4 Tips for RVing Near Cities with Wander Free and Queer

Published on May 20th, 2022

Oftentimes, when we picture RV life, we envision our rigs out on the open road. We think about camping in nature, with no neighbors and lots of land to roam around on. We often see RVs nestled deep in a national forest, parked along the beach, or in the foreground of an epic mountain range.

But what happens when we want to visit a big city with our RV? What route do we take? Where do we stay? How do we get around? How much will we spend? RVing in larger cities can be tricky, but can also give us a chance to mix our travels up and have some different experiences, while still returning back to the comforts of home at the end of the day.

Driving & Towing

Bringing our (small or big) rigs through downtown can be an intimidating thought. As we get closer and closer to a metropolitan area, the roads narrow and traffic increases. When wanting to get close to larger cities, plan on taking the highway as much as possible. We plan out our route ahead of time and review some of the roads on Google Maps to ensure they are RV friendly. Sticking to the highways might mean there are many lanes to navigate and some traffic, but we’re guaranteed to have plenty of room to maneuver and get to our destinations.

When we visited Dallas, we stayed on Highway 75 for as long as possible and avoided taking any side roads. We also carefully selected a campground about 45-minutes outside of the city that could accommodate our 42-foot fifth wheel, while still providing us direct access to downtown Dallas. We enjoyed going into Dallas to visit the Arboretum, where they had a fantastic pumpkin display in the fall!

Where to Stay

Staying at Dallas Northeast Campground meant that we could have all the excitement of being close to a bigger city, without being right in the middle of the hustle and bustle. When looking for a place to park near a large city, consider the following:

  • How close do you want to be to the city center? Proximity might be important to you if you have a lot of activities planned for your time in a downtown area.
  • How often will you want to go downtown?
  • What activities or experiences are you looking to have in the city? For example: Do you want to visit a lot of museums or have access to a ton of restaurants?
  • What are your rig requirements? Do you need a pull-thru site? 50amps for power? Strong internet?
  • Will you want to be able to drive downtown or will you take public transit?

These questions help us start to think about what kind of campground or site we might need for our rig. When we wanted to visit Denver, we knew we had to be close to the city because we were planning to attend a lot of local markets as craft vendors.

We chose to stay at Dakota Ridge in Golden, CO because they accommodated big rigs, had good cell service, and strong wifi. They also had a bus stop right at the entrance of the campground. Having a bus stop so close meant that we didn’t always have to drive our RAM 3500 dually into downtown. Parking for large daily driver vehicles can be tough in big cities, so taking local public transit is often a good option.

Golden was a great jumping off location to head to Clear Creek Canyon, Red Rock Amphitheater, and even Rocky Mountain National Park. Dakota Ridge Campground also had all of the conveniences of an RV resort: a pool, community room, and even a small pet relief area. 

RV resorts are great, but if you mostly boondock or camp for free, we suggest using an app, like Campendium, to do your research ahead of time, and then map out potential spots with Google Maps to see how far they might be from the city center. In Las Vegas, you might be able to snag a spot right along the strip as some hotels offer overnight parking in their larger lots!

Westgate allows RVers to stay up to three nights in their north parking lot. Circus Circus also has spots for RVs to stay overnight. If you manage to get yourself close enough to the strip, you can easily take the monorail, which offers several stops along different hotels on Las Vegas Blvd. When we visited Vegas, we spent our days exploring the extravagant hotels, watching the Bellagio fountains, and enjoying the occasional buffet! 

Prepare and Explore

Whether you are boondocking or staying at an RV resort, traveling to bigger cities can take a little extra preparation. We always plan and review our route, allot for extra time on drive days due to traffic, and consider our budget before planning time in a larger metropolitan area.

When visiting a city like Chicago, it’s important to take into account how much there is to do. We always give ourselves extra time to explore all the city has to offer. Once settled into a spot near Chicago, we planned on spending several days downtown. Some of the highlights of our visit include taking some time to check out the street art at the Wabash Art Corridor, having a classic deep dish pizza at Giordanos, and going for a walk while admiring the skyline at Millenium Park.

Because there is so much to do in a city like Chicago, we try to be aware of our budget and costs going into our trip. We visited the Chicago Cultural Center, spent several hours strolling along the River Walk, and enjoyed an afternoon at the Lincoln Park Zoo…all for free! If you are going to drop some money on an activity, we recommend the Architectural Boat Tour. The tour takes you down one of the branches of the Chicago River and showcases many of the bigger buildings downtown.

When visiting any city, the costs can add up pretty quickly so we usually pick one or two activities that cost money. In Chicago, and other major cities we have visited, we try to be mindful of our budget and that encourages us to get creative in finding free experiences and places to visit.

Get Going

RVing isn’t just about being in nature (although that is our favorite place to be). You can have all of the comforts of home while visiting a big city with just a few extra steps in preparation. A week in New York City, a long weekend in San Francisco, or an even longer stay in Austin might be on your bucket list!

All of those cities are in our future travel plans! Taking our home on wheels is a great way to experience bigger metropolitan areas. Take the time to consider your driving route, research camping options, and be mindful of your time and budget to ensure that you have an exciting trip to any major US city! 

About the authors: We are Danella and Allie of Wander Free and Queer. We live and travel full-time in our Fifth Wheel with our two dogs. We started a small crochet business on the road in 2018 and we enjoy creating products that bring visibility to the LGBTQ+ community. In our travels, we enjoy hiking, rafting and visiting National Parks.

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