Earlier this week, I was bemoaning the fact that the end of the year is the time for recaps, and I didn’t have anything exciting to recap from 2016. And then I remembered that of course I had something worthwhile to list: all of the places I visited last year!
I normally focus most of my energy on international travel where this blog is concerned (casual plug to check out my posts on London, Paris, and Dublin), but this year I got to check out a lot of cool places within the U.S., thanks to more work trips than usual and a few family- and friend-oriented long weekends. Don’t worry though, there’s a bit of across-the-pond flair toward the end.
My travel excursions began right away when work sent me on my very first trip to Seattle at the end of January. It was a bit of a get to the West Coast and turn right back around, but we ate good seafood and saw the original Starbucks store, so it was definitely worth it.
Favorite Eats: Chandler’s Crabhouse | I ate this cioppino a year ago, and it still makes my mouth water.
Best Tourist Spot: Pike Place Market | If you haven’t watched a person throw a fish at another person, have you even been to Seattle?
Everyone loves sxsw, right? Well I’m here to tell you that sxswEDU is super cool, too. It was my second time to Austin, but last time I was with a bunch of college choir nerds, and this time I was with a bunch of word nerds from work.
Eats Drinks: The Driskill Hotel | Awesome atmosphere, which made my Manhattan all the more classy.
Best Tourist Spot: Oasis, Texas | While not technically in Austin, it’s a little bit of Italian-looking paradise (with a restaurant that has views making the Tex-Mex fair worthwhile).
Los Angeles, California
More work travel! I did this trip solo when we had a fun opportunity for some spellers to be involved in some promos/ad spots for Kindle. Another short trip, but I did make it to the Hollywood Walk of Fame where I ate ice cream for dinner and searched in vain for the Hogwarts Trio’s hand prints.
Favorite Eats: Mercado | Super authentic Mexican food and damn good margaritas
Best Tourist Spot Most Awe-inspiring Hotel: Los Angeles Athletic Club | I didn’t get to do much sight-seeing on this whirlwind trip, but my hotel was a true work of art.
I visited our nation’s capital four times for work this year, but I limited myself and only considered the first one when I put together this list. You’re welcome. (Shoutout to my D.C. friends who always make themselves available for lunch/dinner/coffee. You make me feel so loved!)
Favorite Eats: Momofuku CCDC | A+ noodle; A++ cereal milk soft serve
Best Tourist Spot: Smithsonian American Art Museum | Like the other Smithsonian museums, this one is completely free and has some truly impressive Impressionist art.
The last time I was in Denver before heading there for work in 2016, I was ten and can only remember going horseback riding. There were no horses this time, but I did get a few good Denver beers and found a hobbit hole amidst the beautiful greenery.
Favorite Eats: The Way Back | Small plates, and you must try them all because it’s worth it.
Best Tourist Spot: Williams & Graham | You have to walk through a bookcase (I repeat: through a bookcase) to enter this speakeasy!
For years my dad tried to get us to come with him to the Great British Beer Festival in London. Little did he know he only had to secure tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to get us there! (Just kidding, we were already planning to be there; the timing just ended up being particularly magical.)
Favorite Eats: Li Veli Winery & Bistro | We did the prix fixe pre-theatre menu, and everything was darn good.
Spot Experience: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child | Like I wasn’t going to put Cursed Child on this list. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets, you’re lucky indeed.
One great thing about having a flight attendant for a mom is the fact that it’s typically cheaper to visit a whole new country rather than flight out of Heathrow. Hello, taxes. Therefore we ended our summer family vacation in Edinburgh, a town that I would visit again in a heartbeat. (That scrumptiousness in the middle is called cranachan, and I’ll probably be putting up a recipe for it in the near future.)
Favorite Eats: The Elephant House | It was a very Potter vacation for us. This little cafe definitely plays up the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote part of her series here, but the breakfast was good, and the environment was cozy.
Best Tourist Spot: Arthur’s Seat | Three of my main dudes and I hiked to the top of this little mountain right outside the city, and the entire experience was glorious!
I visited Cleveland for a work conference. (Pro tip: If you’re looking for a profession that has the coolest conferences, go into content marketing. Those crazies know how to party, guys.) Cleveland was beautiful, and I’m already planning a trip back when I can strong arm my Little into going with me and showing me the sights.
Favorite Eats: Chinato | Located in Cleveland’s adorable pedestrian street, this upscale-feeling spot has good main dishes, better bread, and even better wine.
Best Tourist Spot: Cleveland Music Hall | The conference that I attended hosted a concert in the music hall, and it was such a fun, historic space to listen to music.
St. Augustine, Florida
My mom is one of four daughters who all get together for “sisters’ weekend” every September, and this year, their daughters were invited for the fun. I’ve never been a beach person, but I’ve also never said no to St. Augustine. It is a little slice of heaven, for sure.
Favorite Eats: The Back 40 Urban Cafe | Great tacos, plenty of outdoor space to soak up the Florida sun.
Best Tourist Spot: Sunset Cruise – Florida Water Tours | 90 minutes down the St. Augustine waterways. BYOB and a great group of people for a laid back, unique experience.
Okay, so technically we’re from Georgia, and Atlanta isn’t really a “trip” so much as a place we frequent more than any other, but I couldn’t help including our whirlwind Halloween weekend with friends! Minnie Mouse, Kimmy Schmidt, and the Packers all made an appearance.
Favorite Eats: King of Pops Bar at Ponce City Market | Alcoholic popsicles. That’s all you need to know.
Best Tourist Spot: Skyline Park | This new-ish spot has gorgeous views of the city plus old-timey amusement park games.
When I was a kid, my family spent every Christmas holiday at my grandparents’ house in Vermont. We would ski and build snowmen and revel in the joy of a snowy winter that none of my southern compatriots got to experience. Though it was technically Spencer’s parents’ year, we made it up just in time for some great powder. (And before you ask, yes, my ski jacket is from about a decade ago. Thanks for noticing!)
Favorite Eats: Wild Boar Tavern | I’ll be honest with you: We don’t get out much unless it’s to the ski slopes, so The prices are a bit “we have you captive on a mountain,” but there’s nothing like a good stout after(/during) a day on slopes.
Best Tourist Spot: Westin | This little town is nestled right within southern Vermont’s many mountains and is home to the Vermont Country Store. I could make an entire meal out of the white cheddar and homemade fudge samples.
Over what I’m calling “Christmas break,” despite having been out of college for more than two years now, I visited Lynchburg with Spencer and his parents. Jack is Spencer’s favorite whiskey, and I wanted to get over there during their 150th anniversary. It did not disappoint.
Favorite Eats: Barrel House BBQ | This guy was on Pit Masters, so he knows his stuff, and the Grilled Cheese on Crack Jack will fill you up for at least two days.
Best Tourist Spot: Jack Daniel’s Distillery | You guys know how much I loved the KY Bourbon Trail, but this tour might’ve been better than all of them (even Maker’s Mark)!
We were invited to a beautiful wedding over the break (hah, still convinced it was a break and not time off that I took from work). I’d never spent time in Savannah, and Spencer had never been there except for during St. Patrick’s Day, so we both enjoyed walking around the relatively empty streets and along a non-green river.
Favorite Eats: Sorry Charlie’s Oyster Bar | Get the shrimp and corn chowder, and you won’t be sorry.
Best Tourist Spot: Historic District, just down from River Street | Old homes and horse-drawn carriages and Spanish moss, oh my!
And there you have it, folks. I was quite the traveler this year, and I didn’t even realize it.
Have you ever visited any of the places I did in 2016? Which of my top spots is your favorite?