Road trips

5 reasons why I love camping in the vineyards – it’s as fabulous as it sounds

5 reasons why I love camping in the vineyards - it's as fabulous as it sounds

Before my husband and I purchased our first RV in August 2020, I joined the RV members club, Harvest Hosts. In my online research on motorhome living, I came across this nifty service that allows its members to stay overnight in their self-contained motorhomes at wineries, breweries, and distilleries — as well as farms. , museums and other attractions – across North America. “What could be better?” I thought.

I certainly didn’t need to buy the Harvest Hosts membership before buying a big rig, but it did get me specific details on all the incredibly cool places – like a brewery/ riverside winery in South Dakota and family whiskey distillery in Kentucky where we could book overnight spots on our 7 week trek from Colorado to Maine and back. Researching all the different options for mapping our stays in the cellar between longer stays at private campgrounds and state parks helped me get excited for our maiden voyage.

After two years of owning a motorhome and moving from our original motorhome to a new one, I am still thrilled with this opportunity to spend the night next to the vineyards in scenic, rural locations across the country. My husband and I have stayed at 14 different Harvest Host locations on three different multi-week RV trips, and we’re looking forward to checking out a winery not too far from home on an RV adventure in Colorado later this summer.

In fact, transparently, I quickly became such a fan of Harvest Hosts, I cold emailed the business owner asking him to do some freelance writing for his website. Since then, I’ve contributed to the blog, marketing materials, and even managed the company’s Instagram account for a short while. That said, I will continue to renew and use my membership (currently a $99 annual fee) for as long as we own our RV.

Here are five reasons why I love camping at wineries, breweries and distilleries with my Harvest Hosts membership.

Mac's Creek Winery & Brewery in Lexington, Nebraska
RV parking area at Mac’s Creek Winery & Brewery in Lexington, Nebraska

Photo credit: Kara Williams

1. Wineries are more fun than Walmarts

Harvest Hosts members are permitted to stay one night at each host location and there is no limit to the number of locations you can visit in any given year. The hosts are small businesses that are not organized like campgrounds. Pitches that open up their property to RV travelers are meant to be an alternative to boondocking (“dry camping” without hookups) in places like Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lots.

I can personally attest that enjoying a flight of wine before bed and waking up to a view of the green countryside is better than falling asleep in a concrete parking lot and waking up to the noise of trucks of delivery to the loading station of a store.

Pro Tip: Not all Harvest Hosts locations are rural and quiet. Some spots are located near highways, train tracks or in urban city centers. If you’re a member looking for a reservation, be sure to read the host’s online description, as well as member reviews, so you know what to expect on your planned night.

Sick-N-Twisted Brewery in Hill City, South Dakota
A flight of beers at Sick-N-Twisted Brewery in Hill City, South Dakota

Photo credit: Kara Williams

2. I support small businesses

Harvest Hosts locations are places where campers can rest in a safe and scenic place for the night and in exchange we have to make a small purchase – at least $20 for drinks, food, farm produce, a tour museum or other memorabilia is recommended. So while this boondocking is by no means free — and in fact, my husband and I usually end up spending way over $20 on food and drink at each location — I consider the expense to support a local small business. I’m glad my “camping expenses” are going to a small business owner or hard working family business rather than a large campground or private corporation.

Pro tip: Some hospitality venues are non-profit organizations, such as historical libraries or religious places of worship. For these locations, if there is no gift shop to purchase something, Harvest Hosts members can donate.

Tumbled Rock Brewery and Kitchen in Baraboo, Wisconsin
Savor local cuisine at Tumbled Rock Brewery & Kitchen in Baraboo, Wisconsin

Photo credit: Quent Williams

3. We enjoyed fabulous food and drink

Typically, when stopping at a winery, brewery, or distillery, my husband and I have done our research beforehand. In this way we determine if we are going to taste wine, beer or spirits. We also determine if we are going to have an appetizer or a full meal. More often than not, we happily take bar snacks or a nice charcuterie platter to accompany our drinks. After several home-cooked meals in our RV, it’s always a pleasure to be served and to delve into local foods, like the tasty cheese curds from the Tumbled Rock Brewery in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

My husband has discovered a new favorite whiskey that he is always eager to share with guests who visit our Colorado home. We picked up a few bottles of Wood Hat Spirits in Florence, Missouri, which is a distillery that uses corn of different colors, such as red, blue, and white to distill its corn whiskey varieties. I’m not a whiskey drinker, but my husband swears it’s surprisingly tasty.

Winter White Vineyard in Wisconsin
We listened to live music while tasting cider and mead at White Winter Winery in Wisconsin.

Photo credit: Kara Williams

4. We were pleasantly entertained with live music

My husband and I like to listen to live music in restaurants and bars. If there’s a dance floor where we can show off our country dance moves, well, that’s even better. Sometimes we stumbled across performers at Harvest Hosts venues, like the time a duo performed their favorite folk hits at White Winter Winery in Iron River, Wisconsin.

Other times we have deliberately timed our visits to coincide with live performances. In Pana, Illinois, we danced in the rain while a country band played at Arpeggio Winery, winning free insulated beer racks, to boot. “We always reward the first people on the dance floor,” the lead singer told us.

4th Winery in Mapleton, North Dakota
Our RV parked next to a barn at 4th Winery in Mapleton, ND, on the site of a former working farm

Photo credit: Kara Williams

5. We met friendly and generous people

Overall the people who run the wineries, breweries and distilleries we spent the night at are incredibly friendly people. They sign up to become Harvest Host locations because they are happy to share their corner of the world with visitors. They are usually happy to engage in conversations and learn about any travelers who pass by their property. We also met some very generous people.

For example, when we stopped at the Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, we realized we were low on water, having somehow forgotten to refill our reservoirs at our last campsite. The owner had us pull to a tap to fill our depleted tanks at no charge. Another time we were talking to the owners of 4th Winery in Mapleton, ND. We overstayed our welcome as they were closing their restaurant and tasting room for the night. They asked us to join them for a home-cooked dinner (a delicious vegan dish made with mushrooms harvested from their garden) and wine which is not usually served to the public.

We also met some other interesting Harvest Hosts members. Although hospitality venue parking areas are not intended for use as campsites, generally campfires and outdoor grilling are not permitted. It is generally accepted that members set up chairs near their campers to enjoy a bottle of wine or a growler of beer they have just purchased. We did this one night at Mac’s Creek Winery & Brewery in Nebraska and met some other campers who were from my home town. It was fun to chat with them for a while about some of the same people and places we knew.

Pro Tip: As nice as it can be to chat with like-minded winemakers or campers, sometimes all you want to do is buy an item on the spot and hit the sack. Its good. The beauty of Harvest Hosts is that you can make membership work for you. While my husband and I enjoy sampling local wine, beer, and spirits, you can do a full itinerary from family farms if you wish. Maybe if we ever RV with grandkids, we’ll change our tune. For now, we’ll continue to weave our way through great wineries, breweries, and distilleries on our travels, thanks to Harvest Hosts.

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