As Maryland's biggest city and one of the world's major seaports, Baltimore needs no introduction. But given the city's industrial heritage and occasionally less than stellar reputation, you may not be aware of all the fun things there are to do in Baltimore as a visitor. Attractions like the National Aquarium or Fort McHenry National Monument, the fort that inspired what eventually became the United States national anthem.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor was once the industrial heart of the city, but in recent years, it's become the model for urban regeneration. It's now home to pleasant seaview parks, trendy bars and restaurants, and the Science Center, which is always popular with families.
Baltimore is also a great sports city. If you visit during football season, don't miss the thrilling experience of attending a Ravens game. If baseball is more your speed, the Baltimore Orioles play in the city and offer a great way to spend an afternoon.
Baltimore has a lot to offer for tourists and locals alike. But one thing the city isn't known for is great weather. And while Baltimore may be on the coast, it's not anybody's idea of a beach destination. So if warm weather and golden sand is something you're longing for, hop in an RV and take a week-long road trip down south to Fort Myers, Florida. There's plenty of fun to be had along the way, and the destination will most certainly make the trip worthwhile.
The quickest and most direct route from Baltimore to Fort Myers is to head south down I-95. But since when have road trips been about the quickest route from A to B? The whole fun of a journey by RV is to take the scenic route and see things you might not otherwise get to see.
Instead of taking I-95, take I-81 inland through West Virginia. This allows you to stop off at Monongahela National Forest. After the buzz of a big city like Baltimore, this encounter with nature could be exactly what you need.
This forest is absolutely massive, covering over 900,000 acres of mountain, forest, rivers, and valleys. Don't miss the famous waterfalls at Hills Creek Scenic Area for a perfect photo op, or hit one of the many hiking trails to stretch your legs after a long drive.
This forest has so many things to do that you may want to stay a little longer, so it's good to know that there are several camping options. Seneca Shadows campground offers views of the famous Seneca rocks and will accommodate RVs up to 35 feet in length. Some sites have electrical hookups. Alternatively, Lake Sherwood campground takes vehicles up to 40 feet long, and its lakeside location makes it the perfect base for swimming, fishing, and boating.
Along with these two reservable sites, there is also the more primitive Cranberry Campground, which takes visitors on a first-come, first-served basis.
Once you've had your forest fix, the North Carolina city of Charlotte offers a more urban flair. But that doesn't mean you've left nature behind entirely. If you just can't get enough of the outdoors, you should know that Charlotte is the home of the National Whitewater Center, a state-of-the-art training facility for whitewater rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, and other outdoor pursuits. Just because you've temporarily left the forest behind doesn't mean you can't engage in your favorite outdoor activities.
But Charlotte also offers the amenities of a good-sized city. If you're after a different kind of excitement, Carowinds amusement park will keep kids and adults entertained for a whole day. It also has its own RV park you can stay at if you want to extend your trip. Alternatively, car fans will enjoy a visit to the NASCAR Hall of Fame situated in the city. For a dose of history, there's also the Levine Museum of the new South, an institute devoted to telling the story of the post-Civil War reconstruction of the region.
If you're looking to stay the night in the city, Charlotte is blessed with a decent selection of RV parks. Elmore RV Park or Glenwood Acres are two of the closest to downtown.
On your way out of Charlotte, there's one more attraction that's worth a visit. What you get out of it will depend on your personal beliefs, but either way, it's a unique place to visit.
The Billy Graham Library is not really a library at all, but a kind of museum dedicated to the life of one of America's foremost TV evangelists. Billy Graham was a controversial figure in his life, but for believers, he was a revered character in American society.
Even if you're not a fan of Billy Graham, there's no denying that he lived a unique and interesting life. Along with the talking animatronic cow that greets visitors at the entrance, the museum contains exhibits such as the boots Graham wore in the Korean War and a $5 donation check from Richard Nixon. Be warned that the guides here, as well as being knowledgeable about the life of Billy Graham, are not above trying to convert visitors.
Admittedly, this is an attraction that won’t be to everybody’s taste. But it’s unlike any other place you are likely to visit.
Taking the inland route is all well and good, but by now, you may find yourself pining for a sight of the sea again. You can get that and more at Hilton Head Island, just outside Savannah. This island is known for its Atlantic beaches, and the town that has sprung up around them is dedicated to fun and leisure. Coligny Beach Park is an excellent place to while away a Sunday afternoon, or you can visit Fort Pulaski National Monument and take a trip back in time to the Civil War era.
Hilton Head Island is also renowned for its golf courses. If you're a fan of the game, don't miss the opportunity to play a round or two while you're here. The ocean air and usually pleasant weather all make for a game you're not likely to forget anytime soon.
After lots of fun in the city, it's always nice to take a leisurely break out in nature. The Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve is the perfect introduction to Florida. Perched on the coast just outside Jacksonville, this small but fascinating park makes for a wonderful place to explore on your way south.
Thanks to the marshy environment, the waterways of the preserve offer probably the best way to explore. If you don't have a boat of your own, you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and set out to explore the calm water under the glorious Florida sun. But if that sounds like a bit too much hard work, you can also relax on one of the many beaches or fish the rich waters of the area.
If you're not comfortable in a boat, you can also explore the park on foot. Hiking trails re-create the routes followed by the Timucuan Indians who first inhabited the park, and carry you through the marshes and forests toward the ever-present sea. If you'd like to know more about the history of the area, Fort Caroline is a great place to visit and reflect on the days when this part of the country belonged to France, not America.
As you head down toward Orlando, you may feel the pull of the world-famous theme parks you'll find in the central Florida city. This is especially true if you brought the kids with you. In that case, you may not be able to hold out.
But if your idea of fun is more about forest trails than amusement park lines, Ocala National Forest is a place you should definitely add to your itinerary. The most southerly National Forest in the United States, Ocala is home to sand pine scrub forest that can only survive in a warm southern climate like Florida's. With over 600 lakes and rivers, Ocala National Forest is a paradise for aquatic recreation, and also makes an excellent place for wildlife watching. The crystal clear waters simply beg to be explored, and it's no wonder that snorkeling is a popular pastime here.
Feel like extending your visit? Ocala National Forest's Salt Springs Campground accepts reservations and offers full hookups. Vehicles 35 feet in length and less are welcome in this well-equipped campground. If you're not as fussy about hookups, the Alexander Spring campground offers easy access to the water right off the campsite.
Nothing rejuvenates quite like time spent in nature. But after the gentle sound of the wind in the trees, you might be ready for something a bit more lively. Luckily, Tampa can most definitely deliver.
Florida is famous for its theme parks, and Tampa certainly has its share. Busch Gardens and Adventure Island offer plenty of rides to keep you entertained. To see animals from Florida and around the world, visit the Florida Aquarium or ZooTampa at Lowry Park.
When it comes to be time for dinner, Tampa won't let you down. Florida's climate is ideal for growing all kinds of fresh produce, and waves of immigration have transformed the state's culinary scene. For an iconic dinner in Tampa, head to the Columbia restaurant. Florida's oldest restaurant, the Columbia started out as a lunch counter selling Cuban sandwiches to cigar factory workers but has since blossomed into one of the city's best places to eat. Still operated by the same family that began it all over 100 years ago, the Spanish and Cuban cuisine on offer here is legendary.
Your final destination is almost in sight. But before plunging into the vibrant city of Fort Myers, it might be a good idea to allow yourself one more encounter with the natural world. Myakka River State Park lies just to the north of the city and offers a great place to stop before you complete your trip.
Like just about everywhere in Florida, waterways are abundant here. As a result, the park is a fantastic spot for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. For something more adventurous, you can also take a fan boat tour through the swamps to observe the local wildlife, including alligators.
Additionally, Myakka River State Park has three campgrounds, all of which are available for reservation. Some offer electrical and water hookups, while others are more primitive. If you want a break from the RV, the park even has five log cabins you can stay in.
Hopefully, you had a long and exciting journey all the way from Baltimore to Fort Myers. Once you reach this Florida city, you'll realize at once that the fun is far from over. Go shopping at Fleamasters fleamarket, ride the slides at Sunsplash family waterpark, or, for a truly Florida experience, go kayaking in Manatee Park and see these majestic sea creatures up close in the wild. With everything Fort Myers has to offer, this doesn't need to be the end of your vacation, but the start of a whole new chapter.