2018 was an exciting year of travel and adventure for our family. We did so many fun and unique things, it has been a challenge to narrow down our absolute favorites, but we’ll give it our best shot.
Our Favorite Things of 2018
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Carrie’s Faves (by Carrie)
Favorite Food – ū·lë·lē in Tampa, FL
I’m going to start with food because that’s the most important part of any trip, right? We all loved the New Mexican cuisine with all those delicious green chiles, and we experienced some amazing pastries at Portos in Buena Park, California, but my personal favorite food item for 2018 came from ū·lë·lē in Tampa, Florida.
Their candied bacon maple ice cream is ridiculously good. It’s not a combination I would have thought to put together in an ice cream, but man does it work.
Honorable mention for me in the food category has to go to Mrs. Knott’s famous fried chicken at Knott’s Berry Farm. It is hands down the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted, especially coming from a theme park.
Favorite Ride – Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
This past year took us to three great theme parks, which is perfect for this coaster loving family. Universal Orlando will always hold a special place in my heart because of all the Harry Potter stuff, but my favorite ride of 2018 came from Busch Gardens Tampa. I loved everything about this beautiful theme park and zoo, and the best ride for me was Cheetah Hunt. I liked the rush at the start of this ride and the smooth turns and rolls, but the best part of the ride for me is the way they have incorporated the ride into the landscape of the park. There is quite a bit of track that stretches out over some of the animal enclosures, which just highlights what a cool and unique theme park Busch Gardens is.
Favorite National Park & Hike – Mesa Verde National Park and RMNP’s Bear Lake Trail to Emerald Lake
We were lucky enough to visit six National Parks in 2018, and each one is special in its own way, but I think my overall favorite was Mesa Verde. The informative ranger led tours through this amazing and historical park were so good. The rangers are such a wealth of knowledge, and you can tell how much they love this park too. You really step back in time when you visit these ancient dwellings, and I was in awe of how these people must have lived and worked together.
Since it is too hard to pick just one favorite park, I’m also going to include Black Canyon of the Gunnison as my biggest surprise of a park. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t much. It seems that’s always the case with some of these less popular parks. I’m not usually as excited about them before I go, but once I’m there, I’m hooked. The beauty of this park is breathtaking, and the depth of the canyon was quite a surprise to me. There are stunning views at every stop along the top, but we made sure to drive all the way down to the bottom as well. The fast moving water that formed the canyon is crystal clear and so COLD! Black Canyon of the Gunnison is just peaceful and beautiful all the way around.
We made it a point to go on several hikes in the parks that we visited, but my favorite was definitely our hike to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. With gorgeous views at every turn, it’s no wonder that this is one of RMNP’s most popular hikes and one of America’s favorite parks.
Favorite Scenic Drive – Durango, CO to Silverton, CO along highway 550
We did lots of driving in 2018, and just about any drive through Colorado is a good one, but my favorite one was the drive from Durango to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, specifically from Durango to Silverton. The mountain passes are truly incredible. I have to say, though, that I’m glad I was the passenger and not the driver! Another great drive is Durango to Alamosa.
Favorite Adventure – White Water Rafting
Adventure is a good word to describe all of our 2018 travels, but my favorite adventure for this past year was white water rafting. It was a first for the kids, and they loved it every bit as much as I knew they would. We did two different rafting adventures: one on a course in Oklahoma City and one on the Animas River in Colorado.
Our first taste of rafting was at Riversport Adventures in OKC’s boathouse district. This is such a fun place for families and a great place to learn how to white water raft in flat Oklahoma. We took what we learned to the Animas River in Durango, CO, and we felt like real experts because our guide kept bragging to the other boats about how good our rowing was. The rush of the rapids and the huge smiles on the kids’ faces made this an activity we will definitely want to do again!
Cadence’s Faves (by Cadence)
I think that we had a great traveling year in 2018. Here is a recap of my favorite things.
Favorite Museum – All of them!
My favorite museums are the OKC Science Museum, the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, and the Rattlesnake Museum. The OKC Science Museum had a lot of fun stuff to do. It had a special display of origami, a kids zone, a life size game room, and a bunch of other things. One of my favorite things there was the marble machine.
The Nuclear Science Museum in Albuquerque was very fun. It was full of things to learn. It even had a Delorian with the flux capacitor from Back to the Future.
The Rattlesnake Museum had a lot of weird looking reptiles. It had turtles, salamanders, and of course all kinds of snakes! The snakes were just really cool to look at. There was also a theater where you can watch documentaries about alligators and other large reptiles.
Favorite Ride – Hang Time at Knott’s Berry Farm
Some of my favorite rides are Cheetah Hunt, Hang Time, and The Hulk. Cheetah Hunt was in Busch Gardens, and I liked how it takes off really fast and all the loops. Hang Time is in Knott’s Berry Farm. It is now one of my all-time favorites because I liked going straight up and how it held you there before it drops. I also like how it looks like a wave and the way the track lit up in different colors. (I also liked how Mom kept saying, “I don’t like this, I don’t like this” over and over! Haha!) The Hulk is in Universal Orlando. It is one of the best thrill rides in my opinion, and it’s not for the faint-hearted!
Favorite Restaurant – ū·lë·lē and Datz in Tampa, FL
Some of my favorite restaurants are ū·lë·lē and Datz in Tampa. ū·lë·lē was so delicious! I had steak with the best mashed potatoes I have ever had. Datz was kind of amazing! My mom and I shared this thing called the Cheesy Todd. It was a hamburger with a deep fried macaroni and cheese bun. So good!
I also liked a candy store in Albuquerque called Buffett’s. They are famous for their pinon roll. In fact, they are so famous, they were on Food Network’s Delicious Destinations. The pinon roll was yummy, but I got a chocolate covered divinity egg.
Favorite National Park and Hike – Great Sand Dunes NP and the Bear Lake trail to Emerald Lake in RMNP.
My favorite National Park was Great Sand Dunes. We rented a sand snow board and a boogie board. Once we got to the dunes we had a lot of fun.
One of my favorite hikes was the hike to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a beautiful, scenic hike with lots of wildlife and greenery. Once we got there, we had a perfect view of the mountains and Emerald Lake.
Favorite Animal Encounter – Galapagos Tortoises at the Oklahoma City Zoo
My favorite animal encounter was at the Oklahoma City Zoo. We got to feed the tortoises. They were really old, and they must have liked what we were feeding them because they kept coming for more! It was a very fun day.
Favorite City – Albuquerque, New Mexico
In my opinion, the best city we visited in 2018 was Albuquerque. We loved all the unique things to see and all the good things to eat!
Andrew’s Faves (by Andrew)
Favorite Museum – National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque, New Mexico
There were many great things about 2018 that I enjoyed, starting with my favorite museum which is the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque. There I saw replicas of Fat Man and Little Boy, the bombs that destroyed Nagasaki and Hiroshima, war planes from WWII and the Korean War, and other relics. There were also exhibits about magnetism, parts of an atom, and other things of that nature.
Other cool museums we visited in 2018 were the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque.
Favorite National Park and Hike – Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
My favorite park was Rocky Mountain National Park. There were great hiking trails, scenic roads, and three visitor centers to visit and get stamps from. There was also a great variety of wildlife from elk to marmots (which we did see) to bighorn sheep (which we didn’t see).
This National Park also had my favorite hike of 2018. The was the Emerald Lake trail. It starts at the Bear Lake trailhead and works its way 3.1 miles past Nymph Lake and Dream Lake to Emerald Lake. The wildlife on that trail consists of ground squirrels, fish, and frogs.
Favorite Ride and Theme Park – Incredible Hulk Coaster at Universal Orlando and Knott’s Berry Farm
My favorite roller coaster was the Incredible Hulk coaster at Universal Orlando. This coaster has five inversions (the first four right in the beginning), and it goes 67 miles per hour. Some close second favorites were Ghost Rider at Knott’s Berry Farm and Cheetah Hunt at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.
My favorite theme park was Knott’s Berry Farm. It had great rides such as Ghost Rider, Silver Bullet, the Xceleraor, and Hang Time. Not only that, but it is owned by Cedar Fair, meaning its theme is the Peanuts gang, which is one of my favorites. And, another reason Knott’s Berry Farm was my favorite theme park is that it had my favorite place to eat – Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant. This place is famous for its fried chicken and boysenberry pie. We went on Thanksgiving, so we got about half a chicken per plate (we shared). Afterwards, we were full to bursting (probably because we ate biscuits and pie as well). They were all sold out of the boysenberry pie though, so I guess we’ll just have to go back again some day.
Favorite City – Albuquerque, New Mexico
My favorite location overall was Albuquerque, New Mexico. The best part about it was the food. Sadie’s of New Mexico and the Owl Cafe were the best. Native American fry bread is now my favorite way of eating a taco. There were also plenty of museums and activities to do there too.
Carrick’s Faves (by Carrick)
Favorite Cultural Experience – Guided tour at Mesa Verde National Park
Mesa Verde National Park blew me away with its little towns and communities built right into the mountains. Even more remarkable is the fact that you can walk through them (with a tour guide of course).
It was one of most fascinating tours I’ve been on. Our guides were excellent, with deep local knowledge of the area and history. Although no one really knows why these people left, they offered some plausible explanations that captivated me the entire way (and even long after I left the park).
Quirkiest Museum – American International Rattlesnake Museum in Albuquerque
This dusty little place sits on the edge of Old Town Albuquerque, and if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss it. Inside, you’ll find the world’s largest collection of rattlesnake species ever assembled in one place. Horrifying for some, but fascinating for people like me who love a weird, off-the-wall collection of stuff.
Best trip to an alternate reality – Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, New Mexico
If you’ve got the time, make a stop into Meow Wolf where the experience is just as crazy as the name. Part fantasy, part mystery – guests have to pick up on clues left to solve a mystery. Things are not as they seem, however, and before you know it, you’re walking through the kitchen refrigerator to an alternate dimension…
Best Optical Illusion – The Dali Museum in Tampa, FL
The Dali is home to the largest collection of works by Salvador Dali anywhere outside of Europe. In it, you’ll see many of his most famous works, and it was a fun, unexpected find during our trip to Tampa. Here is his long-winded Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea which at Twenty Meters Becomes the Portrait of Abraham Lincoln-Homage to Rothko (Second Version) painted in 1976.
Best South Pacific Escape (without leaving the US) – Volcano Bay at Universal Orlando Resort
We’ve said that Universal’s Volcano Bay is the best water park we’ve ever visited, and it’s true! We’d go back in a heartbeat. We loved the South Pacific theme, the slides, the rivers, the food, and even the music and drums in the background that make it feel like you’re really worlds away.
2018 was Fantastic!
From theme parks to National Parks, 2018 really made an impact on everyone here at AftT. As a parent, we’re always excited to share the world with our kids, and 2018 was definitely a success!
What were your favorite places to visit in 2018? Let is know in the comments!
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