Trip Planning

Trip Planning Guide - Central U.S. Road Trips

Tis the season for sunshine, exploring, and making memories! To help you get the most out of your summer, Go RVing teamed up with Red Tricycle to give you everything you need to plan an epic family vacation. Check out our guide to Central U.S. Road Trips.

The following article was originally published on Red Tricycle as part of a partnership with Go RVing. The original post can be found here

Quick Getaways near Chicago

Indiana Dunes National Park, Indiana, located on the southern end of Lake Michigan, has far fewer visitors than other major national parks, making this bird viewing Shangri-La a must-visit destination. Four major dune ecosystems can be seen here, as well as oak and pine forests, prairies, and shrubbery. Hike, bike, and explore the natural dunes at this national lakeshore. See the Bailly Homestead and Chellberg Farm, declared a National Historical Landmark, on a family-friendly 3.4-mile loop hike. This easy-to-moderate dirt and woodchipped trail has 120 feet of elevation gain and will take you to the Bailly Cemetery.  Rest your head at Lakeshore Camp Resort, with plenty of full hook-up campsites and cabins. Float in the lake or swimming pools, unwind on the beach, toss a line in the water and catch fish, and play a round of mini golf at this resort, located 10 miles from Indiana Dunes National Park.

Michigan’s lower peninsula is home to the well-adored town of Holland, founded by Dutch Americans in 1847. The City of Churches is also known for its spring tulips; the downtown, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places; Lake Michigan Beach at Holland State Park; and the Big Red lighthouse. A great way to immerse your family into the culture of Holland is to visit Nelis’ Dutch Village. Kids love the carnival rides, farm animals (you can walk a goat!), and Dutch artists and dancers. Be sure to pop in one of the shops—you’ll want to purchase a traditional wooden shoe souvenir—and try old-style Dutch fare at Hungry Dutchman Café. Spend the night at the family-owned and operated Dutch Treat Camping and Recreation, where kids can hoot and holler on the playground, swim in the pool, and hop on the weekend hayride. 

Big Adventures to take near Chicago

Located directly on Lake Michigan, Manitowoc is home to one of the best marinas in Wisconsin, Manitowoc Marina. Nearby the marina, explore the Wisconsin Maritime Museum, shop downtown, and visit the Rahr-West Art Museum. The Manitowoc County Historical Society is also a must-see destination in outer Manitowoc. For a big adventure, paddle the Twin Rivers Water Trail, where there are a bunch of canoe and kayak launch sites on the east and west rivers. The West Twin River has many points of interest along the way including a great blue heron rookery, a covered bridge, viewing platforms, a museum, multiple parks, nature centers and a lighthouse. Stay at the Camp 10 Campground in Reedsville, Wisconsin, where all sites have a fire pit and picnic table. Families will love the swimming pond, complete with a sandy beach, as well as the arcade room, kids’ train rides, and outdoor games.

With 10 waterfront towns to choose from and 300 miles of shoreline, Door County, Wisconsin is the perfect locale for folks who like a lot of options. Whether you want to taste wine, pick farm-fresh fruit, hike on miles of trails, or spend time on the water, you’ll find plenty to do—and eat—here. Visit Peninsula State Park, where you can bike or hike on the paths, take photographs of the lighthouse or go fishing. You’ll also want to drive the Door County Coastal Byway, a 66-mile scenic drive that takes you through stunning landscapes and 19 diverse communities and other tiny villages. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to stop along the way to stretch your legs, shop, get something to eat, and frolic on the shoreline. Jellystone Park in Sturgeon Bay is the ideal place to spend the night as there’s plenty to do here. Swim, visit the Yogi Bear Theater, romp around the playground, ride the train, and play a round of horseshoes. 

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is an adventurer’s paradise, with 60,000 acres full of old-growth forests, waterfalls, over 90 miles of hiking trails, and access to the stunning Lake Superior shoreline. For nature lovers, who would like a lingering hike to see distinct landscapes, hike the Escarpment Trail, an 8.2 mile out and back path. Bluffs, cliffs, and grand views are all a part of the experience. For easy access to the state park, look no further than Union Bay Modern Campground. This is the park’s only campground with full amenities like electrical service, a boat launch, a sanitation station, and a camp store. 

Quick Getaways near Dallas

Colorado Bend State Park is home to unexpected flora and fauna like grand waterfalls, spring-fed swimming holes, and bird watching opportunities. See Dogleg Canyon View on your way to Gorman Falls, a 70-foot high waterfall situated 10 miles above Lake Buchanan. The Guadalupe Bass thrives in the pools of water formed over time by travertine dams. Keep your eyes out for over 150 different species of birds. Ranger programs are available for expert-led tours. Stay at the Colorado Bend State Park campground where drive-up sites are available with limited amenities.

For a unique adventure, visit Texas’ Dinosaur Valley State Park, where families can wander in the Paluxy River, the very location where dinosaurs once roamed long ago. Visit the interpretive center, splash in the river, and enjoy a traditional picnic in the outdoors. Explore five different track site areas and see two different types of real dinosaur tracks: Sauropod and Theropod. Spend the evening at the Dinosaur Valley State Park campground, where 44 campsites with electricity are available.

Big Adventures to take near Dallas

The only national forest in Louisiana is Kisatchie National Forest, home of the state’s oldest rock formations. Longleaf pine forests flourish here, which is remarkable given that there’s a serious decline of this forest category over the last century. Bogs, prairies, and diverse plant and animal ecosystems draw visitors to this park each season. Plenty of activities are available in this area, including bird watching, canoeing, boating, backpacking and hiking on over 100 miles of trails, fishing, mountain biking, and swimming. Make the most of your vacation with a guided trail ride with Hayes E. Daze Ranch. One, two, or three-hour horse outings are available, and no experience is necessary. If you love watching sunsets, stay at the Hidden Treasure RV Resort, an 11-acre campground known for its peace and quiet.

Located on Vermilion River, Palmetto Island State Park has a boat launch, inland lagoons, and plenty of family-friendly activities like boating, casting, water sports, and biking. Rent a canoe for the day and enjoy time on the water. Be sure to read up on the birds you might see in the area while in the boat—here’s a guidePalmetto Island State Park campground will provide you easy access to the area’s happenings like the water playground, hiking trails at Palmetto Island State Park, and bird watching opportunities. 

Kayaking, fishing (no license required), turtle spotting, and volunteer opportunities bring folks to Galveston Island State Park each year. Spend quality time with your family on two thousand acres of dunes, beaches, coastal prairies, wetlands, bayous, and sandy shorelines. Poke your toes in the sand at the beach, watch the sunset, and enjoy outdoor dining. Situate your family on the balcony, where you’ll enjoy vibrant views, and order seafood at Fish Tales, a popular nearby restaurant. Overnight is best spent at Stella Mare RV Resort, where you can cool off in a private lake, lakefront deck, or swimming pool.

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Travel Writer, Editor & Adventurer

Wendy Altschuler

Wendy's freelance travel writing career began with a position as a special correspondent and contributing writer for Sun-Times Media, where she wrote articles for print publications in Pioneer Press’ 32 local newspapers and the Chicago Sun-Times. As a special columnist, she wrote an online parenting column called Wendy City Mom, for Sun-Times Media’s special section, Good to Know. She has contributed dozens of articles to Red Tricycle sharing her expertise on traveling with kids, regional trip planning, destination guides, and more. Wendy's article was originally published on Red Tricycle, a website for families who love to travel.