5 Visitor Centers That You Won’t Want To Miss

Carlsbad visitor center

5 Visitor Centers That Are Worth Exploring

The ability to travel and explore new places is one of the best parts of the RV lifestyle. There’s no better way to truly experience the country. You get to really know the areas you travel through, and you have the opportunity to participate in local events and visit interesting landmarks.

Visitor centers are one of the best ways to learn about a new area. There are countless visitor centers scattered across the country, and they serve a wide variety of purposes. Some of them educate, others entertain, and others showcase interesting features of the area. Lots of national and state parks have at least one visitor center, but some businesses, churches, museums, and other interesting locations have them as well.

It’s hard to define what the best visitor centers are, but we’ve selected five fantastic options below. Check out our list and consider adding one or two of these to your upcoming travel plans! For your convenience, we’ve also provided some information about nearby RV parks and resorts. You can find even more campgrounds and RV parks while planning your route with RV LIFE Trip Wizard or the RV LIFE App.

1. Carlsbad Caverns National Park Visitor Center

  • Location: 727 Carlsbad Cavern Hwy, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM 88220
  • Entrance fee: $1 per person (reservations required for tours)
  • Website: nps.gov

If you’re a fan of geology or just want to see something incredibly unique, it’s hard to top Carlsbad Caverns. The main attraction of this area is the caverns themselves, and there are tons of guided tours available. Tour guides can point out particularly interesting features, teach you about the formation and history of the area, and help you stay safe as you explore these naturally formed caves.

The visitor center is also quite impressive. If you’re a fan of documentaries, you’ll love the 16-minute “Hidden World” video presentation that they play every 30 minutes. This will give you additional information about the caverns so you can more fully enjoy your experience once you’re in them. The center also has exhibits about the native plant and animal species, as well as hands-on learning experiences about the geology and history of the area. And of course, don’t forget to stop by the gift shop and buy some fun souvenirs!

Nearby RV parks

  • Sunset Reef Campground (9.7/10 average rating): This first campground is a very simple BLM campground. There are no frills or luxury amenities here, but the campground is safe and well-designed. If you love camping in the desert, this is a good spot to look into.
  • Carlsbad KOA Holiday (8.5/10 average rating): This KOA park has a few more bells and whistles, and it’s a favorite for a lot of people who travel through the area. There are hookups, a laundromat, and even an on-site BBQ place. It’s quiet and peaceful and absolutely perfect for RVers.
  • Carlsbad RV Park and Campground (7.3/10 average rating): This is another highly favored park in the area. It’s fairly large and well-maintained. The location is a good base camp for several attractions including Roswell, Carlsbad Caverns, etc.

2. NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex

If you love outer space, this visitor center is a must-see. It’s one of the most highly-rated destinations in the country, and almost everybody reports that they absolutely loved their experience. You could easily spend an entire day here learning about the history and the future of space travel.

Guests have access to a variety of activities and learning experiences. You can touch a real moon rock, speak to astronauts, and get up close and personal with a rocket.

There are tons of tours, videos, and exhibits that are suitable for all kinds of people. The only downside of this experience is the price point. It’s a bit discouraging to see that entrance fee, especially if you have younger kids who might not get their money’s worth. Overall, this place is definitely worth a visit though!

Nearby RV parks

  • The Great Outdoors RV Nature & Golf Resort (8.4/10 average rating): Although camping in rural areas is great, sometimes you want something a bit more luxurious. This resort comes with its own golf course, so you can enjoy the benefits of urban life. It’s quite close to the space center as well.
  • Jetty Park Campground (8.3/10 average rating): Beachside RV parks are always fun to visit. Jetty Park Campground is a great option if you enjoy that setup. You can easily walk to the beach, see cruise ships launch, and check out the restaurants and shops along the coast.
  • Manatee Hammock Campground (8/10 average rating): This campground has a lovely natural setting with large trees and waterfront sites. You’ll have access to plenty of shade as well as all the park amenities such as the pool, camp store, rec hall, and a direct view of the space center! It doesn’t get better than that.
nasa visitor center

3. Sugarlands Visitors Center

  • Location: 1420 Fighting Creek Gap Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738
  • Entrance Fee: Free to enter, tours cost $15+
  • Website: nps.gov

Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to many interesting historical sites and beautiful natural landmarks. Sugarlands is one of the top-rated visitor centers in the area and in the whole country!

People have been living and working in the mountains for generations, and the history is all on display here. Guests can enjoy the Grist Mill, the Becky Cable House, and the park bookstore and gift shop.

Park rangers also lead tours that showcase the natural beauty of the area. They know all about the native plant and animal life, so don’t hesitate to ask them about it! You can also pick up plenty of information about the park if you plan to explore it on your own. Sugarlands is a wonderful place to start your adventure into Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Nearby RV parks

  • Anchor Down RV Resort (9.6/10 average rating): There’s no shortage of RV parks in this area, but Anchor Down has an impressive approval rating from guests. Out of 266 reviews, 232 people gave this park a perfect score. This resort is located on the waterfront, has well-maintained facilities, and is quiet and clean.
  • Two Rivers Landing RV Resort (9.4/10 average rating): Two Rivers Landing RV Resort is pretty much on par with the one above. It’s ideal for workamping, has excellent Wi-Fi and phone reception, and it’s right at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
  • Twin Creek RV Resort (8.7/10 average rating): This lovely resort is surrounded by beautiful woodlands. It’s the perfect place to connect with nature while still traveling in comfort. The roads are all paved, and the sites come with picnic tables, fire pits, and benches. Perfect for a cookout!

4. Grand Canyon Visitor Center

  • Location: S Entrance Rd, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023,
  • Entrance Fee: Free to enter the visitor center, but you may need to pay the park entrance fee
  • Website: nps.gov

The Grand Canyon always draws crowds from all over the country. There are actually several visitor centers for this park, including the South Rim (AKA Grand Canyon Village), Desert View, and the North Rim. These may be open or closed during different periods of the year, so be sure to check their availability before going! All of the visitor centers provide a great experience, but the South Rim center is especially noteworthy.

Many guests have said that this should be your first stop when you enter the park. You can pick up tons of helpful information about the area, speak to rangers, and watch videos about the significance of the Grand Canyon. It’s also a good place to book tours and find great hiking trails. There are a variety of bookstores, gift shops, and restaurants to explore.

Nearby RV parks

  • Ten-X Campground (9.5/10 average rating): This is a fairly small park, but it’s worth staying in if you have the opportunity. The sites are large and well-paved, plus the campground itself is located in a gorgeous scenic area.
  • Mather Campground (8.8/10 average rating): This campground is quite large and can accommodate more than 300 guests at a time! The sites are surrounded by tall, well-established pine trees. The park is nice and clean, plus it has water hookups in addition to bathroom and shower facilities.
  • Trailer Village RV Park (8.1/10 average rating): If you’re looking for fantastic scenery, it doesn’t get much better than the Trailer Village RV Park. This one is a favorite among many RVers who visit the Grand Canyon area. It puts you right in the center of the action.

5. Denali Visitor Center

  • Location: Park Rd, Denali National Park and Preserve, AK 99755
  • Entrance fee: Free to enter the visitor center, but you may need to pay the park entrance fee
  • Website: nps.gov

Not many people are willing to drive all the way to Alaska, but there are some amazing national parks (and visitor centers) up here if you’re willing to make the trip!

Denali National Park is home to the tallest mountain in North America. Stopping by the visitor center will give you an idea of what to expect during your visit. This area is wild and free, so it’s important to practice wildlife safety protocols.

The seasonal visitor center features exhibits, a gift shop, as well as a park film where you can learn more information about the area.

Nearby RV parks

  • Riley Creek Campground (9.1/10 average rating): This popular national park campground is close to the park entrance, with over 140 sites in the woods. The sites are large and spacious and can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet long.
  • Nenana RV Park & Campground (8.9/10 average rating) Though not in the park, this campground is only about an hour north of the park entrance. The seasonal park offers spacious RV sites with fire pits and electric hookups.

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