Don’t Overlook Your Own Back Yard

three u.s. destinations to add to your bucketlist pin
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When creating a bucket list, far-flung destinations often spring to mind first, but we should all remember that there are some incredible U.S destinations worthy of making that list. This year in particular, when international travel is likely to remain disrupted for a while, it just might be the time to turn your focus a little bit closer to home. We’ve got three great suggestions:

#1 Alaska

Mountains, lakes, glaciers, waterfalls, and extraordinary wildlife. If you’re looking for adventure in the great outdoors, Alaska is the perfect escape to start planning now — especially after spending so much time indoors these past few months! With so many gorgeous national parks and adventurous excursions to choose from, this trip will take some advance planning — another reason it belongs on a bucket list.

two people looking at the snow capped mountains in Alaska from boat
Annie and her mom enjoying the stunning views in Alaska

There’s no shortage of natural beauty in Alaska. Denali National Park has the highest peak in the U.S., breathtaking hiking trails and amazing wildlife viewing opportunities. If you’ve always wanted to see a grizzly bear, then Katmai National Park is the place to go. Famous for their “Fat Bear Week“, you can fly into the park and stay at a local lodge while keeping an eye out for grizzlies catching salmon. To see more bald eagles than you can count, check out the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve outside Haines, Alaska. And to get the most out of any of these parks, experience them with a knowledgeable guide booked through an outdoor adventure tour operator.

glaciers in alaska

The majestic Glacier National Park lets you see a calving glacier create a tidal wave. Stand in awe of these icy giants, explore the ice caves, or see it all from above with a helicopter tour.

The best hiking, fishing, and wildlife sightings are in summer and early autumn. But don’t discount late-winter and early-spring visits. Snow-filled activities like dog-sledding, seeing the start of the Iditarod Race, and chasing the Northern Lights are in store for a February-March trip.

For a truly unique experience search the skies for the Aurora from a relaxing hot spring at Chena Hot Springs Resort.

Whatever your outdoor adventure goals, head to Alaska for the stunning landscapes and variety of adventures.

woman holding a small husky puppy

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • See grizzly bears in their natural habitat
  • Glaciers & ice caves
  • Go dog sledding and cuddle a husky pup
  • Whale watching
  • See the Iditarod Race
  • Northern Lights
  • Ultimate fishing experience

#2 Sedona, Arizona

A calming and centering experience awaits you in the unique red rocks of Sedona, where you can combine relaxation with the great outdoors. You can hike, horseback ride and golf, or lounge pool-side, dine al fresco, and indulge in a decadent spa treatment at a luxurious resort like L’Auberge de Sedona or Enchantment.

sedona night sky next to a pool
Sedona’s Dark Skies are perfect for star-gazing [Photo Credit: Mark via Unsplash]

This small Arizonan town offers a huge number of beautiful hiking trails, and even a naturally-formed ‘waterslide’ in Slide Rock State Park.  You can enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery from your balcony, or during a morning meditation session, before going out to explore.

red rock formations at sunset in sedona arizona
Sedona’s majestic red rocks at sunset

If hiking isn’t for you, off-road Jeep tours venture out into the canyons to bring you close to ancient petroglyphs and Puebloan architecture such as Montezuma’s Castle (one of the best-preserved cliff dwelling in North America). Or you can take a guided kayak river trip down to the vineyards for some afternoon wine tasting.

two women at tlaquepaque craft villiage in Sedona Arizona

Finally, don’t miss out on the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. Modeled after a traditional Mexican village, you’ll find serenity within its walls. Browse shops and galleries where more often than not you can meet the creators. See beautiful hand-made jewelry, metal works, paintings, and other crafts before enjoying a delectable lunch.

A bucket list two-for-one, Sedona is situated only a two-hour drive from the Grand Canyon! Explore one of the seven natural wonders of the world on a day trip from your meditative and rejuvenating home base.

a woman looking up at the saguaro cacti in arizona

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • Off-roading adventure
  • Spiritual experiences among the red rocks
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Slide down a natural water-slide
  • Get up-close-and-personal with saguaros
  • Visit the Grand Canyon

#3 Florida Keys

Perhaps after all this craziness you just want to relax by the beach with a cool drink in hand. Look no further than the collection of islands at the southern-most point of the continental U.S. — The Florida Keys. ‘The Keys’ offer some of the best sunsets, seafood, snorkeling, and SCUBA around. Warm water, breath-taking parks, and the best key lime pie in the world? Definitely a location to add to the bucket list.

sunset with palm trees and infinity pool overlooking ocean Florida Keys
The Bungalows waterfront pool in Key Largo [Photo Credit: The Bungalows Resort]

Start at the northernmost island, Key Largo, with the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Explore coral reefs, seagrass swamps, and mangrove forests. Take a ride on a glass-bottom boat, kayak through the mangroves, or visit the nation’s first underwater park!

white bird against green grass in florida

Continue your journey along the Overseas Highway to mingle with the wildlife. Stop at the Wild Bird Sanctuary, the Dolphin Research Center and the Turtle Hospital.

Finally, cross the Seven-Mile Bridge and finish your journey in Key West. You can visit Ernest Hemingway’s house ( with its 50+ cats) and take a selfie at the southernmost point of the continental U.S.

The road trip from Key Largo to Key West is only two hours, leaving you plenty of time to sit back and relax. The Keys are their own paradise, of course, but you can also take it up a notch with a stay in a luxurious beachfront bungalow.

The Bungalows Resort soak with a view

In Key Largo, you’ll find the all-inclusive The Bungalows Resort — a beautifully peaceful location with luxurious adults-only private villas. Their stand-alone bungalows come with a waterfront view and a soaking tub on each outdoor veranda, and you can relax in the spa, pools, or with a morning yoga session. You can also venture a little further south for the luxury of a private island resort and spa at Little Palm Island. Here, guests arrive by boat or seaplane, and enjoy adults-only luxury with an optional all-inclusive plan that makes the experience complete.

Top Bucket List Experiences

  • Jetpack water flight
  • Snorkeling coral reefs
  • Dolphin Research Center
  • Turtle hospital
  • Hemmingway’s House
  • The southernmost point of the continental U.S
  • Key lime pie and conch fritters
  • Airboat through the everglades

Whether you are building your bucket list around adventure, relaxation or luxury, there are some fantastic options close to home. It’s not about how far away you travel, but the unique experiences you have, the breathtaking things you see, and the lasting memories you create. If you’d like to start planning a bucket list-worthy trip to any of these destinations send us an email!

An Enchanting Escape

Sometimes, when you don’t have time for a full-fledged, week-long vacation, a quick getaway will do — as long as it’s to the right destination! My clients just returned from a four-night “escape” to the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, and it sounds like it definitely did the trick! 

Hi Ann – 

We absolutely loved Sedona and have already discussed what we will do/see “next time we go.” You were a major reason why we were able to stay at such an amazing resort for a relatively reasonable rate – thanks so much!

We ended up getting an upgrade on the rental car – I guess I should have consulted Mike before reserving an economy car – hahaha — and the ride from the airport to Sedona was beautiful – the suspense building at every turn. Mike and I were very pleased with the accommodations at Enchantment. We especially liked the mimosa brunch we indulged in our first morning. This brunch occurs every Sunday, reservations and a hearty appetite required. What seemed to be endless food choices filled the dining room of the Yavapai restaurant while mimosas were poured freely. The best part was the outdoor seating at the restaurant where it was encouraged to sit on the same side of the booth (awkward normally) so that all could enjoy the breath-taking views. 

Our days were spent hiking, eating, or sitting pool-side with a book. We ate all meals at one of the three restaurants on the Enchantment property. All were within walking distance but if you prefer, golf carts driven by Enchantment employees will gladly pick you up curb-side. The food at the restaurants (Yavapai and Mii Amo Spa Cafe in particular) were pricey but we couldn’t take ourselves away from the beauty of the property to eat elsewhere. We hiked every day and a few of the trails were right off of the Enchantment property, which meant that we didn’t have to hop in the car to get there. The resort also had mountain bikes available for guests’ use, along with bottled waters and helmets. Mike and I ventured out on the trails our last day and took in the views for one last time. This ended up being Mike’s favorite part of the trip and he thinks he may have found a new hobby in mountain-biking as a result. As far as my favorite part of the trip, I think the mountain biking was a tie with the brunch. 

As far as advice for people traveling to Sedona – Enchantment was a great choice for places to stay. It is set apart from downtown, so it is very quiet. The downside (or plus for me since Mike’s iPhone rarely had a good connection) is that cell phone use is pretty limited.  Enchantment offers a very thorough menu of daily activities ranging from yoga classes, to mountain biking excursions to wine tastings. Take advantage, as they are all part of the resort fee. 

I have attached a few pictures although they hardly do the red rocks any justice. 

Mike and I are hoping to make a trip to Italy next…although it may be another year or so before that happens. Until then our memories of wonderful Sedona will bring smiles to our faces. 

Thanks for everything Ann! We look forward to your assistance as we plan our next adventure. 

Amy & Mike

Are you a “tomgirl”?

I never thought of myself as a “tomgirl”, though I certainly played sports in high school and I do enjoy the outdoors. Granted, my vacations usually include some kind of soft adventure (kayaking, hiking, and such) but they are just as likely to include a “girly-girl” afternoon at a spa or a winery.

So I was not sure what I would think of the event I went to last night — the launch of a new tour company called “Tomgirl Tours“. Would they be promoting hard-core adventures for the very fit? Sleeping in tents? Doing without showers? The last could be a deal-breaker — as my husband will attest,  my hard and fast rule is that I won’t stay anywhere I can’t plug in my hairdryer.

I should never have worried!  These Tomgirl tours are right up my alley.

In 2009, for their launch year, they are offering week-long trips to Sedona and the island of St. John (USVI), as well as weekend getaways to Providence and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Each itinerary includes a well-balanced mix of soft adventure (hot-air balloon rides, snorkeling, ziplines, and even indoor skydiving) and interesting educational experiences (cooking classes, visits to artists’ galleries, an historic walking tour), BUT they also include time for outlet shopping, sun bathing, and some fabulous dining.

Best of all, it’s women-only. And it’s all-inclusive.  So instead of having to be on duty worrying about all the details for a family trip, we women can sit back, relax and enjoy ourselves with our girlfriends!

Their “Savory City Tour” will take place right in my own backyard, here in Providence and Newport, on July 31 – August 2, August 28 – 30, and September 18-20. In addition to spending two nights in a beautiful boutique hotel (the four-star Hotel Providence), it includes some absolutely priceless experiences, like a trolley tour of the city with former Mayor Vincent “Buddy” Cianci, an al fresco cooking class, and an historic walking tour with local restaurateur Bob Burke. If you’re interested in a girls’ getaway in the Renaissance City, give me a call!

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)