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Recommended Tent Camping Sites for 2011 - AL, AK, AZ
Alabama Tent Camping Trip
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Alabama has memorable music makers, space vehicles, pecan pies, and fast cars. In the heart of “Dixie,” you’ll see farmer’s markets, historic mansions and an unforgettable battleship standing strong. All things considered, the state of Alabama offers everything you could need to make great Alabama tent camping memories.
Located in Tuscumbia, in northern Alabama “mountain” region, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame elevates regional musical genius to new heights. The institution’s beginnings can be traced to a 1980 legislative mandate to formally honor Alabama’s top musical achievers. Today, the site boasts a chandelier light show, bronze stars bearing the names of those honored, a gallery with inductees’ portraits, and recording studio where you can choose a song track to make your own recording. All genres of music are represented here, with superstars like Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, Martha Reeves, Jimmy Buffet, and Nat King Cole singled out for top honors. Don’t miss an exhibit of special interest to RVers: musical group Alabama’s retired Southern Star Tour Bus.
Achievers of the orbital variety are recognized at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, off Interstate 565. The center has an extensive outdoor rocket park, Spacedome IMAX theater, and museum with interactive exhibits. The facility is also the official Space Camp Training Center, with amazing, simulated out-of-this-world activities for participants. If you're looking for Alabama tent campgrounds, Point Mallard Campground in the nearby town of Decatur has great Alabama tent camping sites.
Visit the recently renovated Vulcan Statue on top of Red Mountain in Birmingham, regarded as north central Alabama’s metropolitan area. It’s the second largest sculpture in the country, surpassed only by the Statue of Liberty. The vista of Birmingham from its perch is incomparable. Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and forge, has been the city’s proud symbol ever since it was designed for the 1904 World’s Fair. On your way out of Birmingham, stop by Dreamland Bar-B-Que for some smokin’ southern fare that even Vulcan would appreciate.
If you’re an auto racing fan, the speed contests at Talladega Superspeedway will no doubt get your blood running. While the speedway only plays host to two NASCAR Nextel Cup races each season, the track and facilities are open for tours and racing schools year-round. Take a class and some hot laps behind the wheel of a late model stock car and let the inner Jarrett, Gordon or Earnhardt,Jr. in you run wild.
In Alabama’s south central River Heritage area, pop into Priester’s Pecans, in Fort Deposit. Your crew should enjoy watching candy makers concoct sweet delights like pecan pie, pralines, and divinity before the need to devour them becomes too overwhelming. And here’s the really good news – free samples are part of the viewing experience.
Healthier fare such as fresh cornbread and fresh-roasted peanuts can be found while browsing through the colorful State Farmer’s Market in Montgomery off historic U.S. Highway 31. And at Old Alabama Town history village in Montgomery’s restored downtown district, learn how folks lived, worked, and played in the “Heart of Dixie” at the turn of the 20th century.
In Mobile Bay, along Alabama’s southern Gulf Coast, take a leisurely tour of the USS Alabama & USS Drum Battleship Memorial Park. Military seagoing vessels and aircraft, dating from World War II to Operation Desert Storm, are on display. You’ll see the massive USS Alabama battleship, USS Drum submarine, bombers, fighters and a Blackbird spyplane. There’s even a flight simulator ride for visitors who want to become part of the action and a snack bar for hungry campers. Chickasabogue Park & CG is one of the great Alabama tent campgrounds in the area.
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Alaska Tent Camping Trip
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No place in North America is still as untamed and filled with adventure as Alaska. The rewards are great, are you up for the challenge? Alaska offers two great routes for exploring, Highway 1 and Highway 2. The combined highway enters the southeast portion of the state from the Yukon Territory of Canada. The highways roll into Alaska and split at the town of Tok, where Highway 2 continues north to Fairbanks, while Highway 1 points southwest to the Kenai Peninsula. No matter which route you choose, you’re in store for a unique Alaskan tent camping adventure.
From Tok, head north on Highway 2, and “The Route to Klondike Gold”, where you’ll soon arrive in the town of Delta Junction, home to one of the largest agricultural areas in the state, not to mention one of the region’s largest buffalo herds. You’ll probably find many of them roaming the impressive Tanana Valley. Quartz Lake Campground is one of the great Alaska tent campgrounds in the area.
Your adventure along Highway 2 will end in Fairbanks, a unique town with adventure all its own. Born out of the Klondike gold rush, today’s Fairbanks is a bustling town in the heart of Alaska. Try out Alaskaland, a 44-acre city park that plays like a historical amusement park with Mining Valley, Mining Town, Alaska Native Village, and Gold Rush Town. One must-see in town is the University of Alaska Museum. Fairbanks is also home to some great festivals you might want to catch, depending on your Alaska tent camping trip plans. March hosts the impressive North American Open Dog Sled Championships, while the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics happens here each July.
If you choose to take the southern route on Highway 1, you’ll travel through the majestic Wrangell Range to your final Alaska tent camping destination, the breathtaking Kenai Peninsula. But before you even get there, your first stop should be at the town of Glenallen, a great starting point to explore the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. Inside the park, a worthwhile side trip to take is found at the impressive, abandoned Kennecott Copper Mine. You really can’t go wrong in this portion of the state.
Next visit the town of Palmer where, if you to plan to be there in late August, you can enjoy the festivities at the Alaska State Fair. You might also check out the Musk Ox Farm, an unusual treat considering it’s the world’s only domesticated herd of musk ox, a uniquely Alaskan animal.
Highway 1 delivers travelers to the state’s major tourist center, Anchorage. The city flourishes all year round with a mixture of unique galleries, museums, outdoor markets, festivals and events that celebrate the people, their culture, arts, cuisine and history. Experiencing this gamut of cultural outlets is even more challenging on the occasions when the temperature dips down below freezing.
If you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday in Anchorage, don’t miss the Great Alaskan Shootout, the famed basketball tournament that annually brings out the best and brightest from the collegiate ranks to kick off the NCAA season. In March, stick around for the world-famous Iditarod Great Sled Race, which kicks off in downtown Anchorage. The nearby town of Knik honors the tradition with its Knik Museum & Musher’s Hall of Fame.
Highway 1 then joins the Seward Hwy. south into the Kenai Peninsula, one of Alaska’s finest and most beautiful drives. One detour before departing the peninsula area is a visit to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a short jaunt off of Highway 9 in Seward, which has some pretty great Alaska tent campgrounds. Seward Waterfront Campground is one of them.
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Arizona Tent Camping Trip
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Let’s start our nostalgic Arizona tent camping trip in Southern Arizona, a land rich in history dating back to the days of the volatile Wild West and even further back, to the Spanish Mission era. Start your tour in the once rip-roarin’ town of Tombstone. Having seen the recent movie of the same name doesn’t excuse you from a visit here. Okay, so the rough-and-tumble cowboy town of yore is long gone, but Tombstone gets credit for capitalizing on its legendary past when Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday owned the streets. Old West re-enactments abound, from the famous Boothill Graveyard to the gunfight at the OK Corral, the legendary, classic shoot-out that actually lasted less than a minute.
While in the area, don’t miss a chance to take in the area’s marvelous Spanish history, particularly at San Xavier del Bac, a fully-restored 18th century mission which lies just south of Tucson.
Tucson is also home to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC), a graveyard and recycling center for thousands of retired military airplanes. If it ever flew for the “ol’ red, white, and blue”, it might still be found somewhere here. The facilities of Pima Air and Space Museum also present the importance of aeronautics to Southern Arizona, where countless planes and other craft have been tested over the years. There are also several recommended Arizona tent camping spots here. See the downloadable list for campground information.
The famed and curious Biosphere 2 Center lies just northeast of Tucson and is worthy of at least a token look-see. Home to one of the world’s most ambitious and controversial scientific experiments ever, the 1990’s-era project ultimately failed in its bid to recreate all of the planet’s biomes in this 3.5-acre glass enclosure. Oh, well, the structures still look pretty cool. Today, Biosphere 2 offers regular tours.
If you’re still intent on exploring more of Biosphere 1 (a.k.a. Earth), head northwest on Interstate 10 towards Phoenix. Thirty miles northeast of the city towers Theodore Roosevelt Dam. The sight will leave you speechless. This massive dam was the first project to be completed under the Federal Reclamation Act of 1902 under President Theodore Roosevelt and the very first of several large-scale irrigation projects that flourished in the Southwest. Much of the population of Central Arizona can thank Mr. Roosevelt and his enduring structure for supplying their drinking water. While snooping around Phoenix, go meet some modern-day pioneers at Sun City, “America’s First Planned Retirement Community.”
From Phoenix, head north on US-17 towards Flagstaff. On your way, be sure to check out one of North America’s earliest known communities at Montezuma Castle National Monument, featuring a stunning 12th-century pueblo carved into the side of a cliff.
In Flagstaff, be sure to sneak a peek at the world-famous Lowell Observatory. Call ahead for opening hours and stop to get a good look at deep space. East of Flagstaff, along Interstate 40, is the town of Meteor Crater, where you’ll find, well, a meteor crater. This is no pint-sized impact zone – it’s absolutely huge! We’re talking more than 4,000 feet across, with loads of wonderful viewing areas to take it all in. The KOA-Flagstaff-Grand Canyon is one of the great Arizona tent campgrounds here.
Located some 105 miles east of Flagstaff and just outside of Holbrook, AZ is the Petrified Forest National Park. The park is home to one of the world’s largest concentration of petrified wood, historic structures, archeological sites, petroglyphs and displays of 225 million-year-old fossils. The park has been a tourist favorite since it was created by FDR in 1906.
Plan a trip to the Colorado River to visit the original London Bridge, in Lake Havasu City. Everyone laughed when magnate Robert McColluch purchased the bridge for $2.4 million and relocated it to its new Arizona home in 1960s. But no one is laughing now as this tourist attraction regularly brings in the masses to gaze at the inspiration for the famous nursery rhyme. Another pleasant distraction, Oatman Ghost Town, is but a short drive away.
Monument Valley’s lonely buttes are familiar to even first-time visitors because they’ve been seen on television and in film, ever since director John Ford first “cast” them in his classic westerns. A 17-mile loop drive takes you past most of the more familiar landmarks. Goulding's Monument Valley RV Park is one of the great Arizona tent campgrounds here.
Don’t vacate the state without a stop in Yuma. After all, why miss a small taste of prison life at the turn of the 19th century Yuma Territorial Prison State Historical Park. The park’s museum has a wonderful display on life and lore of the American West during the 1800s along with marvelous Native American artifacts.
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