The saying goes that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. That rings true when it comes to the American road trip. Nothing sums up a modern American journey better than hopping in your RV and taking a drive to see what America has to offer. There is one road trip that strikes through the heart of America from the Canadian to the Mexican border, a route we refer to as the open sky road trip.
If you’re thinking about taking on a nice pastoral road trip you’ll need to do prep work but no worries as we’ve come up with many of the details of the trip for you including where the route goes, some destinations on the trip as well as what to do when you arrive at your destination. This is a road trip for those RVers who love to hit the road for the sake of hitting of the road.
About the Open Sky Road Trip
The majority of this road trip will take place on US Route 83, a highway which starts in Westhope, North Dakota and takes a straight line south through the countryside before terminating in Brownsville, Texas. For our purposes, we are going to snake a bit away from Brownsville and instead, end the route in lovely South Padre Island, Texas. We call it the open sky road trip because you won’t be crossing many urban centers on this one, this is a road trip designed for people who love long drives, open skies and the serene beauty of the central United States.
If you like mom and pop diners, local parks and small town charm, this is the trip for you. So let’s get going!
North Terminus: Minot, North Dakota
Where to Stay in Minot: Roughrider Campground
You kick your journey off in the town of Minot, North Dakota where you can stay at the pleasant Roughrider Campground.
There are 115 individual spaces available and most come with full utility connections to take care of your creature comforts. Roughrider takes pride in their cleanliness so expect clean bathroom, shower and laundry facilities. You’ll get more than the basics at Roughrider including picnic tables, fire rings, and dump site. Some fun amenities at Roughrider include walking trails along the river and lake, sports field, playground and outdoor games.
Minot isn’t a huge town but there’s still plenty to do. Popular outdoor areas of interest include the Scandinavian Heritage Park where you can see a recreation of ancient Scandinavian architecture, the Roosevelt Park Zoo where the kids can laugh at the penguins and Roosevelt Park Pool, another area where the kids can let loose. If you’re a fan of things that fly, you will love to the Dakota Territory Air Museum. A great town to get your open sky road trip started.
Pit Stop: Bismarck, North Dakota for a visit to the North Dakota Heritage Center and a stroll along the Missouri River.
First Stop: Pierre, South Dakota
Where to Stay in Pierre: Farm Island Recreation Area
Farm Island Recreation Area is situated on wide tracts of land so if you like nice open space then this is a good RV park for you.
The sites come with electric and water hookups and while there are no sewer hookups at your site, there is a dump station within the park. You get several other amenities and facilities at this park including showers, restrooms, bicycle rental, picnic shelters, fishing and fish cleaning areas, paddleboard rentals and plenty more. This is an excellent park for experiencing what Pierre has to offer.
What to Do in Pierre
Pierre is a perfect example of the big and open sky that this road trip has to offer. You can start your Pierre adventure outside by taking a trip to La Framboise Island of the Oahe Dam to stay in the outdoor arena. There are some neat museums and points of interest as well such as the Cultural Heritage Center, the State Capitol, and the South Dakota State National Guard Museum.
If you need something that’s family-friendly you can take a visit to the South Dakota Discovery Center.
Second Stop: North Platte, Nebraska
Where to Stay in North Platte: Holiday RV Park
One of Nebraska’s best RV campground awaits you at Holiday RV Park. The sites are huge and can accommodate even the biggest of rigs with full utility hookups as well as cable TV hookups and free Wi-Fi access. You won’t be complaining about the clean shower and restrooms facilities or the onsite pool. Big sites in big sky country when you stay at Holiday RV Park.
Things to Do in North Platte
North Platte, Nebraska is all about locomotion and you can pay your respects to the train industry in North Platte by visiting the Union Pacific Railroad Bailey Yard, Cody Park or the Golden Spike tower and Visitor Center. If trains aren’t your thing you can relax or take a nice hike around the Lake Maloney State Recreation Area or the Fort Cody Trading Post. A neat historic site awaits you at the Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park and the North Platte Area Children’s Museum gives something for the kids to do as well.
Third Stop: Oakley, Kansas
Where to Stay in Oakley: High Plains Camping
You won’t find many parks in the US as charming as High Plains Camping. This pastoral park will melt your heart as well as take care of your needs with full utility hookups, cable TV and wireless internet access throughout the entire park. The bathrooms, shower, and laundry facilities are sparkling clean and adults can kick back in the High plains hot tub. There are many ways to have fun at the park including a spray zone and pool for the kids, dog park for Fido and even a pub for the adults. On top of all this, you also have a camp store that has groceries, gifts, and RV supplies.
Like your park, Oakley is a charming, pastoral town. Popular sites include the famous Monument Rocks carved by wind and water, the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center where you can learn about the old west on top of the Fick Fossil and History Museum. There are also some cute shops like the Smokey River Quilt Shoppe and open spaces like Smoky Valley Ranch. Soak up the charm of the area at High Plains Camping and in Oakley.
Fourth Stop: Abilene, Texas
Where to Stay in Abilene: Abilene KOA
Many RVers are aware of KOA due to their number and convenience, this is one is convenient and is a great RV park. Like many KOAs, the Abilene KOA gives you a great choice of site types like back-in or pull-through but all sites come with full utility connections and cable hookups. The showers, bathrooms, and laundry facilities are kept open 24/7 so no worries if you’re into late night laundry. There are other amenities and facilities to this KOA including a Texas-sized convenience store, snack bar, playground, group pavilions as well as some fun features like a pool, horseshoes and more.
Abilene still has an old town feel but a mixture of old and new when it comes to things to do. Frontier Texas! is a fascinating museum that contains exhibitions and even holograms on the history of the area while the Abilene Zoo will be sure to please the little ones. Fort Phantom Hill, the 12th Armored Museum and the Grace Museum will please the history buff in your party and you can round out your Abilene visit with a stop at the unique National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature.
Fifth Stop: San Antonio, Texas
Where to Stay in San Antonio: Travelers World RV Resort
Travelers World is overseen by the good folks at Carefree Resorts so you know you stay will be, well, carefree. You have plenty of amenities, starting with spacious sites outfitted with full utility hookups with cable and Wi-Fi available. Bathrooms, showers, and laundromat are all present and all clean. The rest of this park is loaded with amenities and features such as a clubhouse, gym, pool, library and camp games like basketball and horseshoes. There are plenty more so if you like an RV park that’s packed with things to do, you’ll love Travelers World Resort.
If you also love a city with a lot too, you’ll be pleased with San Antonio. Your first stop is not a set destination but an area is known as the San Antonio Riverwalk. Stroll along this lovely area while grabbing some excellent food or just people watching. San Antonio is also packed full of historical and elaborate buildings such as Mission San Jose, San Fernando De Bexar Cathedral and all the sites of San Antonio Missions National Historic Site. I also hope you didn’t forget about one historical site because everyone knows you’re supposed to remember the Alamo which resides in San Antonio. Plenty of fascinating history when visiting San Antonio.
South Terminus: South Padre Island, Texas
Where to Stay in South Padre Island: South Padre Island KOA
South Padre Island is a lovely campground to close out your time on the open sky road trip. There are five different RV site types at this KOA which can cater to gigantic rigs up to 98 feet in length. No matter what site you choose you will have full hookups as well as cable and Wi-Fi access. The sparkling of the beaches matches up with the sparkling bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities at this KOA while there are plenty of other facilities to assure you have a good time such as a fitness center, dog park, on-site restaurant, group pavilions and plenty more. A perfect place to finish up your trip.
If you can pull yourself away from the fun of the campground you can experience lovely South Padre Island. Popular points of interest include the South Padre Island Dolphin Research Center and Sea Life Nature Center, Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark and Sea Turtle Inc. It’s hard not to have fun even if you choose to relax with a stroll through Isla Blanca Park or a jaunt into the water for a boat tour. For most, though, the best way to relax at South Padre Island is to stick your toes in the sand and do nothing.
When to Go On the Open Sky Road Trip
Parts of this road trip can get pretty darn warm during the heat of the summer so late spring and early summer will be your best bet. Not only will you get pleasant temperatures but you may get to see some fantastic blooms as you roll over these wide open expanses of the country. Try April or May for this road trip though later on in the summer can be manageable if you’re okay with the mercury rising.
If your ideal American road trip is bouncing across the plains and hills, checking out a roadside attraction, or just looking out your window for unencumbered views, then the open sky road trip will be your ideal way to spend some time on the road.