Champaign is a medium-sized city in Illinois with a population of 88, 000. It is home to the University of Illinois and, like most university towns, it offers a multitude of things to do, places to visit, and vibrant nightlife activities. The university has also led to a thriving high-tech industry, earning the city the nickname the Silicon Prairie.
There is also a wide variety of attractions for the cultural connoisseur to enjoy, such as the Krannert Art Museum, the Spurlock Museum, and the historic Virginia Theatre. Just meandering through the boutique shops, housed in historic storefronts of the revitalized downtown district, will appeal to the consummate shopper.
For the outdoor fanatic, there are more than sixty parks as well as golf courses and hiking trails to explore.
The road trip to New Orleans is going to expose you to some very different vistas. Leaving the Midwest you will head into the deep south with its different cultural influences, climate, and, of course, culinary choices. Passing through Memphis and Jackson, you will also get a taste of some of the musical heritage that has so influenced both the country and the rest of the world.
A 180-mile drive is going to bring you to St. Louis, sitting proudly on the banks of the great Mississippi River. From miles away you will be able to see the 630-foot high Gateway Arch which is such an icon to the city.
You will have many RV parks to choose from, but the St. Louis RV park offers all the facilities you might need along with the added advantage of being within walking distance of the downtown area.
There is much to offer in this city including its Botanical gardens, the Cathedral Basilica, and a large zoo. One thing you really ought to consider though is a tour of the St Louis Art Museum. With more than 34 thousand artifacts on display, some dating back 5000 years, this stands out as one of the principal art museums in the country. There are regular tours and many of them are free.
If you are even a little bit outdoorsy, then a visit to Mark Twain National Forest is a must. There are over thirty RV friendly campsites so finding somewhere to stay overnight shouldn’t be a problem and, depending on where you opt to stay, the drive from St. Louis could be as short as one and a half hours.
The park covers 1.5 million acres of ground, much of which is in the Ozark Highlands. Established in 1939 and named after Missouri’s most famous writer, the park touches on no fewer than 29 different counties and contains over 750 miles of hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking trails.
With its extensive network of rivers, streams, and lakes, there is no shortage of water-borne opportunities to try out. You will have a choice of rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and even tubing, so finding an option that will suit your tastes will not be difficult.
In total contrast to your night in the woods, Memphis offers much more of an urban oasis. Of course, no visit to Memphis would be complete without at least thinking about visiting Graceland, the home of, arguably, the most famous American musician, Elvis Presley.
Situated nine miles from downtown Memphis, the mansion is set in 13.8 acres of grounds and has been a museum since 1982. It is still owned by the King’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, and today it attracts in excess of 650 thousand visitors per year.
In 2006 it was declared a National Historic Landmark and it is now the second most-visited house in the country after the White House.
At Graceland, every type of tour is on offer depending on your passion for the King and the size of your budget. You can opt for the basic mansion tour which will take you through the 26 room home and grounds, or you can throw in a tour of his planes, one of which has gold-plated safety belt buckles and gold-flecked sinks. In addition to all of that, there is now also a car museum and you are free to pick and mix a combination of tours that will suit your taste.
Memphis is about far more than just Graceland. It is a town that will forever be associated with blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll, and that musical influence is very much on display.
You can tour the famed Sun Studios where Elvis, B.B. King, and Johnny Cash all recorded albums, or you could opt for one of the many other musical-themed venues. These include the Blues Hall of Fame, the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, or the Stax Museum of American Soul.
Another option would be to simply take a laid back stroll along Beale Street with its cafes and bars and, of course, its street musicians and local performing artists. This would allow you the freedom of dropping in and out of different venues and sampling a range of musical genres.
If you want to taste both the nightlife and the music scene at once, then head for Wild Bill's. This juke joint is a Mecca for blues fans and includes a grill so you can grab a bite while listening to your favorite rhythms. Entry is free and they have a bring your own bottle policy so it won’t blow a hole in your budget.
Your next stop is the town of Jackson but on the way, you would be well advised to make a short detour into the historic town of Winona. This town lies at the heart of the Bluffs region of the Mississippi, which is a beautiful protected landscape. The town grew prosperous as a shipping port when most of the country's wheat was grown in that region. By 1856 more than 1300 steamships would stop at the river port to take on or dispatch cargo each year.
The Boathouse is an ideal place to break your journey and enjoy a classy lunch while at the same time profiting from the river views where you may well see the odd paddleboat cruising past.
The restaurant specialized in river inspired seafood dishes but you can also get steak, burgers, or try out one of the regions famed Po’Boy sandwiches.
Jackson is a city that will be forever linked with the civil rights movement. It was here that people first started to take direct action in their quest for equal rights and where Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat on the bus.
The National Civil Rights Museum highlights this history of the struggle for equal rights by black people in America perfectly. From slavery to the equal rights movement, through boycotts and assassinations, this museum paints a picture of four centuries of history that will forever be etched on the American memory.
Through the skilful use of film, oral history, and over 260 artifacts, the museum traces the story of a people who have been integral in making the country what it is today.
Beyond its civil rights heritage, Mississippi’s capital prides itself on its hospitality and you will soon feel welcome here. With its friendly people, great restaurants, and diverse nightlife, this is a city that warrants further exploration.
The final part of your road trip will take around three hours but upon reaching New Orleans your adventure is far from over. This town positively oozes with history, culture, and entertainment, and people come from all over the world to explore what she has on offer. Whether you want more of the music scene, great southern cuisine, or stunning architecture, New Orleans has plenty in store for you to extend your adventure.