Every summer since I was a baby, my family has gone to the Outer Banks of North Carolina to enjoy two, sometimes three, weeks of relaxation and long days on the beach. I'm likely biased, but I think this is one of the best vacation spots in the country.
CNN recently released it's own take on the 20 best places to visit in the United States, which ranged from Hawaii to Washington, D.C.
Share with us: What's your favorite vacation destination? Are you taking a vacation this summer?
Everyone in our family has always loved the outdoors, nature and water. We must have visited every known beach on the east coast from Ogunquit, Maine to Key West, Florida, looking for that ideal spot. Then we headed up the gulf coast until we came to a spot on the FL panhandle called Cape San Blas. With white sand beaches, emerald water, little traffic and great outdoor opportunities, there was no reason to go farther. We purchased a small place and ended the search. It's where we almost always vacation and where we'll probably live sometime after we retire.
New York, New York (Sinatra) - New York is New York, is there any other place? We lived there for nine years (early in our marriage).
In Philadelphia we joined the one-day celebration of 40 years of Women's ordinations -- a college mate was one of the Eleven. Then we enjoyed three nights in New York, NY, where we lived for nine years -- two Broadway musicals, lots and lots and lots of walking.
Took the subway (West side) four times total -- all the rest was walking. Fun. We stay west of Central Park and quite near (close to Columbus Avenue - 9th).
I agree 100% New York, New York. There is no other!
Being retired, every day is a vacation ! We liked to travel around our area, which is the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern CA. People come from all over the world to visit here, but we have the advantage that we can visit midweek and off-season, whenever we feel like it. Our friends like to travel the world, we prefer to stay around. We get to do all the things we never had time or energy for, back when we were working.
Dining out is our hobby, and living where we do, there are thousands of great choices. We go 2x/yr to Napa, 3-5x/yr to Sonoma, 2x/yr to Monterey. These are all multi-day trips, so finding good reasonable hotels is a challenge. Every other year we do a longer trip, such as going up to the PNW or down to Southern CA. One year we went to New Mexico instead; interesting but not something we'd do again. It is NOT cheap to travel in CA; I'm no longer surprised that most visitors only manage one or two trips in their lifetime. I'm more surprised we have any tourists at all, it costs so much out here, LOL.
In the summer, which is High Tourist Season, we stay home to explore the local dining options more fully. Our town has become the "in" place for restaurateurs, rather shocking after so many years of being "no there, there." DH and I have our hobby interests, tons of e-books, and family/friends to occupy ourselves with. Most of them are still working, so that makes our weekends still busy - yet another reason to travel mid-week.
After going to visit the great Niagra Falls in Canada, I plan to spend time in the vast upper peninsular of Michigan. Mackinaw and Sault Ste Marie are great places to visit for a vacation lots of things to see and do.
We just returned from the shores of Lake Superior in the Keweenaw Peninsula. Oh, OK, the shores of Gitche Gumee.
Mackinaw Island is a great old fort island with only 400 draft horses to transport you around in carts. We never fail to be impressed by that mighty bridge across the Straits connecting Lakes Michigan and Huron. I played in the school band at the dedication of that world's longest bridge (at that time). If you go to the Sault, please take the trip on the tour ship through the locks. A couple of years ago we went with the grandkids and had the privilege to get behind a 1,000' lake freighter through the return lock. Wow! Are they BIG! An interesting fact is that all 1,000' freighters are American. All Canadian ships top out in the 700' range since their locks cannot handle the big ones. It you are up there consider seeing the largest waterfall in MI at Tequanimum Falls that runs brown from its swamp origins and then over to see the Pictured Rocks National Park at Munising, the Keweenaw Peninsula is beautiful also and the Porcupine Mountain Park in the Southwest UP is the largest state park in the USA.
If you want to see some of the most beautiful sand dunes I have ever seen, puts Hawaii to shame, go into the Lower Peninsula and travel down the shore to the Sleeping Bear Dunes around Traverse City. In fact, the beaches from there south to the Indiana border are all beautiful sand with huge sand dunes towering 100's of feet above the Lake Michigan. ENJOY!!!! (Need a guide???)
When I was a kid we used to drive south to play in the Indiana sand dunes. You're right, they are amazing! Hated those biting flies, though
Went to Indiana dunes and up on Illinois shore a couple of times. Having been raised in a place where it is almost foolish to think much about swimming, I am not much of a water fan, but the dunes and beaches in Michigan starting at Indiana and 100's of miles north are incredible, even around industrial Muskegon has nice ones on the north side. And Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is unbelievable with dunes 100's of feet high. The free beach north of Ludington must be close to 5 miles long before you have to pay to get into the state park. You just park and go over the dunes.
When I saw the beaches in Honolulu I thought to myself: "Looks like they made these skimpy beaches!" The other side of the island were nicer but dangerous due to undertows.
Twice during my years at home of origin we "went to the beach" (NC). Up north (east) we liked Island Beach State Park, NJ.
2012 August we did kayak on Superior north of Marquette (Iron River) and back along cliffs - spotted eagle's two places.
You confuse me a bit when you say: "... we did kayak on Superior north of Marquette (Iron River) and back along cliffs ...". Are you talking about Marquette, Michigan on Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula?
Whereas Marquette is directly on Lake Superior, Iron River, MI is south close to 90 miles very near the Wisconsin border. When you refer to "cliffs" are you referring to the Pictured Rocks National Seashore near Munising which is 50-60 miles east of Marquette?
Could you clarify?
We're going to the Land of Enchantment - New Mexico, specifically Albuquerque. We lived in New Mexico for ten years & always love going back even though it's been 12 years since we lived there.
I have 2 friends that live there at about 6,000' on the Sandia Mountain. The views of the city and the mountain are amazing.
The whirlwind tour we did of NM was with Road Scholar (Elderhostel, back then): Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and Taos. We really enjoyed it; the group was great (which doesn't always happen) and it was an amazing introduction to an area so rich in history.
Our guide was an amateur historian who did an outstanding job organizing. Great evening lectures on local wildlife, NM history, pueblo architecture, a documentary on potter Maria Martinez, as well as a private concert/talk by Ron Roybal! A very intense, varied trip that was slightly sabotaged by my allergies. I wasn't expecting so much dust and was grabbing handfuls of paper napkins wherever I went!
Note made to self: always travel with Benadryl or Claritin, LOL.
we really liked Santa Fe (in February) and Ghost Ranch.
I plan to go to Breckenridge, Colorado. Plan to cool off at 12,000 ft. Daily high temp is 72 degs compared to 96 in Alabama.
Plan to try some Gummy Bears as well.
We enjoyed a great stretch of eight days at the Chesapeake Bay - celebrating birthdays of our only two grandchildren - seven and three - July birthdays, one day apart.
I love the Chesapeak Bay. Spent many a summer sailing there as a student at the Unversity of Delaware. Hard to beat a soft shell crab sandwich. Go Blue Hens.
The (nine) years we lived in NJ (1975 - 1984) we drove 7 and a half hours to reach what we can now reach in about three - 149.9 miles on our return trip. We go to the Virginia shore, Tidewater area, Middle Peninsula (Mathews County).
I grew up in Philly. We called NJ beaches the "shore with boardwalks" and Virgina beach "the beach". That says it all.
However, the best sand in the US is found in the Gulf Coast (Fla to AL), due to once present glaciers. You don't need a blanket to lay on it. They call it the "sugar beach"
Philadelphia, celebration of forty years (1974) ordainations of eleven women to Episcopal priesthood - "renegade" -- and from there on to NYC (where we lived for nine years) to stand in line for TKTS "half price" Broadway and such.
In April/May I went on a tour to Burma and Thailand. In June we had fun in Rochester, NY (home of Kodak) and the Finger Lakes region. In July and August we did day trips to the Berkshires in MA and other nearby historic and cultural locations. Next week we'll be enjoying our usual time on Cape Cod, where it's great to bicycle the rail trails, kayak, enjoy the great beaches, and feast on fresh seafood. Right after the Cape, I'll be taking a guided tour to Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia.
When I travel abroad, it makes me appreciate the world and also all the great beauty and places we have in our wonderful USA and Upstate New York.
WOW! You need to start a travel blog for the rest of us. I know that I need some guidance on cruises to Alaska and a pub crawl (OK. Road trip.) across Ireland, Scotland and England with a stop in Paris for some good food. :-))))
Well, I can tell you what several of the Alaska cruise people told us - the best weather is just about always in August. September can be dicey. We took the last cruise in September and ran into horrible weather that cut short our on-shore time. When we did get on-shore it rained - hard - and as we cruised back through the Straits, the fog made it impossible to see anything.
Cruise ships either leave from Seattle or Vancouver BC. It's better to take the BC port; they sail through the Inland Passage all the way up. The Seattle departures have to cruise around the outside of Vancouver Island so the weather can be more iffy as that's open seas.
Easy drive from Seattle to Vancouver, but it takes time. They are strict about speed limits. However, often cheaper to fly into SeaTac and drive up, but traffic is bad horrendous at commute hours through Seattle proper!
I really hate skipping Seattle though, because it's one of my favorite places to visit.
Well, 2014 is 3/4 over. We're happy to find ourselves "back on track" in circling around Northern CA as we dine at favorites and find new ones. 2013 was difficult; my MIL's dementia made her so anxious and difficult to deal with, we finally had to move her to a facility where she is now thriving (what a relief!). It took most of 2013 to select the facility, move her, and visit extra-often to help her feel comfortable. Now she's engaged with other residents, fewer anxieties to deal with.
So far we've made the following trips. All are 3-6 days in length:
- January. Went to LVegas with friends. Wow, things have changed since we were there 20 yrs ago! Short trip, but fun; we really enjoy traveling with this couple. They still work, so don't have much time off. LVegas is glitzy and tacky and fun as ever. We like our quiet hotel, though, with a beautiful center atrium and swans swimming in a lagoon under bridges! We find a great second-tier steakhouse that is so good, we go back a second night to enjoy more beef and foie gras.
- February. Napa, which is not our favorite place. We don't drink - well, I do but not often, as I'm the driver - and there just is nothing much to do anywhere except drink or eat. Finally did find a good moderate price hotel, however, so it will be our base when in Napa from now on. We fall in love with one of the great new restaurants at Napa's Oxbow Market, where the oxtail ragú is amazing, the bacalhau is yummy, and the bigne (Italian cream puffs) make us swoon!
- March. Sonoma Cty. Sonoma is really, really big; MUCH bigger than Napa. The town is small; the county is not. We always divide it up into quarters and visit only one section at a time. Driving here is gorgeous, some of the most beautiful scenery in CA. We discovered the historic town of Two Rock, a stunning drive through verdant hills on the way to Marin French Cheese factory, a historic creamery that is always a great stop. Very tiny, if you are in the area set up a tour in advance. It only takes an hour and the gift bags are stuffed with Brie and Camembert! They admit to not being as good as French brie, but they are consistently rated the best American brie. I've always enjoyed their camembert, and a new product, the Melange Brie (a mix of three milks) has won European awards. The Melange is much superior to the cheaper bries you find in supermarkets.
On this trip we also attended the California Cheese Festival for the first time, meeting up with some friends for a great night of tasting dishes made with cheese from various restaurants, mostly local but some from other parts of Northern CA. Most folks go for the free wine as well; we stuck to water or hard cider. There were some yummy bites - I dream about those creamy-stuffed gougeres and the black cherry goat milk ice cream. Wow!
- April. Monterey/Carmel/PacGrove. We love this area, where French food abounds. There's a couple of "dogs", but five outstanding ones, so we always have a difficult time juggling where to go. After all, there's also a superb seafood restaurant and an incredible CA cuisine bistro, plus a great French bakery to work in as well! I finally succeed in getting my husband to accept the tasting menu concept. This has been a huge battle as it's the way upscale restaurants are all going. Our friends come down to meet us for a couple of days - the four of us stock up on quiches, cakes, and croissants to bring home. There are great bakeries in SF, but none in the East Bay where we live.
- May. Reno NV. Not our usual hangout, but our friends love going and were willing to do the driving. Moral: never turn down an offer from someone willing to spend 5 hours driving up, chauffering you around town, and then 5 hours back. The food isn't as good as LVegas, but it's at least a full level above where it used to be when my mom lived there in the 1980's. Great weather, not too hot, and we enjoy some fine steaks.
- June. Back to Sonoma! We love this county. It is just so gorgeous, so relaxed and "real" compared to Napa. It's a hive of suburban towns radiating out from the central freeway, Hwy 101, and each has its own personality. There are typical tract developments, but most of Sonoma Cty is small farming. The highest concentration of artisanal independent small farms is here. There are "big city" towns like Santa Rosa, next to "small towns gone gourmet tourist" like Healdsburg, and even postage-stamped size old-fashioned towns like Graton or Penngrove, where only a mile from where tech-bound commuters whiz down 101 on their way into SF, the biggest store on Penngrove's two-block Main St. is...the feedlot store.
Gastronomically this was our worst trip. The new restaurants are okay but only one was great, worth returning to. Fortunately, three favorites we are paying repeat visits to, are still great. Excellent German (by an Austrian chef), Cal-French, and seafood bistro. The last had Columbia River salmon, the closest thing to Copper River one can get nowadays. We infinitely prefer OR salmon to any other, even Alaskan. Incredible deep color, unmatched flavor.
- August. Napa again. One week after what is now being called the South Napa Quake 2014, some of the historic masonry buildings (courthouse, churches) have moderate to severe damage. Most have been upgraded – whenever a permit is applied for, whether to remodel or change of use, retrofitting to current standards must be included. So almost all the new restaurants and businesses in downtown Napa were back up and running within 3 days after cleanup. Older wood frame homes that haven't been retrofitted suffered mild to moderate foundation damage. Damage, due to geologic conditions, was severe in only a few other places. Many small- to medium-sized wineries, however, will suffer considerable financial loss due to damaged inventory.
Our hotel, although only 10 miles from epicenter, suffered no damage except a few waterglasses. The restaurants we visited were all further north so no damage at all – Rutherford, Yountville. But the quake scared a lot of people away: despite being Labor Day weekend, restaurants are at most 2/3 full. This pleases us, as we loathe crowds. A friend is treating us to a birthday dinner, which sadly is just average under a new chef. We liked the previous chef much better. But separately, we visit two of our high-end fav places, and neither disappoints. One has the best view of any restaurant in the Napa Valley. We sit out on their patio on a beautiful summer day, eating fantastic Cal-French food with outstanding service. This is exactly what one thinks of, when one envisions Napa – but most aren't so lucky as to find it the way we have. It's our second visit, and every bit as good or better than the first.
That evening we top that 5-star lunch with an even better Cal-French dinner – if there was a 6-star rating, we'd give it here. No, it's not French Laundry or Meadowood…but it costs one-third as much, and frankly neither FL nor M are three times better than this chef, who is virtually unknown by fad-hunting foodies, even local ones. We luck out, the weather is warm but not stifling hot, as it is all too often in summer. I hate the heat, LOL!
September we're staying local. But October will see us back in Sonoma for one last 2014 trip. Might hit Monterey again too, maybe in mid-November. The whale-watching has been spectacular the last couple of years, so maybe it's time to bundle up and do another outing on the (very chilly) Pacific!
Wow, jkom51! You are very busy with your travels! Thank you so much for sharing. It was so interesting reading about your adventures.
Very nicely done. Life only comes around once so you might as well live it while you have the chance!
I call that taking great advantage of where you are (be there).
In March I took my younger sister on a Road Scholar Trip to Santa Fe. Neither of us had ever been on a guided tour, however, we were able to go Pueblos and have wonderful arranged demonstrations. Santa Fe is a small city full of art and wonder and we did not miss a thing. On our last day we rented a car and continued to Los Alamos.
To celebrate my recent 65th BD, I am taking a solo trip to Paris, a city I have visited with others several time. Due to a posting on Facebook, a traveling cousin will be joining me for Thanksgiving dinner, just the right amount of company.
The internet as been my guide for choosing a "Room with a View" and a cooking class, the things that were not important to previous traveling companions.
you go. These sound fantastic to me.
Now that summer vacation is becoming a distant memory and fall is in full swing, I thought it might be fun to share pictures from our travels! Here is a picture I took of a beautiful sunset over the water in Ocracoke Island, North Carolina (in the Outer Banks). I'd love to see your pictures!
my "picture" is a postal ZIP code: 23066 - to see some photographs there is someone who writes a blog with name "Life in Mathews" and calls herself Chesapeake Bay Woman (not retired).
Up in the colors of Fall, my favorite time of year.
Did a last minute trip to Monterey, CA at the end of Sept. My niece came out from Boston with a request to visit an aquarium, any aquarium. She asked about the Steinhart in SF, and I replied, "If you want to visit an aquarium in Northern CA, there is only one worth the time - the Monterey Bay Aquarium." She was only staying four days, but off we went for two days down to Monterey. She had gone to high school in SF, but never been down to Monterey, so it was all new to her!
The weather was foggy at the coast, so that knocked out the 17-mile Drive. Any fog makes the Pacific turn dirty gray, uninteresting to look at. So we spent the time in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the iconic little village that is part of Greater Carmel, but a protected historic district within the city itself. My niece loves the shops and is entranced by the picturesque alleys and hidden patios.
The French food in this area is wonderful if you know where to go. Bouchee/Carmel, Parker-Lusseau Bakery/Monterey, Fifi's/PacGrove, and Bistro Moulin/Monterey are excellent. For non-French cuisine, the Mediterranean cooking Montrio/Monterey and the creative genius of Passionfish/PacGrove are the way to go.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is truly one of the great institutions on the West Coast. My niece is impressed, saying it's the best mix of children's hands-on and adult viewing exhibits she's ever seen. She's entranced by the giant Kelp Forest tank, where the bigger fish are so well-fed, they ignore the glittering flashes of a good-sized school of herring circling and swirling just below the surface of the water. A Pacific giant octopus in another tank puts on a real show for visitors - sometimes all you can see is one of them hiding in the rocks! But this one squirms back and forth over the glass wall, thrilling kids and adults alike. There are two jellyfish exhibits: I'm not fond of the fake 1970's-themed downstairs one, and take her instead to the serene upstairs tanks, where the jellies float in deep blue water, highlighted with under- and side-lighting, floating endlessly up, around, and down in a hypnotic, silent dance.
Monterey and Pacific Grove are right next to Carmel, and getting from one to the other takes only a few minutes whether you're taking streets or the 4-lane freeway that is Hwy 1 down here (which goes south to Big Sur, one of the greatest scenic areas in CA, but was too far for us to cover in a short trip). Carmel is very dog-friendly, which surprised my dog-loving niece. Even on a weekday they're everywhere. She discovered we had just missed a "Poodle Wedding" on Carmel Beach, but several of the four-legged "wedding guests" were seen around town, beautifully groomed and photo-ready, LOL.
While on our way to dinner, a store mgr was on his motorcyle, getting ready to close up a pet shop and leave. We saw his adorable dog and my niece HAD to take his photo! The goggles are sold inside the store; they were originally made for the US Army dogs but are now offered commercially in all different sizes. This little cutie had not only his own black leather biker vest, but also a gray knit "hoodie" for that touch of ultra-cool stylin'!
We lived in Monterey for two years in the late 70's & went back a few years ago to visit. Clint Eastwood was mayor of Carmel when we lived there & you might see him walking down the street while you were searching for your restaurant. A neat place to live but a bit pricey for housing.
Sounds like you had a great time & loved reading about your 2 day trip with your niece, particularly the Aquarium.
London - "Oyster card" for zones 1 and 2, "Add" Heathrow "return" (round trip) - 2 seniors - a little more than $4,000
flight(s) and Hotel. Advice ? we have not yet booked. Just found out tonight.
22nd November, return 30th November:
Just started looking into an Alaskan cruise ts coming summer (2015).
Art, I for one would enjoy following your research and selection process since we have such a trip on our bucket-list too. :-))))
I'll keep you advised Jerry.
My wife and I took an October trip to Virginia Beach this year. We had a great time with nice weather and it was our first vacation without the kids in about 30 years. We're already thinking about where we're going next year. Need to cross a couple items off that "bucket list".
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