Another year has come and gone, which means it’s time to reflect on some of my favorite travels from the past 365 days!
2013 marked an important shift here at Packed Suitcase. While I had started #TravelLocal adventuring in October 2012, this year I focused on it nearly exclusively. I’m determined to become the go-to blog for mid-Atlantic weekend travel, and this year got things off to a great start. (Stay tuned to where I’m #TravelLocal-ing to in 2014 in a new post next week… let’s just say that 2014 looks like it will be another fantastic year.)
So, here are the superlatives, the best of the best of everything that I experienced in 2013. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy holiday!
Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #1: Floyd, Virginia
The musical town with just one stoplight stole my heart with its traditional banjo-strummin’, flat-footin’ ways during my Old School Virginia Road Trip this November.
Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #2: Solomons Island, Maryland
I’ve long heard about Solomons Island, the Calvert County, Maryland waterside retreat. I finally visited for a weekend, and liked it so much that I’ve been back twice!
Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #3: Chanticleer Gardens — Wayne, Pennsylvania
I discovered this amazing public garden during a (very) early springtime trip into Brandywine Country. I was enchanted by the garden’s handmade whimsical features, like this armchair made of stone.
Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #4: Ottawa, Canada
This June, I headed to Toronto for the TBEX Travel Bloggers Conference. After the conference, I traveled to Ottawa and was stunned by the vibrant foodie scene, stunning monuments and friendly culture. Canada’s capital makes for a quick weekend getaway from the DC-area, and I’d highly recommend it!
Favorite 2013 Far Away Travel: Brooks Falls — Katmai N.P., Alaska
I invited myself along on my parent’s trip to Alaska, and while the entire trip was incredible, I absolutely loved how close I was able to get to real, huge brown bears at Brooks Falls.
Favorite 2013 Beach: Flag Ponds Nature Preserve near Solomons, Maryland
Flag Ponds Nature Preserve is an easy drive down Route 4, less than an hour and a half from downtown Washington. It’s main appeal? Wide expanses of beach, perfect for lounging, playing sports, or– my favorite– fossil hunting!
Favorite 2013 Spa: Canyon Ranch at the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia
The few brief hours I spent relaxing at the Homestead’s Canyon Ranch Spa were so amazing that I wouldn’t hesitate to make the 5 hour drive back to Hot Springs, Virginia just for the chance to visit again. Everything from the indoor spa facilities, to the natural hot spring pools to the outdoor pool area was just perfection.
Favorite 2013 Resort: Primland – Meadows of Dan, Virginia
One of the year’s highlights was spending 2 days and 1 night at the five-star Primland Resort. I loved the array of outdoorsy activities that the resort offered (like ATV riding, hiking, shooting clays), but the real treat was just taking a moment to stop and enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountain scenery in such a tranquil environment.
Favorite 2013 Bed & Breakfast: Lavender Cottage at Back Creek Inn — Solomons Island, Maryland
This Maryland B&B was a restful retreat, complete with water views and easy walking distance to all of Solomons’ best restaurants. I loved my stay at the Inn’s Lavender Cottage… and its screened-in porch!
Favorite 2013 Cocktail: The Fuego Margarita at Paramour in Wayne, Pennsylvania
Tequila infused with chili peppers, Cointreau, fresh lime and a floater of Gran Marnier combined to create a feisty cocktail that packs a punch. Delicious!
Favorite 2013 High-End Meal: Paramour in Wayne, Pennsylvania
Paramour provided more than my favorite cocktail… in fact, the best fancy meal I enjoyed this year was at this Wayne, Pennsylvania restaurant.
Favorite 2013 Cheap Meal: Grilled Cheese at Pop’s in Roanoke, Virginia
There’s nothing better than ooey-gooey grilled cheese and Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar in Roanoke does it so well, offering lots of creative variations on the classic sandwich. As for me, I kept it simple with the three cheese grilled cheese and a bowl of creamy tomato soup. Yum!
Favorite 2013 Crab Cake: The Surf Rider Restaurant in Hampton, Virginia
In this part of the country, everyone claims to make “the best” crab cake. One place that I feel really can make that claim is the Surf Rider restaurant in Hampton, Virginia. I spent a weekend living it up in Hampton, and I was blown away by these crispy, well-seasoned cakes filled with HUGE chunks of blue crab.
Favorite 2013 Brewery: Blue Mountain Brewery near Charlottesville, Virginia
Part of Virginia’s “Brew Ridge Trail,” Blue Mountain Brewery is known for gorgeous views, tasty pizzas and damn good beer. I found it the perfect place to spend a warm afternoon outside.
Favorite 2013 Guilty Pleasure: Billy Jack’s Donut — Harrisonburg, Virginia
Heading back to revisit my college town — Harrisonburg, Virginia — offered lots of surprises. Perhaps the most surprising was just how tasty Harrisonburg has become in the years since I left. I’m grateful that this decadent donut, found at Billy Jack’s Wing & Draft shack, wasn’t around when I was combatting the freshman 15!
FAVORITE 2013 INSTRAGRAM PHOTOS:
I definitely see life through Instagram-shaded lenses and love posting my pictures real-time for people to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite Instagram photos of the year, and to follow along with future adventures, follow me at @packDsuitcase.
Favorite Photo: Food
Favorite Photo: Outdoors
Favorite Photo: Animal
Favorite Photo: Landmark
Favorite Photo: Sunset
Favorite Photo: Action shot
Favorite 2013 photo… of me!