Our Top Ten Favorite Places to RV in the First Year
Happy New Year, everyone! We spent most of the last few days of the new year reflecting on 2017 and goal setting for 2018. For us, 2017 was an unforgettable year being that it was our first full year of RV life. Jon and I saw more this year than in all of the ten years we have spent together, and for that we feel incredibly grateful. Friends, family, and people we meet are overwhelmingly supportive of our RV adventure, and often even want to know more. We have found that there are questions that commonly arise. One such FAQ is, “What is your favorite place?”
That one is SO hard to answer! Nonetheless, we would love to try. Read on to learn about some of our favorite stops, cities, and experiences from 2017.
1. Arches National Park
If you only set foot in one US National Park, make it Arches National Park. There is something otherworldly about Arches that places it firmly at the top of our NP list. Driving up into Arches feels like crossing into a different world. We visited in late March, making day time temps comfortable for the completely-devoid-of-shade hike to Delicate Arch. Canyonlands NP and Corona Arch are conveniently nearby, and the city of Moab is a laid back outdoor enthusiast’s paradise with more trails, hikes, and climbs than you could possibly fit into one visit.
2. Hood River
The Columbia River Gorge in Oregon is stunning; the drive on I-84 from Portland to Hood River easily being one of our favorites. Hood River provided us some respite from the Heat Wave that seemed to follow us around during summer. We fell in love with the laid-back vibe in Hood River. Serene and walkable, Hood River delighted with gorgeous sunny weather and various coffee shops, breweries, and restaurants offering local, healthy, craft, or artisanal fare. In addition, Hood River's close proximity to Portland, Mt. Hood, and the Fruit Loop was amazing for exploration.
3. Under the Milky Way
Being from a major city, we took it for granted that the night sky is a grayish color, with the moon and the occasional constellation or two visible. RV life has allowed us to venture outside of the big city into vast open land outside the reach of light pollution. Out in the open, we found a completely different night sky! The sky, it turns out, is littered with stars that twinkle like sequins on the black (not gray!) fabric that is the sky. And the moon! What a treat to see it cycle through its phases and actually appreciate the intensifying and waning of its bright light as the month goes by. While in Moab, our friend (and incredible photographer!) Joe Hendricks taught us to spot the Milky Way and photograph it. We saw and photographed the Milky Way a few times this year (Jon can’t get enough!), one of the best spots, for us, being near Mt. Rainier where we boondocked for three nights.
The hype is well-deserved (and we didn’t even get to see Old Faithful!). Yellowstone is so grand it is the reason we made the switch from our 28 ft Travel Trailer to our 24 ft Class C Motorhome. We were originally planning to visit Yellowstone in the summer, but we are so glad that did not work out as originally planned. Visiting in the early fall, we were able to enjoy the grandeur of Yellowstone sans mosquitoes and crowds. We barely scratched the surface only being able to drive one route (we drove up the middle from the South entrance to Hayden Valley opting for the Wildlife instead of the geothermal wonders). We were greeted by bison, and beautiful misty landscapes with rivers and evergreens right out of a storybook. As a bonus Grand Tetons NP is nearby and is another spot not to be missed.
Since 2009 Jon has known that Seattle is an incredible city. I had never visited, and insisted that it could not be better than San Francisco. I was wrong. Seattle has a collection of eclectic and vibrant neighborhoods with coffee shops and bookstores on seemingly every corner. The food options are nothing short of fantastic and Pike’s Place Market is a unique experience unlike anything else in the US (that we have seen). The surrounding areas of New Bend and Snoqualmie were fantastic. They too had great food! Our absolute favorite restaurants being Caadxi Oaxaca and Rio Bravo. There is great camping to be had in the surrounding areas though it is quite busy during the summer. As if that was not enough there are also amazing National Parks nearby. Again, we just barely scratched the surface and cannot wait to go back in 2018.
6. Wine Country
We visited Napa, Sonoma, and the surrounding areas in early summer. The vineyards are gorgeous, the wine plentiful, the food spectacular, and the weather utter perfection. Wine country is paradise! We fell in love with Northern California, and cannot wait to return to finish exploring Napa and Sonoma as well as the Russian River Valley. In addition we are looking forward to going back to Sebastopol and Petaluma. Petaluma is home to El Roy’s Tacos--the best tacos EVER. For our fellow Floridians, we cannot rave enough about the abundant sunshine and lack of humidity and mosquitoes.
7. Main Street, America
There are so many charming Main Streets in the US and the RV lifestyle is quite conducive to discovering them. We have loved visiting all kinds of small and medium cities with lively main street districts full of local flavor and businesses. Fort Collins was one of the Main Streets we were fortunate to see in 2017. It is so idyllic that Disneyland's Main Street USA is modeled after downtown Fort Collins. We have found these in nearly every state we have visited, some of the best being in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Utah, and even Kansas.
8. RVE Summit
The RV Entrepreneur Summit hosted by Heath and Alyssa Padgett (you MUST checkout the RV Entrepreneur podcast if you are interested in building a business, or are interested in RVing, and especially if you’re interested in both!) was a total game changer for us in 2017. This was easily the best decision of our year and definitely one of the best stops for us in 2017. This conference had an inviting, warm, communal feel like no other. We made so many friends and were able to join and reach out to the RV community thanks to Heath and Alyssa and their amazing Summit. We met like-minded friends from ALL walks of life and even met up with a few along the road. We look forward to attending the 2018 RVE Summit and learning more from the RVE podcast. As an added bonus the Summit took place in Texas wine country.
The length of our stays vary, but our longest stay of 2017 was Flagstaff. We stayed there for about 6 weeks, really hitting our boondocking groove. Although in Arizona, Flagstaff had a lovely alpine feel with cool weather. Conveniently close to Sedona, Phoenix, and the Grand Canyon, it was the one place we found in 2017 where you could be boondocking in the forest and fifteen minutes later enjoying “city amenities” like great coffee shops and local food spots. For amazing pizza, you must head to Oregano’s and Pizzicletta. Steep Leaf Lounge was a great place to talk over a pot of tea or get some work done. For fellow RVers and Van Lifers, Little America is an amazing spot to snag a hot shower.
10. Wherever Our Friends Are
Life on the Road was far from lonely this past year. For one, we met up often with fellow RV friends. It was incredibly fun to meet in new cities and towns. Meeting up with fellow RVers feels something like that excitement you got when attending a slumber party as a tween. The hours fly by, sometimes even just standing and talking at the doorway to your RV! In addition, we were able to visit friends that had moved out of Florida and we were also able to visit family. We even saw some Florida friends while they were vacationing out of state! In 2018, we are looking forward to meeting up with everyone again and getting out to friends and family we missed this year.
If you’ve been to these places, what did you like about them? Do you (or would you) like the same things living the RV lifestyle? Fill us in on some of your must-sees, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section! Thanks for following along, and stay tuned for part 2 of the 7 lessons we learned on our first night of camping. If you haven't had a chance yet, read part 1 HERE.