Bethany’s 2015 Travel Awards

2014 was a more dramatic year for me of traveling around Europe while I lived in London, but I did a decent amount of traveling again in 2015. It was mostly domestic and in the Midwest, because I cannot stop traveling and checking out new places while trying to conserve on the travel expenses for my trip to Australia in 2016. It’s worked reasonably well to keep me busy and happy. All but a few of these were within a 5-hour drive of my abode near Indianapolis, perfect for a weekend or long weekend of exploring.

New places:

  • Louisville, KY
  • Nashville, TN
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Minneapolis, MN
  • Ann Arbor, MI
  • Marshall, MI
  • Milwaukee, WI
  • Toronto, ON
  • Chattahoochee Hills, GA
  • Indiana:
    • Madison
    • New Harmony
    • Parke County
    • Turkey Run State Park

Returned to and explored more:

  • Detroit, MI
  • Chicago, IL (several times)
  • New York, NY
  • Shipshewana, IN
  • Pokagon State Park, IN

Favorite new things in a familiar-to-me city

Chicago food tour and architecture cruise. My dad lives near Chicago, and the last few years I’ve been discovering a new appreciation for this city and checking out places I’ve never been. This year, I toured the city for a couple days with my friend Steph, who was visiting from England, and we did two things I loved. The first was a food tour, and Chicago has amazing food and unique neighborhoods I hadn’t seen before, so I LOVED that. The second was an architecture river cruise. I learned a whole lot about architecture I didn’t know before, only some of which I’ve retained, but I did gain a new appreciation for the uniqueness of the city’s buildings.

9/11 Memorial and Museum. I also was able to go on a brief work trip to New York City, which I’ve spent a few days in before, but this time went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and was blown away by it. The museum is thorough and immerses you in all the details of what happened that happened that day. I ended up spending most of a day there and still didn’t quite get to see everything!

Favorite new-to-me town in my state:

Madison. Indiana has a lot of small, historical towns, and I visited (and re-visited) several of them this year. They all have an interesting tidbit to offer, but I think I was most struck by the lovely little town of Madison, on the southern border of Indiana not far from Louisville, KY. My cousin Emily and I took a day trip there in March, when there’s not a whole lot going on, but we walked around a neighborhood with a lot of historic houses, ate some homestyle midwestern food, checked out the flooded river, and did some shopping in the adorable shops on the main street. It’s just a charming tiny town in the corner of the state for a nice day out.

Most surprising cities to me:

Nashville, TN and Louisville, KY. Up until recently, I had a pretty strong bias against the South. I probably still do a little bit, but after having visited Louisville and Nashville, I’m past a lot of that.

Even a couple of years ago, when someone recommended Nashville as a place to visit, I balked at the idea, because I associate the city with country music and the Grand Ole Opry, both of which make me cringe. However, after people kept suggesting it, I did some research, and there’s quite a lot to the city besides the country music scene. It’s a music city of all genres, has fantastic food, and is very bike-friendly. So I drove the 4.5 hours from Indy to Nashville (surprisingly shorter than I had realized) and spent a long weekend there, eating, taking a bike tour, and exploring a couple of historic former plantations. Even the drive though Tennessee and Kentucky is full of beautiful, rolling, tree-covered hills!

Louisville was another surprising city that won me over, as well as my cousin Emily who went with me. It’s actually a college town, surprisingly liberal and artsy. I had some of the best vegan wings ever there! It’s also just over 2 hours from Indianapolis. I don’t know why the American South had seemed so far away before!

Most surprising to everyone else:

Detroit. This is the city that, whenever I say positive things about it, I tend to get some shock from others. It’s true, it is rough and not at all the same booming city it was 40 years ago, but it’s recovering, and there are a lot of cool things to see and do.


View of the Detroit River and Windsor, Ontario, Canada, from inside the GM Renaissance Center.

The first time I went to Detroit, I ended up getting rescued from a malfunctioning jet ski by the Coast Guard and was harassed more than usual by some aggressive homeless people, but neither of those things happened this time (and I don’t hold them against the city at all!) This time, we did a walking tour of downtown, ate some great food, checked out the African American History Museum (possibly the best in the country). My mom especially loved the Motown museum, as did I. The city has a clear identity and soul, which is what really makes me love a place.

Favorite new activity:

Kayaking. I went on a weekend camping trip with a few friends to Turkey Run State Park and tried kayaking for the first time. I loved it! It got a little crazy when it thunderstormed and we had to stop in the middle of our kayaking cruise down Sugar Creek, but overall it was a fun trip down a fairly calm river, and I’d love to do it again with that same kind of stable kayak.


Kayaking with my friends Alex, Corinna, and Ben

Favorite overall thing:

Niagara Falls. Emily and I did a trip to Toronto, Canada, the only time I left the country this year. While we were there, we just had to see Niagara Falls, only an hour and a half drive from the city. I try to not have my hopes too high for things this famous – I mean, I’ve seen a fair amount of big waterfalls. But the thing is, photos and videos, no matter how well shot, simply do not do Niagara Falls justice. It blew us away. Kind of literally. The boat tour where you get up close and personal with the falls, and pretty wet, is definitely recommended. We both want to go back again – it was incredible in the autumn, but next time maybe even in the winter in all its snowy and icy glory!


5 thoughts on “Bethany’s 2015 Travel Awards

    • I bet there are a ton of cool places within reasonable driving distance of where you live in Oklahoma! It’s been really fun checking out places closer to home that I didn’t know anything about before. Just make it a priority (for me it’s like MUST TRAVEL OR WILL GO INTO WITHDRAWAL) and plan some ahead and you’re good to go 🙂

  1. Even as a native Torontonian and having spent many weekends in Niagara, the falls never disappoint! Next time you visit id also recommend visiting Niagara-on-the-lake. It’s a gorgeous area and it’s where a lot of Ontario’s best wine comes from!

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