Tag Archives: Virginia

Best Historic Homes to Visit in the United States


Over the past few months, I have had the great opportunity to visit some of the most significant and beautiful historic homes in the United States. Why visit historic homes? You will be able to learn the history and charm of some of the most famous leaders in the United States, have a closer look at their personal lives, and get a taste of the first class lifestyle and elegance throughout history. Several sources highlight the best historic homes, such as Fodor’s Travel and Traditional Home. While I have not traveled to all of them, below I have described four of my favorite historic homes in the United States:

  1. Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina: America’s largest home, the 8,000-acre Biltmore Estate was built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt. My first reaction upon arriving to estate was how fresh the air was. The estate resides in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, with beautiful natural scenery and the cleanest air I have ever felt. It is self-sustaining, with a farm, winery, hotel and entertainment. George Vanderbilt lived there with his wife until 1914 when he passed away, and then his children resided in the home. The home is elegantly decorated with a French influence and has some of the largest and most majestic fireplaces I have ever seen. As a sustainability consultant, I was interested to learn that the estate was awarded in 2012 for environmental stewardship, including a new solar array and tree projection project.11018881_10153134709934524_821918120597568214_n
  2. Mount Vernon, Virginia: According to the interactive website, Mount Vernon “offers a glimpse into 18th-century plantation life through beautiful gardens and grounds, intriguing museum exhibits, and immersive programs honoring George Washington’s life and legacy.” I toured the home while attending a public policy business course in Washington D.C. I was impressed by the beautiful gardens and scenery surrounding George Washington’s home. I also appreciated the handouts of Martha Washington’s favorite recipes, some of which I brought home with me (that reminds me, I still need to cook them :))!535337_10150940593654524_1589505112_n
  3. Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Ohio: As I described in my post, Favorite Ways to Spend Fall in Cleveland, the Stan Hywet Hall was the home of F.A. Sieberling, who created The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1898. The home was built between 1912-1915 and was one of the finest examples of the American Country Estate Movement. It includes five historic buildings and eight historic gardens on 70 acres. Learn more about the history of the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens here. I enjoyed the several gardens and yard games – it would have been a lot of fun to grow up with so many outdoor activities and free land to explore!10653848_10152756415664524_6848450162640339_n
  4. Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California: According to the website, William Randolph Hearst built the “estate on his ranchland overlooking the village of San Simeon in 1919. He called the estate “La Cuesta Encantada” – Spanish for The Enchanted Hill. By 1947, the hilltop complex included a twin-towered main building, three sumptuous guesthouses, and 127 acres of terraced gardens, fountains, and pools.” Given the significance of the Hearst family in journalism, I was interested to see the Gothic Study, where Hearst would preview newspapers every night before printing them the following morning. I also enjoyed the Spanish influence in the home decor given my Spanish language and culture studies.

    Source: hearstcastle.org

    Source: hearstcastle.org

Visiting these estates reminds me of how much more engaging and rewarding it is to learn history through site seeing rather than reading a school textbook. If I ever have the opportunity to teach, my goal will be to encourage hands-on learning, allowing students to actually visit the locations we discuss in class. I look forward to traveling to the remaining famous estates throughout the United States in my lifelong pursuit to learn about the world.


Bloom Where You Are Planted


It is crazy to think that the last three weekends I have been out of town – I guess that is what the beginning of the holiday seasons brings! From Wytheville, Virginia (where my boyfriend’s family lives) to the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan (where my family lives), over the past few weeks I have noticed a recurring theme and reminder: bloom where you are planted.

The message to “bloom where you are planted” has been engrained in me since I first interned in Cleveland and was concerned by the fact that I was not living and working in a so-called exciting or flashy place. I took this message to heart and decided I would make the most of my internship in Cleveland.

My Facebook cover photo during my Cleveland internship in 2012

Two and a half years later, I now live and work full-time in Cleveland and am proud to call it my new hometown. I have explored neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs, experienced cultural and sporting events, tried new hobbies, and met new friends. This is the premise of the inspirNational mindset, which inspires me to make the most of where I am in everyday life.

I was reminded of the inspirNational mindset when driving back to Cleveland from Virginia and stopped at a gas station in West Virginia. I met a teenager who was working at the checkout counter. When I asked him where exactly in West Virginia we were, he said “no where. It’s no big deal here.” I was surprised by his response and asked him for more details. He said it was a simple farm town with not much to do. With my blog in mind, I responded that “every place has its charm, and I’m sure there’s something special about your hometown.” He smiled and laughed, but I am sure he knew there was some truth to what I said.

Traveling to Detroit and now living in Cleveland, I constantly hear jokes about how the two cities are terrible places to live, the weather is bad, and no one wants to visit, unless they have family there. Now having lived in or near both cities, I have learned that the truth is the exact opposite. Detroit and Cleveland have rich histories, four great seasons, welcoming cultures, and vibrant futures with all the redevelopment efforts, new innovations and industries, and young professionals returning to the city centers. I have learned that a place is what you make of it; it is up to you to make it fun and exciting, or however you want it to be in order to be happy. So whether you live in New York City, Paris, Buenos Aires, a small town in Australia, or a village in Mexico, you can blossom.

With my passion for travel, I consider blossoming as living like a traveler no matter where I am. You may consider another lifestyle in order to bloom where you are planted. Either way, Dr. Smita Malhotra provides great insights on Huffington Post to teach us all how to bloom where we are planted. She reminds us of the following:

1. Every step in life prepares you for the next one.

2. Stop complaining.

3. Be a blessing.

4. Bloom through the concrete.


Source: Pamela Joe McFarlane via Getty Images

As we close 2014 and return home or travel for the holidays, I hope that we can all remember to make the most of wherever we are and bloom as we enter the new year!