North Carolina State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC

North Carolina State Fairgrounds, Raleigh, NC

We really needed to dump our tanks last weekend (before heading to Merlefest) and The Fairgrounds is the closest full hook-up park (I feel like park isn’t quite the right term…). To say Raleigh is in need of a full service RV park is an understatement. Mebane has the closest full hook up RV park we could find, but it’s 46 miles away from our house. We could go to one of the campsites at Jordan Lake, but we really needed to clean out the tanks an that’s not easy to do just at a pull-through dump station.

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We’ve tried to find The Fairgrounds park a few times before, and it’s not easy. The area is a maze of loops with fields, ponds, horse barns, arenas, and parking lots. There’s also an RV parking area for the NC State stadium on the same road, so it can be a bit confusing. The GPS address is: 801 Youth Center Drive, Raleigh, 27606. Follow the signs for Horse Complex 7– You’re looking for the “newer sites on the hill”.

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There’s a tiny office building, but the sites are run by Fairgrounds Public Safely, and are first come, first served. Just call them when you’re in the area, they’ll tell you if they have availability and you show up, find your spot, then call them again so you can pay them. It’s $30/night — the bonus is you can check in and check out anytime within that 24 hours — they told us we could stay until midnight on Sunday if we wanted to!

There’s always something going on at The Fairgrounds — this weekend there was an Arabian Horse Show which we walked around and checked out. Typically there’s a car or boat show and sometimes a dog show, although it was super quiet the entire time we were there. Also, we’re regulars at the Raleigh Flea Market which takes place down the road, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you stay at the park over the weekend.

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Overall, this is a great place to stay if you want to explore the Raleigh area. It’s clean and quiet, but not fancy, and right in the city.

Dreher Island State Park, Prosperity, South Carolina

Dreher Island State Park, Prosperity, South Carolina

Our last stop over our 2 week holiday break was Dreher Island State Park in South Carolina. The park is actually a few islands connected by a bridge with two separate campgrounds and a marina. Campground A and the entrance gate are first — it has 30 rv spots with water and electric (and a dump station). The sites are aligned around the water, paved, but pretty close together. We nabbed a site with a huge dip next to it, so we had a little more room. IMG_4221

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The second island is the marina and visitors center where you check in, and the third island is Campground B which has more RV sites, and tent sites and also some huge cabins to rent.

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Bike riding, boating and fishing are the big activities here. Walking across the bridge from one island to the next you’ll see a number of boats — and everyone seems to be catching something.

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This was the perfect place to do nothing but watch the sunrise and sit by the fire.

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Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, Florida

Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon, Florida

Note: This campground is NOT in the State Park – it’s 8 miles away. The address for the campground is on the reservation page – however, our GPS did NOT take us to this address when we plugged it in, it took us to a housing development next to the park (the ranger says it happens all the time). We had to call the office to figure out how to get there. Also, there’s a gate that locks at 5pm, so if you’re showing up later, you need to call and get the code.

The loop road looking at our spot.

The loop road looking at our spot.

Rainbow Springs Campground is beautiful – but I would definitely recommend getting a site on the outer edge of the loop – they’re totally enclosed and really big. Basically anything from #12-#21 are more private – we were in #16, a full hook-up spot for $30/night. Also, Nathan at Wand’rly suggests site #51. His review can be found here on Campendium. Unfortunately, these are also the farthest from the boat/kayak ramp, but they have dollies to help you get your equipment from Point A to Point B.

Site #16.

Site #16.

Rainbow Spring is Florida’s 4th largest spring – the water is completely clear and shallow – perfect for snorkeling, kayaking and paddleboarding. There are no motors allowed on this area of the river so it’s an incredibly quiet and peaceful 1.5(ish) mile cruise to the headspring.

Clearest, bluest water I've ever seen.

Clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen.

The trip to the headspring was FILLED with bird sightings – egrets, blue herons, anhingas, cormorants, red shoulder hawks, and gallinules. Oh, and a lot of turtles.

It’s also a great place for stargazing. Deke got a pretty amazing telescope for his Christmas/Birthday and we busted it out to view the stars on the clear nights.

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Deke: Weeeeeeeeee!!!!

Deke: Weeeeeeeeee!!!!

One other fun thing we did during our 4 days here was drive to Ocala to go zip-lining. Deke got me a beginner’s package for Christmas and it was really fun! I’m not fond of heights (those of you who went to Alumafandango in Denver might remember be freaking out on the ferris wheel…) so this was a challenge for me, but I really, really enjoyed it.

This was a great place to spend Christmas — but obviously we need to up our game in the decoration department.

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Fort McAllister Historic State Park, Richmond Hill, Georgia

Fort McAllister Historic State Park, Richmond Hill, Georgia

Like last year, we decided to head south for the holidays. Although it’s been unseasonably warm in Raleigh for over a month, traveling back to Florida seemed fun, and the weather predictions were in the upper 80s on Christmas. Last year we explored the east coast of Florida (Tomoka State Park and St. Augustine), so we hit the Gulf this time.

Site #11.

Site #11.

The first day we stopped about halfway, at Fort McAllister Historic State Park in Richmond Hill, Georgia (south of Savannah). They have a great link on their website that allows you to check last minute availability and it showed that there were 12 spots for the night.

Walk through the park.

Walk through the park.

The park is 10 miles off the highway, on the banks of the Ogeechee River that actually surrounds the park making it an island – Savage Island. It has the ‘best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy’. You can explore the fort and there’s a small museum that contains some artifacts (and the check-in desk for the park).

The park's boat ramp.

The park’s boat ramp.

There are 60 sites with water, power and a fire pit, and all with shade from tall oak trees. There’s a boat ramp, covered picnic areas and a dump station. As you travel down the causeway you’ll also see some elevated cabins which look really cool. We picked site #11, an enormous pull-through next to the river and completely shaded.

View from the causeway.

View from the causeway.

We kind of wanted to stay longer….

Davidson River Campground, Brevard NC

Davidson River Campground, Brevard NC

We typically use holidays to get out of dodge. We’re not Black Friday shoppers, nor do we really like trimming the tree and hanging the lights (it sounds very bah-humbug, but we love the holidays, really!). We use holiday vacations to spend much needed time with each other, with our dogs and with the outdoors. So for Thanksgiving we decided to check out the Davidson River Campground in the Pigsah National Forest.

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The campground is in Brevard, a small town 45 minutes south of Asheville, and a little over 4 hours from Raleigh (at least the way we went).

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The campground has several loops, all with different amenities and rules from reservable/first come-first served, generators allowed/generators not allowed, electric/non-electric. We were in the Appletree Loop — reservable, generators allowed, non-electric.

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It’s also one of the loops closest to the water (good) but also closer to the walking path and road (bad). Next time, I think I’d try a loop on the opposite side of the park so we don’t have the road noise (it’s the only road in and out of the park — it gets more traffic than you’d think) or people walking by all the time on the path. At this time of year, not all the loops were open, so we took what we could get!

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There are some nice trails around the park, all clearly marked and most with signs indicating the level of difficulty and if bikes or pets are allowed.

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A short drive will also get you deeper into the forest where you’ll find many more trails and even a connection with the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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This is a really great park — there are so many things to do and you’re only a short drive into town where you’ll find a brewery, bakery, coffee roaster, movie theater and some shops and restaurants all within a few blocks. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re in the area!

Here’s a short video we made while touring some of the hiking trails around the campground!