This week I leave the Virginia countryside and turn my country camper into an urban RV.
This week’s stops:
- Atlantic City
When reading about RVing we often hear about getting out in the great outdoors, going to remote places, and getting back to nature. But there’s another big benefit of RVing that nobody ever seems to talk about, and that’s city life.
To be sure, legions of digital nomads are already urban RVing and have been quietly doing so for years.
I met my first one in Los Angeles nearly 20 years ago. Even back then LA rents were out of control and he found he could live in his camper, keep his high-paying city job, shower at the gym, and save a TON of money.
But that’s not what I am talking about here.
In this article, I am referring to the ability to use your RV for lodging while visiting large cities as a tourist.
Sure, nature is great, but there are always tons of things to do and see in metropolitan areas too.
The biggest urban RV challenges and solutions
Finding suitable and affordable RV parking in cities is the biggest challenge facing RVing city explorers. Especially if you have a big rig.
If there are any campgrounds, and often there aren’t, they tend to fall into one of two categories (and sometimes both):
- Prohibitively expensive
- Filled with questionable full-time residents
Unless I need to stay for a while, I don’t even bother looking at campgrounds in large cities. But there are two excellent options for low-cost urban RVing. They are owned and managed by the same company, so you can get a good deal on both:
If you don’t have a Harvest Hosts membership, you are missing out. Especially when it comes to urban RVing, as many Harvest Hosts locales and Boondockers Welcome homes are in or close to urban areas. Almost any city I have looked for Harvest Hosts in, there have been at least a few options.
Of course, there are exceptions and some areas will have fewer options than others. The San Francisco area tends to be a dead zone for finding RV parking, although there are a few Harvest Host options in nearby Oakland. You can even find some near The Big Apple.
Honestly, I have not yet searched for a place near any big city and not found at least a couple of viable Harvest Host options.
If you are not familiar with Harvest Hosts, this annual membership RVing service opens the door to single-night boondocking stays at all kinds of places across the US: wineries, breweries, farms, museums, restaurants, churches, golf courses, and too many other attractions to list.
The deal is, you spend $20 or more with the host and you get a free safe RV parking spot for the night. Usually without electrical hookups, but some hosts do have them available for an extra charge.
Boondockers Welcome consists of thousands of private homes and lands, usually owned by fellow RVers who welcome RVers with a place to boondock. How long you can stay and hookup availability varies from host to host. Multi-day stays are usually offered and when hookups are available, as per Boondockers Welcome hosts rules, they must be priced low enough to cover expenses but not make profits, so the charges are always going to be far more affordable than a campground.
While I signed up for both services, I have yet to use my Boondockers Welcome membership. I would in a pinch but, otherwise, I prefer not to stay at strangers’ homes. I am just not that social of a person. So far I have not needed it.
On the other hand, I have lost count of how many times I have used my Harvest Hosts membership. And every one of the experiences has been great (many of them are covered in my articles here on RVtravel.com).
I have immensely enjoyed scenic, educational and fascinating stays at all kinds of places I might not have ever experienced.
But as fun as the farms and caves and remote wineries are, Harvest Hosts has been the handiest when I have wanted to visit cities.
For instance, last year when visiting friends in Albuquerque, I spent the night at Starr Brothers Brewing, an upscale microbrewery and restaurant. I could unhitch and go into town and the trailer was fine.
Although the restaurant attached to the brewery was so good we enjoyed eating there twice.
This week I used Harvest Hosts to visit two more highly populated metropolitan areas: Baltimore and Atlantic City.
Waterfront urban RV parking near Baltimore
I had not seen my friend Brian in nearly two decades, so I wanted to make that happen on this trip. As Brian lives in the heart of downtown Baltimore, I knew a moochdocking spot would be non-existent.
But through Harvest Hosts, I found an amazing place to stay at the Anchor Bay East Marina in the Baltimore suburb of Dundalk.
That’s right, I was parked waterside within minutes of downtown Baltimore.
Hosts Art and Tina Cox are RVers themselves, so they likewise made outstanding hosts.
If they have the space, Harvest Hosts members are welcome to stay extra nights here. Believe me, you’ll want to.
The small family-run marina has everything an RVer (or a boater) could want. I had safe parking tucked among boats in the fenced storage yard with optional, reasonably priced hookups for water, sewer, and electric. I also had easy access to clean, hot showers. There is even a laundromat on site.
The Hard Yacht Café
If all that were not enough, the marina also houses a terrific casual restaurant, the Hard Yacht Café.
In décor and ambiance, versions of the Hard Yacht café can be found in nearly any seaside town in North America. These popular local seaside hangouts are always lots of fun, and the Hard Yacht is no exception.
What sets the Hard Yacht Café apart are its terrific regional food and drinks. And the fact there’s live music seven nights a week!
The local favorite Maryland drink is called a “Crush,” and the Hard Yacht Café serves an enormous variety of flavors. On the hot summer days when I visited, the combo of fruit juice, vodka (or flavored vodka) and soda were incredibly refreshing. Crushes go down easy. Almost too easy.
The food at the Hard Yacht was also better than expected.
The hearty breakfasts and burgers are always a winner. But their steamed seafood platter seemed the thing to do at a waterside Maryland restaurant. It was HUGE—clams, mussels, shrimp, and crab legs plus onions and potatoes and, of course, lots of Old Bay seasoning.
Brian had taken me into town to one of his favorite Baltimore crab shacks on my first night in the area. It was good, but the Hard Yacht Café was better. And being a locals joint in the burbs, it was MUCH more affordable.
After chowing down, I went to sleep to the sound of thunder and rain. There’s nothing like sleeping in an RV in the rain. I love it!
The next morning I set out for Atlantic City. My nephew Chipper Lowell was appearing in the Masters of Illusion show at Harrah’s for the summer and I wanted to see him and it.
Atlantic City urban RV parking: BBQ and a show
The RV parks in the Atlantic City area fell into the too expensive for my taste and budget category, so once again Harvest Hosts came to the rescue in the form of the Back Bay Barbecue in nearby Somers Point.
You could even see the lights of Atlantic City in the distance at night from my quiet waterside spot near this terrific little barbecue joint.
You knew the food was going to be good even before entering the Back Bay BBQ as the smells emanating from the smoker fill the neighborhood starting early in the day. It was so good, in fact, that Chipper and I ate lunch there two days in a row.
The restaurant has a big empty lot for RVers to park. I unhitched and went into Atlantic City, an easy 15-minute drive.
The Masters of Illusion Live show starring Chipper Lowell, Dan Sperry, and Jonathan Pendragon was tons of fun. As usual, my talented nephew had them rolling in the aisles.
(Unfortunately, that show has since closed, but check this website for upcoming live tour dates.)
The next leg of the long, long RV trip
My original plan had been to head towards New England next. However, my cousins there were either sick with, or just recovering from, COVID. It turned out to not be an opportune time to visit.
The East Coast toll roads were also killing me. Not only were they ridiculously expensive— even more so with an RV—they were in such bad shape I had screws shaking loose in my RV at every stop.
Feeling just a tiny bit homesick, I decided to scrap the New England plans. I had gone coast to coast on this trip, but it was time to start the return west.
The next morning I left Atlantic City and ended up on the absurd Pennsylvania Turnpike. But that’s a story for next week.
Next week: PA and Ohio Turnpikes, Back to Chicago
Previously in Cheri’s long, long RV trip:
- Week 13: Virginia Camping on a Civil War Battleground, Montpelier, Monticello, Fried Chicken and more!
- Week 12: Summersville Lake Camping – Almost Heaven in West Virginia
- Week 11: Ohio Turnpike Camping, Airstreams, Caverns, and Beer
- Week 10: Circus World, Wisconsin Dells, Gearing up to Go Again
- Week 9: Circus Graveyard; Taste of Chicago Festival
- Week 8: Iconic Chicago foods (get ready to drool); RV electrical issues
- Week 7: Moochdocking in the Chicago burbs; Re-evaluating this trip
- Week 6: An EXPLOSIVE tire blowout and an emotional goodbye
- Week 5: RVing in Kansas, and an amazing campground
- Week 4: Having fun on more Colorado explorations
- Week 3: RVing during Colorado’s surprise snow, and a castle!
- Week 2: Friday the 13th, road trip woes set in
- Week 1: RVing sites and attractions in Las Vegas and beyond