The more I travel, the more I find that each year tends to group itself into themes. As I look back on 2016, the three themes that my travel seemed to rotate around was taking return trips, visiting national parks and traveling consistently through my continued #take12trips challenge. I have talked about return trips in the past and how the benefits of returning somewhere with a new perspective can often be just as beneficial as viewing a totally new destination. I’ve struggled with return trips previously, but fully embraced the concept this year and enjoyed showing family and friends around some of my favorite places.
The national parks theme came about quite organically with the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. The #nps100 campaign swept not only the country, but drew millions of visitors from outside the US to invest their time this year in one of our greatest attractions. My main takeaway from my visits to six national parks this year was that I want to see more of them. They are expansive and awe-inspiring and I just cannot get enough!
And lastly, I am thrilled that the campaign that Clare started back in 2013 to travel consistently throughout the year and to incorporate local travel more frequently continues to drive forward my itineraries for the year. At times when I find gap in my travels, I often look to what I can do in my own backyard that I have not done previously and there is always plenty to fill that need!
So without further ado, here is my 2016 wrap-up!
Each year, I find that January is the hardest month for me to get away. After the craziness of the holidays and the consistent cold weather, it is challenging to pick up and go somewhere. Luckily, we picked a local trip right across the water to the JFK Library. It was embarrassing not to have been to the closest museum to our house and was a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
February brought a blend of new and old. We headed up to for the long weekend in the middle of the month and experienced record breaking low temperatures. Luckily we were in a place where beer and pizza reign supreme which was the perfect fuel for the frigid weekend. We loved the artsy feeling of Burlington, the incredible food scene and of course, part of the reason we went was for Max to collect some highly desirable beers along the way.
Just two weeks later, we were back on the road to Providence, Rhode Island, the capital of the smallest state in the US and a city which is often overlooked by neighbors Boston and New York. The main driver for visiting was to check out the Dean Hotel, a cool and minimalist spot with a karaoke bar and beer hall within its confines. We loved our stay, the delicious food scene in Providence and the plethora of arts and library activities to keep us occupied!
The focus of March was a return trip to one of my favorite US cities – New Orleans. Having visited three and a half years prior, it seemed like a good time to return with my husband and friends! None of them had been to NOLA previously, which allowed me to take them back to some of my favorite places and explore some new ones! Just like I remembered, the food and music was incredible and we rented a AirBnB in order to make the most of our time together by being in a common space. Due to this being a return destination for me, I was able to travel deeper in NOLA instead of frantically trapesing around the city to see as much as possible. Beignets and po’boys remained on the menu from my previous visit, but we did try some new restaurants – La Petite Grocery for dinner and Kenton’s for brunch should be on every visitor’s list!
I kicked off April in New York City, a place that is dear to my heart because it is the home of some of my best friends! It was a convenient location for our college roommate reunion weekend, and I was able to do something new when we crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge for brunch. As a Brooklyn newbie, I loved the neighborhood feel and how it felt worlds away from Manhattan. I will definitely be back soon to explore more! At the tail end of the month, I crossed off something that has been on my “Boston Bucket List” since I moved into the city almost 5 years ago – a lobster roll at the infamous Neptune Oyster. Long listed as the “best lobster roll” in Boston despite being amongst the Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End, we knew we had to try it for ourselves and finally put in the commitment for the 3 hour wait. It did not disappoint and we rank it right up there with the best in the city!
In mid-May, I was spontaneously able to head to the Equinox property in Manchester, Vermont for the weekend with a friend! Since it was last minute, we had no real agenda except to go with the flow, which we did a very good job of! Gourmet meals, drinks by the outdoor fire pit, hiking as well as some relaxation at the spa made for the perfect getaway to a place I will most definitely be returning to sooner rather than later!
At the end of the month, we took off for our big trip of the year – Ireland. While it was a return destination for me, there was nothing better than being back in one of my favorite places (with 100% sunshine nonetheless) driving along the coast and listening to Irish tunes in the pub.
At the beginning of June, we crossed the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland and since they are not the same country, I can count those as two different places, right? Well, I’m going to anyways because when we got back from this trip we weren’t going anywhere else the rest of the month! Northern Ireland impressed me with its lively cities, stunning coastline and dramatic history. The culture and architecture were markedly different from Ireland in many places, and although it is often overlooked by many visitors to Ireland, I loved it just as much. Belfast in particular was one of my favorite stops on our trip!
July was mostly local with two weekends down on Cape Cod. It was great to have relaxing beach weekends spending time with family, reading books during the day and grilling at night. Mid-July, I did get to travel to the Hamptons for my best friend’s bachelorette party where I not only got to be reunited with her (the best part!), but we also got a picture-perfect weekend on the water!
August saw some more Cape time along with our much anticipated family trip to Utah to visit the Mighty 5 National Parks and Monument Valley in honor of the 100th Birthday of the National Park Services. We were all expecting it to be great, but I don’t think any of us had any idea how great. We were blown away by the beauty in the southeastern part of the US – from sandstone arches to white water rafting the Colorado River to waking up to the sunrise over iconic Monument Valley, each experience topped the next and had us all contemplating which national parks to visit next.
September may have turned out to be my busiest month yet, but that seems fitting because it is my favorite month! Summer crowds and temperatures die down, but the views are still just as pretty! We traveled to Asheville and Great Smoky Mountain National Park to celebrate our first anniversary! We felt spoiled to be seeing another national park so close after our return from Utah and loved every minute of it, especially the sunsets! Asheville was a fun and lively place to be with great restaurants, a pretty epic beer scene and plenty of history to keep us occupied. The next weekend I was off to Block Island, a tiny island off the coast of Rhode Island which I hadn’t been to in years, to meet my college roommate and celebrate a whole decade since we became roomies! The weekend was full of lobster rolls, ice creams and bike rides and was the perfect ending to the summer season. We closed out September with another trip to Cape Cod for our friends’ wedding which turned out to be the picture-perfect wedding weather on the beach.
The wedding theme continued in October with three weddings in the first two weekends of the month, but it took us back to some of our favorite places of Newport and Cape Cod. It was so fun to be able to celebrate with our best friends in these beautiful places!
Woodstock, New York was the destination of choice in November for a college reunion weekend. It turned out to be the most convenient location for all 15 of us traveling from New York City, Boston, DC and even San Francisco and we rented an AirBnB and had a blast just being together and exploring the surrounding location. A 5-mile strenuous hike up Overlook Mountain was a great day time activity and the timing of the weekend before Thanksgiving prompted a Friendsgiving celebration with lots of food, red wine and good laughs! We also unexpectedly got the first snow of the season!
Last, but not least, in December my mom and I finally got around to scheduling our mother-daughter trip! We’ve never waited this long and we got a bit nervous that we were going to struggle to find a destination when December was a good time to visit, but when in doubt head to the desert. We booked Palm Springs relatively last minute when we realized it checked all the boxes – sunshine, spa, hiking and good food. Palm Springs surprised me with being fun and relaxing all in one! We had the opportunity to head to Joshua Tree National Park for a day, take part in the Palm Springs pool culture and eat at many delicious restaurants, including Cary Grant’s old estate.
By February of this year, the only trips I had booked were New Orleans and Ireland which left many different scenarios on how everything was going to fall in place. It ended up being just the way I would have planned it – great returns to some of my favorite places, lots of travel time with family and friends, two new states, three new cities, six new national parks and a whole host of inspiration of places to travel in 2017!
What was your favorite place you traveled in 2016?