Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Recommended Tent Camping Sites for 2011 - IN, IA, KS, KY

Indiana Tent Camping Trip

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Indiana’s Highway 31 could be one of the most quaint roads in America. Start at the town of South Bend, work your way through Amish Country, stop by the biggest small town in the Midwest, and finish with the rolling, lush farmlands of southern Indiana. Hoosiers are fiercely proud of their state, and from a trip down this highway you will soon find out why.

Much of Indiana was borne out of great traditions and your first stop along US-31 is one of the finest examples. South Bend is home to the University of Notre Dame and the tradition of college football must have originated here. There are also several Indiana tent campgrounds nearby South Bend. Visit the College Football Hall of Fame to brush up on the legends of the game, from the Fighting Irish to all the other gridiron teams from around the country. Don’t pass up a chance to take a leisurely stroll inside the campus and glimpse the steeples of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and the legendary Golden Dome.

For nostalgia, pure and simple, head on over to the Studebaker National Museum, also in South Bend. The facility houses dozens of automotive specimens and traces the history of some of the industry’s most unique autos, from the company’s inception as a wagon builder in 1835, to the unveiling of their “cars of the future” at 1956 World’s Fair.

Travel east on US-20, stop by the town of Elkhart. There you’ll find the RV/MH Heritage Foundation, a hall of fame, library, and museum dedicated to the RV lifestyle! Take a tour through more than 90 years of RV history and experience life as it was when American families hit the road with the very first RVs – some of which were called “spam cans”, for obvious reasons. Oh, how far we’ve come.

Back on Hwy 31, keep going until you near the town of Peru for some interesting Indiana tent camping. Consider heading a few miles east on Route 124 until you reach the International Circus Hall of Fame and Museum. This sleepy little town was, for years, the wintering grounds of the famous Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. Today, the land has been turned into a temple for the circus and carnival crowd. Inside is housed one of the most unique collections of artifacts, photos, stories, and memorabilia from those nomadic troupes that traveled around the country capturing the imagination of generations of children and adults. Mississinewa Lake is one of the great Indiana tent campgrounds to check out in this area.

Keep driving south until the town of Kokomo comes into view and its impressive Automotive Heritage Museum. More than 100,000 square feet of exhibits and displays showcase dozens of classic automobiles and the rich history of Indiana’s automobile industry. Those up for a little side trip east of here are rewarded by the birthplace of American legend, James Dean, in the city of Fairmont. Today the town hosts regular events honoring their favorite son, James Dean.

Your next stop is Indianapolis, where your US-31 tour comes to a close. Indy is a big city with a small town feel. Make a point to visit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame and Museum to walk through 80 some years of racing history and heroes. If you happen to be in town during the Indiana State Fair, don’t miss a visit to Hook’s American Drugstore Museum. Only open during the fair weeks (mid-August), the museum takes you back to yesteryear when the thing to do on Saturday night was to gather at the drug store, knock back a malt, and catch up with the neighbors.

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Iowa Tent Camping Trip

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Iowa Highway-6 runs east to west, more or less, down the center of the state from Davenport, Iowa, along the banks of the Mississippi River, to Council Bluff along the Nebraska border. And there are plenty of places for an Iowa tent camping adventure, and nostalgia, in the heart of the American Heartland.

Start your road trip in the classic and charming river town of Clinton. Like many of the towns situated along the Mississippi, river life dominates culture down here – and Clinton is very proud of this heritage. Your first stop should be the Clinton Area Showboat Theatre aboard the City of Clinton. This theater group performs year-round onboard an authentic paddleboat permanently docked here. Can’t get enough of showboats along the Mississippi? Head on over to the Mississippi Belle II, a gambling casino harkening back to yesteryear.

From Clinton head south a bit ‘til you reach the town of Davenport. Here is what is known as the “Quad Cities,” the largest metropolitan area in Iowa. Once a major trading hub during the 19th century, the area is steeped in history. However, it’s the military history that draws people to the area. The appropriately named Arsenal Island, located just east of Davenport, was one of the nation’s most important producers of military equipment. Nearby, don’t miss the Rock Island Arsenal Museum, the second-oldest military museum outside of West Point. To get more of the city’s historic charm, visit the Village of East Davenport, a showcase of historic homes and shops dating back to 1851. There are also several gambling boats on-hand to whisk you away along the Mississippi and tempt you to part with your nest egg.

Scott County Park and West Lake Park are a couple Iowa tent campgrounds in the area for you to check out.

Once you’re finished your Davenport visit, continue west until you reach Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. The town is also rich in culture and has become affectionately known as the “Athens of the Midwest.” One peculiar stop in Iowa City is the Devonian Fossil Gorge. In 1993, great floods ravaged the area. After the water receded, a 15-foot chasm full of dinosaur fossils was revealed.

From Iowa City, stop by the progressive town of Grinnell. Home of the acclaimed Grinnell College, the town was founded by J.B. Grinnell who made his town an important stop along the Underground Railroad. Learn these and other exciting tales at the Grinnell Historical Museum.

From there, continue west to the town of Newton, home of the Maytag Company for nearly 100 years. Two worthwhile destinations explain to visitors the company’s major influence on the town include the Jasper County Historical Museum and the Maytag Dairy Farm.

Don’t miss Trainland U.S.A., located just north of the town of Colfax. Nearly one mile of model railroad track runs throughout this converted two-story house, which doubles as a museum dedicated to the model rail as well. Your inner child will thank you for visiting here.

Go west, young man (or woman), and you’ll soon arrive in the Iowa capital city, Des Moines. City sights include the Iowa State Capital Building, the Iowa Historical Building, and the Heritage Carousel, a charming and historic carousel located downtown. While in the area, be sure to take a tour of the six covered bridges of Madison County. Several historic bridges capture the romantic life of yesteryear. Hint: A nostalgic picnic lunch with the Mrs. wouldn’t be a bad idea, you old softie. Here, Acorn Valley is one of the area's Iowa tent campgrounds you should check out.

Heading west from Madison County, your last Iowa tent camping stop along Highway 6 is the border town of Council Bluffs. Named after the meeting place between the Lewis and Clark expedition and local Native American tribes, the town later became a major stopover for folks traveling the Mormon Trail. Explore the Loess Hills Scenic Byway offering Iowa’s best scenery and outdoor recreation. Council Bluffs, designated as the eastern terminus of the first transcontinental railroad and also a hub during the railroad boom, is doubly celebrated at both the Union Pacific Railroad Museum and the RailsWest Railroad Museum.

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Kansas Tent Camping Trip

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US-40 makes a memorable appearance as it winds its way through western Kansas before being absorbed by Interstate 70, the state’s main thoroughfare. But before jumping on that massive highway, tour the slower, more peaceful part of Kansas. (True, most of Kansas is slow and peaceful, but I digress). Begin at the town of Sharon Springs, a historic and modern-day county seat. Hopefully, you’ll find yourself in town at the end of May, where you can enjoy, or partake, in a unique event, the Rattlesnake Roundup. Be sure to leave the rounding up to the, ahem, professionals.

Head east and you’ll soon find yourself in the town of Oakley, born during the halcyon days of the Wild West. Today, this historic town welcomes visitors from all over.

The town of Quinter, east of Oakley, was originally just a whistle stop on the Kansas branch of the Union Pacific Railroad. The area is most known for its impressive landscape, namely Castle Rock, a unique rock outcropping rising out of the flat prairie landscape. And you thought Kansas had little in the way of topography! South of town begins an impressive “badlands” environment similar to the more famous one in South Dakota.

After Quinter, US-40 and I-70 intertwine heading east all the way to Kansas City. But first, stop at the town of Hays, a place reminiscent of the Old West. If it’s not too creepy for you, we suggest a tour of legendary Boot Hill Cemetery, where many rough-and-tumble characters found their final resting place. The town is chock-full of other historic frontier wonders including the Cheyenne Indian Raid Gravesite and historic Fort Hays. The Historic Walking Tour is easily the best way to learn more about the city’s frontier history.

Head east out of Hays and you’ll wind up in Salina, where you can get lost exploring the many historic and nostalgic attractions available in the city’s downtown area. Finish your visit with a review of area history at the Yesteryear Museum. Abilene, located just east of Salina, features the Eisenhower Center. This is the birthplace and childhood home of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Facilities include a museum, library and a meditation chapel - the final resting place of the former President and First Lady.

State capital Topeka is our next stop along the route. Here, one can learn more about one of the most important events in U.S. history at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, a facility dedicated to the Supreme Court decision to end segregation in public schools. Capital City KOA is one of the great Kansas tent campgrounds to check out in the area.

On a lighter note, don’t miss the Carousel in the Park, a restored merry-go-round inside the elegant Gage Park. The mile-long mini train is arguably the best way to explore the 160-acre park. One can’t-miss Topeka attraction is the Combat Air Museum, which showcases dozens of retired aircraft as well as other unique military exhibits.

Head east for Lawrence, which is easily considered the cultural capital of the state. Head down Jayhawk Boulevard to tour the impressive campus of the University of Kansas. While there, don’t miss the KU Natural History Museum, one of the most impressive museums of its kind in the nation. For basketball buffs, one can’t miss a visit to Allen Fieldhouse, a mecca for college basketball. Lawrence is where the game was invented, dontcha know, by Dr. James Naismith, the university’s first head coach. Tour the stadium’s impressive museum and learn about other Jayhawk legends such as coach “Phog” Allen and Kansas’ most distinguished b-ball playing alum, Wilt Chamberlain. Clinton State Park is one of the great Kansas tent campgrounds to check out in the area.

Your next and final stop on this Kansas tent camping trip is Kansas City. For baseball fans, check out the wonderful Negro Leagues Baseball Museum located in the city’s historic jazz district. Right down the road is the American Jazz Museum, which showcases Kansas City’s important contributions to the art, most notably by its favorite son, saxophonist Charlie Parker. And who could visit Kansas City without partaking in its most famous fare, BBQ? There’s many, many restaurants to choose from, but some of the local favorites are Gates BBQ and Arthur Bryant’s BBQ.

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Kentucky Tent Camping Trip

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When you visit Kentucky, you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jackpot. Do heart-stopping horse races, sleek sports cars, railway rides, bluegrass banjos, and toe-tappin’ melodies sound like fun? You betcha’!

North central Kentucky is horse country, and there’s no better way to gain an overview of the region than by touring the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington near U.S. Highway 60. It’s a working farm with more than 50 resident breeds of horses plus a theme park showcasing the long-standing bond between horses and people. There are pony and carriage rides, guided trail adventures, historical exhibits, a horse-drawn trolley tour, equestrian shows, and world-class sporting events. Visits to the legendary Churchill Downs racetrack and the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, west of Lexington and off The Dixie Highway 60/31W, afford an insider’s perspective of America’s most celebrated horse race. From Lexington, take the Combs Mountain Parkway into eastern Kentucky.

In this mountainous, picturesque region, Kentucky tent camping is plentiful and the folks at Mountain HomePlace, near Paintsville, re-create daily life living on an 1860’s Appalachian farmstead. With mountain music accompanying activities and a mule, sheep, and pigs standing by, costumed guides demonstrate traditional farm chores at this living history center. Don’t forget to buy an old-time stick slingshot or a cake of homemade lye soap before you heading back to the 21st Century.

Country, Bluegrass and American Folk music fans already know that Renfro Valley’s Entertainment Center on U.S. Highway 25 presents top musicians in concert. We’re talking about shining stars like Loretta Lynn, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Mickey Gilley. Renfro Valley’s restaurants and RV campsites are fine and dandy, too.

You can also catch expertly performed comedies, dramas, and Broadway musicals at the 40-year-old Jenny Wiley Outdoor Theater in Prestonburg. Paramount Arts Center in the restored 1930 Paramount Theatre in Ashland (near U.S. Highways 23 and 60) offers all kinds of fabulous entertainment, from symphonies and ballets to Beatles tributes and soul music concerts.

Head out of the mountain region, west into south central Kentucky, along the Daniel Boone Parkway and the Cumberland Parkway.

The “cave country” of south central Kentucky is home of the National Corvette Museum and Corvette Plant, both in Bowling Green. The museum exhibits the cream of the Corvette crop, including classic antiques and some unique designs that never reached the assembly line. Afterwards, head over to the world’s one-and-only Corvette production plant to discover the unique process for building the quintessential American speedster. Bowling Green has one or two Kentucky tent campgrounds for you to check out.

The Bluegrass State’s coal mining connection is highlighted at two regional locales – the Blue Heron Mining Community exhibit and the Koger Barthell Camp, a restored mining center with company store and schoolhouse dating back to the early 1900’s. Both mining camps are located in Stearns, a scheduled stop on the 13-mile-long Big South Fork Scenic Railway ride. Follow the William H. Natchez Parkway from Bowling to Owensboro and into the western country.

Western Kentucky, a land of fabulous lakes, is also home of artist John James Audubon’s Museum and Nature Center. Located in Henderson, the Audubon Center offers a fine display of oil paintings, watercolors, and engravings, many of which Audubon completed while he lived in Kentucky. Nearby in Paducah off historic U.S. Highway 60, the “world’s largest” Museum of the American Quilter’s Society exhibits more than 100 hand-crafted quilts. There are also one or two great Kentucky tent campgrounds to consider here.

The International Bluegrass Music Museum is a top-rated western Kentucky attraction that’s noted for banjos and the uplifting lilt of Bluegrass tunes. Situated off Highway 60 in Owensboro, the museum chronicles the 1930’s-era emergence of Bluegrass, a style of country music that boasts a distinctive Kentucky flair.

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