One of the most common questions we get is also the hardest to answer: What is the best place you’ve visited? There are so many great places, not to mention experiences, that it is hard to pick just one – or even several – that rank supreme. So instead of crowning a single destination, we’ve chosen to highlight eight favorites selected from the 58 stops we made over 52 weeks of continuous travel.
Something I wouldn’t have guessed before we set out is how much Florida dominates the list. To be fair, we spent four months in Florida, by far the most amount of time in any single state. The flip side is that four months is a long time to occupy a couple of restless travelers like us, and yet we had no problems finding new things to see and do. We moved to a new place almost every week, and no, we never set foot in a single theme park. So props to Florida for being the surprising stand out on Year 1 of our continuing effort to see everything the world has to offer.
To Northeasterners like us, palm trees and warm sun in December are enough reasons to admire this coastal Florida town. But its centuries-old Spanish architecture is the real draw. The city’s historic center is anchored by famous St. Georges Street, a pedestrian thoroughfare lined with interesting architecture from various periods, some dating back to St. Augustine’s sixteenth-century origins. An old Spanish fort and close proximity to great Florida beaches round out the attractions at this fantastic destination city.
Far and away the best place we’ve parked our RV is Hunting Island State Park. This 5,000-acre, semi-tropical barrier island gives visitors the feeling of being far from mainland North America, maybe even on the island of Lost. Much of the campground is shrouded in dense foliage and palmetto trees, but the eastern edge spills out on to the beach, offering ocean front RV spots.
A surprising gem along Florida’s “Emerald Coast,” Grayton Beach is the best beach we’ve ever been to. Its brilliantly-white and powdery-soft sand coupled with turquoise water and zero commercial development make this an ideal spot to take in some sun.
We’re city people, and Washington, D.C., ranks among our favorites in the U.S. It is large enough to have everything you want within easy reach but small enough that you don’t have to fight for space on crowded streets. It is also one of America’s most beautiful cities, with six of its buildings making the top ten list in a recent “America’s Favorite Architecture” survey. And for tourists on a budget, it’s hard to find a destination with more free things to do than D.C.: a slew of Smithsonian museums, including the National Gallery of Art, the National Zoo, the Holocaust Museum, the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, the U.S. Capitol, the Library of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, all of the national monuments, and probably a whole host of things I’ve missed or forgotten, all gratis. What other city can top that?
One of the best places you’ve probably never heard of is Wakulla, FL. Nestled against the Apalachee Bay where the panhandle connects to the larger Florida peninsula, this area mixes the wetlands of Southern Florida with the Spanish moss draped grandeur of old Georgia. Its two great parks, Edward Ball and St. Marks Wildlife Refuge, rival–and even surpass–the Florida Everglades in beauty and wildlife viewing.
3) Key West, FL
I don’t know why, but Key West just makes us happy. It combines the laid-back vibe of a remote tropical island with all the conveniences of a landlocked city. The people are friendly, the drinks are cold, the water inviting, and the sunsets beautiful. What more could anyone want?
2) Acadia National Park, ME
Some of the Northeast’s most dramatic coastline is found in Acadia; but that isn’t the only reason to go. The park also boasts mountains, woodlands, lakes, a sandy beach set amongst the cliffs, and the East Coast’s only fjord. 125 miles of hiking trails, ranging in difficulty from easy strolls to challenging vertical climbs, give visitors access to some of the best scenery in the East.
I can’t say enough about New Orleans, probably because words fail to describe it adequately. The city has a raw and gritty feeling that is wonderfully balanced by tremendous beauty. Too many places we visit today are so sanitized that all traces of character have been ground down in an attempt to remove rough edges. New Orleans, meanwhile, has character in abundance; character that is all the more real because its edges are still in tact.
Be sure to check out these other favorites: