If you read enough articles on The Travel, you will see and hear about some of the coolest and most exotic tourist destinations in the entire world. Some of the best tourist destinations, however, are right in our own backyards. Whether you live in Canada or in the United States itself, it should be fairly easy to visit any of the fifty States in the U.S. As such, this list will countdown the 20 States in the U.S. Actually Worth Visiting.
As one of the largest countries in the entire world, the U.S. can boast of a geographical diversity that few other nations can match. To represent this diversity, this list will include entries from all four corners of the continental U.S., as well as Alaska and Hawaii. Not only are these States sometimes thousands of miles away from one another, they each represent distinct beliefs and cultures for a truly heterogeneous travel experience. The only requirement for a State to make this list is that it has achieved statehood in the U.S., and has something within its boundaries that could attract tourists. If you can think of any other State that you would like to visit that did not make our list, feel free to mention them in the comments.
Every couple of years politicians in California put a question on the ballot asking if the State should secede from the United States. This measure is always defeated, but it illustrates the fact that people from California think of themselves as Californians first, and U.S. citizens second. There are lots of interesting tourist destinations in California, so at least they will have places to go should they ever decide to actually leave the union. LA is the obvious vacation spot in California, but San Diego and San Francisco also get hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The Hollywood sign, the San Diego Zoo, and the University of Southern California are just a few of the popular destinations in the State.
I've got two words for you... Disney World. The famous theme park and resort was built in Orlando in 1971 and since then, it has been one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S. and
is the top reason to travel to the state of Florida. But it isn't the only reason.
Miami has recently become famous for its nightlife, and Orlando and Tampa are both major cities worth visiting. Then, of course, there are the beaches that dot the shoreline of the Florida archipelago. Florida has come a long way from the swamplands that the earliest settlers found, but if you feel the need to return to that world, there are several projects to reinvigorate the Florida everglades.
18 New York
The state of New York truly only has two sides, New York City and the rest of New York, commonly referred to as upstate New York. If you have ever seen a movie about New York, there is a 99.9% chance that it took place in New York City. The most populous city on earth, NYC should be visited by every single person in their lifetime.
The constant hustle and bustle and unique culture are unlike anything else in the world.
If you're looking to travel outside of New York City, your destinations are more limited. The major city in western New York is Buffalo, and from someone who grew up near the city, I can personally attest that there isn't much to visit while you're there. If you're looking to enjoy New York outside of NYC, I would recommend visiting Ithaca or Syracuse.
Of all the entries on this list, this is the one that I would most like to visit myself. There is just something about the state of Washington that stirs up images of settlers establishing themselves on the rugged frontier. The woodlands of Washington are supposed to be notoriously beautiful, and some people have compared areas of the Pugent Sound to the Garden of Eden itself. Washington isn't totally uncultivated; however, the city of Seattle has become one of the most thriving metropolises on the West Coast. Boasting the headquarters of national brands like Amazon and Starbucks, Seattle has become something of a Mecca for young adults. Overcrowding has brought some problems to the city, but tourists shouldn't have any problems finding an affordable hotel.
Texas is the biggest state in the United States, so obviously there are some things there that are worth visiting. As a whole, the state has a very unique culture dating back to its history as part of Mexico and as its own unique country. The state has traditionally been very conservative, but recently large cities like Austin have been making the Lone Star state more liberal.
Austin itself is consistently cited as one of the best tourist cities in the U.S.
If you are looking to find more of an authentic cowboy experience, the southern part of the state should be visited. Several important figures are from Texas, most notably former Presidents George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush.
I am sure that there are other locations in Illinois that are worth visiting, but for the purposes of this list I am only going to talk about one. Besides Los Angeles and New York City, Chicago is the premier city in the United States.
Home to five major professional sports teams and some of the most impressive venues in the United States,
there is plenty to do in this Illinois city. There was a time when the city completely wasted the tourist attraction of Lake Michigan, but recent rejuvenation efforts have made the lake a major component of their tourist pitch. Former President Barack Obama and rapper Kanye West are just two of several people who have called Chicago, and Illinois their home.
14 Maryland/Washington D.C.
I understand that Washington D.C. isn't technically part of the state of Maryland, but the two are close enough that any visit to the Free State can easily include the nation's capital. D.C. still gets a bad rap for how degraded the city had become in the 1980's, but D.C. is much safer now and more easily accessible. The obvious tourist destinations are the White House and Smithsonian Museums, but the neighborhood of Georgetown outside the city has one of the best atmospheres of anywhere in the country. The actual state of Maryland has a few places of its own that are worth visiting. Specifically, the Chesapeake Bay area is very beautiful, and is one of the most important animal habitats in the entire world. Ocean City can get crowded but is definitely worth visiting in the slower months.
13 South Carolina
I may have a slight anti-southern bias, but I wanted to make sure that I included at least a couple of States to represent the unique culture below the Mason-Dixon line. There are States like Alabama and Mississippi that might better represent what being "southern" is all about, but South Carolina is the state with its roots most firmly rooted in southern culture. South Carolina has been the epicenter of southern politics pretty much since its inception. The state was an important theater in the American Revolution, and in the Civil War it was the first state to secede from the Union.
Nowadays, South Carolina attracts tourists with its giant plantations and scenic beaches.
Myrtle Beach is a hugely popular destination for college kids, but the entire shoreline is worth visiting.
I understand that Pennsylvania may not be a typical tourist destination but hear me out for a second. For starters, the state has a history so rich that it can only be compared to a few other States in the country (Massachusetts, Virginia, etc.). In addition, Pennsylvania has a weird dichotomy where each of the State's major cities are incredibly different from one another. The largest city in PA, Philadelphia, is your standard eastern seaboard city. In contrast, Pittsburgh has adopted a blue-collar attitude from its industrial past that combines uniquely with its young population. Finally, Erie is a small city that resides on the coast of one of the Great Lakes. You would be hard pressed to find this kind of variety in any other State in the Union.
I once read a book where the characters were forced to flee from a zombie apocalypse by going to an unincorporated township in rural Maine. The zombie breakout was caused by telephone lines and this was one of the few places that they could go to avoid getting infected. This story illustrates how secluded sections of Maine are. There are islands and sections of forest that aren't visited by more than 50 people a year.
The lack of people in these areas makes it possible for pristine wilderness to reign.
Tourism is one of the primary industries in Maine, and the state has tailored a lot of its outdoor activities to incoming visitors. I highly recommend that our readers take a hike in the Bar Harbor area.
There is of course one major city worth visiting in the state of Nevada, but we will get to that later in this entry. Nevada also has miles of deserts and canyons that make up some of the most beautiful landscapes in the entire United States. It is possible to rent dune buggies or four-wheelers in some of these remote locations, a popular attraction for many tourists.
Once you're done enjoying the great wilderness of Nevada, you might want to check out the State's greatest attraction, Las Vegas.
Building off of its reputation as "Sin City", Vegas has become one of the greatest entertainment hubs in the United States. Aside from the casinos and bars, Vegas has hundreds of venues that bring in some of the best acts in the world. Vegas recently capitalized on its popularity and brought in both an NHL (Knights) and NFL (Raiders) franchise.
Most of our readers are probably aware of the fact that Louisiana is culturally distinct from the rest of the United States. What they likely don't know is that these differences can be traced back hundreds of years to when New Orleans was part of the French empire in North America. Louisiana was not one of the original 13 colonies that fought for their independence from England. It didn't become part of the newly formed United States until some years later. This unique history makes Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular, a must-visit tourist destination. The French Quarter is beautiful, and everyone should visit Bourbon Street at least once in their lifetime. Just a word of warning, because the city is below sea level, it can smell pretty bad on warmer days.
When most tourists think of the United States they think of huge coastal cities like New York and LA. In my opinion, however,
one of the most striking destinations in the continental U.S. is the Great Lakes region.
The State that best encompasses this region is Michigan. Most people travel to the Wolverine State to enjoy the lakes themselves, but there are also several cities there worth visiting. The capital, Lansing, is a popular tourist destination, and Ann Arbor (home to the University of Michigan) is consistently listed as one of the best college towns. If you're looking for a more authentic experience of what life is really like in the rust belt, Detroit is the largest and most well-known city in the state. Just don't drink the water.
Alaska calls itself "the final frontier", a fitting name for a state that is separated from the continental United States by thousands of miles of Canadian wilderness. Before I began writing this list, I wanted to read some depictions from local Alaskans about what the State is like. Surely, it's nothing like the Alaskan myth that I had in my own mind from countless movies and TV shows. After doing some research I found that the real Alaska is very much like the one shown in movies. Anchorage is the standard city destination, but pretty much anywhere in the state is a wild and unique experience. The only issue with visiting Alaska is that it can get expensive. Most of their food is shipped to them from outside the State, and a limited infrastructure can make travel difficult.
This is probably the most obvious entry on this entire list. The Hawaiian Islands are not only one of the most iconic destinations in the United States, they are one of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the entire world. I have never been to Hawaii, but I have seen pictures of the beaches where you can see the bottom of the ocean floor because the water is so clear.
The interiors of the island also boast jungle habitats that would be worth visiting, and some of the islands have active volcanoes that you can tour.
As Hawaiian natives run out of land, it will be up to their government to ensure that the islands remain a vibrant tourist destination. It would be a shame to squander the natural advantages that this State has.
Throughout this list I tried to find the states that I felt represented unique cultures or sections within the country. Minnesota is a perfect example of this, as it might be the most unique State in the entire nation. I once lived with two people from Minnesota and we came to call the State exactly what it is, "South Canada."
The culture (and atmosphere) in Minnesota is distinctly Canadian. This development can be traced to the strange events that led to the State's formation in the northern Great Lakes region. Whatever the case, we are happy to have Minnesota as part of the United States. In particular, the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul are very nice and are consistently ranked as the politest cities in the United States.
I recently moved to Massachusetts and the first thing I noticed when I was driving around was how nice this State is. Coming from Pennsylvania where all the roads are in disrepair, I can attest that there is something to having an area be aesthetically pleasing. For people who are just visiting, there should be plenty of tourist attractions to keep you entertained.
The whole state is rife with historical sites and Boston is one of the most tourist friendly cities in the entire country.
The beaches along the coast aren't great, but during the summer months the entire Cape Cod area is full of activity. For such a small state, Massachusetts has a lot of different attractions that tourists will appreciate.
Colorado was the first State to legalize marijuana for recreational use. This led to a huge surge in tourism. A chance to quickly and easily buy some pot, however, isn't the only reason that people are clamoring to go to Colorado. Not only are flights into Denver incredibly cheap (depending on where you're coming from, of course), Denver and the nearby city of Boulder are some of the funnest cities west of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, legalization has attracted so many tourists that finding a place to stay in the city can get expensive. Luckily, there are also several places outside of Denver that are worth visiting. I don't ski, but I have heard that the Rocky Mountain slopes in Colorado are the best in the country.
When people think of popular tourist States in the United States, Utah probably wouldn't be at the top of very many lists. If a State is good enough to host the Olympics, however, then it is worthy of a visit by our readers. The 2001 Olympic Games took place in Salt Lake City, Utah's capital and largest city. The city gets its name from a geological oddity, a large saltwater lake in the middle of landlocked Utah. Most people only think about Mormons when Utah comes to mind, but
the State has enough outdoor adventure opportunities and beautiful scenery to keep any traveler entertained.
Perhaps more importantly, the state has made a concerted effort to attract tourists, making the state one of the friendliest for incoming visitors.
1 Rhode Island
If you were looking at a map of the United States you probably wouldn't even notice Rhode Island, the smallest State in the Union. Despite its small area, or perhaps because of it, Rhode Island has one of the richest histories of any State, and is a must visit for anyone traveling to New England. As one of the first colonies in the new world,
Rhode Island has a ton of attractions for history buffs.
If history isn't really your thing, coastal cities like Newport have a variety of attractions that should appeal to just about everyone. Providence, of course is the state's capital and largest city, it is also worth checking out if you're in Rhode Island.