Well here we are, December 18th and just one week away from Christmas. Ready or not, it will be here before we know it. By now, I usually have all my decorations up; I am busy running around with last minute shopping; and I am up to my elbows in baking holiday sweets. Although I always found great joy in taking treats to my friends and neighbors and “decking the halls”, the last few years have changed for me. I found that I was wearing myself out with all the activities and desire to have the “Perfect Christmas” for my family. By the time Christmas actually arrived, I was exhausted and never felt like I could truly appreciate the holiday for what it was.
Last year, I tossed all the traditions aside and I, along with my family left for beautiful Kauai. It was a week well-spent in a beautiful three-bedroom condominium near sunny Poipu Beach. We went on a catamaran trip to the scenic Napali Coast, took a helicopter ride around the island, Snuba lessons, and of course, spent some down time watching all the football playoff games. We enjoyed delicious meals, especially on Christmas Eve at my favorite restaurant, the Beach House. The sunset was incredible that night and it was a special memory we will never forget. I spent more quality time with my family that Christmas week than I ever have in years past.
This year, my holiday travel plans are very different. My wanderlust daughter is traveling throughout Asia for six months (currently in Borneo) and my son is working. So, this Friday I am packing every piece of cold weather clothing I own and departing for frigid Cleveland, Ohio to spend the holidays with my fiancée and future in-laws. I will be celebrating the season on the shores of icy Lake Eerie instead of sunny Poipu Beach. Although I am not a fan of the cold weather, I am very excited to travel back to one of my favorite cities. It has been an exciting year for the great city of Cleveland with the Cavs winning their championship and the Indians in the nail-biting World Series. Cleveland is re-inventing itself with fantastic restaurants, fun nightlife, and a wide variety of activities and sports.
Upon arrival, we will head to my favorite area, East 4th. This street is blocked off to traffic and lined with restaurants and clubs, including renowned chef Michael Symon’s Lola and Mable’s BBQ (I wish St. George had an area like this). The city will be beautifully-decorated for the holidays and I am looking forward to seeing the display. I may even convince Rob to drive up to the Tremont area to visit the Christmas Story House and Museum. It is the house from one of my favorite childhood movies, A Christmas Story. Who knows, I might just purchase a leg lamp this year.
The next morning, I can’t wait to make our way to Ohio City for shopping at West Side Market, dating back to 1912. This is culinary heaven to me with over 100 vendors featuring a wide variety of authentic ethnic foods. I plan to stock up on the fresh cannolis, kielbasa, kolachki cookies, and more. Of course, we must stop at Great Lakes Brewery for their famous Christmas Ale and a delicious meal.
Christmas Eve Day will be spent cheering for the Browns outside at FirstEnergy Stadium and hoping for a win. I’ve never understood why they have outdoor stadiums in climates like Cleveland, but Rob tells me it all part of “the experience”. Hopefully, I can pack some southwest sunshine and take it with me to Ohio for the holidays. The rest of the week will be spent enjoying a good Mid-Western Christmas with family and good friends, which to me, is what the holidays are for.
After reviewing our weekly departure list at work, I am not the only one packing my bags and taking a vacation this week. From Caribbean cruises, to Hawaii and a few places in between, several families opted to spend their holidays together, creating memories instead of purchasing material gifts and decking the halls. More people now than ever are choosing to spend their money on experiences vs. “things”. It doesn’t matter where your travels take you this season, close to home or far away, warm or cold – take the time to relax, enjoy, and appreciate those around you. It is the best way to end the year.
Travel Special: Viking River Cruises is offering free air from various cities and a choice of free gratuities, beverage package, or shipboard credit on their 15 Day Grand European itineraries. Offer expires December 31st, call for details.