This year provided plenty of memorable personal travel moments. I didn’t make it outside the U.S., but I hit up a lot of great spots within the country, from Miami to L.A. to New York City to a bunch of small towns in between.
Presented in no particular order, here are some of the moments that I’ll remember from this year.
1 Meeting Jack Nicholson
Well, his wax figure, anyway. I also met Lady Gaga, Marilyn Monroe, Brangelina, Snoop Dogg, Michael Jackson, Jim Carrey and many more and Madame Tussauds in Hollywood.
2 Finding and consuming a coconut on the street in Key West
I haven’t written about this yet – it’s coming in a couple of weeks. While vacationing in Key West, we found coconuts (and avocadoes) lying on the sidewalk. During a 30-minute walk, we painstakingly cracked open one of the coconuts and enjoyed its juice. Free fruit on the street! How cool is that?
3 Going to Cedar Point in Ohio
I got my fill of coasters during a two-day trip to Sandusky, Ohio to check out the best amusement park in the country. Being in the front seat of the Top Thrill Dragster as it shot off from a dead standstill to 120 miles per hour was an exhilarating feeling.
4 Participating in the World Naked Bike Ride in Chicago
Joining a thousand scantily-clad wackos on a chilly summer night for a 10-mile ride through the busy streets of Chicago was pretty sweet. These events happen all over the world, so if you’ve never taken part, put the WNBR on your bucket list.
5 Visiting the Grammy Museum
I’m a Grammy Awards junkie, so it was cool to finally visit the Grammy Museum in downtown L.A. and see some of the actual outfits worn by stars like Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga. And they even had the infamous JLo dress from 2000. Check out my Grammy Museum review.
6 The Pittsburgh Couch Crash
Couchsurfing.org, the worldwide network of people who let strangers crash on their couches, hosted its Pittsburgh event in October, so I got to come back to town, meet cool people and get lots of good material for my 66 things I love about Pittsburgh article.
7 Riding the Staten Island Ferry
I got my first close-up view of the Statue of Liberty and didn’t pay a dime. Score!
8 Singing karaoke in Koreatown
Dirt-cheap karaoke doesn’t get any better than some of the Koreatown establishments in L.A., where you can rent a private room with a few friends (Hey, Jason!) for just a few bucks per hour per person and sing as much Journey, Whitney and Britney as you can stand.
9 Picking up a hitchhiking butterfly at the Public Museum
During a weekend trip to Milwaukee’s Public Museum, a butterfly stopped on my shoulder and hitched a ride for a good 10 minutes while I walked through the butterfly wing.
10 Eating a Fat Darrell at the Rutgers grease trucks
Chicken fingers, mozzarella sticks, french fries and marinara sauce piled onto a roll, courtesy of the Rutgers grease trucks. It’s a heart attack on a bun – all for just six bucks!
11 Seeing gators up close in the Everglades
Story coming soon. The picture pretty much tells the tale.
12 Attending Lollapalooza, North Coast, DMB Caravan and Pitchfork
I made it to four huge music festivals over the span of two months this summer, taking in close to 100 bands along the way. Among the highlights: Lykke Li, Fitz and the Tantrums, Ratatat, Animal Collective, Emmylou Harris, Mayer Hawthorne, Girl Talk and Of Montreal. Yes, I’m a total hipster.
13 Hiking on 180 million year old boulders
The Sourland Mountain Preserve in central New Jersey contains ancient boulders that were once underwater. Proof that you don’t have to go to an exotic location to find cool natural wonders!
14 Hanging out on an NYC skyscraper rooftop
My cousin lives in a swanky apartment building in the Lower East Side with a sweet rooftop lounge area, allowing me to get an Empire State Building-type view for free.
15 Meeting the Peep!
During World Pillow Fight Day in Chicago, I got to fraternize with the Peep. Don’t tell anyone, but he secretly despises the Keebler elves.
16 Buying my first tent
Most of the camping I’ve done has been in the backseat of my old van. This year I finally purchased an actual tent and used it at the Indiana Sand Dunes and at a cheap campground near Chicago.
17 Visiting Marilyn Monroe’s grave
Even her grave site is classy and glamorous.
18 My first In N Out Burger experience
I finally made my first trip to the famous west coast fast food chain to experience the In N Out Burger secret menu. The neapolitan shake was the best milkshake I’ve ever had, but the protein style burger (wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun) was a mess.
19 Attending the zombie walk in Pittsburgh
Hundreds of freaks dress up like zombies and wander through the streets, for no apparent reason. It’s beautiful.
20 Hanging out on Miami Beach
What’s better than being lazy, taking in some sun, and playing in the ocean? I want to make South Beach my permanent winter residence!
I would love to hear about where you went this year. What was your favorite travel experience of 2011?