As we look back on our third travel season, we find ourselves with so many great memories. When we first began our Top 10 series, we had no idea that it would become so popular. Each travel season we are finding ourselves wandering farther and farther from home. This opens up so many new wonders for us and confirms that North America has almost limitless potential. To come up with our Top 10 Stops of 2019, we start by listing the cities we have visited. In 2019, this list included 12 destinations with at least one overnight stay. Of course, there were also a handful of day trips to fill up some weekends where we weren’t on the road. Let’s look at these top spots in no particular order.
We want to thank all of the CVBs, tourism bureaus, and local businesses who hosted our visits. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.
1) Palo Duro Canyon
We’ll kick off our list with a visit to Amarillo, Texas. This high plains city in the Panhandle is home to a wide variety of attractions. When we first laid eyes on Palo Duro Canyon, we were in awe of its natural beauty. What makes this stop even better is an assortment of ways that visitors can experience the canyon. While we may not have utilized all of the options, we did savor a few. Hiking, zip-lining, a jeep tour, and even an evening outdoor theater were on our itinerary. Each one was wonderful, but stacking them all into one day made it epic. (See more of Palo Duro Canyon here.)
2) Wonderland Park
Not all of the fun around Amarillo takes place in a canyon. An evening at Wonderland Amusement Park provided tons of all-ages, family-friendly entertainment. Whether you are looking for roller coasters or water rides, you will find them here. Toss in a variety of kiddie rides so the whole family has something to enjoy. They even have a miniature golf course that is as eye-pleasing as it is challenging. By the way, this family-owned and operated park has rides that are unique to this place, which catapulted them onto our top 10 stops in 2019. (Check out what we did there.)
3) C.W. Parker Carousel Museum
Since we are on the subject of amusement rides, let’s move to the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth, Kansas. At this stop, we learned about the history of carousels, as well as discovering that many of these melodious attractions were constructed in Kansas. The bonus to this museum is that you actually get to enjoy rides on a historic carousel. It certainly brought a lot of childhood memories rushing back. (You can see more including a carousel video here.)
4) National Mississippi River Museum
Let’s change gears and explore some of North America’s waterways. During our trip to Dubuque, Iowa, we made a stop at the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. We expected a short visit would cover this place, but quickly discovered that it is huge. Besides being home to two large facilities, there are also some outdoor exhibits to be discovered. An added bonus is that there is plenty of educational material about all waterways, and not just the largest river in North America. With so much to see and do, it was obvious that this was one of our top 10 stops in 2019. (See inside the museum here.)
5) Montmorency Falls
While we love watching rivers flow by, there is something special when they tumble over a drop-off. Having an opportunity to witness Montmorency Falls was one of the highlights of our Quebec City visit. While it may not be as wide as Niagara Falls, it is almost 100 feet taller. Besides, you can zip-line in front of this falls. After enjoying the view from one of the aerial trams, we even had a chance to walk across the top of this powerful natural attraction. (Check out more about Montmorency Falls here.)
Obviously, all of this water is bound to collect somewhere. In those places you find lakes, and some are larger than others. As a matter of fact, the Great Lakes are so big that they remind us of ocean views. Visiting cities along the shoreline of Lake Michigan has proven very fruitful for us. A couple of our top 10 stops in 2019 involved destinations that offered birds-eye views of this amazing setting.
6) Kenosha History Museums
In Kenosha, Wisconsin we discovered that they are happy to share their region’s history with visitors. In fact, they have three history museums that have FREE admission. Talk about a great way to cut costs during summer vacation. One of the museums focuses on dinosaurs, while a second takes over from there and leads guests through history to the beginning of the city. The third museum picks up the torch from there and leads visitors up to the present day. This is an amazing way to get a complete background. (Check out the museums here.)
7) Museum of Science & Technology
Moving down the shoreline of Lake Michigan, you will eventually arrive in Chicago, Illinois. We have had the pleasure of visiting this city a couple of times, but each trip was for limited periods. In 2019, we actually stayed outside of the city but did drive in for a special visit. On this particular outing, we had our two youngest grandkids in tow. We planned a day of exploring at the Museum of Science and Technology. Wow! This place is amazingly huge and filled with so many exhibit halls. You definitely need a day to see it all. (Check it out here.)
8) Lincoln Presidential Museum
Since we have landed in Illinois, let’s see what other great places we discovered there. Springfield, the capital city, was home to our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. The city is also known as a destination stop along the Route 66 path. With so many things to attract visitors, it’s the perfect place for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. We found this to be an amazing collection of artifacts and exhibits. The two theaters included inside the museum have unbelievable shows. (Read more about the museum here.)
9) Fort Scott
While our minds are thinking about the 1800s, let’s talk about another historic destination. Living in Kansas City allows us easy access to some nice day trip destinations. Just over an hour south of the city sits Fort Scott, Kansas. This frontier fort served as an outpost charged with keeping the Indian territory free of settlers. Having an opportunity to explore a large number of exhibits at this FREE attraction made it one of our top 10 stops in 2019. The accompanying information placards help tell the story of the lonely souls who were assigned to this fort. (See inside the fort here.)
10) Lindsborg Roots
Every year we try to add some good Midwest destination options to our travel schedule. Like many of you, we realize that there are some “hidden gems” scattered all around this part of North America. A good example is Lindsborg, Kansas. With the nickname of “Little Sweden USA”, it’s easy to figure out where the founding families originated. What we discovered is that the residents of the Central Kansas town embrace their immigrant pasts. A notable icon is the Dala Horse, which is associated with the motherland of Sweden. Throughout the city, we saw examples of these unique figures. A visit to Hemslöjd allowed us to learn more about the history and creation of these cute sculptures. (Learn more about Hemslöjd here.)
When we are visiting a destination, we always try to interact with the locals. Often we hear people remark that they would like to travel, but are waiting until they retire. We want to point out that I still work a full-time job, and we still manage to find time for all of these visits. I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to visit so many destinations each year. After all, our trips feature a high-octane version of a vacation, so that we can show you a variety of options from each city. Still, we hope that you find time to get out and explore our world as often as possible. There are so many great things to be discovered, and many are just around the corner. What were some of your top discoveries in 2019?