Hit the road to celebrate America’s colorful past — from Gettysburg to the Oregon Trail
Whether you have kids in tow or are looking for an enriching experience on your next RV trip, why not celebrate American history? We’ve handpicked 11 historical hot spots that represent our beloved national symbols and have welcoming RV parks in the region. Be sure to inquire before you go, as many businesses have seasonal hours and some RV parks close for the winter.
From the Civil War to civil rights, Montgomery is rich in history. If you’re a Civil War buff, you’ll want to check out the state capitol — the first capitol of the Confederacy — and the first White House of the Confederacy, which was the home of Jefferson Davis. For sites commemorating civil rights, visit the bus stop where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in 1955, sparking the famous Montgomery bus boycott and the start of the civil rights movement, as well as Troy University’s Rosa Parks Museum.
Other not-to-be-missed sites include the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King and others organized the Montgomery bus boycott, and the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which traces the route of the famous 54-mile march, which led President Lyndon Johnson to present a bill that would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Capital City RV Park (open year-round)
877-271-8026 | www.capitalcityrvpark.net
Kountry Air RV Park (open year-round)
334-365-6861 | www.kountryairrv.com
Montgomery South RV Park (open year-round)
334-220-1175 | www.montgomerysouthrvpark.com
Enjoy both history and one of the world’s natural wonders in Arizona when visiting Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. At Grand Canyon National Park, a unique history find is the architecture of Mary Coulter, the first female architect hired by the National Park Service. Coulter’s eight Grand Canyon projects include Hopi House and Desert View Watchtower, both on the South Rim.
Enjoy getting your kicks on Route 66 in historic Flagstaff by checking out the preserved historical buildings and sites in Santa Fe Plaza, such as an old steam engine and the 1897 depot. Indulge in classic Americana grub with a bite at Granny’s Closet, originally built as the Paul Bunyan Café. Or step into the past at the Galaxy Diner where you can enjoy your meal while listening to ’50s music from the jukebox.
Also well worth a visit, Wupatki National Monument in Flagstaff and Montezuma Castle National Monument, 50 miles to the south, were both home to prehistoric Anasazi and Sinagua Native American farmers and traders.
Black Barts RV Park (open year-round)
928-774-1912 | www.blackbartssteakhouse.com
Flagstaff KOA (open year-round)
928-526-9926 | www.koa.com/campgrounds/flagstaff
Woody Mountain Campground and RV Park (open April 1 to October 31)
928-774-7727 | www.woodymountaincampground.com
If you’re headed west, we recommend visiting San Diego, the Golden State’s birthplace and a popular spring break hot spot. Beyond the city’s numerous tourist activities — from the famed zoo to Sea World and the Safari Park — be sure to get a taste for California history by visiting sites like Cabrillo National Monument, one of America’s most visited national monuments with more than 800,000 annual visitors. San Diego County’s only national park, it commemorates the discovery more than 472 years ago of what is now the West Coast of the United States. Explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo led the first European expedition of the West Coast, anchoring his flagship San Salvador on San Diego’s Point Loma — the Plymouth Rock of the West — on September 28, 1542.
San Diego’s rich maritime heritage continues today with a prominent U.S. Navy presence, including the USS Midway Museum, where visitors can board one of America’s longest-serving aircraft carriers. San Diego Bay is also known for cruise ships, sport fishing, and recreational sailing and boating, and is one of America’s most beautiful natural harbors. You can also find a new life-size, fully functioning replica of Cabrillo’s 16th-century galleon ship, the San Salvador, at San Salvador Village at Spanish Landing, near downtown on San Diego Bay.
Mission Bay RV Resort (open year-round)
877-219-6900 | www.missionbayrvresort.com
Pinezanita RV Park and Campgrounds (open year-round)
760-765-0429 | www.pinezanita.com
The Springs at Borrego RV Resort (open year-round)
866-330-0003 | www.springsatborrego.com
For historical treasures in the West, don’t miss the 2,000-mile Oregon National Historic Trail. Hitch up your trailer, like the pioneers did with their wagons, and head to Idaho to visit Montpelier and the National Oregon/California Trail Center. You’ll also find Soda Springs (home to the world’s only captive geyser), Enders Hotel and Museum (said to be haunted), the Wagon Box Grave (a family of seven is buried beneath the cemetery’s first gravestone) and Lava Hot Springs, a city on the old trail route that has become a popular resort location for its many public hot springs.
In American Falls, be sure to visit Massacre Rocks State Park and Register Rock, a huge boulder that holds the names and dates of Oregon Trail emigrants (some written with axle grease) as they passed through. While in the area heading farther west, stop at Three Island Crossing State Park in Glenns Ferry, a major Snake River crossing site for pioneers, where you can visit the Oregon Trail History and Education Center to learn more about the region’s early settlers and Native Americans.
Cowboy RV Park (open year-round)
208-232-4587 | www.cowboyrvbelairemobilehomepark.com
Lava Hot Springs KOA (open April 1 to October 31)
208-776-5295 | www.koa.com/campgrounds/lava-hot-springs
Montpelier Creek KOA (open April 1 to October 31)
208-847-0863 | www.koa.com/campgrounds/montpelier-creek
Abraham Lincoln called Springfield home for 17 years, and that’s reason enough to justify a Midwest stop. Springfield is the site of the only home Lincoln ever owned, now the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. The Greek Revival house has been restored to its appearance when Lincoln was elected 16th president and is set in a neighborhood that transports visitors to the heart of the city that Lincoln knew as a father, husband, neighbor and politician.
The city has numerous sites and attractions that provide a picture of Lincoln’s life and legacy, including Lincoln’s New Salem (a restored pioneer village approximately 20 miles northwest of Springfield), the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Lincoln Tomb and the Old State Capitol State Historic Site, where Lincoln gave his famous “House Divided” speech. Other sites in Springfield include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Dana-Thomas House, the home of poet Vachel Lindsay, the Elijah Iles House (the oldest house in Springfield), the Illinois State Museum and the Illinois State Military Museum.
Springfield is also a stop along Route 66 and is home to the Cozy Dog Drive In, where the first hot dog on a stick was served, along with several other Route 66 restaurants and the Route 66 Twin Drive-In.
Double J Campground and RV Park (open year-round)
217-483-9998 | www.doublejcampground.com
Illinois State Fair Campgrounds (open April 1 to October 31)
217-524-9894 | www.visitspringfieldillinois.com
Lincoln’s New Salem Campground (open year-round)
217-632-4000 | www.lincolnsnewsalem.com/camping.html
For a quintessential part of American automobile history and a favorite among sports-car enthusiasts, visit Bowling Green. The city is the birthplace of America’s renowned sports car, the Corvette. See the only place in the world where Corvettes are made — the GM Bowling Green Assembly Plant, where weekday tours are offered.
The National Corvette Museum is across the street. Beyond seeing rare memorabilia and more than 70 Vettes on display, visitors can view the giant sinkhole that devoured eight classic cars last year. Three of the vehicles are now being restored, and the remaining five cars are on display in their mangled state.
Be sure to stop by the newly opened NCM Motorsports Park, a high-performance driving facility and racetrack for drivers of all skill levels.
Beech Bend Park Campgrounds (open year-round)
270-781-7634 | www.beechbend.com
Bowling Green KOA (open year-round)
270-843-1919 | www.koa.com/campgrounds/bowling-green
To truly commemorate American history, make time to swing up to New England and visit Provincetown. Located at the very tip of Cape Cod, it was the first landing spot of the Mayflower Pilgrims in November 1620. Be sure to seek out the Pilgrim Monument, a 252-foot granite bell tower modeled after the larger Torre del Mangia in Siena, Italy, and the tallest all-granite structure in the United States. The area is also a hot spot for whale watching. Visitors can take naturalist-narrated boat tours to Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, about 10 miles from Provincetown, to observe the ocean-dwelling mammals breaching, feeding and teaching their young how to survive.
Also in Massachusetts and worth a visit is Plymouth, where you can see Plymouth Rock and seek out historical treasures at the Pilgrim Hall Museum, the oldest continuously operating museum in the country, containing original articles that came over on the Mayflower. Other attractions include Plimouth Plantation, a 17th-century English village complete with costumed role-playing colonial interpreters, and Wampanoag Homesite, with a Native American staff and a reproduction 1626 gristmill.
Atlantic Oaks (open year-round)
508-255-1437 | www.atlanticoaks.com
Boston/Cape Cod KOA (open March 15 to November 15)
508-947-6435 | www.bostoncapecodkoa.com
Dunes’ Edge Campground (open mid-May to mid-October)
508-487-9815 | www.thetrustees.org/places-to-visit/places-to-stay/dunes-edge-campground
Pinewood Lodge Campground (open May 1 to October 30)
508-746-3548 | www.pinewoodlodge.com
Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, the world’s first national park — Yellowstone in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho —still captivates visitors today. The town of West Yellowstone, Montana, was founded in 1908 specifically to accommodate visitors enjoying this natural wonderland of geothermal geysers, including Old Faithful, as well as fishing, hiking and boating on glassy waters. Stop by Yellowstone Historic Center to learn about the history of this park that has seen millions of visitors over the past hundred years. The center features exhibits that tell how people have journeyed to and through the region since its founding and has a 10-acre district that surrounds the Union Pacific Railroad depot.
For a self-guided stroll, pick up a historic walking tour map at the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce and enjoy the town’s vibrant past. A guided hike into the park can be taken through Wildland Trekking Company.
Buffalo Crossing RV Park (open May 11 to October 18)
406-646-4300 | www.buffalocrossingrvpark.com
Yellowstone Grizzly RV Park (open May 1 to October 15)
406-646-4466 | www.grizzlyrv.com
Yellowstone Park/Mountainside KOA (open May 15 to October 15)
406-646-7662 | www.koa.com/campgrounds/mountainside
Established at the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria was a key area in the expansion of the American West, with settlers filtering in from the Oregon Trail. To enjoy the region’s history, visit Fort Stevens, an 1863 to 1947 military reservation built at the end of the Civil War. Or trek to the Fort Clatsop Visitor Center at Lewis and Clark National Historic Park to see where the Corps of Discovery spent the winter of 1805.
For more recent history, visit 368 38th Street, the home where the ’80s classic movie The Goonies was filmed.
Astoria/Warrenton/Seaside KOA (open year-round)
503-861-2606 | www.koa.com/campgrounds/astoria
Bud’s RV Park (open year-round)
800-730-6855 | www.budsrv.com
Circle Creek RV Resort (open April 1 to November 1)
503-738-6070 | www.circlecreekrv.com
Gettysburg battlefield is one of America’s most historic sites. With 6,000 acres of preserved hallowed ground, as well as a variety of ways to tour it (bicycle, horseback, car, RV, bus, Segway), the national military park offers visitors many ways to learn about Gettysburg’s pivotal Civil War history, pay their respects and reflect on their own lives.
The town of Gettysburg provides a rich opportunity to learn about soldiers and military tactics. The area also pays homage to Abraham Lincoln and his famed Gettysburg Address. Visitors can retrace Lincoln’s footsteps as he made his short but memorable visit to this war-ravaged town. Beyond the area’s historical significance, Gettysburg offers interesting local culture, from culinary experiences to entertainment, art and events.
Drummer Boy Camping Resort (open March 27 to November 1)
800-293-2808 | www.drummerboycampresort.com
Gettysburg Campground (open March 27 to late-November)
888-879-2241 | www.gettysburgcampground.com
Round Top Campground (open year-round)
717-334-9565 | www.roundtopcamp.com
Visit South Dakota not only for Mount Rushmore but for destinations steeped in the experience of the pioneers in the Midwest. Get a feel for what life was like in the 1800s when visiting De Smet’s Ingalls Homestead, where Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote many of her Little House stories. Enjoy a covered-wagon ride and partake in an interactive 1880s school session and pioneering activities, like making rope and corncob dolls.
Another recommended stop is 1880 Town, 22 miles west of Murdo. This popular destination has more than 30 structures fashioned after buildings from 1880 to 1920 and authentically furnished. Other fun features to explore include an exhibit from world champion rodeo cowboy Casey Tibbs, props from the film Dances with Wolves and interactive activities for kids.
About 40 miles northwest of Rapid City is Deadwood, a national historic landmark that offers the experience of
a Wild West town with a boisterous past. An hour south of Rapid City, Mammoth Site of Hot Springs showcases woolly mammoth remains and more from South Dakota’s greatest fossil find.
Carsten Cottages and RV Sites (open year-round)
605-584-3321 | www.carstencottages.com
Ingalls Homestead Prairie Camping (open late May to late September)
800-776-3594 | www.ingallshomestead.com/camping.html
Rafter J Bar Ranch RV Park (open May 1 to October 1)
605-574-2527 | www.rafterj.com
Whistler Gulch RV Park and Campground (open May 1 to September 30)
800-704-7139 | www.whistlergulch.com