One of the things that I often tell friends on their birthday is, “I hope it’s your best year yet.” I mean it, and try to live my life in the same fashion. My 2015 Greatest Hits seemed hard to beat, but I can’t argue that 2016 didn’t, and that 2017 won’t be better than them both. I have an exercise that I do almost daily where I thinking about what I am most looking forward to in the next week, month, six months and year. It keeps me always dreaming about the future…
But this post isn’t about the future, it’s about the past. It’s my top 10 moments of 2016, in no particular order. Scratch that, they are in order. Chronologically. It was hard for me to rank them because I love them all so much.
1) A Week at the Beach
You all might remember from this post, that we took advantage of spring rates and spent a week at Waterscape Resort in Fort Walton Beach. A week at the beach never gets old for me, particularly not when I have a full kitchen at my disposal and plenty of room for everyone to spread out. This vacation came at a time that I needed a vacation. My husband had an unemployment scare (the calm before the storm), I had a minor medical situation, and I had just finished a super stressful project at work. This week was spent with no alarm clocks and no schedule – high contrast to most of my life. We lounged on the beach for hours, drifted in the lazy river without a care in the world, and got a nice base
2) Adult Trip to Cancun
The five nights that my husband and I spent at the Hyatt Zilara Cancun, were top-notch. It’s the honeymoon we should have taken. Gorgeous waters, poolside for hours, and a couple’s massage on the beach are the things I miss the most.
I had a work conference in Boston last July, and knew it was the perfect time for us to take a New England road trip. Before we headed off to Rhode Island and the rest of the states, I maximized every minute that I wasn’t working, exploring the city. I fell in love with the North End neighborhood, and had the most amazing 12 layer lasagna at a little restaurant there. We stopped and got some lemon gelato and watched kids play in the fountains (my daughter included). It was perfect. Our last night in Boston was spent at a Red Sox game. What an experience. I loved Fenway Park, and if I wasn’t a Cubs-fan by marriage, I would pick the Red Sox as my team.
4) Dinosaur Place, Connecticut
Thinking of this place just makes me smile. When I was planning our New England road trip, I knew I could go a few directions, but decided that with a five and two year old along, I would forgo most of the historical stops and make it as kid-friendly as possible. When I saw that there was a 60-acre outdoor adventure park full of life-sized dinosaurs in an unsuspecting town in Connecticut, I routed our trip accordingly. We saw the 40 life sized dinosaurs, navigated a maze that ended with a slide through the mouth of a T-Rex, and cooled off in a dino-themed splash pad. BUT, the highlight of the whole experience was when my daughter walked ahead of us on one of the trails and suddenly turned around and started running shouting, “DINOSAURSSSSS!”, so dramatically that she even ran past us and kept running! Bless that child, I guess she had thought that we had taken her to Jurassic Park. It was all fun and games once we were on the same page.
Vermont is gorgeous, and a state that I can’t wait to visit again. Though we were there just a night, it was enough time for me to fall in love – the fresh-off-the-line Ben and Jerry’s was a tasty perk. If you ever find yourself that direction, make sure and head to Waterbury where you can take a 30-minute guided tour of the Ben and Jerry’s factory and receive a generous sample of whatever is on the line that day. It’s a hot spot, and if you find that you have a wait, visit the flavor graveyard or buy a tasty treat at their full-service scoop shop. We ended the evening at the Holiday Inn Ascutney Mountain Resort – a perfect retreat where we swam in a pool with the backdrop of mountains and cooked a nice dinner in our fully furnished kitchen.
6) Santa’s Village, New Hampshire
Christmas is always a favorite, but Christmas in July is a really special treat. That’s exactly what we experienced at Santa’s Village in Jefferson, New Hampshire. We rode “reindeer” on a carousel, saw a birds eye view of the park from the Skyway Sleigh, and splashed for an hour at the Ho Ho H2o water park. The highlight of the day for me though, was seeing live reindeer right before my eyes. I even fed those precious reindeer with a carrot right from my hand. That was a total bucket list item, and I am so glad that I got to check it off.
7) Bar Harbor, Maine
What a treat Bar Harbor was for us! We purposely arrived just at lunch time so I could enjoy some fresh Maine lobster, which did not disappoint, and spend some time downtown before heading to Acadia National Park. We only had two days at the park, which wasn’t nearly enough time, but in true form, we crammed as much fun and leisure in as we could. We dipped our toes at Sand Beach, enjoyed popovers at Jordan Pond House, and felt the breeze atop the highest point along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. When we weren’t enjoying the natural beauty of the park, we enjoyed cocktails in the heated pool at our resort, then lounged under mounds of towels wondering how people swim in weather that cold (but with the view we had, how could you not). It was an incredible way to end our 12-day trip. It is an absolute must visit again town.
8) Muir Woods
Less than a week after my return from the east coast, I was headed to the west coast for work. This time in San Francisco, one of my favorite cities, and despite living in California, it was a city my mom had yet to visit. We booked the earliest flights out and maximized the heck out of that travel day. We arrived in San Francisco right around 2pm, rented a car at the airport and headed to Muir Woods National Monument. I knew my mom would relish in the smell of the woods and the majestic presence of the redwoods, just as I had on my first visit a few years prior. Having just had our toes in the Atlantic the week before, we felt it only necessary to plant our feet in the Pacific at the nearby Muir Beach. We finished off our evening dining at a quaint waterfront restaurant in Sausalito where I had no doubt, one of the best seafood dishes of my life.
9) Welk Resort, Branson
If you would have told me a year ago that a trip to Branson would have made my top 10 list, I would have been surprised. Just three hours away and with great outlet malls, it’s been a go-to place for an annual girls trip. You’ve also heard me mention season pass deals for Silver Dollar City and White Water. So while a great weekend visit (especially our holly jolly time on the Polar Express), it’s not something that generally makes my top 10 list. This year, however, there is one trip that warms my heart and merits a spot on this list. Each week closer that it got to my daughter starting kindergarten, the more stressed I got. Stressed that she was five in the blink of an eye, and stressed that my take-your-kid-on-work trips would less often include my daughter. I felt like a “kindermoon” was in order, but with my husband’s unemployment and most of our travel resources already allocated to our January 2017 Disney trip, I knew we would have to go local-ish. Turned out, I had a decent amount of Orbitz rewards. That combined with a Orbitz discount code, and I was able to score a last minute weekend at the Welk Resort in Branson at a reasonable cost. It turned out to be a great decision. I have been visiting Branson my whole life, but this was the first time I ever had a poolside cocktail (a resort highlight for me). My daughter loved the candy sushi class and other resort activities, and we all enjoyed a low-key weekend away, without the hustle and bustle of our typical Branson trips.
10) Phoenix, Arizona
There was a lot of competition for the final 10th spot, but ultimately time spent in Phoenix with my mom and toddler made the cut (though the Cubs World Series win is really close). Another work trip landed me in Tempe, and as a person who lives by the Carpe Diem motto, I decided to add a day to my trip and spend some time exploring Phoenix with two newbies. You might remember that the Phoenix Children’s Museum made my Top Five Children’s Museum list for all its whimsy and wonder. Ever since my kid-free visit a few years back, I was dying to bring one of my own with me; this was my chance, and I am so glad I took it. Of all the things in life, one thing I will never regret, is taking these moments with the people I love the most.
Yes, 2016 had hiccups – a job loss, a stolen car, and some personal struggles. BUT, I try to live with a spirit of gratitude. I am so thankful to God for these blessings he has given my family. We look forward to seeing what 2017 has in store.
What were some of your favorites moments from last year?