This has nothing to do with pop culture, but so what?
I’m in a summer-y mood, so here, read about my favorite vacation spots.
OK, technically not a “spot,” but I could cruise every single summer and love it; I wouldn’t even care to leave the ship, making it kind of qualify. As long as I’m out on the water (and in the Caribbean), I’m good. They just so happen to have the added bonus of bringing me to a handful of tropical islands in the span of one week. Next summer will mark my 7th time cruising and I cannot wait. My first was when I was only four and a half; we boarded The Big Red Boat, back when it was still owned and operated by Disney (1985-1993). In 2000, we boarded the then two-year-old Disney Magic—best cruise of our lives, to this day; Disney Cruise Line is just on a whole other level, plus it’s an unforgettable combo of numbers 1 and 2 here—and we have since been on three Carnival ships and what we affectionately refer to as the “tugboat cruise” (long story). Next year we’ll finally try out Royal Caribbean, the cruise line that has long been touted as the best by anyone we ask. I’m not sure what it is about these giant vessels that I love so much, but I do know that some of the best times of my life have been spent singing “Celebration” and “Hot Hot Hot,” enjoying a delicious meal (and a show!) in a crowded dining room, and feeling the wind in my hair while walking on deck at night.
2. WALT DISNEY WORLD
Because I am eternally eight years old, I love Disney movies perhaps even more now than when I first saw them years ago. And so it should come as no surprise that when the music swells and the rope drops and I find myself once again walking down Main St. USA bright and early on a summer morning, I get so giddy that I practically cry when Mickey welcomes me back to the Magic Kingdom. It’s my favorite park; one glimpse at that castle and I’m just another little girl dreaming of being a Disney princess someday. The Disney generation gets it. My sister and I both start bawling when we re-watch our home videos of our 2012 trip and Peter Pan proclaims during the WISHES fireworks show, “I wish … we never had to grow up!” I was 24 on that trip, but it felt like the first time 20 years prior. It always feels like the first time. And that’s the magical thing about Disney.
3. DAYTONA BEACH
My second favorite place in Florida. We’ve stayed in Daytona three times now and we’ve fallen in love with it. Our resort is the tallest on the strip and within walking distance to shops, restaurants, a movie theater, boardwalk rides, a bandshell amphitheater, you name it. The beach is just beyond the pool, so you can flip back and forth as you please. It’s probably the most relaxing (without being boring) place we’ve stayed. And the views are spectacular: Like clockwork, a storm usually rolls in late afternoon and we’ve captured some amazing weather photos from our balcony. We’ve also spotted a few dolphins and we have the best seats around for fireworks and sunsets.
All those islands mentioned in #1 don’t really count since they were part of a cruise experience. Soooo … let’s take a bit of a left turn here. Vacation, after all, doesn’t have to mean a week near a beach. And as much as I love beaches (I’m still a shore kid, after all), I also can’t live without cities. Well, one city. I’ve been living in what qualifies as country for almost 12 years and it only took one or two to realize I’d always prefer urban to rural. My parents took me to New York City for the first time for my eighth birthday; we saw “Beauty & the Beast” on Broadway. I. Fell. In. Love … with the twinkling lights and the honking cabs and the aroma of pretzel carts and every New York cliché you can think of. I’ve been there countless times since—I even worked there for a few months—and I’m not the least bit jaded by it yet. Every time I ride the escalator up from Penn Station and Seventh Avenue slowly rises into view, it feels damn near close to coming home. A day spent roaming the concrete jungle always feels like a vacation to me. It’s escapism … but instead of slowing down, you speed the hell up or get trampled on the sidewalk!
5. LAKE GEORGE
If I were to return to this secluded and peaceful area of upstate NY, I would probably get pretty bored pretty fast. I’ve seen too many other beautiful places and done too many new and exciting things for this lake to even hold a candle to what I consider a “vacation” these days (yep, my parents have spoiled my sister and I rotten with amazing summer experiences). But that doesn’t mean that Lake George doesn’t hold a treasure trove of childhood memories for me, because it does and likely always will. I was barely a toddler my first time and 12 our last time. Every single summer was spent at good ol’ Depe Dene resort and we somehow never tired of our rustic little cabin in the woods. We lounged by the lake, barbecued on our porch, went horseback riding, played Around the World mini golf (which is still there!), got ice cream and listened to the Minne-Ha-Ha chugging its way across the water, and played board games by lantern light outside at night. Over the years, we made friends with the people staying in the cabins around us (we all went the exact same week every year, so they eventually became familiar faces), and it’s safe to say that our final year was our best ever. We accumulated quite an impressive group of friends—at least a dozen kids—and we’d all sit around the bonfire at night making s’mores while my father told scary stories, throwing bang snaps in an attempt to make each other jump or scream. We went parasailing that year with our next-door neighbors, the family we were friendliest with who had a daughter close to my age—it was an experience that was ridiculously picture-perfect. It was bittersweet to say goodbye to Lake George, but we were beginning to outgrow it and looking forward to bigger and better vacations … I hope to take my kids there someday.