets, and browse inspiring shops including Page & Palette bookstore and other businesses in the town’s French Quarter near the water.

Explore the piers and meander the parks and beaches—if you’re lucky, you’ll witness the summer jubilee when sea creatures wash up on the beaches by the bucketful. Once you watch a sunset from the Tiki Bar at the American Legion Post 199, you’ll understand Fairhope nostalgia and wonder why anybody would want to live anywhere else.

Breaux Bridge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Discover the Crawfish Capital of the World

Location: Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

A tiny bayou town just a short hop from Lafayette, Breaux Bridge is not only the “Crawfish Capital of the World” per the Louisiana legislature but lays claim to having invented crawfish etouffee. It’s in the heart of Acadian Louisiana with all the fantastic food and music that entails. Cajun dancers have been two-stepping and waltzing around the beautiful old dance floor at La Poussiere since 1955. On Saturdays, Café des Amis serves a Zydeco breakfast with live music downtown.

Breaux Bridge is one cool little Louisiana town where locally-owned shops, Cajun eateries, French music, bayou country, and crawfish all come together. The walkable downtown hub is studded with antique shops, restaurants, and homey cafes. And if you love fishing and boating, you’ll be right at home thanks to the town’s quick access to Lake Martin. For art lovers on a budget, the Teche Center for the Arts has regularly scheduled workshops and musical programming that typically clock in under $10.

>> Get more tips for visiting Breaux Bridge

Worth Pondering…

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.

—Anita Desai

Saintly Cities

There’s more to Halloween than goofy costumes and trick-or-treating. In fact, Halloween is actually a precursor to two other holidays: All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead.

We celebrate Halloween on October 31 each year. Halloween (short for All Hallows’ Evening) is traced back to the Irish and Scottish ancient Celtic holiday Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), a celebration of the end of the harvest season in Gaelic culture.

Halloween is a holiday that promotes fear of the dead but All Saints’ Day and Day of the Dead both celebrate the deceased. The dead (including Catholic Saints) are honored on All Saints’ Day on November 1. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead is a two-day celebration honoring both deceased children and adults. Some Mexicans make it a week-long celebration, beginning on October 28 and ending on November 2.

Since November kicks off with both All Saints’ Day and the Day of the Dead, both celebrated on November 1, I thought that I’d highlight some of America’s cities named for saints.

The Alamo © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Antonio, Texas

The third largest city in Texas, San Antonio (Spanish for Saint Anthony) was founded in 1718 when a mission was established here. For many years, it was the largest city in Texas. Today, this lively city has stayed true to its roots and is rich in culture and history.

San Antonio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visitors can stroll along the River Walk, a city park along the river offering shops, galleries, and restaurants. Of course, the most historic site to see here is the Alamo Mission to learn the history of the Battle of the Alamo. Other attractions include the San Antonio Zoo, Natural Bridge Caverns, and the Japanese Tea Gardens.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

“A Place Apart” Bay St. Louis is a historic beach community with a quaint and funky Old Town. Bay St. Louis has been home to colorful characters, fanciful buildings, and unquenchable community spirit for over three centuries. Bay St. Louis was established in 1699 by French explorers d’Iberville and Bienville. Known for years simply as “the Bay of St. Louis,” the city was incorporated under the name of Bay St. Louis as the first act of the new Mississippi legislature in 1818.

Bay St. Lewis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 2010 Bay St. Louis was listed as one of the Top 10 Beach Communities in the U.S. by Coastal Living Magazine. Budget Travel magazine named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” in 2013 and Southern Living magazine named Bay St. Louis one of their 50 Best Places in the South in 2016.

Bayou Teche at St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Martinville, Louisiana

Bayou Teche, a waterway in south central Louisiana, meanders through St. Martinville where birds wade among cattails, streets are shaded by century-old mossy oaks, and people enjoy fishing, picnics in the parks, and visits to historic museums. The St. Martinville people are descendants of Beausoleil Broussard, an Acadian hero from the 1700s, and Bienvenu and the Duchamp families of French royalty, who fled the revolution.

St. Martinsville © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As one of the oldest surviving towns in Louisiana, St. Martinville retains many buildings and homes reflecting the beautiful architecture of days gone by. The city’s Creole heritage is strongly represented by its inhabitants and is reflected in the cuisine, culture, and customs. Many of the buildings in its historic district are on the National Historic Register.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. Marys, Georgia

Located on the easternmost fringes of the Florida-Georgia line, the city of St. Marys is perhaps best-known as the launching point for those visiting Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s idyllic seaside isles. Though Cumberland’s sprawling sandy beaches and centuries-old ruins are truly a sight to behold, St. Marys is fully capable of holding its own as a fascinating destination packed full of historic landmarks, museums, wild horses, and dining venues.

St. Marys © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Upon arrival, visitors should take a leisurely stroll along the St. Marys Waterfront, a charming promenade complete with a gazebo offering a spectacular view of the river.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Padre Island, Texas

Padre Island is the largest of the Texas barrier islands and the world’s longest barrier island. The island is located along Texas’s southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico and is noted for its white sandy beaches. Meaning father in Spanish, it was named after Father José Nicolás Ballí who owned the island and served as a missionary priest and collector of finances for all the churches in the Rio Grande Valley.

Padre Island National Seashore © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Encompassing 130,434 acres, Padre Island National Seashore is the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of barrier islands in the world. Visitors will find a variety of outdoor things to do including surf fishing, RV and tent camping, world-class flat water windsurfing, wade fishing, surfing, birding, kayaking, and of course relaxing the beautiful white sand beaches of Malaquite Beach. The undeveloped, preserved beaches, coastal grasslands, and wetlands of the Padre Island National Seashore are one of the most scenic coastal areas of the sub-tropical Texas coast.

Quail Creek State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

St. George, Utah

The city was named for 19th-century LDS Church apostle George A. Smith (not the Roman martyr). From 1000 BCE to 1300 CE, Ancestral Puebloans traded their nomadic ways for rows of corn and squash. The Southern Paiutes were settled there when the Dominguez-Escalante Expedition passed through in 1776 and when 300 Mormon families founded a cotton mission in 1861.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park is one of Utah’s Mighty Five national parks and many people travel to the state to see its natural wonders but Utah Dixie offers so much more for outdoor enthusiasts. Surrounding St. George are four superb state parks—Quail CreekSand Hollow, Gunlock, and Snow Canyon—all offering gorgeous scenery and plenty of ways to enjoy nature including hiking, camping, fishing, boating, photography, cliff diving, and swimming.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi means the body of Christ in Ecclesiastical Latin, about the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion. The name was given to the settlement and surrounding bay by Spanish explorer Alonso Álvarez de Pineda in 1519 as he discovered the lush semitropical bay on the Western Christian feast day of Corpus Christi.

Corpus Christi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s no denying that Corpus Christi is one of the most beloved destinations in Texas, and for good reason. However, among the well-known ways to enjoy a day on the bay, Corpus Christi is packed with plenty of hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path surprises. Stroll along a scenic soft sandy beach. Watch sailboats glide on the bay. Step inside a legendary World War II aircraft carrier or tour an aquarium that provides insight into the creatures inhabiting the Gulf. These are among the many experiences you can have when you visit Corpus Christi, the largest coastal city in Texas.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Santa Fe is one of the top destinations in the American Southwest. A city that embraces its natural environment, Santa Fe is a city whose beautiful adobe architecture blends with the high desert landscape. A city that is, at the same time, one of America’s great art and culinary capitals. Santa Fe draws those who love art, and natural beauty, and those who wish to relax.

Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the heart of the city and the place where Santa Fe was founded, the Plaza is the city’s most historic area. Surrounded by museums, historic buildings, restaurants, hotels, galleries, and endless shopping, the Plaza is the place to start understanding Santa Fe.

Colorado River at Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Luis, Arizona

Founded in 1930 and named for the town across the border in Mexico in the state of Sonora, San Luis Rio Colorado. It is named after St. Louis IX. The town’s history is closely associated with the Colorado River which was once the main transportation artery before the advent of the railroads.

Historic Downtown Yuma © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Luis is now considered a suburb of Yuma. Home to a massive military base, Native American Reservations, and some interesting and unique historical sites, the surrounding desert is also one of the country’s produce centers—especially for watermelons and other fruits that are shipped from Arizona farms to markets when most of the country is firmly in winter’s icy grip.

Lockhart State Park near San Marcos © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

San Marcos, Texas

In 1689, Spaniard Alonso de Leon led an expedition from Mexico to explore Texas and establish missions and presidios in the region. De Leon’s party helped blaze the Camino Real (later known as the Old San Antonio Road. De Leon’s party reached the river on April 25, the feast day of St. Mark the Evangelist; the river was thus named the San Marcos.

Conveniently located in Central Texas between Austin and San Antonio, San Marcos truly is the center of everything. So no matter where you are, you won’t have far to go. The San Marcos River bubbles to life from hundreds of springs right in the City’s center. Always a refreshing 72 degrees, the river is enjoyed year round. Grab a tube and go for a float. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddle and navigate its length.

Worth Pondering…

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

—Francis of Assisi

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

Bay St. Louis: A Place Apart

“A Place Apart” Bay St. Louis is an historic beach community with a quaint and funky Old Town

For over three centuries, Bay St. Louis has been home to colorful characters, fanciful buildings, and unquenchable community spirit.

The Bay St. Louis motto is as unique as the city itself: “A Place Apart.”

Bay St. Louis was established in 1699 by French explorers d’Iberville and Bienville. Known for years simply as “the Bay of St. Louis,” the city was incorporated under the name of Bay St. Louis as the first act of the new Mississippi legislature in 1818.

In 2010 Bay St. Louis was listed as one of the Top 10 Beach Communities in the U.S. by Coastal Living Magazine. Budget Travel magazine named it one of the “Coolest Small Towns in America” in 2013 and Southern Living magazine named Bay St. Louis one of their 50 Best Places in the South in 2016.

This far southwest corner of Mississippi appears to have more in common with and oriented more toward Louisiana than the rest of the Magnolia State. Unlike the Deep South with its dominance of Baptist and other protestant churches, here the Roman Catholic Church with its beautiful historic cathedrals and above-ground cemeteries dominate. Local television feeds originate from New Orleans and in the sports memorabilia market Louisiana-based teams are most common.

Touring the area, we drove along the Bay; explored Bay St. Louis and Sister City, Waveland; and wandered the pastel colored buildings and quaint, funky shops of historic Old Town Bay St. Louis including the Depot.

The “Depot,” is a two-story building with mission style design. The train depot (c. 1928), is surrounded by park-like grounds, and once served as the centerpiece of the movie, “This Property is Condemned” starring Robert Redford and Natalie Wood.

The historic L & N Train Depot is designated a “Mississippi Landmark,” and currently houses the Hancock County Tourism, Bay St Louis Mardi Gras Museum, and Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum. Located across from the “Depot” is “Depot Row” which houses several shops and restaurants.

The Mardi Gras Museum currently features a Mardi Gras costume display entitled, “Trains, Tiaras, and Tights: Costumes and Keepsakes of Carter Church.”

Often called the “Costume King,” Carter Church is one of the top costume designers in the U.S. He was a friend and colleague of the renown Russian-born French artist and designer known as Erté, renowned artist of the Art Deco movement, whom he knew in New Orleans and in Paris. Besides frequent comparisons to Erté, he has received 50 Alpha Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Fashion Group International for his designs in the field of couture as well as costume. 

His designer gowns and costumes that have won well over 100 awards. Downsizing from the demanding schedule of creating up to 150 costumes a season from his workshop in Bay St. Louis, he now creates designs and costumes for about a dozen krewes in Louisiana and Mississippi. For Carter Church, Carnival is a way of life.

Driving around downtown Bay St. Louis, we admired the “Heavenly Carved Wooden Angels.” Once beautiful live oaks they are now works of art. Chainsaw sculptor, Dayle K. Lewis transformed the tree trunks into “Angel Creations.” Two of the magnificent  “Carved Angels” stand in the Cedar Rest Cemetery on Second Street; one on Beach Boulevard in front of Our Lady of the Gulf Church, one near Century Hall, two are located on the first block of Demontluzin Avenue. The “Demontluzin Avenue Angel” was used as a life raft by three Katrina survivors and their dog.

Where to Stay: Hollywood Casino RV Park

Hollywood Casino RV Park is big-rig friendly featuring 80 back-in sites and 14 back-to-back pull-through sites. Our site (#73) backed to a treed area on a bayou and is in the 55-60 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV (42 channels). Wi-Fi worked well from our site; no problem locating satellite. All interior roads and sites are concrete. Site amenities include metal picnic table and BBQ grill on concrete slab and garbage canister. As with many other casino RV parks, pay upon check-out.

Hollywood Casino RV Park is located in Bay St. Louis approximately 10 miles south of I-10 (Exit 13).

Worth Pondering…

Traveling is almost like talking with men of other centuries.

—René Descartes

Chasing the Sunshine in Warmer Destinations

Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. Most of all, warm.

The weather is a driving factor in pushing snowbirds from fleeing the falling temperatures and their cold climate and snowy nests following the first winter blast of the season.

Life is good here, pleasant, easy, fulfilling, sunny, warm. That most of all, warm.

Based on our experiences living the snowbird lifestyle, we have identified locations across the US Sunbelt with pleasing, spring-like temperatures and their own unique allure.

St. Marys, Georgia

Average high in February: 65 F

If you’re looking to chase the sun this winter, venture to Georgia, and then go as far south as you possibly can. Once you’ve hit the southeastern-most tip of the state, you have arrived in beautiful St. Marys. This seaside village is the epitome of a winter retreat, where you can fool yourself into thinking its summer as you chow down on seafood at Lang’s Marina Restaurant with a view of the shrimp boats cruising in the marsh.

Snowbirds love to: Take the Cumberland Island Ferry from downtown St. Marys to Cumberland Island National Seashore. Here there are more than 50 miles of hiking trails through maritime forests, and the 1898 Plum Orchard is a fascinating stop along the way.

Ajo, Arizona

Average high in February: 70 F

With its rich tradition as a former copper mining hub, Ajo is a casual town with relaxed charm. Enjoy its mild climate, low humidity, and clear skies. Take in the historic Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in the Downtown Historic District, Sonoran Desert flora and fauna, and panoramic views. Ajo is surrounded by 12 million acres of public and tribal land waiting to be explored.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy the sights and sounds at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument while you take a scenic drive, bike, hike, camp, take part in ranger programs, and bird watch. Thirty-one species of cactus flourish here including the park’s namesake and the giant saguaro.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Average high in February: 66 F

If you dream of spending the winter in a quaint seaside town, consider Bay St. Louis. In Old Town, wander the shops, galleries, and restaurants along Main Street, Second Street, and Beach Boulevard, and check out the municipal pier and harbor, which opened a few years ago. Or wander the L&N Train Depot which houses the Bay St. Louis Mardi Gras Museum and Alice Moseley Folk Art Museum.

Snowbirds love to: Tour the INFINITY Science Center, 72,000 square feet of space, earth science, engineering, and technology content. INFINITY also serves as the official NASA visitor center for Stennis Space Center, NASA’s largest rocket engine test facility.

Mount Dora, Florida

Average high in February: 70 F

Mount Dora is located on the shores of Lake Dora, part of the Harris Chain of Lakes boasting some of the world’s best Bass fishing and other outdoor activities. The town is noted for its crafts, antique shops, historical buildings, and beautiful scenery. Mount Dora enjoys a rich history as “The Festival City” hosting some of the oldest and largest annual events in Florida including art festivals, craft fairs, music and wine festivals.

Snowbirds love to: Take a Cat Boat Tour on Lake Dora and join a Taste of Our Town Tour to nosh on local grub while strolling around town.

Tucson, Arizona

Average high in January: 70 F

Tucson provides a stunning array of possibilities, satisfying culture seekers, outdoor adventurers, and fans of cowboys and cacti. This Southern Arizona city spreads throughout the Sonoran Desert in a valley surrounded by jagged mountain ranges that provide ample scenic backdrops.

Snowbirds love to: Enjoy the city’s many attractions including Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Sabino Canyon, Saguaro National Park, San Xavier del Bac (White Dove of the Desert), Catalina State Park, Kit Peak National Observatory, Tohono Chul Park, Pima Air and Space Museum, and Old Tucson Studios.

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…”