Road Trip Theme Ideas for Your Next RV Adventure

Creating a theme for your RV road trip elevates the fun

If you’ve ever thought road trips were just about long drives and random stops, think again! The open road offers an incredible canvas for themed adventures that cater to every imaginable interest.

Choosing a road trip destination

Many times, the biggest decision that we make when planning a new RV trip is WHERE TO GO. A lot of thought goes into the destinations and on more than a few occasions we have planned out a THEMED road trip. Road trip themes are plentiful and going on a trip that focuses on one main topic is a LOT of fun (The planning process can be ALMOST as enjoyable as the actual trip).

You can put a lot of care and thought into the details of a themed road trip and you can choose themes to match just about any interest or hobby.

Whether you’re a foodie on the hunt for the best diners, a history buff tracing historical trails, or simply someone looking for the road less traveled, themed road trips are your ticket to a more personalized adventure.

The following themes represent the wide variety of interests and inspirations showing how diverse themes can cater to different passions, hobbies, and curiosities. I also include related links to help you start planning.

Perhaps my list will give you some inspiration?

Foodie road trip on the Kolache Trail in central Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Plan Road Trips Early

The best tip that I have for planning a successful road trip: plan EARLY. By early, I mean AT LEAST 4-6 months ahead.

Popular attractions, campgrounds and RV parks, and other locations fill up quickly. It is best to book the highly sought-after events and locales as soon as possible.

Road trip themes

I had a fun time putting together the (rather) extensive list below. There are a lot of different themes and each one can be broken down and personalized based on individual preference. Most would work well as family road trips, couples trips, friend’s trips, or even solo trips.

The themes are listed in no particular order below:

  • Foodie Road Trip
  • Famous Authors Road Trip
  • Roadside Attractions Road Trip
  • National Parks Road Trip
  • Music Themed Road Trip
  • Movie or TV Show Themed Road Trip
  • Wine Country Road Trip
  • Bourbon Country Road Trip
  • Historical Road Trip
  • Scenic Byways Road Trip
  • Coastal Highway Road Trip
  • Amish Country Road Trip
  • Wildlife and Nature Road Trip
  • Photography Road Trip
  • Adventure Activities Road Trip
  • Sports Road Trip
  • Wildflowers Road Trip
  • Birdwatching Road Trip
  • Exploring the Arts Road Trip
  • Space Themed Road Trip
  • Science and Tech Themed Road Trip
  • Genealogy Road Trip
Blue Bell Ice Cream tour in Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Foodie Road Trip

Plan a road trip that’s ALL ABOUT FOOD! You can choose the specific concentration for your trip, but here are some suggestions:

  • Eat at iconic restaurants featured in your favorite TV shows or movies.
  • Visit factories that make your favorite foods (especially if they offer tours, for example Blue Bell Ice Cream.
  • Visit orchards during fall pick-your-own season.
  • Check out some popular food trucks! Head to social media and find amazing trucks that have big followings. Put together an itinerary that will take you to several of these trucks. Another option for food trucks is to find a food truck festival.
  • Focus on a geographical location known for certain foods or dishes and see how many different varieties you can try. Examples include: pizza in Chicago, lobster in Maine, crab in Maryland, BBQ and kolaches in Texas, green chile burger in New Mexico, and boudin and crawfish in Louisiana.
  • Go on a road trip and focus on trying specific foods the whole time: pizza, BBQ, seafood, chocolate, ice cream, donuts, sandwiches, burgers, or wings.

Famous Authors Road Trip

Is there a famous author or a book that really moved you as a kid or adult? Plan a road trip around that author’s life or important milestones.

If the book is set in a particular town (real life town, obviously), visit the town.

World’s Largest Roadrunner in Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roadside Attractions Road Trip

Roadside attractions are silly, kitschy stops that you can check out as you drive from point A to point B. They are places that are fun to see but you won’t spend an entire day there. There are so many cool roadside attractions across the country. A few examples include:

Gather inspiration for these and other roadside attraction with these resources: 

Arches National Park in Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National Parks Road Trip

Planning a National Parks Road Trip can be an exciting adventure! With over 60 national parks and countless other National Park Service (NPS) sites in the United States, there are numerous routes and itineraries to explore.

Consider the distance and time you have available as well as your interests and preferences. You can focus on a specific region such as the West Coast, East Coast, or the Southwest, or create a loop that covers multiple regions.

Research the national parks you want to visit and plan your itinerary accordingly. Make sure to allow enough time for each park considering factors like driving distances, park hours, and activities you want to do.

Maybe you’ll plan a trip to Utah’s Mighty Five or expand it to a Grand Circle Tour. Or explore Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains in leaf-peeping season.

No matter which parks you choose, there are incredible vistas and wildlife just waiting for you to take them in. National Parks make great family vacations. The kids love participating in the Junior Ranger programs which offer the youngest travelers an array of activities and the opportunity to earn a ranger badge or pin upon program completion.

Note: National Parks are at the top of the list for destinations that require some pre-planning and booking. A number of parks require advanced reservations and timed entry during the peak travel season.

I have a lot of NPS content on the blog. Check these posts to learn more:

Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Music Themed Road Trips

Whether you love rock ‘n roll, country music, or the sounds of smooth jazz, there are some wonderful options for music themed trips in the US!

Head to Memphis and Nashville in Tennessee and hear incredible country tunes at just about every bar plus visit the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ryman Auditorium, and Grand Ole Opry. Top off the trip with a tour of Graceland, home of Elvis Presley.

If jazz is your thing, immerse yourself in its roots down in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Love rock ‘n roll? Make a stop at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.

Movie or TV Themed Road Trip

You can find filming locations for most movie and TV film productions with a little bit of research (simple internet search). Sometimes a whole town is used to film various scenes in the show or movie.

Choose a fave flick or two and head to the town where it was filmed.

By the way, I have a series of posts on movie and film locations:

Okanagan Wine Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wine Country Road Trip

This road trip is PERFECT for couples or friend groups. Gather up your fellow wine connoisseurs and head out on a road trip to wine country. Your best bet is to visit an area known for its wineries so that you can visit multiple locations during your trip.

Here are some helpful resources:

Buffalo Trace Distillery bourbon tour © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bourbon Country Road Trip

Explore the rich tradition of America’s Official Native Spirit on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail featuring a number of signature distilleries nestled among beautiful Bluegrass Region scenery.

In 1999, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association formed the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to give visitors a firsthand look at the art and science of crafting Bourbon and to educate them about the rich history and proud tradition of Kentucky’s signature spirit.

If you need ideas, check out these blog posts:

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Historical Road Trip

Choose a time period or event in the long past that really interests you and build a road trip around it. There are so many different ideas for things to visit on a historically themed road trip. Choose the historic sites that interest you the most and use that as your starting point.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Early American History
  • Revolutionary War Battlefields
  • Civil War Battlefields
  • Pioneer Life and Travel
  • Native American History

Specific ideas and locations include:

  • Ghost towns
  • Museums
  • Historic parks and sites
  • Presidential libraries
  • Pioneer trails like Lewis & Clark and the Oregon Trail
  • Route 66

Here are some articles to help:

Utah Scenic Byway 12, an All-American Road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Scenic Byways Road Trip

In This Land is Your Land, Woody Guthrie sang the words, “As I went walking that ribbon of highway / I saw above me that endless skyway.” If Guthrie was singing about some of the most beautiful ribbons of highway in the U. S., there’s a good chance he was talking about one of the country’s scenic byways.

Cutting through prairies, grasslands, mountains, forests, and deserts, many of the scenic byways are not only modes of transport but destinations in themselves. While highways are wide traffic-filled roads connecting major cities, byways tend to be narrower, secondary roads in more rural areas.

The National Scenic Byways Program began in 1991 to promote roads of special aesthetic or cultural significance in one of six topics: archaeological, cultural, natural, historic, recreational, or scenic. Those that meet two or more criteria are designated “All-American Roads.”

I’ve written numerous articles on scenic byways and All-American Roads. Here are a few to help you plan a Scenic Byways Road Trip:

Worth Pondering…

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

—Lewis Carrol

The Ultimate East Coast National Parks Road Trip 

From Shenandoah in Virginia to Congaree in South Carolina, this road trip hits four national parks, covers 780 miles, and guides you away from the crowds

How’s the saying go? “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” But if you want to connect the most spectacular East Coast national parks and experience the best adventures in between maybe the saying should go: “It’s not just the destination because the journey is kickass, too.”

Follow my plan and you’ll paddle wild rivers, climb storied cliffs, and find yourself in miles of empty, stunning wilderness. Set aside a couple of weeks to complete the whole drive or carve off one leg at a time.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Royal, Virginia to Afton, Virginia

Distance: 108 miles

Route: This is a short but worthy stretch of road through Shenandoah National Park and some gorgeous mountain drives along the way.

The park: Just 75 miles west of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park protects a particularly pretty stretch of the Blue Ridge Mountains offering a quick getaway for denizens of the Mid-Atlantic. And they show up—nearly 1.6 million of them visited the park in 2021. And most stick to Skyline Drive which draws a line through the middle of the park or flock to the summit of Old Rag, a dramatic, rocky peak with tough climbs and killer views.

Skyline Drive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To avoid the crowds, try the 3.4-mile Chimney Rock loop hike. Or bring your fly rod. The park is packed with pristine backcountry trout streams, 70 of which hold healthy populations of native brook trout. Rapidan River, a headwaters stream, offers cool history along with its bevy of trout as President Hoover established a mountain retreat where two streams join to form the Rapidan.

Need to know: You can fish for trout year-round in Shenandoah but Rapidan is catch and release only.

Stay: Skyland puts you in the heart of Shenandoah as the park lodge occupies 27 acres off milepost 41 of Skyline Drive. Even better than the location are the digs: newly renovated rooms and cabins are well appointed and the mountain views from 3,680 feet are stunning.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When it comes to developed campgrounds, Mathews Arm Campground is your best bet in the north end of Shenandoah. Big Meadows and Lewis Mountain are the most centrally located campgrounds and give you quick access to some of the most popular sites in the park like Dark Hollows Trail and the Byrd Visitor Center and camp store. Loft Mountain, the largest campground in the park is the only one south of US 33. Book your campsite several months in advance via the NPS system—things fill up quickly in peak summer and fall seasons.

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

Afton, Virginia to Fayetteville, West Virginia

Distance: 170 miles

Route: You’ll head deep into the heart of the Southern Appalachians to explore the 63rd and most recently designated national park—New River Gorge with one of the region’s deepest gorges and some of its tallest mountains.

Detour: About 60 miles away in nearby West Virginia, Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area is a hotbed of traditional climbing with hundreds of established multi-pitch routes that traverse the mountain’s unique fins of Tuscarora quartzite which rise from the canopy like a dragon’s back. If you have time, sign up for a three-day trad camp where you’ll master anchors and protection placement.

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

The park: The 70,000-acre New River Gorge National Park protects some of the best whitewater rafting and rock climbing on the eastern seaboard. Less known? The 13-miles of singletrack built specifically for mountain biking. Hit the Arrowhead Trails on the south side of the gorge for fast and pedaly flow through a dense hardwood forest. The three-mile long Adena loop has the toughest climbs and quickest descents.

Need to know: Unlike many national parks, bikes are allowed on a variety of trails throughout New River Gorge including some non-technical paths that cruise by historic mining camps.

Stay: The cabin-heavy Adventures on the Gorge Resort sits on the rim of the New River Gorge, with a 350-acre campus packed with ziplines, pools, aerial adventure courses, and low key restaurants. The resort’s in-house guides will take you climbing and rafting, too. Choose from glamping tents to deluxe cabins.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fayetteville, West Virginia to Gatlinburg, Tennessee

Distance: 275 miles

Adventure along the drive: Take a quick detour back into Virginia on your way to Tennessee to stop at the 200,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area—5,279-foot Rogers is the tallest peak in the state. Start in Grayson Highlands State Park and hike four miles through high-elevation mountain balds, scramble over rock outcroppings, and spy the herds of feral ponies that live free range on the ridges.

Detour: Before you hit the Smoky Mountains, soak in one of the only natural hot springs in the Southern Appalachians in Hot Springs, North Carolina. Mineral waters fill tubs in the Hot Springs Resort and Spa on the edge of the French Broad River. Book a private tub and make time for a beer at Big Pillow Brewing in downtown.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The park: A little over 12 million. That’s how many people visited the 500,000-acre Great Smoky Mountains National Park last year. That’s the bad news. The good news? Most of those people stick to the scenic roads and short nature trails which means the best way to ditch the crowds is to hit the backcountry. Head to the less crowded eastern side of the park accessed at a remote entrance to the park off of Heintooga Ridge Road to backpack or trail run the 13.8-mile Hemphill Bald Loop which cruises along at 5,000 feet in elevation across mountain top meadows before sinking deep into a forest of old growth poplars, babbling trout streams, and remote campsites.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay: Camping is popular year-round and the park has a variety of options to enjoy camping throughout the year with 10 locations.

Eat and Drink: Skip the madness in Gatlinburg and head to the much quieter Townsend where traditional Southern fare is given an upscale treatment at the Dancing Bear Appalachian Bistro. What isn’t grown onsite is sourced locally. Cheese plates are dressed with home-grown figs, and local trout is paired with tomato jam and grits.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Gatlinburg, Tennessee to Columbia, South Carolina

Distance: 230 miles

Route: This route begins on the Tennessee side of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most biodiverse in the country and ends in a serene swamp with a stop in everyone’s favorite North Carolina mountain town of Asheville along the way.

Adventure along the drive: Just outside of Asheville, The Riveter combines professionally built bike jump lines with a 16,000-square foot climbing gym, yoga studio, and bar. Send it inside and out then cross the street and grab a beer at Sierra Nevada’s sprawling East Coast campus.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Detour: The Chattooga River in Georgia offers 20 miles of class III-V whitewater in a pristine setting that’s designated Wild and Scenic and was the filming ground for the cult classic film Deliverance. It’s one of the most unique rafting experiences you can get on the East Coast because the number of rafters is limited and groups are spaced out to preserve the remote nature of the river. Knock out eight-mile section 4 for the biggest rapids or combine sections 3 and 4 as an overnighter with a riverside camp.

The Park: Congaree National Park doesn’t get the recognition of Great Smoky but don’t let the lack of hype—or crowds—deter you. The landscape is unlike any other as the park protects the largest expanse of old growth bottomland forest in the east. The best way to explore the park is by boat paddling a canoe along Cedar Creek where a marked 15-mile trail takes you through gnarled cypress knees and loblolly pines that reach more than 100 feet tall.

Need to know: There’s no current in the creek, so it’s an ideal out-and-back paddling adventure.

The Barnyard RV Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Stay: Congaree is just 30 minutes from downtown Columbia where Sesquicentennial State Park offers 69 sites with water and electric service. Alternatively, stay at The Barnyard RV Park in nearby Lexington.

Worth Pondering…

Almost heaven, West Virginia
Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home
To the place, I be-long
West Virginia, mountain momma
Take me home, country roads.

—John Denver