2016…WHAT A YEAR! And that’s in more ways than one. From our perspective, it was yet another EPIC year of travel with so many amazing adventures and an endless list of stories to share. That’s the beauty of having a travel blog though because we can share all of these inspiring journeys and much more with all of our readers around the world. As we begin the New Year in New Zealand, we want to reflect back on our 2016 year of travel.
A Year of Turmoil?
Let’s start by taking a moment to reflect on the troubles the world has faced over the last 12 months. The world is a beautiful place but unfortunately, the threat of terrorist attacks has continued to exist. Cities like Berlin, Istanbul, Brussels, Nice, and Orlando have been directly impacted. But that’s not going to stop us from traveling and nor should it stop you! Check out our collaborative post on how we answered the question, is it safe to travel right now?
The United Kingdom have decided to “go their own way” after the whole Brexit fiasco in June when the UK chose to leave the European Union. And finally, who would have thought we would be saying the next US President would be a certain Donald J. Trump? A crazy year for sure but enough about politics and let’s share some inspiring reasons to get your wanderlust juices flowing.
2016 Year of Travel
If you read our 2015 year end review, you will know that 2015 was a pretty incredible year. Surely it couldn’t get any better than that? Wrong! Here are some more pretty astounding statistics about the last 12 months.
- We have now visited all 50 US states!!
- We have now visited 27 countries.
- We have achieved Hilton Honors Diamond status again for 2017 which means we stayed in a minimum of 30 hotels (or 60 nights which I think is probably a closer estimate!)
- We have done all of this and we are still working full-time jobs, though of course, it feels like we have two full-time jobs with the website!
The statistics don’t even begin to share the amazing adventures we had, so just like the last time we did one of these reviews, we are going to highlight 10 of our favorite destinations from 2016.
10. South Dakota
Over the Memorial Day weekend, we embarked on a road trip to visit our 47th and 48th states – the Dakotas! Admittedly, these were two of the states that we didn’t really have too many high hopes for. You don’t hear much about either of these, except for perhaps Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, primarily because it is frequently noted as an overhyped tourist attraction. However, in our opinion, the critics of South Dakota were proved wrong!
We entered South Dakota in the Southeast corner by Sioux Falls and spent an awesome couple of hours exploring this beautiful city, most notably the gorgeous Falls Park where we could easily have spent all afternoon relaxing by the river and impressive rapids.
A drive across I-90 saw us stay overnight in Rapid City before spending the morning walking around the perfectly named City of Presidents. A visit to Mount Rushmore to completely disprove the critics was an enjoyable experience and we finished our visit to South Dakota by taking a Badlands scenic drive.
It’s not the most convenient state to reach from Arkansas but we made two trips to Minnesota, for TBEX and for the 2016 Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National. Both visits were epic road trips though our first visit was primarily for the TBEX conference.
It did give us the opportunity to meet some great folks that work on promoting the beautiful “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and it helped us arrange a return visit at the end of September for the Ryder Cup. Prior to attending the final two days of the tournament, we headed to the beautiful city of St. Cloud to stay at the gorgeous Country Inn and Suites and explore what this destination had to offer.
From beautiful botanical gardens by the river to playing golf at Territory Golf Club, our visit was memorable and certainly helped us realize that locations like St. Cloud are just as beautiful as cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Home of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, our visit to Dubai started our round the world trip in December. This was our first visit to the Middle East and we had an amazing time exploring Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.
Dubai is understandably sometimes referred to as the “Las Vegas of the Middle East”, at least in terms of the glitzy appearance (of course, minus the gambling and drinking), but one thing that I noticed is the cleanliness of this city in comparison with its American counterpart.
The view from the top of Burj Khalifa is everything you could imagine from the world’s tallest structure. Breathtaking 360-degree panoramas are amazing and it’s well worth the admission fee.
Our stay at the Shangri La Hotel in Dubai was memorable for a myriad of reasons. It’s the ultimate relaxation hotspot and situated in a perfect location to explore the city.
I can’t wait to return and explore more ‘authentic’ Dubai, as our visit was cut short after only a few days. We took a quick stroll around the gold and spice souks that are a popular tourist spot in the city but I know there is so much more to experience in the heart of UAE.
7. New York City
Start spreading the news I am leaving today I want to be a part of it New York, New York
Every time we arrive in New York City, I can’t get those infamous Sinatra lyrics out of my head. We have published several posts on our site about our experiences and adventures around the Big Apple but let’s be honest, no one can ever get tired of reading about this magical city. Ok, perhaps we are a little biased because we both LOVE New York City so much but it just has that effect on us.
Clambering up those subway steps in Times Square and allowing your eyes to adjust to meet the dazzling lights always seems to put us into a trance that makes us realize that we are in the big city. But it’s not just the iconic tourist attractions that keep us wanting to go back.
In early 2016, we headed to New York City to experience the New York Pass. This is an awesome product if you are a first time or return visitor to Manhattan as you are able to utilize this on a variety of attractions around the city. The drawback is of course time limitations and trying to experience as many attractions/tours to get good value for money.
We visited New York City twice in the space of a couple of weeks, to explore the Lower Manhattan region while experiencing the amazing Millenium Memories package offered by The Millenium Hilton and a second time to attend the US PGA Championship at Baltusrol across the Hudson River in New Jersey.
This second visit allowed us to explore ‘outside’ of the Big Apple and we took an awesome day trip from New York City to Bear Mountain to admire the awe-inspiring views across the Hudson Valley.
6. St. Augustine
July 4th weekend rolled around with us having a predicament…we had nothing planned which was strange for us given that we usually take advantage of the long holiday weekends! We decided to take a last-minute road trip to Florida to explore the northeast coast from Jacksonville to St. Augustine.
Did you know that St. Augustine is the oldest town in the United States? We didn’t, that was until we visited this quirky yet beautiful town! Being an avid golfer, St. Augustine is also the home of the World Golf Hall of Fame and a tour of this venue was certainly an experience we will both cherish, minus my pathetic attempts at getting a hole in one on their infamous challenge hole!
If you are spending some time in this part of Florida, we strongly encourage you to visit downtown Amelia Island. Whether you are a foodie connoisseur or perhaps love architecture, this outlandishly beautiful destination is worth exploring.
5. Oklahoma City
One of the highlight trips of 2016 was our short weekend in Oklahoma City! It’s probably not one of the first cities that springs to mind when you think about places to explore but after spending a couple of days in the heart of Oklahoma, we well and truly fell in love with this city.
When you stay in awesome accommodation such as the Ambassador Hotel in the heart of Oklahoma City, it certainly puts you in the right frame of mind to explore the city. What we loved so much about OKC was the walkability of this city!
We walked everywhere from the Ambassador Hotel and discovered the best neighborhoods in Oklahoma City that we figure everyone needs to know about. Whether it’s the Spanish inspired Paseo Arts district or the rejuvenated Automobile Alley, Oklahoma City is a plethora of distinctive neighborhoods waiting to be experienced.
Did I also mention that we attended an OKC Thunder NBA game? That’s right, we were able to watch the likes of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook against the Utah Jazz and this was definitely an experience we cherished.
And one final reason to visit Oklahoma City…The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum! A trip to anywhere in Oklahoma wouldn’t be the same without visiting something associated with country and western…Need I say anymore!
What better way to celebrate the end of 2016 and bring in the New Year than a country we have been wanting to visit for a long time – New Zealand. We arrived in Auckland on December 30 and spent a week exploring the North Island but perhaps the highlight during our time in this city was venturing to the top of the Sky Tower and admiring the amazing views across the city.
Just like any other city around the world, we find it beneficial to take a trip to the top of the tallest building to get a birds-eye view of the city and figure out exactly where you want to explore next. We headed across to the Auckland War Memorial Museum which offered a poignant reflection on not only military history but other important events associated with New Zealand heritage.
We are experts in Asian culture now after visiting both UAE and Singapore on the same trip. That’s a slight exaggeration but we had a great time in Singapore, despite the intense humidity and heat that made it stiflingly difficult to walk around and explore as much as we like to in a new city.
Our stay at the Westin Singapore was another magical hotel experience. In fact, everywhere we stayed on our round the world trip was amazing. We were incredibly fortunate to find such great hotels and the Westin Singapore was the epitome of modern relaxation.
Venturing out for our “24-hours in Singapore”, we headed to Sentosa Island to experience the Tiger Sky Tower which was an enjoyable journey providing scenic panoramic views of the city.
Heading back to the mainland, we visited the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel before exploring the Gardens By The Bay which is a really cool experience. Forget your standard botanical gardens, these are modern and trendy with a lot to see and learn.
We all love the stereotypical Winter Wonderland and White Christmas but what about celebrating the holiday season Down Under? I think everyone should experience a Christmas in Australia at least once in their lifetime and we have now been fortunate to do this twice, both of which were amazing.
We spent Christmas 2016 in Melbourne and I think it’s fair to say we have fallen in love with what is classified as the “world’s most liveable city!” The Melbourne Star offers a 30-minute journey around the Observation Wheel, providing gorgeous views of the impressive skyline.
The Eureka Skydeck is Australia’s tallest building and is well worth the admission fee but the best aspect is “The Edge” where you are transported out three meters on a perspex ledge and given the opportunity to peer down almost 300 meters.
If you are looking for a bucket list experience in Australia at Christmas, why not head to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day for the opening day of the test match. We watched the Australians play Pakistan at the MCG and although cricket may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s a fun experience watching the crowds and of course, the cricketers in action.
The Great Ocean Road is another breathtaking experience and is a great day trip from Melbourne. This is a stunning stretch of coastline and offers countless amazing views across the ocean and scenic landscapes.
I’m not sure if the previous nine destinations are in any particular order but we can both agree our favorite spot in 2016 was Alaska! It was our 49th state and we had the best experiences here.
A scenic drive from Anchorage to Denali National Park saw us venture into the park and have amazing encounters with grizzly bears, caribou, and more wildlife.
The highlight was undoubtedly seeing the peak of North America’s tallest mountain, Mt. Denali, on several occasions. We can now lay claim to being part of the “30% club” but the various angles we captured of the peak were breathtaking.
Having spent a couple of days exploring Denali and the drive north from Anchorage, we spent the last part of our trip in Seward, by taking a cruise of Kenai Fjords National Park, courtesy of Major Marine Tours.
WOW…WHAT A YEAR! I don’t think we can emphasize enough just how amazing 2016 was. We have so many stories to tell, particularly from our end of year trip around the world. Hopefully, some of these destinations spark your interest and we can inspire you to head out in the near future to experience some of this amazing world we live in.
We have been privileged to take a lot of trips over the last few years and we hope that this will continue in the future. Although we have achieved some personal goals, such as reaching all 50 US states, we are under no illusions that we have seen everything. In fact, we have barely touched the surface but that’s the beauty of traveling the world.
We would like to wish everyone a Happy New Year and thank you all for following us on our travels. We have a lot to share and cannot wait to keep sharing our adventures with you! Here’s to an AMAZING 2017…Cheers!