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Recommended Tent Camping Sites for 2011 - RI, SC, SD
Rhode Island Tent Camping Trip
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Continue on US-6 as it crosses into the Ocean State, Rhode Island. It may be the Union’s smallest state, but it’s not short on nostalgia. However, your Rhode Island tent camping trip back into the past doesn’t really begin until you take US-6 deep into the state and into the Blackstone Valley. It was here, in 1793 that Samuel Slater opened his first cotton mill in Pawtucket and the Industrial Revolution was underway. The growth of industry would define the region and the state for more than a century to come.
US-6 then rolls into the state capital of Providence. Founded in the mid-1600s, Providence is one of the most charming cities in New England, evident via the many walking tours you can take through this historic town. Along with the prestigious Brown University, much of the city’s culture is centered around another famous school, the Rhode Island School of Design. (Tourists note: the locals call it Rizz-dee.) At the school you’ll find the impressive RISD Museum of Art, where historic silversmith work and cabinetry are on display along with ancient Egyptian and Asian art. As old as the city is, you might expect it to be populated with numerous historic homes, and it is. Some favorites are the General Ambrose Burnside House, the John Brown House, the Old State House, and The Arcade. While in Providence keep your eyes open for a local oddity. First, and most famously, is the giant bug on top of New England Pest Control. This giant termite measures 58 feet long and has to be in contention for World’s Largest Bug. Assuming, that is, they keep records of such things.
Well, we have to say goodbye for now to US-6, but there’s still plenty to explore with a couple of Rhode Island tent camping side trips off US-6. Head north from Providence on I-195 to reach another historic and bustling Rhode Island town, Pawtucket. Visit the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution at the Slater Mill Historic Site. Here you can learn about the textile industry that defined the region for nearly 150 years.
One charming point of interest in town is the Looff Carousel, an impressive 1895 carousel built by the famous Danish furniture designer who later became the world’s foremost designer of carousels. This ain’t your grandma’s carousel as it boasts a stunning display of Looff’s intricately carved animals.
Also in Pawtucket, be sure to take your picture with Rhode Island’s “official family travel ambassador”, Mr. Potato Head! Yes, you read that right. A few years ago, Hasbro, Mr. Potato Head’s manufacturer, teamed up with the state to turn the funny spud into an attraction. Nearly 40 giant Mr. Potato Head statues were cast and decorated by local artists and distributed around the state. Most have been sold off to private collections, but the original still stands outside the Hasbro headquarters on Spruce Street. Melville Ponds Campground in Portsmouth is one of the Rhode Island tent campgrounds to check out and is about a 40 minute drive away.
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South Carolina Tent Camping Trip
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There’s no doubt about it. South Carolina is so full of fun that you’ll have a tough time choosing what to see first. Will it be gardens or grist mills, grand opera singers or Catawba’s celebrated potters? How about racehorses or 50’s-style drive-in movies? On this South Carolina tent camping trip, the choices are many, and they’re all for you.
The northern region of “The Palmetto State” gives green-thumbers something to think about in the form of the South Carolina Botanical Garden, located on Clemson University’s campus in the town of the same name. The garden, whose beginnings date back to the 1950’s, is readily accessible from Highway 76. The 295-acre green space includes a wildflower meadow, camellias, butterflies, nature trails, and meandering streams. And the grounds contain a 1700’s house, an 1800’s cabin, a Discovery Center with art galleries, and a geology museum.
Northwest of Clemson, on Hwy 178 is the town of Pickens. You can take a tour and stock you rig’s galley with stone ground cornmeal and grits at Hagwood Mill, a working water-powered gristmill right out of the 1800’s. Once a month, the Hagwood staff presents corn-grinding demonstrations designed to give visitors a realistic look at the rigors of farm life in times gone by. Table Rock State Park is one of the great South Carolina tent campgrounds to check out in this area.
In 1865, Jefferson Davis and his war council formally dismissed the Confederate Armies at the Burt-Stark Mansion in Abbeville off U.S. Highway 72, south of Clemson. It’s ironic, considering that, years earlier, the prominent 1830’s estate served as the launchpad for the Confederacy cause. Antique furnishings and accessories, including those used by high-ranking members of the Confederacy, remain at the Greek Revival-style house today.
You’ll see 50 fine examples of antebellum buildings and numerous examples of Victorian and classical architecture in a pleasant setting of parks and gardens at Cheraw Historic District and Town Green in Cheraw off U.S. 52.
From Abbeville, drive eastward, exploring the central and southern part of South Carolina, until you come upon the town of Newberry and the restored Newberry Opera House. The facility hosts all sorts of musical programs, ranging from slick Broadway productions, to restrained classical performances, to knee-slappin’ country concerts. The 1881-era Opera House may be reached from Interstate 26 or Hwys 72 and 76 from Abbeville, via Clinton.
The Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame is located on the grounds of Hopeland Gardens in Aiken can be reached from Columbia on Hwy. 1. Opened nearly three decades ago in 1977, the Hall honors Aiken’s trainers, jockeys, and polo players as well as the many horses that trained there and later gained national prominence. The Gardens’ Carriage House encompasses the Hall of Fame where trophies, photos, and silks of honored horses are displayed. Art lovers should be sure to take a peak at the paintings in the equine-themed gallery on the grounds.
Do you ever have trouble keeping track of the time? That’s a challenge that never baffles the renowned Vertical Sundial at the Barnwell County Courthouse Circle off U.S. Highway 278. South of Aiken, the sundial has consistently displayed accurate time for an amazing 150 years! Situated just off U.S. Highway 278 in downtown Barnwell, it’s said to be the last such sundial left in America.
Hwy 301 whisks you from Barnwell to Santee. The Lone Star Barbecue & Mercantile is set in a restored century-old country store in Santee a few miles northwest of Interstate 95. Fortunately, in addition to dishing up tasty old-fashioned meals, many other appealing aspects of the original old mercantile grace the Lone Star of 2006. Antique showcases, counters, and vintage photos cozy up the interior of this popular buffet-style restaurant.
Consider a detour to Monetta (north of Interstate 20 up SC Route 39 on U.S. 1), “Big Mo” is the nickname of the town’s recently revamped 50’s-era drive-in movie theatre. The entire drive-in experience at the Mo inspires considerable nostalgia in those of us who remember the good old days, from the nightly opening rendition of the Star Spangled Banner to butter-slathered popcorn and sizzling hot dogs at the snack bar. There are even double features for hard-core drive-in buffs who just don’t want their movie date under the stars (in the car or RV) to end.
Hwy. 17 is a good departure point for visits to cities in the southern coastal region of South Carolina. Make Charleston your headquarters and start with a visit to Fort Sumter National Monument, the famous site where the Civil War broke out in April, 1861. A powerful symbol to both the North and South during the “War Between the States,” the fort still stands in Charleston Harbor, now accessible only by tour boat. Passenger ferries depart from two convenient locations, the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center in Charleston and Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum in nearby Mount Pleasant, also off Highway 17. There is excellent South Carolina camping close by. Campground at James County Park and Oak Plantation Campground are great South Carolina tent camping choices here.
South of Charleston, the Serpentarium is on Edisto Island close to U.S. Highway 17. Brothers Ted and Hayward Champ spent more than 50 years hunting for snakes and other creepy crawlers before they were able to formally display their hand-gathered reptile collection at the current Serpentarium. The Champs’ facility includes indoor glass enclosures plus complex outdoor habitats with trees, streams, foliage, fallen logs, and such that provide resident reptiles with shelters resembling their original homes in the wild.
North of Charleston, the Harborwalk is in historic downtown Georgetown, where you can take a scenic stroll on the old dockyard along the waterfront. The docks have been renovated as antique stores, restaurants, and a nice assortment of seaside shops. Stop for a delicious meal of just-caught seafood and if you’d like to venture out on the water, you can board a sightseeing cruise on one of the tall ships moored at Georgetown.
If Myrtle Beach, at the intersection of Hwys. 501 and 17, happens to be along your route you might want to stop and see what you’re missing. There are plenty of South Caroline tent camping sites here for you to choose from.
Myrtle Beach’s Pavilion Amusement Park, also on Highway 17, is another oceanfront attraction that’s worth investigating. With it’s wild-riding rollercoaster, fascinating circa 1900 European pipe organ, and splendid antique carousel, the 11-acre amusement park is tops for vintage-style family entertainment. For an old-fashioned ice cream delight, try Kirk’s 1890’s Ice Cream Parlor and its the house favorite, a giant-sized banana split.
Along the Grand Strand, more than 1,700 full-service restaurants are waiting to serve you. The choices are plentiful, but naturally they're famous for fabulous, fresh seafood, and they serve it up every way there is under the sun. Try traditional Calabash- or Murrells Inlet-style seafood, they’re local favorites.
The Grand Strand is also well stocked with nightclubs, discos, sports bars, beach clubs, and other hot spots. After spending too many days behind the wheel, do you feel like shaking “your groove thang”? The area has a wealth of dance clubs, where you can shag, disco dance, swing, two-step, or do whatever moves you and your partner.
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South Dakota Tent Camping Trip
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A drive down South Dakota’s Highway 14 is the consummate road trip. Your adventure starts in the rolling plains of the state’s eastern half, where the romantic vision of frontier life is alive and well. Begin your South Dakota tent camping tour in Brookings. This would-be quiet frontier town is actually a hotbed of culture, thanks in large part to the presence of South Dakota State University, the state’s largest educational institution. While in town, don’t miss your chance to see the impressive South Dakota Arboretum and McCrory Gardens, a 70-acre expanse that captures the natural beauty of eastern South Dakota. Oakwood Lakes State Park is one of the South Dakota tent campgrounds to check out in the area.
Heading west you’ll come upon the town of Huron. As South Dakota approached annexation, Huron stood on the brink of being named state capital. It eventually lost out to Pierre, but Huron still succeeded at becoming an economic and cultural hub of the area. One of the most impressive and nostalgic areas in Huron is the dramatic Campbell Park Historic District, which showcases dozens of Queen Anne and Colonial architecture. And, if you find yourself in Huron during August, you’re sure to have a ball at the South Dakota State Fair.
South of Huron, if you take a detour along SR-37 to the town of Mitchell, you’ll discover the Corn Palace. First built in 1892, the palace murals are decorated annually with more than 2,000 bushels of corn, with more than 10 different shades of corn.
If your experience in Huron only whets your proverbial appetite to see the state capital, then by all means go west on US-14 to Pierre. Nestled along the banks of the mighty Missouri River, Pierre is a magnificent display of South Dakota’s past and present. Brush up on the area’s history at the Cultural Heritage Center before heading over to the State Capital, one of America’s finest capital buildings. There are also numerous South Dakota tent camping sites here to choose from. Just to name a few, Cow Creek, Okobojo Point SRA and West Bend SRA are some choice South Dakota tent campgrounds.
(Travelers Advisory: Be aware that there are three neighboring locations in this area with the name “Pierre” in them. The state capital, as mentioned; the actual outpost known as Fort Pierre and the adjacent town of Fort Pierre, described next.)
Our next stop requires a hop across the Missouri River to Fort Pierre, founded by the American Fur Company in 1832. The town still remains close to its rough-and-tumble heritage, where cowboys and cowgirls ran the town. But this friendly little stop is a terrific jumping off point to explore the great western part of the state. US-14 then zigzags its way southwest until it ends at Interstate 90. South Dakota tent camping is available here at Downstream North. But your adventure is now just beginning. I-90 will bring you to what is some of the finest – and most underrated! – regions for South Dakota tent camping in all of North America, at least if dramatic landscape is your thing. Southwest South Dakota offers a laundry list of amazing sites and riveting stopovers, including the Black Hills, the Badlands, Buffalo Gap National Grasslands, and the incomparable Mount Rushmore. Enjoy!
US-14 west leaves South Dakota after Spearfish, but before you do, just north of Belle Fourche on Hwy. 85 is the geographic center of the U.S. You can’t get more in-the-middle of America than that.
It is believed that the third longest cave in the world can be found in the hills of Jewel Cave National Monument. The area certainly has its own unique brand of Old West history. The last great gold rush left behind boomtowns and mining camps Like Custer City and Deadwood. Some of the greatest legends of the west were no strangers to this region; Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, General George Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Jedediah Smith, among them.
The town of Wall, along I-90, is home to one of South Dakota’s most visited sites, Wall Drug Store, which opened its doors in 1931. It survived the depression-era by serving water to travelers. Nowadays, ice is free and coffee still costs a nickel. It’s got an old-fashioned soda fountain as well as an emporium, art galleries and Western-themed restaurants, museums and entertainment – and 6,000 pair of cowboy boots, to-boot!
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