BEST IN TRAVEL 2016

2016 was full of spontaneity, adventure, and checks off my travel bucket list. I checked off 2 countries (Canada and Costa Rica), 4 states (Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Pennsylvania), and 8 new cities (Vancouver, Newport, Boston, New Orleans, Atlanta, Austin, Philadelphia, and Sedona). I also got to return to a few of my favorites - Palm Springs, Chicago, Richmond, Miami, and Santa Fe. For the majority of the year, I felt like I never stood still and rarely had a weekend when I WASN'T going somewhere. I'm going to highlight my favorite restaurants, attractions, activities, and views in each places I visited.

Vancouver, Canada
Not long after stepping off the plane, I was in love with Vancouver. From Gastown to Grouse Mountain, I was enchanted by this city. The best places that I ate &/or drank at were the Vancouver Urban Winery, Chambar Restaurant (I'll dream of their mini waffles + milk chocolate lavender & white chocolate pistachio rosewater every night until I return), and Top of Vancouver Revolving Restaurant. This last one was also one of the best views in the city (go at sunset, trust me), along with the Granville Island Public Market (ride the ferry), and the Grouse Mountain Skyride. Don't miss the Capilano Suspension Bridge, Cliffwalk, and Treetop Adventure, a short bus ride from downtown. 

I did my second cross-country road trip in March of this year when I moved from Los Angeles to Charlotte, NC. On my first trip back in 2013 I stopped in Nashville, Memphis, Dallas, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, and the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. This time around went like this...
First stop: Hoover Dam in Henderson, Nevada

hooverdam.jpg

Second stop: Sedona, Arizona
I was only in Sedona for 24 hours but it was enough to form an obsession with the Red Rocks. This quaint little desert town is surrounded by red rocks and canyons. Someone recommended Cathedral Rock as a the best hiking spot nearby and we climbed nearly to the top in freezing weather. The view was well-worth it.

Third Stop: Grand Canyon
I stopped at two places in the Grand Canyon - Horseshoe Bend and the Lower Antelope Canyon. Everyone should experience Antelope Canyon at some point during their lives. The 1 1/2 hour tour was one of the most extraordinary experiences imaginable. 

Fourth Stop: Santa Fe, New Mexico
I had been to Santa Fe back in 2013 during my first cross-country road trip and absolutely adored the charming town square and adobe architecture, not to mention authentic Southwestern food. Don't miss Cowgirl and the Palacio Cafe for some of the best eats in the city.

Fifth Stop: Austin, Texas
I'd driven through Texas before and stopped briefly in Dallas, but never Austin. I truly loved the cool, artsy vibes in this city. I don't think you can beat the oysters, cocktails, and atmosphere at Perla's Seafood & Oyster Bar on South Congress.

Sixth & Last Stop: New Orleans, Louisiana
Surprisingly, this was my first time in New Orleans and I was only there for a quick 24 hours. The places I'd heard the most about were the Carousel Bar at Hotel Monteleone and Cafe Du Monde. The Carousel Bar is a revolving, open-air bar that's super cute and has awesome cocktails. Cafe Du Monde is world famous for their beignets, which do not disappoint. Bourbon Street was actually crazier that I had even expected, with hundreds of people stumbling around on a Monday night. 

Costa Rica:
We stayed at the Los Suenos Marriott Ocean & Golf Resort. The resort has a bar/restaurant, steakhouse, and sushi bar, all of which were amazing. They also have a breakfast buffet with the freshest fruit I've ever had. We left the resort one night to have dinner in Jaco Beach, at El Hicaco Restaurant. The restaurant is open-air and right on the beach. The view at sunset was incredible and the seafood curry was delicious. We went zip-lining and horseback riding near the resort, through Vista Los Suenos Rainforest Tours. Zip-lining was absolutely terrifying at first but it got really fun about halfway through. We rode horses through the rainforest to waterfalls and went swimming at the base of the waterfalls. On the last day of our trip, we went on a boat over to Isla Tortuga, a beautiful tropical island an hour off the coast. There's so many activities on the island and we chose to rent jet-skis. 
 

A few more favorites...
Richmond, VA: Jambalaya at Lady N'awlins, donuts at the Sugar Shack, and a sunset walk at Brown's Island.
Boston, MA: Pasta at Carmelina's & cannoli from Mike's Pastry.
Philadelphia, PA: Cheesesteak at Sonny's & gelato from Capagiro Gelati, voted #1 gelato in the world by National Geographic (I've had gelato all over Italy & this was equally, if not more delicious!)

Hope you enjoyed reading! :)
Xo, Leah