no passport required
Anyone who knows me well knows that I can’t stay in one place for long. Fortunately, a lifelong career in sales has given me plenty of opportunity for travel. While I love visiting other countries and learning about other cultures, some of my favorite travel destinations are right here in the US. Here are just a few of my most cherished landing spots— no passport required.
Upper West Side, NYC
It doesn’t feel fair to call the place you grew up a travel destination, but it is truly one of my favorite places in the world. Walk down any given street and find at least five restaurants that rival the best your hometown has to offer. Despite its location at the heart of the most crowded city in the US, the Upper West Side has a charming Penny Lane kind of vibe. Stay just a few days and you’ll be on a first-name basis with the local baker, barber, florist, and at least three local dogs. (With proximity to the city’s best parks, the Upper West Side is a haven for dog-lovers. I have never seen more dog/owner lookalikes in a three-block radius than I’ve seen in Riverside Park.) In a single afternoon, you can indulge your inner twelve-year-old at the Museum of Natural History, get lost in the tumbling greenery of Central Park, and catch a killer show at the Beacon Theater. The most bang-for-your-buck by far, NYC’s Upper West Side is a must for foodies, art-hounds, and travelers of all kinds.
When my son told me he was accepted at UC Boulder, I almost cried—partly out of pride, partly out of joy that I would get to visit Boulder so often. Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains not far from Denver, this small-town of a city is a hiking, biking, and rock-climbing dream in the summer and a snow-globe wonderland during the winter. In Boulder, outdoor adventure is a year-round sport. Plan to spend at least one afternoon exploring Pearl Street, a pedestrian avenue lined with hip cafes, sundry shops, and street performers. Local farmers and artisans peddle their treasures here on a daily basis. The people of Boulder come from all walks of life—college kids and retirees, dead-head hipsters and Olympians in training—but one thing binds them as closely as a species: a fierce love of nature and natural living.
Here’s how its done: you’ll fly into foggy, soggy San Francisco, rent a convertible, and head through the city hallways to the country hills. On your way across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll let the top down and turn the tunes up. The clouds will part as you roll into the sunshine of Marin County, and the air will be so clean and crisp you’ll wonder if you haven’t crossed some supernatural divide, a gateway into another dimension. About an hour down the road toward wine country, you’ll start wonder if you’ve wandered into Tuscany. Vineyard rows bookended by rose bushes will zip past like a loose roll of sepia film, and finally, you’ll pull up to the luxuriously modern Bardessono Hotel. An absurd amount of hummingbirds will welcome you as you toss your keys to the valet. When a receptionist hands you a glass of complimentary cab that would be the pride of any cellar, you’ll know you’ve arrived. If you’re lucky, you’ve already made dinner reservations at the French Laundry for an eight-course, three-Micheline-starred meal. (And you’ll need to: it has a three-month wait list. If not, Redd, Bouchon, and Bottega are excellent runners up.) In the morning, grab a grapefruit straight from the tree on your way to Bouchon Bakery. Your wait in line might be longer than your drive from San Francisco, but their corn muffins are worth it, and you’ll need a solid foundation for the day of tastings you have ahead of you. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
Laguna Beach, CA
Laguna Beach is a town from another time. The stunning vista of cliff-side beaches with teens toting surfboards is so impossibly cool that it reminds me of a Coke commercial circa 1968. Here, kids grow up surfing before school and eating clean food their entire lives. My childhood, rooted in the ambient hustle and subtle decay of NYC, did not prepare me for the possibility that such a quiet, clean place existed. The first time I visited, my lungs didn’t know what to do with all the crisp, salty air. There is something hypnotic about the sound of waves against a rocky coast that makes it easy to forget a life before salt and sun— a life not worth living without sand between your toes every once in a while.
No matter how much I love to travel, Austin is home. California sunsets are cool, but they are no match for our lavender Texas skies, and the dogs of the Upper West Side are precious, but they’ll never beat the sweet faces of my own three pups waiting at the gate for me to come home. Laid-back yet ambitiously creative, Austinites are my people. You just can’t beat low-fiving the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn on your morning run around Town Lake or breakfast in the form of a taco. If you’ve never visited Austin, do yourself a favor and put it at the top of your list. Tell Stevie I sent you.