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Best of Maple Leopard's Travels 2019 & Top Destinations to Visit Now

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This past year was one of the best travel years I've ever had. I finally made a trip abroad and jetted across the big pond to Europe.  In 2019 I set a record for the number of trips I did in a year's time.
I thought I would write a post to recap my adventures and share a few tips for each destination I visited.
I do plan to continue my series on Italy next week. If you've been following my blog awhile, I apologize for my lack of posts lately.  A few minor issues are stealing my energy, trying to change the diet!

I hope this year is amazing for you.  I'm sharing these destinations in hopes you can check some off your bucket list. My wish is that this post inspires you to step out of your comfort zone, and visit new countries and cities.

Best of Maple Leopard Travels 2019

Las Vegas

*This post includes affiliate links. This means if you click them and make a purchase, I may make a small commission at no cost to you. All opinions are my own!

The first trip of the year was to Las Vegas. I usually go every year in February for my birthday and to attend Magic Fashion Trade Show.  The "Miracle in the Desert" is one of my favorite US destinations. I had a great time with my friend from Atlanta and look forward to going back again next month.

If you live on the west coast , you can really score deals for trips to Las Vegas.  Vegas is very doable , even if you are on a tight budget. I always travel on the cheap .  If you book through sites such as Expedia, Booking Buddy and Cheap tickets etc: Save big by bundling hotel and airfare together.

While you are cruising the strip: don't miss this hidden gem located mid strip . It only took me 4 visits to discover it!  Las Vegas is also a go to spot for a girl's trip. I've rounded up the top things to do with your gal pals.

San Diego, CA

The 3rd week of April I jetted off to the city where the sun never sets! Who doesn't love CA!? I suppose some are not a fan, but I've always been obsessed with it. I went to college in central California, so in some ways it seems like home.

On this trip I accompanied a friend who was afraid to travel alone. She wanted to visit her 90 year mother.  It was great to help her out and at the same time enjoy the beautiful beaches and sunshine.

We stayed in University City - where the University of CA- San Diego is located. Beautiful La Jolla Cove is nearby as well as Pacific Beach.

If you are looking for an affordable winter getaway, this is an excellent place to chase away the cold weather blues! Several local tours available to explore the scenic wonders of the area. The Shopping is bar none and of course the beaches will entertain you for hours.

Pullman, WA

The first week of May,  our family went to Eastern Washington for my daughter's college graduation. Pullman, known as the "Palouse"  may be what some tourists are craving: quiet country surroundings . I love the city , so for me it doesn't offer much.  It's flat, dry and yellow for the most part.  However now it's a special place, as we made many trips there to see our girl.  Washington State University does bring a lot of excitement to the town.

If you do find your self on the Eastern Side of Washington there are a few touristy sights you may want to check out.  The landscape and way of life is quite different from Western Washington where I live. Before you leave town make sure you eat at Cougar Country: hands down, the best food in town!

Costa Mesa, CA

The end of May, I and Ashlin celebrated her graduation in Costa Mesa: City of the Arts. We were blessed to collaborate with Travel Costa Mesa on a marketing campaign. We were in town to feature the city as a "go to" destination for a girl's getaway.  We had the blast of our lives and are so thankful for the gracious hospitality extended to us.

Costa Mesa is located in the heart of Orange County and offers unending fun for all ages and types of travelers.  Disneyland is a 20 minute drive, and beautiful Newport Beach is just a few minutes by car as well.

Oh and the food, OH MY GOODNESS!  Costa Mesa is known as a foodie paradise, and you will dine on some of the best cuisine in the Unites States.  The best celebrity chefs are based in Costa Mesa, and own several of the restaurants.  It would take weeks to eat your way around the city, there is so much good food!  Check out my review for top tips on where to eat.

Not to miss: the endless opportunities to experience the Arts. Sculptures, Repertory Theater and Musical Theater are just a few of the amazing things you can experience. 

Calling all Fashionistas! If you love to shop- this is the place for you!  We shopped til we dropped at South Coast Plaza. Here you will find the best in luxury designer apparel and more. This mall has the top sales for all the malls in the United States. In addition, Costa Mesa has two outdoor shopping plazas that offer sustainable goods and support small local businesses.

Kelowna BC

The first week of July we headed to my beautiful country of birth: Canada.  I try to visit my mother twice a year as she is getting up in age. On the way to Calgary, we always do a stop over night in Kelowna. This beautiful little haven nestled on the Okanagan lake is known as " Lil California". Orchards with wine tasting, fun water sports and a warm relaxing getaway await you.  Okanagan Lake beaches are the best: you must see one!

Besides Kelowna, you can vacation "California style" at other beach towns in the area.  Peachland, Penticton, and Osoyoos are all fabulous getaways on or near the Okanagan Lake.

Calgary Alberta

Calgary is a beautiful city located in the foothills, on the prairies of Alberta. Not too far in the distance, amazing views of the Rocky Mountains can always be found. "Cow Town" is not my hometown, but it feels like home since home is where mom is!  My mum moved to Calgary from Vancouver, when I left there for college.

Although I wish she still lived in Vancouver( it's much closer to me) I always love to visit her in Calgary. It is an amazing city for tourists and residents alike.  If you are an outdoor enthusiast, you will love to vacation here. Bike riding on the bow river, canoeing and a mecca of other fun activities await you.  Several guided tours are available if you wish to explore the city with a local.

Calgary is also home to the " Biggest Outdoor Show on Earth": The Calgary Stampede and Rodeo.  I'm not a fan of the rodeo  too many animals get injured and killed in the events. So I do boycott that part of the Stampede. However I do love the huge midway,  the countless options for delicious Canadian cuisine, and listening to the world famous Calgary Stampede Show Band.

Vancouver BC

 Labor Day weekend took me back home to the Lower Mainland. I was raised in Surrey, which is a suburb of Vancouver. This time it was super fun to stay downtown where all the action is. I had the opportunity to collaborate with the Marriott Bonvoy located on Pender street, close to Canada Place.

The views from my room were out of this world!  Vancouver is considered on of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world. I feel so blessed that I was raised in such a beautiful place. I often dream of moving back home, I miss it so much. Perhaps someday it will happen, but it is crazy expensive to live in Van, unless you live an hour away.

Burard Inlet has stunning views you won't soon forget.  Canada Place is a bustle with activity and tourists everyday.  You won't ever get bored in Vancouver, there is a lot to keep you entertained.  Underneath Canada Place you can rent a bike and ride along the seawall to Stanley Park. This is is the most scenic bike ride I've ever experienced: WOW!  Hop on board a seaplane if you wish and get an aerial view of the harbor, or spend the day exploring Robson street and English Bay.

It would take me months to tour and write about all Vancouver has to offer. Summer is the best time to visit, and I've rounded up all the details here and here.

Italy & Switzerland

The 3rd week of October, I jetted off to Europe. A life long dream finally came true! When I first arrived at the train station in Milan from the airport, I could not believe my eyes. Everything is so ornate and beautiful, old world cities are so amazing!

As I mentioned in my Milan post, I made the trip by myself: which was a very challenging experience, but I'm so glad I went!  It helped me grow as a person and changed me in a lot of ways. My friend could not go at the last minute because of a family issue. I debated cancelling the trip, as I was afraid to go solo.

If you end up in Milan: be sure to add the Hop on, Hop off tour to the top of your list. It's one of the first tours I did to get acquainted with the city .  It was so cool taking in the stunning sites from up top of a double deck bus!

It's amazing what you can do and accomplish when you step out of your comfort zone!  I planned the whole trip in 5 weeks and did it all on a budget.  I will be sharing soon how you too, can plan a trip to Italy on the cheap!  

Lugano, Switzerland

I was fortunate to visit several cites in Italy, and one in Switzerland.  I did day trips to Venice and Cinque Terre on the train. I also reserved a tour through Get Your Guide for a day trip to Lake Como. We hopped on board a coach bus in Milan and went to Lugano Switzerland, just over the Italian border .

After that we were whisked off to a waiting ferry boat that took us to Bellagio on Lake Como: oh so dreamy!!  The boat trip continued to the end of the lake, where Como City is located.  I saw George Clooney's house: sad news - he did not invite us in for lunch!

Lake Como

I also went on a getaway locally, and collaborated on a story with Travel Tacoma. Tacoma is one of the most under rated cites in America! It seriously has SO much to offer: move over Seattle!  

The middle of November we flew to St.Louis MO, and rented a car to drive to Jacksonville Illinois. Unfortunately it was a very unhappy occasion: our favorite cousin passed away suddenly from fast moving Pancreatic Cancer. Life is so very short ! Pursue your dreams, love unconditionally and TRAVEL LOTS!

That's a wrap for 2019!  I am not sure where all my travels will take me this year, but I hope to discover more inspiring destinations you can add to your bucket list.  Thanks again for being part of my blog community and reading my blabber every week!

Stay tuned for more guides and tips for Italy, Switzerland,Washington State and other destinations in the U.S. and Canada.

What will you check off your bucket list in 2020?



Hello beauties, I'm Valerie! I reside near Seattle WA, and am a proud Canadian from Vancouver B.C. On this site are guides for travel in the U.S., Canada and Europe. I hope to inspire Women 40+ live their best life: by seeking adventure in the city, at a beach or at a mountain escape. Subscribe for destination tips and style guides for the trip.


  1. You've visited so many great places, Val! Vancouver is on my bucket list!
    Here's to many more trips in 2020!
    Julia x

  2. Amazing! I know nothing about traveling all over the country, what a wonderful looking place to explore.


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