Best RV Parks for Your Road Trip
You might expect the best RV parks in America to be clustered together in a few isolated regions. But the experience my wife and I gained on our 12-month road trip was that the best RV parks are where you find them.
Some of the most popular snowbirding regions of the country -- parts of California, Arizona, Texas, Florida -- do contain some of best RV parks; some of the most lavish and sophisticated, at any rate. But we found other top-rated RV parks in unexpected places; in Oregon, for example, and New York and Illinois.
After more than 12 months on the road, and more than 30,000 miles driven while poking into every corner of the country, we did discover some regional differences in RV parks. These differences in accommodations are reflective, I think, of larger cultural differences Karen and I found as we moved from one area of the country to another. I’ve described these fascinating contrasts in my book, In Search of America’s Heartbeat: Twelve Months on the Road, which talks about some of the engaging people we met and the glimpses they gave us into their lives.
I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush but, in general, we found the most upscale RV parks to be in the Southwest. In fact, the very labels that people use for RV parks in different parts of the country appear to reflect their regional mindsets. Just read the signs along the road: In the West, they trumpet “RV resorts.” In the East, they tout “RV campgrounds.”
Those labels pretty much tell the story. In the West, you often find designer swimming pools, sometimes with lavish landscaping; hot tubs; saunas; tennis courts and shuffleboard courts; opulent clubhouses with wood shops, metal shops and ceramics shops, sewing rooms, computer rooms, billiards rooms, ballrooms and upscale restaurants. In some resorts you find on-site, 18-hole golf courses, driving ranges and golf clubhouses.
In many western RV resorts, regularly scheduled classes teach skills that range from calisthenics to creative writing. Organized activities cover the gamut from quilting to hiking to tennis tournaments and shuffleboard tournaments. You might sign up for line-dancing or choose to attend weekend dinner-dances or talent shows.
A few of Florida’s facilities provide a taste of this lifestyle, but not in the numbers and generally not as lavishly as those in the West.
Elsewhere, you mostly find campgrounds instead of resorts. Some have nice swimming pools. You might find a clubhouse with a pool table and perhaps a paperback library, sometimes a snack bar. You might find a small general store where you can buy a few grocery staples and perhaps some simple camping supplies. You might find a pond or a small lake in which you can fish. In general the experience probably will be more rustic than it might be in the West.
But that doesn’t mean that all the best RV parks are in the West. Because nothing’s wrong with rustic. In fact, Karen and I often prefer a rustic campground over the other kind. It’s hard to beat a neat RV park with good interior roads and spacious, forested campsites that give you a feeling of privacy. Our primary concern in checking into any new place on a road trip is that it be clean. Next we look for aesthetic surroundings and then for large campsites with level sites and a little privacy. Finally, we look for campground security; some control over public access.
What constitutes the best RV park for you depends on your location and your lifestyle. In the West, and as far east as Texas, people often arrive at an RV park in the fall and stay until spring. As a result, they want more than a place to set up camp. They want entertainment and a social life. In the East, except for Florida and a few places close to it, the climate generally precludes winter-long sojourns. So RVers in the East often come to a park for shorter stays, and appear to be more attuned to finding their entertainment nearby. When it comes to recreation, they appear to focus more on what is outside the RV park than what is inside it.
If you’re considering exploring RV parks in your favorite part of the country, I hope you’ve found my observations helpful. If you have any knowledge about specific parks that you’d like to share with others, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read a great book about life on the road, including my travels through some great RV parks, grab your copy of In Search of America’s Heartbeat: Twelve Months on the Road.