Top 5 Unexpectedly Perfect Travel Destinations of 2021 with Vanna Mae

Published on October 15th, 2021

When I started my cross-country road trip from California to Pennsylvania and back, I made the choice to explore parts of America that people don’t often go to. To my surprise, some of my favorite travel destinations were towns that aren’t often talked about but have the most authentic things to see and do. Today, I wanted to share with you the list of my favorite travel spots for 2021. I hope you are inspired to add some of these spots to your travel destinations.

View outside car window on Spearfish Scenic Byway

Spearfish Scenic Byway

An unexpected scenic trip that is now one of my favorite scenic drives in North America is Spearfish Scenic Byway. I arrived there in late September when the leaves were changing colors. The drive took me through a 22-mile mountain road covered in lush green forest splashing with shimmering gold leaves. It looked like I was driving through a painting with the majestic Spearfish Creek flowing on both sides of the bypass. There are vista points along the drive to check out hiking trails, waterfalls, and amazing views. 

Selfie of young woman in front of a river landscape in South Dakota

Near the end of the 22-mile stretch, is Cheyanne Crossing, a cute gift shop, and diner with delicious food. From the crossroads, you can take the 14 North up to Deadwood, an authentic old west gold mining town in South Dakota. 

Dignity statue

The Dignity of Earth & Sky Statue – Chamberlain, South Dakota

When I came to visit the statue, I was in awe of how beautiful and calm the space is. The Dignity Statue is on a grassy bluff that overlooks the beautiful Missouri river. The area is pet-friendly, with nice spacious walkways and well-kept grassy areas for pets. I was able to take Indigo on her leash and in her cat backpack along the walkway to enjoy the views with me.  

The Dignity Statue is inspired by Lakota and Dakota Indigenous nations.  Her portrait was modeled by 3 indigenous women, ages 14, 29, and 55. When you look at her face, you can see all their ages blended into one and reflects their beauty, pride, and strength. This stainless steel statue stands at 50ft tall holding a beautiful star quilt that changes colors with the setting sun. 

What I love most about Dignity is the historic and cultural significance this statue has to the land and for its people. And she is standing above one of the most beautiful views in all of South Dakota. The Dignity Statue in South Dakota was one of my favorite travel destinations of 2021.

Dignity statue in South Dakota
Ocean view in Mendocino County

Mendocino County, California 

One of the most beautiful beachside drives you can take is up the Coastal One on the Pacific North West. And one of my favorite stretches along the coast is Mendocino County. With its vast sea of tall trees that stretch far across the mountain, to its gorgeous sunsets that kiss the edge of the ocean floor, this gem in California will take your breath away. 

Basket of vegetables at Sunroots Farm in Medocino California

Mendocino is rich in good quality food. This gem has some of the best farmers’ markets in the country, with fresh organic produce, meats, and local craft goods. You can find a list of their farmers markets year around here.

One of my favorite places to dine in the heart of Mendicino is Princess Seafood Market in Fort Bragg. They specialize in sustainably caught fish. When you visit, you can grab a bite to eat (my favorite dish is the salmon burger). And next door they have a fishery where you can buy fresh fish to take with you on the road.

Sculpture outside winery

Studio Winery Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

While traveling west I made a quick stop at Studio Winery in Lake Geneva as a Harvest Host-Guest. This spot was on my top list of Harvest Host places I’ve stayed this year. (Use code RVSHARE for 15% off a Harvest Host membership.)

As soon as you enter the winery, you are greeted by decorative art, a cute gift shop, a beautiful wine bar, and live music. This place has a very nice vibe and a great atmosphere. Their wine bar is fully stocked with amazing winery that’s grown and produced in-house. The owners Kathy and Doug made me feel right at home as a fellow traveler. It’s a fun place to stop by if you are ever in Lake Geneva or as a Harvest Host-Guest, definitely book a spot to stay for a night. 

Cat sits on the hood of a parked RV at Painted Rock Farm in North Carolina

Paint Rock Farm – Hot Springs, North Carolina

Paint Rock Farm is a Harvest Host gem nestled up high in the Blue Ridge Mountains and only a couple of hours away from Ashville, North Carolina. From its jaw-dropping views to its peaceful nights, this place will take your breath away. This is one place I think about often and can’t wait to visit again. The owners are very nice and allow overnight parking for RVers and campers. They host Live Music events, Retreats and are a great Harvest Host Spot to take in the beautiful scenery and meet new friends. Also, a great place to try out homegrown hemp products. 

View of rolling mountains at Paint Rock Farm in North Carolina

Each of these places holds a special memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. Each place was beautiful and surrounded by cool towns, fun events, and interesting people. If you decide to visit any place that I have mentioned, please go there with kindness and support the locals that make these places a dream to visit. 

Do you have any unexpectedly perfect places that are on your top list? I’d love to hear what’s your favorite place to visit.

About the author: Vanna Mae is a visual artist and influencer, traveling around the country in her 19ft Class C RV with her cat Indigo. Keep up with their adventures on Instagram @vannamaeart and on YouTube.

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