I spent New Year's Day this year at the Winter Classic - an outdoor NHL game - with my cousin. Amongst hockey fans (especially those of the competing teams) this is a highly-coveted ticket, and once it became clear I had seats, Kate was my first choice to accompany me because I knew it was on her "bucket list." You know what I mean... that list of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. I don't really have such a list, I think because I don't consider many activities as "must-dos," and I'm not interested in skydiving, or bungee jumping or those sorts of bucket list-y adventures - I just want to travel. Everywhere. Anywhere. (I am very serious about this. Once, I started making plans to follow my sister on a work trip to Afghanistan that, unfortunately, got canceled, and a couple of years ago I tried, unsuccessfully, to get the National Trust to send me to a preservation conference in Iraq. Really, there is nowhere I won't go.)
So, instead of a bucket list, I have a travel list, which is a constantly growing and changing document - prioritization shifts, new places get added, and every once in a while, I get to cross things off... though usually with the caveat that I'd go back if I could. Once a year, the job helps me out with supplementing my travel list by presenting the Dozen Distinctive Destinations, which often does double-duty by reminding me of some great places I've been along with giving me some new ones to consider.
I've only been to a quarter of this year's Distinctive Destinations, but Alexandria, VA; Colorado Springs, CO; and St. Paul, MN are three places that are definitely on the list of the places I'd go back to. (Of course, given the proximity of Alexandria to my home in DC, I don't count it as travel. I do mundane stuff like go to the Target on the outskirts, but Old Town and Del Ray are two of my favorite local neighborhoods to hang out in.)
The remaining three-quarters of the dozen is full of inspirational choices - Sonoma and Eureka, CA (wine! redwoods!); Sheridan, WY (old west!); New Bedford, MA (whale watching!); among others - and it's easy to get lost in travel fantasies as you peruse the listings.
So... take a moment out of your morning and start (or update) your travel list while looking over the 2011 Dozen Distinctive Destinations. And if it just so happens that you - like me - have already been to some of these great places, take a moment between now and March 15 to vote in our fan favorite contest. And why would you do this? Because all voters are automatically entered to win a complimentary two night stay at any Historic Hotel of America.
Sarah Heffern is the content manager for PreservationNation.org. She's not allowed to publicly pick a favorite among the destinations, so instead will mention that she's hoping her international travel plans this year will involve Spain. Or Italy. Or maybe Greece. The Mediterranean, definitely.