From snorkeling trips in Carolina mountain streams to concerts in misty Ireland, G&G editors logged some memorable miles in 2023. Below, find highlights from our adventures—including the most treasured souvenirs we acquired—and a peek at where you’ll find us outside the office this year.
David DiBenedetto, editor in chief
2023 highlight: Spending Thanksgiving week on Green Turtle Cay with my family was a trip none of us will forget. Falling asleep to the ocean breeze rustling through our tiny cottage; counting the many shades of blue the ocean delivered; casting to a school of giant bonefish—and spooking them to the next cay; and eating the fresh Bahamian bread straight from the oven and slathered in guava jam.
Favorite souvenir: It didn’t last too long, but I brought back a forty-pound watermelon from a dove hunt in Smithfield, North Carolina. We feasted for days.
Travel plans: My wife and I want to take the kids to London for a taste of life across the pond and possibly a soccer match. I certainly won’t miss the opportunity to stop by James Purdey & Sons for a taste of the sporting life and maybe even hop into Lock & Co Hatters for a flat cap.
CJ Lotz Diego, senior editor
2023 highlight: When a fun work conference, Travel Classics, named its 2023 location as Ireland, my mom immediately booked a ticket as my plus-one. Post-“work,” we loved journeying around the collection of inns and country houses on Ireland’s Blue Book route. Our favorite stop was Castle Durrow, where a couple tends an incredible garden, including an allee of cherry trees.
Favorite souvenir acquired last year: A husband! Max and I got married at his brother’s farm in Vermont, near the charming town of Vergennes. (If you’re in the area, do not skip the Vergennes Laundry bakery.) After the ceremony, we drove a couple miles up the road for the reception at his parents’ place on Lake Champlain, where they run their Wiggly Goat Farm. I swear I’m not sucking up to my new mother-in-law, but she makes some beautiful yarns, goat milk lotions, and the soap I always scrub my hands with after a day gardening back home in Charleston.
Travel plans: Savannah. I had so much fun chatting with author John Berendt about the thirtieth anniversary of his Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. And it reminded me that I haven’t been down there in a while. I want to grab breakfast at the spot Hanna Raskin recommended, Narobia’s Grits & Gravy, see what new art exhibitions are up, and then wander around Bonaventure cemetery—cemeteries are full of stories.
Caroline Sanders Clements, associate editor
2023 highlight: I went to Italy with my family back in May, and it was hands-down one of the highlights of my year. While everything we ate throughout the trip was absolutely incredible, I’m still dreaming about the truffle-covered gnocchi and steak Florentine at Trattoria Zà Zà in Florence.
Favorite souvenir: A tacky but lovely coffee mug I got in Vernazza. It has big-eyed, cartoon sardines swimming all over it.
Travel plans: Spurred on by my most recent rewatching of Sleepless in Seattle (at least a semi-annual occurrence in my house), I’ve been itching to get up to the Pacific Northwest—to Seattle and over the Puget Sound to Olympic National Park. It seems like such a magical place to explore.
Elizabeth Florio, digital editor
2023 travel highlight: This was my summer of going to…Wisconsin…for various family functions. I joked about it with friends, but honestly, Madison is such a cool college town and Door County so quaint and scenic (Cape Cod but with corn fields), I’d happily do it again next year.
Favorite souvenir: My son found a huge, striped hawk feather in the Smoky Mountains. I tied it into his dream catcher, and now it’s hanging over his bed.
Travel plans: I love the South but love to leave it in the summer. This year, Maine and Acadia National Park are on my list.
Emily Daily, newsletter editor
2023 highlight: Since we live near the beach, we often head to the mountains for our vacations. This year, we went to Lake Lure, North Carolina, twice. We stayed in a log cabin that had rhododendron-lined paths to waterfalls—plenty of room for kids and dogs to romp. From there, it was easy to pop over to nearby Hendersonville and Asheville for day trips to scout out their art galleries, farmers’ markets (we loaded up with apple butter and local honey), and fabulous breweries and cideries from our favorite brands such as Bold Rock and Wicked Weed.
Favorite souvenir: A pair of mounted wood ducks from a benefit auction at the Chincoteague Island Museum.
Travel plans: Central Coast California, one of my favorite places, and—if all the stars align—Ireland.
Amanda Heckert, executive editor
2023 highlight: I hadn’t been to Walt Disney World in almost twenty-five years, but my husband and I couldn’t resist joining my brother’s family for my nephews’ first trip to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, and Hollywood Studios. But forget the kids—the adults had just as much fun, if not more. We rode everything (Guardians of the Galaxy: Best. Rollercoaster. Ever.) and ate everything (Dole Whips, churros, and did I mention EPCOT was hosting its International Food and Wine Festival). Minus a few blisters and some light chafing from all the walking, we couldn’t have asked for a better time.
Favorite souvenir: Even though the only thing I can throw at the wheel is my back out, I’m obsessed with, and have learned so much from, The Great Pottery Throwdown. So much so that when I spotted an adorable vase on our dinner table at Garden & Gun‘s An Art Affair in New Smyrna Beach, I said to myself, that’s been raku fired! Lucky for me, the pieces that adorned our tablescape came from Jane’s Art Center, and the next morning at our gallery walk, they were for sale there. I snagged the one I’d admired and now use it to hold my camellias.
Travel plans: My husband and I will be celebrating our fifteenth wedding anniversary in May, and we’re hoping to visit Italy. I studied there in college (many moons ago) and he’s never been, so it’ll be an adventure for us both. Ideally we’ll hit all the main cities; my college town, Urbino; and perhaps stop in to visit Atlanta stylist Annette Joseph at her dreamy La Fortezza, the Tuscan fortress she renovated where she now holds food, shopping, and arts retreats.
Gabriela Gomez-Misserian, digital producer
2023 highlight: There’s nothing I look forward to more than touching down in Lexington, Kentucky, and reuniting with my friends across state lines for our annual “Midsummer” trip. Thirteen of us get cozy in a friend’s family home—dubbed Our Old Kentucky home, OKH for short—and a weekend of dancing, laughter, and the most delicious food ensues. Cheese, cured meats, wine, and pickled veggies curated from W+M Market star in a garden picnic as the sun melts behind the hills; my best friend from East Tennessee concocts the creamiest shrimp and grits in the world (it’s my personal task to bring the unmatched Marsh Hen Mills grits from Charleston); and another friend always unveils Tupperware brimming with buttery lemon bars for a midnight snack.
Favorite souvenir: Rolls and rolls and rolls of film. I took up film photography a few years ago after I brought back a manual Pentax from a market in France, but now I just take a little silver point-and-shoot everywhere I go, packing extra rolls when I fly to see friends. I went through two rolls when I visited Highlands, North Carolina, with my boyfriend last October. I’m planning to print out some of the magical photos I took during our first time fly fishing. We went during peak fall, and I love how film can bring me right back to an ephemeral moment in time, and the imperfections—whether a light leak or blur of movement—make it all the more expressive.
Travel plans: This summer, my mom and I are hoping to go to coastal Maine and take a plein air painting workshop—I’ve always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my favorite artist, Lois Dodd. And, sometime this fall, I’m trying to set aside a week to visit my family in Medellín, Colombia, where my dad grew up.
Chris Kraft, chief digital officer
2023 highlight: Seeing my favorite artist perform at the outdoor RDS Arena in Dublin. It rained, of course, as we waited for the show to start, but then the clouds parted, golden hour arrived, and Bruce and the E Street Band took us off into the splendid Irish evening. It was spiritual.
Favorite souvenir: A coffee mug from Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, Florida. The refuge (and the area around it) got beaten up by Hurricane Ian in 2022. The mug reminds me of its resilience. And to take hurricanes seriously.
Travel plans: Los Angeles. I’m like a hundred years old and have never been. So I’m going this year.
Ally Sloway, social media editor
2023 highlight: As G&G’s social media editor, I get to go a lot of cool places (and post about them on Instagram). Two trips that came to me immediately were both solo trips to Tennessee. I was lucky enough to attend our Jason Isbell photoshoot in Nashville, where I hung out with a fun crew, including some of our past Back Porch Session artists; it was great to get their inside guide to East Nashville spots. The other was Chattanooga for the Moon River Festival. Chattanooga surprised me with its beautiful scenery and majorly cool coffee spots, vintage clothing shops, bars, and restaurants. (Y’all have to check out Common House.) Plus, the festival itself was incredible.
Favorite souvenir: I’ve traveled to a fair share of music festivals and concerts for our Back Porch Sessions, including Bear Shadow in Highlands, North Carolina, and of course, Moon River in Chattanooga. I’ve saved all the wristbands and passes and have quite the collection going. I’m still looking for a fun way to display all of them!
Or a snorkel set from our river snorkeling adventure in Asheville, North Carolina.
Travel plans: I have two personal trips planned around a good friend’s wedding: Puerto Rico and Cape Cod.
Lindsey Liles, assistant editor
2023 highlight: While reporting a story on the search for the ivory-billed woodpecker, I got to explore a new slice of my own home state of Arkansas. I borrowed my dad’s old duck hunting gear and spent days winding through the narrow, tupelo- and cypress-lined channels of a swamp called Bayou De View just an hour and a half from where I grew up. Hearing pileated woodpeckers overhead, glimpsing deer through the trees, and watching snakes curl through the water, I felt like I had been let in on a Natural State secret.
Favorite souvenir: I married a man from Lithuania last summer, and as a gift, one of his family members gave us a small barrel of honey from her village, to symbolize the sweetness of starting a life together. We plan to keep refilling it with special honey—next up, 2021 Made in the South Awards food winner Black Locust Honey from the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective.
Travel plans: I’m heading to Nags Head this summer for a wedding—my first Outer Banks trip. I plan to make time for a drive over to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, home to the only remaining wild population of red wolves in the world.