The New York Times has just released its list of the 52 best destinations for 2020, and I’m glad it has selected one of my favorites, the Kimberley area of Australia. For the 1st time in years, Ruth & I did not make it to any of its 2019 choices despite good intentions. In the past year, however, we have experienced 4 international places and been to about 20 states, so it’s time to select the 3 best destinations and the 3 best attractions of 2019.
This is a highly subjective undertaking, but the best places I went to in 2019 were Canada’s Gulf Islands, York, England, and Columbus, Georgia. Each of them was surprising and fun to visit, and I had not been to any of them before. Ruth and I love the difficult-to-get-to San Juans, and the Gulf Islands are in the same general area but very different. There are about 200 of them and we only experienced 3, Salt Spring and the 2 Penders. Salt Spring has the only town in the entire Gulf Islands. It’s called Ganges Village. The Penders have a shopping area that is kind of a town center. The Gulf Islands are, we were told, crowded and hard to get to in the summer because the ferries that connect them are overburdened. Off-season, we found them stress-free. York is a vibrant city with much to see. Many of its best attractions focus on its colorful and considerable history that includes Vikings, Romans, and Brits from varied backgrounds. Columbus was unexpected. There were old and new places to explore in abundance. I had no idea that this town was one of the economic powerhouses of The Confederacy. Things to see include rare lunchboxes, Civil War ironclads, and surprises at every turn. The best 3 runner-up places Ruth & I went to were Broadway, England, Costa Rica, and 3 unheralded Pennsylvania cities–Erie, Bethlehem, and Allentown–that have seen better days but are survivors.
My favorite stops of the year were Lofty Pursuits, a Nordic Museum, and the National Comedy Center. Lofty Pursuits is a candy and ice cream shop in a city I didn’t like, Tallahassee, Florida. It specializes in creating a unique product, Victorian candy, which should not be made in Tallahassee’s climate. My only regret is that we didn’t buy more of this old-fashioned, exactingly-made candy. The Nordic Museum is new. It’s in Ballard, a community in the Seattle area. It opened in May, 2018 to honor the immigrants who built Ballard. The President of Iceland and a Danish princess attended its dedication. A Nordic museum has been in this area since 1980 in an old school building, but this new facility on 2 levels is a state-of-the art museum that’s endlessly entertaining. It was designated our National Nordic Museum in March, 2019 via an act of our national congress. The National Comedy Center is also new and in an unlikely place, Jamestown, New York. It’s there because of Lucille Ball’s involvement in it before her death. She was born and raised in Jamestown. Runner-ups for best attraction include Arizona’s snow-covered Walnut Canyon, The new library in downtown Austin, Texas, and the Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming.