Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

Recommended Tent Camping Sites for 2011 - MI, MN, MS

Michigan Tent Camping Trip

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Michigan’s Highway 27 is another nostalgic highway that courses its way down the center of the state. However, the northernmost section of US-27 has been absorbed by I-75. No matter, there’s still plenty of fun to be had.

Begin at the scenic town of Mackinaw City, located at the very northern tip of Michigan along the banks of Lake Huron. This tiny, seaside-like village “boasts” a year-round population of less than 1,000, a number that escalates wildly only during its amazingly popular summer months. Visit historic Fort Michilimackinac (say that three times fast) to learn more about the area’s participation in the French and Indian War.

While you’re in the area, consider a sojourn to Mackinac Island is an absolute must. The island abounds with endless charms where it seems time has stopped. You’ll have to leave the RV behind as the island has major automobile restrictions that help preserve island’s charm that is
reminiscent of New England’s Cape Cod. But don’t worry about getting around. More than 600 horses serve visitors for horseback rides, horse-drawn carriages, and horse-drawn taxis. One historic visit is the Grand Hotel which hosts live entertainment each night for guests and non-guests alike. Natural beauty is Mackinac’s main draw and it begins and ends with Mackinac Island State Park. The park’s craggy cliffs were carved out of glaciers and today tumble into the icy waters of the Great Lakes and provide stunning views. The island also abounds with artistic bounty as several art galleries showcase some of the finest
artists in the Midwest. Thousands of revelers come out during mid-June, when the islands plays host to the annual Mackinac Island Lilac Festival.

South of Mackinaw City, head on over to Gaylord, where a duffer might think they’ve discovered heaven on Earth. Gaylord is world-renown and one of the finest golf destinations in America. The area in and around the city hosts – be still my heart – no less than 22 courses, several of which are ranked as some of the best in the nation. If you’re still in the area and looking for a little angling, head down to Grayling and the world-famous Au Sable River, home to some of the finest trout fishing in the nation. South of Grayling I-75 and US-27 go there separate ways.

Southward, you’ll find yourself in Houghton Lake, a charming town along the banks of its namesake lake. Plenty of fishing and camping can be found around here. And if you’re lucky enough to find yourself in town during January, don’t miss the annual Tip-Up Town U.S.A., a weeklong celebration of everything ice fishing.

The state capital of Lansing is south on US-27. One of the more unique stops in Lansing – which also, sadly, is saddled with an awfully dull name -- is the Michigan Museum of Surveying. The Michigan Territory was once the wild frontier and a hotbed of exploration and clashes with Native Americans during the late 18th Century. Learn all about it here. Two other worthwhile stops are the Oldsmobile Heritage Center and the R.E. Olds Transportation Museum. Ransom E. Olds first produced cars here – way back in 1897 – and everything is on display.

Our last stop along US-27 is the town of Jackson, best known as the birthplace of the Republican Party, formed in 1854 with the goal of eliminating slavery across the United States. Be sure to take off your “Kerry/Edwards” bumper sticker. From the past of Jackson, step into the future at the Michigan Space & Science Center, which offers up a myriad of educational interactive exhibits.

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Minnesota Tent Camping Trip

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Minnesota’s Highway 71 winds through some particularly diverse landscapes. The southern region is mostly characterized by rolling farmland until it eventually skirts the shadow of the Twin Cities. Heading northwards, we then head deep into the lush wild landscape of the North Woods until the highway reaches the doorstep of Canada. But rest assured, there’s plenty to discover and do along the way before you get way up there.

Let’s begin our tour of the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes at the town of Windom, near the Iowa border. An historical education can be had here about the plight of the Sioux Indians who once roamed these lands before being forced out around the time of the Civil War. Windom’s Heritage Village also serves as a living history museum, designed to present this important regional story. Nearby are the Jeffers Petroglyphs, with its more than 2,000 Native American rock carvings preserved along a terrific hiking trail.

The nearby town of Willmar signals the end to the pastoral ranges of southern Minnesota and the beginning of the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes region. From here lakes, ponds, rivers, and every other sort of waterway guide you north to Canada.

If you’ve never been to the region before, consider a side trip two hours east of Willmar on Hwy 12 to the Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Some of the more unique attractions in the area include the Twin Cities Model Railroad Museum; the Mall of America, where die-hard shoppers will finally meet their match; the Planes of Fame Air Museum; or check out the local artists’ wares at the Stone Arch Festivals Y Arts. Each delivers a unique diversion.

Back on US-71, keep going north into the Headwaters Region, where it seems like every river and lake across the nation originated here in Central Minnesota. The jumping urban town of St. Cloud, north of the Twin Cities on Hwy. I-94, is our first stop. Visit the Stearns County Heritage Center and learn about the town’s birth out of the once-booming granite industry.

From there, head west along US-71 until you reach Sauk Centre, the birthplace of famed writer Sinclair Lewis. Although Lewis painted the town in a less-than-flattering manner in his acclaimed Main Street, it appears the residents have buried the proverbial hatchet. Sauk Centre today boasts the Sinclair Lewis Interpretive Center, so we’re guessing there are no hard feelings remaining. Next to the historic Palmer House Hotel (itself worth a visit), still stands Lewis’ boyhood home.

Off Hwy. 71 is Lake Itasca, in Itasca State Park, where the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River begin as a mere, quiet stream as it slips out the northern town of Bemidji and south, building up momentum as it rolls its way to the Louisiana Delta. The town loves its relationship with one mythical man whose story began here – Paul Bunyan, and his faithful blue ox, Babe. Everything in and around Bemidji seems to be emblazoned with an image of the pair. Along the banks of Lake Bemidji you can get a glimpse of 30-foot statues of this legendary twosome. Other town attractions include the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, the Headwaters Science Center, and the Paul Bunyan Amusement Center. It’s all Paul Bunyan, all the time.

US-71 then heads northeast and into the great North Woods of Minnesota. Bemidji was more or less the last outpost before entering this remote wilderness. We recommend stocking up your rig on grub, fuel, and supplies before heading out into this adventure that leads us to International Falls and the Canadian border. Outside the town, get in touch with nature in Minnesota’s only national park, Voyageurs National Park. Nearby is the popular International Bridge, suitable for either driving or parking the RV and footing it across to Frances, Ontario. The two resort towns of Rainy Lake and Rainy Falls offer plenty of recreation in the form of golf, fishing, antiquing, biking, and gold mine touring.

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Mississippi Tent Camping Trip

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A trip through Mississippi reveals hillside farms, deltas, forests, and plantation reveries. How about ferry rides, river cruises, handcrafted pottery stores, persimmon pickin’, and fine dining? You’ll never run out of vistas commemorating the great American travel itineraries in Mississippi.

Northern Mississippi Hill Country is where you can find
Borroum’s Drug Store, in downtown Corinth near U.S. Highway 72. Opened in 1865, Bourrum’s is the state’s oldest family-run drug store, which probably explains why the Borroums’ burgers, milkshakes, and fountain-style sodas are so delicious. They’ve had plenty of time to perfect them.

Burton’s Sugar Farm in Michigan City has been a family enterprise since Grandfather Burton moved from Arkansas in 1879. Today, it’s a Heritage Village where you’ll find authentic elements of long-ago farm life, from grist mills grinding corn and a working blacksmith’s shop to pumpkin patches and sorghum molasses.

The Magnolia State’s west central zone is known as “The Delta,” and where there’s a delta, there’s a river. Fortunately, if you take U.S. Highway 61 to Tunica’s RiverPark you can get out and about on the Mighty Mississippi, America’s greatest river, aboard a Tunica Queen Riverboat Cruise. The scenic forests, swamps, and sandbars that you’ll cruise past on the paddlewheeler have been around for a very long time. And they don’t look much different than they did during Mark Twain’s era.

Also off U.S. Highway 61, McCarty Pottery in Merigold houses the celebrated shop and gardens of “Uncle Lee” and ”Aunt Pup” McCarty, two amiable, accomplished potters whose work has been showcased in galleries from Mississippi to Japan. The McCartys’ bustling business was launched in 1954 when a generous aunt gave Lee and Pup her mule barn for their studio conversion. The rest is pottery history.

In east central Mississippi’s “Pines” region you’ll find Meridian’s historic Dentzel Carousel in Highland Park. The carousel’s 28 wooden horses, reindeer, and lions are hand-carved and flanked by 64 museum-worthy oil paintings. Considering the National Landmark Carousel and its original domed house were custom-crafted for the 1904 World’s Fair, the 50-cent ride is one of the best vintage bargains in Mississippi. You can’t help but feel a little nostalgic while you’re spinning around on this classic beauty.

Another example of the past may be found at the Williams Brothers, Inc. in Philadelphia. Three generations of family proprietors at this general merchandise store have sold nostalgic provisions like slab bacon, iron skillets, and mule collars. For fresh produce, drive your rig down U.S. Highway 82 to Reese Orchard in Starkville, where you can pick your own blackberries, apples, persimmons, and pears at a tranquil family farm established in 1955.

The southwestern capital/river section of Mississippi includes Natchez, where antebellum mansions such as Auburn, Rosalie, and Magnolia Hall offer retrospectives of plantation life. Lots of tours abound, including those of houses, churches, and restaurants in Natchez’s historic downtown. Keep your eye on the skies at Jackson’s Russell C. Davis Planetarium near Interstate 55. Offerings include engaging sky shows, giant-format documentary films, and laser light rock n’ roll concerts.

Southeastern Mississippi is the coastal region bordering the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1926, the Ship Island Ferry has shuttled folks 11 miles from Gulfport to Ship Island to the unspoiled sandy beaches and lighthouse that welcomes debarking passengers. After the boat ride, stop for a special meal at Mary Mahoney’s Old French House in Biloxi. Constructed during the French occupation of Mississippi’s coast and a landmark restaurant since 1964, the circa 1700’s house is Biloxi’s oldest. Mary’s tasty seafood dishes and superb decor add much to the experience.

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