New year, new destinations: 10 on my radar for 2023 (and beyond)...
As we welcome a new year, I'd like to look forward to potential destinations in 2023 and beyond - rather than being a prescriptive list, though, it is a looser bunch of ideas. If you know me by now, you'll know that I can make something out of any trip, even to the most unglamorous destinations (Lewiston, Maine, anybody?).
In my mind, trips generally fall into one of 4 categories:
A) Day trips from Manchester, NH
B) Medium-sized (2-5 days)
C) Bigger trips - mostly US, but my recent Iceland one would land here (5-10 days)
D) Fantasyland (International/10+ days) Haven't taken one of these in almost 14 years!
Day trips are a way of life for me. It's a way to see new places when I can't travel in the traditional sense due to cost or time commitment (~95% of the time). Thankfully, there are dozens and dozens of day trip destinations from my New Hampshire home base. One that's high on the list is Providence, Rhode Island, where I last visited in 2017.
The bigger US trips take a lot more planning, but are far from pie-in-the-sky. One that comes to mind right now is a Southwestern swing. As Julia has expressed interest in seeing the Grand Canyon, I'd love to make a family trip out in the next couple years. With a bit of planning, we could also knock out a few new states in the process (New Mexico, Utah, and even Nevada).
The focus of this post, though, will be bread-and-butter, medium-sized trips: too far/too much to see for a single day, but perfect for 2-5 days. Surely, someone will say "you can't see Chicago in a long weekend!" to which I reply "correct." However, my philosophy is basically that one will never truly have enough time anywhere, so be realistic and make the most of each visit, even if it's laughably short.
Falling comfortably between packing up and going next weekend and "are you crazy?!", here is my realistic wish list of medium-sized adventures over the next 5 years or so:
Acadia National Park (last visit: never)
Ahh, Acadia - even the name sounds crisp, clean, and like a new beginning. Maybe its because it comes first alphabetically and is way up there in the corner where the country begins (if you're coming from New Brunswick, that is). In any case, it's borderline shameful I've never been to the only National Park within a half-day's drive from home. As per my usual avoidance of crowds at all costs mentality, a trip here would hopefully occur on a September weekday - gorgeous weather, and plenty of room to move about.
Adirondacks (previous visits: 1995, 1996, 2016)
From the same first letter to its equidistant 5ish hour distance from home, I have inadvertently ignored this majestic region for far too long. Astonishingly, my 3 visits have all been in the winter, and two of them were over a quarter-century ago. It was great to get to Lake Placid relatively recently, but there is so much wild wilderness to hike and explore. One could spend a month and not even scratch the surface here - I could do some serious damage in 3-4 days...
Block Island, RI (last visit: never)
This one is on the border of day-tripping distance, though it would be an extremely long day, between 2 hours of driving and a 1-hour ferry ride each way. I came very close to visiting with a friend this past year, but ultimately decided to postpone. I have competing interests to A) squeeze in as much as I can in a day and save on lodging costs and B) pony up the $150 (Block Island? Ha, might have to double that amount) and stay overnight for a far more relaxing experience. The island is tailor-made for relaxing, without many big-time attractions. It's lots of rugged coastal beauty punctuated by beaches, lighthouses, and relatively few people. After staring at it on maps for years, contentedly solitary off the coast of Rhode Island, I feel a trip is imminent.
Charleston, SC and/or Savannah, GA (last visit: never)
I've wanted to visit these historical southern gems for many years, but haven't made it yet. Visiting both is definitely pushing the limits for a long weekend - ideally I'd have ~4 days for each, making a week for both doable. I don't even have many specific attractions in mind for either. These are places I'd go for the vibes, extraordinarily different from the buttoned-up nature of the northeast, especially in the winter. Pastel dwellings, swaying palmettos, sweet tea, southern culture and comfort food. As I love walking to explore new cities, these two are tailor-made for traversing on foot. Escaping another nasty northern winter to meander on down sounds extremely appealing these days...
Chicago (previous visits: 2018 - day trip only)
To this day, Chicago holds the record for farthest I've ever traveled in a day that started and ended at home (~1,650 miles roundtrip, if you were wondering). It pushed the limits of what I could do in a day, given that 7-8 hours were spent in airports and in transit. In any case, I did it. But I want to see Chicago again. Properly. I know, I need at least a week, two weeks, blah blah blah. Realistically I'd probably go for 4-5 days, tops. And I'd make the most of it, just like I do everywhere. Ascend a skyscraper, walk the streets, visit the world class museums, take in a sports game. And then there are the Chicago Fire TV show landmarks...
Cleveland/Northeast Ohio (last visit: never*)
OK, who puts Cleveland on a travel wish list? This guy! For some reason this city of former industrial prowess intrigues me greatly. I’ve literally driven through its limits on I-90/I-71 dozens of times, but other than a quick stop for lunch in 2004, have never actually been. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame aside, I'd enjoy checking out some other local landmarks (A Christmas Story house, anyone?). A National Park(!) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame are within easy day-tripping distances, so give me a long weekend here and I'll be a happy dawg.
Québec City (previous visits: 1997, 2001)
I’ve probably mentioned before how much I long to return to Québec City after a bizarre senior-year-of-high-school winter adventure over 20 years ago now. I’ve technically been once in nice weather, but that was in middle school, hardly the age at which we can best appreciate gorgeous, historical, European-esque cities now, is it? A drive up from Manchester would take 6ish hours, evidently just far enough that I’ve never once done it. Perhaps 2023 is the year I rip off the bandaid and clear 4 days or so for what would be my most desired return visit to any place on this list.
Philadelphia (previous visits: 2003, 2005-07 (lived in area), 2010, 2017)
Of all the places on this list, I’ve been here by far the most, at least a half dozen times. Living in nearby West Chester in the grad school years (2005-07) made it easy to bop in. However, in the last 15 years I’ve spent exactly 2 days there. Actually, not even – the 2017 visit was measurable in hours. I’ve only stayed overnight once, waaay back on my first visit in ’03. I’m definitely feeling that the time is right to return and plan for a few days to catch up on what this dynamic city has been up to in the meantime.
Thousand Is./Ottawa (previous visits: never/2002, 2010 for Ottawa)
Perhaps this one should be called “Ontario’s Far East”. The Thousand Islands have intrigued me for the last few years, especially when eating salad for some reason. A 6-7-hour drive from New Hampshire would warrant more like 5+ days than a long weekend, but would nonetheless be well worth it – especially since the Adirondacks (see above) are right along the way.
I’ve grouped Ottawa with the Thousand Islands here because of its proximity, and the ease of combining the two into one adventure. Similar to Quebec City, I’ve been to Ottawa twice, and more recently. However, I’m feeling called for a return visit, more than a dozen years since Alyse and I went with Julia in utero. In addition to being a snazzy city in its own right, this snazzy, chill national capital has personal significance, as my parents lived there for a spell in the late 70s.
Toronto (previous visits: 2002 (CN Tower only))
Saying I've been to Toronto is akin to someone driving from Virginia to Maine, stopping in Manhattan for 2 hours to wait in line at the Empire State Building, then leaving. It's bombastically inadequate, like tripping over the Dalai Lama's robe and claiming to have had a deep conversation with him.
While Toronto may not have an attraction of worldwide renown, it has plenty I'd want to see: Hockey Hall of Fame, a bustling lakefront, historic neighborhoods, museums, and incredible cuisine from around the world. Access is relatively simple too, with non-stop flights from Boston being preferable to the 12+ hour drive (at least for my family). One of these days I'll make it back!
2023 is also a year of travel anniversaries for yours truly, some more momentous than others:
30 years ago: First time outside of the US - it was only a stone's throw across the border in Niagara Falls, but you have to start somewhere! (July)
20 years ago: First time in both Philadelphia and New York City - separate trips that were, amazingly, just one month apart! (March-April)
15 years ago: First time west of Indiana (Arizona-California road trip, Jan.); first time in Louisiana (volunteer trip to NOLA, Oct.)
10 years ago: First overnight in Newport, RI, and last road trip in my MR2 convertible (May)
5 years ago: First time in Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia (April)
So, where are you headed in 2023? Feel free to let me know, I'm always up to chat travel! :)