It's hard to believe 2021 is already in the rear view mirror. We visited so many places last year that it has become one giant blur and it's difficult to think about the all the incredible experiences we enjoyed. If you asked me what were the highlights, it would be hard to recollect them all, but thankfully we take notes along the way and I can easily share some of the best memories (as well as some of the worst).
While I can easily tell you the places I hate - like Hartford and Tucson - choosing a favorite is extremely difficult. We love the beach, the mountains, and the Arizona desert ... all for different reasons. How could we ever choose just one? But there are places that truly stand out and it will be those that make my top ten list for last year's visits.
My Top 10 Places Visited in 2021
#10. Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona
I absolutely and unequivocally love Arizona because it offers so much to people who love being outdoors. We've spent more time in this state than any other since we started traveling.
One of the most memorable stops was visiting Chiricahua National Monument. This national monument provides a variety of breathtaking and diverse scenery. The drive up the mountain is a little scary if you're afraid of heights, but it's so worth the effort.
If you like hiking, you will have no problem finding trails and experiencing a variety of options, and the town of Willcox also provides some incredible local restaurants and shopping.
#9. Huntsville, Alabama
It might seem odd to include a typical American city in my top 10 places visited in 2021, but Huntsville was very special for two reasons.
The first is that my dad was stationed at Redstone Arsenal and was involved with the Ordnance Guided Missile School. He worked on some of the very first missiles, including the Sergeant Missile. My oldest sister Maria was also born here and I heard stories of this place growing up, though I never got to visit with any of my family members.
Huntsville is also home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, one of the most impressive space museums this country offers! Not only will you be able to observe the famous Saturn V Rocket and feel the power of its engines, but you'll be able to witness many historic artifacts related to our race to space. The museum alone is totally worth visiting Huntsville.
#8. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Taking an impromptu trip on a holiday weekend isn't the best way to go due to over-tourism, but this time it worked out for us.
Our plan was to take a leisurely drive north to the tip of the Cape, explore the beaches and the area, then simply head back inland for the weekend. Yet as we got closer to the end, we knew we had to stay for at least one night because the scenery was amazing. Luckily we found the last hotel room at Foxberry Inn and our visit was a real treat. The area is perfect for hiking, biking, walking, or swimming.
Provincetown or P-Town is a really unique place that offers a variety of beaches, bohemian shops, eclectic restaurants, and art galleries. Unknown to us at the time, we learned this is a very large LGBTQ+ community that offers many week-long Pride style celebrations. The flamingo colored men outnumbered the women 200-1 and it was a very happy and accepting vibe. We had a lot of great laughs and fun.
#7. White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
If you're looking for a drive that will make your mouth drop, look no further than the White Mountain National Forest -- especially during the fall season as the leaves begin to change colors.
Our hope was to spend weeks in this area of New Hampshire and Maine, but due to unforeseen family circumstances, we had to cut this portion of our travel short. Despite the few days in the region, it was one of the most memorable experiences in 2021. Everything along the Saco River and the Kancamagus Highway was majestic and our hike in Bartlett was incredible.
At some point we look forward to going back to the area so we can spend ample time enjoying the great outdoors.
#6. Virginia Beach, North Carolina
Because our time in Myrtle Beach fell way short of my expectations, I didn't have high hopes for Virginia Beach. I figured it would be another shitty experience filled with stupid tourists doing dumb things. But I was definitely wrong!
While there is still the touristy feel to Virginia Beach, the vibe was completely different and the boardwalk by our resort was filled with fun, laughter, and ongoing excitement. There were plenty of awesome restaurants but the Calypso Bar and Grill delivered the best food and brews. And the beach area was clean, relaxing, and well maintained.
Beach Quarters was a little outdated and the studio room small, but the location was excellent and made up for the rest.
#5. Scottsdale, Arizona
While most of the country was dealing with cold and icy conditions in March, we were enjoying cold adult beverages by the pool with warmer temperatures in Scottsdale.
The Scottsdale Links Resort and Villa Mirage Resort were top notch. We absolutely loved both places because they were in great locations and offered plenty of opportunities to be outside. The daily walks in beautiful weather and the conversations at the pool were some of our favorite activities.
But Scottsdale itself wasn't the draw for us. While there are dozens of shops, restaurants, and breweries to check out, it was seeing how the "snowbirds" live during the winter and not being in frigid temperatures that made this time so special. Or in other words ... learn from those experienced and older adults!
#4. Acadia National Park, Maine
If you've ever been to Acadia National Park, then you know why this would be in my top 10 places visited in 2021! And visiting the state of Maine simply blew my mind.
First, the beauty that surrounds you in every direction is mesmerizing. Whether you're standing in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, taking photos of the lighthouse at Sohier Park in York, or loafing along Sand Beach in Bar Harbor, you will not be disappointed! Hiking around Acadia National Park is priceless, especially during the fall season.
There is a lot to do around Bar Harbor and within the town. We only scratched the surface and can't wait to return some day. Though next time we will be better prepared for the extremely high cost of staying there. It can kill your travel budget in the blink of an eye.
#3. Sedona, Arizona
When we first set eyes on Sedona, we knew there was something to love about this place. Between the painted rock formations and the hippy vibe, this town has become very special to us ... and we stayed here more than any other place in 2021.
Hiking in Sedona is some of the best we've experienced in the entire United States, even though getting to a trail head can be challenging and frustrating due to over-tourism. Renting a Polaris RZR and going off-road in the mountains was so exhilarating and worth every penny. And just watching the sunrise or sunset here is a true gift from God!
There really is so much to do around Sedona so no matter what you're interests are, you will have a great time. And it's a short drive to Jerome, another cool hippy town.
#2. Outer Banks, North Carolina
My oh my! Driving to the Beachwoods Resort in Kitty Hawk was something else and a part of our trip I will never forget!!
If you want to hang out in a really cool coastal region, the Outer Banks is your huckleberry. Between the surf shops, restaurants, outdoor entertainment, breweries, and pristine beaches you will definitely find something memorable to do. What do we recommend?
Check out the entire Cape Hatteras National Seashore including the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Bodie Island Lighthouse, Nags Head, Rodanthe Pier Place, and Frisco Beach. Then don't forget to head to The Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kitty Hawk, Duck, and of course Corolla and the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.
Basically do it all and enjoy the drive, but be patient because it can take 3-4 hours to make the entire trip due to traffic -- especially on the weekends. Regardless of how long it takes, you won't regret it.
#1: Maui, Hawaii
Hands down the best trip and location we've experienced so far! So of course it's #1 on our Top 10 List of Places Visited in 2021.
Maui was the vacation of a lifetime that we never thought it would happen. There's no comparison as to the resort, the beach, and the scenery. It's simply in a category of its own. I mean, having the beach AND mountains together was unreal but everything else on top of that just made this a magical place. Especially the Road to Hana!
But more importantly we got to spend our time with friends we love dearly, celebrating their anniversary and a 50th birthday. We are truly grateful for the opportunity.
There are so many other great places ...
It's difficult to make such a list because there are other places that were memorable as well.
We got to visit our friends Tim and Karen in Stuart, Virginia for a week that was so much fun. We hung out and partied with the Allen family in Beaufort, South Carolina. Savannah, Saint Augustine, Gettysburg National Military Park, Xenia, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park were equally awesome.
I guess at some point we should go back and write about these places, but there always seems so much to do.
But it's really about the people.
As much as we could both write about our travels and the incredible places we've been, what made 2021 such an awesome year of traveling was being able to spend it with people we care about and love. Those memories are the ones that are priceless.
So we want to wrap up this Top 10 Places We Visited in 2021 post by thanking our family and friends for letting us be a part of your journey as well. While I can't post ALL the photos and moments we captured, I've included some above.