Each year Annie and I collect Christmas ornaments during our travels. We write the year on them to remember it.
I always think I’ll always remember when we took that trip to __________. And the next year I never do.

This year was a good year for travel. Pulling them out at Christmas time reminds me where we went and what we did in the past year.

It’s a good reminder of the fun we had and places we visited.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival

Despite (or perhaps because) we are natives to the area, we usually avoid the festival. But this year we decided to walk around the tidal basin and see the blossoms. It was a lovely spring day and a perfect time for a walk and to enjoy the blossoms.

Being from a small town near Winchester, VA I always catch myself saying Apple Blossom Festival. It was closer than DC and it was also a time to avoid the city since thousands of people would flood the town for the festival just as people flock to the tidal basin to see the Cherry Blossoms.

Annie and I took this opportunity to walk around the Jefferson Memorial, which I had never been to, despite driving past it every day for years. We also walked through the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial It’s a moving tribute to the man.

But the most surprising thing of the day was walking through the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial. This sprawling memorial is one I had never even heard of, but is by far one of the most beautiful memorials in the city. It winds along the water and through the cherry trees. In full bloom, with blossoms covering the ground, it gave the whole area the feel of a snowy day in spring.

The monument is practically a biography of FDR’s life and accomplishments. It’s one I have never seen pictures or nor mentioned anywhere. Stumbling across a completely unknown memorial was a real treat. In the age where everything has been photographed, videoed and shared, it was refreshing to walk through something I had never seen before.

Our next trip was more of an impulse than planned travel.

Niagara Falls

Cave of the Winds
Maid of the Mist

We had talked about a trip to see the falls. And when our anniversary came around and we found a deal on a hotel we decided to go.

We drove up the same night a meteor shower was supposed to be visible to the east coast. But it was a cloudy night so we kept driving and driving and never did find any meteors.

We did finally end up on a rural road on some small town in New York sitting on folding chairs. We stared up at the sky on the chilly May morning. We hoped to see something shooting across the sky. But alas, never did.

We eventually found a truck stop to pull into and sleep for a few hours before driving the last leg of our trip. We had originally planned to spend the night somewhere halfway there. But because of the cloud cover and our determination we were about an hour from the falls. With no hotel until the following day.

The falls were fantastic. It was a beautiful thing to see in person. We took the Maid of the Most boat ride under the falls.

We went through the hurricane deck twice. It’s an area under the falls where the icy water splashed down upon us. It was such an amazing feeling to feel the power of the falls up close.

After exploring the falls on the U.S. side we decided to visit the Canadian side the next day.

There were fireworks and a daily light show that was better seen from the Canadian side.

The next day we took our car across the border and parked it. We walked all around the touristy Canadian Niagara Falls area and went up the huge Ferris Wheel there.

We didn’t venture more into Canada since this was only a weekend trip. But I can claim I’ve been there. And enjoyed the fireworks and lights on the falls that evening.

It was a wonderful trip and I am very happy we took it.


Bonnaroo was three days of being a musical nomad. I loved it.


This ornament we had made from one of the very few photos we took there. It was a blast. We had never been to a music festival before. We camped out in the Tennessee summer and loved it.


California was our last trip of the year. We went out for a friend’s wedding but made it a week-long trip to explore the state.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite was beautiful. We took a day trip out there from San Francisco and it was absolutely worth it. I got a kick out of the weather report the morning we left. There was a forty degree difference between the bay area and Yosemite itself. I think we drove from the 60s through the 100s and landed somewhere in the 80s in the park itself.

Yosemite though… It’s absolutely stunning. Given the single day we had, we didn’t see much of the park or take any long hikes. We did hike back to one, small waterfall that was mostly wisps blowing in the wind.

We did see Half Dome from Glacier Point and got a panoramic view of the valley belong with a couple of water falls. We also saw something else that wasn’t common in our trip, green. We passed so many dead hillsides en route to the park, the green was a welcomed change.

We finished the trip with a short trip to see the Redwoods in the southern part of the park. Words don’t describe just how massive they were. To see trees so many hundreds of years old and growing so massive was awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, due to time, we didn’t get to hike as far into the area as I would have liked, but what we did see was worth it.

If you’re ever close enough to take a day trip to the park, you should. It’s worth the trip!

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Before going to California, I didn’t properly understand the difference between a Sequoia and Redwoods. Now I know. Redwoods grow huge trunks. They’re the trees that can be wide enough to drive a car through. The sequoia on the other hand are tall and slender trees.

You could never hug a redwood, but you could wrap your arms around a sequoia.

Muir Woods was a peaceful experience. It was a very quiet park and I felt serene the entire time we were in the woods. I would have loved to spend the day sitting under the trees. Due to their height, they covered the sun and made a hot day, very cool and pleasant.

I would visit Yosemite for the splendor and Muir Woods for the serenity.

Cable Car

Cable Car

This last one is a bit of a cop-out. I have never ridden on a cable car. Sure, we saw plenty of them in San Francisco. But we mainly walked around the Fisherman’s Wharf area and went out to see Alcatraz. We did visit Ghirardelli Square, where we purchased nothing more than ice cream cones and this chocolate-filled ornament.

Look back at the trips we took this past year can help with the holiday blues. I tend to feel down over the holidays so it helps to remember the great things we’ve done over the past year.

There are also small trips not commemorated by ornaments this year. Skyline Drive in the Shenandoah National Park mostly obscured by fog was a wonderful day. I have pictures from that day to remember it.

Our tree is covered in ocean life from trips to the beach and Baltimore Aquarium. There is an ornament from our first Christmas together as a married couple. Some are gifts from friends and family. Others we bought because we liked them like the multiple octopi and the original bird in hat.

When I wake up on a cold winter day and the rain and gloom is overwhelming, I love to sit by the Christmas tree, with its lights and good memories reminding me of all the great things we’ve done. And how lucky I am to have everything I do. To have found the most wonderful woman who agreed to marry me.

We have a couple of Dave & Busters things we’ve made into ornaments on the tree because that’s where we went the night before I proposed to Annie.

I never thought much about traditions and when I thought about it, I’d be hard-pressed to name many I treasured from my childhood. But I love this tradition we started. We didn’t start it our first year of marriage, so we don’t have anything from our Honeymoon in St. Thomas, though I remember looking in a K-Mart where we shopped before the hurricane blew across the island knocking out our power.

I love our Christmas ornament tradition. It’s a fun challenge to try to find something when we travel. Not just any old ornament or attraction, but something we’ve actually done. This isn’t to show off. This is something special for Annie and I to share and enjoy.

And I’m sharing it with you because making traditions with your family can be a lot of fun and rewarding. If you had asked me what holiday traditions I have now, I would struggle to remember anything. But since it’s on my mind as we decorated our tree last night, I’m sharing it with you now. Hopefully you can make your own tradition with your families, old and new.