With the pandemic, so many people have lost their wanderlust. Being on a plane is too confined, and buses and trains are no different. RVing, or traveling with a motorhome or travel trailer has become way more popular over the last year because of its ability to travel without being stuck next to a person who decided to take their shoes off mid-flight.
Since I was a kid, my entire family would take each summer off to travel the states. Having visited all this beautiful country has to offer, I’m grateful for the fun times and amazing sites I was able to experience.
However, if you’re new to the RV scene, you wouldn’t know about the dreaded ‘Walmart Nights’ or having to spend a night parked in some random parking lot just to recharge for the next day’s drive.
Joel Holland, owner and CEO of Harvest Hosts, had a much better idea. Instead of having to stay at some mega-mart parking lot or the usual stay at a campground, why can’t travelers have an enjoyable and unique overnight stay instead?
“The idea was something different and unique for RVers to kind of spice up the normal experience,” said Holland. “I’m an RVer and we still stay at campgrounds, but every once in a while we’ll sprinkle in a unique place.”
After leaving Washington D.C. with his wife, they impulsively bought a Grand Design trailer and decided to hit the road. In two years, they traveled through 48 states.
“We kept seeing these beautiful wineries and farms that we were just driving by on the road, thinking ‘Wow, why can’t we stay there?’”
He found Harvest Hosts, which was then owned by a couple from Arizona. He purchased the business and decided to make it his new project. In the past few years, membership has multiplied 20 times and the amount of locations went from 200 to 1,800.
“It’s fun owning a business you also really enjoy using,” he chuckled.
Members pay $79 a year and have access to any Harvest Host location as long as they call ahead and arrive during business hours. The only thing Harvest Hosts ask is that members staying with their hosts purchase one of their locally made goods.
With over 500 wineries, 191 breweries, 450 farms and more, travelers don’t have to drive over 50 miles without running into a Harvest Host location. Not only are guests able to support local businesses, but they grow a deeper connection with the owners as well.
Holland has visited a few places himself, and enjoys taking time off every once in a while to enjoy a nearby winery. The best part about staying at a winery? Holland had this to say:
“My wife and I can both sample the goods… Maybe a little too much,” he smiled. “And then we don’t have to drive anywhere!”
Here’s just a sample of a few interesting places you can stay at with a Harvest Host membership:
- Mount Washington Cog Railway, New Hampshire – Founded in 1869, the railway is located on the side of Mount Washington. The train travels up the mountain at a high angle, and Holland notes the views of the mountain and its foliage along with the trains going up and down are all the more beautiful in autumn.
- Heartland Farm, Kansas – Run by three nuns well into their 80’s, this small farm is home to alpacas. One makes scarves, the other soaps and one even gives massages.
“If you ever thought about getting a massage from an 80-year-old nun, this is the place to get it done,” claimed Holland.
- Chicagoland Skydiving Center, Illinois – It’s odd that campers are able to stay in the heart of Chicago in their massive RVs, but thanks to Harvest Hosts, they can. While visiting, guests can have a thrill of a lifetime skydiving.
- Strataca Salt Mines, Kansas – Always wondered how salt got to your table? Look no further and travel 650 feet below the earth’s surface to find out.
- Golden Spike Tower, Nebraska – Enjoy the view of the world’s largest rail yard atop a tower.
Of course, each host does have their own rules regarding COVID-19 restrictions. The best way to find out is by calling the host ahead of time! There’s much more to explore online. You can find a map with all their locations here.