As December comes to a close, it’s time to close the book on 2018 and look ahead to the new year…or maybe not. For us, the new year is the perfect time to reflect back and celebrate the amazing experiences we had together as a family. The highlights reel, of course, always includes the grand adventures, but when you take a moment to truly reflect, you might find some shining moments that would have been forgotten. Without further ado, here are our highlights from our 2018 adventures:
1. Returning to Assateague State Park in Maryland
Though Assateague State Park is only three hours from our home, it’s a place we don’t visit nearly often enough, especially considering how many magical memories Stephanie made there during her childhood visits. There’s always a danger in revisiting your favorite places. Can you ever find that same magic? The answer is a definitive yes, especially when you are introducing a place to your own children. Assateague State Park doesn’t offer the same kind of fun and amenities we’ve grown to love at our favorite resort campgrounds. Instead, we made our own fun playing on the rugged beaches, watching the wild horses, and enjoying the peace and quiet during a sublime early fall getaway. Check out our full review here.
2. Kicking Off the Camping Season with Jellystone in Texas
For spring break, we had the opportunity to fly out to Texas to help Jellystone officially kick off the camping season at several of their parks. Since we had previously learned all about Hill Country from our correspondent Kate Dunbar on Episode 181: Greetings from Fredericksburg, Texas, we were able to get the full RVFTA podcast experience, just as our listeners do. Unlike our listeners, we also got a full in-person tour from Kate herself, which was extra fun. Plus, the Jellystone Park Hill Country outside of Fredericksburg wowed us with water slides (which we were virtually empty that early in the year). Hear all about our adventures here.
3. Stumbling Upon the U.S. Marine Marching Band in Halifax, Canada
No matter how much planning we put into our travels, it is often the unplanned moments that make for the best memories. This happened to us when we serendipitously stumbled upon the Second Marine Division Marching Band playing in the commons of downtown Halifax. After hearing the music during our lunch, we walked over and enjoyed this awesome free concert of joyful big band music. Being in Canada as the nation celebrated Canada Day added something extra to this trip. Community celebrations like these can help you truly experience a region’s culture.
4. Being Wowed by Graves Island Provincial Park in Nova Scotia
Graves Island Provincial Park was one of the most stunning places we’ve ever camped. Located on a small, elevated island, the campground is surrounded by water. We felt like there was eye candy everywhere we looked. Our campsite not only had beautiful views, it was huge and provided plenty of room for the boys to play. We were content to just spend our time in the park, walking Maggie around and around. It was the kind of place that just makes you happy to be in the moment, without needing anything else to do. Read our full review here, or learn more about the region on Episode #194: Greetings from Nova Scotia, Canada.
5. Playing in the Pool at Rafter J Bar Ranch in South Dakota
Rafter J Bar Ranch in South Dakota is one of those campgrounds that tops people’s lists of favorites again and again–and for good reason. For us, while there are many things to love about this park, one of our favorite snapshot memories is playing with the boys at the pool after a busy day of exploring the Black Hills. The boys had a ball bouncing between the pool and the hot tub. We all enjoyed warming up around the community fire pit, with the beauty of the region surrounding us. This campground is so nice, we’ve covered it twice. Check out our review and Kerri Cox’s over on Campground of the Week.
6. Conquering the Notch Trail in Badlands National Park
In recent years, our family has sometimes struggled to find the perfect activities due to the age gap between our older boys and our younger son. Max and Theo could easily knock out 8-mile hikes. However, Wes was too young to handle the walk and too old to be carried. This summer, a magical moment happened when we decided to conquer the Notch Trail at Badlands National Park. This notoriously difficult trail involves climbing a long, steep ladder. Yet, every member of our family was able to do it! It seemed like a turning point that will propel us toward bigger adventures, knowing all three of our boys are ready and able. Check out Episode #211: Greetings from Badlands National Park to hear all about why you need to plan plenty of time in this amazing park.
7. Seeing the Sites in San Antonio
For some people, seeing the Alamo in San Antonio can be a bit of a let down. Despite all of the legendary tales of bravery, there’s really not that much to see. That is, unless you take a tour. We were lucky enough to have an exceptional tour guide who brought the history to life for us and our boys. Plus, the nearby River Walk did not disappoint. The landscape and architecture along this urban waterway is truly beautiful. Plus, there was an energetic vibe to the whole place. Learn more about our Texas adventures here.
8. Being Surrounded by Bison in Custer State Park
We have no doubt that our boys will never forget the time we found ourselves in a bison traffic jam in Custer State Park. Hundreds of these massive beasts blocked the roadway, surrounding us. It was just jaw-dropping! Looking out to see a mama bison nursing a baby just yards from the car was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Custer State Park introduced us to all kinds of wildlife and the magic of the West. For both of us, Custer tops our lists of favorite experiences for the year. Learn more about everything we loved about Custer State Park here.
9. Relaxing at Massey’s Landing
No matter how much we enjoy getting out and exploring this great nation, there’s still something special about the camping trips close to home that offer utter relaxation. Spending Memorial Day weekend camping with friends at Massey’s Landing in Delaware was the perfect example of this kind of getaway. There’s nothing like swimming up to the pool bar, devouring crab cake sandwiches you didn’t have to make, or hanging out in beach chairs along the shore without a care in the world. An extra bonus was that our boys had friends their own ages to bum around with, which kept them entertained. Check out our full review of Massey’s Landing here.
10. Finding Inspiration at Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is one of those places that travelers seem to love to hate, claiming it is way overrated. We beg to differ! We wholly enjoyed our visit and found Mount Rushmore to be awe inspiring. The ranger tour was excellent, and the nightly lighting ceremony is truly beautiful. We are not only glad we visited, we have no doubt we will visit again when the boys are older. You can learn all about our favorite tips for visiting Mount Rushmore here.
Bonus: The Travel Lowlights
When you travel as much as we do, it’s not all sunshine and roses. We did experience a lowlight or two in addition to these awesome highlights. You’ll have to listen to the podcast episode to hear all about the stomach bug that made us miserable on our way home from South Dakota and to learn about how much stress a blown fuse caused us in Maine. And don’t forget the time our boys managed to slice through a laptop’s power cord. You just never know what will happen! But, the woes are alway worth it for the memories.
What a year it was! We are thankful to have had the opportunity to explore so many terrific places with our family. We hope you were able to do the same in 2018 or are busy making plans for wonderful adventures in the year ahead!
See you at the campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy