My Top Ten Places of 2011


December 31, 2011, Washington, DC: There was much to celebrate in 2011, and extensive celebrations meant extensive travel with family and friends. Read on for a personal top ten list revealing my favorite places to be a part of in 2011.

10. Charlottesville, VA: The list starts and ends with wedding travel, the primary reason in recent years to traverse the country and experience other people's hometowns. A return trip to Charlottesville for a May wedding at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains reminded me how well I know this happy college town. After visiting countless times to stroll the corner, the downtown mall, and the gorgeous countryside, or to enjoy bagels at Bodo's and sandwiches at Bellair Market, a Charlottesville wedding reminded me just how many friends have made this place a part of their stories.

9. Georgetown Waterfront, Washington, DC: The Georgetown waterfront makes the list for multiple reasons -- from a night paddle on the Potomac to watch July 4th fireworks to long summer afternoons in a kayak on the river. In late fall, we celebrated this place for yet another reason, with a hometown wedding at the restaurant Sequoia. White lights sparkled over the waterfront from Sequoia's patio against a backdrop of the Kennedy Center, Roosevelt Island, and the Potomac River, highlighting all there is to love about DC's waterfronts.

8. DC's Other Waterfronts: 2011 also marked the first year I got to know the city's other waterfronts beyond the northwest quadrant. Living for the first time in the southeast quadrant of the city, we began frequenting the southeast and southwest waterfronts closer to home. In southeast, we began to spend time at the ballpark, at an evening movie outside by Yards Park, or at a Friday evening food truck party. In southwest, we enjoyed meals at Cantina Marina and got a sense of how much boat culture has made its mark on this downtown neighborhood. As they continue to grow, both waterfronts remain high on my list of places to further experience in 2012.

7. Hometowns of Family: Connecticut, Boston and New York repeatedly make the list of places we'll always enjoy coming home to. They are some of the primary places in which we grew up. They are places with family.

6. The Bike Lanes of Washington: The city's extensive network of bike lanes most  certainly makes the cut of places I most enjoyed exploring in 2011. I credit the growth of our bicycle culture with fundamentally changing the way I see and experience this city, whether pedaling a red Bikeshare bike or getting in a workout on the many car-free routes around town.

5. Sweet Home Chicago: What would a year be without a visit to the relatives in Chicago? In 2011, there were not one but two visits back to the Windy City. There was time to return to the old neighborhood, to traverse the massive, flat suburbs, to catch up with family, and to revisit some of our favorite spots downtown, from the cozy bar at the Elysian Hotel to the old haunts in Lincoln Park.

4. Lincoln Park, Washington, DC: A second Lincoln Park, one far from Chicago, caught my attention this year. Without warning, Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill quickly surpassed Rock Creek as my favorite park in Washington. Five days a week, I circle the park on my morning and evening routes out of town and more often than not, we make weekend stops there, too, for a morning walk or an afternoon run. Past the dogs, past the children's playgrounds, past the Bikeshare station and hustling down the steps in the center plaza, we appreciate this fantastic park that we are so lucky to have close by.

3. Montreal: I woke up yesterday in Montreal and already it feels a world away. To be sure, a short 51-minute, free, frequent flyer flight from New York transported me into another world -- one where the french language littered the air and snow blew furiously along the ground. A trip back to my first hometown was a perfect and nostalgic way in which to finish off the year.

2. Oia, Santorini, Greece: There's no place like Oia, especially for a honeymoon. In a simple photograph, we can feel the warm breeze, see the crowds gathering for sunset, hear the applause as it sets, remember sipping wine on the Caldera and eating feta for breakfast. Fanari Villas in Oia has skyrocketed to the top of our list of stories of place. It's a place that's reignited the travel bug and prodded us to remember there are a million places left to go.

Photo credit: David Gala

1. White Fences Vineyard and Hope and Glory Inn, Irvington, VA: The ultimate celebration of the year in our book was made that much more special by the power of the place in which it happened. White Fences Vineyard and Hope and Glory Inn, run by Peggy and Dudley Patteson, in the tiny town of Irvington, Virginia served as our happy gathering place. It also served as our jumping off point to many more celebrations in the years ahead.

Photo credit: Earl Kendall
Cover Photo credit: David Gala
What were your favorite places of 2011? Share them in the comments and/or participate in the project!