If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in December
Children see magic because they look for it.
In his 2004 book Lamb, acclaimed author Christopher Moore tells the story of Jesus Christ’s childhood through the eyes of Jesus’ fictional boyhood friend Biff. Early on in the story, Biff tells us, “Children see magic because they look for it.”
He recounts how Jesus “shone like a bloom in the desert. But maybe I only saw it, because I was looking for it. To everyone else, he seemed like just another child…”
Because the book is written for adults, this line seems almost like an invitation. We were all children once. Perhaps, as adults, we may still see magic if we look for it.
It’s December which means that as of today you’re officially allowed to hang up Christmas lights without any judgment from your neighbors. Don’t just take my word for it: A recent survey of ~4,000 US homeowners found that December 1 was the day most people identified as acceptable to put up Christmas lights.
OK, but what day is it acceptable to set out the holiday chili to appease Yeetch, the snow creature, so it doesn’t cut all the powerlines in your neighborhood?
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in October and November. Also, check out my recommendations from December 2022 and January 2023.
1. 30 Years of Masa Dreams
The Indio International Tamale Festival taking place every December (30th annual; December 1-3, 2023) is the largest festival in the world dedicated solely to the steamed savory treat. Visitors will see over 300 tamale vendors as well as live entertainment, interactive art spaces, beer gardens, craft stalls, and, of course, the largest-ever tamale. There is also a competition for the best-tasting tamale.
Other bites available at the event include tacos, nachos, carne asada fries, funnel cake, ice cream, and kettle corn. The festival is also known for its carnival rides and—since last year—the World’s Biggest Bounce House for kids and adults alike.
2. Best birding
Arguably among the top birding destinations on the planet, Bentsen–Rio Grande Valley State Park south of Mission, Texas teems with vibrantly hued tropical creatures. You might spot a chachalaca, a great kiskadee, or a green jay, any of which would appear right at home in the Amazon jungle. Climb the two-story hawk observation tower for a spectacular view. Along with more than 360 avian species are bobcats nosing through the brush.
3. Jungle Gardens
Avery Island is known as the birthplace of Tabasco sauce. It’s also home to lush forests, swamps, and a beautiful spot called Jungle Gardens. Wander through azaleas, camellias, and bamboo as you keep an eye out for alligators, raccoons, and deer. Within Jungle Gardens is a bird sanctuary known as Bird City. The sanctuary is the migration site for thousands of egrets, whose nesting season begins in February as well as herons, roseate spoonbills, ibises, coots, and more. Bird lovers can book a tour while others can simply enjoy the scenery.
4. Experience the Great Migration of the Sandhill Cranes as They Return to New Mexico
Celebrate the return of the sandhill cranes at the 34th annual Festival of the Cranes, December 6-9, 2023. Join birding experts from near and far for a chance to learn about Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge and many of New Mexico‘s overwintering birds. The Festival offers over seventy creative workshops in the field at Bosque del Apache and indoor workshops at New Mexico Tech.
The festival celebrates the survival and yearly migration of the enigmatic sandhill crane. The sandhill crane is an ancient species of waterfowl that migrates from Canada and the northern U.S. to winter in the Rio Grande Valley of New Mexico.
Both cranes and snow geese begin arriving in smaller numbers at the refuge in late October. By early December, tens of thousands of cranes and snow geese make the Middle Rio Grande Valley their home until they migrate back north in mid-February.
Sandill cranes can also be seen in large numbers at Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico and Whitewater Draw neat Wilcox, Arizona.
5. Its cool underground
Take a captivating journey to Bisbee, Arizona, a town that once glittered as a copper mining jewel at the turn of the century. Uncover the tale of hidden wealth, chance discoveries, and the rise and fall of this mining community nestled in the Mule Mountains. Explore the depths of the past with the Copper Queen Mine tour where you’ll don a yellow slicker, and a hard hat, and venture into dark, narrow tunnels guided by a former miner sharing gripping stories of Bisbee’s mining heyday.
Beyond the mine, discover Bisbee’s vibrant artistic scene and consider staying at the historic Copper Queen Hotel where history and charm converge.
6. Newspaper Rock
Bears Ears National Monument includes red rock, juniper forests, a high plateau, and an abundance of early human and Native American historical artifacts. The Navajo Nation, Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, Hopi Nation, and other tribes are tied to this land in southeastern Utah.
Native American Indians have been engraving and drawing on Newspaper Rock for more than 2,000 years. Their markings in these ruins tell the stories, hunting patterns, crop cycles, and mythologies of their lives.
Newspaper Rock is located 15 miles west of U.S. 191 along the 41-mile Indian Creek Corridor Scenic Byway (S.R. 211) in Bears Ears National Monument now part of the 71,896-acre Indian Creek unit designated December 4, 2017, by U.S. President Donald Trump.
7. Architectural Digest names Mobile as one of the top 10 winter escapes for snowbirds
Looking at some of the best places for people to travel to avoid the cold, Architectural Digest listed several Alabama cities as among the best little-known places in the country for snowbirds.
Last month, the magazine compiled its list putting Mobile at No. 10 among 75 of the hidden gems in the U.S. for snowbirds or people who travel to warmer parts of the country during the winter.
After Mobile, Huntsville, and Birmingham ranked 23rd and 24th respectively. Rounding out the final three Alabama spots on the list were Montgomery (31st), Tuscaloosa (33rd), and Gulf Shores (38th).
8. The Lady from Twentynine Palms
If this city’s strange name sounds familiar, you might be remembering the Andrew Sisters 1947 tune about a bold young lady who called it home. But although it’s small and far more remote than other popular southern California destinations, Twentynine Palms has a lot to offer.
It’s a gateway city for legendary Joshua Tree National Park whose twisted namesake flora and star-studded night sky are stunners. It’s also just an hour from Palm Springs, of summer film festival fame, a mecca of recreational activities from horseback riding to golf.
Plus it’s deliciously warm and dry in the wintertime although it will cool off at night. (It’s in a desert, after all!)
The Twentynine Palms RV Resort offers 168 full-hookup RV sites as well as a sauna, fitness room, and pool. And according to its website, hardly a day goes by during winter when there isn’t something fun going on in the Clubhouse from ice cream socials to live music.
9. Grand Canyon
Although tourists flock to Grand Canyon National Park in droves from spring through fall every year, the winter and Christmas seasons are some of the best times to visit this famous landmark attraction. With fewer crowds and cooler temperatures in December, you won’t have to worry about cars clogging the most popular destinations or the sweltering heat of Arizona’s summers.
RV camping is available year-round at the Trailer Village RV Park which is located in Grand Canyon Village on the south rim of the South Rim.
The Grand Canyon Railway which is also located in the Grand Canyon Village is a must for anyone visiting the park any time of year but it gets even better at Christmas when it’s temporarily transformed into the Polar Express.
10. Swim with the manatees
When the Gulf of Mexico cools down each winter, hundreds of manatees make for the perpetually 72-degree springs of Kings Bay on Florida’s western coast about 80 miles north of Tampa. The area’s Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge is the only spot in the U.S. dedicated entirely to protecting the distinctively corpulent creatures. Although a few can usually be found swimming through the preserve no matter the season you’re pretty much guaranteed to see dozens if you visit between November and April.
Tours that let people swim with manatees have grown increasingly popular here but if you’re worried about disturbing these gentle giants, you can watch them from the boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs. Marshes, tidal creeks, and the remains of a prehistoric human settlement—possibly the country’s oldest—are worth checking out, too.
Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.
—Dave Barry, Christmas Shopping: A Survivor’s Guide
Wondering where to travel in December? Why not opt for a nature getaway and visit one of America’s National Parks in December!
The national parks are a treasure—beautiful, wild, and full of wonders to see. But there’s more to experience than taking in gorgeous scenery from your vehicle or at lookout points. National parks are natural playgrounds, full of possible adventures.
The most famous offerings of the National Park Service (NPS) are the 63 national parks including Arches, Great Smoky Mountains, and Grand Canyon. But there are 424 NPS units across the country that also includes national monuments, national seashores, national recreation areas, national battlefields, and national memorials. These sites are outside the main focus of this guide.
Which are the best national parks to visit in December? In this guide, I list five beautiful national parks plus six bonus parks and a road trip. Whether you are planning a family getaway during Christmas break or a vacation before the holiday season rolls around, I have lots of great ideas for you.
About this National Park series
This article is part of a series about the best national parks to visit each month. In this series, every national park is listed at least once and many are listed multiple times. It is a series of 12 articles, one for each month of the year.
These articles take into account weather, crowd levels, the best time to go hiking, special events, road closures, and my personal experiences in the parks. Based on these factors, I picked out what I think are the optimal times to visit each park. Since I haven’t been to all of the national parks I include only the parks we have visited on at lease one occasion.
For an overview of the best time to visit each national park, check out my Best National Parks by Season guide. This guide will cover the best time to visit each national park based on these factors. First are the links to my posts about the best parks to visit, month-by-month. This is followed by a list that illustrates the best time to visit each national park based on weather and crowd levels. Please note this overview will be posted following the completion of this 12 month guide in February 2024.
And at the end of this article, I have links to the other guides in my Best National Parks by Month series.
Visiting the National Parks in December
December is a unique month to visit the national parks. The month starts out quiet. Many people are shopping, decorating, and getting ready for the upcoming holidays at the end of the month. This makes early December a very quiet time to visit the national parks.
The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a very popular time for people to travel and the national parks get a big spike in visitors. It’s one of the biggest travel weeks of the year. It can be considerably more expensive to travel the last week of December than the first week of December and camping reservations are difficult to find.
If you have flexibility for your travel dates it’s best to plan your trip for early December or wait until January.
Another thing to note is that in December, the days are the shortest of the year. In some places you may have less than eight hours of daylight. If you are planning long day trips or long, busy days in the national parks keep in mind that by 4:30 pm it could be getting dark giving you very limited sightseeing time. I provide the sunrise and sunset times for each park, a very important detail to note this time of year.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The information I provide for each national park does not include temporary road closures since these dates are constantly changing. Since roads can close in the national parks at any time, I recommend getting updates on the NPS website while planning your trip.
Best National Parks in December
1. Zion National Park
If you have been reading these guides, you might notice by now that I recommend Zion primarily for the shoulder-season months (late fall through very early spring). Zion National Park is the third most popular national parks in the US with over 4.6 milluin visitors in 2022 so for the best experience I recommend it for the months when crowds are at their lowest.
In December, the weather is chilly in Zion but there are several advantages to visiting the park at this time.
Early in the month, not only are crowds lower but you can also drive on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive in your own car. For most of the year, private vehicles are not permitted on this road. December, January, and February are the three months that you can drive on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive (with the exception of the period between Christmas and New Year’s).
Since visitation is low, scoring a permit to hike Angels Landing is also easier.
For those of you who want to visit the park when it is the least crowded early to mid-December is a great time as is January.
Angels Landing and the Zion Narrows are two bucket-list worthy hikes that attract thousands of visitors every year. Angels Landing is one of the most popular destinations in Zion. Everyone who hikes Angels Landing requires a permit. You also need a permit to hike the Narrows from the Temple of Sinawava going upstream in the Virgin River. Since high water may prevent travel in the Narrows, check the park’s current conditions before you start your day.
But there are also numerous short, family-friendly hikes to choose from as well as multi-day backpacking adventures and hikes that require canyoneering experience.
Why visit Zion in December: To avoid the crowds. Early December is one of the quietest times to visit the park in terms of visitation (but crowds skyrocket between Christmas and New Year’s). You can even drive your car on Zion Canyon Scenic Drive since the park shuttle does not operate at this time (except for the week between Christmas and New Year’s).
Weather: The average high is 53°F and the average low is 30°F so Zion is chilly in December. But during periods of unusually warm weather it can get into the 70s.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:40 am and sunset is at 5:15 pm.
Top experiences: Hike Angels Landing, Observation Point, Hidden Canyon, Riverside Trail, Emerald Pools, Weeping Rock, and Canyon Overlook. One of the best experiences in the park is hiking the Zion Narrows.
Ultimate Adventure: In December, you can hike the Zion Narrows from the bottom-up, just be aware that water temperatures are going to be very cold at this time.
How much time do you need? If you like to hike, plan to spend at least 3 to 4 days in Zion National Park. You can do three big hikes (one each morning) or use two of the days for a multi-day backpacking adventure. This also gives you time to explore Kolob Canyons at the northern section of the park.
Grand Canyon National Park is wonderful in December. Yes, it is cold. And yes, it can snow but that makes it even more beautiful.
Winter is sometimes called the secret season at the Grand Canyon. It’s the season when the skies are the clearest, the temperatures are the coolest, and the tourist numbers are at the lowest—meaning it’s an excellent time to visit.
The first thing to know about visiting Grand Canyon National Park in winter is that the North Rim is NOT open to vehicles between October and May. But the South Rim (where the majority of people go anyway) is still fully operational.
December is also a great time to go hiking.
The Grand Canyon is a magical place to visit all year long but around the winter holiday season it becomes even more special.
Why visit the Grand Canyon in December: Crowds are low early in the month and then really pick up between Christmas and New Year’s. The Grand Canyon makes a great winter break destination and you can combine it with Las Vegas or destinations in Arizona such as Sedona or Monument Valley.
Weather: The average high is only 43°F and the average low is 18°F. Snow is also a possibility this time of year. If you hike below the rim, the temperature gets considerably warmer the closer you get to the Colorado River.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 5:10 pm.
Top experiences: Visit the South Rim viewpoints, watch the sunset, hike below the rim on the Bright Angel or South Kaibab Trail, and take a flightseeing tour.
Ultimate adventure: In the winter, hike the South Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails as one big loop. This is a big day hike and only those who are very fit with lots of hiking experience should attempt it.
How much time do you need? I recommend spending three to four days on the South Rim to visit the highlights. Three days gives you enough time to visit the best overlooks on the South Rim, go on a helicopter ride, and spend some time hiking below the rim.
Capitol Reef National Park is full of many wonderful surprises. With an amazing scenic drive, hiking trails that rival those in Zion, rugged, remote areas to explore by 4×4, short, easy slot canyons to hike, and historical landmarks, this is one of my favorite national parks.
Most people drive right through the heart of the park visiting the sights along Highway 24 which are nice. But those who venture farther into the park either on the hiking trails or the backcountry roads are rewarded with incredible views of remote, rugged landscapes.
If you don’t like cold temperatures, you might want to avoid this park (and visit Saguaro instead) but this is a great time to road trip through Utah’s Mighty 5 and have lower crowds.
Why visit Capitol Reef in December: Crowds are low since the weather is so cool. Capitol Reef is a great place to add onto a Utah road trip throughout the month of December.
Weather: In December, the average high is 40°F and the average low is 21°F. There is the chance that light snow can fall in December.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 5 pm.
Top experiences: Drive the 16-mile round-trip drive along Scenic Drive, drive Capitol Gorge Road, hike to Hickman Bridge, and watch the sunset from Sunset Point, hike to Cassidy Arch, and Loop the Fold.
Ultimate adventure: For the ultimate adventure, drive the Cathedral Valley Loop. This rugged, remote district of Capitol Reef National Park is one of the best backcountry experiences in the national parks if you like exploring by 4WD.
How much time do you need? Plan to spend three to four days in Capitol Reef. This gives you enough time to explore and hike the trails in the core of the park (along Scenic Drive and Highway 24) and venture into the backcountry either in Cathedral Valley or by looping the fold.
Canyonlands National Park is made of up several districts. Island in the Sky which is located west of Moab is the most popular district to visit. This is the place to see Mesa Arch, hike to Upheaval Dome, and enjoy the many viewpoints with sweeping views from the top of the Island in the Sky mesa.
The Needles is an awesome place to go hiking. Located farther away from Moab than Island in the Sky, fewer people venture here. But with zebra-striped sandstone spires and a cool slot canyon to explore, this is a unique, less crowded area of the park to visit.
Why visit Canyonlands in December: If you have plans to visit Arches National Park (mentioned next), Canyonlands is well worth adding on to your visit. It will be colder here due to its higher elevation but this is a beautiful park to see with a dusting of snow. For warmer temperatures, spend your time at the Needles District, rather than Island in the Sky (it will be about 5 degrees warmer).
Weather: The average high is 37°F and the average low is 23°F at Island in the Sky. Precipitation is low and typically falls as snow. Even though Canyonlands sits next to Arches National Park it is at a higher elevation so the temperatures are a bit lower here.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 5 pm.
Top Experiences: Visit the overlooks on Island in the Sky, watch the sunrise at Mesa Arch, go hiking in The Needles, drive Shafer Canyon Road, and hike below the rim of the Island in the Sky mesa.
Ultimate adventure: Drive or mountain bike the White Rim Road. This is a 100-mile unpaved road that makes a loop around the Island in the Sky mesa. It takes 2 to 3 days to do this drive. It can be done in the winter but snow can close Shafer Canyon Road and cold temperatures will make camping uncomfortable for some people.
How much time do you need? You need at least two full days in Canyonlands National Park. Spend one day in Island in the Sky and one day in the Needles. But even more time is better if you want to venture deeper into the park.
Arches National Park with its iconic arches and unique rock formations is one of the most recognizable parks in the US. Delicate Arch is the number one landmark to see inside of the park but lots of other wonderful adventures.
Drive Scenic Drive for beautiful views of the park, gaze up at Balanced Rock, hike through Park Avenue, and photograph the Windows Arches and Turret Arch.
The best hike in the park is Devils Garden. You can keep the hike short and sweet, turning around at Landscape Arch. But for those who want to venture farther you can see eight arches in just one hike.
November is another fantastic month to visit Arches National Park.
Why visit Arches in December: For low crowds, at least early in the month. However, I think Arches and Canyonlands makes a great winter break destination since these are fun parks to take the kids. If you have warmer than average days, that’s great, but to see the parks with a little bit of snow is magical especially around the holidays.
Weather: The average high is 42°F and the average low is 24°F. On warmer than average days, the temperature can get into the 60s. There is a chance a few inches of snow can fall in December.
Sunrise & sunset: Sunrise is at 7:30 am and sunset is at 5 pm.
Top experiences: Hike to Delicate Arch, see Balanced Rock and the Fiery Furnace, visit Double Arch, Turret Arch, and Windows Arch, hike Park Avenue.
Ultimate Adventure: Hike the Devils Garden Trail. To reach Landscape Arch, one of the most iconic arches in the park, it is only 1.6 miles round trip. But for the ultimate adventure, continue past Landscape Arch to Double O Arch and Dark Angel and return on the Primitive Trail.
How much time do you need? One day in Arches is all you need to see the highlights but it will be a very busy day. With two to three days, you can visit the park at a more leisurely pace or go off the beaten path.
Temperatures are mild in Joshua Tree National Park in December with the average high coming in about 58°F. This is a great park to escape the cold, wintry conditions and makes a great add-on to a visit to Las Vegas, Death Valley, Palm Desert, or San Diego.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon did not make my December list since it is so cold this month. In December, the high temperature struggles to get above freezing with the average high in the mid 30s and the average low in the teens. Snowfall is likely.
If you don’t mind the cold weather and like the idea of seeing Bryce Canyon with a dusting of snow, December makes a great time to visit this park. It also completes the road trip to Utah’s Mighty 5 since the other four parks made my December list.
Bonus! 4 NPS sites to visit in December
Tumacácori National Historic Park
The oldest Jesuit mission in Arizona has been preserved in Tumacácori National Historic Park, a picturesque reminder that Southern Arizona was, at one time, the far northern frontier of New Spain. The San Cayetano del Tumacácori Mission was established in 1691 by Spanish Jesuit priest Eusebio Francisco Kino, 29 miles north of Nogales beside the Santa Cruz River.
Chiricahua National Monument
The most noticeable natural features in Chirichua National Monument are the rhyolite rock pinnacles for which the monument was created to protect. Rising sometimes hundreds of feet into the air, many of these pinnacles are balancing on a small base, seemingly ready to topple over at any time.
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument contains an imposing four-story building dating from the late Hohokam period probably 14th century and contemporary with other well preserved ruins in Arizona such as the Tonto and Montezuma Castle national monuments. The structure was once part of a collection of settlements scattered along the Gila River and linked by a network of irrigation canals.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
This stretch of desert marks the northern range of the organ pipe cactus, a rare species in the U.S. The organ pipe cactus can live to over 150 years in age, have up to 100 arms, reach 25 feet in height, and will only produce their first flower near the age of 35.
December road trip ideas
The American Southwest
Spend 7 to 10 days road tripping through the American Southwest visiting the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce Canyon (if you don’t mind the very cold temperatures here). This road trip also includes Sedona, Monument Valley, and Antelope Canyon. It can be chilly/cold particularly in the Grand Canyon and Bryce Canyon but some places warm up very nicely midday such as Monument Valley.
If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in December
A merry heart doeth good like a medicine.
—Proverbs 17:22, KJV Bible
This analogy from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs points out the link between emotional and physical well-being: Joy is a powerful emotion as beneficial for an ailing soul as medical treatments are for a sick or injured body. This passage from Proverbs 17:22 suggests that if we possess good cheer, our confidence, laughter, and trust are likely to radiate to those we encounter. Sharing kindness—be it through gifts, singing, rituals, or visiting loved ones—is a worthy and healthy practice this holiday season, and beyond.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in October and November. Also, check out my recommendations from December 2021 and January 2022.
Barrio Viejo, meaning old neighborhood in Spanish, is an area near downtown Tucson that is an important, historical part of the community. This picturesque destination just south of the Tucson Convention Center lies between I-10 and Stone Avenue with Meyer and Main Avenues passing through the center.
The original Barrio neighborhood built between 1880 and 1920 was home to a diverse working class including Spanish, Mexican, Asian, and Hispanic. Using traditional Mexican Village architecture, houses were built of thick-walled adobe with a flat roof, wood beams, and ocotillo, or saguaro cactus ribs, coverings.
Begin your tour of Barrio Veijo at Five Points, the corner of Stone and 18th Streets. Over many decades the houses have been painted bold bright colors with doors/windows becoming works of art. Public buildings also have been treated with the same effect. The Barrio has become a major tourist attraction constantly drawing photographers, artists, and tour groups. In 1978, the Barrio was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Fort Langley, British Columbia
Go for a festive stroll through this charming village in the Township of Langley to experience the best the holiday season has to offer. The picturesque village is often used as a backdrop for many Hallmark Christmas movies, so you’ll definitely feel like you’re a part of one. With twinkling lights brightening up the historic village, it’s like it was made specifically for the small screen.
An Art Deco World Wonder
Hoover Dam, once known as Boulder Dam, is a concrete arch-gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River on the border between Arizona and Nevada. It was constructed between 1931 and 1936 during the Great Depression and was dedicated on September 30, 1935, by President Franklin Roosevelt. Its construction was the result of a massive effort involving thousands of workers and cost over one hundred lives. The dam was controversially named in honor of President Herbert Hoover.
Since about 1900, the Black Canyon and nearby Boulder Canyon had been investigated for their potential to support a dam that would control floods, provide irrigation water, and produce hydroelectric power. In 1928, Congress authorized the project. The winning bid to build the dam was submitted by a consortium called Six Companies, Inc. which began construction on the dam in early 1931. Such a large concrete structure had never been built before and some of the techniques were unproven. The torrid summer weather and the lack of facilities near the site also presented difficulties. Nevertheless, Six Companies turned over the dam to the federal government on March 1, 1936, more than two years ahead of schedule.
Hoover Dam impounds Lake Mead and is located near Boulder City, Nevada, a municipality originally constructed for workers on the construction project about 25 miles southeast of Las Vegas. The dam’s generators provide power for public and private utilities in Nevada, Arizona, and California. Hoover Dam is a major tourist attraction with nearly a million people touring the dam each year. Heavily travelled U.S. 93 ran along the dam’s crest until October 2010 when the Hoover Dam Bypass opened.
Visitors are invited to enjoy a FREE drive through the Live Oak forest to see campsites decorated in lights and join the park rangers at Santa’s Village at the CCC Recreation Hall for holiday crafts, games, hot chocolate around the campfire, and to drop off letters to Santa in the North Pole Mailbox.
Campers who agree to decorate their campsite will CAMP FOR FREE! Reservations for participating sites are available only by contacting the park via email at GooseIslandSP@tpwd.texas.gov. Participating campers may begin arriving on December 16 and are eligible for waived fees on December 16 and 17. Community groups are encouraged to decorate a dark spot.
A Peach of a Water Tower
The Peachoid is a 135 feet tall water tower in Gaffney that resembles a peach. The water tower holds one million gallons of water and is located off Peachoid Road by Interstate 85 between exits 90 and 92 (near the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway). Usually referred to by locals as The Peach and by passing motorists as Mr. Peach or The Moon over Gaffney, the water tank is visible for several miles around these exits. An example of novelty architecture, the Peachoid is one of the most recognizable landmarks for travelers along I-85 between Charlotte, North Carolina, and Atlanta, Georgia.
According to official literature, the Peachoid boldly “sets the record straight about which state is the biggest peach producer in the South. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT Georgia.” Without a doubt, the best-known, most photographed water tank in America. It is painted to match the kind of peaches grown in the area using 20 colors and 50 gallons of paint.
The Heart and Soul of San Antonio
The San Antonio River Walk, or Paseo del Rio, is a public park, open 365 days a year. It is a network of walkways along the banks of the San Antonio River one story beneath approximately 15 miles of downtown San Antonio. Explore by foot along the river’s walking path or jump aboard a river barge for a ride and guided tour. Lined by bars, shops, and restaurants the River Walk is an important part of the city’s urban fabric and a tourist attraction in its own right.
The River Walk winds and loops under bridges as two parallel sidewalks, lined with restaurants, shops, hotels, and more. It connects the major tourist draws from the Alamo to Rivercenter Mall, Arneson River Theatre and La Villita, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the Pearl Brewery.
Or, shop local favorites along the river’s Museum Reach at the historic Pearl. While at Pearl, dine and drink al fresco at The Food Hall at Bottling Department. Further south, immerse yourself in history at the UNESCO World Heritage Site, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park along the Mission Reach.
Holiday Fun and Festivities at Bernheim
At 15,625 acres, Bernheim boasts the largest protected natural area in Kentucky. Bernheim contains a 600-acre arboretum with over 8,000 unique varieties of trees.
With the holidays just around the corner, the Bernheim calendar is full of events to celebrate with nature this December. Except for Christmas Day, Bernheim is open the entire month with activities for every age.
Bernheim’s Holiday Open House takes place on Saturday, December 4 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Visitor Center. Enjoy a festive day shopping in the forest. Browse the selection of gifts, locally-made crafts, Kentucky Proud and Giants merchandise, and other unique gifts for the nature lover in your life. Get in the holiday spirit with hot mulled cider and refreshments, hourly door prize drawings, holiday specials, and a 30 percent discount for Bernheim members.
Gnomes are known the world over. Legend has it they travel and live in the forest freely, seldom seen by humans. Add some seasonal magic to your home this season by joining the Bernheim staff at one of two Forest Gnome Workshops to create this mythical forest character on Saturday, December 4 from 9:30 to 11 a.m., or from 1 to 2:30 p.m. while enjoying some hot cider, treats, and hot chocolate. Make this a family activity and enjoy building your gnome together. Children 13 and under must be accompanied by an adult.
Heaven on Earth
When it comes to standing in awe of nature’s magnificence, it’s hard to beat the Grand Circle Tour—especially the northern arc that carves across southern Utah and encompasses Zion National Park at the western edge and Arches National Park to the east. Of them all, it is Zion that offers outdoor enthusiasts the most varied, seemingly otherworldly terrain. At just under 230 square miles, Zion is relatively small by national park standards, and the park’s most memorable features are found in easily accessible Zion Canyon.
Zion was carved out of the Markagunt Plateau by the Virgin River which carved down a half-mile into the sandstone as it rushed to meet up with the Colorado River exposing rock layers from the middle periods of the earth’s geological history.
The Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is accessible by shuttle bus only from March 15 to October 25 and on weekends in November. Take time to drive the beautiful Zion-Mount Carmel Highway. This 10-mile length of scenic highway sports a series of switchbacks and the Zion-Mount Carmel tunnel en route to Checkerboard Mesa and the park’s eastern entrance.
Besh Ba Gowah Festival of Lights
The City of Globe, Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum presents the 34th Annual Festival of Lights celebration on Saturday, December 3, from 5 to 9 p.m. The festival delights visitors with a beautiful scene, a festive combination of the Southwest holiday tradition of the luminaria lighting combined with the artistry of American Indian cultural presentations.
This year’s festival will feature 4,000 real candle luminarias illuminating the archaeological park’s partly reconstructed 800-year-old Salado culture ruins. Guests are encouraged to walk among the luminarias and experience the magic of the season. The warm glow of the luminarias creates a dramatic backdrop for cultural presentations by the internationally renowned Yellow Bird Productions.
Yellow Bird is a family dance group under the direction of Ken Duncan, a member of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. The group specializes in cultural presentations that celebrate the unique spirit of American Indians. Presentations will run periodically throughout the night until the festival concludes at 9 p.m.
The Besh Ba Gowah Museum will be open to visitors for the duration of the event and guests are welcome to view the exhibits and browse the unique items available in the gift store.
The event will also have food trucks offering a variety of delicious treats and local specialty merchandise vendors.
Admission to the event has always been free although non-perishable food donations are encouraged in support of the Gila Community Food Bank.
Since parking for the event fills up fast a free shuttle service is available. The shuttle will run every 15 minutes from 4 p.m. until the last call at 9 p.m. Shuttle parking is located at Globe High School, 437 S. High Street.
Make it a fun-filled weekend by also attending Historic Downtown Globe’s First Friday, December 2. Globe’s First Fridays, from 3 to 7 p.m., have become a hugely popular monthly event that showcases local businesses, restaurants, artists, musicians, makers, bakers and more!
Schmeckenfest is a wassail tasting and Christmas extravaganza in La Grande, Texas. Celebrate 16 years of Schmeckenfest on Thursday, December 1 from 5-8 p.m. A true community event, it also attracts visitors to the Square to sample many different types of wassail (hot cider) made by various business owners and community leaders in which participants hope to win the coveted honor of being named Schmeckenmeister.
This small-town Christmas festival also includes music, delicious treats sold by local nonprofit organizations, a Christmas parade, the lighting of the County Christmas tree on the Courthouse lawn, children’s activities, and a visit from Santa. There are numerous Christmas card-worthy photo opportunities around the Square as well as pictures with Santa.
Always maintain a kind of summer, even in the middle of winter.
Another strange year is coming to an end, but by now, hey, strange is normal. Nothing left to do but make the best of it. And despite 2021’s best efforts, December still means twinkling lights, powdery precipitation, and magic of all kinds.
We’ve got national parks to explore, winter road trips, a UFO site, amazing destinations, and new wine destinations for when the festivities get too much. ‘Tis the season for it!
Keep in mind that winter driving requires its own set of precautions: the more majestic the conditions, often the more dangerous the road especially when navigating unfamiliar routes. Stock your ride with a basic winter survival kit containing a flashlight, batteries, blankets, snacks, water, gloves, boots, and a first-aid kit. (Tire chains, an ice scraper, jumper cables, and road flares couldn’t hurt either.)
Just like road-tripping takes on a different sheen in the winter, so too do national parks. Some, like Zion, are more breathable without the crowds. Some, like Death Valley—aka the hottest place on Earth—shine brightest in these cooler temperatures. Everglades not only has thinned-out crowds and pleasant air temps hovering in the 70s but also fewer bugs and lower water levels which make for better bird and reptile viewing.
Few national parks boast the mythical and mystical quality of Joshua Tree. Massive boulder piles, bleached sand dunes, and Dr. Seussian yucca forests spread across hundreds of square miles of the desert are an otherworldly sight to behold.
And then there are the parks that lean into the frostiness of the season. Mount Rainier in Washington sees upwards of 50 feet of snowfall per year, perfect for winter sports and backcountry snowshoeing and camping. The hoodoos of Utah’s Bryce Canyon become otherworldly when dusted in snow.
In Lassen Volcanic the snowpack often lasts more than half the year and recreation opportunities include sledding, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing/snowboarding, and joining a ranger-led snowshoe walk. Denali, in Alaska, is a top-tier destination for the northern lights as is Glacier National Park in Montana. Can you feel it? Winter magic is coming.
Trails to discovery
The arrival of winter means a reduction of tourists (and traffic) in many popular destinations, so it can be the ideal season to explore America’s open roads. Plus, driving through a sparkly white winter wonderland is the perfect activity to set the mood for the season.
With 31 historic covered bridges, Indiana’s Parke County is known as The Covered Bridge Capital of the World. The vibrant red bridges—many built in the 1800s and still in use—cross rivers and streams contrasting gorgeously with snow-blanketed meadows.
The Blue Ridge Mountains are arguably the prettiest peaks in the eastern United States and Skyline Drive carries travelers right along their crest offering panoramic views over the frosty valleys below. It’s the only public road through Shenandoah National Park but parts of Skyline Drive may close during inclement weather conditions.
The Alabama Coastal Scenic Byway connects the people and places in coastal Mobile and Baldwin counties and showcases the rich culture and flavor of Alabama’s Gulf Coast region. You’ll discover beautiful beaches, authentic downtowns, wildlife preserves, historic sites, and the freshest seafood in the state.
The truth is out there
Perhaps the most notable UFO crash in American history went down on the night of June 14, 1947. A farmer named Mac Brazel was driving around about 80 miles outside Roswell when he came across a flaming heap of rubber, foil, and sticks. He contacted local authorities who contacted the military who came to the site and publicly declared that a flying saucer had landed in Roswell.
The country was whipped up into a frenzy and soon after, the government changed its tune and redesignated the UFO a “weather balloon.”
Though Roswell may not have truly been the land of first contact, the town has since leaned into notoriety and become the greatest alien-themed town on the planet. It’s home to the International UFO Museum and Research Center and has a McDonald’s shaped like a UFO. The city hosts an annual UFO Festival that’s become a pilgrimage for self-proclaimed “UFOlogists.” Whether you believe in aliens or not, Roswell is an utterly fantastic, highly kitsch slice of Americana.
Bucket list destinations
There are plenty of amazing destinations in our own backyard. To help whet your appetite I’ve rounded up just a few to get you started.
The distinctive Spanish Moss-draped trees, antebellum homes, and horse-drawn carriages help to give a relaxed and comfortable feel. Much of Savannah‘s charm lies in meandering through the Historic District’s lovely shaded squares draped in feathery Spanish moss—all 22 of them.
If you delight in gazing at towering red rocks or driving through rugged canyons, then go to Sedona. If you admire exquisite art or are captivated by amazing architecture, then go to Sedona. Of all the places to visit in the Southwest, Sedona may be the most beautiful.
Monument Valley is one of the most enduring and definitive images of the American West. Eons of wind and rain carved the red-sandstone monoliths into fascinating formations, many of which jut hundreds of feet above the desert floor.
Avery Island is the home of Louisiana’s iconic hot sauce: Tabasco. See how it’s made during a factory tour, pick up a few souvenirs at the Tabasco Country Store, and tour the island’s Jungle Gardens.
Toast to the season in wine country
Do you know what’s also great around the holidays? Wine! But there’s no need to hit Napa or Sonoma Valley in California to taste the sweet nectar of Bacchus; there are actually 250+ American Viticultural Areas in the US—some probably near you—where you can revel in adult grape juice.
In the Sierra foothills, Amador County was once identified almost exclusively with zinfandel. During the past 20 years, vintners have begun producing a diverse array of varieties especially those of Italian and southern French origin. While zinfandel, with over 2,000 acres, remains Amador’s signature variety, the region’s wineries also produce superb examples of Barbera, Sangiovese, sauvignon blanc, and syrah; limited bottlings of pinot grigio, Verdelho, Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Aglianico and tempranillo; lovely rosés made from a wide variety of grapes; exceptional dessert wines made from muscat grapes; and port-style wines made from zinfandel and traditional Portuguese varieties.
When it comes to wine country, Arizona doesn’t usually come to mind. But the Verde Valley near Sedona offers the dry climate and access to water that grapes need to thrive. If you’re a lover of vino, consider taking a day to follow the Verde Valley Wine Trail; this self-guided tour takes you to several of the area’s most popular wineries including Alcantara Vineyards, Page Springs Cellars, Oak Creek Vineyards, and Javelina Leap Vineyard as well as numerous tasting rooms of Cottonwood.
And north of the border in British Columbia is one of North America’s most overlooked wine regions: the Okanagan Valley. The Okanagan is home to nearly 200 wineries and more than 8,600 planted acres. The valley runs north/south for 150 miles following a chain of lakes bordered by low hills and stepped benches. The last ice age glaciers deposited a mix of gravel, silt, and sand; subsequent erosion has created large alluvial fans on which crops are grown.
And if you’re the RV sort, the boozy world is your oyster, as there are quite a few wineries, breweries, and distilleries that will let you camp out on their property and partake of their product (no drinking and driving here!).
Stay safe out there and don’t forget to check the air pressure in your RV tires. It’s so important.
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Explore the guide to find some of the best in December camping across America
But where should you park your RV? With so many options out there you may be overwhelmed with the number of locales calling your name.
Here are 10 of the top locations to explore in December. RVing with Rex selected this list of 5 star RV resorts from parks personally visited.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly RV park recommendations for the best places to camp in October and November.
Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia
Coastal Georgia RV Resorts offer 105 spacious sites, all 35 feet wide with lengths ranging from 60 to 70 feet. Most sites are pull-through with full hookups including 30 and 50 amp service and tables. The Resort’s roads are all paved. Fire rings are available at the Pavilion. Amenities include a game room, conference room, two bathhouses, two laundromats, a dock, and a store where you can find RV supplies as well as LP gas.
The resort also offers a swimming pool, horseshoe pits, and shuffleboard courts. Cable TV and Wi-Fi are included. From I-95 (exit 29) and US 17, go ½ mile west on SR-17, turn left onto US-17 south for ¼ mile, turn east onto Martin Palmer Dr for 1 mile and enter straight ahead.
Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona
All RV sites at Palm Creek are back-ins with a minimum of 50 feet in length and 40 feet in width. All sites come equipped with patio pads and full hook-ups, including 50-amp electric service, cable TV, water, sewer, and Wi-Fi service.
Amenities include championship Par-3 golf course, four swimming pools, and Jacuzzi tubs, on-site bistro, pickleball, and tennis courts, lawn bowling, softball field, fitness center, ballroom, four laundry facilities, and nine dog parks.
Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island, South Carolina
Edisto Beach State Park offers access to the Atlantic Ocean and beach. It also provides access to the saltwater marsh and creeks. An environmental education center highlights the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE Basin. The trails wind through Edisto Island’s maritime forest of live oak, hanging Spanish moss, and palmetto trees. During your walk, you may see white-tailed deer, osprey, or alligators.
112 RV and tent camping sites with water and 20/30/50 amp electrical service is available ocean-side and near the salt marsh. Complimentary Wi-Fi is available for park guests near the office area and in the Wi-Fi room located adjacent to the office.
Eagle’s Landing RV Park, Holt, Florida
Big rig friendly with 100 foot long pull-through sites and utilities centrally located. This 5-star park is easy-on, easy-off, a pleasant place to stop for a night, a week, or longer. It’s a great place to stop while traveling east or west on I-10 (Exit 45) or visiting northwestern Florida. This park is not listed in Good Sam.
Reunion Lake RV Resort is a gated resort with top-rated facilities and service and all-concrete roadways. Built around a scenic lake the park offers an adult pool with a swim-up bar, poolside cabanas, a lazy river with tiki bar, giant hot tub, fitness center, family pool, basketball and pickleball courts, fenced-in dog park. Our Premium pull-through site will accommodate any size rig.
Jamaica Beach RV Resort, Galveston, Texas
Jamaica Beach RV Resort is across the street from the beach on Galveston Island with wide-open views of the Gulf. The park offers 181 pull-through sites with full hookups, concrete pads, a picnic table at every site, and all-inclusive amenities like a 700-foot-long lazy river.
Other park amenities include a relaxing beach pool, family pool, indoor infinity hot tub, outdoor hot tub, splash pad, three laundry facilities, three shower houses, and pickleball courts.
Hollywood Casino RV Park, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Hollywood Casino RV Park offers tranquil beauty of the outdoors with waterfront views and on-site shuttle service to the casino with three restaurants. The park is big-rig friendly featuring 80 back-in sites and 14 back-to-back pull-through sites. Our site backs to a treed area on a bayou and is in the 55-60 foot range with 50/30-amp electric service, water, sewer, and cable TV.
All interior roads and sites are concrete. Site amenities include a metal picnic table and BBQ grill on a concrete slab and garbage canister.
Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California
A new facility, Pala Casino RV Resort offers 100 full-service sites with grass lawns and picnic tables. Site selection includes 30 feet x55 feet back-in sites, 30 feet x 60 feet luxury sites with barbecue grills, and 30 feet x 70 feet pull-through sites. Amenities include 20/30/50 amp power, water, and sewer hook-ups, free Wi-Fi, cable TV, restrooms and showers, heated swimming pool, two spas, fenced dog park, and 24-hour security patrol.
Pala Casino RV Resort received top marks from Good Sam in every category including facilities, restrooms and showers, and visual appearance. The resort is located on SR-76, 6 miles east of I-15.
CreekFire RV Resort, Savannah, Georgia
About 20 minutes west of Historic Savannah, Creek Fire is a new RV resort conveniently located ½ mile west of Interstate 95 at Exit 94. The park offers 105 RV sites, all suitable for big rigs. Site options include back-in and pull-through, gravel, and concrete. Interior roads are asphalt. Each site offers 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, and sewer centrally located.
The park is adding 100+ new sites, two new pool features, a rally building, pool bar, and restaurant, market, and gym. Resort amenities include canoe, kayak, and boat rentals; a 1-mile nature trail around the lake, a tennis/pickleball court, bocce ball, and full shower and laundry facilities.
CreekFire RV Resort opened in October 2017 with 105 sites, two park models, and seven cabins. Two years after opening, CreekFire was already expanding with another 100 RV sites planned.
Alamo Lake State Park, Wenden, Arizona
Nestled in the Bill Williams River Valley away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Alamo Lake State Park offers outdoor fun, premier bass fishing, rest, and relaxation. The park offers a number of campgrounds with varying amenities.
Campground A offers 17 basic sites with both back-in and pull-through sites. Campground B has expanded to 42 mixed-amenity sites. Campground F has 15 full-hookup sites. Campground C offers 40 water and electric sites. Dry camping is located in Campgrounds D and E and each site have a picnic table and fire ring. There are convenient vault and chemical toilets located throughout the campgrounds. The park is located 37 miles north of Wenden.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.
If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are my picks for the best places to RV in December
December is a popular time to travel, whether for a getaway before the holidays, a road trip to seasonal markets, or simply a city escape combined with some shopping for presents.
This month we’ve chosen to share an old-fashioned Christmas, two Sonoran Desert state parks, and a Cajun Christmas that just might give you the winter wonderland experience you need! Take a look and then plan a trip to one (or all) of these amazing destinations!
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out my monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in September, October, and November. Also, check out my recommendations from December 2020.
My Old Kentucky Home Hosts an Old-Fashioned Christmas
Guides in Victorian hoop skirts and gentlemen in tailcoats sing the song “My Old Kentucky Home,” on your tour of Kentucky’s most famous landmark decorated for Christmas, My Old Kentucky Home! The mansion is adorned and decorated with six beautiful 12-foot tall Christmas trees each with a unique Kentucky theme.
Learn the origins of the Christmas tree, how mistletoe became famous for exchanging kisses, the tradition of the yule log, the history of the Christmas pickle, the legends of Father Christmas and Santa Claus.
As you move forward to each room, experience a different era of Christmas starting from colonial times, the early and late Victorian periods, all the way to the roaring 20s when the mansion was last owned by the Rowan family. Tours are on the hour and the last tour begins at 4:00 p.m.
From twinkling holiday lights to magical visits with Santa, escape to the coastal community of Jekyll Island on Georgia’s Golden Isles for an enchanted holiday season. You’ll find plenty of fun things to do, exciting celebrations, and hands-on experiences for everyone in the family.
Set among the Golden Isles, Jekyll Island was settled in 1733 as the Georgia Colony and was later known as the playground for the rich and famous. The Federal Reserve System was planned at the Jekyll Island Club which was also the site of the first transcontinental phone call. Club Members included such prominent figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, Marshall Field, and William Rockefeller. In 1904, Munsey’s Magazine called the Jekyll Island Club “the richest, the most exclusive, the most inaccessible club in the world.”
The island is home to more than half a million lights during the Holly Jolly Jekyll season. The Great Tree alone has more than 35,000 which is more per square foot than the New York City Rockefeller Center Christmas tree!
Plan to attend the light parade on December 4, holiday fireworks on December 11 and 18, and a special drive-in movie presentation of Frosty the Snowman on December 12 and 19, 2021.
See holiday lights from November 26, 2021, through to January 2, 2022.
Hop aboard Jekyll’s jolliest trolley with Holly Jolly Light Tours. The whole family can sit back, relax, and view festive displays from Beach Village to the Historic District. Along the way, sip on seasonal beverages and sing along to iconic carols and tunes.
Sabino Canyon, Arizona
Looking for a place to get outdoors that offers easy and challenging trails? Sabino Canyon is that place. On the northeast edge of Tucson, Sabino Canyon offers a variety of terrain including a paved path for the lighter option or miles of rugged ground to explore.
In the eastern foothills of the Santa Catalina mountain range, Sabino Canyon is a world of natural beauty. Stunning vistas, the freshness of the morning air, the tranquility of running creek water, and the rugged backdrop of Thimble Peak make this place so unique.
During the rainy season, some trails will have you sloshing through creeks. But if you’re looking for something easy on the feet, there’s always the option of riding the narrated, educational tram tour, which affords visitors a close-up of the stunning canyon views.
Home of the Manatee
Crystal River and Florida’s Citrus County, located on the Gulf of Mexico, are an easy drive from Orlando and Tampa yet a world away from Florida’s busy theme parks and beaches. This is Florida in its natural state and nothing quite defines the natural wonders of Florida like the manatee. Crystal River and Homosassa are among the only places in the world where you can swim with manatees in their natural habitat.
More manatees gather in the waters of Crystal River and nearby Homosassa than anywhere else in Florida giving it the name The Manatee Capital of the World. As many as 1,000 manatees—one-sixth of Florida’s manatee population—shelter in the 73 degree clear springs here each winter.
Swim with Manatee Tours and “Dry” tours—tours where you don’t get in the water—get you close to these amazing mammals on the water while Three Sisters Springs Refuge and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park provide an amazing up-close view from land.
Three Sisters Springs is a preferred refuge of wintering manatees during Manatee Season (November 15 to March 31) with a record 528 manatees recorded on December 27, 2014. A boardwalk circling this one-acre springs complex allows for incredible views. The 57-acre site also features restored wetlands that attract birds and other wildlife.
Manatees can be seen year-round at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park dedicated to Florida’s native wildlife. See manatees, Florida panthers, American alligators and crocodiles, and many other species of birds, reptiles, and mammals at this amazing Park centered around beautiful Homosassa Spring. An underwater observatory called “The Fish Bowl” presents an incredible underwater spectacle of manatees and swirling schools of fish.
Colonial Williamsburg: Grand Illumination
Williamsburg will have holiday lights and decorations spread all over the city but a great place to get a walking tour filled with seasonal touches is to head to Colonial Williamsburg’s Dukes of Gloucester Street. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of what Franklin D. Roosevelt described as “the most historic avenue in all America.” This historic attraction serves festive treats at their colonial-era restaurants including warm spiced cider. The stately colonial homes are decked out in traditional holiday touches such as fresh greenery and fruit.
In addition to classic decorations, Colonial Williamsburg hosts several historic seasonal events. Their biggest event, the Grand Illumination, celebrates the holiday season on three weekends, December 3-5, 10-12, and 17-19. Yuletide entertainment will include favorite holiday traditions as well as new additions to the festivities.
On Friday evenings, join the new Procession of the Yule Log and enjoy holiday songs and stories on Market Square. Saturday evenings will include a dramatic presentation of an original holiday story, music, and appearance by Father Christmas, culminating in simultaneous Grand Illumination fireworks displays over the Governor’s Palace and Capitol building.
This Phoenix-metro adjacent park sits at the base of the fabled Superstition Mountains and offers a wide variety of outdoor recreation possibilities. Hike to your heart’s content into the wilderness, or kick back in a spacious campground and take in the picturesque views. The potential for an unforgettable outdoor experience is high here…Plan a trip this winter and see for yourself!
Entering the enchanting Okefenokee Swamp—one of Georgia’s seven natural wonders—through Stephen C. Foster State Park presents an incredible display of diverse wildlife, unique scenic views, and rousing outdoor adventure. Canoeing or kayaking through the swamp is the park’s main attraction.
It’s an otherworldly experience gliding through the reflections of Spanish moss dangling from the trees above. Turtles, deer, wood storks, herons, and black bears are a few of the countless creatures you may see here but the most frequent sighting is the American Alligator. Nearly 12,000 are estimated to live in the area.
Daytime, nighttime, and sunset guided boat tours of the swamp are available and you can rent canoes, kayaks, or Jon boats at the park office.
Stephen C. Foster State Park is Georgia’s first International Dark Sky Park. So you can gaze up at the stars and see the Milky Way with minimal light interference. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a meteor dashing across the sky. The park offers 66 RV and tent campsites as well as nine two-bedroom cottages that can hold 6 to 8 people. Stays at the Suwannee River Eco-Lodge are also popular, with full kitchen cottages that have screened porches and beautiful views of the forest.
Catalina State Park
Tucson’s answer to a metro-adjacent park experience is Catalina State Park. It’s so easy to enjoy the desert beauty here for a day, or even more, after booking a spot in the campground! Pick a trail and start exploring…There are plenty of options for beginning and experienced hikers to find adventure within this Sonoran Desert icon. Winter months bring a ton of migratory birds to Catalina and recently this park was internationally recognized as an Important Birding Area!
Cajun Country in Louisiana celebrates the holidays just like the rest of the nation however they like to throw in some Cajun holiday traditions that make for a merry ol’ time!
Lafayette rings of zydeco beats throughout the holiday season at their annual Cajun & Creole Christmas Celebrations. The celebrations include everything from Christmas markets, concerts, local eats, holiday window displays, caroling, and a Movies in the Parc season finale.
You’ll want to check out Noel Acadien au Village in Lafayette to view more than 500,000 lights illuminating the night, lighted displays, carnival rides, local cuisine, and photos with Santa.
The historic living history village of Vermilionville hosts Old Time Winter at Vermilionville, an event where families can see what winter traditions in the Cajun Country of yesteryear looked like. Meet Papa Noël, decorate cookies, and make bousillage ornaments.
Watch Vermilionville’s artisans as they demonstrate winter traditions of the Acadian, Creole, and Native American cultures such as open-hearth cooking and making candles, soap, and natural decorations.
Head to Savannah—Georgia’s first city, founded in 1733—and succumb to the Gothic charms (iron gates, massive, moss-covered oak trees) that have enchanted writers such as Flannery O’Connor and John Berendt (You can tour the sites made famous from his book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, such as the Mercer Williams House and the Bonaventure Cemetery).
Spend a few nights at CreekFire Motor Ranch, Savannah’s newest RV park, and take your time wandering this many-storied city. About 20 minutes west of downtown Savannah, you can have fun and excitement when you want it—and relaxation and solitude when you need it.
Taking a tour around Savannah in a horse-drawn carriage is a fun way to see the city. It’s one of the most popular Savannah tourist attractions. They also have a guide that will tell you about the unique landmarks and about all of the historic homes you pass.
If you tack an additional 20 minutes onto your journey, you can check out laid-back Tybee Island with its tiny cottages, five miles of tidal beaches, the tallest lighthouse in Georgia, and camping at River’s End Campground.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.
The seven best destinations for RV travel this December from Southern California to the Sunshine State
September, October, November, and December are where the names that derive from gods as people end and numeric-naming conventions begin. Thanks to the Roman rearranging the numeric names don’t correspond when the actual month appears on the calendar. Decem is Latin for the tenth month.
But in 46 B.C., the beginning of the Julian calendar bumped each of those months backward to create the calendar we all know and use today. Good thing the Roman Empire fell so they could stop moving months around.
Forget summertime: December just might be the best time of year to travel. There are the Christmas classics.
Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in September, October, and November. Also check out our recommendations from December 2019.
The Grand Canyon State is a place where you’re amply rewarded for looking beyond the obvious. You’ll find dramatic geology beyond the Grand, rivers beyond the Colorado, and ancient ruins that you’ve probably never heard of. You may equate Arizona with desert but much of the state is mountainous and its home to six national forests. You won’t want to miss the mighty canyon in the state’s far north, but venture farther afield and you’ll find gentler canyon country near Sedona, mountain hiking near Phoenix and Tucson, and some ancient dwellings that are still inhabited.
You’re picturing white sandy beaches, and you’re not wrong: Florida has endless miles of picturesque sand. But it also has countless opportunities for adventure and discovery of Florida’s natural wonders. Everglades National Park, on the southern tip of the state, is the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. and an absolutely otherworldly landscape full of rare plants, alligators, and birds. The Keys are paradise for wreck diving while the interior of the state is full of crystal-clear springs ready for swimming and hiking and biking trails that meander through cypress forests.
Texas is divided into numerous climatic zones. Each zone has its own weather patterns. During the winter, most RV travelers choose the Texas Gulf Coast, Central Texas, or South Texas. The Gulf Coast and Central Texas typically have daytime highs in the 60s during the winter months, while highs average around 70 in the southernmost parts of the state. Houston, San Antonio, and Corpus Christi have RV parks that are open year round. From Brownsville to Mission the Rio Grande Valley welcome thousands of Winter Texans looking for a warm winter home.
Well-known for weather that remains balmy year round, Southern California is an ideal winter destination for RV travelers. Temperatures in San Diego and Los Angeles rarely drop much below 70 degrees and precipitation is minimal. The beaches are open, as are all of the region’s attractions. Note that Southern California is a popular winter destination for travelers of all types, not just those in RVs. Expect crowds and high prices throughout the winter season.
Alabama Gulf Coast
The Alabama Gulf Coast is warmed by sunshine, history, culture, and unspoiled natural beauty. You’ll find 32 miles of sugar-white sand beaches made almost entirely of fine, quartz grains washed down from the Appalachian Mountains thousands of years ago. Once you visit the Gulf Coast area of Baldwin County, you quickly realize these are some of the finest beaches in the world and one of America’s hidden gem locations. You’ll yearn to return year after year to feel the sand between your toes, splash around in the turquoise water, smell the salty air and admire the jaw-dropping sunsets of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.
Tucson is a city set in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona. The city is surrounded by several mountain ranges, such as the Santa Catalinas. You’ll find a strong historical heritage here with a number of restored historic mansions in the El Presidio and Barrio Historic Districts. The University of Arizona is based here and the area around campus has many unique shops, a variety of nightclubs, and quality restaurants. Saguaro National Park is easily accessible and offers stunning desert vistas with saguaro cacti. Winter is somewhat busy in Tucson with mild temperatures compared to much of the year.
Eat your way through the Barbecue Capital of Texas. Lockhart is home to three of Texas’ most legendary barbecue joints: Kreuz Market (go for the sausage, stay for the smoky pork chops), Black’s BBQ (dinosaur beef rib, anyone?), and Smitty’s Market (lines form for a taste of its shoulder clod, brisket, hot links, and pork ribs). Why not try all three in a day? If you are a Texas BBQ enthusiast, all roads should go through Lockhart.
Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Embrace the magic this holiday season in a warm destination
As a whole, the month of December is a whirlwind. Even as the chaos of Thanksgiving weekend begins to fade, the world is already preparing for the end-of-year holiday season.
Balancing the frenzy of shopping and family time can be daunting, but those who manage to squeeze in time to get away, will find warm weather, seasonal festivals, and beautiful landscapes in which to cap off another great year of RV travel.
December marks your last chance to cash in on this year’s
travel resolution before they reset in the New Year, so let the magic of the
season take you to a place near or far in your RV.
Looking to make plans for RV travel in January, February, or March in the New Year? We’ve got you covered with those recommendations, too. And be sure to catch up on all our recommendations for the best places to visit in September, October, or November.
Rockport is known as “The Charm of the Texas Coast” and for
good reasons. A winter hamlet that is a relaxing getaway year-round,
Rockport-Fulton is known for its signature trees, clusters of giant ancient
oaks sculpted by the Gulf Coast winds.
Despite its small town status there are plenty of things to
do. There’s fishing, golfing, and nature trails. A few places to enjoy the
wildlife are at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Connie Hagar Wildlife
Sanctuary, and Goose Island State Park. The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge is
the winter host for the largest flock of whooping cranes.
Nature Coast and
Crystal River, Florida
Fed by springs that flow at a constant 72 degrees, the
Crystal and Homosassa rivers are winter havens for West Indian manatees.
Between 400 and 700 of these endangered aquatic mammals—they have a population
of about 4,480—call the rivers home from October through mid-April.
When the Gulf waters warm up in the spring, most of the
manatees venture out to their coastal homes. Manatees are gentle creatures that
enjoy interacting with humans. Even though only 30 to 40 manatees stay in
nearby Kings Bay year-round, more than 20 companies in Crystal River and
Homosassa offer swim-with-the-manatees tours.
In the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, you can see
manatees without donning a wetsuit. The 210-acre park is a rehabilitation center
for injured or orphaned manatees. A 45-foot-deep natural spring, headwaters of
the Homosassa River, provides the perfect habitat for recovering manatees.
An underwater observatory allows close-up views of manatees
and freshwater and saltwater fish attracted by the spring. The park is also a
showcase for Florida’s native wildlife, such as alligators, wood storks, and
Joshua Tree National
Nearly 800,000 acres of desert east of the Coachella Valley (think, Palm Springs), Joshua Tree National Park rewards visitors with a full range of peculiar treasures: spiky yuccas, spiny cacti, spindly ocotillos, gangly Joshua trees, and dramatic geological formations, including Jumbo Rocks.
As you drive up Pinto Basin Road, past the Cholla Cactus
Garden, you’ll cross the transition zone between two major desert ecosystems:
The lower Colorado Desert merges into the higher Mojave Desert, and cholla
cactus and ocotillos give way to Joshua trees.
An even bigger wow can be had at Keys View. To the west,
distant San Gorgonio Mountain and San Jacinto Peak—both topping 10,000
feet—scrape the sky. Looking south, you can spy the Salton Sea.
Catalina State Park,
Catalina State Park, one of the many gems in the Arizona State Park system, offers beautiful vistas of the Sonoran Desert and the Santa Catalina Mountains with riparian canyons, lush washes, and dense cactus forests. The environment at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains offers great camping, hiking, picnicking, and bird watching—more than 150 species of birds call the park home.
Brunswick and the
Golden Isles, Georgia
Four of the beautiful isles—St. Simons, Little St. Simons,
Jekyll, and Sea—and a nearby coastal town are known collectively
as Brunswick and the Golden Isles.
In 1886, Jekyll Island was purchased to become an exclusive
winter retreat, known as the Jekyll Island Club. Members included such notable
figures as J.P. Morgan, Joseph Pulitzer, William K. Vanderbilt, and Marshall
Field. Jekyll Island, with its cottage colony and clubhouse, was viewed as a
little paradise, where members and guests pursued “a life of elegant leisure.”
Today, the former Club grounds comprise a 240-acre site with 34 historic
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the
life you’ve imagined.