2019 proved to an adventurous year filled with lots of trips. I was lucky enough to take two big trips(those that involved flying and being away for at least a week), and lots of small trips (such as day or weekend getaways). I explored many wonderful locations and saw some marvelous sites both in nature and man-made. Here is a countdown to my favorite travel sites/experiences of 2019.
Number 12: Hotel Hershey and Spa
There is nothing quite like a girls weekend with 3 of your closest friends. Take that with a day of relaxation at a world famous spa, and you have one getaway. The Hotel Hershey is a beautiful resort filled with wonderful amenities. The highlight though is their spa, and I indulged in one of their chocolate treatment packages. Not only did my skin feel silky smooth, I smelled delicious!
Fountain located inside The Hotel Hershey. Photo taken by me.
Number 11: Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
One of my big trips this year was spending 10 days in California in the San Francisco area. One of those days, my husband and I rented a car and headed south down the coast. We stopped by this charming coastal town for lunch and to explore its famous Fairy-Tale Cottages. This picturesque town feels like something out a story book.
One of the Fairy Tale Cottages made famous by architect Hugh Comstock in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Photo taken by me.
Number 10: Monticello and the Fenton Inn, Virginia
Something I picked up from my mother, a love of old houses. I also have a love of history and exploring Thomas Jefferson's Monticello has been on my list of must see places for a while. In 2019, myself, my husband, and my mother spent a weekend outside Charlottesville in Virginia checking out his estate. Its a lovely property and a very fascinating tour. I learned lots of stuff about who Jefferson was; a scientific man terrible with money.
While visiting the area, we stayed at an adorable bed and breakfast, called the Fenton Inn. These accommodations are tucked away in the mountain and are designed like a small European village. It was like going to Europe without needing a passport!
Above photo of Monticello, below photo of Fenton Inn. Both taken by me.
Number 9: Alcatraz Island
"The Rock" is located on an island in the bay, just a couple of miles from the town of San Francisco. This famous prison hosted famous inmates such as Al Capone and Roy Gardner. It was supposed to be an inescapable prison, but there were those who did escape. Though whether they survived the swim to shore is debatable and unknown to this day. You can learn all about this and more on a tour of the island. Its owned by the National Park Service, that has boats that go to and from the island. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the entire city, so make sure to book your tickets early. I recommend booking one of the early boats, so you can take your time exploring. There are a lot of tour companies out there who offer tickets, but I have read many reviews of those burned by some of them. Alcatraz Cruises is the official one the NPS recognizes, and they can be found here.
Alcatraz Island from the boat. Photo from Wanderer Steve.
Number 8: Winchester Mystery House
When I was young I had dreams of an odd house. In this house the stairs lead to the ceiling, and a door on the second floor that when I opened it, was straight down. When I learned that a house with these feature existed, I was intrigued! The story of Sarah Winchester and her house is often surrounded in something mystical and haunted. The real life tour, wasn't so creepy. The house and the story of this woman are both fascinating and intriguing. You not only get to see some interesting architecture but learn some history. Another item that combined my love of history with my love of old houses. Visit site here.
Winchester Mystery House. Photo from Wanderer Steve.
Number 7: Inn Boonsboro
I first visited the Inn Boonsboro in 2018 and now have been 4 times. It will always make my list as this has become go to quick getaway location. A blog post about this place will come in 2020, but in 2019 both visits were made extra special. I attended when they were do event weekends, a night with an author. They would bring in an author that only guests in the hotel could spend the evening. An informal Q&A session and this year I met two of my favorite authors. Nora Roberts (who actually owns the Inn) and Kristan Higgins. Both were delightful woman and I also made some great new friends on these visits.
A bonus is there are some great places a short drive from the Inn worth exploring. One of the trips, I also checked our Harper's Ferry. Another highlight of the year that deserves an honorable mention.
Photo taken by me of the Titania and Oberon room at The Inn Boonsboro.
Number 6: Magic Kingdom, Disney World
Can you believe I had never been to any of the parks in Orlando? In fact the only time prior to 2019 I was in this city was for work, and didn't have time to check out Universal Studios or Disney World. That all changed this year as my husband and I spent 8 days in the city checking out both parks. The Magic Kingdom was my second favorite Disney Park. Main Street USA, Cinderella's Castle, Splash Mountain, and I got to meet my favorite character, Stitch. It all made me feel like a kid again.
Cinderella's Castle at Magic Kingdom Photo from Wanderer Steve.
Number 5: Napa Wine Country, California
Nothing beats good conversation and good wine; both of which I had while touring the Napa Valley. The area itself is lovely with mild temperatures and cute towns. The wineries themselves are lovely places that feel more like villas than businesses. There is even an authentic castle (the stones were brought over from Italy). A big highlight was staying a The Napa Inn B&B, where we met a wonderful mother and daughter; hence the good conversation.
Welcome to Napa Sign. Photo from Wanderer Steve.
Number 4: Muir Woods, California
If you are in the San Francisco area and would love to see some giant redwood trees, but don't have the time to travel to Sequoia Nation Park, this is a stop. I have never been to Sequoia to compare but can say this Nation Park is on one worth visiting. There are numerous trails you can take, and all of them an easy hike through the beautiful forest. It can be a little crowded, but to help with that, you must purchase tickets in advance. This goes for parking as well. You can't just show up any more, so plan ahead and purchase your timed entry early. Visit the NPS website here for more information.
The trees at Muir Woods. Photo from Wanderer Steve.
Number 3: Animal Kingdom Disney World
If you noticed prior, I said Magic Kingdom was my second favorite Disney World theme park. That is because Animal Kingdom was my favorite. I know what won me over was the animals. Kilimanjaro Safari was my favorite ride in all the parks. It wasn't a thrill ride but exciting to get so close to animals such as giraffes. This park also offers the most popular ride in all of Disney, Flight of Passage; and one time riding it will make you understand why its wait times are so long. The places to eat, the rides, and the light show at night, made this my favorite park.
Photo taken by me while on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
Number 2: Golden Gate Bridge & Fort Point National Historic Site
One can't go to San Francisco and not see the Golden Gate Bridge. According to the NPS it was the most visited park in 2018, and wouldn't be surprised if it tops the list again. Its a human made wonder that can be enjoyed from various views on both sides of the bridge. You can walk it, bike, or drive across it. We did all but bike. I'll warn you, she can be elusive. We were there 8 days and the first several, she was covered with fog; even though the city was perfect weather. Also don't miss Fort Point National Historic Site. This brick fortress sit beneath the bridge offer some interesting history of the fort, area, and the bridge. It also gives some great view points of the bridge.
Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge shrouded in some fog. Photo from Wanderer Steve.
Number 1: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, Universal Studios
I want to say that it was a tough choice between this and The Golden Gate Bridge for number one, but really it was no contest. Harry Potter will always be one of my favorite book series ever. The moment I stepped through that brick alley at Universal Studios and into Diagon Alley, I had the biggest smile on my face that just would not disappear. I had seen pictures but nothing prepared to how amazing it would be in person. It was like stepping into the pages of the book, and the magic feels real. The Hogwarts Express to take you to Hogsmead is enjoyable and my favorite ride was the one inside Hogwarts Castle. The wait time can get long, but don't worry the queue is filled with lot of wonderful entertaining characters. You will feel as if your owl with your Hogwarts acceptance letter has arrived.
Hogwarts Castle at Universal Studios in Orlando. Photo from Wanderer Steve.
There was my top 12. I had a fortunate year of travels and also want to give honorable mentions to these locations I visited in 19 as well:
Japanese Tea Garden, San Francisco
Palace of the Fine Arts, San Francisco
Haunted Halloween Nights at Universal Studios
Gettysburg, PA (day trip to take my sister-in-law who had never been)
Longwood Gardens, PA
What were some of your favorite travel destinations of 2019?