Does anyone else miss traveling? I know that I do.
Being stuck in my apartment all day and night with not much to do has really had me thinking about all the places I wish I could travel to right now. When I really started to think about it, I realized that in my life I have been lucky enough to venture far and wide across the country. Although I really miss going on vacation and traveling to new places, I know that it is safer right now to stay at home. Therefore, I took the time to reminisce about some of my favorite vacation memories and the most memorable places I have been with my family and friends. When traveling becomes safe and easier again, I really recommend that you check out some of these awesome places!
1. Sedona, Arizona
This is one of the most memorable vacations I have gone on with my family because of the beautiful scenery. Red rocks surround Sedona along with ancient Native American sites that are now tourist attractions. I remember being so fascinated by the history of this area and seeing the deserted villages and ancient cave drawings had me in awe. My favorite memory from this vacation is probably the Pink Jeep Tour that we took, in which a tour guide drives your group around deep into the landscape of the Sedona red rocks where you would be unable to reach on foot. Our driver actually drove us down a 90-degree angle! We were also able to get out of the Jeep every now and then to explore. There was this one giant rock that gave the illusion of you holding onto the edge of a cliff. If you had someone take your picture laying on it and holding onto the end, you would just have to turn the photograph and suddenly it looks like you are dangling over a cliffside. We also saw several cool shaped rocks, like one that looked like Snoopy and Woodstock, as well as one that looked like a giant bell. There is also an amazing Catholic Church called the Chapel of the Holy Cross that was built into a rocky cliffside, with incredible views.
2. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Talk about a jaw-dropping place to visit. The Grand Canyon is incredibly vast and stunning. Here's a tip from me to you about visiting the Grand Canyon: do NOT buy a book called "Death in the Grand Canyon" before you go to the site. My family made this mistake and then we all felt extra paranoid. Pretty stupid of us, right? I really do have to say that I wish the pathways along the hiking trails were wider and a little safer, but everything about this trip had me in disbelief and awe. For instance, we witnessed people doing yoga on the edges of the canyon beyond the railways that keep you from falling. I thought we were all going to have heart attacks watching them. Since I was pretty young when we visited, my parents were both watching me like hawks because you really do have to be careful on the trails. Looking down into the canyon blew my mind because of how large and deep it travels. It really puts things into perspective when you realize how small you are compared to the canyon. Later that night, we watched the sunset over the Grand Canyon and it was breathtakingly beautiful with a variety of colors in the sky mixed with the red rocks. Be careful if you ever go here, but it's a place that you have to see someday.
3. Palm Springs, California
I don't think I have ever gone on vacation over spring break and gotten a great tan until I went to Palm Springs. The heat there is scorching, but it is in the desert after all. Driving into Palm Springs had me awestruck with its beautiful mountain range and vast desert, plus there are a million looming windmills in the desert on the way there. My family and I stayed at this hotel, which happened to be hosting a huge LGBTQ event with a live DJ and pool party, which was pretty awesome because I had never seen a pool party that Hollywood-esque! Besides laying out by the pool or walking around the little town of Palm Springs, my family and I also took the famous Aerial Tramway up to the top of the 8,516-foot mountain, and let me tell you I was really nervous. The ride up was extremely anxiety-inducing for me and I may have felt a little sick, but it was totally worth it. The view was gorgeous and I could not believe that I was still in Palm Springs. The landscape had changed from a hot desert to a cool evergreen forest, just by going up the mountain. Palm Springs is a beautiful place to visit if you want some luxury mixed with adventure.
4. Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert, California
After our adventure to Palm Springs, my family and I drove over to Joshua Tree National Park. I'm not gonna lie, it was a long drive of desert flatness, but once we arrived at the park I was super impressed. The trees have a really unique shape and the various mountainous looking rocks scattered across the desert are stunning. I had so much fun exploring the area and climbing rocks to get a better viewpoint of the land around us. We even did a little bit of yoga on the rocks. There were a lot of little geckos roaming around the rocks and my aunt pointed out to me that I needed to watch where I put my hands when climbing because a rattlesnake might be hiding in the cracks. I'm sure you can imagine how that made me feel. Once we left the park, it was slightly daunting to know that there was only one road to take out of the desert and that it would take nearly an hour to exit, but the drive overall was beautiful.
5. Oceanside and Carlsbad, California
My aunt actually lives in Oceanside, California, so this town has a special place in my heart. There is not a whole lot to do here for tourists, but I love this cute little beach town. Carlsbad is only a few minutes away from Oceanside, which is why I grouped them together. The temperature in Oceanside and Carlsbad typically remains in a range of 60 to 75 degrees and the beach is literally located right in town, unless you live slightly inland, then it's a few minutes, but still really close! There's a nice boardwalk on the ocean in Oceanside and cute little downtown areas in both places along with gorgeous walking trails, beach volleyball courts, and surf shops. I think this would be a great place to live someday if I ever had enough money to afford it. A fun story I have about my time in Oceanside is the time I went swimming in the ocean with my family and a seal swam up to me. To make a long story short, I thought it was a dog at first, I tried to pet it, it went underwater, I realized it was in fact not a dog, and then I sprinted out of the ocean like I had seen a shark. It was embarrassing but pretty freaking funny.
6. Venice Beach, California
Wow, I could really write about California all day, but I swear this is the last of it that I'll mention! There are several places in Los Angeles, California that I love, but Venice Beach really stood out to me for its quirky artistic vibe. If you think you've seen it all, go to Venice Beach and I can guarantee you'll see something new. For instance, maybe you'll see an old man playing a song on a beat-up old piano in the middle of the sidewalk wearing an old tuxedo and top hat, or a group of strange magicians trying to get tourists to participate in their tricks. I think the craziest person I saw on Venice Beach was the YouTuber Danny Duncan and his entire crew filming for his next video. It took me a second to realize who he was, but instantly fans started to ask him for autographs, and then it clicked in my head. I don't think you could ever get bored at this beach, with an entertaining skate park, crazy people on the street, funny and cute shops, and beautiful beaches, there is always something happening.
7. Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Moving on from California, my family's vacation with our friends to Gatlinburg, Tennessee was one of my favorite trips as a little kid. We rented a beautiful cabin in the woods with three stories and balconies overlooking the evergreen forest, which was absolutely stunning. My sister and I's bedroom was in this awesome upper balcony area with a ladder that you had to climb up in order to get to, which I remember thinking was so cool. On this trip, we saw Dolly Parton in a parade for an event happening at Dollywood, which is located in Gatlinburg and I remember my mom's friend yelling excitedly "HI DOLLY!" while waving crazily to the country singer, who was on an insane-looking float. Besides seeing the legendary Dolly Parton, we also saw a momma bear and her three little bear cubs, from a distance of course, which I was so thrilled about that I bought two black bears stuffed animals at the gift shop. We went on plenty of different hikes and saw some beautiful scenery, including a giant cliffside of massive frozen icicles. There is also a completely wacky WonderWorks Museum, which looks like a building flipped upside down. That place was a lot of fun and full of interesting exhibits. It's pretty difficult to get bored in Gatlinburg.
8. Nashville, Tennessee
Speaking of country singers, you'll find plenty of them in Nashville! I love this city with all my heart and I can say that some of the nicest people ever live there. Walking up and down Broadway Street is such a fun experience, with flashing lights and country music surrounding you as you go on your journey. Along with the famous Broadway, there are so many things to do and places to go in Nashville. As a huge music fan, I really enjoyed the Country Music Hall of Fame as well as the Grand Ole Opry. I've seen NEEDTOBREATHE perform there as well as Keith Urban and Blake Shelton, who showed up as a surprise. My favorite place to visit in Nashville is the BlueBird Cafe, which is an intimate cafe where country artists who have written hugely popular songs come to perform and explain their songwriting journeys. As a huge Taylor Swift fan, I also tend to geek out at the BlueBird because it was where she was discovered by her first record label. This city is magical and filled with music, and I would love to live there someday.
9. Charleston, South Carolina
You can feel the deep-rooted history that lives in Charleston, South Carolina as you walk past all of the old-fashioned, colorful houses and watch the elegant horse carriages prance along the road. This is the place where Southern charm lives. The aesthetic of this town is so perfect and I could look at it all day. I am obsessed with the different colored houses, the palm trees, the cobblestone roads, and the old churches that line the streets. You can either walk the streets, drive along the roads, or take a luxurious horse carriage tour ride, which I thought was pretty fun. Another great part of this city is the famous Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park where you can escape from the buzz of the downtown area momentarily. I also really enjoyed going into the downtown marketplace where street vendors sell products, like homegrown fruit and vegetables or authentically weaved baskets. The only part about downtown Charleston that I do not love is the fact that it has many ghost stories and tales of haunted areas. I could do without the spookiness, but some people really love that part of it! In addition to the lovely downtown scene of Charleston, there are also several beaches nearby, like Isle of Palms and Folly Beach. My family and I also visited a few different plantations around Charleston with beautiful architecture and lovely Spanish moss trees.
10. Outer Banks, North Carolina
I don't know if it's the nostalgia, or if this place really is that amazing, but I am in love with the Outer Banks or OBX. I have been vacationing here with my family since I was two years old, and it almost feels like a second home to me. There's nothing more relaxing and fun to me than renting a giant beach house in the Outer Banks with family and not having any responsibilities for a week. What I love about OBX is that you can go to the beach, swim in the pool, relax in your house, take a little trip to Duck for ice cream, chill on the dock, or go on adventurous tours. The choice is really up to you! This past year I went with family and we saw three stingrays in the ocean as well as multiple jellyfish, starfish, and dolphins. This obviously made us slightly uneasy about swimming, but it was so cool to see that much wildlife. My personal favorite activity was riding my bike along the beach road. I hope that I never stop going here because it has such a special place in my heart.
I hope you all add some of these vacation destinations to your bucket list because I really loved visiting all of them. I know it's difficult with the ongoing pandemic in the country, but when it is all over you should really try to visit at least a few of these places! It's important to go out and see the world if you can because you might learn something new. For now, let's daydream together about traveling to these wonderful places.
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