Louisville is an expansive city that covers almost four hundred square miles of the state of Kentucky. Founded on the banks of the Ohio River, it may appear totally modern but it has a characterful touch of Victoriana in its historical heart alongside the contemporary structures of the central business district. The city is made even more superficially attractive by a plenitude of green spaces that include riverside parks, an urban forest, and several wildlife conservation areas.
Louisville is a city that, rather than quieten down under the torpid heat of its subtropical summer, comes alive with a series of events and festivals that rival even the best of the best in North America. The Kentucky Derby Festival is a two week celebration that includes everything from jaw-dropping firework displays to hot air balloon, horse, and steamboat races, parades, marathons and food stalls galore. There are theatrical events like the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival and an endless round of music-oriented festivals including the Beatles-themed Abbey Road on the River and the Forecastle Festival.
After all the festivals are over, Louisville can start to seem a bit staid if you're young and still raring to have a good time. The one other thing that can definitely put a dampener on your summer fun in Louisville is the weather. When the sun starts shining the humidity keeps on rising and to make matters worse, from early spring onward heavy rain showers are a common occurrence. So when you're bored, stifled by the city's fug or just tired of carrying an umbrella in case you get drenched in a downpour, get together with a group of friends and make your escape from the cloying climate with a seven-day RV road trip from Louisville to Naples in Florida.
As you travel south along the I 65, from the word go you'll be able to combine outdoor recreation with some adrenaline thrills by hiking to waterfalls, going kayaking through alligator-infested swamps, visiting a horror theme park or riding ziplines over a deep gorge. Take a break from the excitement by camping out in the forest until you're ready to move on to your next adventure - and there's certainly plenty of those on this week-long RV vacation.
Leave Louisville behind and motor south on the I 65 for around four and a half hours until you're through Nashville, Tennessee and can join the I 24. If you need a break from the road, the Mammoth Cave National Park with its enormous underground cavern makes for an interesting stop. Leave the I 24 at junction 134 to head toward Tracy City passing by the South Cumberland State Park and you'll find the Fiery Gizzard Recreation Area. Park up there and slip your hiking boots on to set out on the Fiery Gizzard Trail.
Renowned as one of the top hikes in the US, the Fiery Gizzard Trail runs through stunningly picturesque countryside next to the Fiery Gizzard Creek and through an ancient hemlock forest. Along the twelve-mile out and back trail there are several waterfalls including the spectacular sixty foot high Foster Falls, a viewpoint overlooking a canyon and plenty of unusual rock formations. After being in the city, you'll feel as if you're exploring your own personal idyllic woodland dell - but just take care not to step on a sleeping rattlesnake.
As you continue to motor south through Tennessee, pull in for some theme park diversion at the Lake Winne Fun Park. The park is located between Chattanooga and Rossville just over the state border so you and your friends will be having a ball in Georgia. There are two different parks and both are situated on the shores of scenic Lake Winnepesaukah. The amusement park is on the south-east side of the lake and there's a water park plus massive rollercoaster on the west side.
There are so many great rides at the parks, it'll be hard to choose which to visit first. Feel your stomach flip as you drop seventy feet on the Cannonball rollercoaster, get flipped upside down on the Conestoga or the Fire Ball before braving the Oh-Zone that rockets upwards at a speed of almost 5Gs. Once you've recovered your equilibrium make for the SOAKya water park for a chill-out float down the lazy river.
After all the thrills and spills of the theme parks, get back to nature by camping out for a couple of days in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The forest extends over an area of nearly nine-hundred thousand acres and connects to the Oconee National Forest. There are a multitude of campgrounds in the forest, but if you want to be by the water check out the Morganton Point Campground. You can reach the campground along the US 76 from East Ellijay. It is a little way off the main route but worth the diversion.
The Morganton Point Campground sits on the north-east shore of serpentine Blue Ridge Lake and is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains. A more scenic spot to pitch up would be hard to find and that's a fact, which makes it a very popular campground so reserve your campsite before you arrive. There are some excellent hiking trails around the lake, great boating and fishing or for something totally different, take a ride on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway which is nearby.
When a forest is as large as the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest there could, quite literally, be anything hiding among the trees. While you're camped out at the Morganton Point Campground take time to head back down the US 76 to Cherry Log to have a browse around the Sasquatch Museum. The museum opens seven days a week and only closes on national holidays.
The existence of the Sasquatch, or Bigfoot, is a well-debated subject and as well as displaying articles related to the big beast, the museum is dedicated to research on the subject. In the museum, you'll be able to listen to recordings of Bigfoot sounds, watch film clips of reported sightings and take a look at plaster casts of footprints.
Whether you believe in Bigfoot or not, when you're camping out in the forest after visiting the museum, you'll think twice when you hear the rustle of branches or a strange and chilling call echoing through the woods.
The Georgia Veterans State Park is a lakeside recreation area dedicated to honoring the memory of the state's military veterans. The park is near the city of Cordele alongside the US 280 westbound. If you decide to stay there for a while, the park has a campground with almost eighty campsites for RVs though prior reservations are required.
There's no shortage of activities at the GA Veterans State Park. Start by exploring the park's military museum that has both indoor and outdoor exhibitions ranging from medals to armored vehicles to aircraft. Enjoy boating, fishing or water sports on the park's central feature, Lake Blackshear, and if you don't have a craft you can rent one from the marina. There's a disc golf course and an eighteen-hole golf course, a flying field for model aircraft and a station where you can board a train with vintage carriages for a ride through the local area. If you're there around the third week in June, you'll be able to attend the Watermelon Festival that's held in the park every year.
As you drive into the state of Florida, slow down and take a pit stop to have a look at some of the fastest vehicles on the planet. The Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing is on 16th Avenue in the city of Ocala and is a sprawling, two building installation that opens seven days of the week. The museum is owned and named after the driver who was the first to reach more than two-hundred and seventy miles per hour on the quarter of a mile long track.
In the building dedicated to drag racing, you'll find a varied collection of powerful drag cars, drag motorcycles, and other racing vehicles. The second building houses a collection of vintage Ford cars. In total there are around three hundred different machines, so seeing them all will take you two to three hours - or more if you pop into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame which is also housed in the museum.
Swap high-speed cars for spine-chilling screams as you motor further through Florida with a visit to the SCREAM-A-GEDDON horror theme park. The spooky park is in Dade City which you can get to by taking the US 98 southbound from the I 75 in the direction of Trilby. If you want to pitch camp somewhere close by, the campground in the Lake Louisa State Park is a few miles to the east so it works out as a convenient choice.
SCREAM-A-GEDDON is a theme park with a difference and is full of interactive thrills that will make your hair stand on end. Attempt to hold off a live - not digital! - zombie attack with paintball guns, try to survive the Rage 3D haunted house or escape the Demon's Revenge. When you and your friends have had enough frights to last you a lifetime, head to Bonzo's beer garden for a well-earned drink but be prepared for the scary service.
The Oscar Scherer State Park is situated near Blackburn Bay right on the coast in the Florida Keys and is the ideal place to park up for your last stopover on your road trip from Louisville to Naples. Once a working ranch, the park covers two square miles of terrain which are now used for public recreational purposes and also serve as a wildlife refuge.
The park has a campground with one-hundred-plus campsites suitable for RVs up to thirty-six feet in length that all have utility hook-ups. There are some great on-site facilities too, including hot showers and a laundry which could come in useful after your visit to the horror park.
One of the main attractions in the Oscar Scherer State Park, apart from its two lakes, is South Creek. The waterway winds through the park, through thickets of semi-submerged mangroves and is overhung with ferns and cabbage plants. It's an exciting spot to paddle a kayak or canoe and don't worry if you don't have one, you can rent one from the ranger station. There are also fifteen miles of hiking trails to explore and some geocache locations to discover.
Roll into Naples in Florida after your week-long road trip from Louisville and you could be forgiven for thinking you'd arrived in a Mediterranean location. Naples has a real tropical vibe with a palm-tree-lined beach, a long wooden pier jutting out into a crystal blue ocean, multi-colored buildings and cafe-lined sidewalks reminiscent of resorts in Italy or Spain. It's the sort of place that once you're there, you'll just want to sit on the beach to watch the sun set after indulging in a fantastic seafood dinner.
You'll also quite probably start wishing you could lose the keys to your rig in the sand so you have a good reason to stay rather than driving back to Louisville, but don't because your friends won't forgive you when they have to sleep out under the stars.