Our Favorite Things to Do in 2019
Episode 4 in our Best of 2019 Series: Best Road Trip Attractions! One of the best parts of traveling comes in visiting local attractions. We love finding places that teach us something about the local area and the history of the land or the folks who have lived there. We seek out roadside attractions that celebrate all that is unique, and sometimes downright quirky, about the town and its people. This year we discovered a lot of fun and interesting things to do that are definitely worth your time!
If you haven't seen our other Best of 2019 posts yet, it's important to note that (as the category suggests) this post only discusses attractions that we visited in 2019.
Please watch our video to learn more about why we chose these attractions. And now, our Favorite Attractions of 2019:
Best Free Attraction
During our travels, we've learned that you can discover a lot of gems by asking the locals about their town. We're so glad we did just that in Quanah, Texas since that led us first to a great restaurant, which in turn led us to the wonderful Hardeman County Museum! This FREE community museum runs off of donations and makes its home in the historic Quanah Train Depot and the 19th century Hardeman County Jail. We can't wait to share more about it in a future video about Quanah. It is a Must See while you're visiting Copper Breaks State Park.
We had the opportunity to visit quite a few museums this year, but we visited our pick for Favorite Museum twice in 2019: the Bryan Museum in Galveston, Texas. The Bryan has an impressive collection of Texas and Western history artifacts and art, interactive displays, and revolving exhibits. But equally impressive is its building, the old Galveston Orphans Home which survived the Great Storm of 1900. (Be sure to check out the basement to learn more about the building's history and the role it played in the community.) We share a little glimpse into the Bryan Museum in our Discovering Galveston's Hidden History video.
Best Historical Site
If you've been with us for a while, then you might know that we love visiting historical sites. One of our goals is to eventually visit all of the sites we have include on our List of 100 Texas Historical Sites to Visit. This year's pick for Best Historical Site experience goes to San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site. We absolutely love the interactive museum that they have opened in recent years. The site also includes a walking trail that highlights some of the buildings that stood here before the entire town was burned to the ground during the Runaway Scrape. If you are interested in Texas history at all, this should absolutely be on your list to visit!
Best Bucket List Attraction
Holy Cow y'all! We were blown away by our experience at the Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer, South Dakota! Yes, you can see the carving from the road. But trust us... take the time to buy a ticket and spend time there. For us, it was an experience we will never forget. Yes, the carving is mind-boggling, but the story of the family and carvers behind the monument is inspirational. The site also includes historical movies of why the carving is here, why Crazy Horse was chosen as the subject and why this particular mountain was selected. There is an extensive Native American museum here along with storytellers and edutainers (entertainers who also educate). We loved our stop here so much, we went back a second time.
South Dakota is also home to our choice for Quirkiest Stop of the year: the infamous Wall Drug! Unlike any other place we've been, Wall Drug was almost an overwhelming shock to the senses when we walked through the doors for the first time. There were so many interesting things to see and do, so many unexpected surprises. And yes, we drank our share of 5 cent coffee! LOL. We share a bit of our Wall Drug visit in our Badlands National Park video since you'll find Wall just outside of the National Park.
Best Public Park
We shared our Best Public Park experience in our video, Budget Friendly Fun in Houston. We've been visiting Hermann Park in the Houston Museum District our whole lives and it just keeps getting better! From Centennial Gardens to the Miller Outdoor Theatre and of course, the super fun Hermann Park Railroad, this is a great way to spend a day!
Best Farmers Market
Another favorite thing to do for us: visit farmers markets! It's a great way to find fresh, local food and meet local folks who share great ideas for things to see and do while you're in the area. Our favorite farmers market experience in 2019 came at the New Braunfels Farmers Market in New Braunfels TX. This market happens every Saturday morning year round. We were very impressed by the number of quality vendors who were there.
Best Tourist Attraction
Sometimes tourist attractions aren't what you hoped they'd be. But our Top Tourist Attraction, Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, South Dakota, greatly exceeded our expectations. We visited Big Thunder during a rainy day just to have something to do. What we found was a really interesting and fun tour of the old gold mine, a history lesson on gold mining in the region, stories of what it was like to be involved in the nineteenth century gold rush of South Dakota and lessons on the tools that they used. Our tour guide was awesome! We would definitely recommend putting this on your list when you visit the South Dakota Black Hills.
Most Unique Attraction
Easily the most unique attraction on our travels this year: the San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center in San Marcos, Texas. This scientific research center began as the first warm water hatchery west of the Mississippi River back in the 1890s. Today, they specialize in studying the ecosystems, plant and animal life native to (and invasive to) the Edwards Aquifer and Texas spring waters. Tours are incredibly interesting and FREE! Check out our Exploring San Marcos video to get a glimpse of our experience on the tour. Absolutely fascinating!
Best RV Rally
We enjoyed our visits at the summer Alamo Escapees rally. Great folks there! But our Best RV Rally experience of the year came in Minot, North Dakota at the FMCA 100th International Convention! Tons of great seminars, entertainment and social opportunities. It was so big, we published 3 videos about our experience there.
Most Scenic Drive
Another great perk of traveling: finding amazing scenic drives. It was tough to choose a favorite, but we decided that our Favorite Scenic Drive of 2019 was AMAZING Iron Mountain Road from Custer State Park to near Mount Rushmore in Keystone, South Dakota. Can we just say W.O.W.!! The beautiful forest, the historic pigtail bridges, the unbelievable tunnels and the views of Mount Rushmore make this a must-do drive. (But leave the RV at the campground!)
We love spending time outside at festivals! Just recently, we went back for more fun at an old favorite: Galveston Island's Dickens on the Strand! Step back in time to the age of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" while strolling Galveston's Historic Strand District. We love the entertainment, the environment and especially, the people watching of this fun family-friendly festival that kicks off the Holiday Season. It happens during the first weekend of every December.
Our Top Favorite Road Trip Attractions of 2019:
Honorable Mention: Big Thunder Gold Mine in Keystone, South Dakota
Runner-Up: San Marcos Aquatic Resources Center in San Marcos, Texas
Our Favorite Overall Experience at an Attraction in 2019: The Crazy Horse Memorial near Custer, South Dakota
So what set these Top 3 experiences apart from the others? Most of all it came down to the stories we learned during our visits and the fact that they were all very unique. We haven't visited anything else like these three attractions before. And we walked out of each of them being very energized and excited by the experience. And perhaps, most incredible is that for two of the three, we didn't know that they existed until we arrived in their area. It just reinforces that you should always talk with the locals!
We hope you enjoyed this look at our Favorite Attractions of 2019. Putting this information together brought back a lot of great memories for us. We hope we can find as many equally awesome places to visit in 2020. We'd love to hear about your favorites, so be sure to leave us a comment! And don't forget to to check out our complete Best of 2019 Series. Next up: we'll share our Favorite Restaurants of 2019! See you Sunday!