Travel destinations, techniques and reviews targeted towards the baby boomer.

Top 10 Places I Have Been

Lisa Niday - Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The final installment of the theme "The Top 10 Places I Have Been" is my list. Some are very specific and others are general, hopefully you will find a place or two you might enjoy from the list. I would give a nod to Switzerland as an honorable mention, but I've really only been to one city there so felt it wasn't really an accurate depiction.

10. Banff National Park and Lake Louise-Alberta, Canada

Banff was the first national park in Canada and well worth the trip. This destination had the most beautiful water. Its unique blue water is because of the glacier moraines (runoffs and leftover debris).

9. Fun Valley-South Fork, Colorado

This may be one of the places of you haven't visited. They must be doing something right, they have been serving family fun for 55 years. For all you Texans, you can rest knowing your money may be spent in Colorado, but Texans own the resort. It is open from May-September each year. They have some special activities during the summer: square dancing, chili cook off and arts and craft shows to name a few.

I believe I was about 10 when we first went here. It is located in a valley down below Wolf Creek Pass (continental divide). This private resort has RV parking, cabins and motels and all are surrounded by the privately stocked lakes. You can virtually walk out your door and throw out a hook and the catching is pretty good too.

photo of RV by lake at Fun Valley

You can't get much closer to the lake and the photo album shows the catching is pretty good as well.

The south fork of the Rio Grande River runs through the resort so fishing and inner tubing are other recreation options. The resort is also bordered by two million acres of Rio Grande Forest which sports another activity, trail rides. If that's not enough they have miniature golf and paddle boats. 

You don't want to cook, no problem. They have a cafeteria with down home cooking. I went many times as a kid and have returned with friends and family as an adult. If you want to stay in the motel or cabins plan on booking at least 6 months in advance. They have plenty of RV parking so no advance reservations are required. This is definitely a place you can let the kids or grandkids have freedom, as it safe, and there's plenty to do so you'll never hear the dreaded "I'm bored".

8. California-San Diego to San Francisco

Okay so I copped out on this a bit. I like the entire coast, San Diego to San Francisco. If you get the chance to drive the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as the California One, from LA through Big Sur, the views are fantastic. So many places to eat and dramatic ocean views to see. Further north is the wine country and San Francisco. I don't think you could go wrong with any destination in this corridor. 

photo of San Francisco with Golden Gate bridge in the background

The Golden Gate bridge in the distance is but a few of the beautiful and historical sights of San Francisco. Be sure to check out the photo album for more of the California photos of the sights listed below.

The grandson's covered some of the highlights of Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and the San Diego Zoo. Since they covered these areas, I  chose to highlight a couple of other California gems in this corridor: The Getty Museum (LA and Malibu), Hearst Castle (for complete Hearst Castle photos see the album), Monterey (the aquarium, shops, Pebble Beach and 17 mile drive and Cannery Row) are some of my favs. San Francisco boasts cable cars, Golden Gate Bridge and Park, Fisherman's Wharf, and Alcatraz to name a few. If you can't find something with this listing, I'm thinking you just shouldn't travel.

7. South Carolina

Yet another broad category, but I found it hard to narrow down Charleston and Hilton Head. I'm just a beach baby what can I say. This beach was very different from the Pacific coast, but no less charming. The food is fantastic, great golf courses and picturesque architecture, boats and lighthouses.

photo of sunset at Hilton Head beach

Sunset at Hilton Head beach, the beaches have much more sand with fewer rocks than the Pacific. See the entire photo album of this area.

6. London

My measuring point of a destination, is if can you go over and over and still find something new, then you have a contender for a great destination. London certainly fits this. I am still working on all the major sights. If you like museums and history, you won't be disappointed. The National Gallery, Churchill and the Cabinet War Rooms Museum, the London Eye, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard and Westminster Abbey are a good start. I haven't even gotten to the Tower of London, London Bridge and the crown jewels. For evening enjoyment, the theatre in London will rival Broadway.

photo of Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace was but a few of the highlights of London. Be sure to check out the photo album for more pictures.

5. Victoria, British Columbia

I know I have been here at least 4 or 5 times, so it certainly has lots to offer and you can see it over and over. Over the 40 years or so I have been going here, it has remained virtually unchanged. Now some might view this as a bad thing, but when you have a quaint town with so much too offer, it is perfection. Some of the highlights include, tea at the Empress Hotel (a must do), Butchart Gardens, shopping at the British stores, an English pub visit and for a special treat or anniversary stay at the Sooke Harbour House.

photo of Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens is a feast for the eyes and the nose. Be sure to check out all the beautiful roses and other images relating to Victoria in this album.

4. Seattle, Washington

Yet another location that I have returned to, time and again. Great food, views of the mountains, ocean and lakes, what more could you ask in a destination? Pike Place Market is a must visit, no matter how short your time. You won't find better berries, fresh seafood or homemade crafts. We have been known to just go to the market and get all the fresh produce and make a picnic meal. The Space Needle, the waterfront, Bainbridge Island, Pioneer Square or take a hike on Mt. Ranier. Seattle, a city well diversified in residents and things to do.

photo of Pike Place Market

A must visit in Seattle is the Pike Place Market, be sure to check out the other Seattle sites in our album.

3. Germany

Germany has it all. If you want to cruise down the Rhine, stay in a castle, sample wines, drink some of the best beer in a Monastery (no typo in the monastery), the mountains (did I mention they were the Alps), Bavaria and the Romantic Road, it's all there and then some. The culture, food, wine and scenery made this an exceptional country in Europe. I know it's cheating to list an entire country but it was too hard to narrow down. I love the diversity and depending on the season you can get a totally different perspective. We visited in early June and then the next trip was in late September. In my book one of the best places for castles. We found the people to be so inviting, you could literally strike up a conversation anywhere.

This is what we all imagine when we think of Bavaria, notice the backdrop of the Alps. For more photos from Germany check out our photo albums.

2. Alaska

We took a cruise down the inside passage with port stops in Skagway, Ketchikan and Juneau. We also spent a couple of days (and they were long days because we were there in July with 22 hours of sunshine) in Anchorage. I regret I was working and missed the opportunity to go to Denali (but I will go back). 

Because we were on a cruise, we only had a short 4 hours in each port (another regret). In Skagway we visited the Gold Rush Cemetery and took the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway to the Canadian border.  This narrow gauge railway built in 1898 climbs nearly 3000 feet in just 20 miles. It was once called the railway built out of gold. It features scenic gorges, waterfalls, steep sheer mountainsides, tunnels  and trestles.

We cruised into Glacier Bay National Park and saw the glaciers "calve". Be sure to view the photos to see the seals in the foreground just frolicking on the broken ice pieces.

We attended a traditional salmon bake in Juneau and it was fantastic. I have tried to smoke my salmon on alder wood and drizzle with honey, but have yet to replicate this Alaskan treat. We also visited the Mendenhall Glacier here.

In Ketchikan I only had time for a salmon fishing trip, but this was all I needed to be hooked (no pun intended). I also got to witness and eagle swooping down to get a fish. 

This quick 10 day vacation led me to believe every American should venture here at least once to have an understanding of what this country was like before it was developed. Beautiful, pristine and raw at the core, a must see.

photo of Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier, just one of the many sights in Alaska, for full Alaska photos of the destinations above see the photo album.

1. Hawaii

Yet another I couldn't narrow down. I have visited the Big Island, Oahu, Kauai, and Maui. I could almost narrow this to Kauai, but I think everyone should visit Pearl Harbor. I'm a beach girl and this is the home of great sunsets, all colors of sandy beaches and year round 80's temperatures, what more could you ask for in a destination? Oh I forgot to mention there are lots of sights as well. 

On the Big Island be sure to visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I spent a week at Kona and never left the resort. To be fair I was on a president's club trip at work and couldn't fly because I had a sinus infection, so I spent my spending money in the spa and boy was it worth it. If you are short on time or are trying to visit all the islands in one trip, then the bus tour which takes you all over the island, in one long day is the way to go. You go through all the various climates and see all the major sites. We visited a coffee plantation, went inland to Kahua Ranch, and spent several hours at the Volcanoes National Park and went to Akaka State Falls Park.

photo of the crater in the background

The Halema'uma'u Crater, one of the many craters you will see at Volcanoes National Park. For other Hawaii images see the photo album.

I have been to Oahu more times than I can count. Everybody wants to go to Waikiki Beach and Duke's is a great place for sunset and a meal right on the beach. If you want to hike, check out Diamond Head. If you are in prime surf season in the winter, the North Shore will not disappoint to watch the surfers. Everyone should go to Pearl Harbor and see the price paid for our freedom, it is sobering. Hanauma Bay where the turtles swim is a delight, but I have never failed to see turtles while snorkeling almost anywhere in Hawaii. A trip up the Pali Highway shows the ocean view all the way to the coast.

photo of Oahu at sunset

One of my favorite sunset shots on Oahu. We were driving down the Nimitz Freeway and stopped to take the pictures. Check out other Oahu pictures in the albums.

Kauai, my favorite island, is less commercialized and called the garden isle because it is so lush. I think we have done all there is to do, because we have been there so many times, however we can always go back and do it again and see something different or unique or just remember our "old friends".  Napali Coast, Waimea Canyon, Hanapepe Town, Old Koloa Town, Hanalei Town, Kilauea Lighthouse, and Opakaa Falls are the highlights. We recently visited Allerton Garden on our last trip and it was worth our time, see the photo album for pictures from Allerton.

photo of Waimea Canyon

Waimea Canyon, the photos don't do it justice. Be sure to check out the other Kauai photos in the album.

Maui, is my least favorite of the Hawaiian islands, but a bad day there beats a good day most anywhere else. Two standouts, Haleakala National Park (they say it's the best place for sunrise in Hawaii, maybe that's my problem, I'm more a sunset girl) and the road to Hana. Plan to take a bus trip to Hana, as you aren't covered under your rental car insurance and trust me you don't want to drive it anyway.

Now you have my top 10 destinations, I would love to hear yours, after all, it is summer and I might need a new summer destination.

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