Unique Destinations, Road Trips, and how to be a Local Tourist: Top Articles of 2021

What. A. Year. eh?

In my nearly twenty years of publishing The Local Tourist, I’ve never done a “Top 10” list of most popular articles. I have no idea why not, but it’s never too late to start.

This first annual list is a good representation of the site: road trips, camping, fun destinations, and how to be a Local Tourist. 

Fun fact: two were written by guests.

Not all of these articles were published in 2021. Most of them, in fact, were not. That’s not surprising, considering this was not only the second year of a pandemic, but also my year of cancer, which meant I didn’t write nearly as much as I would have liked.

(Except for that book I published, ya’ know.)

Without further ado, here are the ten most popular articles of 2021:

10. The Captivating Allure of Scottsdale, Arizona

Old Town Scottsdale

I learned during a June, 2019, visit to Scottsdale that the desert town is a study in contrasts. It is green golf courses and brown lawns; ritzy spas and rugged hikes; the Old West, ancient cultures, contemporary art, and a heavy metal wine bar.

Scottsdale was also the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, and his UNESCO-designated Taliesin West is not to be missed.

I also loved exploring Cosanti, the studio of architect and sculptor Paolo Soleri. While both Wright and Soleri are gone, their works live on and these two studios give insight into their professional, and their personal, lives.

In some spots of the Lower Salt River, the water was completely still.

There’s also kayaking, and a great way to start a visit to Scottsdale is to ride the lower Salt River.

9. Sawyer, Michigan: Land of Dunes, Brews, and Garden Greatness

Warren Dunes

My friend Blagica Bottigliero contributed this piece on one of the towns that comprise Harbor Country, which is a short road trip from Chicago.

One of the best reasons to visit: Warren Dunes. There’s also great beer and cute boutiques. The whole area is a relaxing getaway.

8. How to Save Money on a Road Trip

Road on the way to Joshua Tree in California

After traveling thousands and thousands of miles, I know that road trips can be expensive. However, I’ve also learned lots of ways to save money on a road trip.

I’ve learned how to pay less for gas, find cheap accommodations, and to pack a bucket of trail mix, plus 35 other tips and tricks.

Considering how popular road trips have become (yay!), it’s no wonder this post was one of our top ten.

7. How to Be a Local Tourist

Just a couple of local tourists hanging out with a gnome named Tim in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This whole site is founded on the idea that you can experience the fascination of a tourist where you live, and experience the comfort of the local no matter where you are.

That philosophy has definitely made the past year more bearable. I spent the first eight months (with the exception of a trip to Alabama in March to teach a writing workshop) safely ensconced in my home.

Since then I’ve visited multiple destinations, but they’ve all been via road trips, and the furthest away was only five hours.

Holiday Lights Show at Rotary Botanical Garden in Janesville Wisconsin

And you know what? It’s been wonderful. I indulged in great dining and history in Elgin, was blown away by Sheboygan, and found my holiday spirit in Janesville.

That’s what being a Local Tourist is all about.

6. How to Use RoadTrippers App & Website to Plan an Amazing Road Trip

Add more places to stop on your road trip and you'll see the mileage and time change.

One of my favorite planning tools is RoadTrippers, so I wrote a whole guide on how to use it.

It was free when I first used it to plan our cross-country southwest USA road trip, but the premium version is only $29.99 for the year, and if you use code BTR5QTP you’ll save $5.

5. A Fine Getaway at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa

View from the pontoon boat in Lake Galena

This resort in Galena, Illinois, is the only place I felt comfortable staying overnight besides my own bed, a tent, or the back of an SUV in 2020 after we realized how bad this disease was.

I’ve been there many, many times, and keep coming back. It’s a relaxing getaway and I always return feeling recharged.

And completely stuffed. Their culinary team is a treat!

Tuscan bacon-wrapped shrimp

4. Secret Small Towns and Treasures of Southern Indiana: Spencer, Indiana

Mural on the side of a building in Spencer Indiana

This piece about a town near Bloomington was written by Hannah Rollins, a student in a Purdue University travel writing class. I’ve partnered with the class since 2018, and their final assignment is to submit to me. Great job, Hannah!

3. Sheboygan: Who Knew?

Of all the destinations I visited in 2021 – and there were several (all road trips, of course) – Sheboygan, Wisconsin, surprised me the most.

Who knew we had surfing on Lake Michigan? Except for those who consider Sheboygan the Malibu of the Midwest, of course. They know. So do the people who learn how to sail, which now includes me.

Learning how to sail in Sheboygan Wisconsin

The art scene is explosive, and the food – it goes way beyond brats, but even if it didn’t, that’d be just fine. Sheboygan is the Brat Capital of the World, after all.

2. Driving the Depression-Era Daring of Beartooth Highway

Beartooth Highway

This scenic drive is only 68.7 miles, but there’s a reason Charles Kuralt called it “the most beautiful drive in America.”

What better way to enter Yellowstone National Park than via this twisty, turny, breathtaking route? It’ll take you a few hours from Red Lodge, Montana, to the entrance of the park, because you’ll want to stop at every single overlook.

Beartooth Highway

And our Number One most-read article in 2021…

1: Best Places to Camp in the Midwest

Boardwalk to Smith Falls

I teamed up with fellow travel writers to share our favorite campgrounds in the Midwest. Camping’s popularity has exploded in the last two years, for obvious reasons, so it’s no surprise that this round-up is the most popular article of 2021.

Campgrounds include Sage Creek in the Badlands, where bison roam through the sites, and Lewis and Clark State Park in Iowa, where you can see a replica of the famed explorers’ keelboat.

Bison in Sage Creek Campground - Badlands National Park
Bison in Sage Creek Campground – Badlands National Park

The primitive campsites of Smith Falls State Park put you within a short hike to the eponymous falls. Perrot State Park is right along the Mississippi River.

I can see why this was the most popular post of 2021, and I have a feeling it will be popular again next year.

I hope you have fun reading, or re-reading, these top posts of 2021. Looking forward to creating lots of inspirational articles and sharing my travel tips with you in 2022!

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