When polled on your favorites in our annual contest, you kept it local, picking several Oklahoma destinations.

Oklahoma's Readers' Choice Awards
Bright color fills the Myriad Botanical Gardens in any season.

We asked. You answered. Your votes in our Readers' Choice Awards reflect swelling pride in your home state. Seeing your choices makes me pleased to know I share so many of your sentiments. While our awards focus on places across the South, I have to admit that Shawnee native Sharon Baxter's comment sums up what makes my every visit to Oklahoma so special. "What's beautiful about Oklahoma: our people, our kindness, our warmth, and our amazing strength to endure whatever comes our way."

A Garden in the City
Many of you named Myriad Botanical Gardens as your favorite public garden. "The gardens are just a refreshing oasis in the middle of downtown Oklahoma City," says Janie Roop of Oklahoma City. I've been through the gardens many times, but I was lucky enough to visit them in December when the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory is lit with glorious greens and reds. Steven Kerr of Edmond notes that a winter stop also becomes a matter of comfort. "It is warm and green when all outside has lost its color," he says.

Scenic Drive
Rebecca Harris of Tulsa dares us to head straight down the Talimena Scenic Drive without stopping. "This cannot be done by the mere mortal with any of his senses intact," she says. "The whole thing is like traversing a giant textbook--with each of the turnouts and historic sites being the pages--letting you in on life from over 400 years ago."

Several of you voted this byway your favorite scenic drive, and few roads in this part of the country are prettier in the fall. "It is the burst of color around every curve of the road in the autumn," says Karen Johnston of Oklahoma City. "It is the mist that lays over the hollows down below and the sweet smell of leaves stirred in the wind." Even when there is no color, peace remains. "The drive removes you from the bustle of the city and allows you to view the mountains as God made them," says Bartlesville native Nan Morrison.

Shopping Around
Votes rolled in for Tulsa's Utica Square as a shopping destination. I have to say that after a plate of giant pancakes at Queenie's, I either have to walk around this urban, outdoor mall or lie down for one of those full-belly naps. Zina Simms of Broken Arrow shares a Utica Square tradition she started years ago of going shopping there with her daughter the day before the start of school. "Everyone seems to be on a different schedule at Utica Square. It's not like a mall where everyone is in such a hurry," she says. "It is kind of like spa shopping. I go there because I feel pampered."

Fresh Fish in Oklahoma
As a travel editor, I'm supposed to always try something new, but I occasionally cheat. Especially if I find myself en route to the Tulsa International Airport around lunch. Six words: White River Fish Market and Restaurant. "The market has a very down to-earth-atmosphere, no frills," says voter Nancy Lancaster of Chouteau. "If you're looking for really good, fresh fish and seafood, this is the place." She's right. Nothing fancy here. Just fish done simply, and hush puppies I try to sneak on the plane.

Thanks for your votes. Do plan to enter again. Here's to 2008.