Louisville, Kentucky has five different nicknames: The Ville, Falls City, Gateway to the South, River City, and Derby City. But whatever you want to call it, the city is popular with both the locals and visitors. It was named after France’s King Louis the 16th in 1778 and is one of the oldest towns west of the Appalachians.
With a hilly terrain and subtropical climate, Louisville is a favorite vacation spot for RVers wanting to visit famous places like the Louisville Slugger baseball bat museum, the location of the Kentucky Derby, and parks all year long. Before heading out on your road trip to Charleston, stop at some of the attractions right there in Louisville.
Louisville Waterfront Park, located along the banks of the Ohio River, is a fantastic place to start. With several playgrounds, water features, and the Lincoln Memorial Site, there is plenty to do and see here. E.P. Tom Sawyer State Park is open year-round and has swimming, hiking, biking, playgrounds, and a dog park for Fido. The park is also popular for its orienteering and geocaching fun as well as pickleball, basketball, badminton, and archery.
You can also visit some of the animals at the Louisville Zoo like the snow leopards, tigers, grizzly bears, sea lions, and the wallabies. They even have a petting zoo, camel rides, and giraffe feeding. Be sure to stop in at the Herpaquarium, island exhibit, and penguin cove before leaving.
Although you can make it from Louisville to Charleston, West Virginia in about five hours, for this road trip, you’ll want to take your time and enjoy the scenery and attractions. First off, head up I-71 North to Cincinnati about 100 miles to the northeast. This city in Hamilton County is right on the border of Kentucky and Ohio, with a population of almost 300 thousand, and is the home of the Cincinnati Reds. So, if you are a baseball lover and happen to be traveling between April and September, pick up some tickets and enjoy a game at the Great American Ball Park.
You can also enjoy a day at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, which is the perfect mixture of animal exhibits, activities, and beautiful scenery with over 3,000 plants and 500 animals. The zoo and garden have been entertaining visitors since 1875, making it the fifth oldest zoo in the country. After working up a sweat walking around the zoo, stop in at Coney Island Water Park.
Play some Cincy Mini Golf, take a storybook paddle boat ride, and cool off in the water at this fun watery playground. Explore the Challenge Zone with its obstacles, monkey bars, and balance beams or play on the slides and other fun equipment while getting wet. Take the kids to Typhoon Tower and Cannonball Cove before relaxing at the Sunlite Pool. Don’t forget the sunscreen!
Make your next stop East Fork State Park, where you should make a reservation to spend the night so you can get up and enjoy a swim or hike before heading to your next adventure. The 4,870-acre park has 399 RV sites with hookups, showers, a 1,200- foot beach for swimming, and over 50 miles of trails. Pets are welcome so you can bring your furbabies along too.
If you have a boat with you, the lake offers seven boat ramps to choose from. There is no limit on horsepower, so all types of boats are welcome. Bring your fishing gear so you and the family can see who can catch the most fish. East Fork Lake is popular with those who enjoy fly fishing as there is a large amount of smallmouth, largemouth, and striped bass just waiting for a bite. Anglers also enjoy fishing the lake for crappie, bluegill, muskellunge, and catfish. Bring a net because these fish can get pretty big.
Whether you are looking for a short walk like the easy 0.4-mile Cedar Loop Trail or the more difficult 1.4-mile Fern Hill Trail, hiking in East Fork State Park is fun and scenic. Be sure to bring a camera. For mountain bikers, the 9.6-mile Mountain Bike Trail is popular with its two loops of wooded, hilly, and twisting terrain to enjoy. Kids under 16 need to wear a helmet and you should too, just in case. You probably don’t want your road trip to include a visit to the emergency room.
Two and a half hours down OH-32 to US-23, you will get to your next adventure in Huntington, West Virginia. Huntington is a small town stretched over both Cabell County and Wayne County with a population of less than 50 thousand. Some of the points of interest in Huntington include the Museum of Art, Harveytown Park, Touma Museum of Medicine, or Ritter Park.
Another hot spot is Camden Park, which is one of the oldest amusement parks in the United States. It started as a picnic area in 1903 and was turned into an amusement park in 1950. With 15 rides, games, mini-golf, and eight mini-rides just for the little tykes, there is something for everyone here. If you get hungry, cruise through the Midway for some corndogs, funnel cake, or burgers. Or you can head to West Virginia Grille, which has sit-down meals in a nice cool atmosphere. And don’t forget to stop at the gift shop for some souvenirs.
Being on the banks of the Ohio and Guyandotte River, the City of Huntington enjoys excellent fishing, boating, and swimming options in many different parks. Or you and the family can have a picnic along the river at one of the picnic areas while you enjoy the majestic views of the Appalachian Mountains. You’ll find plenty of photo ops around town such as in front of the downtown historic district, at the Adena Native American Burial Mound Site, or in the Village at Heritage Farms.
Less than an hour east on I-64, Charleston is the capital of West Virginia and the most populated with over 51 thousand residents. If you are looking for a place to camp while you are there, Kanawha State Forest has 46 campsites including 25 that have water and electric hookups. All of the sites also have a picnic table and fireplace and can accommodate rigs up to 26 feet long. Reservations can be made online or in person, but it is best to reserve your spot as early as possible.
There are quite a few other RV campgrounds in the area like Lazy K’s Campground in nearby Elkview, Little Coal River Campground and Big Earl’s Campground in Julian, and the Rippling Waters Campground in the sweet town of Romance. Whichever campground you choose, it is always best to book a spot well in advance. You don’t want to get there and find out they are full.
Once you check-in at your campsite, visit some of the interesting places in town like the Charleston Visitor Center, Magic Island Park, or one of the many museums in town. They even have a Shoney’s Big Boy Museum. Take the kids to the Sky Zone Trampoline Park and let them work out some of that energy they built up while on the road. Or just drive around and see the historic neighborhoods, galleries, and architecture.
The city has some excellent places to shop if you need a little retail therapy. Stop in at Capitol Market, which used to be a train station and is now an indoor-outdoor market. The shopping center offers goods and food from local farmers and seafood vendors, coffee and wine shops, and seasonal goods. This is a one-stop shopping plaza with over 40 booths, shops, and kiosks. You can even find some unique souvenirs for the folks back home.