Have a dream to visit all 50 states in the US?! I challenged myself to do just that – all before turning 40. Here’s my progress and tons of tips for visiting all 50 states if you wanna do the same!
Close your eyes and think of the United States of America. I bet juicy cheeseburgers, baseball games on hot summer nights, old fashioned cowboys, and over-the-top theme parks quickly come to mind.
But what about staggering green peaks, impressive slot canyons, and rugged beaches? Quirky roadside attractions, bewildering national parks, and chic, coastal towns?
And oh, the food. We’ve got real-deal taquerias in San Francisco, famous deep dish pizza in Chicago, clambakes in New England, BBQ in Texas Hill Country, and food trucks in Portland. The list goes on.
This post covers my 50 states challenge – visiting all 50 states in the USA, plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands (St. Thomas and St. John).
To be completely honest, visiting all 50 states had never really crossed my mind…, nor was it something I even wanted to do…until very recently that is (August 2023 to be exact). I realized I had been to 15 more countries than states (44 countries and only 29 states at the time of writing), and thought that was kinda crazy!
What’s even crazier was that I had only visited 3 new states in the last 5 years… time to change that! Ever since moving to California almost a decade ago, I’ve been all kinds of excited to explore every inch and cranny of my new home state. Hence all the trips within California, and the main reason I haven’t been motivated to venture out much… until now that is!
I’m a sucker for all kinds of lists (check out my 30 Countries by Age 30 Post, 27 Places I’ve Been By 27 – kinda random but whatevs, my first 101 in 1001 Days Bucket List, and my Current 101 in 1001 Days Bucket List).
I’ve also been writing Year in Review posts on my blog for over 10 years now (kinda wild!), and am constantly reading them years later. What can I say? I love documenting everything and anything. And visiting all 50 states (and then documenting it) sounds right up my alley!
Why Do I Want to Visit All 50 States?
I mean, why the heck not?!
In all seriousness, I want to prove to myself that there’s no such thing as a flyover state. Every state has something worthy to see and eat, and not just the popular ones like California, New York, Florida, and Texas.
I used to think only the states on both coasts were worth visiting, and I’m so glad I stopped listening to that mistaken logic of time. If I followed that advice, I never would have tried green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico, floated in a hot air balloon above the cacti in Arizona, screamed for my life on a bobsled in Utah, eaten donuts at the top of a mountain in Colorado, and went dancing at honky tonks in Tennessee. So yea, Middle America sure does have some gems.
When you think about it, you realize just how vastly different the landscape is across America. I’d love to see (and appreciate) the beauty in my own backyard instead of always rushing out of the country for new experiences.
There’s otherworldly landscapes in Utah, redwood forests in California, maritime culture in Rhode Island, turquoise waters in Hawaii, big city energy in New York, the driest deserts in Arizona, charming towns in South Carolina, the list goes on.
America truly does have it all, and I seem to keep forgetting that (considering I’ve been to more countries than states!).
Plus, visiting all 50 states just seems like a fun goal to have, especially for someone who’s as travel obsessed as I am.
My 50 States Challenge: Latest Updates/Timeline
August 2023: When I officially started this 50 states challenge in August 2023, I’d been to 29 states. I had no set plans to visit any new states, eek! Time to get scheming!
October 2023: Finally finished writing this post and posted it on A Passion and A Passport! Finished off the month by visiting my 30th state – Idaho!
My Parameters and Rules
These are the rules I’m setting for myself for my own 50 states challenge – if you’re aiming to visit all 50 states too, you can make your own rules! There’s no right or wrong way to do it, and everyone’s journey will look different (as they should). Here’s my parameters:
- Spend at least one day in the state (layovers and drive-throughs don’t count, and especially not simply flying over a state) – I need to have actually stepped foot on the ground and breathed in the air.
- I’m counting all 29 states I’ve previously been to – it’d be super overwhelming to visit all 50 in less than 3.5 years, especially considering all the international travel I like to do. That means I’m a little more than half-way done, and need to visit at least 6 new states a year to meet my goal of visiting all 50 states by the time I turn 40.
- Even though I honestly don’t have core memories from every single state already visited (I was pretty young when I visited a few), I’m counting them as done for my 50 states challenge. Since I’ve technically been there and all. Sure, there’s states I’d love to go back to in the future, but I’ll be prioritizing new ones until I finally visit all 50 states!
Tips for Visiting All 50 States
A visit to all 50 states takes determination and hard work. Especially if you’re challenging yourself to finish within a set timeframe (like I am). Here’s a few tips I’m using to accomplish my goal:
Do a long road trip! When my husband and I moved out from New York to California, I insisted we do a cross country road trip – sounded way more fun than flying! On that trip alone, we made it through New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, a smidge of Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. All in 6 days (I’d recommend at least 10).
Was it the most fun we’ve ever had? No – but that’s just because we were on a tight time crunch to beat the moving truck. Many of those states I’ve been back to, but a few, like South Dakota and Minnesota, I probably won’t be heading back anytime soon.
See where you can fly nonstop from your home airport. You might be pleasantly surprised! With a quick flight, you can visit almost any major city in a long weekend! I’ve done that plenty of times, including Austin (Texas), Seattle (Washington), Portland (Oregon), Boise (Idaho), and Nashville (Tennessee).
Prioritize visiting new states. This seems kinda obvious, but when I realized I hadn’t visited a new state in almost 2 years but was traveling within the US a lot, I made it a priority to start heading to different parts of the country!
Group and Strategize. Visit cities that are on state lines (or close to it). For instance, Louisville, Kentucky is right on the border of Indiana and not far from Cincinnati, Ohio at all – you can cross off 3 states in just a few days. Kansas City actually sits in two states (Kansas and Missouri), while it’s possible to see a bulk of the New England states in one go (they’re relatively tiny and close to each other).
Understand you can revisit a state in the future. Visiting all 50 states in a certain time period is no easy feat. It’s important to realize that you probably won’t see everything you wanna see on your first visit to the state, unless you’ve got unlimited time. You can always go back to a state you loved in the future, and explore more destinations within that state.
The Challenge: Visit All 50 States – States Visited (30/50)
I’m listing the states I’ve been to in chronological order… although I’m sure there’s at least a few mixed up, haha. Some states I’ve been to numerous times (like Nevada, Hawaii, and Florida), and some I’ve spent a short day in (South Dakota and Ohio – I’m looking at you).
1. New York
- Nickname: The Empire State
- Known For: New York City (Times Square, Central Park), Niagara Falls, Albany
- Unique Destination: The Adirondacks (mountain wilderness)
- Beautiful Scenery: Watkins Glen State Park
New York is everything and then some – sure, it’s got fast-paced city life, diverse cuisine (pizza and bagels anyone?!), and Broadway dreams. But also pristine forests, cascading waterfalls, a serene countryside, and tons of collegiate charm.
Born and raised in New York (specifically Long Island), this was obviously the first state I visited!
I spent my first 28 years living and working in New York, spending summers on the LI Sound at sleepaway camp and eating tons of Ralph’s Italian Ices, going to college upstate at University at Buffalo (and going to Niagara Falls on the weekend), renting out an apartment in Forest Hills, taking long walks on the Jones Beach boardwalk, and working all around NYC – including Queens, the LES, and even up in Harlem for a few years.
Although I lived in New York for oh so long, I honestly haven’t explored the state too much (besides NYC and Long Island, plus the Hamptons); something I regret considerably. I have fond memories of late night Wo Hop runs with my family, going to Met games with my dad, tons of after-work happy hours that ran way past midnight, and tons of time at my childhood home on Long Island.
Now whenever I visit my family, I try and check a few things off my New York City bucket list — a list that keeps on growing and evolving! It’s truly the city that never sleeps! And after moving away almost a decade ago, I truly truly miss the city — I’ll always be a New Yorker at heart.
- New York City’s Central Park is larger than the entire principality of Monaco!
- The first pizzeria in the US was opened in New York way back in 1905. No wonder we love our slices so much!
- There are more than 800 languages spoken in New York.
2. New Jersey
- Nickname: The Garden State
- Known For: Jersey Shore, proximity to New York City, Atlantic City, Cape May
- Unique Destination: Grounds For Sculpture (Hamilton)
- Beautiful Scenery: Delaware Water Gap, Paterson Great Falls, and The Red Mill, Clinton
Shore vibes, diners, and its close proximity to the Big Apple. Plus that infamous Jersey Shore, the Miss America pageant, and kitschy casinos.
Being so close to NY, I’ve been to NJ a handful of times, most notably to visit my Aunt and Uncle, play some slots at the casinos in Atlantic City (plus my bachelorette weekend there!), and most recently to SoJo Spa Club for my sister’s bachelorette party!
Jersey gets a bad rep (and growing up in NY, we made all the jokes about the Dirty Jerz), but it’s got the prestigious Princeton University, Victorian charm in Cape May, and stunning views of the Manhattan skyline.
Fun Fact: New Jersey is often referred to as the “Diner Capital of the World”. Why? It’s got so many diners, many open 24/7 with tons of comfort foods on the menu!
- Nickname: The Constitution State
- Known For: Historic sites, coastal towns
- Popular Spots: Mystic Seaport, Yale University
- Unique Destination: Gillette Castle State Park (looks like a medieval fortress!)
Connecticut is full of East Coast elegance, rich history, and beachy weekends.
Another one in the Tri-State area, and a state I first visited quite young (due to its close proximity to NY). Once one of my good friends moved to Stamford, I spent a few fun weekends there. Including a wild New Years Eve party.
A small New England state I definitely wanna start exploring more of, possibly as day or weekend trips when visiting my sister in NY!
Fun Fact: The first telephone exchange was set up in New Haven, Connecticut in 1878!
- Nickname: The Keystone State
- Known For: Philadelphia, Amish Country
- Popular Spots: Philadelphia (Independence Hall, Liberty Bell), Pittsburgh
- Unique Destination: Gettysburg National Military Park
History galore, cheesesteaks, and rural charm here in Pennsylvania! Plus, it’s where the Declaration of Independence was signed – pretty cool!
I grew up going to Hershey Park and Amish Country in Lancaster, then later visited State College (where my SIL got married!), Philly (for a fun sister trip to The Liberty Bell and then with my parents/sister), the Poconos (for a few fun friends weekends), and finally Pittsburgh (to take a break from driving on our cross-country road trip out to California).
Fun Fact: Pennsylvania was home to the world’s first computer, known as the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), built in the 1940s and was the size of an actual room!
- Nickname: The Old Line State
- Known For: Chesapeake Bay, seafood
- Popular Spots: Baltimore (Inner Harbor, National Aquarium), Annapolis
- Unique Destination: St. Michaels (historic waterfront town)
Home to crab feasts, historical charm, and Chesapeake Bay vibes.
I first stepped foot in Maryland as a kid and my sister had to tell me we visited the aquarium and that there’s photos of us paddle boating, so clearly I don’t remember that trip too well, haha. I also went to a wedding there a bunch of years ago, and didn’t even realize it was in the state.
BUT I was there so it counts! I’ll visit again someday, although I’m not dying to get back there ASAP by any means.
Fun Fact: Maryland is known for its blue crabs and the tradition of crab feasts. It’s also home to the birthplace of the United States’ national anthem!
- Nickname: The Bay State
- Known For: American history, Boston
- Popular Spots: Boston (Freedom Trail, Fenway Park), Cape Cod, Salem
- Unique Destination: Martha’s Vineyard (island getaway)
Massachusetts is known for Ivy League brains, clam chowder, and historic streets.
I’ve been to Boston a few times, and actually worked with my first ever hotel brand there – shout out the Hyatt Regency who put me up in the Penthouse Suite and spoiled my husband and I all weekend – thanks for believing in me!
Everything you need to know about American history is there, and I’ve walked the Freedom Trail a bunch, plus of course saw a game at Fenway Park. It’s got European vibes, and it’s actually a city I can see myself living in for a bit… if I ever moved back to the East Coast that is.
My family visited Cape Cod when I was a kid a few times, and I have fond memories of lobster boils (and screaming every time), playing in the front yard near the water, and collecting so many shells.
Fun Fact: The first American lighthouse was built in Boston Harbor in 1716 (!!!), but was destroyed during the Revolutionary War and yet rebuilt later on.
7. New Hampshire
- Nickname: The Granite State
- Known For: White Mountains, presidential primaries
- Popular Spots: Portsmouth, White Mountain National Forest
- Unique Destination: Mount Washington (highest peak in the Northeast)
New Hampshire is all leaf-peeping, granite state pride, and charming towns.
I visited New Hampshire as a child with my family – all I remember is road tripping and making comments about how many trees there were! Suffice it to say, I need to go back – preferably for the beautiful fall foliage!
Fun Fact: Literally millions of people visit New Hampshire for the fall colors every autumn – make sure to plan your trip early!
- Nickname: The Sunshine State
- Known For: Beaches, theme parks
- Popular Spots: Orlando (Walt Disney World), Miami Beach
- Unique Destination: The Florida Keys (tropical islands)
I’ve been to Florida a whole slew of times, starting with Disney World, Orlando, and Marco Island when I was younger – my family would road trip down to Florida from New York.
Since then I’ve been to Key West on a family cruise, snorkeling with manatees in Crystal River, searching for shells on Sanibel Island (my favorite!), eating Cubanos in Miami, exploring all the street art in St. Pete/Tampa, and having beach days in Clearwater/Dunedin.
My in-laws recently moved to Florida so I’ve been to the Fort Lauderdale area to visit them a handful of times! It’s tropical with a crazy amount of humidity, so come during the winter if sticky air ain’t your thing.
Fun Fact: Florida is known as the “Lightning Capital of the United States” due to the high number of lightning strikes it experiences each year. Ack!
- Nickname: The Silver State
- Known For: Las Vegas, desert landscapes
- Popular Spots: Las Vegas (The Strip, Fremont Street), Reno, Lake Tahoe
- Unique Destination: Area 51 (extraterrestrial tourism)
Nevada is known for its Sin City parties, desert landscapes, and neon lights. But it’s way more than that!
I’ve been to Las Vegas way too many times, first with my immediate family circa 2008 or so (before I could really partake in all the fun!). And Vegas was actually the first trip Noah and I ever took together — I remember strolling down the strip with huge Eiffel Tower cups full of booze, haha.
Now we go every year or so, primarily to see concerts (mostly Usher and the Lovers and Friends Fest) and just eat all the things.
I also made a quick stop in Reno on our cross-country road trip (where we found a hotel room for under $40 bucks) and to Carson City for a day from Lake Tahoe. Plus the Valley of Fire!
Fun Fact: Nevada is the driest state in the entire United States, with an average annual precipitation of just 9.5 inches (24 cm).
- Nickname: The Hoosier State
- Known For: Indianapolis 500, basketball
- Popular Spots: Indianapolis, Bloomington
- Unique Destination: Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana is basketball and Indy 500 crazy, with tons of heartland charm.
I made it to Bloomington, Indiana to visit my sister Ali in college circa 2008 (sometime around then), and then once again on our cross country road trip to California (in 2014)! I honestly don’t have any core memories of the state… besides getting some fast food at Steak n Shake, haha.
Fun Fact: 90 percent of the world’s popcorn comes from Indiana!
- Nickname: The Prairie State, The Land of Lincoln
- Known For: Chicago, Abraham Lincoln
- Popular Spots: Chicago (Millennium Park, Art Institute)
- Unique Destination: Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site
Illinois’ got urban vibes in the Windy City, delicious deep-dish pizza, and tons of blues music.
I first managed to visit Chicago in the (harsh) winter of 2013 for a work conference, and thankfully made it back a few years later in better weather to visit my sister’s sweet college roommate who lived nearby.
I remember eating all the deep dish pizza, taking fun pics at Cloud Gate (the famous Bean!), taking an architecture cruise, and heading up Willis Tower. It’s a city I really wanna revisit sometime in the near future!
Fun Fact: The city of Chicago has the largest commercial chocolate factory in the world. Yummm….
- Nickname: The Aloha State
- Known For: Volcanoes, tropical paradise
- Popular Spots: Honolulu, Maui
- Unique Destination: Haleakalā National Park (crater summit)
Ohh – Hawaii… known for being a sunny tropical paradise with immense volcanoes, sea turtles, and all the fresh fruit you can ask for. I first stepped foot on Hawaii in 2013, and feel so grateful to have visited these beautiful, tropical islands numerous times since then. I feel so instantly drawn to the Aloha spirit, surf culture, and laid-back island vibes.
Living in California, Hawaii is like our Caribbean and not terribly far away, so we’ve been lucky enough to find some cheap flights throughout the years. We love all the islands (we’ve been to Maui, Oahu, and Kauai so far), but love Maui the most (especially all the snorkeling!).
There’s just something about that local island feeling, and we tend to stay in basic condos a block from the beach.
In Oahu we’ve loved visiting Pearl Harbor, exploring Honolulu and Waikiki Beach, and indulging in all the malasadas from Leonards. We’ve headed up Haleakala for sunrise, swam with tons of sea turtles, and drove the Road to Hana in Maui.
Our trips to Kauai have always been pretty chill, just having beach days and soaking up all the sun, plus a helicopter ride above the Na Pali coast and a boat trip seeing the mountains from the sea. Plus I spent a magical morning watching dolphins dance off the coast of Lanai. Something I’ll truly never forget.
I’ll never say no to a visit to The Aloha State! Noah has a goal to run a full marathon on each Hawaiian island – 3 out of 4 done so far!
Fun Fact: Hawaii is the only state in the USA that commercially grows coffee. And I can confirm it’s absolutely delicious!
- Nickname: The Pelican State
- Known For: Cajun cuisine, Mardi Gras, bayous
- Popular Spots: New Orleans (French Quarter, Jazz Fest), Baton Rouge
- Unique Destination: Tabasco Country Store (Avery Island)
Louisiana was the first taste of the true south I’ve ever had, and what better way than a few days in New Orleans, back in 2013, around the time I started taking this blog more seriously. Jazz beats, spicy cuisine, and the aftermath of Mardi Gras madness (allll the beads) – I just loved it!
I traveled down south with my then-coworker-turned-friend, and we stuffed our faces with beignets and creole cuisine, took a swamp tour to see alligators, had boozy drinks on Bourbon Street, and wandered around the charming Garden District. It’s a city I’m itching to head back to sooner than later.
Fun Fact: New Orleans is famous for its cuisine, including dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, and beignets.
14. North Carolina
- Nickname: The Tar Heel State
- Known For: Blue Ridge Mountains, Outer Banks
- Popular Spots: Asheville, Outer Banks
- Unique Destination: Biltmore Estate (Asheville)
Lots of Tar Heel pride, barbecue, and mountain escapes here in North Carolina!
Work took me down to Raleigh for a conference back in 2014 (no core memories besides the food, haha), and then once my parents moved to Wilmington in 2021, I found my way back to North Carolina!
I loved seeing my parents oh so happy in their new home state, and loved having them play tour guide! We wandered around downtown Wilmington, walked along the waterfront, and got famous ice cream at Kilwins.
We also took day trips to SouthPort (the cutest town where tons of cheesy romances were filmed) and New Bern (home of Pepsi Cola and the Tyron Palace).
Fun Fact: North Carolina’s Outer Banks are famous as the site of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight in Kitty Hawk!
- Nickname: The Buckeye State
- Known For: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, aviation history
- Popular Spots: Columbus, Cleveland
- Unique Destination: Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (Dayton)
There’s lots of Rock ‘n’ roll history, Buckeye pride, and hearty meals here in Ohio!
I stopped in the tiny town of Elmore, Ohio on our cross country road trip to California for about an hour or so (primarily to find a post office, haha).
The town, albeit super tiny, was also super super cute, and I honestly wish we had more time to spend here. Made me feel like I was back in time!
Fun Fact: Oberlin College, founded in 1833, was the first interracial and coeducational college in the United States.
- Nickname: The Badger State
- Known For: Cheese, lakes, Green Bay Packers
- Popular Spots: Milwaukee (Brewery tours, Harley-Davidson Museum), Madison
- Unique Destination: Apostle Islands National Lakeshore
Visit Wisconsin and you’ll find cheese heaven, beer culture, and outdoor fun.
This was another state visited on our cross country road trip! We made a brief stop in Madison, WI to eat cheese curds, to see the Wisconsin State Capitol, and visit a cheese factory for you guessed it – all the cheese samples.
Fun Fact: Wisconsin is the only state to offer a Master Cheesemaker program. It doesn’t come easy though – it takes three years to complete, but you need 10 years of cheese making experience before you can even apply as a candidate!
- Nickname: The North Star State
- Known For: Lakes, Minneapolis-St. Paul
- Popular Spots: Minneapolis (Mall of America, Chain of Lakes), Duluth
- Unique Destination: Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Land of 10,000 lakes, friendly vibes, and ice hockey.
You guessed it – I crossed off MN on our road trip from NY to CA! The one main stop we made was in Blue Earth, MN to see the Jolly Green Giant, haha. Talk about a quirky roadside attraction!
I remember there being a ton of open land in Minnesota, and by a lot, I really mean, a lot. Hundreds of cows and other wildlife everywhere we looked!
Fun Fact: The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is the largest shopping mall in the United States, with over 5.6 million square feet of retail space. Whoa!
18. South Dakota
- Nickname: The Mount Rushmore State
- Known For: Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park
- Popular Spots: Rapid City, Badlands National Park
- Unique Destination: Crazy Horse Memorial
Welcome to South Dakota! It’s got Mount Rushmore, wild west feels, and Badlands beauty.
We stopped in South Dakota for a bit on our big road trip out west – and hit up Mount Rushmore (such an iconic American symbol), Wall Drug (and drank the famous 5 cent coffee), and Badlands National Park (these otherworldly landscapes are wildly underrated). We drove the ENTIRE length of the state – it took what felt like forever)!
Not sure when we’ll ever be back this way, so I’m thrilled we made it a point to visit those South Dakota highlights then!
Fun Fact: Mount Rushmore, located in South Dakota’s Black Hills, features the carved faces of four U.S. Presidents: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln.
- Nickname: The Golden State
- Known For: Hollywood, Silicon Valley, diverse landscapes
- Popular Spots: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Yosemite NP
- Unique Destination: Napa Valley (wineries)
I moved to the SF Bay Area in September 2014, almost 10 years ago! Pretty wild! Since then, I’ve been fortunate to travel all over the state (although there’s still so much I wanna see – it’s a BIG state after all!).
I’ve spent plenty of time in San Francisco gawking at the Golden Gate Bridge, exploring all the different towns in Orange County (we love San Clemente and Dana Point!), drinking my way through the wineries in Napa and Sonoma, walking along the bluffs in Half Moon Bay, and wandering among the wacky trees at Joshua Tree.
I’ve also visited family in the gold rush town of Nevada City, lived the good life in San Diego, hiked some trails at Yosemite National Park, relaxed in the desert in Borrego Springs, explored California’s state capital of Sacramento, sipped wine in Paso Robles, stared up at tall trees and went glamping in the redwoods, gawked at the glistening waters of Lake Tahoe, and loved all the boozy brunches in Palm Springs.
Plus tons of other experiences in the state (like indulging in pie in Julian, going to a car race in Monterey, watching adorable otters hold hands in Morro Bay, and wandering the cute town of San Luis Obispo). And way more, but there’s just too many to list.
I swear, CA has the most diverse scenery and climates of all the 50 US states, and I’m beyond obsessed!
Fun Fact: California is home to the tallest trees on Earth, the giant sequoias. The tallest living tree, Hyperion, is over 379 feet tall!
- Nickname: The Evergreen State
- Known For: Seattle, Pacific Northwest scenery
- Popular Spots: Seattle (Space Needle, Pike Place Market), Mount Rainier National Park
- Unique Destination: San Juan Islands (whale watching)
Washington is known for its tech-savvy vibes, coffee culture, and Pacific Northwest beauty. And all the rain just feels so cozy!
My first ever solo trip was to Seattle, WA way back in May 2015, and I’ve since been back to the city quite a few times! Over the years I’ve thoroughly explored Pike Place Market, admired the scenery from the top of the Space Needle, gawked at the architecture of the Central Library, and oh so much more.
Every time I visit the state I’m just amazed at how lush and green it is – the PNW gets me every time! I’ve been back to WA for a friend’s birthday to Olympic National Park, a day trip hiking in Mt. Rainier National Park, to the San Juan Islands in search of orca whales, a gorgeous day trip to Bainbridge Island, and for some dramatic scenery on Whidbey Island.
Fun Fact: Mount Rainier in Washington State is an active stratovolcano and the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States.
- Nickname: The Lone Star State
- Known For: BBQ, big cities, wide-open spaces
- Popular Spots: Austin (Live Music Capital of the World), San Antonio (Alamo), Houston (Space Center)
- Unique Destination: Big Bend National Park (remote desert wilderness)
Big everything, BBQ that’s bigger, and Tex-Mex for days. That’s Texas in a nutshell for ya. There’s also Big Bend National Park, floating down the Guadalupe River and wine tasting in Texas Hill Country, bluebonnets in the countryside, the artsy town of Marfa (where I’m dying to go), and The Alamo!
I’ve been to Texas twice so far – and both times were to Austin, on girls trips! We loved the spring-fed watering holes at Barton Springs, all the live music, and tons of iconic murals (which we took way too many photos of, obviously – girls trip!).
Oh, and you can’t forget about that mouthwatering smoky barbecue brisket, the fuzzy little bats, tons of time on trendy South Congress Ave, and just general weirdness of the city.
Fun Fact: The King Ranch in Texas is larger than the state of Rhode Island and is one of the largest ranches in the world.
- Nickname: The Grand Canyon State
- Known For: Grand Canyon, desert landscapes
- Popular Spots: Grand Canyon, Sedona
- Unique Destination: Antelope Canyon (slot canyons)
Arizona really is the best state if you like desert scenery, and don’t mind the hot and dry climate of course. I love all the desert-chic cacti vibes and Instagram-worthy sunsets – it’s never a bad time in Arizona!
I’ve been to Scottsdale and Phoenix a handful of times, once working with the tourism board (and staying at the swanky Hotel Valley Ho), and once for my husband to run the marathon (plus see some cousins I missed!).
I loved wandering around Old Town Scottsdale, eating everything in sight on a food tour, exploring the Desert Botanical Garden, and exploring the architectural wonder of Taliesin West (a Frank Lloyd Wright house). I even went hot air ballooning above the cacti in Scottsdale!
In Page we gawked at the surreal landscape of Horseshoe Bend and the colors of Lower Antelope Canyon – both places I’d love to photograph again. We also did a day trip to Grand Canyon West from Las Vegas one year!
Fun Fact: The Grand Canyon is so large that it creates its own weather. On some days, you can see a rare phenomenon known as total cloud inversion, where the entire canyon is filled with a sea of white clouds.
- Nickname: The Beehive State
- Known For: National parks, skiing
- Popular Spots: Salt Lake City, Zion National Park, Park City (skiing)
- Unique Destination: Bryce Canyon National Park
Utah is an outdoor lover’s dream, and a state I can see myself heading back to time and time again. It’s basically one big outdoor playground, with tons of national parks and epic red rock vistas. Plus, with about 300 sunny days a year, it’s always a good idea.
All of Utah’s five national parks are worth visiting, and we did just that on one very exhausting week-long trip!
We hiked beneath the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, admired dramatic sandstone arches in Arches, risked our lives climbing Angels Landing in Zion, saw some petroglyphs and ate cinnamon buns in Capitol Reef, and loved the views at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands.
I also went bobsledding and hot tubbing in the snow in Park City during winter (one of our best winter weekend getaways yet), stood on miles and miles of salt at the Bonneville Salt Flats, had a meal or two in Salt Lake City (we were just passing through), and took a bumpy tour of Monument Valley then watched a dramatic sunset.
I’ve also been to Antelope Island State Park, although we saw way more bison than antelopes, haha.
Fun Facts: 1. The city of Salt Lake City has more plastic surgeons per capita than any other city in the United States. 2. The location of the first-ever KFC wasn’t in Kentucky after all, but 1500 miles west in Salt Lake City, Utah.
- Nickname: The Centennial State
- Known For: Rocky Mountains, outdoor activities
- Popular Spots: Denver, Aspen
- Unique Destination: Telluride (scenic mountain town)
Mountain-loving, craft beer sipping, and chill AF – those are Colorado vibes all right. Plus chic ski towns, the historic Pikes Peak Cog Railway, and well-preserved cliff dwellings. It’s easily the best state to visit if you like mountains – the views are out of this world.
My first time to Colorado was back in 2016, to visit my friend who lived in Denver at the time (The Mile High City, that’s actually a mile above sea level!). We actually spent most of our time searching for fall foliage in nearby Rocky Mountain National Park!
I made it back to the state a few years later with Noah (it was actually our first flight since the pandemic) – and spent one full day in Denver, with drinks and art in the RiNo district, a morning at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, indulging in ice cream at Little Man’s, and walking over the pedestrian bridges.
We revisited Rocky Mountain National Park (in the snow, I might add!), and Colorado Springs, where we drove up Pikes Peak, explored Garden of the Gods, and ate our weight at Rudy’s BBQ for dinner.
Fun Fact: Colorado has the highest paved road in North America, the Mount Evans Scenic Byway, which takes you to a height of 14,130 feet. AND Denver actually claims to have invented the cheeseburger!
- Nickname: The Pine Tree State
- Known For: Lobster, rugged coastline
- Popular Spots: Portland, Acadia National Park
- Unique Destination: Bar Harbor (gateway to Acadia)
Lobster rolls, coastal vibes, and rugged wilderness, plus sweet blueberries, lighthouses, and quaint New England towns! That’s Maine in a nutshell.
I visited Portland, Maine with my parents, and it was such a fun few days (I’m so lucky my parents are so fun to travel with)! We somehow found $74 ROUNDTRIP tickets from JFK to Portland on Jetblue, so snagged those babies right up!
Our few days in the state were spent eating all the lobster rolls (and even having one stolen away by a seagull!) and blueberry donuts/whoopie pies, taking the most charming day trip to Kennebunkport and Ogunquit, taking in the views from the Portland Observatory and Portland Head Light, cruising Casco Bay, and watching a Sea Dogs baseball game!
Fun Fact: Maine has more coastline than California, with its rugged, picturesque shores. I had no clue!
- Nickname: The Beaver State
- Known For: Crater Lake, Portland
- Popular Spots: Portland (Powell’s Books, Rose Garden), Crater Lake National Park
- Unique Destination: Mount Hood (skiing, hiking)
Get ready for hipster vibes, craft beer, and tons of lush greenery. We’re headed to Oregon!
I finally made it to Oregon in 2018, where I spent a long weekend in Portland (known for its delectable donuts and overall weirdness), hiked in Silver Falls State Park (so super epic), admired the dramatic Multnomah Falls, dangled my legs over Rowena Crest, saw Mt. Hood from a distance, and ran around on Cannon Beach.
Later trips to the state included exploring the snowy wonderland that is Bend in winter (with the last Blockbuster in the world!), and spending a sunny weekend hiking along the turquoise waters of Crater Lake National Park (where we saw the most epic sunset).
Fun Fact: Crater Lake, located in southern Oregon, is the deepest lake in the entire United States, known for its stunning blue color and pristine waters.
- Nickname: The Volunteer State
- Known For: Music (Nashville, Memphis), Great Smoky Mountains
- Popular Spots: Nashville (Grand Ole Opry, honky-tonks), Memphis (Graceland)
- Unique Destination: Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Tennessee is known for its country music scene, orgasmic barbecue, and Smoky Mountain serenity. Plus high-quality whiskey, charming small towns like Gatlinburg, and the folklore of Davy Crockett.
Nashville (Music City!) had been high on my list for so long, and I finally made it there in 2022! We spent our time devouring biscuits smothered in gravy, checking out hip boutiques in The Gulch and 12South neighborhoods, and listening to tons of live honky tonk on Broadway.
Oh, and you can’t forget about all that scrumptious Nashville hot fried chicken we ate and our Dolly Parton-inspired hotel (I loved all its eclecticness)!
Fun Fact: Tennessee is the birthplace of Mountain Dew, cotton candy, AND the moon pie!
28. South Carolina
- Nickname: The Palmetto State
- Known For: Charleston, southern cuisine
- Popular Spots: Charleston (Historic District, plantations), Myrtle Beach
- Unique Destination: Hilton Head Island (golf, beaches)
Get ready for Palmetto state pride, coastal beauty, and southern hospitality.
I had heard such good things about Charleston, and was so excited to finally check it out for a few days with my parents! We indulged in shrimp and grits, biscuits, sweet tea, and other Lowcountry favorites. We explored all the typical Charleston favorites, like the Battery at sunset, the Pineapple fountain, Charleston City Market, and walked down King Street and all the pretty little alleyways.
But my favorites were all the gorgeous homes in the South Broad neighborhood (I could live on Tradd Street!) and learning about all the enslaved Gullah people on a plantation tour.
We also made a quick pit stop in Myrtle Beach along the way – where we checked out the colorful Broadway on the Beach and strolled on the beach boardwalk for a bit.
Fun Fact: South Carolina produces more peaches than Georgia! Who knew?!
29. Rhode Island
- Nickname: The Ocean State
- Known For: Coastal beauty, historic towns
- Popular Spots: Providence, Newport
- Unique Destination: Block Island (quaint island retreat)
Sure, it may be the smallest of all the 50 states in the USA, but with ocean state vibes, seafood feasts, and historic streets, Rhode Island is more than worthy of a trip.
My first time to Rhode Island was such a fun one, especially because it was on a sister trip to Newport! We sipped frozen lemonades on a sailboat, gawked at the opulent, gilded-age historic mansions, watched spectacular sunsets over the harbor, ate seafood pasta and lobster rolls, and walked along the coastline on The Cliff Walk.
So much sister time and I loved it!
Fun Fact: Rhode Island was the last of the original thirteen colonies to become a state.
- Nickname: The Gem State
- Known For: Mountains, potatoes
- Popular Spots: Boise, Sun Valley
- Unique Destination: Idaho Potato Museum (Blackfoot)
Idaho was my first new state since starting my 50 states challenge, and actually #30/50!
And it’s true – it’s all outdoorsy, with tons of potato pride (haha) and rugged landscapes. I spent a long weekend in Boise, checking out all the hip coffee shops, finding all the funky murals, and even eating ice cream that looked just like a potato (plus those iconic finger steaks and fry sauce)! And the most memorable and innovative dinner at KIN — a must for anyone wanting a creative fancy meal!
We were so lucky and visited during peak fall foliage, and loved our sunset hike with great views of all the colorful trees.
I desperately wanna find some of those infamous hot springs on my next visit! Plus maybe kayak at Shoshone Falls and see the Sawtooth Mountains!
Fun Fact: Idaho is known as the “Gem State” because nearly every known type of gemstone has been found there!
- Washington D.C.: I first visited DC as a kid on a school field trip (I think… or maybe it was with my family, I honestly don’t remember), and then to visit my old college roommate many years later. We got lucky and timed our visit perfectly with the cherry blossoms in peak bloom! I definitely wanna head back to DC as it’s been over 10 years since I’ve been!
- Puerto Rico: I’ve been all over the Caribbean (thanks to the cruises I went on as a kid with my family), so I’ve visited Puerto Rico multiple times! I feel so grateful to have hiked in the rainforest in El Yunque, wandered around Old San Juan, walked on El Castillo San Felipe del Morro, and gone on a tour of the Bacardi Factory. That cruise we took out of Puerto Rico was probably our best one yet – tons of Latin music and so much dancing!
- US Virgin Islands: Again, I visited these islands as ports on Caribbean cruises with my family when I was younger. In St. Thomas we walked around the capital of Charlotte Amalie and splashed in the waters of Magens Bay, Morningstar Beach, and Sapphire Beach. On St. John we took a full-day guided tour, with so many beautiful stops.
States I Still Need to Visit
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- West Virginia