Packed Suitcase | My Favorite Places of 2013
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My Favorite Places of 2013

My Favorite Places of 2013

Another year has come and gone, which means it’s time to reflect on some of my favorite travels from the past 365 days!

2013 marked an important shift here at Packed Suitcase. While I had started #TravelLocal adventuring in October 2012, this year I focused on it nearly exclusively. I’m determined to become the go-to blog for mid-Atlantic weekend travel, and this year got things off to a great start. (Stay tuned to where I’m #TravelLocal-ing to in 2014 in a new post next week… let’s just say that 2014 looks like it will be another fantastic year.)

So, here are the superlatives, the best of the best of everything that I experienced in 2013. Here’s wishing you and yours a happy, healthy holiday!

Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #1: Floyd, Virginia
The musical town with just one stoplight stole my heart with its traditional banjo-strummin’, flat-footin’ ways during my Old School Virginia Road Trip this November.

Floyd Country Store- exterior


Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #2: Solomons Island, Maryland
I’ve long heard about Solomons Island, the Calvert County, Maryland waterside retreat. I finally visited for a weekend, and liked it so much that I’ve been back twice! 

Solomons Sunset


Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #3: Chanticleer Gardens — Wayne, Pennsylvania
I discovered this amazing public garden during a (very) early springtime trip into Brandywine Country. I was enchanted by the garden’s handmade whimsical features, like this armchair made of stone.

Chanticleer Chairs


Favorite 2013 Hidden Gem #4: Ottawa, Canada
This June, I headed to Toronto for the TBEX Travel Bloggers Conference. After the conference, I traveled to Ottawa and was stunned by the vibrant foodie scene, stunning monuments and friendly culture. Canada’s capital makes for a quick weekend getaway from the DC-area, and I’d highly recommend it!



Favorite 2013 Far Away Travel: Brooks Falls — Katmai N.P., Alaska
I  invited myself along on my parent’s trip to Alaska, and while the entire trip was incredible, I absolutely loved how close I was able to get to real, huge brown bears at Brooks Falls. 

Brooks Falls- Falls with 6 bears


Favorite 2013 Beach: Flag Ponds Nature Preserve near Solomons, Maryland
Flag Ponds Nature Preserve is an easy drive down Route 4, less than an hour and a half from downtown Washington. It’s main appeal? Wide expanses of beach, perfect for lounging, playing sports, or– my favorite– fossil hunting!  

Flag Ponds Beach


Favorite 2013 Spa: Canyon Ranch at the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia
The few brief hours I spent relaxing at the Homestead’s Canyon Ranch Spa were so amazing that I wouldn’t hesitate to make the 5 hour drive back to Hot Springs, Virginia just for the chance to visit again. Everything from the indoor spa facilities, to the natural hot spring pools to the outdoor pool area was just perfection.

Canyon Ranch Spa Garden


Favorite 2013 ResortPrimland  — Meadows of Dan, Virginia
One of the year’s highlights was spending 2 days and 1 night at the five-star Primland Resort. I loved the array of outdoorsy activities that the resort offered (like ATV riding, hiking, shooting clays), but the real treat was just taking a moment to stop and enjoy the Blue Ridge Mountain scenery in such a tranquil environment. 

Primland- sunset over lodge


Favorite 2013 Bed & Breakfast: Lavender Cottage at Back Creek Inn — Solomons Island, Maryland
This Maryland B&B was a restful retreat, complete with water views and easy walking distance to all of Solomons’ best restaurants. I loved my stay at the Inn’s Lavender Cottage… and its screened-in porch!

Back Creek Inn- cottage exterior instagram


Favorite 2013 Cocktail: The Fuego Margarita at Paramour in Wayne, Pennsylvania
Tequila infused with chili peppers, Cointreau, fresh lime and a floater of Gran Marnier combined to create a feisty cocktail that packs a punch. Delicious!

Paramour- cocktail


Favorite 2013 High-End Meal: Paramour in Wayne, Pennsylvania
Paramour provided more than my favorite cocktail… in fact, the best fancy meal I enjoyed this year was at this Wayne, Pennsylvania restaurant. 

Paramour- Crudo


Favorite 2013 Cheap Meal: Grilled Cheese at Pop’s in Roanoke, Virginia
There’s nothing better than ooey-gooey grilled cheese and Pop’s Ice Cream and Soda Bar in Roanoke does it so well, offering lots of creative variations on the classic sandwich. As for me, I kept it simple with the three cheese grilled cheese and a bowl of creamy tomato soup. Yum!

Pops- grilled cheese


Favorite 2013 Crab Cake: The Surf Rider Restaurant in Hampton, Virginia
In this part of the country, everyone claims to make “the best” crab cake. One place that I feel really can make that claim is the Surf Rider restaurant in Hampton, Virginia. I spent a weekend living it up in Hampton, and I was blown away by these crispy, well-seasoned cakes filled with HUGE chunks of blue crab. 

Surf Rider- Crabcakes


Favorite 2013 Brewery: Blue Mountain Brewery near Charlottesville, Virginia
Part of Virginia’s “Brew Ridge Trail,” Blue Mountain Brewery is known for gorgeous views, tasty pizzas and damn good beer. I found it the perfect place to spend a warm afternoon outside. 

Blue Mountain Brewery- ext


Favorite 2013 Guilty Pleasure: Billy Jack’s Donut — Harrisonburg, Virginia
Heading back to revisit my college town — Harrisonburg, Virginia — offered lots of surprises. Perhaps the most surprising was just how tasty Harrisonburg has become in the years since I left. I’m grateful that this decadent donut, found at Billy Jack’s Wing & Draft shack, wasn’t around when I was combatting the freshman 15!

Billy Jack's Donut


I definitely see life through Instagram-shaded lenses and love posting my pictures real-time for people to enjoy. Here are some of my favorite Instagram photos of the year, and to follow along with future adventures, follow me at @packDsuitcase.

Favorite Photo: Food 

Turkey Leg- instagram

A glistening turkey leg at the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Does “food porn” get much better than that?

Noodle Bowl in Ottawa

I can’t resist posting one more food shot… I loved the festival of colors in this noodle bowl from Sidedoor in Ottawa. It was as tasty as it looked.


Favorite Photo: Outdoors 

Blackwater Falls

Blackwater Falls was the first stop on my 500-mile road trip into the West Virginia Potomac Highlands. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the state, and I can see why!


Favorite Photo: Animal 


This donkey at the Buckland Farm Market in Virginia charmed its way into my heart… and my instagram feed.

Orca in Seward

I feel pretty lucky that I was able to capture this shot on my iPhone of a wild orca rising from the water during a boat trip outside of Seward, Alaska.


Favorite Photo: Landmark 

Iwo Jima Memorial

My first up-close visit to Arlington’s Iwo Jima Memorial was punctuated by a colorful sunset and a just-right breeze that gave the American flag a gentle wave.

Favorite Photo: Sunset

primland sunset

This evening shot was taken from the observatory at the Lodge at Primland. I love how the colors and clouds give an eerie light onto the land below.


Favorite Photo: Action shot 

Polar Plunge- tiger

I was an observer at the 2013 Polar Bear Plunge in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. I loved how this shot captured the chaos of the moment, made even more spectacular with the help of a cheering tiger.

Yoga at Parliament Hill

Yoga devotees converge on Ottawa’s Parliament Hill every summer Wednesday at noon for a colorful display amongst a sea of politicos and press conferences.


Favorite 2013 photo… of me!

Me with wings

I spotted two angel wings painted on the wall outside of the Purple Fiddle in Thomas, West Virginia. After posing for a quick photo, it appears they are the perfect fit!

  • Anna @ The Blonde Banana
    Posted at 23:38h, 26 March

    I haven’t been to any of these which is crazy! Will have to read more of your posts to get some inspiration for road trips this summer.