State by State Adventures

Alabama

  • Gulf Shores – Fort Morgan
    • A large military fort that has protected the Mobile Bay since the early 1800’s.  Exploring the pentagonal fortress was educational and impressive.  Our tour was a solitary one and the fort felt huge. I can imagine it would be pretty crowded when all 400+ soldiers were inside the walls.  Be sure to walk though the visitor center and observe all of the artifacts and stories shared.

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  • Gulf Shores – Beach & State Park
    • Stunning undeveloped beach with sugary white sand.  The only thing we did in the state park was bike on the many miles of bike trails they have.  There was a variety of gravel, paved and boardwalk paths throughout the park.

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  • Mobile – USS Alabama & USS Drum
    • This was way more exciting than I expected it to be.  The USS Alabama is a retired Navy battleship that you can explore at your own pace.  You receive a map that breaks the boat into 4 different sections.  Going through the maze of corridors and rooms was enlightening.  The displays and artifacts made it easy to imaging what life was like living on the ship and during battle.  We easily spent two hours exploring and could have spent many more.  The USS Drum is a retired submarine that you can go inside of.  Walking through those tiny corridors reaffirmed that I could never be inside a submarine deep under water.  *Plenty of parking for rv’s in their parking lot at no extra cost.

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  • Campgrounds

    • Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores

Arkansas

  • Hot Springs – Fordyce Bathhouse
    • This large bathhouse is the best place to see what bathhouses used to look like.  You can take a self guided tour or go along with a tour given by a park ranger.  You are able to access all sections of the bathhouse and get an understanding of why people took such an interest in the bathhouse idea.

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  • Hot Springs – Lake Catherine State Park
    • We explored the park via a long walking path that took us through the woods and along the lake.  Along the way we came across a large waterfall.  There is also a campground at the state park that looked really nice.  We were staying somewhere else though.

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Florida

  • Gainesville – University of Florida Bat Houses
    • The three bat houses at the University of Florida house approximately 500,000 bats.  On warm evenings they come out to feed just after sunset.  The bats pour out of their houses, when the temperature is right, during the short time between sunset and dark.  It was an amazing spectacle.  We were not the only ones waiting for the bats to come out though.  Large birds, owls and hawks, were in the trees around the bat houses waiting to prey on the bats.

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  • Pensacola – National Aviation Museum
    • This was a must visit for our family.  This is an incredible museum and it is all free except for the movie and simulators.   Located on the Pensacola Naval Air Station, this museum is great for all ages and levels of aviation interest.  There was a playground and cockpits for kids to play on and an outdoor trolley ride through airplanes on the ramp.  We even did the 360° F-18 simulator.  Surprisingly Fred was the timid one and Red had a blast doing all of the crazy maneuvers.  My favorite part was the recreated 1940’s town.  It contained storefronts and buildings to show what life was like during WWII.

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  • Pensacola – Pensacola Lighthouse & Museum
    • The lighthouse is located on the Naval Air Station across the street from the museum.  We hesitated a bit to pay the fee to visit this location, but I am happy we did.  The museum was small but interesting.  It also was the a location where they filmed footage for TAPS Ghost Hunters.  The lighthouse has 177 steep steps, but the view from the top is amazing!

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  • Tallahassee – Mission San Luis de Apalachee
    • Mission San Luis was the western capital of Spanish Florida from 1656 to 1704.   The settlement was a combination of Apalachee Indians and Spanish immigrants.  This is a living history museum that brings the 17th century to life.  There are people in period clothing throughout teaching you about the buildings from each culture and what life was like during that period.  We spent the most time with the blacksmith’s learning about their trade.

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  • Tallahassee – Tallahassee Museum
    • This museum was much more than I expected it to be.  It covers over 50 acres and has several sections.  It is a combination of museum, nature center, zoo and pioneer farmstead that even includes a zip-lining course.

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  • Tampa – Manatee Viewing Center
    • We really wanted to see the manatees while in Western Florida.  Everyone kept telling us to go to the power plant.  I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was surprised to find there is an informational visitor center with a couple of viewing areas to see the manatees.  Also, there is a large tank of sting rays that you can touch.  The manatees slowly appearing while rising and disappearing while sinking are mesmerizing to watch.  Smell the manatee breath in the exhibit if you dare!

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  • Tampa – Honeymoon Island State Park
    • The island is reached by a bridge.  Once you get across you are required to pay a small fee to enter the state park.  There are several trails for walking or biking, a playground and very beautiful beaches.  All four of us and the dog loved spending time here.

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  • Campgrounds

    • Bayou Bay RV Resort, Tampa
    • Paynes Prairie Reserve State Park, Gainesville
    • Coe’s Landing County Park, Tallahassee

Louisiana 

  • Convent – Poche Plantation
    • Poche Plantation was the home of Judge Poche.  Today the home is open for tours and the grounds are a campground.  We stayed here for two weeks.  The tour of the home was given by the campground host.  He did a great job and was very knowledgable.

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  • Thibodaux – Bayou Children’s Museum
    • We have always enjoyed going to children’s museums, but sadly my children are getting too big for many of them.  We were getting a bit stir crazy and decided to try out the Bayou Children’s Museum.  It was fantastic!  There was a large sugar cane combine that could be climbed on and in, a full grocery store and kitchen, stage with costumes, outdoor vehicles to play on and much more that was still fun for my older kids.  The best part was an interactive demonstration given by a local sheriff about fire safety.  We all got to experience a smokey room and learn about where to go and what do to in the event of a fire.  Even though our “home” is different than most it was still very helpful.

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  • Vacherie – Laura Plantation
    • There are many plantations to visit west of New Orleans.  We decided to go to the Laura Plantation as it had the best reviews.  It was a a beautiful home and the tour guide did a good job of giving the history of the home and family. It was neat to see but wasn’t quite as great we expected.

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  • Wallace – Whitney Plantation
    • We were also encouraged to visit the Whitney Plantation.  This plantation’s focus was on the history of slavery.  I highly recommend this tour.  I want our kids to understand slavery but was worried it would be too much for them to handle.  It was very well done.  The stories helped them understand without making them scared.  There is a large modern museum of slavery, several slave cabins, a memorial, a church, sugar mill, overseer home, and a plantation house.

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  • Campgrounds

    • Burns Point Park, Franklin
    • Poche Plantation, Convent

North Carolina

  • Asheville – Biltmore Estate
    • Before kids we visited the Biltmore Estate and I’ve always wanted to go back with my children.  We were lucky enough to go back while it was decorated for Christmas which brought the majesty of the house to a new level.  There is a new section that showcases the farm at Biltmore.  We also enjoyed the free wine tasting that came with our tickets.

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  • Chimney Rock – Chimney Rock State Park
    • Chimney Rock is a village that takes its name from a large outcropping of rock near it in the Great Smokey Mountains.  We didn’t do anything in the village but went to the state park.  To get to the top of the rock requires climbing many many steps.  It was quite a workout but the view was worth it once you got to the top.  There is also a side trail you can hike to visit a tall waterfall. You can either see this waterfall in the movie Last of the Mohican’s  or you can go see it in person.  We normally try to visit places during the week to avoid the crowds, but we visited here on a weekend.  It was very busy.

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  • Hendersonville – Western North Carolina Air Museum
    • We stumbled across this neat museum at the small local airport.  A private group has assembled quite the collection in this museum.

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  • Campgrounds

    • Lazy Boy Travel Park, Hendersonville (Don’t recommend this one)

South Carolina

  • Campgrounds

    • Iron City Campground, Blacksburg

Tennessee

  • Great Smokey Mountains National Park – Cade’s Cove
    • Cade’s Cove is a small valley in the Great Smokey Mountains that was home to settlers since the early 1800’s.  To tour this area you drive an eleven mile loop around the valley.  While driving you can stop off at the various sites of settlers.  Be sure to stop off at the entrance for the booklet describing what you will see.

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  • Great Smokey Mountains National Park – Hiking Little River Trail
    • While in the Smokey Mountains we really wanted to get out and hike.  Our originally planned trail was inaccessible due to very strong winds.  Several roads ended up closing and blocked access to many trails.  We ended up on the Little River Trail which was an old train track paved over.  There was a small section in the beginning that had the remains of home foundations.  Along the rail tracks there also are buildings that were from the early 1900’s.  Wealthy people would come in by train to escape the city and come to the mountains to vacation.

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  • Pigeon Forge – Alpine Mountain Coaster
    • We were looking for something fun to do on Halloween and decided to scare ourselves on the mountain roller coaster.  There are a few of these in the Pigeon Forge area.  You ride the coaster up the mountain slowly.  For the descent you are in control of the brakes, which determines how fast you go.  It was so much fun, we decided to go twice!  It was a slow start though as the maintenance crew had to clear the track of a curious black bear.  That was the first time the company had a visitor like that.  A bear is crossing the track ahead…. pull the brake or keep going?

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  • Campgrounds

    • Riverside RV Park, Sevierville

Texas

  • Blanco County – Pedernales Falls State Park
    • An absolutely gorgeous state park with many waterfalls and beautiful rock formations.  Water over the years has the ability to transform things.  This park is a great example of the power of water and how it can sculpt rocks and anything else it may come across.  Flash flooding can happen quickly in this area, so be sure to be aware when traveling to the area.

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  • Dallas – Perot Museum of Nature & Science
    • There are several floors of amazing things to see at this museum.  It’s pricey to go, but we highly recommend it.  You can spend a full day here.  We especially enjoyed the special exhibit called The Art of the Brick which recreated many pieces of artwork using legos.

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  • Fredricksburg – National Museum of the Pacific War
    • This is a very well done and extremely informative museum.  We could have easily spent much longer reading and absorbing all of the information that was portrayed but the kids were done after a few hours.  There were a few other places within Fredricksburg that went along with the museum, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore them.

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  • Galveston – Galveston Railroad Museum
    • A museum focusing on the railroad and how it impacted the Galveston area.  There are several full train cars that you can walk through and explore.  Upon entering the restored train station you are taken back in time.  The highlight for the kids were the working model train villages.  Hurricane Ike in 2008 did an enormous amount of damage this museum.  It is impressive how well they have recovered.  Outside the front doors of the museum is a great historic street to walk, shop and eat on.

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  • Houston – BAPS Shri Swamnarayan Mandir
    • We were not quite sure what to expect on this one.  It was a nice surprise and change of pace from museums.  The temple was built in 2004 and consists of hand carved Italian marble and Turkish limestone.  It serves as an active temple and an educational opportunity about Hinduism.  Young children may have difficulties here as they do request silence be maintained.  This is one of six temples in the United States.

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  • Houston – Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
    • This is a peaceful place to visit in the middle of concrete and skyscrapers. While standing in the center of the waterfall and looking up your eyes play tricks on your mind.  The downward moving water can give you the sensation of moving upwards.   Best to save the beer drinking or wine tasting until after your visit to the Waterwall.

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  • San Antonio – Witte Museum
    • An educational and hands-on museum that tells the history of Texas.  This kept us busy for a few hours.  The history museum has a good video that shows early life in Texas along with many exhibits depicting different time periods.  The kids also enjoyed the HEB Body Adventure building where they learned about how bodies work and how to be healthy.  There was also a fun interactive traveling exhibit called Planet Pioneers all about traveling to other planets.

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  • Waco – Fixer Upper TV Show Sites
    • Since 2014 we enjoyed as a family watching the HGTV show called Fixer Upper.  When we determined that our route would take us close to Waco we knew we had to make the popular sites a stop on our route.  We started with breakfast at the Magnolia Table.  We heard stories of long wait times, but we got a table right away.  It was good food, but a little pricey.  We then went to the Magnolia Market which is a store selling many home design items.  Since our home is small and on wheels, we didn’t purchase anything other than a book and some t-shirts.  Afterwards, the kids played in the market square with the balls and other items provided.  It was early in the season, and therefore the many food trucks were not open.  We did go to the bakery though and I had the best cupcake ever.  Be sure to try the Toasted Coconut Cupcake.  Amazing!  I found a listing of renovated homes addresses and we drove around to see them.  Our final spot was to drive by the castle that is in Waco that the Gaines family recently purchased.

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  • Wimberley – Jacobs Well
    • A spring that is located in Texas hill country.  This park has a few walking trails along with the spring.  In the summer this is a popular swimming place.  The mouth of the cave associated with the spring is 12 feet wide and has an average depth of 120 feet.

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  • Campgrounds

    • Lazy L & L Campground, New Braunfels
    • Lake Waco RV Park, Waco
    • Ranch 380 RV Park, Dallas