Wow! Looking back on 2015, I cannot believe how much we traveled. The highlight of the year was definitely the Great Summer Road Trip with my 18 year old son. If you have never traveled alone with one of your children for a few days, I hope you can make it happen. It was so good for our relationship!
With so many great experiences, picking a “Best of” list is really tough! This year’s list is inspired by experiences that changed me in some way… after all, travel should affect us, change us, broaden who we are and how we think. I hope you’ll add one or more of these destinations to your travel list in 2016!
Best of 2015
Best Historical Trip:
Ben’s and my road trip through Illinois was a historical treasure! We walked the places Lincoln walked, from Alton to Springfield. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum left us speechless. We toured his tomb in hushed reverence. We debated the effects of pre-Civil War acts and their effect on his life. Beyond Lincoln, we took a trip back in time to watch movies at a good, old fashioned, drive in theater — yes, they still have those in Illinois. We toured two Frank Lloyd Wright homes. Illinois is far more than Chicago and corn! There’s an abundance of history wherever you go.
Best Cultural Trip:
For the second year in a row (it’s so well deserved, though)…. the winner in this category is Lake Charles, Louisiana! When they invited me to experience Mardi Gras, I jumped at the chance. For generations the people of southwest Louisiana have celebrated Mardi Gras with simple “Chicken Runs” — informal parades through small communities to get the supplies for dinner — and huge parades with elaborate floats. The highlight, though my arm hurt later, was riding a float and throwing beads to the crowd.
Best Budget Beach Vacation:
We spent spring break 2015 on Alabama’s gulf coast. My son goes to college in Alabama, so I go there often, but I never really considered Alabama a beach destination state. I was pleasantly surprised! Alabama’s gulf coast has dining, attractions and lodging options to rival any Florida beach, but it’s a bit cheaper. Of course, the beach is awesome too!
Best Food Experience:
I got to eat a lot of great food in 2015, but one experience has become part of my life, making regular appearances in conversations — and earning the honor of best food experience: Eskimo Joe’s in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Three things make dining at Eskimo Joe’s special, the “sweet pepper bacon cheese fries” (so good), the collectible plastic cups (they’re awesome) and the Stan Clark (the owner). Stan is Stillwater’s “Walt Disney,” as dedicated to Stillwater as Disney was to Mickey Mouse and magical experiences. Stan’s empire may be local to Stillwater, but he is equally committed to excellence, community and the customer. The food might not be Michelin 5-star, but the experience is memorable for all the right reasons!
Best Surprise of 2015:
Two destinations really surprised me in 2015. My preconceived notions didn’t match reality at all: Oklahoma City and the Outer Banks. I have lived in North Carolina since 2001 and never had any desire to visit the Outer Banks (and a collective gasp goes up from the crowd). I pictured it as snobbish and reclusive. Oh was I wrong. I can’t wait to return and share this marvelous region with my family! In my opinion, everyone should take a beach vacation here — I enjoyed it so much I made a vacation planner just for the Outer Banks to make planning easy!
The Outer Banks surprised me because of my own misconceptions, so I’m declaring Oklahoma City the winner! Again, my own misconceptions play a role — I always pictured Oklahoma as dry and desert-like with lots of wide open spaces, cowboys and tornadoes, hardly someplace to get excited about. I discovered a rich culture, incredible dining scene and friendly people. With nightlife in Midtown, a plethora of outdoor activities in the Boathouse District and Bricktown’s entertainment offerings, the whole family would easily enjoy a week in Oklahoma City! There’s really that much to see and do.
“The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” – Samuel Johnson (English Writer)
In 2015, more than any other year, my reality was hugely changed by seeing places as they are. Perhaps we all need a little more of that these days!
Happy New Year ~ and thank you for being with my on the journey!