It’s still January, so it’s not too late to do a “Best of” list for 2018, right? Either way, I’m going to do it!
Travel is one of our family’s favorite activities, and we did quite a bit of it this last year. This summer, we took a 2-week tour of the Northeast, visiting 10 states and one Canadian province. In addition, we visited nine other states and explored our own state of Missouri a little more! That’s twenty states (and Ontario, Canada) in total visited last year! (Actually, I visited 20 states; my wife visited 21—she went to Washington—and our kids traveled to 18.)
We visited a lot of amazing places in twelve months, so I thought I would compile a list of my top 10 favorite places visited in 2018. Well, I quickly changed that to 15 and eventually to 20. Like I said, we visited a lot of places!
This places on this list are specific locations, not just cities. Let’s start with #20 and work our way up to my #1 favorite place I visited in 2018!
20. Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri
If you didn’t already know, my wife Shelly was selected as the 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year. In October, she was honored at a banquet in Jefferson City. While we were in Jefferson City, Mike Kelley—a state representative from the other side of the state—reached out to Shelly about giving our family a tour of the state capitol!
I had never visited the state capitol before (I’ve only lived here seven years), so I was really excited to get a kind of behind-the-scenes tour. I love history, and Missouri’s is incredibly rich and interesting. The capitol is filled with murals and other artwork detailing the amazing and sometimes painful history of the state. We even got to go onto the floor of the House of Representatives and up into the Whispering Gallery—the upper part of the dome which creates a bizarre auditory experience! If you have never toured your state capitol, put it on your list of things to do this year!
19. Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri
Another awesome experience our family had as a result of Shelly being the 2019 Missouri Teacher of the Year is that we were invited onto the sidelines of a Kansas City Chiefs game in December! Now, I am a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, but being on the sidelines before an NFL game is something I will never forget—no matter the team!
Arrowhead has been designated the loudest stadium in the NFL, and it was definitely raucous! We got to watch Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill, and the rest of the Chiefs warm up just a few feet from us. And, former Oklahoma Sooner (our college team) James Winchester even came over to the sideline to meet us! If you are a football fan, put Arrowhead Stadium at the top of your list of stadiums to visit!
18. My Grandfather’s Childhood Neighborhood in New Orleans, Louisiana
Okay, so this might not mean much to you, but it was very special for me! My grandfather was born and raised in New Orleans, but he and my grandmother moved to Oklahoma right before my mom was born. New Orleans was a huge part of his life, but I never experienced it with him. In June, Shelly and I took a quick trip down to New Orleans, and I wanted to make sure to see where my grandfather grew up.
My grandfather—“Papa” to his grandchildren—died when I was in high school. Even though his childhood home was replaced with a gas station several decades ago, I still felt a special connection to him when I stood where the home used to stand. If your parents or grandparents are still living, be sure to go with them to experience where they grew up. Ask them a million questions and listen to their stories.
17. The Statue of Liberty in New York City, New York
The Statue of Liberty was one of those things that I didn’t know how cool it would be to see in person until I actually did! I might have geeked out a little bit when I saw it for the first time, which was probably compounded by the fact it was the Fourth of July!
It might be higher up on our list if we had actually gone to the statue and ventured up to the top. Unfortunately, our boys were too young to climb to the top. (There is an age restriction.) We didn’t travel to Liberty Island; instead, we took the FREE Staten Island Ferry which sails from the tip of Manhattan right past the Statue of Liberty and on to Staten Island. It was a very special experience for our entire family!
16. The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri
Music is one of my passions. I feel equally at home in the stands of a sporting event as I do at the theatre!
The Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis is a beautiful, historic theatre, perfect for enjoying a show. We were fortunate to be able to visit The Fox twice this year! Our entire family really got into American Idol this past year, so we made sure to get to the American Idol Live Tour, where we even got to meet many of the performers! And in November, we also saw Aladdin (the musical), which is one of our kids’ favorite Disney movies!
If you visit St. Louis, be sure to catch a show at The Fabulous Fox!
15. Six Flags Over Texas in Arlington, Texas
I love amusement parks and roller coasters, and Six Flags Over Texas is the park I grew up visiting. Back in the spring, we took a trip down to Texas and used our season passes to visit the original Six Flags!
The first upside down roller coaster I ever rode was The Shockwave when I was four years old, and, now, The Shockwave is also the first upside down roller coaster my son Bennett rode at five years old!
We had a blast at Six Flags Over Texas, and it was so special for me to relive my childhood favorites with my own children! If you love amusement parks, Six Flags Over Texas is a must!
14. Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que in Leawood, Kansas
It doesn’t take long once you meet me to discover my love of food, and specifically, bar-b-que/barbecue/BBQ! The original Joe’s (formerly, “Oklahoma Joe’s) is in an operating gas station on West 47th Street in Kansas City, KS and serves the best brisket I have ever had in my life. (And I have eaten a lot of brisket in a lot of places!)
Twice this past year we visited the Leawood location, and the food is every bit as good as the original location. If you love BBQ, you must go to Joe’s! Just be careful; the fries are addictive, and you will crave the brisket every single day for the rest of your life!
13. Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma
Gathering Place is a 66.5 acre (soon to be 100 acre) park along the Arkansas River two miles from downtown Tulsa. It was designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the same team that designed Brooklyn Bridge Park in Brooklyn and Maggie Daley Park in Chicago among many others.
Gathering Place was opened in September of 2018, and we were able to visit on a beautiful day during Thanksgiving break. We only had time to explore a tiny fraction of the enormous park, but our kids would have stayed there all day (or longer) if we would have let them. They loved climbing, jumping, running, sliding, swinging, crawling, and exploring the various features and playgrounds!
Gathering Place was recently named the “best new attraction in the nation” by USA Today. Readers chose it over nineteen other eligible attractions from across the country!
It is definitely worth visiting Tulsa just for this park, but be sure to check out all the museums, architecture, food, entertainment, and outdoor activities the Tulsa area has to offer, too!
12. The Silos in Waco, Texas
Our daughter has become a huge fan of the show Fixer Upper and all things Chip and Joanna Gaines. We made a special trip to Waco this past Spring so she could visit The Silos and Magnolia Market.
I have to admit, I wasn’t that excited to visit, but that quickly changed once we arrived on a hot Texas morning. Chip and Joanna have created their own unique gathering place, where families and friends can enjoy being together. In addition to the home decorating store, garden, gardening shop, and bakery (with some of the most delicious cupcakes I have ever tasted), there is a huge lawn (artificial turf) surrounded by food trucks and picnic tables.
We ate, we shopped, we ate some more, we played, and we ate some more! We had barbecue (you know I got some brisket!), pizza, corn dogs, and chili dogs. For dessert, we had cupcakes, a cookie the size of our three-year-old’s head, and snow cones! We played cornhole, and our five-year-old son played soccer with an awesome group of high school kids.
Husbands, if your wife wants to drag you to Waco, Texas, let her! There’s brisket and dessert!
11. Chelsea Market in New York City, New York
As you may have guessed by now, people tend to refer to me as a “foodie.” I do have a slight obsession with discovering new dishes and new cuisines, and I am constantly searching for the best of every type of food.
When we visited New York this past summer, many of my friends told me, “You HAVE to go to Chelsea Market!” They were right!
Chelsea Market is like a shopping mall…if the mall were overflowing with culinary geniuses. While there are a few non-food-related shops, most of Chelsea Market is restaurants and food stands. Our entire family loved sampling a wide variety of foods—pizza from Filaga, Taiwanese noodle soup from Very Fresh Noodles, gelato from L’Arte del Gelato, and the best tacos I’ve ever had from Los Tacos No. 1. (I honestly did not expect this in New York!)
Add Chelsea Market to your list of must-dos in New York City!
So, that’s places 20-11. Hopefully, you have been inspired to go on your own Dadventure…or Momventure…or whatever kind of adventure you choose. Be sure to check out my Top 10 places visited in 2018!
And if you would like to know all the states and cities we visited in 2018, here’s the full list:
- Connecticut: New Haven
- Delaware: Wilmington
- Illinois: Chicago
- Indiana: Santa Claus
- Kansas: Kansas City
- Kentucky: Henderson
- Maine: Acadia National Park, Portland
- Massachusetts: Boston, Cape Cod, Plymouth
- Mississippi: Biloxi, Gulfport, Jackson
- Missouri: Columbia, Jefferson City, Kansas City, Sikeston, St. Louis
- New Hampshire: Conway
- New Jersey: Secaucus
- New York: Buffalo, Niagara Falls, New York City (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens), Utica
- Oklahoma: Muskogee, Tulsa
- Ontario, Canada: Niagara Falls, Toronto
- Pennsylvania: Philadelphia, Scranton
- Rhode Island: Providence
- Texas: Dallas, Waco
- Vermont: Woodford State Park
- Wisconsin: Wisconsin Dells