From California to New York, here are places to make the season brighter and the journey worth celebrating
Thanksgiving to New Year’s is a special time to spend with family and friends and experience the spirit of the season. And the way we see it, the holiday season spent in an RV — whether a standalone trip or making interesting stops en route to a destination — is all about the journey to find unique ways to celebrate. From California to New York, we’ve gathered together 10 destinations that are well worth the lasting memories they’ll make this year.
Every year, just a week before Christmas, Newport Beach hosts a five-night boat parade and “Spectacular Ring of Lights Home Decorating Contest” event. At the 2013 Christmas Boat Parade from December 18-22 (www.christmasboatparade.com), visitors will see beautiful multimillion-dollar yachts, kayaks, canoes and other small boats lighting up the harbor as a dazzling array of holiday lights and music fill the air. Many of the boats will be richly decorated with animated Christmas scenes accompanied by music and costumed carolers. The Christmas floats will wind their way some 14 miles around the harbor to give viewers in restaurants, yacht clubs, on public beaches and in private homes an incredible sight that has delighted millions of people.
Nestled in the heart of Orange County, Newport Dunes RV Waterfront Resort and Marina (a first-rate RV park on 110 acres with cottages for rent) is a great place to camp during the festivities. In December, visitors to Newport Dunes can also enjoy the resort’s own Lighting of the Bay celebration. The resort offers on-site boat rentals for tours of the Back Bay and holiday lights in the harbor. Contact Newport Dunes RV Waterfront Resort at 800-765-7661, www.newportdunes.com.
If Florida is on your itinerary as a winter getaway, be sure to visit in time for the holidays on the Emerald Coast. Beginning a week before Thanksgiving and ending New Year’s Eve, Okaloosa County will host “A Very Emerald Christmas.” Events start November 23 with the Lighting of the Christmas tree at the Destin Commons (Destin, Florida), featuring festivities, a Santa Parade and fireworks. On November 29, Santa makes his entrance by parade float to HarborWalk Village (Destin, Florida) and is joined for daylong festivities by Charles Dickens-style carolers. On December 2, Fort Walton Beach Christmas Parade will take place on Eglin Parkway, featuring floats, marching bands and local organizations. On December 5, the Fort Walton Beach Boat Parade Festival takes place at The Landing. And, on December 8, Emerald Coast visitors can enjoy the Destin Boat Parade at the Destin Harbor and HarborWalk Village. All commercial, charter and private boats are invited to help light up the Harbor with the true Destin spirit in this annual parade. A fireworks display closes out the festivities. HarborWalk also features New Year’s Eve fireworks and a ball drop at midnight.
Local RV resorts include:
Camp Gulf, Destin | 877-226-7485 | www.campgulf.com
Destin West RV Resort | Destin, 850-200-4533 | www.destinwestrvresort.com
Henderson Beach State Park, Destin | 800-326-3521 | www.floridastateparks.org
RV travelers in the Intermountain West region will find holiday cheer, lights and magic at various events happening from Thanksgiving through early January in Boise. Holiday highlights include Winter Garden aGlow (November 28-December 1, and December 6-January 5, 2014), where the Idaho Botanical Garden is lit with hundreds of thousands of lights. And, every year during Thanksgiving week, Boise Centre becomes a wonderland of holiday splendor for The Festival of Trees (November 27-December 1) that features hundreds of lavishly decorated Christmas trees, wreaths and holiday decor. Enhancing this remarkable display is a series of special events designed to please people of all ages. From the black-tie Gala to Breakfast With Santa, there is something for all ages of visitors to enjoy.
Boise’s RV parks include:
Boise Riverside RV Park | Boise, 208-375-7432 | www.boiseriversidervpark.com
Hi Valley RV Park, Boise | 888-457-5959 | www.g7rvresorts.com/hi-valley/index.aspx
Mountain View RV Park | Boise, 208-345-4141 | www.boiservpark.com
What started as a name has become
a way of life for the small town of
Santa Claus, Indiana (www.santaclaus
ind.org). It’s also one that’s authentic, right down to the names of local streets, like Prancer Drive, Chestnuts Roasting by the Open Fire Street, and Jingle Bell and Candy Cane lanes. When it comes to making holiday memories, it’s quite the fun destination for visitors of all ages, says Melissa Brockman, executive director of the Spencer County Visitors Bureau.
“The magical Christmas spirit is found year-round in Santa Claus, Indiana, but the town goes all out during the holidays. Believers of all ages can write a letter to Santa at the original Santa Claus, Indiana, Post Office, chat with an elf at Santa’s Candy Castle, learn the magical story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer at the Santa Claus Land of Lights, have Christmas Dinner with Santa at Santa’s Lodge and so much more,” Brockman commented.
RV parks that are accessible within 15-30 miles of Santa Claus include:
Lincoln State Park, Lincoln City | 812-937-4710 | www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/2979.htm
Lynnville Park Campgrounds, Lynnville | 812-922-5144
Vanderburgh 4-H Center, Evansville | 812-867-6217 | www.Vanderburgh4h center.com
Combined with accessible public transportation, holiday attractions throughout New York City abound to make a trip well worth the RV journey any year. In case you need guidance on what attraction to bite off first in the Big Apple, here are a few tips that appeal to a range of city tourists’ tastes. The Holiday Train Show, held at The New York Botanical Garden (www.nybg.org) in the Bronx offers visitors a unique train trip — one that’s set in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, with large-scale model trains covering a quarter-mile of track that travels over bridges and past replicas of New York landmarks. The Radio City’s Christmas Spectacular
(www.radiocitychristmas.com) features the Radio City Music Hall decked out in all its glory for the season as a glistening winter wonderland and the Rockettes performing numbers, to telling Christmas stories from Santa, to the Nutcracker and nativity scenes. Additional famous attractions include visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center Plaza; visiting shop windows and making a stop at FAO Schwarz toy store; as well as attending The Nutcracker production by the New York City Ballet; and traveling outside Manhattan for holiday lights (with more than 100,000 other visitors a year) to view Christmas displays at Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. If you’re in New York for Thanksgiving, the Macy’s Day Parade takes place on November 28 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. And if you’re closing out 2013 in the city, be sure
to enjoy an unforgettable night in
Reservations for both New York attractions and RV parks in advance are highly recommended.
RV parks accessible to New York during the holiday season include:
Black Bear Campground, Florida, New York | 845-651-7717 | www.black bearcampground.com
Camp Gateway, located at Floyd Bennett Field (note: only six dry camping sites) in Brooklyn, New York | 718-338-3799 | www.nps.gov/gate/plan yourvisit/camping-at-gateway.htm
Liberty Harbor Marina and RV Park, Jersey City, New Jersey | 201-516-7500 | www.libertyharborrv.com
Eleven months out of the year, one may find the town of McAdenville, North Carolina — 15 miles outside Charlotte — much like any other suburb. But from December 2-26, 2013, for the 58th
consecutive year, visitors who come by
this town will discover a unique destination that calls itself “Christmas Town USA” (www.mcadenville-christmas town.com).
Since 1956, McAdenville’s Christmas Town USA has delighted young and old alike throughout the region with its annual Christmas Light displays. Each year more than 600,000 people visit this small town of less than 700 people to experience the Christmas they remember from their childhood — a magical and merry place with hundreds of thousands of lights, spontaneous caroling and shouts of “Merry Christmas” from children walking beneath the lights and riding along the display route in cars. This is a place where the celebration of the season is always free — with Pharr Yarns, a McAdenville-based manufacturing firm established in 1939, funding the annual light displays, and supported by the decorating efforts of nearly every resident. “Christmas Town USA is much like a Norman Rockwell painting of a Christmas in small town America come to life,” said Mel Collins, V.P. human resources, Pharr Yarns.
RV campground accommodations within a 15-30 mile radius include:
Crown International Campground, Fort Mill, South Carolina | 803-547-3500
Hounds Gateway Campground and Fun Park, Kings Mountain, North Carolina | 704-739-4474 | www.hounds gatewaycampground.com
Tom Johnson Campground at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, North Carolina (call office for reservations and information) | 704-455-3267
For RVers en route to Oklahoma or those traveling through it during the holiday season, the city of Muskogee offers one of the largest Christmas light displays in the state.
“Our holiday displays have been rated as some of the best in the region,” said Jonita Mullins of Okie Heritage Tours. “And they’re just minutes from Highway 69, a favorite route of snowbirds heading south. A side trip through Muskogee’s dazzling holiday wonderland is well worth the effort.”
Two parks — one a 120-acre city park and one an amusement park — coordinate their Garden of Lights and Christmas Kingdom to create a magical spectacle that draws more than 100,000 visitors between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Honor Heights Park and The Castle of Muskogee welcomes RVers to drive through a wonderland of more than 1 million twinkling lights and holiday inflatable displays. The lights in Honor Heights Park are timed to dance to the sound of Christmas music.
Nearby RV accommodations include:
Crossroads RV Park, Muskogee | 918-686-9104 | www.thebestcrossroads rvpark.com
Hidden Valley RV Park, Porter | 918-681-4457 | www.hiddenvalleyrv parkok.com
Meadowbrook RV Park, Muskogee | 918-681-4574
Elvis Presley’s rock ’n’ roll rendition of “Blue Christmas” will surely take on new meaning if you experience the holiday at “The King’s” Graceland in Memphis (www.elvis.com/2013_christmas.aspx).
“Christmas with Elvis at Graceland was always something very special. Elvis enjoyed Christmas, which was usually a special time for him and his family, friends and staff. Elvis’ generous nature was especially evident during the season of giving, with checks and expensive gifts for the people in his life, and annual donations to a long list of Memphis-area charities,” commented Alicia Dean, public relations coordinator, Elvis Presley Enterprises.
In 2013, the Graceland staff continues Elvis’ Christmas decorating traditions inside and out, including bringing out the red holiday draperies and setting up his front lawn displays. The lights and decorations will start on November 22 with the annual Graceland Lighting Ceremony and stay in place through January 8th, Elvis’ birthday.
RV accommodations include:
Agricenter RV Park, Memphis | 901-355-1977 | www.agricenter.org/rvpark.html
Elvis Presley Blvd. RV Park, Memphis | 901-332-3633 | www.elvispresley blvdrvpark.com
Memphis-Graceland RV Park & Campground | 866-571-9236 | www.elvis.com/graceland/rv_park_and_campgrounds.aspx
Nestled in Washington state’s Cascade Mountains, the Bavarian Village of Leavenworth (www.leavenworth.org) holds an annual Christmas Lighting Festival with more than 250,000 lights that has been compared to a “magical snow globe” and made it a well-sought-out holiday destination in the Pacific Northwest.
Leavenworth Christmas Lighting Festival operates with lights and activities during the first three weekends in December (December 6-8, 13-15, 20-22 for 2013). In between the weekend lighting festivals, lights are displayed and Christmas music played in the streets from Monday-Thursday as well.
“Leavenworth is the ‘quintessential’ holiday town. Our Bavarian village transforms itself into a virtual snow globe of Christmas magic. We welcome our visitors with roasting chestnuts, holiday characters, old-fashioned caroling, horse-drawn sleigh rides and over a quarter million lights that truly brings a feeling of wonder, and has earned us national recognition as the best Christmas town in the USA, ” commented Jessica Robinson, media director, Leavenworth Chamber of Commerce.
Nearby RV sites include:
Alpine View RV Park & Campground, Leavenworth | 509-548-8439 | www.alpineviewrvpark.com
Pine Village KOA, Leavenworth | 509-548-7709 | www.leavenworthkoa.com (for 2013, open until December 31)
Thousand Trails, Leavenworth | 509-763-2020 | www.thousandtrails.com
Travelers to Wheeling will find multiple fun tourist activities year-round — from the Wheeling Suspension Bridge that’s known by locals as the “true gateway to the West” to the Wheeling Island Hotel, Casino & Racetrack. The city is 60 miles from Pittsburgh, 120 miles outside Columbus and 150 miles from Cleveland. At Christmastime, Wheeling also becomes home to one of America’s largest holiday light shows with the Winter Festival of Lights at Oglebay Resort (800-624-6988, www.oglebay- resort.com). The eco-friendly lights go on this year on November 8 and continue through January 5, 2014. The light show covers more than 300 acres over a 6-mile drive throughout the resort.
Nearby RV accommodations include:
Barkcamp, Belmont | Ohio, 740-484-4064 | www.ohiostateparks.org
Dallas Pike Campgrounds, Valley Grove | 304-547-0940
Utica Shale RV Park, Belmont, Ohio | 740-238-0957 | www.uticashalervpark.com