Our Dollarwise Travel Guide to Charming, Beautiful, & Historic Places All Around the U.S.


Mr. & Mrs. Steven Bechen, June 7, 1980

My husband Steve and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary on June 7! From the time we were newlyweds, travel was a dream for both of us so we have always planned and saved $ carefully to achieve it. We developed a personalized "travel style" that has served us well over time as we've chosen to mostly visit charming, historic, and beautiful yet affordable places and venues over the big, loud, and expensive. We hope you enjoy our tour virtually and can visit some of these places too once our world's current sad state of affairs passes. Be sure to check out our checklists and forms!   Kathryn




1. Downtown Providence, RI

. We loved staying at the beautiful and historic Edgewood Manor
. And Providence is a beautiful town to just take a drive around.


Downtown Providence, RI, 2006
Me at Edgewood Manor B&B Inn, Providence, RI
The sunroom at Edgewood Manor, Providence, RI

2. Cannery Row

, Monterey, CA. Literary roots of John Steinbeck.  We took a bus tour from San Francisco down the coast highway on the famous 17 Mile Drive
and this stop was included.  Gorgeous area!


Me on our 17 Mile Drive day trip, CA late 1980s.

3. Thorncrown Chapel

, Bella Vista, AR.  Beautiful online pix
of this inside/outdoors chapel in the woods where we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.


An anniversary at Thorncrown Chapel, Bella Vista, AR

4. Catalina Island, CA

. We loved staying at Villa Portofino
with its rooftop deck overlooking the beautiful turquoise harbor.



5. Downtown Eureka Springs

, AR. Charming downtown in the beautiful Ozark
Mountains.




6. Air Force Cadet Chapel

, Colorado Springs, CO.  Now undergoing a long renovation, according to the internet.  A really beautiful and unique structure.


Catalina Island, CA


Catalina Island, CA harbor view from our hotel

7. Dana Point Harbor, CA

.  We loved relaxing at Blue Lantern Inn
, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, when we lived in CA.  Room 302 has an amazing view!


Room 302 view we had at Blue Lantern Inn, Dana Point, CA

8. La Jolla, CA.

We lived in this general area for years and enjoyed many fun outings in this charming and now world-renowned seaside village with its beautiful Pacific Ocean coastline. At one time, we also attended the charming sea-view St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church
there.


La Jolla Cove, CA

9. Stonington, CT

. Home of author Alexandra Stoddard
, who personally invited us to attend one of her Happiness Weekends
at the beautiful Inn at Stonington
in 2006, and we loved our trip to this charming seaside village and the surrounding CT area. And what fun to visit in person the cottage where she lives that she writes about in all her lovely books.


Me at author Alexandra Stoddard's CT cottage, 2006

10. Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, Tucson, AZ

. We had a lovely lunch here in their white-tablecloths-and-big-menus restaurant with its gorgeous desert view, and we also enjoyed all the old black and white historic photos. Was once a girls school.  Lots of Tucson history here!


Beautiful Hacienda del Sol Resort, Tucson, AZ

11. Ojai, CA

.  The view from our room at the Retreat Center
was gorgeous.  Peaceful and beautiful place. Downtown Ojai is charming.


View from our Retreat Center room in Ojai, CA

12. New York City, NY

. I was a mother's helper/nanny in a New York City suburb in 1977 and I fell in love with NYC! My husband Steve and I have been back there a couple of times to enjoy it together. We love the small neighborhood bistros all over the city. One of my favorite NYC books is 50 Places to Find Peace & Quiet in New York
and I still have a hankering to visit The Library Hotel
there someday. (Having worked in several libraries and loving travel, I can't believe what a clever concept they combined!)


My nanny memories from my scrapbook
With Steve in Central Park, NYC


13. Solvang, CA

A charming CA small town with European-Danish heritage
Adorable. Sadly, we were on vaca in that area when 9/11 hit so we did not spend as much time in this cute town as we had hoped to do but we thought it was so cute!


14. Lavender Bistro, LaQuinta, CA

. My fave restaurant in the whole U.S.! The patio is amazing!  We went there at Christmas and dressed up in lavender for fun.


Christmas dinner, Lavender Bistro terrace, LaQuinta, CA
Dining room at Lavender Bistro, LaQuinta, CA
Lavender Bistro terrace lit up for Christmas dinner!

15. Mission San Luis Rey Retreat Center

, Oceanside, CA. Beautiful grounds and gardens and a holy spiritual Christian/Roman Catholic place. We watched the Mission evolve into its beautiful gardens over the years and we loved attending several retreats there.


Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside, CA

16. Belle of Brownville Riverboat Cruise

, Omaha, NE.  A fun hometown-style city river cruise.


Riverboat ride in Omaha, Nebraska where we lived

17. Old Market, Omaha, NE

.  We lived in Omaha for many years in the 80's and 90's and always enjoyed Old Market for its charm and history. Our fave two restaurants are still there! V Mertz
and M's Pub
.


18. Cardiff by the Sea, CA

. We lived here for several years and enjoyed the easy-going small village charm and beautiful SoCal surfing beaches.  Our favorite bistro there is Trattoria Positano
.


Beautiful Cardiff-by-the-Sea beach near where we once lived
Trattoria Positano, Cardiff, CA was a fave bistro!

19. Cabrillo National Monument, Pt. Loma, CA

. A most beautiful view of sunny SoCal!


Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma, CA

20. Tonto National Forest, AZ

One of my favorite places in Arizona since we moved here in 2018.  Peaceful, green, quiet, lovely desert cactus, plus colorful flora in the springtime.

Tonto Forest, Arizona

21. Smith Falls State Park, Valentine, NE

. We lived here as newlyweds and often "inner-tubed"
down the Niobrara River.  Great fun when you're young!





22. Pawley's Island, SC

Such a lovely sunny place! We took a driving trip from Omaha, NE to Florida in the 1990s and this was one stop of many that we absolutely loved.





Pawley's Island, SC on a windy day in the 1990s

23. Sanibel-Captiva Islands, FL

. We also absolutely loved both of these FL sister-islands when we visited FL one January in the 1980s. Magical!  We stayed here
when it was the Sundial Beach & Tennis

Club but it has been totally remodeled, renamed, and "upscaled" now and is much more luxurious than when we were there.




Steve at Captiva Island, FL late 1980s

24. Jackson Hole, WY

. Steve's first banking convention as newlyweds in 1980.  We rented bicycles and I almost crashed going way too fast down a mountainside and could have died as a new bride.  Ooops!  Jackson Hole has become very popular now with the uber-wealthy, but it was small, charming, and quiet when we were there.


Me as a 21-year-old newlywed, Jackson Hole, WY

25. Idyllwild, CA

& outdoor Episcopal church
in the pines. Cute little mountain-pines town in the San Jacinto Mountains and the tiny "outdoor church" is so special.  We stayed at the quaint Strawberry Creek Inn
. We love to drive around and I take pix of Episcopal Churches on vaca, especially the ones with the red front doors.


26. Mystic, CT.

A beautiful charming waterfront town
and area in the northeast U.S.


Red door church on one of our East Coast trips


Outdoor Episcopal Church, Idyllwild, CA

Mystic, CT harbor, 2006

27. Muir Woods, CA

. We visited here when in our 20s and of course, we loved those amazing TALL trees!


Muir Woods, California, late 1980s

28. Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA

An adorable little seaside town filled with charming historical cottages
and beautiful California weather and coastline!


29. San Francisco, CA

We loved the iconic trolley
, Fisherman's Wharf
, Ghirardelli Square
, the "crookedest street
," outdoor flower markets, The Japanese Tea Garden
, and all the wonderful restaurants.



Me at San Franciso flower market, late 80's

30. Keys Creek Lavender Farm, Valley Center, CA

. A beautiful little lavender farm in Southern California. Peaceful.



Keys Creek Lavender Farm, California

31. Santa Barbara, CA

We stayed at the historic Simpson House Inn
and we enjoyed the iconic Andersen's
eatery too, especially their charming outdoor patio.


Beautiful Simpson House Inn, Santa Barbara, CA
Me having breakfast at Simpson House Inn

32. Sherman Gardens, Corona del Mar, CA.

A beautiful SoCal garden "day trip." We both loved it. Nice gift shop too.

Sherman Gardens, Corona Del Mar, CA

33. Cabbage Key Island, FL.

Pretty little island famous for its unique and funky "dollars restaurant."
Clever and fun cottage.


34. Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego, CA

. Beautiful gardens/grounds and historic lovely inn where we enjoyed lunch on the patio when we lived in SoCal.


Me at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, CA

35. The Willows Inn, Palm Springs, CA

. I was gifted a stay here for our 30th wedding anniversary to write a magazine article about The Willows as a wedding venue
, and with its dining-room view waterfall, Hollywood-esque history, and beautiful antiques -- all set into the mountainside, it's a gorgeous and unique property and setting.



The Willows Inn, Palm Springs, CA

36. Cliffwalk,

Newport, RI.  Jackie Kennedy history in this beautiful area. Beautiful mansions and gorgeous walk by the water.


Steve on the famous Cliff Walk, Newport, RI

37. Siesta Key Beach, FL

Voted a best beach on many sites and I still blissfully remember the soft white sand in my toes!


Me enjoying Siesta Key Beach in the Sarasota, FL area

38. La Jolla Secret Garden Tour, CA.

Every May for many years we attended the beautiful seaside garden tours in the village of La Jolla when we lived in San Diego County.


The La Jolla Secret Garden Tour, CA

39. Marriott Resort, Palm Desert, CA

Love the unique indoor boat rides
! We enjoyed Christmas vaca lunch here many times over the years.


Lunch at the Marriott, Palm Desert, CA
Indoor boat rides at the Marriott, Palm Desert, CA

40. Marriott Camelback Inn, Scottsdale, AZ

. We have not stayed here overnight but we love to have lunch on the patio overlooking the golf course and near the beautiful water features and gorgeous desert flora and cactus.


The iconic & historic Camelback Inn, Scottsdale, AZ

41. Author Willa Cather's home, Red Cloud, NE.

Now a national landmark and really fun to visit as a fan/student of her books when I was in college.


42. Sarasota, FL downtown and bay front

. There's also a beautiful Episcopal Church in that area too. Prettiest little bayfront in a charming little FL seaside town!


Sarasota Bay, Sarasota, FL

Boats in Sarasota Bay, Sarasota, FL
"Red door church" which makes me smile! Sarasota, FL

43. Roger's Gardens, CA

. The most beautiful retail garden center I've ever visited across the U.S.! Seriously.


The incredible Roger's Gardens, Orange County, CA

44. Balboa Island, CA

. A fun and charming SoCal island with adorable cottage-style homes
that cost well over a million $ now, or more.


Charming home on Balboa Island, CA

45. Estes Park, CO

A beautiful place in the mountains of Colorado. Beautiful pix.


46. Walden Pond, Concord, MA

. We visited here on a trip to Boston in the 1980s and thus began my lifelong interest in simpler living as the pace of life and size of homes in the U.S. increasingly grew bigger and faster. Photo I took of Walden on our trip
. Other pix from the internet.


47. Savannah, GA

We splurged on a stay at this most gorgeous historic inn
overlooking beautiful and historic Forsyth Park.
  Worth every penny and oh the history!



B&B Inn we stayed at in Savannah, GA

48. Charleston, SC

historic downtown. We stayed in a beautiful inn here (no longer open) and we absolutely loved all the charming historic homes and inns
.


49. Mt. Rushmore, SD.

Since we grew up in South Dakota, we visited here as kids and were mesmerized by the size of the faces in the mountains!


50. Great Smoky Mountains, TN

. We visited here in our 20s and loved the purple haze that covers the gorgeous mountains.  It really does look purple!  Gatlinburg
was especially fun at that time in our young lives.


51. Arizona Biltmore Resort, Phoenix, AZ

We had lunch on the patio at Christmas after we moved to AZ, and we were serendipitously treated to a tour of the historic photo room. An iconic historic desert landmark and very beautiful grounds.


The beautiful back grounds of the historic Biltmore Resort, Phoenix, AZ

52. The Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix, AZ

We had lunch here at Christmas and the weather, decor, history, and views of the desert are amazing!


Me at The Wrigley Mansion at Christmas, Phoenix, AZ

View of mountains from Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix

53. Four Seasons Resort Aviara, Carlsbad, CA

. We stayed here for a bank conference for Steve's job years ago. Beautiful upscale coastal SoCal.


54. Hotel Laguna Beach, CA

. We loved having lunch on their seaside patio directly overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Now being renovated, according to the internet.


Beautiful Laguna Beach, CA

55. Dubuque, IA

. A pretty little Iowa river town where we stayed at one of their lovely inns
.


56. Brockton Villa, La Jolla, CA

. One of the prettiest bluff-top views
of the Pacific Ocean from this historic and iconic charming SoCal restaurant.

Historic Brockton Villa, La Jolla, CA

57. Britt Scripps Inn, San Diego, CA

. We stayed here when it was an inn open to the public, but it's now been changed to weddings-only and renamed Britt Scripps Manor. I was later hired to write this article
about the inn for a national decorating magazine. Lots of San Diego downtown history here from a genteel time gone by.


Steve at Britt Scripps Inn, San Diego, CA
Britt Scripps Inn historic windows, San Diego, CA



58. The Elms Hotel & Spa

, Excelsior Springs, MO.  We spent a relaxing 4th of July around the pool at the Elms in the late 1980s. (I think it was then if I remember correctly now), but at that time it was a sleeper that had fallen into disrepair. Now it looks like it's been gentrified and upscaled. And it has quite a history
of survival and economic redemption since being built in the late 1800s. We remember fondly attending the little stone Episcopal Church
across the street and it's still there and open.


59. Hotel Del, Coronado Island, CA

An icon in SoCal and rightly so. The beach has often been voted one of the best in California and the whole U.S.
and it's stunningly gorgeous with powder-soft sand. The shops
are charmingly beautiful, (and yes, uber expensive so we didn't shop there in all honesty), and having their yummy Tortilla Soup and an iced tea on the Hotel Del terrace
was something we loved to do when we lived in SoCal.


The one and only iconic Hotel Del, Coronado, CA!

60. Villa Royale, Palm Springs, CA

. This little desert resort, according to their new website
, has been completely modernized and remodeled. When we stayed there (many times) it was "charming Euro" style and we loved staying there and dining in their Villa Europa restaurant.  I can't speak for this venue now since it's completely different but spending Christmas there too one year in the past was magical!


Villa Royale Inn/Resort, Palm Springs, CA
The Villa Royale before it was remodeled
Villa Royale relaxing pool

61. Winter Park, FL Downtown.

We loved this charming little downtown
with its lovely shops, green space for concerts and art venues, and beautiful historic homes surrounding the quaint downtown.  My favorite place was the Bistro on Park Avenue
but it appears closed now. :( 


Steve in downtown Winter Park, FL
Green for concerts, Winter Park, FL
Rainy day fun downtown Winter Park, FL

62. Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, AZ.

A beautiful and unique tribute to the flora and fauna of the Arizona desert. Gertrude's
was a fun terrace dining venue we enjoyed, and their gift shop
is large and lovely.



63. Seal Beach, CA.

An adorable SoCal town/village with quaint shops. We stayed at a beautiful inn there in the 90s (now closed) and later went back there on a day trip.


A cute "shabby chic" shop in Seal Beach
Inn stay in the 90s that is now closed.

64. Mendocino, CA.

  We took a day trip to here from one of our San Francisco trips. One of the most beautiful areas and small towns in the U.S. I've ever seen! Absolutely beautiful!  See what I mean?!
The drive from San Fran is heavenly -- rural coastal beauty.  And the little downtown is filled with charming shops and inns.


65. Old Towne Orange, CA.

This is a charming little town in Southern California with quaint cottage homes and beautiful flowers in the yards. Really fun to walk through the antique shops there.

Old Towne Historic District, Orange, CA

Cute cottage in Old Towne Orange, CA

66.  Bella Vista

& Eureka Springs, AR.
  Bella Vista means "beautiful view"
and the views in this Ozark mountain area in northwestern Arkansas are indeed that.  Bella Vista was a retirement village when we bought a timeshare there in the 90s, but now it's full of families.  Quaint and charming Eureka Springs, just down the road a bit is an adorable mountain town
that draws visitors from all over and we loved going there for a day and staying in a B&B.


At our timeshare unit in Bella Vista, AR

Me driving the golf cart for Steve in Bella Vista, AR

67. Old Town San Diego, CA.

Old Town is a beautiful historic area in downtown San Diego. We especially enjoyed visiting charming Heritage Park
there when we lived in the area and we stayed at a beautiful inn there. (No longer an inn.)


Inn we stayed at Old Town, San Diego, CA
Breakfast at the inn

Our first car trip together was our honeymoon in 1980, 40 years ago ...


From our wedding scrapbook
In our honeymoon "getaway car" :)

Our hotel "honeymoon suite" cost us $16.96 in 1980! (A.k.a. not very fancy.) :) And our first romantic honeymoon dinner fortune cookie read:



"This person's love is just and true; you may rely on it."


I hope you enjoyed our travel tour and that you find our checklists, forms, and tips helpful!


Kathryn :)


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© Kathryn Bechen 2020