Four Fabulous Locations Across the Country to Consider for Your Next RV Camping Trip

Going camping in an RV is one of the most popular ways that American families choose to spend their time in the great outdoors — in fact, almost one-fourth of people, 24%, say they prefer this way of camping! RV campers also enjoy some of the longest, most enriching camping trips — an amazing 28% of RV camping trips are for five nights or longer.

Looking for somewhere truly unforgettable to spend your next family camping trip? If you and your family are looking for the best in RV camping, you might want to start planning now — camping season is starting soon, and spaces at these sites are going to start filling up sooner than you know! Here are our four favorite places across the U.S. that offer the absolute best in RV camping sites:

Williamsburg, VA

Colonial Williamsburg is rich with history — and rich in opportunities to enjoy the stunning outdoor scenery. Almost 1 million visitors take a trip to Williamsburg each year for its incredible re-enactments and living colonial village that looks and feels just as it did in 1776. Williamsburg, along with the neighboring historical landmarks at Jamestown and Yorktown, are all an easy drive for most people who live on the East Coast. Visit our website to see our other Jellystone Park locations in Virginia.

Horse Thief Lake, SD

Horse Thief Lake is just two miles away from Mount Rushmore, one of the most impressive sights in the whole country. There are a handful of different sites for RV camping, and they all offer easy access to Mount Rushmore. In addition, attractions like Jewel Cave, Harney Peak and the unparalleled hiking trails of the Black Hills National Forest are all close by.

Vicksburg, MS

Vicksburg has it all — a historic waterfront with amazing views of the Mississippi River, plenty of fishing and much more. Vicksburg offers plenty of places to go camping with your RV — and there’s even a casino nearby, if the kids are staying home. If you are looking for an RV park in MS, check out our site to see which of our two parks are close to you.

Where are some of your favorite RV camping sites that you and your family have visited? Feel free to share with us and your fellow readers in the comments below!

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How to Plan a North Carolina Camping Trip the Whole Family Will Love

Camping is one of the most popular family vacations in America — in 2010, more than 40 million people went camping in the United States, for a total of 515 million camping trips. Since it allows families to reconnect without too many distractions, is away from home, and allows people to get back to nature, camping has become a quintessential family vacation. Camping in North Carolina is pretty popular since the natural landscape is varied and the weather is pleasant, but it still takes a bit of planning to make sure that the trip will go off without a hitch. Here are a few tips for planning a camping vacation the whole family is going to love.

1. Find comfortable accommodations.
There are a number of different accommodations for campers. The most popular is staying in a tent — 86% of respondents in a survey reported using one when they go camping. The second most popular is cabins, which 33% of people reported they do. Finding North Carolina cabin rentals might help your family feel a little more comfortable, especially if you have kids along. Having a secure and sturdy structure at all times is going to make things a little easier.

2. Prepare for a variety of activities.
One of the reasons North Carolina camping is so popular is that the natural landscape offers a lot of different activities for you and the family, so it’s important to pack well and prepare for any of them. Ninety-two percent of people say they hike when they go camping, which makes it the most popular camping activity by far. Pack bug spray and a small first aid kit to help handle any trips and falls. Depending on your campsite, you should also prepare for water activities like swimming by packing suits, sunblock, and life vests.

3. Stay as long as you can.
One of the worst things about any vacation is the end of it, but making sure that your trip was long enough can help. Tent campers have the shortest average camping trips at two days, while RV campers have the longest average trips at five days. Planning carefully and well-ahead of time are both important for planning the longest trip possible for you and your family.

Do you have any other tips for planning a North Carolina camping trip for the whole family? Feel free to share them with us in the comments section below.

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5 Ways to Make First-Time Camping Easier

If you’re hoping to warm up with some summer-related thoughts, then this is the perfect time of year to make plans for camping when the weather gets warm (and book spots, since many campgrounds in PA, Ohio, New York and other Great Lakes-region states are filling up). Camping is a fun, affordable way to get the entire family outside for some bonding under the sun. And the even better news is that it doesn’t have to be intimidating, even if you’ve never taken on an outdoorsy trip before. Here are five ways you can make your first camping vacation easier:

 

  1. Look for Campgrounds That Offer Activities

    There are plenty of campgrounds that offer scheduled activities and amenities that give you an alternative to simply pitching your tent and playing in the woods. If you’re looking at campgrounds in PA alone, for example, you can head to Quarryville or Mill Run and lounge by the pool while the kids play in the water park, or go to Harrisville and enjoy mini golf and a game room. You can always transition to more rustic camping on subsequent trips if you so desire.

  2. Go Camping in Cabins, Instead of Tents

    If even these upgraded campgrounds sound overwhelming, you might want to start out by camping in cabins, instead. While there are many cabin rentals in Ohio, PA and surrounding states, you might want to start by checking out these cabin rentals in Ohio: Camps in Mt. Gilead, the Akron area and Big Prairie offer a smaller, more intimate environment that will let you get into the swing of camping without needing to worry about investing in a bunch of camping gear.

  3. Pack the Essentials — and Nothing More

    Resist the urge to pack for too many “in case” scenarios. If you’re starting with these beginner camping spots, you don’t need to gear up as if you were heading for the backwoods. Make sure you have what you need to keep everyone warm and fed, and leave the additional outfit options behind.

  4. Time Your Comings and Goings Carefully

    This will be less of an issue if you’re camping in cabins, rather than tents, but it’s such a common rookie mistake that it bears addressing regardless: Do not plan to arrive at your campground later than early afternoon. Especially if you’ve never done it before, setting up camp will probably take at least twice as long as you expect, and you don’t want to be figuring it out in the dark. When you’re leaving, make sure you allow time to break camp, as well.

  5. Educate Yourself on Camping Etiquette

    This tip is not just about making your trip easier on you, but also making it easier on the environment. It’s important that you educate yourself on the products you’ll be using and disposing of; for example, it’s important you use biodegradable soap, which won’t contaminate water sources. You should also observe a carry-in, carry-out policy, meaning you leave no trash or litter behind when you leave. The old saying “take only pictures, leave only footprints” applies even to more luxurious types of camping.

What sounds more your style? Exciting campgrounds in PA, relaxing cabin rentals in Ohio, or something else altogether? Share your plans in the comments.

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Dreaming of a New Rig? Get to an RV Show!

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Are you dreaming about purchasing your first RV? Or upgrading to a new one? Or just looking for a something fun to do on a cold winter day?  For about the price of admission to a movie, you can buy a ticket for a full day of seminars, kid-friendly entertainment, and window-shopping at your local RV show.  We recently attended the Atlantic City show and had a blast browsing through family-friendly floorplans and dreaming about the day when we will be flying without the kids in a smaller, sleeker unit.

So after inspecting the best that the industry has to offer here are five great picks for a wide range of travelers–from a sporty Class B for adventurous couples to a cozy fifth wheel with privacy for mom and dad and plenty of room for the kids.

The Winnebago Travato (Class B Gas)

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The first rig that really grabbed our attention was the brand new Winnebago Travato.  Its bold red exterior color and sporty looking bike and kayak racks made us want to hop in and head out for an adventure.  We were not the only ones to feel this way–dozens of shoppers were struck by the same sense of wanderlust.  But we have three little boys, and this Winnebago was clearly not designed with our family in mind.  Could we see ourselves touring the country in a unit like this after the boys head off to college? Possibly. But only if Winnebago found a way to make the bed bigger.  It was just a bit too cozy for us!

The Itasca Reyo 25P (Class A Diesel)

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The Itasca Reyo 25P had both of us dreaming about early retirement and leisurely cross-country road trips without the kids (sorry boys!).  At under 26 feet, the compact size of the Reyo would make it possible to travel without towing a car–and we find that mobility very appealing.  The style and comfort of the Reyo’s interior took our breath away and the size of the bathroom felt incredibly spacious for such a small rig.  Could we see ourselves in a sweet Itasca like this someday? You betchya!

The Itasca Tribute 26A (Class A Gas)

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Is the retro- inspired Itasca Tribute 26A designed for a young family or for an adventurous couple?  Well, with its flexible sleeping options, its actually designed for just about anyone.  We loved the retractable StudioLoft beds (one above the queen and one above the cockpit) that can be stored along the ceiling at the push of the button–perfect for using every night for the kids–or just dropping it down occasionally for the grandkids.  For a rig without a slide we found the 26A to be surprisingly spacious and comfortable–and we loved, loved, loved the retro styling.

The Airstream 30FB Flying Cloud Bunk Model

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We have both always loved the timeless look and quality build of an Airstream.  But we never think we’ll own one.  Why?  Because they never seem spacious enough for our family of five.  But the 30FB Flying Cloud Bunk Model does boast a family-friendly floor plan.  One of the boys would have to convert the dinette into a bed every night–and the top bunk was very tiny.  But if your family values form over function and the Airstream makes your heart skip a beat–then this bunk model may be for you.

The Jayco Eagle 29.5BHDS (Fifth Wheel)

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Do you dream of the luxury and comfort of a fifth wheel?  Do you want some privacy from the kids and cozy bunks to boot?  Then the Jayco Eagle 29.5BHDS may be the right fit for you.  This rig is half ton towable and has space and storage for the whole family and the dog.  The double over double bunks could easily fit four if they had to–and the master bedroom will make mom and dad feel like they have their own private retreat.  If your tow vehicle has the power why not move into a fifth wheel?  They are often called the Cadillacs of the towable world–and for good reason.

As you can see, an RV show provides the perfect opportunity to get out of the house and daydream about your next rig, and your next great adventure!  Here is a list of all of the RV Shows across our great country:

http://www.rvia.org/?esid=rvshows&all=1

We encourage all of our fellow campers to beat the winter blues and head to a show.  There’s no harm in looking, right?

Stephanie and Jeremy Puglisi are the co-hosts of the RV Family Travel Atlas podcast, which is available for free in the iTunes store, and on their blog.

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Camping Near Shenandoah National Park

Family Fun Shenandoah National Park

By guest bloggers Jeremy & Stephanie Puglisi of RV Family Travel Atlas.

Because of the planned activities and exciting amenities at Jellystone Park Luray, a family could easily spend an awesome weekend there without leaving the property. But that would be a shame, because the magic and beauty of Shenandoah National Park are waiting just five miles away from the campground. Camping near Shenandoah National Park makes it easy and convenient to take in a great hike, experience the majesty of the mountains and scenery, and still make it back in time to partake in other great family activities at Luray Jellystone Park.

When you plan your next trip to Jellystone Park Luray make sure you set aside time to cruise along Skyline Drive, take in a hike or two, and share a family picnic at Big Meadows. Here is a suggested itinerary for a fun family day trip into the park. Who knows, you might just see a few bears and dozens of deer like we did!

SkylineDrive

Shenandoah National Park’s epic roadway, Skyline Drive, has 75 scenic overlooks and stretches for over 100 miles before it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway. Since you are camping at Jellystone Park Luray you will want to take route 211 into the park using the Thornton Gap Entrance Station. Once you are in the park, head south and take your time to enjoy the views. Also keep your eyes peeled for bear in the woods on the side of the road. They move faster than you think. The ever-changing beauty of the landscape might tempt you to put the radio on and drive all day, but we recommend that you park the car and take in a hike or two. Adventure waits around every corner.

StonyManTrail

At mile 41.7 pull over and park for the adventurous, but family-friendly, 1.6 mile circuit Stony Man Trail. The National Park Service designates this hike as “easiest” but the summit views of the Shenandoah Valley and the town of Luray are nothing short of spectacular. After all, this is the second highest peak in the park. Plan on bringing water and a snack to share at the summit, but we don’t recommend a picnic lunch here. The rocks at the summit are jagged and it can be crowded on a clear summer day. Don’t forget your camera.

BigMeadows

After you’ve conquered Stony Man head south on Skyline Drive towards the Byrd Visitor Center at Big Meadows. Watch a short film and take in an exhibit on the park ’s history before you visit the gift shop for a vintage park poster or magnet. After you’ve educated yourself and plunked down a few bucks for a souvenir you’ll be good and hungry for a picnic lunch. If you need to grab more cold drinks for your next short hike head into the well-stocked campstore. You may be tempted by the fudge counter on the left. Your call.

Image4StoryForestNatureTrail

After lunch (and fudge?) burn off some calories with a casual and easy stroll on the Story of the Forest Trail, which begins across the street from the visitor center. Before you leave, grab a scavenger hunt booklet from one of the park rangers. Your kids will enjoy running from blue blaze to blue blaze, searching for large fungi and animal watering holes. Mom and Dad will enjoy learning the names of trees, finding out where witch hazel comes from, and discovering more about the works projects that developed the park. Whitetail Deer sightings are common on this trail, so keep your eyes wide open. We saw more than a few and spotting them was definitely the highlight of our walk.

When you’ve completed this 1.8 mile loop, drive north on Skyline Drive and back home to Jellystone Park. You may still be able to catch story time with Boo Boo. Or just head directly to the Cartoon Cafe for a well-deserved ice cream treat. We recommend the Moose Tracks!

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of the podcast RV Family Travel Atlas, available in the iTunes Store, on Stitcher, and TuneIn Radio. You can read more about their adventures at www.rvfamilytravelatlas.com.

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Exciting Things To Do In Luray, VA.

finding adventure in Luray Virginia

By guest bloggers Jeremy & Stephanie Puglisi of RV Family Travel Atlas.

Jellystone Park Luray, in addition to having wonderful amenities and activities on site, is also located within ten minutes of some pretty fun family adventure opportunities. If you can manage to get your kids off of the bounce pad and out of the pool, we highly recommend the following local attractions.


LurayCaverns

Even though we had seen many pictures of these caverns, we were shocked at how truly spectacular it was to see them in person. Our five year olds kept saying how ‘awesome’ it was, and we couldn’t agree more.

The guided tour takes a little over an hour and covers just over a mile on paved walking paths. You can easily bring a stroller if you are willing to carry it down the flight of stairs at the very beginning and then back up again at the end. The tour includes lots of very interesting information, but also plenty of time to independently explore and appreciate the beauty of the caverns. We felt the pacing was perfect—we didn’t feel rushed at all, but it moved quickly enough to keep our young kids engaged.

Your admission ticket ($24 for adults/ $12 for youths/ free for 5 years and under) includes entrance to the Luray Valley Museum, the Car and Carriage Caravan, and Toy Town Junction. We did not feel like our kids had the attention span for these attractions after the guided tour of the caverns, but if your children are older, they might enjoy wandering through them.

Our boys did, however, LOVE the Rope Adventure Park, where you can get strapped into a harness and enjoy one of the three ropes courses available.

LurayCaverns

To be honest, this activity did not look like anything super exciting from a distance. It turned out to be a blast, though, with a lot of very engaging challenges and thrills. Max and Theo could have spent hours there, and we had to tear them away for lunch.

LurayCaverns

Bottom line? Worth the extra money ($9/ $7 under 48 inches) if you or your kids want to enjoy a wild jungle gym experience.

You can also enjoy the Garden Maze or the Gem Sluice for an additional fee. Although the value of these activities will depend on your children’s age and personal interests, we can say that everything at Luray Caverns was extremely clean, and the staff was friendly and efficient.

Luray Caverns is a huge area attraction and can get very crowded during peak travel times. The tours start at 9 am, and it is worth the effort to get there early. We waited only 10 minutes to start our tour, but as we were leaving, the lines were much longer. One of the employees also told us that it quiets down after 4:30 pm as well.

BearMountainZiplines

As you can tell, there are many fun things to do in Luray, Va. Another attraction is located right next door to Jellystone Park Luray. You can actually walk on a footpath from the campground to Bear Mountain Ziplines. This adventure course has only been open for a few seasons, but it is clearly a local gem. The staff is friendly and accommodating, willing to teach you how to get into your harness and recommend a good place for sandwiches.

The Mama Bear Zipline has seven zips that bring you through the woods and out across a wide open field. This is a good introductory course for those that have not tried zip lining before. The new Baby Bear High Ropes Course is a great challenge for younger kids, and at $20, this is an affordable and fun way for children to try zip lining in a safe and accessible environment.

BearMountainZiplines

The best part about Bear Mountain Ziplines was that it was a quick and low key way to experience this fun activity. Often times zip lining tours can take hours and require you to schedule at least a half day of your vacation around it, with long drives from the offices to the mountain courses. Since Bear Mountain is right next door to the campground, you can easily walk over, zip, and be back in an hour or so.

Hopefully next season Bear Mountain Ziplines will offer a discount for Jellystone Park campers. This would take this from a recommended activity to a “must do” for the family.

The area around Jellystone Park Luray is full of opportunities for adventure, and we already know that our next trip will include tubing, horseback riding, and kayaking. An amazing campground, a national park, and lots of fun things to do in Luray, VA? We will most certainly be back.

Bio

Jeremy and Stephanie Puglisi are the co-hosts of RV Family Travel Atlas, a podcast available in the iTunes Store. They spend over 40 nights a year in their RV, traveling with their three young boys Theo, Max, and Wes. You can read more about their adventures at www.rvfamilytravelatlas.com

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Thinking of Camping This Spring or Summer? Start Planning Your Trips Now

Already thinking about camping in Colorado this spring or summer?

If so, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is urging people to plan their family camping trips early on to ensure that they can reserve a spot at one of Colorado’s highly-popular camp sites.

“Our most popular camping sites fill up six months in advance, so planning now could get vacationers a prime camping spot,” CPW Reservations Coordinator Mercedes Schwall said.

In recent years, camping has become an increasingly-popular activity for American families. About 3 million more people embarked on a camping excursion in 2012 than in 2010. This is especially true for Colorado, one of the best states in the country for experiencing the outdoors.

That’s because camping is one of the best ways for families to spend time around each other without everyday distractions. With a wide variety of things to do outside, from biking to hiking to observing wildlife, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy as well. Who knows — you or your kids could even end up discovering an outdoor activity that you end up enjoying for life!

Camping might even make you healthier, as one recent study from the University of Colorado at Boulder points out. The study found that individuals who spend a week being exposed only to natural light while camping in the Rocky Mountains saw improved syncing of their circadian clocks, the natural 24-hour rhythm of our sleeping and waking cycle. Artificial lighting, especially light from computer screens and televisions, is notorious for disrupting humans’ circadian clocks.

So to ensure that your family gets to take a camping trip this spring or summer, be sure to plan early — that way, you’ll be certain you have your space reserved rather than hoping for a space to open up.

Want more information on reserving a spot at Colorado’s camp sites? Feel free to ask us anything in the comments below.

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The Only Checklist You’ll Ever Need While Packing for Your Camping Trip

Few activities offer more family bonding time and exciting outdoor recreation than going camping. That’s why more people are taking their families on camping trips than ever before! In fact, three million more Americans went on a camping excursion in 2012 than they did in 2010, a major increase in popularity.

But each year, countless families will arrive at their camping sites and make a horrifying discovery: they’ve forgotten to pack an important item, and now the camping trip is all but ruined!

Don’t be like these families — always arrive at your camping sites packed and prepared. To make sure you and your family are ready for anything during your family summer camping excursion, we’ve compiled this list of the most essential items to pack:

Accessories

    • Hiking boots

 

    • Sunglasses

 

    • A hat or bandanna

 

    • Backpack

Toiletries

    • Biodegradable soap

 

    • Antibacterial wipes

 

    • Deodorant

 

    • A hairbrush or comb

 

    • A first aid kit

 

    • Sunscreen

 

    • Prescriptions and medicine

 

    • Insect repellent

 

    • Shampoo and conditioner

 

    • Toilet paper

 

    • Toothbrush and toothpaste

 

    • Other various personal hygiene items

 

Clothing

 

    • A light jacket or sweater
    • A pair of gloves or mittens
    • Hiking socks
    • Long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts
    • Underwear
    • A raincoat
    • Pants
    • Moisture-wicking socks and long underwear

Camping gear

    • A tent and related tent equipment
    • Camera and camera accessories
    • A collapsible water bottle
    • A lantern
    • Sleeping bag
    • Matches or a lighter

Food and cooking items

    • A small, portable stove
    • Cooking and eating utensils
    • Food, including plenty of snacks
    • Napkins and paper towels
    • Plates and cups
    • Plastic garbage bags

And for an even smoother camping experience, encourage the kids to pack their own bags — this lets them get involved in the packing process and also allows them to pack their favorite toys, books and other belongings!

Know of any other must-pack items to bring before leaving on a family camping trip? Share your own tips and tricks with us in the comments below!

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Three Ways to Convince Your Friends to Go Camping With You This Winter

During the winter, tent, RV or cabin camping life can be an incredibly unique and rewarding experience. But that’s only if you don’t go it alone — camping by yourself in the winter isn’t fun for anyone involved.

The idea of camping in tents or cabins, however, isn’t something many people are thinking about doing during the winter months. That’s why you’re going to have to convince your friends to go camping with you if you want to experience the thrill of the great outdoors this season!

To get your friends on board for a wintertime camping trip, here are three great ways you can convince them:

Ask that crazy, risk-taking friend you have

We all have that friend — the one who lives on the thrill of taking risks and walking away from near-death experiences unscathed. We don’t know how they do it, but we do know that they’re almost always willing to go on a winter camping trip. With another person by your side, convincing your other, less-than-willing friends will become incredibly easy.

Get your friends on board by playing up the novelty

There’s no way you’ll convince anyone to go on a winter camping trip with you if you don’t make the experience sound like a life-changing novelty. Remind your friends that everything looks better covered in snow; that all their favorite trails will be completely empty; that the campsites will be pristine and trash-free during the off-season. Best of all? You get to wear snowshoes!

Take advantage of better campsites

During the summer, it’s almost impossible to secure a camping spot at the most in-demand sites. However, the winter opens up a much wider availability of much nicer camping spots, which can even include cabins with all the essentials and amenities if your friends aren’t interested in entering survival mode. When your friends know all that the outdoors has to offer during the winter, you’ll have no trouble getting a group together to experience it!

Want to know more about going cabin camping or RV camping this winter? Ask us anything in the comments below!

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Tips for Making the Perfect Pumpkin Pie

The pumpkin pie is the centerpiece of Thanksgiving dessert tables across the United States. For many families, Thanksgiving (and occasionally Christmas) are the only times this tasty dish is served – and everyone wants to learn how to make Grandma’s family recipe taste just like hers, so they can pass the pumpkin pie tradition on to their own children and grandchildren.

How did the pumpkin pie because synonymous with our holiday of gratitude? No one really knows. Historians say the pumpkin is native to North America, and Native Americans likely cut the pulp into slices and roasted them over the fire. When European settlers arrived, they began exporting the big orange gourd. There, the French and the English prepared it as a dessert, but differently from the presentation we’re used to. They stuffed the whole pumpkin with apples, spices, sugar and even honey, and then baked it whole.

Here in the United States, recipes for pumpkin pie as we know it began showing up on Thanksgiving tables in the early 19th century. As a fall crop, pumpkins were likely considered a symbol of the autumn harvest and were plentiful; cooks of yesteryear were accustomed to making the most of what was available, so it’s no wonder they found a way to make delicious pumpkin pie.

If this is your first time making Grandma’s famous family recipe, or you just want to perfect your own pumpkin pie, here are a few easy tips to make it turn out just right.

Be careful not to over-beat the filling. Pumpkin pie is supposed to be thick and creamy; too much mixing will add air and thin out the texture.

Brush the pie crust with a slightly-beaten egg white and pre-bake it before filling it. This helps the crust stay flaky and crisp.

If you’re having a hard time getting the crust just right (it can be tricky), consider using a refrigerated pie crust. No one will know the difference – and we’ll never tell!

Buy an extra pie crust and use cookie cutters to cut it into festive shapes for the top – autumn leaves, pumpkins and so forth. It will look beautiful.

  • If you’re in a hurry, canned pumpkin or pumpkin pie filling will work. Or roast a sugar pumpkin and puree the insides.

Fold crushed toffee into whipped cream for a deliciously decadent pie topping.

Keep an eye on the pie while it’s in the oven. Overbaking leads to the pie “weeping,” which makes the crust soggy and creates cracks in the surface.

Keep the pie refrigerated until it’s ready to be served.

 

Happy baking!

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