2021 Heartland Pioneer
2021 Heartland Pioneer
After picking up your mobile home you are going to be leaving Little Rock and its museums and libraries and heading out on the open road toward Tampa. There are many different routes to choose from but because you are self-contained, you are free to cut and paste your journey to suit yourselves. Here we will look at some of the options that you might like to consider, but there are many others.
The climate is almost always wonderful in this southern region of the country and so we have included destinations that take advantage of the wide variety of local water-based activities, as well as some cultural destinations you should not miss.
Most of the destinations are chosen with kids in mind but there are always plenty of adult options in these areas. What’s more, in many of the RV parks you have the option of letting the kids enjoy the facilities while you relax with a cool glass of wine; just one of the many advantages of traveling in your own self contained home.
A 138-mile drive will bring you to Memphis. This has to be one of the country’s more iconic cities and it is teeming with things to do and places to see. We suggest heading to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park. Five minutes from Memphis, it offers a pool and water slides so keeping the kids happy shouldn’t be a problem.
It simply wouldn’t be right to pass through Memphis and not pay a visit to the famous Graceland, home of the late Elvis Presley. Set in 13.8 acres of grounds, this is the second most-visited home in the United States after the White House. It was also the first site related to rock and roll that ever made it onto the National Register of Historic Places.
It was first declared a museum in 1982 and so you are now able to tour the grounds and the building and get a little insight into the life of one of the world’s most well-known rock and roll artists.
As you are about to learn, Memphis is not all about Elvis. There are plenty of other entertainment options for you to consider. One that the kids will appreciate is a ride on one of the authentic riverboats. You will have a host of options to choose from including sightseeing cruises, dinner cruises, and fireworks cruises.
Now that you are beginning to get a feel for just how much there is on offer in this city, you may decide to extend your stay by one more night. With a bit more time available, the Peabody Hotel suddenly becomes an option to add to your list. The Peabody is an institution in Memphis, not least because it hosts a twice-daily duck parade that is a favorite with tourists.
Built in 1925, the hotel was rated as one of the finest in the southern United States. The duck parade didn’t begin until 1940 when some hunting party guests released some ducks into the fountain in the main reception area. This was so popular with tourists that the hotel decided to allow the ducks to stay.
Today the North American Mallards live a life of luxury in what is known as the Duck Palace on the hotel’s roof. At 11 am the Duck Master marches them down and through the lobby where they then hop into the fountain. They remain there until 5 pm when they are marched back to the Palace.
The ritual is an incredible drawcard for the hotel so if you want to witness it you should make sure you arrive early. A handy trick is to go up to the second-floor atrium from where you are assured one of the best views.
Less than four and a half hour's drive from Memphis will bring you to the Talladega National Forest where you will find several different RV friendly parks to choose from.
Four and a half hours is quite a long run if you are driving with kids, so a lunch stop in Tupelo might be a good idea. This town has a wide variety of restaurants to tempt you, many of them specializing in southern cuisine. One that you might like to think about is Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen.
Kermit’s is housed in a classic 140-year-old building and it offers wood-grilled specialties using ingredients sourced from local producers. Before leaving town you might want to take a quick turn past Elvis’s birthplace before heading down toward Talladega.
Talladega National Forest covers 392, 567 acres and in a forest that large, there is plenty of scope for hiking, horseback riding or cycling. In terms of wildlife, keep an eye open for black bears, coyotes, white-tailed deer or two species of fox.
Tallahassee will be your next overnight stop after a drive of four hours and forty minutes. The kids are going to be starting to get a little hyper after that long on the road so Tallahassee RV Park might be the best place to head for.
It is convenient for access to town and has large pull-through sites and a pool which will probably be appreciated by then. After that, you could make your way to town and head for the Cascades Park.
Cascades Park is an example of innovative thinking. Essentially it provides a stormwater management system to help with flood relief. The developers cleverly turned it into a lot more than that. Don’t forget the kid’s bathing trunks.
There is a playground using natural materials that offers adventures such as the Cypress Climb and the Steephead Slide. On the grounds there are also walking, biking and jogging trails for you to choose from.
The highlight is definitely going to be the Imagination Fountain which will keep your kids occupied for hours. Fountain is possibly a bit of a misleading term as the area comprises of over seventy-three water jets which fire water at random, and often unpredictable, times. Warning: they will get wet.
At night the Imagination Fountain becomes far more sedate as the water is timed to dance to music and is illuminated with colored lighting.
Tallahassee also boasts several museums and the Mission San Luis so you have much to consider.
Less than three hours' drive will bring you to Crystal River. This town proclaims itself as the world capital of the manatee. These strange-looking creatures are now endangered but there is a resident population of them at the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge is fed from several springs that provide exceptionally clear water ideal for manatee viewing which can be done from a wooden walkway. In the months from January to March, you can actually swim with these delightful creatures. Crystal River is the only place in the world where this can be done legally.
Another nice place to visit is Fort Island Gulf Beach. Compared with the better-known and super busy beaches that are so prevalent in Florida, this is like having your own private resort. It is small but has an abundance of native plants, sea birds and occasional dolphins. Take a picnic or grab a bite from the food truck that often visits the area.
If you fancy some hiking, a walk through the Withlacoochee State Forest might tempt you. It was rated by the World Wildlife Fund as among the top ten coolest places in North America that you have never been to.
You might still have some time on your hands so instead of just heading straight to Tampa a drive to Clearwater Largo will not take you far out of your way and may make an ideal place to spend your last night. It sits right on the coast just an hour and a half from Crystal River.
Clearwater RV Resort is conveniently situated for town access and full hookups, a pool, and magnificent views.
A must-visit if you do go to Clearwater is the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Unlike other aquariums, this is a rescue center that is renowned for its rehabilitation, research and relief activities.
There you will see dolphins, turtles, river otters and stingrays along with many other marine creatures. It is also home to the famous dolphin called Winter who starred in the film Dolphin Tale and is about to start in Dolphin Tale 2.
Other entertainment options include boat tours or segway tours.
The last piece of your road trip to Tampa will take thirty minutes. The journey has been a varied one and one that has taken you on a slightly different route to that followed by many of the crowds. It has exposed you to a wide selection of different activities and should have provided the kids with a lot to keep them entertained.
Tampa may be the end of the road trip but there is plenty there to make your holiday end memorably. There is a water park called Adventure Island and another theme park with a distinct Africa theme to it called Busch Gardens. If you are starting to feel a little frazzled by all of the high energy entertainment then the city also has several museums where life will be just that little bit calmer.