Essential RV New England:
The Top 10
by Jordi Lippe-McGraw
As America’s Independence Day quickly approaches, what better way to celebrate than by taking a road trip following our founding fathers' footsteps? There are many destinations up and down the New England coast (and a touch of the South too) that are equal parts beautiful and historical, making for an ideal summer getaway. Learn about the Civil War while roaming through Gettysburg's fields and see colonial America come alive in Williamsburg. Of course, a stop in Washington, D.C., is in order for equal parts hiking and history. Here are the top 10 stops from south to north to make on your RV adventure.
Charleston, South Carolina
This charming city is worth an entire trip alone but is the perfect jumping-off point for a history-themed road trip. The English settled here back in 1670 and it quickly became a booming metropolis. So, it's not surprising it became a hot spot during the Civil War with the first battle starting in 1861 when Confederate soldiers fired at Fort Sumter, where the Union army was holed up. Today, you can visit Fort Sumter National Monument as well as Fort Moultrie, which held off British forces during the American Revolution, in addition to North Charleston Riverfront Park, where the Charleston Navy Base and Naval Shipyard are memorialized. Of course, a self-guided tour through downtown Charleston and the Battery will let you take in the area's stunning historic architecture.
Where to Stay: Lake Aire Campground, spread over 35 acres, is a full-service RV site. You'll find a private lake with catch-and-release fishing, a playground, picnic tables, fire pits, tiled bathrooms with hot showers, and on-site ice and propane refills. The best part? It's just 15 minutes away from historic downtown Charleston. Other options include James Island County Park, Oak Plantation Campground, and Charleston AFB RV Park.
There's no better place to take a step back in time than in Williamsburg, Virginia. Nearly the entire city is a hands-on museum where you can trace the history back to the Native Americans who first called the land home. Together with Jamestown (which was founded in 1607) and Yorktown (which was the site of the Battle of Yorktown in 1781), Williamsburg forms the "Historic Triangle." You can explore all three in a few days stopping at spots like Colonial Williamsburg (where actors dress in period-specific garb), Historic Jamestown, Jamestown Settlement, the American Revolutionary Museum at Yorktown, and Yorktown Battleﬁeld.
Where to Stay: Chickahominy Riverfront Park is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown. The RV site is close to the important historical sites as well as leisure activities like boating and hiking. Williamsburg RV and Camping Resort has similar proximity to the hot spots with both indoor and outdoor pools.
Mount Vernon, Virginia
Although it's not as packed as some historic sites on the road trip, Mount Vernon is the perfect stop on the way north. Why? Well, it's where George Washington and his wife Martha called home. You can still walk through the estate, perched on the banks of the Potomac River, learning about the country's first president while taking in the Neoclassical Georgian architecture and Palladian architecture.
Where to Stay: Travel Camp in Fort Belvoir, Virginia, is within a few minutes of Mount Vernon's drive and just 30 minutes from Washington, D.C. Here you'll find Wi-Fi, direct sewer and water hookups, laundry units and more. The best part is there are parking spots right on the shore of the Potomac River.
You can't take a historic road trip without stopping in the nation's capital. Walk through The National Mall to see sites like the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial before paying visits to any number of war memorials or museums, like the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian. There is enough history here to keep you busy for weeks, or you can check off some of the hot spots in a day if you're short on time. The D.C. Metrorail makes it easy to park your RV and ride to virtually any spot, ranging from the U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian to Arlington National Cemetery.
Where to Stay: Although it's a city, D.C. is actually very RV friendly. Cherry Hill Park is the closest to the capital and provides full hookup RV sites complete with free Wi-Fi. After a long day of checking out the sites, come back and unwind with a round of mini golf or grab a bite at the snack bar. Lake Fairfax Park is a bit further, but still a great option. There you'll find a one-acre activity pool with a lazy river and water slides.
It doesn't get any more American than visiting where the "Star-Spangled Banner" was written. Yes, Baltimore is home to many historic sites like Fort Henry, where Francis Scott Key penned the iconic tune, and the first monument dedicated to George Washington. Beyond political history, you'll find cultural landmarks like the home where Edgar Allan Poe lived from 1832 to 1835 as well as the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad Museum that still has the first mile-and-a-half stretch of track ever laid in this country. And since it's a harbor, you can't leave without visiting at least one of the four historic ships at the Historic Ships museum.
Where to Stay: Patapsco Valley State Park lets you be fully immersed in nature while being just 20 minutes away from Baltimore Inner Harbor. Plan a jam-packed day in the city knowing you have woodlands and rivers to come back to at the end of the day. There aren't tons of amenities, but lots of space to fish, canoe and mountain bike. Camp Meade RV Park, located near the stunning coastal city of Annapolis, is another excellent option as it's between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.
There's a reason history buffs make a dedicated trip to Gettysburg. It's arguably one of the most famous Civil War sites as it’s the location of the bloodiest battle ever fought between the Union and Confederate Armies. Roam the battlefields and look for historical markers, like where Union Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain led the 20th Maine Infantry’s bayonet charge in defense of Little Round Top. Visit the Gettysburg National Cemetery, where Abraham Lincoln gave his Gettysburg Address in 1863. And step inside the haunted Jennie Wade House, where the only known civilian was killed during the war.
Where to Stay: Artillery Ridge Campground is located at the visitor's center, so you can't get any closer to the action. It's so close that you can see some of the monuments from the campground. Aside from excellent access, you also get a great Wi-Fi signal and laundry facilities. If you want to keep moving with your road trip and make your way to Philadelphia, consider Jellystone Park in Quarryville, Pennsylvania, which is smack in the middle of the two.
Philadelphia is considered the birthplace of the nation giving history fans plenty to see and do. Make a stop at the site where the first Continental Congress was held (aka where details of the Declaration of Independence were debated). Visit the homes of both Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin while also checking out the famous cracked Liberty Bell. Independence Hall is a must-see as it's where both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were signed.
Where to Stay: Set up shop at Village Scene RV Park in Hatfield, which is 32 miles north of the city. It's a great home base for making your way up the coast and is close to the Lansdale Station that takes you right into Philadelphia. Plus, it can accommodate any size RV or motorhome. Other options include Little Red Barn Campground, where they have themed activities every weekend, and Quakerwoods Campground near Dorney Park and the Wildwater Kingdom.
Providence, Rhode Island
Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 colonies to become a state. It was founded by Roger Williams in 1636 on the basis of religious freedom and further made its mark as a pioneer in the industrial revolution—so you know there are a few historical gems around town. The smallest state’s biggest city has a colorful history: Bowen's Wharf takes you back to the bustling 18th-century shipping harbor. And Benefit Street has an incredible mile of original Colonial homes. There are few places like this where you can travel through time in one city.
Where to Stay: Holiday Acres Campground has plenty of activities to keep you entertained after a day of wandering through the city. Adults can enjoy a 21+ area with pool and darts while kids have their own dedicated game room. Nearby Ashaway RV Resort is another excellent option with athletic fields, hayrides, and plenty of other activities for kids to enjoy.
You hear Plymouth, and you think Pilgrims. That's because it was the landing spot of the first Pilgrim settlers who came over on the famous Mayflower in 1620. You can see the place at Pilgrim Memorial State Park where it's thought they landed on shore, as well as a full-scale replica of the ship. Other historical hot spots include the Plimoth Plantation that's home to a Wampanoag Homesite and 17th-Century English Village, along with Burial Hill, where settlers like William Bradford were laid to rest.
Where to Stay: Ellis Haven has every modern convenience you can think of, including full hookup sites, cable TV, and more. There are over 400 parking sites, so you get the space you need even though you are just 30 minutes from Boston and 10 minutes from Plymouth Rock.
Just roaming around Boston is a blast from the past with historic buildings on nearly every street. But the best way to see the historical highlights is by walking along the 2.5-mile Freedom Trail. It takes you past 16 significant locations like the Massachusetts State House, King's Chapel and Burying Ground, Paul Revere's House, and the Old State House, where the Boston Massacre took place. Tack on a trip to the harbor, where the Boston Tea Party took place, and you'll have a new insight into the Revolutionary War.
Where to Stay: You'll have to park a bit outside the dense city, but there are plenty of nearby options. Winter Park in Salem is just off the commuter rail line and near another famous historic site: Salem, Massachusetts. Or, try Wompatuck State Park, which is one of the closest to the city yet still has over 10 miles trails for hiking and biking.