At the end of another good and eventful year, I thought I’d share some photos and thoughts on my favorite places I visited this year. If you’re interested in seeing some of these cities, flip through the photo slideshows for ideas! Without further ado:
February: Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC
After a quiet and uneventful first month-and-a-half of the year, I jumped at the opportunity to accompany Kim to visit her friends living on a family cattle farm in Kingsport, the northeastern corner of Tennessee. After a night in their lovely renovated homestead, we made the drive to Asheville, North Carolina to visit the grandiose Biltmore Estate.
The estate and grounds were built in the 1890s, and stands as a hugely popular tourist attraction today. It was the summer residence of George Washington Vanderbilt II, and is still the largest privately owned home in the U.S.
If we’d had more time, I wish I could have explored the town more, as it’s known to be a bohemian outcropping in the South.
When I found out my college friend AnnMarie was completing her journalism residency in New York City, I decided to relive the three months I spent there during my own residency over a three-day weekend trip.
We packed a lot into the weekend, never once taking public transit as we wound our way from her Hell’s Kitchen apartment north through Central Park and the Upper East Side down through the Lower East to the Brooklyn Bridge before trekking back through lower Manhattan. In total, I clocked 39 miles of walking over three days.
On a side note, I was following a vegan diet during this trip, but was happy to find abundant food options in the city. Most notable was by CHLOE, the cult classic vegan NYC eatery. We even found incredible vegan cookies at Schmackary’s, which we may have gone to more than once…
April: Greeter Falls
One day, I finished writing my stories extra early, so I decided to make the 100-mile trip to Greeter Falls in Grundy County, one of Tennessee’s poorest areas.
It was a beautiful spring day, and I saw barely a soul along the brief trail to the falls.
This trip was planned around a music festival at the Sloss Furnaces, a historic site in the Magic City. As soon as I got into town, I stopped at the Urban Standard to fuel up with coffee and lunch. Then, I headed to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to learn about the city’s fraught racial history. Through a powerful display of visual and audial material, the city’s past comes to life. Most moving was a final display of artifacts that included one of the shoes belonging to Denise McNair, one of the four young black girls who was murdered in the1963 Ku Klux Klan bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church.
When I saw that display, tears clouded my eyes. And when I walked outside, across the street to the church where evil made its presence known that September day, I wept for the pain tangible in the air.
After driving to the suburb of Homewood to drop my things off at a friend’s guesthouse, we went down to the furnaces for the concert. Though I missed much of the event due to weather delays, I got to see a great many of the pieces that shaped the town and the South.
It was a busy August! Before I went to Milwaukee, I took a quick weekend trip to the Smokies with a friend who flew out to visit. I’ll write more about the Smokies in a bit, because I went a second time in September.
In Milwaukee, I visited with my dear college friend Van, who is attending Marquette University for law school. I spent time walking around downtown Milwaukee, across the Marquette campus, and even going for a swim in Lake Michigan. We visited the historic Third Ward on a sunny Saturday, walking near the river before driving up the lakefront. Sipping beer at a biergarten prepared me for my next trip!
In my first trip abroad, I chose to visit a country (Germany) whose history deeply impacted my own. While there, I took a bus to spend some time in Salzburg. As an avid Sound of Music fan, I couldn’t miss out on those sights, nor the historic churches in the area. Strolling through the ancient streets was a calming experience, but experiencing the history at St. Peter’s Abbey was my favorite memory.
Aesthetically, Berlin was not my favorite city, but the buildings and history I experienced while there made it a favorite. I spent hours studying the architecture and reading in the Berlin Chapel, and visited the Reichstag, Berlin Wall. After my 11 hour overnight bus ride (during which I discovered I had accidentally booked two hotel nights in Poland!) I found respite at Badeschiff, where I got to take a much-needed dip in the water.
Though I flew in and out of Munich, I only really had a day there before I went home. I spent it going to see Dachau concentration camp with my mom, then to a beer garden and biking through the English Garden with my brother (did I mention they followed me to Europe? They did.) After climbing to the top of the Glockenspiel, I checked out the view of the Marienplatz.
After returning from Europe, Kim and I took a long-awaited trip to the Smokies to visit Dollywood. It was a fun, well-maintained park, but the best part of this trip was the hike I took to the top of Mount LeConte, the second-highest peak in Tennessee. The 11-mile hike was worth it for the panoramic views throughout the entire hike. I’m also including photos from my trip earlier this year when Betsy, a friend from Las Vegas, came out to visit. We went to Clingman’s Dome, the top peak in the state and the Appalachians, and saw two bears on that trip!
October: Rock Island State Park
Though I had been here once before in the fall, when my high school friend Brittany came to visit, I thought it would be the perfect day trip from Franklin to bid adieu to summer. It didn’t disappoint. A short hike down to the falls is well-worth it; come ready to go swimming!
Since my recent college graduation, each fall brings the annual pilgrimage back to Chicago for Northwestern homecoming, and this year was no exception. After a tailgate outside Ryan Field with former swimmers, a surprise comeback win by the ‘Cats provided good spirits for a night out on the town.
In college, my favorite district was Wrigleyville. It’s always crazy, but my favorite bar is Old Crow Smokehouse, where live country music is nearly guaranteed. For me, no trip back to Chicago is complete without checking this item off my list.
I was excited to stay with my friend’s parents in their South Loop condo, with sweeping views of the city skyline and Lake Michigan.
On Sunday, I went adventuring around the city first on a run, where I ended up lost and in the Pilsen neighborhood. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking with my friend’s mother, taking in architecture of buildings like the Blackstone Hotel, Cultural Center, Loop Synagogue, City Hall and the Palmer House, during the city’s annual Open House weekend. A quick tour of Northwestern’s Evanston campus, including a new athletic complex, rounded out my weekend.
November: Northern Georgia
Another trip I can thank Kim for, and my first time in Georgia! I drove south into the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia to spend Thanksgiving with Kim and her family in two creekside cabins. I interspersed eating with watching football, hot tubbing, and of course, hiking.
At Amicalola Falls State Park, I hiked to the tallest waterfall in the state.