In 2022, I took 25 trips – 23 media trips and two personal vacations to spend time with family. I averaged two trips a month, all but one right here in the U.S., leading me to discover what many already know: You can travel across the states of our fair country and see a variety of beautiful landscapes, have a wide range of adventures, discover small towns that are slices of Americana, and meet the most interesting people you’ll ever come across.
As a travel writer, my job is to fly the friendly skies, explore destinations, and share my discoveries with others. It might prompt them to travel to that spot, to read a compelling story about a person they’ll never meet but would like to, or just to dream, adding the places I share to their bucket lists.
With that in mind, I’m sharing eight destinations I visited this year that impacted me in some way. They are unique, have special offerings you can’t find elsewhere, and most are not obvious, well-known tourist locations that are overrun with visitors. So put these on your radar for the coming months, and may 2023 be a year of adventurous travel for you!
- Loreto, Mexico – I had never heard of this town in the Baja California Sur, but from the moment I arrived on my small plane and walked across the tarmac taking in the distant mountains, the soaring Cardon cacti, and the bluest of skies, I knew I would love this place. It didn’t disappoint. I ate delicious Mexican food (not the Tex-Mex I’m buried in here in Houston), sailed on turquoise waters where I could see straight through to the bottom, snorkeled, SUP’d, hiked a canyon, and learned all about the history of this small town that makes a big impression. Loreto hasn’t been discovered yet, but when it is, it will be the next big hotspot in Mexico.
- Daufuskie Island, South Carolina – Not only had I never heard of this 5-mile island, but I couldn’t even pronounce it. Daw-fus’-key, as it’s pronounced, is a Gullah island off the coast of Hilton Head that makes you feel like you’re on a deserted island back in time. I rode horses along the shore, played my first round of golf on the beautiful Haig Point course, steered a golf cart on sandy pathways (the only mode of transportation), visited the sites honoring Gullah heritage and contributions, and breathed in the slower pace with my son, who joined me for this trip. Its remoteness and devotion to the past made this a destination like none other.
- Barnsley Resort, Adairsville, Georgia – This resort just an hour northwest of Atlanta somehow manages to be both sprawling and cozy. That’s because accommodations are in private cottages that dot what looks like a more southern version of Mayberry RFD. Talk about getting in the Christmas spirit – I drank Hot Rum Chata next to a blazing fire, listened to country Christmas music weave its way through the woods, and ate barbecue while lights twinkled in trees. My biggest rush was learning how to clay shoot – and then landing 3 out of 4 shots straight out of the gate. I also enjoyed archery and tours of the quail shooting property that make this a truly unique outdoor sporting location.
- Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin – Tucked away like a treasure waiting to be discovered, this lake town boasts one of the most beautiful resorts that is also award-winning – The Osthoff. A grand, hilltop getaway with lushly landscaped grounds and the best view of the lake, The Osthoff is reminiscent of the Dirty Dancing destination we all dreamed of experiencing. I spent an early morning fishing, took a boat tour, indulged in spa treatments, and explored the quaint town, and the views of the tranquil lake will be with me forever.
- Rocky Mountaineer Train from the Rockies to the Red Rocks – This legendary train that originated in Canada has a new route out West, and the vistas as you chug along are the stuff of legends. I loved the white glove service, the peacefulness of no Wi-Fi, and the gentle rocking and chugging of the train. When the ride ended in Moab, I had a truly surreal experience exploring Arches National Forest – which feels like you’re on another planet – and riding ATVs up rocky mountains and boulders, which was both hilarious and petrifying. I highly recommend this trip during the fall when you are immersed in color from Colorado to Utah.
- Lake Geneva, Wisconsin – I visited in both the summer and the winter, and while you would think a lake town is a summer destination, I found the winter months to be more exciting. Yes, I stayed frozen cold the entire time I was there. But I loved learning to ski on gentle slopes, riding in a horse-drawn carriage through the snow, watching artists compete in the national snow sculpting competition, and walking through my first ice village complete with tunnels, slides, and snow thrones. Don’t miss Winterfest, a highlight of Lake Geneva culture.
- Napa and Sonoma, California – If you are wine lover, there’s really nowhere better than these two lauded wine countries. Tastings are pricy in Napa, but sitting in a vineyard hearing a winemaker tell you about these particular grapes as you taste the result of his or her hard work is pretty much priceless. I’ve had some of the best wines I’ve ever tasted in my life in these two counties, and I will always recommend them if you appreciate fine wine, epic vineyard tastings, and the California vibe.
- Ogunquit, Maine – I had only ever seen pictures of Maine’s rocky coast and lobster communities, but those photos just don’t do it justice. From Ogunquit to Kennebunkport, these maritime villages are big on charm and delectable seafood. But my favorite activity was loading bikes onto the ferry and pedaling around the islands just off the coast of Portland. From grand estates to tiny shacks where people sell fresh produce from their gardens, these islands offered a window into the lives of people who like to be a little off the grid, and I found them fascinating.