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Greetings, Internet Stranger! You might be asking “Why would someone want to visit all 50 states?” Everyone knows that there are cool states like New York, California, and Florida. Then there are “boring states” like Delaware, North Dakota, and West Virginia. John Oliver even made fun of the idea of North Dakota tourism. When Wayne and Garth visited Delaware in the movie Wayne’s World, they famously had nothing to say about it.
Well, Internet Stranger, I could not disagree more strongly! Every state has something special, beautiful, and worth visiting. A little over 4 years ago, I decided I would visit all 50 states in only 5 years. I’ve now visited all 48 continental states, so I only have Hawaii and Alaska left. I can honestly say that I have loved every second of the trip. And I’m born and raised in New York City, so it’s not like I’m just an easily impressed person.
You certainly don’t have to visit all 50 states in 5 years. I realize that this isn’t feasible with everyone’s vacation schedule. But I do have a few tips for how to visit all 50 states that I recommend following. I’ll explain the tips first. Then I’ll give you specific advice on how to visit each state. If you want to skip straight to all my recommendations for each state, you can find around 100 of my posts about my travels around the USA here.
How to Visit All 50 States
How to Get There
Now, I wish I knew where you lived, Internet Stranger, because I could send you a box of the finest American hot dogs. But sadly, I do not, and so I can’t tell you exactly how to get from your home to visit all 50 states.
But I can tell you that you can use a lovely airplane to get from many cities to visit all 50 states and I recommend Expedia for the best way to find the cheapest flights around the US. Some US cities like NYC or Atlanta will be easy to get to on a direct flight, whereas others will need a layover. But either way, Expedia will make it easy.
You can even use Expedia to rent a car so you’ll be all set when you arrive at your destination. (I can’t drive, but if you can, this must be helpful.)
Just click here to start looking for the best possible deals on your flight, so you can head out to your day ASAP.
How to Visit All 50 States
What to Pack
- Comfortable and adorable sandals for summer when you visit all 50 states
- Stylish boots for rainy days when you visit all 50 states. It rains a TON in many parts of the US.
- A cell charger so you can keep taking pictures while you visit all 50 states without your cell phone dropping dead
- A light rain jacket because YOU JUST NEVER KNOW
- The best full-length guide to the USA, which will help you visit all 50 states.
- However many clothes you need for your trip to visit all 50 states. I don’t know your life
- A safety purse that looks cute so you can accessorize and protect yourself from highway robbers
How to Visit All 50 States: The Tips
1) Start Close to Home
This is an easy way of picking states off your list. Begin your mission to visit all 50 states by doing weekend trips in nearby states. My home state is New York, so that’s pretty easy because I’m so close to many states like Pennsylvania. They’re just a short bus ride away.
Heck, start your journey to visit all 50 states with an actual trip in your home state! Nothing’s cooler than a staycation! “Staycation, all I ever wanted!” If your time and budget is limited, beginning with the easiest states will give you momentum and get you excited to check every state off your bucket list. Yes, even Delaware.
PS. This tip is harder if you live in Hawaii.
2) Group States Together By Region
It’s more fun and interesting to hit an entire region in one trip when you’re trying to visit all 50 states. The easiest region in the USA to visit in one go is probably New England. I saw all six New England states in one action-packed summer trip. The whole thing lasted 18 days. But you could definitely see all of New England in two weeks, if that’s all the time you could get off of work.
Other great regional road trips when you want to visit all 50 states include the Southwest (New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and Colorado), the Great Plains (North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), the Southeast (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and ‘bama), and the Great Lakes (Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota). Each trip should take about two weeks.
I’ve personally done all of these trips when I went to visit all 50 states, except that I swapped Oklahoma for New Mexico, and I can attest to their excellence. And the Great Lakes and Southeast are surprisingly easy to get around by bus or train. (You’ll need a car or a plane to do the Great Plains or the Southwest in one fell swoop. I don’t drive, so I ended up having to make a lot of connections through the Delta Hub at the Salt Lake City Airport.)
If you’re looking for more ideas for two-week, multi-state USA itineraries to help you visit all 50 states, I really recommend Lonely Planet’s USA’s Best Trips. It’s better for people who, unlike me, can drive. But it’s sure to give you tons of more ideas for the great American road trip.
24 Hour Tip
Speaking of road-free road trips, people sometimes ask me how I stay in shape when I travel so much. One tip is that I always make sure to have a protein bar with me on days when I’m traveling by busy train, or plane. That way I won’t be tempted to eat fast food. My favorite brand is the Clif Builder bar–I like the chocolate mint and peanut butter flavors.
3) Visit For a Special Occasion!
Have you always wanted to see Mardi Gras in New Orleans? How about the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque? The Miss Firecracker Contest in Yazoo City, Mississippi? (OK, that last one is fictional.) Now’s your chance! You’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone. Heck, you could even just decide to travel once a year for fifty years and see how St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated in every state if that’s how you want to visit all 50 states. You do you, Internet Stranger!
The one downside of visiting a city when a big event is in town is that you need to book your hotels far in advance. I would shudder to think of trying to book a hotel in New Orleans for Mardi Gras at the last minute.
4) Pursue Your Passions
What do you love most in the world? I guarantee you can find it when you visit all 50 states. Do you love baseball? That would be an amazing thing to see in each state. (The only baseball game I saw during my trip to visit all 50 states was a Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks game, and it was excellent.) Do you love wine? If there’s a winery in South Dakota, and I know there is because I’ve been there, you can find a winery in every state.
My two loves are food and history, so I made sure to eat local specialties and learn historical fun facts when I went to visit all 50 states. Do you know which state has the longest Constitution? How about what the official cocktail of the city of New Orleans is? Well, I know, and I think both are delicious.
OK, enough for the general tips. You’re looking for specifics. Ahead I have my best tips for when you visit all 50 states. Plus, I link to my more detailed posts about visiting each state in every section. You basically won’t have to do any thinking or planning at all!
How to Visit All 50 States: State by State
1) New York
Stop one on my master plan to visit all 50 states was my own home state. I refused to take a trip in my actual hometown, so I went up the Hudson River in New York State to see places like Tarrytown, Beacon, and Cold Spring.
These hamlets are not the first thing kind of place most travelers think of when they picture New York, and that’s a good thing. The best time of year to visit the Hudson Valley is October because the area goes all out for Halloween. (It’s where The Legend of Sleepy Hollow comes from, after all.) It gets cold though, so bring a warm coat!
When you visit New York, you’re going to want to see New York City because it’s the greatest city in the world. But get out of the Big Apple, at least for a day trip. It’s amazing how beautiful nature in the rest of the state is.
When you visit all 50 states, you absolutely cannot visit Louisiana without seeing New Orleans. I mean, I’m sure Shreveport is nice, but do New Orleans first. It’s got the best food, the best music, and the best silver-painted mimes in all the United States. Go listen to a classic NOLA musician like Aaron Neville to get yourself in the mood.
My favorite time of year to visit Louisiana is December because the restaurants go crazy preparing lavish Reveillon dinners, but you don’t have the nutso crowds for Mardi Gras. Also it’s an easy December/early January trip to pair with our next state…
Everything’s bigger in Texas, so you’ll probably want to see more than one city here when you visit all 50 states. In Texas, the two best cities are Austin and San Antonio. At least, they’re the two best cities for a non-driver like me. There’s even a convenient train that connects San Antonio and Austin.
You can easily visit both Austin and San Antonio in one week-long trip, with a nice detour in the beautiful Texas Hill Country in between. Get ready with this shirt that has the greatest Texas slogan the world has ever known on it.
December and January might not give the best weather in Texas, but a lot of people get time off in late December and early January, so Texas is a good choice in the US for this time of year. The San Antonio Riverwalk goes all out with Christmas Lights. And I was sure glad to be in Austin for New Year’s 2016 because we celebrated with a rock concert/midnight barbecue, and that is the most Austin celebration ever.
Many Floridians don’t consider Orlando to be Real Florida. And many residents of Orlando don’t consider Disney World to be Real Orlando. That’s why I spent my entire long weekend in Florida at Disney World when I went to visit all 50 states. Got a problem with that, Florida? Then I’ve just got one word for you: BORTLES!
But seriously, especially if you’re traveling with kids or adult geeks, you won’t want to pass on Orlando. But do also spend at least a weekend in Miami, where you can party all night on the beach til the break of dawn. Just make sure to bring plenty of sunscreen!
I visited these next five states together on one summer road trip when I was trying to visit all 50 states. (Here I use the term road trip loosely because I cannot drive. But if you can drive, it would make a great Actual Road Trip. But go in the spring or fall, not summer time if you can help it because the heat is oppressive. Also avoid hurricanes.)
Richmond is a charming city, but my favorite place to visit in Virginia is Williamsburg. Where else can you travel back in time to Colonial Williamsburg and travel to other nations at Busch Gardens? Some say Virginia is for lovers, but I say Virginia is for nerds!
6) North Carolina
North Carolina has quite a few cities worth visiting, especially in the Research Triangle. You’ll have a ball in either Chapel Hill or Raleigh, but I recommend Durham, North Carolina. Here you can visit Duke University, argue about barbecue styles, and see the only baseball team I know of whose mascot is Susan Sarandon.
I strongly recommend Durham for people who are afraid of visiting the South when they visit all 50 states because it’s such a typical college town in so many ways, but you can still find amazing Southern food there.
7) South Carolina
And here we see the scenic capital of South Carolina, Columbia. (JK, the capital of South Carolina is Columbia, but this picture is of Charleston. I think the entire state of South Carolina would challenge me to pistols at dawn if I didn’t recommend you visit Charleston.) If you splurge on your hotel in only one city when you visit all 50 states, let it be in Charleston because their bed and breakfast game is unreal.
The big attraction to visit here is Fort Sumter, which is where the Civil War started. From Fort Sumter you can also see the location of Fort Wagner, where the last major battle of the movie Glory took place. You should definitely see this movie before visiting South Carolina if you need a refresher on Civil War history. Plus it has Denzel Washington’s first Oscar-winning performance.
The Great State of Georgia‘s capital city, Atlanta, has everything: museums, zoos, botanical gardens, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Jimmy Carter, the busiest airport in the entire world, and the finest chili dog in the entire land. The one thing it doesn’t have is very old buildings because the entire city burned to the ground in the Civil War.
If you want a city with even more Southern charm when you visit all 50 states, head down the coast to Savannah. Savannah also has everything: antique ice cream, piles of shellfish, haunted cemeteries, a college of art and design, Forrest Gump impersonators, whole fish served with their heads, and a famous murder house.
You can easily drive from Atlanta to Savannah in one trip, or take the glamorous shuttle bus. (Not sarcasm, it’s actually glamorous. There are free snacks.)
PS. You are legally required to refer to it as the Great State of Georgia at all times.
Birmingham, Alabama is very easy to visit from Atlanta. If you have a car it’s just a couple of hours. If you don’t have a car, you can get from Atlanta to Birmingham with an 8 dollar bus ticket. Alabama has quite a few cities worth visiting, especially if you are interested in learning about the Civil Rights Movement.
I chose Birmingham when I went to visit all 50 states because it’s the biggest city in the state, and it’s the easiest to get to by plane. Plus it has the Civil Rights National Monument, all centered around Kelly Ingram Park, where so many people risked their lives and safety to have the rights that they were entitled to as Americans. Every American should visit Birmingham, Alabama.
Another city every American should visit on their trip to visit all 50 states is Philadelphia. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both written here. Ben Franklin is the town’s most famous son, even though he wasn’t born there. No AMERICA trip is complete without a stop in Philly.
Also if you love Very Serious Sports Fans, this is the town for you. As a Braves fan I am trolling Philly by posting this mural of former Philly mayor Frank Rizzo to represent the city because he is VERY controversial.
Because I live in New York, I went to Philadelphia as a short trip over Labor Day weekend by bus. I’ve heard rumors that Philadelphia has an airport, but I don’t believe them. Labor Day is an excellent time to visit Philly because everyone leaves for the beach, so you’ll kind of have the city to yourself. Also, the weather will be lovely.
But though Philadelphia gets more tourists, don’t ignore Western Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh when you visit all 50 states. You can visit Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in the same trip, but I went to PBG a little later, in early October. Because of Pittsburgh’s famous inclines, you can get amazing views of fall foliage at this time of year.
11) New Mexico
The best time of year to visit New Mexico is in October, so you can see the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. This is really something to check off your bucket list. Ideally, you would spend at least a week in New Mexico to see both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but Carlsbad Caverns and oddball magnet Roswell in the southern part of the state are surely worth visiting as well.
A fun fact about New Mexico tourism is that travel to Albuquerque has really taken off since Breaking Bad got so popular. So if you’ve ever wanted to eat blue candy that was pretending to be crystal meth or visit Saul Goodman’s law office, now you can when you visit all 50 states.
I’m sure Kentucky has lots of nice cities, but I don’t see how any of them could top the delightful Louisville. It has bourbon, horse racing…basically everything a growing girl needs. You won’t regret making this your base for your Kentucky Fried Vacation when you visit all 50 states.
I visited Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri in one two week trip, and I do think it would make a nice road trip. Or an unnecessarily complicated trip involving several airplanes, which is what I did. Potato, Potahto. But it’s really cheap to get from Louisville to our next destination by bus.
I truly regret not getting to Memphis during this trip to visit all 50 states, but Nashville was so much easier to get to by bus. And if you like delicious food, guitars, Cadillacs, and hillbilly music, Nashville is the city for you. I took this trip in the spring, so there was great weather in every city. I imagine Nashville is much warmer in the summer. That’s just science.
Don’t sleep on Mississippi when you visit all 50 states! Jackson, Mississippi, the state capital, has a lot of cultural attractions and potholes, and it’s a great base to explore the state. Vicksburg and Natchez are both excellent day trips from Jackson. You can even visit both in one day. I strongly recommend visiting during Spring Pilgrimage, when the historic homes of Natchez open up for tourists.
I was able to make these day trips because I stole a car and by that I mean that I have cousins in Vicksburg and they drove me around. You’ll need a car to make these day trips, though Jackson is very reachable by airplane.
There’s only one big city in Arkansas, the capital and former home of the Clintons, Little Rock. Little Rock has really taken off in recent years, and the city now has everything from an outstanding purse museum to a cafe with a pet pig for a mascot. Don’t let any stereotypes about Arkansas stop you from paying Little Rock a visit when you visit all 50 states.
St. Louis is not the capital of Missouri. It’s not even the biggest city. But it’s probably the city with the most things to do. There’s a free zoo! Tons of delicious food and beer! And there’s even a city museum that isn’t even remotely a museum! I only wish I’d had more than a weekend’s worth of time to spend in St. Louis. When you visit all 50 states, I suggest spending at least three full days in St Louis.
My other regret is that I still haven’t figured out if Missouri is a southern or a midwestern state. I’m going with midwest, but it’s a tough call.
Despite the fact that it was under attack by evil clowns, I promise you will thoroughly enjoy your visit to Cincinnati. I took a 2.5 week trip around the Great Lakes region one summer, and I hit up Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It’s pretty easy to get around most of these states by bus or trains. (I strongly believe the mass transit systems of this country are in desperate need of improvement.)
Ohio has plenty of great cities to try when you visit all 50 states, but I think you’ll fall for Cincinnati. It has excellent museums for both history and art. It has fab food, and I’m not just talking about Skyline Chili. Finally, it’s within walking distance of Kentucky. So you could easily visit Kentucky on the same trip.
Until South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (probs not how you spell his name) ran for president, the only city in Indiana I could name was the capital, Indianapolis. Unfortunately, Pawnee, Indiana from the show Parks and Recreation does not exist. However, Indianapolis is featured several times on Parks and Rec so you can give yourself a little tour by visiting the Indiana Governor’s office and eating at Ron Swanson’s favorite steakhouse.
Indianapolis is a surprisingly fun city, with friendly people, great museums, and a giant Civil War monument. (It’s not controversial because it’s for the Union soldiers.) Indianapolis is also very easy to get to from Cincinnati by bus, and it’s one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the Midwest. Definitely a Must Visit City when you visit all 50 states.
I wasn’t really sure I wanted to visit Detroit, but I had no choice. As a non-driver, it would have been too hard for me to get to any other city in Michigan when I went to visit all 50 states. And Detroit is a short train trip from Indianapolis. But boy am I glad I headed to Detroit! It has fantastic architecture, beautiful nature, and an excellent art museum that thankfully did not go bankrupt.
Also the food is amazing, so are the cocktails, and it has one of the prettiest libraries I have ever seen. If that’s not enough, it has the Motown Museum. I guarantee you’ll have a blast if you spend a weekend or more in Detroit.
I feel like I should have visited other parts of the state and not just Chicago. But Chicago is so choice! I don’t see how someone can visit all 50 states and not see our country’s third largest city. It has everything: comedy, architecture, hot dogs, something that calls itself pizza but is not pizza, Ferris Bueller, the Untouchables, “your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimball”.
Now I’m starting to feel like Chicago should just be its own state. I’m sure Peoria wouldn’t mind, would you Peoria? The one downside to Chicago is the weather any time of year but summer. Definitely hit this city up in summer, unless you like being frozen.
Milwaukee is a quick train away from Chicago, but it’s quite different. True, like Chicago it has Great Lakes and excellent museums. But you won’t find the same kinds of skyscrapers that Chicago has. Instead you’ll find adorable German restaurants, a statue to the Fonz, a very different kind of something that says it’s pizza but isn’t pizza, and a delicious something called frozen custard.
Once again, when you visit all 50 states, do Wisconsin in the summer, unless you are a hard-core Green Bay Packers fan. And if that’s the case, you really should be living in Wisconsin already.
Minnesota native Prince did not actually coin the phrase “the cold never bothered me anyway”. But he might as well have because Minnesota is freezing during the winter. They actually built skyways in Minneapolis so the stores wouldn’t all go out of business when the temperature drops. I recommend visiting Minnesota in the summer or fall. It pretty much never gets that hot.
I grew up visiting my grandparents in the college town Northfield, so I can recommend many destinations in Minnesota when you visit all 50 states, though I only visited Minneapolis for this blog. Minneapolis’s twin city, the capital St. Paul, is smaller than MPLS, but still completely charming.
If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss the chance to go canoeing in the lakes of northern Minnesota. And if you want to hit another state on the same trip, Morehead, Minnesota shares a metropolitan area with Fargo, North Dakota. Bonus! There are no woodchippers in Morehead.
I mentioned that I regret not visiting Memphis when I went to visit all 50 states, but my second big regret is not checking out Baltimore. Instead, I visited Annapolis, the capital. My stepmother went to college there, and I knew what an adorable city it was. If you love American history, shellfish, Naval Officers, bed and breakfasts, and cute little lighthouses, Annapolis is for you.
I visited Annapolis during Labor Day weekend, and the weather was pretty perfect. But I bet there would be fewer tourists if you went in the fall. My only complaint is that Annapolis is so hard to get to from NYC without a car. I needed to take a bus to Baltimore, then a light rail, and then another bus. That’s crazy! Everyone wants to visit you when they visit all 50 states, Annapolis! Let them love you.
As a native New Yorker, I’m honor bound to hate California and all its works. But I suspended my hatred long enough to visit Los Angeles, Palm Springs, and San Diego…and I actually really liked them. Los Angeles has fantastic food, Palm Springs is gorgeous, and San Diego has my favorite park in the United States. I spent 9 days visiting all three cities, which is a good amount of time to get an introduction.
When you visit all 50 states,, you can visit Los Angeles and San Diego at any time of year because the weather is sickeningly perfect. But only visit Palm Springs during the cold weather months. I went in October, which was a bit early. Best to go between November and March if you don’t want to burn to death in the desert heat.
Speaking of burning to death in the desert, welcome to Arizona! When you visit all 50 states, see sunny Phoenix in any season but summer. I went in April and the weather was hot, but not devastating. I could walk around without praying for an ice cube to fall from the sky and crush me just to put me out of my misery.
Phoenix, Arizona’s capital, is a fun city, especially if you like hanging with groovy retired people. But the Must See Attraction is the Grand Canyon. Fortunately there are tours that take you to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix, so you don’t need a car. As a bonus, you’ll get to see the Red Rocks of Sedona and a Route 66 town along the way.
Las Vegas was another one of those places that pleasantly surprised me. I was sure I’d hate it. That it would be full of degenerate gamblers, empty-headed showgirls, and Andy Garcia looking mean. But I met very few gamblers, no Andy Garcia, and some showgirls with plenty of knowledge in their heads.
If, like me, you don’t want to gamble, there’s still plenty to do in Las Vegas when you visit all 50 states,. You can visit natural history and Mob history museums, with or without kids. There’s even a Neon Museum with lights that put the Vegas strip to shame. If you stay at one of the casinos, there will be shows and tasty eats every night until the break of dawn. You really can’t get bored in Vegas!
27) Maybe It’s Utah
I visited Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Oklahoma on the same trip, and it was wild to head to Salt Lake City directly after visiting Sin City. After all, Salt Lake City is the center of the Mormon Church, and Mormons aren’t even allowed to drink alcohol or coffee. (I drank a ton of both in Vegas. I also drank a ton of both in Salt Lake City. There are plenty of non-Mormons in Utah’s capital.)
I recommend Salt Lake City if you like nature. There are beautiful mountains and a lovely botanical garden. It’s also a great place to take kids who will enjoy the natural history museum and the historical re-enactments at This is the Place. Just don’t wander around asking people to feed you funeral potatoes. I learned this the hard way.
Colorado is famous for legalizing marijuana, and Denver sort of smells like Mary Jane 24/7. But if, like me, you abstain, you can still have an excellent time eating, drinking, and learning your way through Denver. I visited in the spring and the weather was perfect, though I gathered from the locals that it’s pretty good year round.
If you like nature or skiing, when you visit all 50 states, you should certainly head outside of Denver to places like Vail, Boulder, or Colorado Springs. As for me, I’m satisfied with the green in this weird, alien-bug street art. I’m an urban traveler through and through.
The first thing I think of when I think of Oklahoma is music. Whether you long to run through the streets of Tulsa singing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” or you’d rather blame it all on your roots cause you showed up in boots, Oklahoma has some tunes for you. When you’re trying to visit all 50 states, your two main choices for destination in Oklahoma are Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
I chose Oklahoma City because it’s bigger, it’s the capital, and so I could visit the memorial to the Oklahoma City bombing victims. As a New Yorker, I wanted to show my respect. But Oklahoma City is really up and coming. Every local I spoke to said that there are new restaurants and stores every day. So head to Oklahoma City before it becomes too cool to visit!
New England really is the perfect US region for a road trip. The states are all so small and close together. Why, a baby could take a solo road trip around New England no problem.
My favorite place to visit in Connecticut is Mystic. It has everything a person could want in a vacation: old ships, photos of Joe Lieberman being attacked by a Viking, the opportunity to be sealed forever in a tomb of darkness, a Pig Man, the pizza that made Julia Roberts a star… Really you can’t go wrong.
31) Rhode Island
Rhode Island could not be easier to get to from Connecticut. You can get there by car, train, bus, walking…ok, maybe not walking. It is the smallest state in the US after all, so it’s the definition of manageable. The coast of Rhode Island is gorge, but I recommend making Providence your base. (And I’m not just saying that because I went to college there.)
In Providence you can tour the state capitol building, see a world class museum, eat some of the most delicious Italian food you will ever put in your face, and catch a show in the Dunk. Not bad for a state so small you need to use a microscope to see it.
Ah, here we have the crown jewel in New England’s…crown. If you’re wealthy you might select Cape Cod or Martha’s Vineyard, and if you like to party, you might select Williamstown. But I suggest you head to Baaaahston instead, which really does have something for everyone. Like sports? They have a few teams you may have heard of. Arts and culture? They have top universities and museums out the wazoo.
And the food! The North End still has great Italian eats while the whole city is famous for its seafood. It’s even starting to get a fine dining scene. Plus, there’s all the fabulous history. You can see Paul Revere’s church, the site of the Boston Massacre, the Massachusetts 54th monument. If I haven’t convinced you to try Boston yet, there may be no hope for you.
Getting to Maine from Boston is as easy as blueberry pie because Boston is a transportation hub for the entire region. Maine is a truly fantastic state for a summer holiday, and if you have a car you might want to get in touch with Maine’s wilderness and catch a lobster with your bare hands or something. But if you’d rather stay in a city, like I did, your one choice is really Portland.
Portland has everything good about Maine (lobster and blueberries) as well as everything good about city life in the United States today (fancy doughnuts). And even if you can’t get to the Maine coast, you can head to the Portland Art Museum and see how famous painters throughout the ages have depicted the Maine coast. Win-win!
34) New Hampshire
New Hampshire is Massachusetts’s more remote neighbor, and Portsmouth, New Hampshire is like Boston’s chiller cousin. Like pretty much everywhere else in New England, it is a perfect summer vacation destination. It has historic homes GALORE. (Seriously, you could spend two full days touring historic buildings here.) Heading to Portsmouth is like stepping back in time and you don’t even need a flux capacitor.
But for those who hate history, Portsmouth also has great antique shops, breweries, wineries, and restaurants. So bring your bonnet and your handlebar mustache and people won’t know if you’re a hipster or just into historical reenactments.
Vermont is dotted with fun little towns for getting away. It’s almost as dotted with vacation spots as it is with cows. But my suggestion is Burlington, home of Bernie Sanders, a giant Ben and Jerry’s, and the world’s greatest baseball team name: the Vermont Lake Monsters. Burlington can be a little tricky to get to from Portsmouth without a car, although it’s not a long drive. But there are buses that go from Portsmouth to Boston to Burlington, so it’s doable.
Once you’re in Burlington, sample its delicious cheeses, shop in its quirky stores, and learn about its local hero Ethan Allen. Just don’t forget to get out on Lake Champlain. You might even meet the famous lake monster, Champ!
The western half of the country can get a little more complicated to visit because it’s so spread out. So I visited the next five states in a two week trip that involved a ton of flying. Of course if you are traveling the Midwest by flying around, you should stick to the biggest city in each state because that’s where the airport is going to be. And in Iowa, that means we’re going to Des Moines!
Iowa is the kind of state that people call flyover country, but don’t you believe it! I spent three days in Des Moines and I adored their many fine restaurants, fantastic museums, craft breweries, and terrifying public sculptures. You really ought to give Iowa a try!
After two quick flights, we arrive in Omaha, Nebraska. When people ask me what the next big food city is in America, I always answer Omaha. It truly has some world-class places, and I’m from NYC, so I know good restaurants. Plus Omaha has the Henry Doorly Zoo, which is always ranked one of the best zoos in the country.
The one thing to watch out for when you visit Omaha is the wild dinosaurs stalking the plains. See my photo above for proof!
Well Toto, I DO think we’re in Kansas. You might have a tough time deciding whether to visit Wichita or Topeka, but Wichita = biggest city = airport = best choice. Plus Wichita is a delightful place, especially its old town and other historic buildings. You can wander about and feel like you’re back in the rugged days of the Wild West.
And if that’s not enough, Wichita has a real Frank Lloyd Wright house, yummy bbq and milkshakes, a super fun melodrama, historical reenactments, craft beer, and a Cowardly Lion. Visit and you’ll understand why there’s no place like Kansas.
39) Washington State
Even though Washington isn’t near Kansas, I hit up Washington and Oregon right after Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas. That’s because, as an East Coaster, it’s a pain to travel across the country for only two states. Plus Washington and Oregon go perfectly together. I mean, I feel like Portlandia could have been set in Seattle, but Seattleandia doesn’t sound as good.
Seattle has tons of majorly famous attractions like the Space Needle and the Pike Place Market. If you want to see Kurt Cobain’s guitar or some glass from Dale Chihuly they have that too. And if you just want to step on the real Air Force One at the Museum of Flight and yell, “GET OFF MY PLANE!” you can do that. This blog is a judgement-free zone.
Ah Portland, Oregon, not to be confused with Portland, Maine. We’ve all heard the jokes about Portland but it’s actually an insanely fun city, and it’s just a short flight from Seattle. Go for the yummy tacos, Japanese food, Korean food, French food, Iraqi food, Southern food, stay for the…actually just go for the food! The food is so good, why would you need to do anything else?
But if you insist on “doing things other than eating”, there’s an excellent art market, one of the biggest bookstores in the world, and of course the famous Ramona Quimby statue. Go say hello and ask how Picky-Picky the Cat is doing. (Just don’t ask Ramona to cook for you!)
41) New Jersey
So New Yorkers LOVE to make fun of New Jersey, and I am no exception. Where could I suggest visiting in the state I love to hate on? Secaucus? Metuchen? Linden?
Instead I decided to be nice to the Jerz and I recommend spending a lazy long weekend in Cape May, one of the country’s oldest seaside resorts. Even my cold heart cannot make fun of New Jersey when I spend time here. It’s at the very southern end of the state, so it’s either a long, traffic-filled bus ride to get here from NYC or a long traffic-filled drive. But it’s worth it in the end!
42) North Dakota
North Dakota is sometimes the last state that people visit when checking all 50 states off their bucket list. But I decided to spend a summer time trip hitting up North Dakota and four of its neighbor states. I definitely suggest visiting this region in the summer because there will be much more to do, especially in South Dakota and Wyoming.
If you like cities, your best option in North Dakota is Fargo, which is mostly famous for a movie that is set in Minnesota. (There’s only one scene in Fargo that actually takes place in Fargo.) But there’s much more to do in Fargo than get your picture taken pretending to stuff your villainous compatriot in a woodchipper.
There’s James Beard nominated restaurants, a fun Minor League ball club, and a terrific zoo. Plus it’s just a short walk to Moorhead, Minnesota, so you can check one more state off your list.
43) South Dakota
South Dakota is more popular with tourists than its northerly neighbor for one big reason: Mount Rushmore. And indeed, Rapid City, South Dakota’s second-largest metropolis, makes a great place for exploring Mount Rushmore and South Dakota’s stunning natural beauty. You can either drive to Mount Rushmore from Rapid City or go on a popular group tour.
But don’t forget to spend at least a day exploring Rapid City! There’s a statue to every single president located in the city, so have fun tracking them all down. You can also find delicious treats to eat, a fascinating history museum, dinosaurs, and the finest wine in all the Dakotas!
Wyoming is so rural that it makes South Dakota look like Singapore. I don’t even have a real city in Wyoming to recommend. But even a city slicker like myself can’t help but appreciate Wyoming’s natural beauty, especially Yellowstone National Park. Jackson, Wyoming is the best base for Yellowstone. There are tours of Yellowstone that leave from Jackson or you can drive there yourself.
But be sure to leave enough time for a full day in Jackson itself. You can wander about and try to spy elk, take a self-guided walking tour and learn about the history of the dude ranch, and even enjoy some exquisite fine dining, especially a juicy local steak!
No, I will not explain why I have a picture of William Shakespeare representing Montana. You need to visit for yourself. Montana is the state that most makes me wish I knew how to drive. They call it Big Sky Country for a reason, as the views of the heavens from here are truly jaw-dropping. But I couldn’t find any tour group to drive me around and let me look at the Big Sky, so I had to settle for a charming weekend in Billings.
And surely Billings is a delightful place to spend the weekend. It’s full of beautiful historic buildings from when Billings was an important stop on the mighty railroad. There are more art museums and galleries than you can shake a stick at. (But please don’t actually shake sticks because if you break it, you buy it.)
Idaho is a fairly large and oddly shaped state, mostly famous for its fine potato. I suggest beginning your Idaho journey in Boise, which is just about the perfect smallish city. Its nickname is the City of Trees and you can have a grand time exploring Boise’s beautiful parks. Boise is also home to a large Basque population, so be sure to check out the local Basque restaurants and cultural attractions.
But those who want more typical urban attractions, enjoy visiting Boise’s capitol building, art and history museums, food tours, fine dining, and so much more!
Delaware is such a bland state that Wayne’s World famously couldn’t think of anything to say when Wayne and Garth visited it. But don’t let that stop you from visiting! Rehoboth Beach is a beautiful beach town just a mid-sized bus ride away from New York City.
Rehoboth Beach has a great beach and an action-packed boardwalk with some of the tastiest fries and ice cream you’ll ever eat. But it also has yummy tapas, a little theater, a local nature preserve, a bookstore with a Joe Biden section, a fabulous spa, and some deeply scrumptious oysters. It’s the perfect place for a summer weekend.
48) West Virginia
West Virginia. You are truly the hardest state to get to from New York City without a car. But Morgantown, the home of the University of West Virginia, is the easiest place in the state to reach for the vehicularly challenged. All you have to do is fly from NYC to Pittsburgh, PA, then take a bus from Pittsburgh to Morgantown. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy! (I do suggest spending a few days in Pittsburgh first.)
Once you are in Morgantown, get into the college life! Check out a football game at the massive Milan Pushkar Stadium or visit the University’s art museum. There’s also plenty of delicious food and beer in Morgantown, but do expect to get carded, as college students are all over the place. Finally, don’t miss the statue of favorite local son Don Knotts right in front of the historic Metropolitan theater.
You thought we were done? Oh no! Here come the territories! You can visit all 50 states without them but why would you want to?
Everyone likes to hate on the District of Columbia, but it’s actually one of the best destinations for travelers on a budget. Because of the Smithsonian, almost all of the amazing museums in the city are completely free. There’s tons of great, but not expensive, food like a half-smoke at Ben’s Chili Bowl, pizza, tacos, or Ethiopian food. And of course there’s no charge at all to walk around the wall and see famous landmarks like the Lincoln Memorial.
Of course, you can always throw tons of cash around if that’s your preference. Hit up some of DC’s legendary bars, splurge at a decadent restaurant like minibar, or pay admission to the International Spy Museum. In our nation’s capital, you’ll never run out of things to do.
I go to Puerto Rico almost every February. It’s the perfect time of year to get away from the snow and sleet in the Northeast and relax on a beach. Plus every penny you spend here helps the island recover from Hurricane Maria. You can get here by either boat or a plane, depending on how much of a hurry you are in.
Puerto Rico has a whole beautiful island to explore, but I always just stay in San Juan. This city has fabulous forts, delicious food, Ocean Park, which is one of my favorite beaches, and a nightlife that’s a total blast! Plus it is inhabited by adorable semi-domesticated cats who love visitors. What more could you want?
US Virgin Islands
Americans in the know know that the US Virgin Islands is one of the best places to spend the winter. There are several islands in the USVI, but I usually stick to St. Thomas. These islands actually used to belong to Denmark, so if you visit the capital of St. Thomas, Charlotte Amalie, you can see rare examples of Danish colonial architecture.
St. Thomas is largely famous for two things: shopping and beaches. I always go to Magen’s Bay, which has some of the prettiest waters I’ve ever seen. As for shopping, all shopping is duty-free up to 1600 dollars for Americans, which means you can score great deals here on jewelry, clothes, Cruzan rum…pretty much anything!
Up next trip…Hawaii!
Are You Ready to Visit All 50 States?
How many states have you been to? Are there any cities/places I simply must visit? How long do you think it would take me to visit all 50 states on the back of this Longhorn? Please leave your thoughts below