My Travel Bucket List

Long Boat in Thailand

I was recently asked what is the one place I want to travel to the most. Yikes! That is a hard question to answer because there are SO MANY places I still want to go to but haven’t been. Instead of getting shorter the more I travel, my travel bucket list seems to get longer as I read and hear about new places.

But I have thought long and hard about it and decided that if I had unlimited vacation time and lots of extra money, there are a few places in particular I would start. I have listed them below in two parts – one for international and one for travel in the US. And so without further ado, here is my list. (Note: I haven’t been to any of these places so the photos are not mine. They are from a Blogger’s best friend, Canva).

International

  • Thailand – This has been at the top of my list for a long time, maybe since I first started traveling abroad in 2013. I want to experience the culture there. I want to hang out with some elephants (but not ride them. Please don’t do that!). I’d also love to spend time at some of the quieter islands and beaches and ride in a long boat like the one seen below. Thailand is probably the #1 spot I want to travel to in the near future.

Elephants in Thailand

Long boat in Thailand

  • South Africa– South Africa has also been on my list for a while. I would love to visit Cape Town (you can see black-footed penguins there!) and also go on a safari in Kruger National Park while I am there. I have a few friends from South Africa so hopefully, I can spend time with them while I am there too!

Cape Town, South Africa

Giraffes in Kruger Park, South Africa

  • Scotland – This is a newer addition to this list but I really want to see Highland Cows, like the one pictured below. I guess you can take the girl out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the girl. 🙂

Highland Cow in Scotland

Honorable Mention

  • The Galápagos Islands – so much wildlife to see!
  • Antarctica – my first cruise perhaps?
  • The Maldives and/or Bora Bora – over water bungalow anyone?
  • Japan
  • New Zealand
  • Prague
  • Prince Edward Island – I want to see where Anne of Greene Gables hung out

In the USA

  • Antelope Canyon in Arizona and Monument Valley in Colorado. I’m including these together because in my mind, I’d visit them both as per of a massive road trip. Maybe that isn’t realistic?! I will admit I haven’t looked into it too much yet. If not, I guess that means I’ll have to visit friends in Colorado while visiting Monument Park in one trip and then go to Arizona and visit the canyon and friends in a second trip.
Antelope Canyon in Arizona
Upper Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona, USA
Scenic Road leading to Monument Valley

Scenic Road leading to Monument Valley

  • Glacier National Park – My parents went to Glacier National Park in the summer of 2018 and their photos were amazing! I definitely want to go and check it out soon!
Glacier National Park, Montana.
Glacier National Park, Montana.
  • Acadia National Park & Maine – I have been in Maine but it was only a brief visit. I would love to go back and explore more. I also want to visit Acadia National Park while I am there (there is definitely a National Park theme to my travel bucket list).
Portland, Maine
Portland, Maine at Portland Head Light.

 

Honorable Mention

  • Nashville, TN – I know, I can’t believe I haven’t been here either! My cousin wants to celebrate her 50th birthday in Nashville in a few years. That may be my chance to go.
  • Santa Fe, New Mexico – I think a weekend girls’ trip to Santa Fe would be fun and a little bit different (maybe not as different as a girls’ trip to North Dakota though).
  • An Alaskan Cruise – I did the land part of an Alaskan trip but I’d love to complete the cruise part as well someday.
  • Buffalo, New York during a massive snow storm. Tell me watching it snow many feet of snow at once wouldn’t be exhilarating?!

So there’s my travel bucket list. What would your list look like? What are a couple of places you really want to visit soon? Tell me in the comments below.

Want to read more? Click here to check out Four Benefits to Traveling Solo and here to read about the Pros and Cons of Using a Travel Agent.

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Girls’ Weekend in North Dakota

Have I ever told you about my friend (and former roommate) Crystal? If I haven’t, you are probably not aware of her awesomeness.

Case in point, last spring when she said “let’s book a girls’ trip for a weekend this summer!” I was instantly in and I started thinking about all of the places we could go – Napa. NOLA. Santa Fe. NYC. So many possibilities to consider!

She said “no” to all of them. Her idea? A Girls’ Weekend in North Dakota.

Yes, North Dakota. You see, this was last spring when I was still working on my goal of visiting all 50 US states. At that point, I had four left; one of them was North Dakota (I made it to Mississippi and Alabama prior to us going to ND so ND was #49 for me). She knew it and that is why she made the suggestion. Pretty cool, right? I told you she is awesome.

So away to North Dakota we went. We both flew into the capitol city of Bismarck, rented a car and set out from there.

Our Girls’ Weekend in North Dakota had begun.

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Such a pretty area to fly into
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North Dakota – State 49 for me

You might be asking what is there to do in North Dakota. Well, there is the World’s Largest Buffalo, Dakota Thunder and a live albino buffalo in a field nearby. There’s also a large holstein cow named Salem Sue and Theodore Roosevelt National Park is in the western part of the state.

Our goal was to see them all.

Day 1

Our first stop? A visit to the World’s Largest Buffalo. Dakota Thunder is a roadside sculpture located in Jamestown, ND, which is east of Bismarck along I-94. He is 26 feet tall and 46 feet long. He weighs 60 short tons and is anatomically correct (he is indeed a male). Dakota Thunder was constructed with stucco and cement around a steel beam frame.

For many years, it was customary for members of the graduating class at the local high school to paint his genitalia in the school colors of blue and white. They were not painted special colors when we were there.

When we were done hanging out with and taking photos of Dakota Thunder and the live buffalo next door, we headed north towards Devil’s Lake. I didn’t do much research about the lake before we went there and was shocked to discover how big it was when we arrived! I did not know North Dakota had such a large body of water! It seemed to go on and on and on when we were driving through. We did stop off and find a public beach where we could dip our toes in and admire the sheer size of the lake.

After spending some time near the lake, we turned west en route to Minot, where we planned to spend the night. It was a couple of hours drive and along the way, we drove through Rugby, ND, which is the (disputed) geographical center of North America. They even have a brick monument to mark the spot so of course we had to stop and take some photos!

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Our rental car was this BMW SUV. It was what we got because it was the only small SUV they had left. We were excited to drive it but by the end of the weekend, neither of us were impressed. The shift stick annoyed us both!
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That’s a big buffalo!
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Dakota Thunder and me
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We think this is the albino buffalo. He was in a field next door to Dakota Thunder.
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There was a replica of an old western town near the buffalo and so we meandered through it for fun before leaving the area. This photo was taken there. I hope I never get arrested because I do not have a good mugshot face.

 

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Our view of Devil’s Lake where we stopped to dip our toes in

 

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Me at the geographical center of North America 
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Crystal and me

When we finally made it to Minot, we had two goals for the evening:

  1. Find a place to stay
  2. Find a place for dinner.

Turns out, dinner was the easy part. Due to a kickball tournament in town (or something like that) most of the hotels were sold out. So we ended up at a place that was safe enough and sort of clean but with no hot water. Ugh! Oh well, it was an adventure and we survived. Plus, aren’t you proud of me for not planning and just winging it for a change?! (And look how it turned out. I rest my case that planning is good!)

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We had dinner in Minot at 10 North Main.
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And this was there we had breakfast – Charlie’s Main Street Cafe. We loved the old fashioned diner feel of this place.
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North Dakota is known for their caramel rolls so we had to have one while we were at Charlie’s. It was delish!!

Day 2

After breakfast at Charlie’s, we set out for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park comprises three geographically separated areas in western North Dakota. It covers 70,446 acres and is the only American national park named directly after a single person. We visited the park’s larger South Unit that lies alongside I-94 near Medora. The park was pretty and would be a great place to explore and hike through. It reminded me a lot of the badlands in South Dakota.

Then, we started the long drive back to Bismarck, which seemed like the longest straight driving part of the trip. We decided to pass the time by logging into my Tinder account. If you don’t know what Tinder is, it is a dating app that finds other people who are on the app within a certain distance of your current location. We were curious because we had read that due to the oil fields in North Dakota, the proportion of men to women in the state is greatly disproportionate – meaning there are a lot more men than women. Seems like that would be a good thing for me. 🙂

I was driving during this stretch so Crystal did the work on the dating app, posing as me. We had several matches and spent the rest of that drive and the evening messaging back and forth with the matches. It was the source of lots of humor to close out the day.

Just before Bismarck, we stopped to see Salem Sue, the large holstein cow near New Salem, North Dakota. Holsteins are the breed of cows my parents’ had on our farm when I was growing up so I am very familiar with them. This one could have fit right in…if she was actually alive that is.

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Me at the entrance of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
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This area of the park is rumored to be the most photographed spot in North Dakota

 

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Such a beautiful background

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I am not sure if we saw more oil derricks pumping oil while we were there….
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or round bails used to feed animals like the ones to the right of the building in the photo above.

 

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Salem Sue and me
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Crystal and me with Salem Sue
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My favorite meal of our Girls’ Trip to North Dakota was here – at Butterhorn in downtown Bismarck. The food and drinks were yummy. The dinner included a broken wine glass (not me) and then a left behind credit card (me) that involved a drive back to the restaurant in a torrential downpour. Such a fun night!! 🙂
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Cheers to a great dinner in Bismarck!
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Our last meal of the trip was brunch here.
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I loved these light fixtures above the bar area at The Starving Rooster. They are made from the snout of the corn head of a combine.

Day 3

The biggest surprise of our Girls’ Weekend in North Dakota for me came right before we headed back to the airport to head home on Sunday when we decided to stop by the North Dakota state capitol building. I had been to the capitol buildings in Mississippi and Alabama a few weeks earlier so it seemed like the logical thing to do since we were so close by.

We followed the instructions GPS gave us but when we got to our destination, we got out of the car and wondered if we were in the right place. I couldn’t help but think “Where is the dome?”

It turns out, there is no dome on the capitol building in Bismarck, North Dakota. The capitol building doesn’t look like a capitol building at all. We saw the building in the photos below and had to confirm with a woman walking her dogs nearby that this was indeed the capitol building. It was definitely not what we were expecting. The women told us that it is the “least expensive capitol building in the US.” Yes. We can believe it.

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The North Dakota State Capitol Building
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Crystal and me in front of the state capitol building

And with that, our Girls’ Weekend in North Dakota came to an end. I had a great time and am so thankful for the time I got to spend with Crystal that weekend. We had many good conversations and lots of laughs too!

I know North Dakota isn’t on the top of many people’s “must visit” lists (South Dakota seems to be the go to and for a reason – you can read about my family trip to South Dakota here and here) but there are definitely things to do and see in North Dakota so if you get the chance to go, you should go. As we all know, the company can make a trip even better so grab some friends and make it a group trip!

One fun fact before I go. My parents trekked around the US last summer on a two week road trip that took them through North Dakota the week before I was there. ND was also my dad’s 49th state to visit. They stopped by the see Dakota Thunder and also had brunch at The Starving Rooster when they were in Bismarck.

The only state my dad hasn’t visited to date is Hawaii.

Summary of the places and restaurants mentioned in this post and that I think you should check out during your Girls’ Weekend in North Dakota: 

  1. Dakota Thunder, the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND
  2. Devil’s Lake, North Dakota
  3. Geographical midpoint of North America, Rugby, ND
  4. 10 North Main in Minot, ND
  5. Charlie’s Main Street Cafe
  6. Theodore Roosevelt National Park
  7. Salem Sue, the holstein
  8. Butterhorn
  9. The Starving Rooster