Linda Aksomitis 2015

Every travel destination and attraction, no matter where it’s located, how big or how important it is, has something to offer visitors. During my travels this year, 2015, these were the 10 best attractions, events and destinations I enjoyed.

Best Attractions: Historic

My favorite historic attractions give me insight into what it would be like to live in another time and culture–the further from my own experience, the better. And nothing was more unfamiliar to me than the Missouri State Penitentiary in Jefferson City, Missouri. The Penitentiary, built in 1836, was once the largest in the U.S. and housed 5200 inmates at its peak. Now, after closing as a correctional institution in 2004, the Penitentiary is open for public tours except for the winter season. The tour guides were excellent, recounting various stories of the inmates, and providing access to a number of areas including the gas chamber where 40 men breathed their last fresh air along with the sodium cyanide that took their lives. What made me add this attraction to my 2015 list: the eerie, even horrific, look at what it was like to have been incarcerated in a penitentiary.

Missouri State Penitentiary

Best Attractions: Agritourism Destination

Coming from Saskatchewan, agriculture is a daily topic in my home, in the coffee shop, and on the news. This year, Wisconsin captured my interest for its many agritourism opportunities. I visited in June and July and sampled a lot of local color as well as flavors from cheese to cherries, and microbreweries to fish boils. My favorites:

  1. Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in Little Chute.
  2. Stone Cellar Brew Pub in Appleton.
  3. Rowleys Bay Resort traditional Fish Boil in Ellison Bay.
  4. Seaquist Orchards Farm Market in Sister Bay

Seaquist Farm

Best Attractions: Expo and Racing Event

After racing snowmobiles for a decade, it’s safe to say that I’m hooked on the sport–that and in my “spare” time I’m building an online snowmobile encyclopedia (unfortunately, I don’t seen to have much of that spare time to work on it!). This year the best snowmobile event we attended was the Haydays Expo, swap meet, and drag race in Blaine, Minnesota. The best part? Wandering through the expo and seeing all the latest in snowmobile technology.

Exhibit at Haydays

Best Historic City

Quebec City is one of my favorite destinations for its history and culture. While this Canadian city is small, with just over half-a-million people, it’s a city with lots of things happening as well as having a UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for Vieux-Quebec, the older part of the city. The only walled city north of Mexico, it has 37 National Historic Sites in the city and its enclaves. The best part: walking through the old part of the city, soaking up the centuries of stories the buildings have to tell.

Vieux Quebec

Best Night Life

Las Vegas will likely always be one of my favorite places to be outside at two in the morning! Although I’ve already visited Vegas half a dozen times or so, my trip this year with David and some friends still had me walking the strip during the wee hours of the morning. The best thing about Las Vegas: the lights, especially the Freemont Experience.

Las Vegas Freemont Experience

Best Destination Resort

I don’t visit many resorts, but I’ve found that checking in at a resort provides a great opportunity for complete relaxation–and in the case of The Lodge of the Four Seasons on Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, an opportunity to enjoy one of Missouri’s most beautiful lakes. Lodge of the Four Seasons has something for every member of the family: great fishing if Dad wants to cast a line (one of the best kept secrets is Lake of the Ozarks’ great winter walleye fishery) while Grandpa spends some time on the golf course, and Mom and Grandma relax at one of the Midwest’s biggest resort spas, Spa Shiki. And the kids? With four swimming pools and Kidtopia (games, crafts, sports and more), there’s something for everyone. The best part: HKs Restaurant and Bar with panoramic views of Lake of the Ozarks and the resort’s Japanese Gardens.

Lake of Four Seasons Resort

Best Attractions: Sporting Event

I have a bucket list of extreme sports I’d like to see and in November I was able to cross one off–Crashed Ice, which is an ice cross downhill sport. Skaters compete four at a time on an artificial ice track that changes elevation. In Quebec City, where I attended the event, they use natural terrain to build the 400 m (437.4 yards) track. What makes Quebec the perfect location, though, is that the track actually passes through one of the gates of the stone walls of Vieux Quebec! The best part: the keen competition and excitement of thousands of cheering fans.

Crashed Ice Quebec City

Best Attractions: Gardens and Foliage

While the fall colors are usually my favorite, this year I have to admit I found the International Peace Garden outside Brandon, Manitoba, surpassed the autumn palate. The garden was established in 1932 and carries a promise of peace between Canada and the United States for as long as men live. Each year spring is celebrated with a new mix of flowers and colors for visitors on both sides of the border to enjoy.

International Peace Garden

Best Cruise

While best cruise might be somewhat of a misnomer since I’ve never taken another cruise, my sail on board the Oasis of the Seas megaship on the Royal Caribbean Cruise line was an adventure. Living in a floating city with nearly 6000 passengers and over 2500 crew was a whole new experience, especially for someone who has lived most of her life in small town Saskatchewan (under 700 people!). The best part of ship life was the many things to do on board, from watching high divers and gymnasts to comedy clubs to Cats, the musical. Off the ship was fascinating too, with stops at islands along our route: the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, and St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Oasis of the Seas

Best Attractions: State Parks

State Parks each have their own character, but they all offer lots of outdoor experiences. This year Ha Ha Tonka State Park in Missouri was my favorite of all the ones I visited. The photo at the top of this list was taken at the Ha Ha Tonka Spring (12th largest in Missouri), which discharges about 58 million gallons of water every day. Below, you’ll see the ruins of a stone mansion built as the retirement dream of a wealthy businessman, Robert Snyder. There are also some amazing geological wonders in the park including a natural bridge that’s 70 feet wide, 60 feet long, and more than 100 feet in the air. The best part: hiking with tunnels, caverns, springs and sinkholes!
Mansion ruins in Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Best Wishes for 2016!

I thank you all for following me on guide2travel, and wish everyone wonderful travel adventures, on and off the beaten path, in 2016.

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