It’s the stuff of Hallmark movies. Travelers on a route get detoured due to some car trouble or weather or some other made-for-TV catastrophe and stumble upon a charming little town where everyone is happy and eager to help. They can’t believe their good luck and, of course, don’t ever want to leave. For your next road trip, plan to stop at these small-town charmers.
An historic gold-mining town, Julian is about an hour east of San Diego (or about 45 miles from Pio Pico) dating back to the 1870s. Interesting things to do here include touring a gold mine at the Eagle Mining Company or picnicking at Menghini Winery, the second oldest winery in San Diego County, that offers beautiful views of the surrounding countryside. A visit to the California Wolf Center, the only wolf reserve in San Diego County, provides visitors an opportunity to meet the Center’s resident wolves. Outdoor activity can include hiking the Volcan Mountain Trail (4.9 miles out and back) or fishing Lake Cuyamaca for rainbow trout, bluegill, and crappie. And of course, there’s the apple pie. There are over seven bakeries serving up what is considered the best apple pie in Southern California. If you want to try your hand at making your own pie, apple picking season is upon us (September and October) and there are several orchards where you can pick your own apples in the area.
The white sandy beaches are a draw for this charming Gulf Coast town in Florida, but there are also the parks, with hiking and biking trails, and the downtown area with its historic buildings, many of which are designed in the Italian Renaissance style. A self-guided walking tour of the downtown is a good way to see all of them, so stop by the Venice MainStreet office for a walking tour brochure. Or consider doing the Shark Loop to find the 10 bronze shark sculptures hidden about, which makes sense since Venice is considered the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. On the fourth Friday of each month, there is a free concert at the gazebo in Centennial Park from 7 to 9 p.m. Each June the town hosts an annual Craft Festival and a year-round Farmers Market is held each Saturday in front of City Hall. Strolling Main Street has plenty of shopping and dining opportunities. Ramblers Rest is the perfect camping spot while you explore the charms of Venice.
Heading to Pacific City RV Campground? Plan a stop or a day trip to explore nearby McMinnville, which was named by Parade magazine as the second-best main street in America. McMinnville’s downtown has been designated as a National Historic District. There are 16 tree-lined, walkable blocks on which to explore this charmer in the heart of Oregon wine country. While strolling, check out the public art displays ranging from a life-sized bronze statue of a seated Benjamin Franklin to the showcase of walnuts (which pays homage to the city’s once-prolific walnut crop) found in the lobby of the Atticus Hotel. The town is also known for something else – the annual UFO Festival which pays tribute to the Trent UFO Photos, taken in 1950 by local farmer Paul Trent, and considered to be the best photos taken of an unidentified flying object. The UFO Festival is held every May. Then, there’s the Turkey-Rama, another popular event held each July, a tradition for over 50 years with all kinds of fun from a Turkey Trot to the World’s Largest Barbecue.
Bell Buckle, Tennessee: If you’re on your way to Natchez Trace RV Campground, make a stop in this little historic town. A railroad town dating back to 1852, Bell Buckle was voted by Southern Living magazine as one of South’s Best Small Towns in 2021. Known for its Victorian architecture, quilt and antique shops, and local artisan crafts, the town hosts an annual event each June you won’t want to miss: the RC Cola-MoonPie Festival, honoring the two items that are considered to be the South’s original fast food. Come October, the town gets ready for the annual Bell Buckle Arts & Craft Festival, held the third weekend of the month each year.
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- Find more campgrounds at ThousandTrails.com.