Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Favorite Vacation States

After the Alaska trip, I was faced with a difficult decision. Yes, the Alaska trip was amazing, but is Alaska my favorite vacation state ever? Actually, while I'm at it...why not rank all 50 states from "favorite vacation state" to "least favorite vacation state"? I can do that now that I've actually been to all 50 states.

Before I go down the list, a disclaimer: this is not a list of the "best" vacation states. These are only my favorites, and thus are entirely based on personal preference. (That means you can't argue with them. Ha!) I generally prefer outdoorsy National Park type stuff. Although there are many other factors involved, perhaps the top half of the list is also a decent approximation for the states with the most interesting terrain.

#1 through #5: Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, California, Colorado
As nice as Alaska was, Utah and Wyoming are still my favorites. The National Parks in those two states can't be beat. When it comes down to it, Alaska is really just mountains, trees, and bears; Utah and Wyoming are so much more (canyons, geysers, etc). But Alaska's mountains, trees and bears are nice, though, and it's also far away, big, and hard to get to. So, I decided to put Alaska at #3, just ahead of California and Colorado.

#6 through #10: Nevada, Washington, Montana, Hawaii, South Dakota
Noticing a pattern here? All Western states so far. Lots of people would rank Nevada high on their list purely because of Las Vegas, but I have it at #6 on the basis of the rest of the state: great scenery, and not many people. Hawaii - like Alaska - has that exotic feel to it, and pretty much has something for everyone. South Dakota's ranking is based on the Black Hills and Badlands areas (as opposed to, say, the Corn Palace).

#11 through #15: New Mexico, Arizona, Maine, Oregon, Texas
New Mexico probably isn't much different than Nevada, but I didn't find it particularly memorable. Arizona is a lot like these other Western states and could probably be ranked higher, but I put it down at #12 because the Grand Canyon is crowded. Maine is the first eastern state to make the list, and because it's relatively close to home, I'd like to back sooner rather than later. Oregon's ranking is somewhat arbitrary because the only place I've ever visited in Oregon is Crater Lake. I haven't done much in Texas, either.

#16 through #20: Florida, North Carolina, Idaho, North Dakota, Vermont
I'm probably a little biased towards my two primary home states, but the fact is, I like going to Florida, and I liked North Carolina long before I moved here. I've barely done anything in Idaho, but it looks fun, so why not? I associate North Dakota with trips to Canada, so accurate or not, I have a favorable opinion of it. Vermont is my #1 Fall Foliage destination.

#21 through #25: New Hampshire, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina
Up and down the Appalachians here. Might as well rank New Hampshire next to Vermont, right? West Virginia is more mountainous than Virginia, but Virginia has more of a tourist infrastructure, as well as other non-mountainous tourist attractions. I've kind of worn out Pennsylvania over the years, and every time I go there I complain about road construction, so it's hard for me to rank it higher than #24. South Carolina...oh, I don't know.

#26 through #30: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Kentucky: Like Vermont, Michigan/Minnesota/Wisconsin are great fall foliage states. They also have lakes, both big and small. Really, all three states are very similar, so it makes sense to rank them together, right? Ohio and Kentucky are ranked here on the basis of Cedar Point and Mammoth Cave, respectively.

#31 through #35: Tennessee, New York, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas: It's getting difficult to differentiate the states at this point, so don't take the rankings too seriously here. Tennessee has mountains, too, but when I think "Smokies", I think North Carolina first, and my trips to Great Smoky Mountains are almost always NC-based trips rather than Tennessee-based trips. New York has some neat stuff, although I've never been to New York City (Staten Island doesn't count). Fun fact about Arkansas: it is now my least recently visited state. Since my last visit to Arkansas over 17 years ago, I have been to all of the other 49 states at least once.

#36 through #40: Massachusetts, Illinois, Nebraska, Maryland, Alabama: As I've gone through this list, I've realized that there are very few "bad" vacation states. Every state has something. Massachusetts has Cape Cod, Boston, and some mountains, none of which I've ever visited. Illinois has Chicago, perhaps my favorite big city. Nebraska is very scenic once you get away from the interstate and closer to South Dakota. We go to Maryland a lot more than this ranking would indicate, but that's mostly because of curling. (I don't think of curling road trips as vacations, really. Maybe I should!) And, Alabama has...well, they have a lot of Piggly Wigglys.

#41 through #45: Iowa, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana, Mississippi: Now we're getting to some of the "meh" states. Iowa looked nice when we drove through, but I don't know what I'd do there other than drive. Lots of people like Louisiana because of New Orleans, but New Orleans isn't really our scene. And I guess Mississippi is a good place to go if you like old Southern plantations.

#46 through #50: Rhode Island, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Connecticut, Delaware
I know that New Jersey and Delaware are popular beach destinations, but I think that's only a matter of convenience for people who live nearby. If I want to go to the beach, I'm certainly going to stay in my home state or go to Florida before I go to a Delaware beach. As for Oklahoma...I can't imagine ever going there again except for the purposes of a drive-through or for counties.

UPDATE 10/14/10: After spending last weekend in Connecticut, I've decided to move Connecticut up from 49th to 40th, ahead of Alabama and behind Maryland. The bottom 15 are now: MA, IL, NE, MD, CT, AL, IA, LA, KS, IN, MS, RI, NJ, OK, DE.

Now, a bonus list - my "favourite" vacation Canadian provinces!

#1 through #5: British Columbia, Yukon, Nova Scotia, Alberta, Qu├ębec
#6 through #10: Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador*, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan
#11 through #13: Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories*, Nunavut*
(* - Have not yet visited; ranking is based on perceived potential.)
British Columbia's tourism slogan is "The Best Place On Earth". That may be a little extreme (aren't Canadians supposed to be humble?), but based on what I saw on the Alaska trip, I don't mind calling it "The Best Place In Canada".


Spartangoogle said...

You've also been to Oregon Caves NM. What do you mean "Staten Island doesn't count"?!

James Allen said...

Top Three (and why):
Wyoming - Yellowstone
Hawaii - Lava
Washington - MSH

Bottom Three (and why):
Minnesota - blah
Iowa - more blah
Oklahoma - flat + one rest area

And Staten Island totally doesn't count.

allen_t said...

He means Staten Island is part of New Jersey.