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Our Favorite Destinations

By Bonnie Sinclair General Travel, Park People, Travel Advice

Our Favorite Destinations

Like many travelers, we rarely visit the same place twice. Our thirst for adventure generally leads us to going somewhere “new” every time we travel. That said, there are a few favorite destinations that we either have been to multiple times or would revisit with no hesitation. Here is a look at a few of those places.

The Black Hills of South Dakota

Our first visit to the Black Hills was in the summer of 2012. We had both been to that area previously, but it was our first trip together. We stayed in Custer, S.D. for a week and visited Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Wind Cave National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument and Spearfish Canyon, just to name a few of our adventures.

Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park
Sylvan Lake is one of the many hidden gems of Custer State Park in South Dakota.

Mount Rushmore is amazing and a must-visit for everyone. Jewel Cave has what looks like “cave bacon.” We took one of our most memorable hikes while at Wind Cave NP. Custer State Park is just as exciting as many National Parks. Everything about this region is outstanding. Throw in the Badlands, which is just about two hours away, and you realize that South Dakota really is worth a week or more!

Despite missing fireworks on the Fourth of July due to extremely dry weather and existing forest fires, we truly enjoyed our time here and would return in a heartbeat. Actually, I’m kind of surprised that we haven’t returned yet!

Mount Desert Island, Maine

Mount Desert Island is home to Acadia NP and Bar Harbor, along with many other small towns. While we enjoyed most of the state of Maine, this particular region was probably our favorite. We camped outside of Acadia NP for three nights and easily could have stayed longer.

One view of Jordan Pond
The easy three-mile loop around Jordan Pond is a must-do while at Acadia National Park.

We spent two days driving and hiking in Acadia NP. Lobster is a must and we found a couple of fabulous seafood restaurants/lobster pounds in Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor. The coastline is very rugged, which is a nice change from the sandy beaches that we are used to in the Southeastern U.S.

While Bar Harbor may be a little too commercialized for our general preference, we would visit again in a heartbeat. We would especially love to visit during the spring or fall when the park is less crowded!

Julian Alps/Lake Bled, Slovenia

Slovenia was easily our favorite country that we visited in Eastern Europe. The mountain views in the capital city of Ljubljana were almost surreal. After spending two nights in the city, we drove into the Julian Alps, through Triglav National Park, and on to Lake Bled.

The national park is popular for a reason. The mountain roads are both scenic and terrifying, making for a stressful, but exhilarating drive! The colors of the Soča River were a bright turquoise unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Everything in this area just popped with color and intensity!

The Soča River
We enjoyed driving along the Soča River throughout Triglav National Park.

Lake Bled is a relatively quiet resort town that was the perfect place to relax for a few days. The lake itself is the main attraction, but there are plenty of other sites to enjoy in Bled and the surrounding area.

Despite its small size, Slovenia has a lot to offer!

Tuscany, Italy

The entire country of Italy was amazing, but our absolute favorite region was Tuscany! Florence is the hub of Tuscany and provides all the charm of the small towns with all the conveniences of a large, metropolitan city. Grant enjoyed one of the best meals of his life, Beef Florentine, cooked to perfection, at Tito’s in Florence. He often says that he would fly to Florence just for that meal (if only we had that kind of money)!

View from Cortona
Cortona overlooks some amazing views of the Tuscan hills

While the big cities are a must-do, the small towns are where we really enjoy spending our time! Being in Siena for The Palio was like nothing we’ve experienced before and a definite highlight of our travels.

The charm and beauty of Cortona is exactly what you would expect from a Tuscan hill town, and more. It did not take long for us to understand Frances Scott Mayes’ story that is told in Under the Tuscan Sun.

We dream of returning to Tuscany for at least a month and enjoying not just our favorites again, but ALL of the small towns that we didn’t get to see!

Yellowstone National Park

As much as we love all of the places above, Yellowstone N.P. is probably our favorite place on Earth, thus far. We have been three times together and plan on going back again this upcoming summer.

Why do we keep going back? There is just so much to see and it’s always changing. Mountains, valleys, lakes, rivers, canyons, wildlife, geysers and other unique geological features are just some of the many reasons.

You can spend days driving around looking at geysers, mud pots, steam pools, and other amazing sights that you probably never knew existed. There are also hundreds, if not thousands, of miles of hiking. You can also fish, boat, bike, or go horseback riding.

Elk in the trees
This bull elk was taking a break from the heat near the lake.

The seasons at Yellowstone are extremely varied. Winter in Yellowstone is a completely different world, almost unrecognizable, from summer. We loved our snowmobile tour and how different everything looks when covered with snow!

Every time we visit we find something new and interesting. We know that no two visits will ever be the same, which is one reason we never tire of going back!

Honorable Mention: Pagosa Springs, Colorado

We first visited Pagosa Springs in the winter of 2015/2016 (we actually were there New Year’s Eve). My uncle lives there and my dad owns property there, so we thought we’d check it out. The city is possibly one of the most scenic locations possible. They get a lot of sunshine, while the nearby ski resort gets some of the highest snow totals in the state.

Pagosa Springs
The mountains perfectly frame the town of Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Pagosa Springs is home to the world’s deepest geothermal hot spring, which the town is named after. There are several resorts offering access to the spring. The city is also fairly close the Four Corners, providing easy access to all the amazing natural wonders in that area.

Having family here certainly makes it easier to want to come back, but the city is pretty enough to draw us in even without that connection.

Revisit Our Favorite Destinations or Not?, That is the Question

We absolutely love experiencing new places and having new adventures, which is why we often find ourselves traveling somewhere new on each trip. But it is nearly impossible to experience everything a particular city or region has to offer in one trip. That is where a second or third visit is helpful.

As many times as we’ve been to Yellowstone, there is still a ton that we haven’t yet explored. While we felt like we saw a lot of the Black Hills since we were there for a full week, we know that there are places that we don’t even know that we missed.

We admittedly struggle with making return trips, but we are trying to learn to find a balance between the new and “old.” The excitement of knowing you are going to see something you will enjoy or the mystery of what new restaurants you might find are enough to make a revisit worth it!

Our favorite places we have traveled to... places we would gladly return to. These five spots are so wonderful, we can't wait to return.
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Author

Bonnie Sinclair
Bonnie Sinclair

A native of Florida, and long time resident of Georgia, grew up traveling most every summer with her family. As an adult, her love of travel and passion for educating and helping others, led her to start Our Wander-Filled Life with her husband, Grant.

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