The 50 State Challenge: My Favourites So Far

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If one were to look at my travel history, they’d notice that the only country I’ve visited more than once has been the United States. Hell, if you were to look at my dating history, you’d find three of my more serious relationships have been with Americans too.

In fact, if you ask me, I should be an honorary American by now. I even spelled honorary their way! Alas, I’m still required to get a US entry visa (or visum USA, in Norwegian).

It’s safe to say that I have a bit of a crush on the United States, so much so that visiting every one of its states is a new addition to my ever-growing bucket list.

I’ve by no means made an extensive tour of the US just yet. Out of fifty states, I’m sad to say I’ve only made it to a paltry 15 of 50 states across two visits comprising almost three months. Shame on me!

A map of my US progress so far. Not nearly as impressive when I look at it on a map.
A map of my US progress so far. Not nearly as impressive when I look at it on a map.

My brief, girlfriend lead stints in the US so far might not have seen me crossing the nation and seeing it all – but I’ve definitely been happy with everything I’ve seen so far. While I didn’t really get the time to do New Jersey, Philadelphia, Virginia, or Illinois the justice they deserve – I like to think I got a pretty good feel for the other eleven states I’ve spent time in so far.

Idling away a lazy Wednesday afternoon in a towel, I’ve decided to take a break from conquering the world in Civilization V to share my favourites with you.

#5 – Arizona

My visit to Arizona back in 2009 was one of two parts. The first was a relaxing few days visiting friends of my ex-girlfriend who lived in Phoenix. In my mind, Phoenix isn’t one of the most attractive cities in the world. If I were being less diplomatic, I’d call it downright ugly. And hot to boot.

Hanging out with old friends at the Arizona State Fair
Hanging out with old friends at the Arizona State Fair

But I had a great time hanging out with a few ‘locals’, visiting the Arizona State Fair, and doing my best to dodge the heat.

Arizona’s real redeeming feature for me was a few days jaunt up to the north of the state to see the Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, and Walnut Creek Canyon. While I’ll admit to being a little underwhelmed by the Grand Canyon (maybe I set my expectations way too high), I fell in love with idyllic Flagstaff and had a lot of fun exploring the ancient Indian cave dwellings in Walnut Creek Canyon.

One of many shots from the Grand Canyon
One of many shots from the Grand Canyon, none of which did it justice.
A manly man in an Indian cave dwelling.
A manly man in an Indian cave dwelling.

 

My first thought is that I don’t need to visit Arizona again, but that’s not true. I want to give the Grand Canyon the inspection it deserves (I only spent 3-4 hours there) and I’d love to check out some of the old Wild West towns like Tombstone.

#4 – Maryland/Idaho

I daresay these two will raise a few eyebrows. You’ve got the rural state of Idaho up against the mean streets of Baltimore. How are these two trumping the likes of New York and Nevada?

I’m a sentimental guy. Idaho was the first state I touched down in back in 2009 (just in time to celebrate a six month anniversary, no less); while Maryland was where I got to have the Nomadic American run into my arms to start my second jaunt in the US.

That’s not to say both states aren’t without their considerable charms. I fell in love with northern Idaho’s peaceful lakes and the twang of country music everywhere I went. Riding the Route of the Hiawatha was a load of fun too. My four weeks in Coeur d’Alene remain some of my favourite travel memories.

Just chilling out in Lake Coeur d'Alene with a Bubba Keg and some trail mix.
Just chilling out in Lake Coeur d’Alene with a Bubba Keg and some trail mix.
A 'gooey': only the best dessert ever.
A ‘gooey’: only the best dessert ever.

Likewise, Annapolis was so different to how I’d pictured Maryland. The quaint streets, the festive atmosphere of Ocean City, and mowing down blue crab like it was going out of fashion… God! I loved that three weeks too.

A rollercoaster doing its thing at Ocean City
A rollercoaster doing its thing at Ocean City
Maryland Blue Crab. Orgasmic.
Maryland Blue Crab. Orgasmic.

 

While I don’t feel like Idaho warrants another visit (aside from visiting friends), Maryland may yet warrant a return visit. I mean, I didn’t even see Baltimore and what kind of The Wire tragic can abide that?

#3 – Florida

florida

I was lucky enough to spend a week in Florida over the 4th of July holiday. Between partying on South Beach for 4th of July, riding through the Everglades, searching for sea shells on Sanibel Island, and visiting Disney World; I managed to pack a decent chunk of the Sunshine State in.

Fulfilling a childhood dream by visiting Disney World.
Fulfilling a childhood dream by visiting Disney World.
The best picnic lunch ever.
The best picnic lunch ever.
Stormy skies over Sanibel Island.
Stormy skies over Sanibel Island.

Of course, I barely scratched the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t do nearly enough beach relaxing as I’d have liked, the Everglades only got a few hours, and I only hit one of the Disney World parks. I didn’t get to Cape Canaveral, either.

I definitely plan to visit Florida again, and when I’ll do I’ll also be checking out Seaworld Orlando with FloridaTix. FloridaTix offer combo deals on entry to SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Aquatica; plus you get a free Planet Hollywood voucher when you purchase. No delivery fees and no credit card fees make it a pretty sweet deal too.

#2 – Oregon

The only state I made the time to visit on both of my US jaunts, Oregon is also the state I’d most like to live in if ever I get the opportunity. Pretty American girls willing to marry bearded Aussie men for citizenship should apply within.

There’s just something that resounds within me when it comes to Oregon. The beer and food culture of Portland, the idea of keeping Portland weird, the stunning Oregon coast and quaint towns like Seaside and Tillamook, the majesty of Multnomah Falls and the Colombia River… And it also happens to be home to some of my favourite people in the world too.

Multnomah Falls. Stunning.
Multnomah Falls. Stunning.
Hanging out with friends at the Oregon Brewer's Festival
Hanging out with friends at the Oregon Brewer’s Festival
On the verge of climax at the prospect of all this amazing beer.
On the verge of climax at the prospect of all this amazing beer.

Oh yeah, and the Goonies live in Astoria. Or lived, I guess.

Fulfilling another childhood dream by visiting the Goonies house.
Fulfilling another childhood dream by visiting the Goonies house.

Would I go to Oregon again? Of course! I’ve got friends there, I’m in love with Portland, and I haven’t even ventured into the south of the state. It’s definitely getting a third visit someday.

#1 – California

California managed to wow me more in a week than any other state managed. It helped that I managed to take in quite a lot of California over the course of that week, but I just got the feeling the state suited me.

Bixby Bridge on Route 1. So beautiful.
Bixby Bridge on Route 1. So beautiful.

Was it spending a day at California Adventure? Eating delicious Mexican food before heading to Leo Carillo Beach? Spending some time dodging black bears and exploring Yosemite? The road trip to stunning Monterey? Twenty four hours in beautiful San Francisco?

Riding across the Golden Gate during my visit to San Francisco.
Riding across the Golden Gate during my visit to San Francisco.
My first glimpse of Yosemite care of the Tunnel Bridge Lookout.
My first glimpse of Yosemite care of the Tunnel Bridge Lookout.

I couldn’t say. All I know is that I loved almost every minute of my time in Cali and I need to go back and see the rest of it. LA barely got a look in, I didn’t make it to San Diego, and I know there’s more of Yosemite to be explore.

Your Say

What is your favourite state in the United States? Why?

Have I criminally overlooked a state? Or touched on a state without seeing the best it has to offer? Educate me; I’m just a naive Aussie lad!

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20 comments

  1. Sadly mate 15 is a lot more than most Americans… you are doing good. You are always welcome in Louisiana if you want, when you come let me know and I can recommend some tips for you. (BTW, you can knock off a lot of states in a short period in New England. They are small and close.)

    Andy
    BackpackingDiplomacy.com

    • Haha, cheers for the tip, mate. I was really eager to make it to the New England last time I was there. I’m a die hard Stephen King fan *and* I grew up in Australia’s New England, so it really speaks to me.

      Always wanted to make it down south as well. I don’t think Florida really counts.

  2. 15 states is pretty good! I think that’s exactly how many I’ve been to and I’m from there! Do give Illinois a second chance if you can… we have plenty of good beers for you to enjoy!

    • Sounds good! If the past is any indication when it comes to US travel, I’d better find me an American girlfriend again haha. Seems to be the only time I make it over.

  3. My favorite places are Louisiana, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada (Las Vegas). I’m a little biased about Louisiana since I’m from New Orleans. If you come here make sure to check out Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Preserve in Marrero, Louisiana. If you visit some of the smaller bayou towns during the right time, you might be able to find someone in the blog-o-sphere to let you help out on their shrimping boat. I’ve always wanted to do that. I also lived in Flagstaff, Arizona for a while. You definitely have to go back. Check out the north rim of the Grand Canyon if you get a chance. It’s completely different from the south rim. Also check out Lava River Cave near Flagstaff. Hiking in Sedona, Arizona was really nice as well, and Sedona is a great little town. And yes, Phoenix was a very ugly looking city (no need to be diplomatic). In Utah, Bryce National Park and Zion National Park were amazing! The are relatively close in distance yet so different. Bryce should be visited in July (the temperature was around 80*F when we visited in July) and Zion in October (the temperature was 106*F in July).

    • Thanks for the recommendations! I’ve always wanted to visit the southern states, and Utah’s national parks are high on my list too. Yellowstone as well.

  4. I have only been to California (LA) and Nevada (Vegas) and that was many years ago. I was only a kid then, but I absolutely loved those states. America as a whole offers a very unique and diverse culture. Much of which I am still very interested in now. I’m a sucker for their culture and style- NFL. I’ve applied to study over in the state as part of a student-exchange so that would be a good experience for me, as well as getting to experience their culture (And a specific state) for an extended period of time.

    • You and me both, brother. I’ve had a fascination with American culture since I was young. It was probably a lot to do with growing up reading books about it, watching movies about it, and just wanting my life to be like the characters in the books.

      It’s silly, haha. But I still want to live there someday. I’d love to spend a year there and just soak it all in. Wish they did a working holiday visa.

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