As always, this list is patently unfair and completely subjective. But here goes – the top 10 places we visited in 2018… Maestro, queue the drum roll!
Consider me the Ron Swanson (Parks & Rec) of RV destination reporting. I will report these places truthfully and to the best of my ability, but hope you won’t go there. No need for you to overcrowd these places.
We have some perennial favorites like Austin, TX, but did not include that on this list. Know, though, that we would go there on a moment’s notice. We spent time in both Washington, DC and Denver to see our kids, so I excluded those from the list – but those visits were most awesome. Besides, if you have kids, you know there was no way I was going to list one location over the other.
As you look at this list, keep in mind that we visited approximately 30 states this year, so we had plenty of opportunity to see some pretty amazing places, albeit for a limited time. Nonetheless, it is shocking even to us that of the top 10 places, 7 are in California! Holy Crap! You can’t make this stuff up. Actually, you totally can. But we didn’t. Well, actually, we did. Whatever.
- Muscle Shoals (AL). You would be forgiven if you had never heard of Muscle Shoals. Muscle Shoals sits south of Nashville, east of Memphis, north of New Orleans, west of Atlanta in northern Alabama. Its’ claim to fame is that it has been one of the most important recording capitols of the world. With studios including Fame Recording Studio and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, a who’s who list of artists has recorded there.
Also nearby in Tuscumbia is Ivy Green – the home to Helen Keller, which is a really interesting story and well worth a few hours to explore.
Muscle Shoals is really a bit of a musical nerd stop, but really interesting, so much history, and so cool!
- Pismo Beach (CA). I was not familiar with Pismo Beach until Karen added it to our itinerary this year, but what a cool little town to hang out! That is, as long as you can overlook the fact that Dottie got into our trash and we had to fork over significant coin to a vet to make her “right” again.
Pismo Beach sits on the left coast about midway between San Jose and Los Angeles. We stayed at two different campgrounds (only due to limited availability), with one being a private campground (Pismo Coast Village) and the other being a state park (Pismo State Beach North Campground). The private campground had full hookup, but the state beach campground was so much nicer – just depends on your needs and availability.
Obviously, there is the beach, but you can bike into town which is cute with some good restaurants, some live music, and a short bike ride to the state beach par 3 golf course.
- Sequoia / Kings Canyon National Park (CA). The Sequoia / Kings Canyon NP was new for us. We enjoyed some really pretty hikes, were treated to some fabulous views, and really interesting huge Sequoia trees that have existed for thousands of years.
- Santa Barbara (CA). Well, I don’t know how you couldn’t like Santa Barbara. We were there specifically for a wedding, but what a great town with so much character. One of our highlights (there were many) was enjoying La Super Rica – basically a taco restaurant that is nothing less than superb. So much to see and do in this town!
- Niagara Falls (NY/ONT). I know Niagara Falls is really a tourist trap, but still – we had a blast. This was literally a 2-3 hour stop and see, and technically most of what we did was on the Canadian side. The best part, and had us just laughing, was taking the boat that goes in under the falls. You get SOAKED, but we were laughing the entire way.
Oh, and Duffs in Amherst for the Best. Wings. Ever. BOOM.
- Palm Springs (CA). I know we have written about Palm Springs before, and we probably will do so again in the future, but there were a couple of particular events while there that made this trip particularly memorable.
One was polo! Yup, we went for a Friday night polo match at the Empire Polo Club, and it was a hoot. I highly recommend this event if available. If I remember correctly, it was free and you can pack in your own picnic basket.
We visited the Coachella Valley Preserve and took a ride up to Idyllwild which is a cool little town up in the hills overlooking Palm Springs.
But if you never left downtown Palm Springs, you would still have a great time.
- Yosemite National Park (CA). What can you say about Yosemite? If you went to Yosemite and it wasn’t on your top 10 list, I’d like to know where else you traveled. This place is exquisitely beautiful, and clearly if timing and plans allowed, we would spend a great deal more time there. Nonetheless, this place is epic.
- Lassen Volcanic National Park (CA). Quite honestly, I had never heard of Lassen Volcanic NP before Karen had made plans to include it on our trip. I suspect it was a combination of other people’s recommendations, as well as a missing park on our national parks map that made it impossible to miss on this trip.
Lassen is clearly one of those places where you can see the somewhat recent impact of a major volcanic eruption and its impact. For that reason alone, this place is worth visiting.
There are beautiful hikes, amazing terrain, and incredible views; what’s not to love.
- Crater Lake National Park (OR). I know what you are thinking… Crater Lake is #2? What the hell is #1? Well, Crater Lake is beyond description and photos do not do it justice. One of the most amazing activities to participate (and unfortunately Karen could not due to some hip issues) was take one of the lake cruises that the park offers. This is a view that can be achieved in no other way than to hike down the 1.5 mile hike to the base of the crater. Assuming you don’t have hiking constraints, this is a must-do activity.
- Lee Vining (CA). Lee Vining you say? Where the hell is Lee Vining, and how did it creep to the top of your top 10 list? Easy. It is that cool a place.
Like anything, there is perspective. Lee Vining sits just outside (to the east) of Yosemite National Park, so there is that. And it sits at about 7,000 feet elevation so the temperatures are to die for. AND, the town is just cool and relaxed. We stayed at the Mono Vista RV Park (unusual for us to stay and enjoy a private campground) that we really enjoyed, and is in Position A relative to the town – walk to everything.
Of particular note, in the morning you can take a stroll down to the Latte Da coffee shop, order a latte and a breakfast sandwich, and sit out front on the porch or out back in the courtyard. This does not suck.
A mile or two down the road is Mono Lake, which is in and of itself a most interesting lake. And maybe a half hour drive is an old ghost town called Bodie that is well worth the trip.
But maybe best of all is the Mobil Gas Station, where you can walk in and order food from the Whoa Nellie Deli – an Epicurean delight.
We’ll see what the next year unfolds…