This is the fourth annual Mike’s Road Trip “Best Of” list. As usual, there were many worthy contenders. While I’m sorry some did not make it, I’m confident I’ve chosen the best-of-the-best. Click on any of the links below to be taken to posts, pictures and/or videos of my experience.
I spent more than eight months on the road in 2013, including an epic coast-to-coast trip that started in southern Arizona and went as far east as Quebec…finally ending up in San Diego for the holidays. I knocked five states off of my list of those I’d never visited before. They included: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee. I now have only four left, Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I also visited two Canadian provinces I’d never been to before, Ontario and Quebec. As always, I had some amazing experiences that are fun to relive in a compilation “Best Of” road trip list.
To all the “winners,” congratulations! Your dedication and commitment to excellence have caught the eye of this discerning travel writer and video blogger. If you have not been contacted, please email me for your “Mike’s Road Trip “Best of’” icon to display on your website and social media profiles.
- Best Bed & Breakfast Winner: Ann’s Point Inn in Bass Harbor, Maine – Opulent, luxurious, romantic, amazing breakfast…every single detail of your visit has been thoroughly thought through.
- Best Inn Winner: Gervasi Vineyard is located in Canton, Ohio, but you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the hills of Tuscany. There are 24 luxurious suites, a wine bar, bistro and piazza overlooking a small lake.
- Best Resort Winner: Loews Ventana Canyon is a sanctuary for looking into the soul of the Southwest. Located in Tucson, this Arizona resort is known around the world for its majestic location and uncompromising accommodations, amenities and service.
- Best Urban Hotel Winner: The Chattanoogan Hotel in Chattanooga, Tennessee is an urban sojourn sanctuary. You’ll notice the elegant and modern décor throughout the property. With 199 rooms and suites, the Chattanoogan hosts a number of amenities—from its conference center, meeting spaces, day spa, roof-top pool, to three on-site restaurants.
- Best Business Hotel Winner: Cambria Suites by Choice Hotels – Sophisticated décor, MediaHub for all your technology, large flat screen TV’s, work space, in-room sitting area, free hi-speed internet, fitness center, indoor pool & spa and a barista bar make Cambria Suites a sweet place to do business.
- Best Eco-Friendly Hotel Winner: Golden Arrow Lakeside Resort in Lake Placid, New York has elevated the meaning of “green” in the lodging industry. Every aspect of the hotel’s operation is analyzed on an annual basis to see how the guest experience can be improved, while reducing its environmental impact. The best part…the guest experience has not been compromised in the least—the accommodations are sensational and the lakeside views will beckon you each time you enter your room.
- Best Value Hotel Winner: Santa Fe Sage Inn – Santa Fe, New Mexico is one of the best small towns in America. For those on a budget who want to be within walking distance to historic sites, great shopping, amazing restaurants and so much more, the Santa Fe Sage Inn is the place to stay. The accommodations are modest, but clean and comfortable. The staff is amazingly friendly with free amenities such as shuttle service to downtown, breakfast, workout facility and more.
- Best Hotel Suite Winner: Château Cartier in Gatineau, Quebec offers superior comfort and luxury. Stunning hardwood floors in the living room, a gas fireplace, two large flat screen TVs, spacious European contemporary bathroom and ultra comfortable bed with sweeping views makes this suite the best of 2013.
- Best B&B Breakfast Winner: Cliff Cottage Inn – In addition to the wonderful accommodations is one of the coolest small towns (Eureka Springs, Arkansas) I visited this year, Cliff Cottage Inn offers its guests a breakfast you’ll not soon forget. Breakfast is brought to your cottage each morning and served on your own private porch. The breakfast creations are a work of art, from lemon-orange soufflé, pork medallion with nature grazed chutney, French fennel potatoes and a Eureka Springs bug cake (pastry). Oh, and it’s served on a formal silver platter with fresh OJ and sparkling wine…makes ya feel a bit like an aristocrat.
- Best Hotel Gym Winner: Not a category I would normally include, but the gym at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Plattsburgh, NY is the most amazing hotel gym I’ve ever seen, and is worth a mention. At 16,000 s.f., Eclipse Fitness has every possible piece of equipment you could imagine, and, would rival any commercial gym in the country.
- Best Restaurant Winner: Les Fougeres is located in the small village of Chelsea in L’Outaouais, Quebec (Canada). The setting is reminiscent of a small French countryside inn, with some of the most artistically creative dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of consuming. Everything about this gastronomic experience emanated passion, creativity and excellence.
- Best Fine-Dining Experience Winner: Natalie’s in Camden, Maine. The dining experience at Natalie’s is simply extraordinary. The décor is as bold and refreshing as the culinary concoctions that exit chef Jon Gaboric’s kitchen. From the white tablecloths to the contrasting bright red accent and roses that adorn each table, the palate pleasures are as flavorful as they are creations of art.
- Best Casual Dining Experience Winner: White Mountain Cider Co. in the mountains of Jackson, New Hampshire is located in a renovated 1890s farmhouse, which is full of character—from the rough cut wood planks, odd shaped granite tables to the old barn door…the rustic charm is undeniable. While I tried a several dishes, my entrée left the greatest impression… Grilled Blue Fin Tuna on a bed of Asian jambalaya, which consisted of jasmine rice, Chinese sausage, sugar snap peas, cabbage with chunks of fresh lobster…this was stir-fried with a blue ginger-coconut sauce.
- Best Hole-N’-The-Wall Winner: Eat ‘n Meet Grill and Larder is a quintessential “hole-n’-the-wall that I was so happy to have discovered…thanks to some passionate local patrons who did not steer me wrong. Located in Saranac Lake, New York, Eat-’n-Meet is as different as it is delicious. Due to its popularity, it’s recommended that you visit their website, look at the daily menu, then call in your order and let them know what time you’d like to pick it up. Each day is a new dining experience based on the seasonally available ingredients.
- Best Dining Surprise Winner: Niagara Falls Culinary Institute is like a five-star restaurant, offering a fine dining experience in a contemporary, yet intimate setting…with the kitchen and its open hearth oven as the focal point. From the atmosphere, impeccable service to the culinary masterpieces, you will quickly forget you’re at a cooking school.
- Best Fish & Chips Winner: Point Loma Seafood Company in San Diego, California – Lightly breaded in what I guess is a cornmeal mixture, with thick pieces of the freshest seafood, accompanied with fries and excellent cole slaw. Point Loma Seafood is without question the best fish & chips place this year.
- Best Bakery Winner: Wildflower Bread Company in Sedona, Arizona. Situated in downtown, overlooking the majestic red rocks, Wildflower serves up some outstanding bakery delights. Two items you can’t miss…the vegetable frittata with rosemary potatoes and the walnut and banana pancakes. All the baked goods are simply amazing too. The setting, atmosphere, food and value make Wildflower worth the stop next time you’re in Sedona.
- Best Breakfast Winner: Amuse Bouche – This bistro located in Surprise, Arizona offers French panache and gourmet petit déjeuner. The intimate setting has the feeling of an authentic French bistro, with the aroma of cinnamon, freshly brewed coffee and other breakfast scents filling the air. When you go, don’t miss the Smoked salmon eggs Benedict, or the Belgian Waffle with fresh strawberries, bananas, vanilla whipped cream and brown sugar cinnamon syrup.
- Best Up-And-Coming Restaurant Concept Winner: True Food Kitchen – Scottsdale, Arizona. If you enjoy eating healthfully, while giving your palate a pleasurable memory it won’t soon forget, you have to check out True Food Kitchen. Seasonally inspired dishes, unique culinary concoctions, great atmosphere and affordable prices makes True Food a winning formula.
- Best Pub Winner Bistro L’autre Oeil in Gatineau, Quebec is a quintessential neighborhood pub. They stock more than 550 beers…the largest selection of any pub in Canada. They also serve some pretty tasty pub grub…I tried the Thai pizza which is cooked on a grill.
SCENIC VIEWS CATEGORY
- Best View from a National Park Winner: Grand Canyon east entrance.
- Best Lake View Winner: Piseco Lake at Poplar Point in the Adirondacks.
- Best High-Rise View : CN Tower in Toronto, Canada.
- Best Mountain Views Winner: Mount Washington in New Hampshire.
- Best Scenic Overlook Winner: Coachella Valley Vista Point (Hwy 74 above Palm Desert/Palm Springs).
- Best Waterfall(s) Winner: Middle Falls in Letchworth State Park, New York
- Best Gorge Winner: High Falls Gorge near Lake Placid, New York
- Best Aerial View Winner: Niagara Falls by Helicopter
- Best Vista Winner: Mississippi River just outside of Galena, Illinois
- Best/Most Eclectic Town Winner: Eureka Springs, Arkansas is a Victorian mountain village nestled in the Ozarks with copious things to see and do. You can zip-line through the forest, watch big cats feed at a wildlife refuge, view breathtaking vistas and scenic overlooks, fish in clear trout streams, photograph waterfalls or stroll through the colorful gardens.
- Best/Most Idyllic Town Winner: Hanover, New Hampshire is home to the Ivy League’s Dartmouth College. The campus dates back to 1769 and is the sixth oldest college in the country. Like many college towns, it’s full of energy and has a vibrant culinary scene. The historic charm is undeniable, as is the plethora of activities to enjoy.
- Best Historic Town Winner: Galena, Illinois epitomizes what I look for on the road…a place off the beaten path, full of history and charm, intrigue and attractions. A place that was once lost to the past, but then rediscovered by those with a vision for what could be. Galena continues to attract visitors for its historical charm, as well as its nature-inspired beauty.
- Best City Winner: Quebec City, Canada is a captivating place to explore. Every hill, corner, nook and cranny provides a unique sight, experience or vantage point. The city dates to 1608, so history runs deep in this French province. Amazing architecture, fine food and endless activities make Quebec City a place to add to your bucket list.
- Best Place to Explore Winner: El Morro National Monument is a wonderful example of why New Mexico is known as the Land of Enchantment. The area is surrounded by soaring sandstone bluffs that rise more than 200 feet from the valley floor. After reaching the summit of a mesa, you’ll discover a fascinating mixture of both human and natural history, which includes the remnants of a pueblo that housed Native Americans who once inhabited the area.
- Best National Park (US) Winner: Canyonlands in Moab, Utah consists of spires, plateaus and canyons carved out by the Colorado and Green Rivers. The park offers some extremely challenging four-wheel drive roads as well as great opportunities for hiking, biking, whitewater rafting and many other recreational activities.
- Best Canadian National Park Winner: La Mauricie in Quebec, Canada is a 536km natural conservation area. Whether you are seeking adventure or an opportunity to recharge, the park’s lakes, streams, waterfall and forests make it the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts.
- Best State Park Winner: Valley of Fire, Overton, Nevada – Valley of Fire is a Nevada State park located about 80 minutes northeast of Las Vegas. The park encompasses 44,000 acres of awe-inspiring and diverse landscape that will capture your attention around every bend.
- Best Aerial Ride Winner: Hot air balloon ride over San Diego. San Diego is one of the most beautiful cities in the country—with its lush foliage, rolling hills and ocean views. One of the best ways to experience this coastal community has to be in a hot air balloon.
- Best Botanical Garden Winner: Rock City Gardens, Chattanooga, Tennessee – Rock City Gardens take visitors on an enchanting journey that reveals wonders that only nature can create. The gardens have been enhanced by man, but mother nature has certainly done most of the work. Situated on fourteen acres, with massive rock formations, and over four hundred native plant species along with an awe-inspiring view and a 100′ waterfall, Rock City is a must-see while in the area.
- Best Small Museum Winner: Kent-Delord House Museum in Plattsburg, New York. This is an extraordinarily well preserved home/museum with many authentic artifacts…including artwork, furniture, china, medicinal items including an array of jars/containers containing period potions. The location over looking Lake Champlain is pretty special too.
- Best Museum Winner: Canadian Museum of Civilization is located in Outaouais, Quebec and provides amazing views of the nation’s capital across the Ottawa River. In addition to the spectacular architecture, visitors will discover Canada’s culture spanning 1,000 years of history through life-sized reconstructions.
- Best Historical Site Winner: Fort Niagara in Niagara Falls, New York – Fort Niagara is one of the oldest military installations in the nation, featuring historically significant architecture, live re-enactments and other living history events.
- Best Place to Explore Winner: Moab, Utah
- Best State Park Winner: Valley of Fire, Overton, Nevada
- Best Developed Camp Site Winner: Dew Drop, Allegheny National Forest, Pennsylvania
- Best Un-Developed Camp Site Winner: Just outside Canyonlands National Park
- Best Beach Winner: Carlsbad, California
- Best Secret Beach Winner: Mitchel Cove near Bass Harbor, Maine
- Best Outdoor Activity Winner: Eco Odyssey in La Pêche, Quebec is a marsh maze in which folks navigate the waterways in a canoe or paddle boat in search of clues that will return them to the starting point. The excursion is very educational, interactive and peaceful.
- Best Autumn towns for Fall Foliage
- Top 10 Road Trip Towns
- Best 20 Road Trip Songs
- Best 10 Gourmet Pizzerias
- Best of 2012
- Best of 2011
- Best of 2010
Note: The aforementioned are my personal “Best of” travels during 2013 and don’t necessarily represent, The best of all time.