I began tabulating this road trip post months ago, but never finished it until now. And fittingly, it is being published & shared on the exact one year anniversary of when Andrew and I set off in my little Honda Civic, bidding farewell to all we knew from our life in Seattle and driving all the way to New York State.
Road tripping across the US with my partner-in-adventure was absolutely incredible. And to think it wasn’t even in our original plan! Seeing the vast areas of America out the windows of a car can be so mesmerizing. From the evergreen-filled northwest to the cliffs along the pacific coast highway, the desserts of the southwest to the swamps of Louisiana and the islands up and down the east coast – this country is meant to be experienced from the road at any chance. If you are anything like me, you will never regret the chance to hit the road.
Now that I’ve had plenty of time to reflect, what’s a big ol’ road trip without documenting the best of the best?! Here are my picks…
Best city to get around (walking/public transportation) For me, it would have been NYC if it wasn’t for that silly crosstown bother. Boston is small enough to walk from nearly any point in the city to another, with the option of an easily navigable subway called the T, and therefore feels like a major metropolitan area you can get around with the most ease.
Best burger Andrew’s all-time favorite food is plain bacon cheeseburgers with a bottle of ketchup, so we hit up A LOT of burger places across the country.
For my favorites, I have to break it down…
Best veggie burger was from Burger Fi in NYC’s Upper East Side.
Best beef burger was homemade and grilled at my aunt Lynne & uncle Bob’s home in New York. I still think about that perfectly juicy burger, topped with a toasty bun and cooked with love!
And there’s no shock that my top fast food burger nod goes to In-N-Out. If you’ve experienced a meal at this institution, you understand exactly how this place lives up to the hype.
Best French macaron Hands down, Bakery Lorraine in San Antonio. The soft but crisp meringue biscuits perfectly sandwiched a smooth, velvety center – even more flavorful if you can wait for the macarons to come to room temp.
Best dessert/sweet snack I am gluttonously unable to pick just one here.
The big fat donut creations at Gourdoughs in Austin, Texas are mind-blowing and made-to-order. These donuts melt in your mouth, and the flavor offerings on their menu are carefully selected combinations, of which surely everyone can find at least one that suits their sweet tooth.
My other favorite sweet dish was Magnolia Bakery’s banana pudding. Not sickeningly sweet, as some pudding desserts can be. Instead, it was a delicious combination of soft vanilla wafers, creamy pudding and fresh bananas. My NYC girl Angela told me to skip the cupcakes and head for the banana pudding and thank goodness I took her advice!
Best pizza Of course there are categories here because, well let’s be honest, not all pizza is created equal.
Best plain cheese pizza is my forever my hometown West Winfield’s NY Pizza joint on Main Street. Although it is not as incredible as it was when I was younger, it is still doughy, with the right amount of delicious red sauce, loads of fresh mozzarella cheese and baked to golden perfection.
Best topping pizza was Ciro’s Pizza in Pacific Beach, California. Their huge slices are topped with everything from bbq chicken to pineapple, ham and bacon, to five cheese. Thin and crispy, Ciro’s pizza was ideal any time of day or night and had us returning several times during our stay in Pacific Beach.
Best wood fired pizza was surprisingly devoured in New Orleans! Arriving late at night with an Austin hangover, we were so ready to veg in our gorgeous hotel room and catch up on Breaking Bad. We searched online & found a nearby Domenica, and ordered some pizzas to go. They didn’t last long and were so tasty we went back for more before departing Nola.
Best BBQ Have to go with Dino BBQ. I can’t stray from my family’s favorite NY bbq institution. Their original slather sauce and maple whipped sweet potato side dish complemented the coleslaw-topped pulled pork so well.
Best drink My favorite liquor drink was Raspy Mule at Bare Back Grill in Pacific Beach. Nothing better than a fruity refreshing drink on a warm beachy day. Muddled fresh mint and raspberries with a splash of good vodka make a winning combination in my book.
My favorite wine was Phileo at Barboursville Winery in Virginia. Fresh, fruity and sweet, while not being too syrupy. Phileo can be perfectly paired with cheese and nibbles after a winery tour and tasting!
((And why even bother with a non-alcoholic favorite, am I right?))
Best shopping There is no better shopping than in NYC. You can find just about anything imaginable in the shops of NYC. I even spotted a pop-up Halloween costume shop for dogs! High end to secondhand bargain shops scatter the five boroughs that make up NYC. Good thing our days were limited in the Big Apple, otherwise my hubs would have spent all our travel budget on a new wardrobe!
Best beach While I fell in love with the Pacific Beach neighborhood as a vacation spot, my ‘best of’ award goes to the beaches surrounding Bald Head Island in North Carolina. Soft sand leads you to the warm ocean water. The beaches were incredibly clean and quiet since it was the off season, but I would imagine that even during high season these beaches are hard to beat.
Best day trip I almost went with Napa wine country, but then realized everybody needs more than just one single day in Napa. So with that said, Bald Head Island wins again here! Taking a day trip to BHI reminds you of how important the simple things in life are. Keep your electronics behind; rent a bike and cruise around the island; have a picnic lunch; sunbathe on the beaches and have a dip in the ocean water before a return ferry ride back to the mainland. Such a special little parcel of land off the coast of southern North Carolina.
Best fun activity my warm weather favorite was Barton Springs Pool in Austin. The water so refreshingly cool and enjoyable once you get past the slimy rocks on the bottom. Pack a picnic lunch and watch the day go by.
Best US state border sign In a country full of boring state border welcome signs, Arizona is my favorite with that giant star and bright sun rays motif. It just makes my feel so happy to be crossing the border into the Grand Canyon state! Side note: I think each of the states should do an artwork contest open to the public, select a winner and then update those old boring existing signs. Right?
Best Graffiti hands down Richmond VA, and I am sure you’ve seen the photos all over my instagram, twitter, facebook feeds to prove it. The tasteful graffiti in Richmond gives the city such a fresh hip artsy vibe and I cannot imagine it any other way.
Even after a two and a half month trip across the country, there is so much more to see, and last year’s experience only got me further amped up about future time on the road. My list of must-see places like Salt Lake City, the national parks of Montana, and a return to the Grand Canyon only grows with time. Road trips are the most intimate & best times spent with loved ones. Who’s ready for another road trip?
What destinations in the US are your favorite places to see by car?