2023 recap | The best moments of the year

by W. Andrew Powell
2023 Recap

Goodbye, 2023! This has been one of the best years of my career, and I am very grateful for every moment. It’s been such a great year that it’s actually hard to say goodbye to 2023, but I’m also excited about the year ahead.

As I do every year, I had to take a moment to reflect a little on the big highlights from 2023. It was a huge year for travel, and I had some of the best interviews. I also checked off a few things I’m pretty proud of.

The GATE’s YouTube channel reached over 14 million video views, and 20,000 subscribers, while my travel channel climbed to over 3,100 subscribers and over 20,000 video views per month.

So here’s a look back at some of my favourite moments, interviews, and trips from 2023. Happy New Year to everyone, and a very big thank-you to everyone for working with me, connecting, following along, and making all of this possible. The GATE and my career wouldn’t be what they are without every single person who reads the site, watches videos, works with me, and interacts with my social media posts. I’m very, very grateful for all of the support.

Interviews, film & television

The 2023 Critics Choice Awards
The 2023 Critics Choice Awards

The year started off in a big way with the Critics Choice Awards, and I had an absolute blast attending the ceremony for the first time, seeing Brendan Fraser, Janelle Monae, The Daniels, and so many others get up on stage. It was a great event, and I’m really proud to be a member of the organization.

It’s difficult to single out a few interviews or entertainment happenings in the year, but I have to admit that visiting the set of Heartland season 17 for the Fan Day, and interviewing the cast, turned out to be a big highlight. Everyone, including the fans and the cast and crew, were so welcoming, and the videos have reached over 480,000 views so far! If Heartland returns for season 18, I hope I can make it back to set again next year.

The year also brought interviews with composer Justin Hurwitz for Babylon, the cast of Shadow & Bone, director Mathew Robbins for Dragonslayer, roundtables with the full team behind HBO’s Barry, the cast of Sweet Tooth, Blackberry, and one of my favourites, Nimona.

I also had interviews for Scream VI, The Lazarus Project, Guardians of the Galaxy, Killing It season 2, the cast of The Witcher, Disney’s Wish, as well as Jared Harris, Ming-Na Wen for Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai, and director Julie Cohen for Every Body.

This year I could only attend a few days of the Toronto International Film Festival, but I had a great time watching a number of films, including Dumb Money, and a few others, and I had interviews for El Rapto and The Nature of Love.

2023 Windsor International Film Festival
2023 Windsor International Film Festival

At the end of May I also went to the second annual Blue Mountain Film Festival, and it was another great year at one of the most unique festivals in Ontario. I love the community there, the location, the filmmaker hike, and the way the festival gathers together such a unique lineup of films, Two Many Chefs (La Vida Padre) was a great opening night film, and the filmmaker sessions were excellent.

In October I was also at the Windsor International Film Festival, and it opened with the absolutely amazing and delicious film, The Taste of Things. It’s the most beautiful film, the acting is superb, and I’ve never seen a drama with so much incredible food on screen. I also watched Seven Veils, Frontières, and Le temps d’un été (One Summer), to name a few.

But the year really ended with the proverbial cherry on top with a few fantastic opportunities. I was in Los Angeles twice between the end of November and the second week of December for the premiere and cast interviews with Zack Snyder‘s Rebel Moon: Part One – A Child of Fire, and press conferences for Air, Saltburn, Cassandro, and American Fiction.

It was a real treat starting 2023 and end it in LA, especially with so many great people. It was amazing chatting with Snyder, and hearing from Viola Davis, Ben Affleck, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Jeffrey Wright.

Travel highlights

Musée d'Orsay in Paris
Musée d’Orsay in Paris

If 2022 was my first dive back into travel writing and stories, 2023 ended up being my first real deep dive into being a travel journalist and travel vlogger. I can hardly even believe all the trips that ended up happening this year.

Before the Critics Choice Awards, my family and I started the year with our first ever trip to Disneyland, and it was so much fun. I love how the Anaheim parks are so different from Walt Disney World, and even the attractions have a slightly different vibe that I really appreciated.

I also took the time in LA to check out the Warner Bros. studio tour, visit LACMA, and explore the La Brea Tar Pits. Shortly after that my family and I went to Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration, I had a press preview at Walt Disney World’s Blizzard Beach, and then I was in the Palm Beaches for a stay at the White Elephant Hotel.

S Hotel Jamaica
S Hotel Jamaica

Thanks to some special invitations, I also had a chance to check out Porter’s E195-E2 preview flight, and check out a Lynx flight to Orlando shortly after they launched the service.

Between the spring and summer I had a chance to visit the S Hotel Jamaica, and I spent a number of days exploring Chicago, including the Chicago Blues Festival, museums, and a number of breweries and restaurants. I also had a great time exploring Manitoulin Island ahead of the Travel Media Association of Canada conference in Sudbury. The tour included hiking and great food, and learning more about the Indigenous stories and people there.

But the big event this year was going to Paris and Switzerland for nearly two weeks. My family and I flew into Paris, took the train to Switzerland, and then explored around Murren and Yungfrau before going back to Paris for a few days at the end of the trip. While it was partly a vacation, I also worked with a number of hotel and tourism partners for stories and videos that I’ll be sharing at the end of this winter.

This year has also been a fantastic chance to work with Disney Parks and Disney Cruise Lines more, so beyond the visit in February, I also had a virtual preview of the upcoming Disney Treasure cruise ship that arrives in late 2024, and they invited me to Destination D23 at Walt Disney World.

Beyond all the presentations at the event to introduce what Disney is working on for the next few years, it was a chance to see Journey of Water, inspired by Moana at EPCOT before it opened to the public, and visit the parks. The D23 team threw some great parties, they spoiled all the attendees with freebies throughout the events, and they even opened up EPCOT after hours for us one night.

Cape d'Or, Nova Scotia
Cape d’Or, Nova Scotia

Then I spent two weeks between Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, and it was such a huge trip, it’s hard to sum it all up in a few words. I checked out distilleries and museums, small towns and beaches, saw fossils on a beach, and I enjoyed the most incredible hospitality. I can’t wait to share all of those stories soon too, because everyone needs to visit the Maritimes.

And finally I spent nearly two weeks in Turks and Caicos for the Caribbean Tourism Organization‘s State of the Industry Conference, and touring a number of the islands. I stayed at the gorgeous Shore Club, explored South Caicos, Salt Cay, and Grand Turk, and I met so many incredible people.

My family and I even started the trip by visiting Beaches Turks and Caicos, and I have so much to share from that trip as well. While the media group toured South Caicos, we even had a chance to stay at the incredible Sailrock Resort and enjoy their hospitality.

Looking back on all of this now, it feels surreal. I’m working through hundreds of photos, videos, and notes to share a number of stories in the coming weeks.

Tech and events

OnePlus Open
OnePlus Open

Because I have a lot of things that I loved to cover, I also had the opportunity to test out and review a lot of amazing technology. As a creator, and someone who loves gadgets, I love being able to share stories about the technology that makes it easier to share travel and entertainment stories.

Among the fantastic tech that I tested this year, I am a very big fan of everything that OnePlus has been doing. From the OnePlus 11, to the OnePlus Open, the Pad, and the Buds Pro 2, they’re developing an impressive ecosystem of devices that work perfectly together, and I can’t get over the cameras on the Open in particular. There’s more ahead soon, but the OnePlus Open is probably my favourite device of the year.

DJI has also had a fantastic year, from the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, to the Mini 4 Pro, and the Osmo Pocket 3, they launched a lot of great devices in 2023. I’ve flown the Mavic 3 Pro over a dozen times this year, and the footage from the drone is so stunning.

I tested out the Samsung Odyssey G9 monitor, their incredible Galaxy S23 Ultra, the SanDisk Extreme PRO Portable SSD V2, Insta360 X3 360 camera, Bluetti EB55 power station, Synology DiskStation DS224+, and Zhiyun Fiveray F100.

Google has also had a fantastic year, starting with the Google Pixel 7a, the Pixel Tablet, and most recently the new Pixel 8 and Pixel 8 Pro. As a long-time fan of the Pixel phones, I’m constantly blown away by the cameras on the Pixel phones, as well as the Astrophotography mode.

I’ve been to a number of events in Toronto this year too, and the three that stood out for me was Jurassic World: The Exhibition, the preview of Canada’s Wonderland for the summer season, and Prime Video’s Sneakertopia for Air.

Favourite photos of 2023

Here are a few of my favourite photos from the year. It was hard to pick just a few, but these cover a lot of what I did throughout the year.

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