Sunset at North Beach; Isla Mujeres, Mexico

As we say goodbye to 2019 and hello to a new decade, I took a few minutes* to highlight some of my favorite travel and lifestyle experiences from the past 10 years.

*False: When bloggers say it’s going to take a few more minutes to write something up, they really mean hours.

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Top travel destination – travel blogger shares best places to visit from past decade

Oh, my. Only 19 favorite travel destinations from the past decade? Nearly impossible to choose so few from so many so I pretty much just drew names in no particular order. But these are all the best of the best places to visit.

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Paris, France – best European cities to visit, best emptynester trips, best solo travel and best family vacations

Paris, France is one of our favorite cities. Don’t believe the rumors that people are rude to Americans. Simply not true. Love the history, the culture, the people, the food and even the touristy places: The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, (and sadly will miss Notre Dame on my return visit; grateful we saw it before the devastating fire). But my favorite is the newly discovered (newly for me) Luxembourg Gardens. Will post more on that not-so-hidden gem later.

Venice, Italy – best European cities to visit and best family vacations

One of our all-time favorite experiences was wandering the maze of passageways and canals of Venice. This was just one of the beautiful cities we experienced during our family’s two-week tour of Italy and Greece. Athens should also be on this list, but since I was drawing names it didn’t work. Although, I’m not numbering this list so unless someone actually counted…

Madrid, Spain – best European cities to visit and best solo travel

Retiro Park in Madrid with Kayaks

I still need to publish about my solo trip to Madrid, Spain in 2019; however, you can watch my Spain video recap and read about my amazing experience at Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery – an outdoor art gallery of surreal, beautiful and haunting sculptures and memorials.

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain – best Game of Thrones filming location (Dragonstone), best hiking, best solo travel

Game of Thrones Filiming Location in Spain

One of my favorite experiences in 2019 was taking a day trip from Madrid, Spain to the Game of Thrones filming location for Dragonstone in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, Spain.

Maui, Hawaii – best beach vacations and best family vacations, emptynester trip and best solo travel

Beach - Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii - Driftwood and Rainbow

I’ve been to Maui three times in the past decade – as a family, as emptynesters, and a solo trip. Every experience was special.

North Shore, Minnesota – best lakes, best waterfalls and best hiking

I spent most of my summer and fall exploring my own backyard in the Twin Cities and the North Shore. The Split Rock Lighthouse is just one of the beautiful sights along Minnesota’s shores of Lake Superior.

Page, Arizona – best natural wonder, best hiking and best family vacations

Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

The surreal, mysterious and magical Lower Antelope Canyon should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. It was definitely one of our family’s favorite travel destinations from the past decade – and with 1.9k likes and 651 shares, it was my most popular Facebook post.

New Orleans, Louisiana – best U.S. cities to visit

I was very reluctant to visit New Orleans, but finally agreed when my friend Angel guaranteed that I would love NOLA. And she was right. In fact, it is one of my most favorite cities in the U.S. – love the culture, the food, the people, the music.

Asheville, North Carolina – best U.S. cities to visit and best girlfriend getaways

Outside of the Biltmore Estate

Loved taking a road trip with my friend Sue to beautiful and eclectic Asheville, North Carolina. While the historic Biltmore Mansion and gardens during Bloom Season was a big draw, we were pleasantly surprised to discover so many fun things to do in Asheville, NC.

Nashville, Tennessee – best U.S. cities to visit and best girlfriend getaways

Nashville is another city I was reluctant to visit because I’m not really a country music fan. But my friend Laurie persuaded me and loved it so much I returned a second time the following year with my hockey mom friends for a NashBash trip. And now my good friend Aimee lives in NashVegas so thinking it’s time for another visit in this new decade (even though I’m not that country, I did enjoy going to the Grand Ole Opry – Carrie Underwood pictured).

Travel tip: I’m always on a quest for the best mac and cheese – and my second favorite mac and cheese is at The Stillery in Nashville – comes with hot Nashville chicken.

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg – best European cities to visit and best family vacations

Luxembourg the country is one of the smallest yet most beautiful countries in the world. And it’s where my husband’s extended family lives. I’m currently researching and documenting my husband’s grandfather’s story – a concentration camp survivor.

New York, New York – best U.S. cities to visit and best family vacations

I will never tire of New York City. It’s one of my favorite places in the world – if you’re looking for things to do in New York City, check out my one-day itinerary of Central Park.

Los Angeles, California – best U.S. cities to visit, best girlfriend getaways and best beach vacations

One of my favorite visits to LA was for my 50th birthday bash with several of my good friends. We stayed in Marina del Rey (right next to Venice Beach); did our share of beach time and boardwalk time as well as got tickets to my favorite musician, John Mellencamp, and saw Jimmy Kimmel live (pictures captured by my friend Ann), and took a whale-watching tour. Good times making memories with good friends.

San Francisco, California – best U.S. cities to visit and best family vacations

I visited San Fran twice in the past 10 years; and once for our family spring break. We explored Alcatraz, Haight-Ashbury, Lombard Street, found the Full House house, went to a Golden State Warriors game, and more.

Isla Mujeres, Mexico – best beach vacations, best sunsets, best emptynester trips and best solo travel

Hotel Secreto beach umbrella; Isla Mujeres, Mexico

At last count, I have visited Mexico 26 times…and nearly every year for the past 10. But last year was our first time staying in Isla Mujeres and we absolutely loved it. Also check out the top reasons why I’ve visited Mexico 27x in the past 30 years.

Nice, France – best European cities to visit, best solo travel and best beach vacations

Beach - French Riviera; Nice, Italy

So my former company sent me to Paris twice within a couple of months so I decided to take a long weekend someplace else while I was there and flew to Nice, France – one of my favorite bleisure trips ever.

Key West, Florida – best U.S. cities to visit, best sailing, best sunsets, best emptynester trip

My husband and I took advantage of a free companion flight to visit Key West (so expensive to fly there from MSP). We were not disappointed. Check out our favorite things to do in Key West.

Salem, Massachusetts – best U.S. cities to visit and best family vacations

If your travel plans are not going as planned, it’s because you’re meant to be exactly where you end up. We were planning to take a family getaway to Boston last May; however, the hotel rates were outrageous due to basketball and hockey playoffs. So I found a Groupon for a hotel (which turned out to be haunted) in Salem, Mass. While we didn’t see any paranormal activity, we did enjoy our stay at the historic Hawthorne Hotel immensely. Will be posting more soon. In the meantime, you can check out one of my most favorite and intriguing cemeteries in Salem, including this one.

Tallinn, Estonia – best European cities to visit

Finland should be on my list because I’ve visited several times in the past decade (the HQ of my former company). However, our day trip to the medieval city of Tallinn, Estonia bumped it (but only because I limited myself to naming 19 places – you should definitely visit Helsinki, Finland also).

Top books

This was another difficult list as reading is a passion. Narrowing the top books from the 2010s down to just 19 was tough. As you’ll see, I’m a big fan of historical fiction and psychological thrillers. But I do have a few non-fiction reads as well as a couple of sci-fi favorites. See my book reviews section for more details or follow me on Goodreads.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

The Woman In the Window by A.J. Finn (super excited to see it’s been made into a movie and coming to the theater in May)

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

Fascism: A Warning by Madeleine K. Albright

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman (and pretty much everything he wrote – my favorite contemporary author at the moment)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot By the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are by Brene Brown

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resistance and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup (memoir originally published in 1853 with the adaptation published in 2013 – also made my Top Movies list)

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Martian by Andy Weir (also made my Top Movies list)

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan

Fall of Giants by Ken Follett

Lilac Girls: A Novel by Martha Hall Kelly

The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell by Robert Dugoni

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

The Boys Who Woke Up Early by A.D. Hopkins (Check out my book review of this debut novel).

Top movies

We watch a lot of movies so I could make a top 19 list for every year. So I decided to list those that I loved from the pool of Oscar-nominated movies from 2010-2019 (knowing that some of the movies I watched from this year are not included and the ones from 2010 are most likely from 2009). Too hard to decide on ranking so am posting alphabetically. And I know there are so many more worthy of being in a top-something list. Here are my one-word reviews.

Argo: Intense

Birdman: Eccentric

Bridesmaids: Hilarious

Brooklyn: Romantic

Boyhood: Coming-of-age

Darkest Hour: Courageous

Get Out: Suspenseful  

Hacksaw Ridge: Heroic

Lady Bird: Willful

Manchester By The Sea: Poignant

Moonlight: Brilliant

Roma: Thought-provoking

The Artist: Silent

The Big Short: Deception

The Martian: Sci-fi

Spotlight: Disturbing

Toy Story 3: Cry

12 Years A Slave: Resilience

Whiplash: Power

Update: Check out my family’s one-word movie reviews of all 2020 Oscar-nominated best picture films as well as my ongoing movie in-one-word reviews post.

Top concerts

Madonna concert

This was the toughest list (because many ended up on the cutting room floor). As you can tell, I’m an 80s lady so love seeing the classics (even if I’ve seen them several times over the last few decades). But here are my favorites from just this past decade.

Adele: I saw Adele with my family twice in the past decade: 2011 and 2016. She is undoubtedly the best concert I have been to ever. Yeah, I’ve got a pretty good life to see her twice.

Madonna: So my friend Jo and I originally bought VIP lower-level tickets. But as the date grew closer, I wanted to get closer to the stage. So I bought two tickets on StubHub for row 6 or something like that (and sold the other ones). They weren’t that expensive. Well, we found out why when we arrived. They were fraudulent. But not to worry – StubHub immediately issued us new tickets (plus a refund) and while our seats were about 1/3 of the way back, they were even better. Madonna’s stage extended way out even past our row. And during certain numbers, our row was not only encouraged, but actually pushed to the stage to get up real close and personal (they were filming). So close I could even hear Madonna’s heels on the stage. I’ll see if I can find that clip.

The Eagles: My husband has seen hundreds of concerts – not exaggerating. I was surprised when he hadn’t seen The Eagles so my son and I surprised him with a Father’s Day gift in 2018 to see The Eagles along with Jimmy Buffett. Not a bad warm-up band. Glenn Frey’s son, Deacon, and Vince Gill were great compliments to the band.

Lady Gaga: Wow! I took my niece Nicci to see Lady Gaga – her first concert ever. And what a show! Definitely made some great family memories.

Pink: Wow! Again! My friend Ann and I saw Pink – had pretty good beside-the-stage tickets. She’s simply the coolest – and what a performer!

Prince: My friends Ann (who is the biggest Prince fan ever), Suzy and I were fortunate to get tickets to a limited engagement at a small venue in the Twin Cities in 2013ish, I believe. Not sure how many people attended, but the nightclub only holds 3,500. On a semi-related note, my friend Angie and I were invited down to a Minnesota Vikings half-time show in 2019 to get up close with Prince’s original band, The Revolution (the real one, not a tribute). Try to find us…we’re both wearing purple.

Billy Joel: The Piano Man asked the sold-out crowd if anyone wanted to hear his new songs. After a polite applause, he asked who wanted to hear his old stuff. The place erupted. And he said something like, “Good, because I haven’t written anything since 1993.” Ann (we’re frequent concert-going partners) and I saw him at Target Field the summer of 2017 – with a guest appearance from Axl Rose.  

Bruno Mars: Just a few weeks later Ann texted me about my plans on Saturday and boom later that night we went to see Bruno Mars. She’s a huge fan and I was a fan – but even a bigger one after seeing him perform. That guy can sing and dance.

Little River Band: My friends Kim, Sue, Sigrid, Nancy and I saw the amazing Little River Band at the Bavarian Blast in small town New Ulm, Minnesota in 2010. In a tent. Not even a stadium. But we didn’t need seats as we were up front and dancing the entire time. Super fun to meet them after the show (I got a drumstick) and kinda cool that my friends and I made the front page of the New Ulm newspaper the next day.

John Mellencamp: John Mellencamp is my all-time favorite musician and have seen him more than any other – I’ve lost count. In the past decade; however, I have only seen him twice: 2015 and 2017. And both times were birthday-related. For my 50th birthday celebration, I planned a destination concert (and weeklong getaway) with several of my friends in LA (see earlier section). And two years later, he was playing in the Twin Cities at the Minnesota State Fair on my actual birthday. He’s still got it.

Bon Jovi: One of my all-time favorites, I saw Bon Jovi here in Minnesota in 2013 and 2018 – and then he was the entertainment at a conference I was attending in Philadelphia also in 2013. My former manager, Ingrid, happened to find me a VIP ticket so I was able to get on the floor.

Joan Jett: Who doesn’t love rock and roll? When I was in high school, I wanted to be Joan Jett (I used Sun-In daily back then so not sure how I was going to pull that off). Got the opportunity to see her with my friends Ann and Kim at Mystic Lake Casino in Shakopee, Minn. And she was the warm-up band to Heart (who were also amazing).

Journey: I’ve seen them three times in the past 10 years – once in New Orleans and 2x in Minnesota – and all 3x with my friend Angie. Don’t stop believing!

Def Leppard: They were with Journey every time and then also saw them at the Minnesota State Fair with Heart. One of my friends was actually hushed at this concert. A Def Leppard concert. People are weird.

Bob Seger: Took a road trip to Kansas City to see this legend a few years ago. At 69, Bob Seger still had Old Time Rock and Roll in his soul. Amazing concert.  

Rick Springfield and Richard Marx: I’m doubling these two 80s musicians as they toured together – had no idea they were good friends. I took my good friends Ann and Melisa with me (even though I think some of the songs were written before Melisa was even born). Rick and Richard were both witty and funny and interacted with the audience a lot – especially loved the mashup of Jessi’s Girl, 867-5309, Stacy’s Mom. Hilarious! Bonus: Richard Marx liked one of my tweets. In fact, he was the only one who liked it (I didn’t have many followers back then).

Boy George & the Culture Club; B-52s and Tom Bailey from the Thompson Twins: Okay, I’m going to triple up on these three 80s icons since my husband and I saw all three at the Minnesota State Fair in 2018. It was raining nearly the entire time, but we didn’t care. So much fun!

Hall and Oates: I’ve seen them twice in the past decade. Most recently, my friend Angie treated me to the concert at the Minnesota State Fair (night before my birthday) and my trio of concert goers, Angie, Ann and Kim, and I went in 2017 where Tears for Fears was the warm-up band.

Maroon 5: Somehow I got really cheap tickets to Maroon 5 (something crazy like $35ish) so bought four so my friends Suzy, Mel and Kim could go with me. They were behind the stage, but we still had a blast (and could see backstage).

Well, that’s my top 19s for the past decade. Excited for more travel, more books, more movies and more concerts in the 2020s. Share in the comments your favorites over the past decade. Would love to hear them!


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Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller


  1. Great lists! You have so many wonderful memories from the past decade. We are tentatively planning a New England road trip for late June, and Boston and Salem are on my radar. Thanks for the info!

  2. I love this concept! I may do something similar just for myself, to reminisce over the past 10 years. And Bruno Mars is amazing in concert! I saw him a few years ago and was blown away.

    1. Thank you…I’ll look forward to reading yours! It was a bit ambitious and time-consuming to cover everything, but kinda cool to reflect back on the past 10 years. And Bruno is one amazing performer.

  3. What a fun list to put together. I really want to go to Estonia some day. Sounds like you had an adventurous year. i need to add more to my adventures.

    1. I didn’t even know where Estonia was before this trip. The medieval city of Tallinn was amazing – wear comfortable shoes!

  4. I love Saoirse Ronan and Lady Bird. Have you seen Brooklyn? My kids even love that movie. I also love your best places to travel list. Lots of great picks on it.

    1. We loved Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend is nearby. Since Antelope Canyon is on Navajo tribal lands, you can only explore with a guide. It wasn’t touristy at all. We went in early March and there were no lines. We only went to the top of Horseshoe Bend but I believe there are trails where you can hike to the bottom.

  5. what a great right up! You have experienced so much in a decade. Should be great to see what the next one brings!

  6. Your decade was AMAZING!! I have Antelope Canyon on my list of travels rhis year and I absolutely cannot wait!! Can’t wait to see where the 2020s leads you!

    1. Thank you so much…it was definitely a very fulfilling decade! Living the dream! I can’t wait to hear about your experience at Antelope Canyon. We were all completely mesmerized by it…so much beauty!

  7. Love this post! You really got to see a lot of amazing places! That is funny I don’t think I saw one concert this decade!

    1. Thank you so much! I didn’t think I had seen many concerts – and then there were so many I didn’t even name so I guess I did go to a lot of concerts (but only one last year).

  8. Great post!! I wonder what the list of “honorable mention” would look like. Especially the travel places! It’s a nice reflection of your decade. I really enjoyed it 🙂

    1. Thank you! I do have a lot that qualify for an honorable mention so will need to work on that list. Thanks for stopping by!

  9. I’m glad I didn’t try to do this. I would be writing for a week. You had great travels over the decade, and I’m still shocked how many times you have been to Mexico. Great lists you have compiled (even if we don’t share the same taste in movies😃).

    1. Thank you! It did take a really long time to pull this list together. But now I’m glad I did as I can look back and cherish those memories especially now. Funny about the movies! I’m working on watching/rewatching all 92 of the movies that won an Oscar for Best Picture.

  10. Amazing lists! I found the same to be true about Paris. No one was rude to me. So glad Asheville made the list! I go there often and love the city. Can’t comment on the books or movies as I don’t have much free time for either but you’ve been to some awesome concerts!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m way behind on my reading challenge this year. I’ve found that I really need to be intentional to find the time to read…book club helps! It was a year ago this weekend that we went to Asheville…looking forward to returning!

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