top of page
  • Writer's pictureIsla Ramie

Top 10 Must-See U.S. States

Maybe you are traveling from outside the United States, or perhaps you are living stateside and are looking to explore beyond your home. Either way, this blog will help provide destination inspiration as we share our top 10-Must Visit States in the U.S.

This was not an easy list; much thought was put into it while traveling on long, lonely back roads. But, after last summer's cross-country trip where we hit all 50 states (see blog post), we have come up with this list sharing the 10 States that best showcase the diverse landscapes of America. They are listed here in no particular order, and we admit to bias on the Michigan pick because we are native Michiganders, but we hope that after reading, you will agree that the Great Lakes State is worth your time. We will feature each of these states in a series of ten blog posts and link them to our clickable map for ease of use at a later date, so please check back. But below are the highlights of why each pick made the list. Here are the criteria we used in making our choices.

1. Unique landscapes that set the state apart from the rest of the states in the region.

2. The state or area has historical or cultural significance to the country.

3. The state has resources unlike any other place globally.

4. There are National Parks located in the state.

5. The state is a popular tourist destination.

Without much further ado, we will briefly introduce you to the top 10 and why they should be added to your bucket list.


The 49th State to join the Union is home to a whopping 8 National Parks, including the largest, Wrangell-St. Elias. Alaska is rugged and remote and seemingly frozen in time. With quaint towns and a community feel wherever you go, Alaska is among the friendliest places we have visited. People do not often encourage you to come and live in their state, but this is a place where people seem to value community. Life slows down in Alaska. People are self-sufficient. There is a pride and connection to the land that draws you in. This is a wild fishing mecca - just ask the bears! Alaska has three types of bears, the only state with all three North American species (black, brown, and polar). Known as the "The Land of the Midnight Sun," the state boasts long summer days and long winter nights, with the latter being famous for impressive displays from the aurora borealis. Alaska has both fire and ice, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is home to more glaciers and volcanoes than any park in the States. Alaska is home to the Iditarod, a Gold Rush, the highest peaks in North America (Denali), and we cannot forget the rich Native Alaskan culture. If you love adventure, fishing, kayaking, hunting, beer drinking, long road trips to the middle of nowhere, rafting, climbing, skiing, hiking, and basically any outdoor activity you can think of, put Alaska on your must-see list.

A true tropical paradise, Hawaii is an American gem in the Pacific. The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated island chain on Earth. Not only is the climate always perfect, but several microbiomes are on the islands, making Hawaii very biodiverse. Active volcanoes are a draw for the Big Island of Hawaii. If you are lucky, you can see a lava flow but don't be discouraged if the lava isn't flowing. Fantastic lava lakes beneath the Earth's crust glow at night and create beautiful photo opportunities. Like Alaska, Hawaii has a vibrant native Hawaiian culture displayed nightly at the luau. I am not quite sure how they do it, but the whole island smells like flowers, and the 24/7 aromatherapy is a mood enhancer. Tension melts away. Each island has something a little different to offer, and you can find a suggested Maui itinerary here.

Hawaii has two National Parks, Haleakala and Volcanoes on Maui and the Big Island, respectively. Wildlife is abundant. Swimming with Manta Ray and sea turtles is popular, but the scuba adventures are endless. Hawaii is the home of surfing, so you can bet the waves are world-class. And you will never taste a fresher pineapple. I will let the photos speak for themselves, and check our Hawaii page for more content!

What can I say? I need to be loyal to my home state, but being a Michigander doesn't wholly cloud my judgment. Michigan is more than worthy to be on the U.S. Top 10 List. Did you know anywhere that you go in Michigan, you are never more than six miles away from a body of water? Michigan boasts some of the world's largest and most beautiful lakes. The state motto is “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you." Michigan is comprised of not one but two peninsulas connected by a bridge that, in our opinion, rivals the Golden Gate for beauty. The Mighty Mack is the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and she is a gorgeous sight spanning two of Michigan's Great Lakes. The Mitten State is surrounded by three of the 5 Great Lakes, and if you haven't visited them yet, you must see how large they are to believe with your own eyes. You can even surf on the lakes! It shouldn't be a surprise with all that fresh water. Michigan, like Alaska and Hawaii, has excellent fishing. There are over 150 different fish species, but anglers especially enjoy fishing for lake trout, brown trout, walleye, salmon, steelhead, and bass.

From the birth of the automotive industry to Motown, Michigan has made its mark on the world. Home of Henry Ford, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Eminem, and many more Michiganders that shaped arts, culture, and industry. Colloquially known as the Great Beer State, you will find an abundance of breweries. In the northwestern portion of the Lower Peninsula, you will find Michigan Wine Country with dozens of Vineyards that will remind you of California Wine Country. I think you are starting to understand that many other states' highlights are localized in beautiful Michigan. On top of that, you will enjoy four seasons of skiing, both water and snow, and 6,500 miles of snowmobile trails (6th most in the country). I could ramble on for days singing the praises of Michigan as would any good Michigander. We are rightfully proud of our state, but there are seven others to explore. Do subscribe for updates, as we hope to post more Michigan highlights in the future.

Home to the most visited amusement park in the world (Walt Disney World), the Sunshine State definitely gets its share of tourism, but there is more to Florida than Mickey Mouse. You can also visit Universal Studios! Kidding aside, the state is known for more than being the Theme Park Capital of the World. Home of Cape Canaveral and the Space Coast, beautiful beaches, crystal clear springs, Nascar, and the Fountain of Youth, millions flock to Florida yearly as a vacation destination. There are 3 National Parks in Florida, each unique and unlike others in the entire parks system (Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, and Everglades National Parks). Florida is also home to North America's only coral barrier reef protected by the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary. All Jimmy Buffet lovers must make the pilgrimage to Key West. A place where time literally slows down and all of your troubles fall away. There are world-class beaches in Florida, often ranking at the top of travel sites' lists. Vibrant cities pulse with exciting nightlife in Miami, and beautiful beach towns like St. Augustine charm tourists. When thinking of a carefree and truly relaxing vacation, Florida is the destination that comes immediately to mind. It is a place guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

This state makes the list because it has so darn much to offer. Sunny skies in the south provide an endless summer. Wine country and majestic mountains to the north have inspired poets and artists since immemorial. San Francisco is a hotbed of arts and culture, and the whole state has a phenomenal food scene. A trip down the Pacific Coast Highway should be on everyone's bucket list. California boasts more national parks than any other state. It has some of the world's most giant and majestic trees, one of the hottest deserts, and everything in between. It would take a lifetime to enjoy all that California has to offer. It is an enormous state with many wild places and energetic cities. It is home to Hollywood, the motion picture industry, and Disneyland. People not native to the U.S. most likely think of California, Texas, or New York when envisioning life here. This is because most film media exported from the United States is set in these states. In addition, it is not surprising that these states are the most visited by U.S. citizens! Therefore, by default, America itself has voted California to the must-see state list.

New England is one of the most culturally historic places making significant contributions to the birth of the United States. We encourage visiting any New England state and exploring the sites of the country's earliest English Settlements, like Plymouth Plantation and the historic Boston Harbor site of the Boston Tea Party near the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. But, if we had to choose one New England State to represent them all, many would choose Maine. Thousands of miles of coastline to explore, expansive wilderness areas, and the only New England state with a National Park, Acadia. Maine is famous for lobster fishing, rocky coastlines, lighthouses, blueberries, and moose. Depending on your choice, Maine could be the starting or end point of the Appalachian Trail, with the most challenging climb of the journey, Mt. Katahdin, nestled in the state's borders. Enjoy Maine coastal cities and port towns or raft down the Saco. Come to Maine for the popular Fryeburg Fair (2nd largest in New England) or one of the many summer lobster or windjammer festivals. Widely known as the friendliest of all New England states, you will be captivated by the small-town feel and wowed by the explosion of fall colors. Settle in for four seasons of adventure in beautiful Maine.

This state has blown up social media in the past few years as its photogenic vistas and otherworldly landscapes entice travelers to come and explore. Utah is home to the "Mighty 5." Five exquisitely enchanting National Parks, each with red rocks, hoodoos, arches, canyons, and other phenomenal geology. There are salt flats, salt lakes, dinosaur bones, and around 300 sunny days per year to explore it all. It is no wonder Mormons considered Utah their Promise Land. Sixty-six percent of Utahans belong to the Church of Latter-Day Saints. The state is nicknamed "the beehive state" as beehives are a symbol of hard work, perseverance, and industry, important to early Mormon settlers. You will find beehive symbols throughout the state. Utahans work hard and play hard hiking, biking, rafting, skiing, and climbing activities that keep the population healthy, ranking as one of the U.S.'s healthiest states. The only problem with Utah is the crowds, especially at the National Parks. Plan a visit for the off-season and add a ski excursion to your vacation.

This state had to make the cut because it was repeatedly impressive on our "Epic Coast to Coast National Park Adventure." I wasn't expecting much in visiting another national park with big mountains. There are so many, Yosemite, Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Tetons; the thought of two more "mountain parks" (Rainier and North Cascades) did not make my heart beat with excitement. Frankly, I thought it would be more peaks and woody wilderness. I was so wrong. There was something different about Washington parks. Mt. Rainier was the first park we visited, and it was wholly accessible, filled with wildflowers, and incredibly beautiful. Olympic was our second park and by far the highlight of the Washington experience. Seeing tide pools and sea stacks was a dream come true. The Hall of Mosses and the temperate rainforests were lush and impressive. Carpets of verdant mosses draped over trees, and Earth looked like an elven realm. The sky was overcast for most of the trip, and it was drizzly, but it wasn't gloomy because everything was so alive. North Cascades was also impressive. It may well be our new favorite of the "mountain parks." Turquoise lakes glow against rugged peaks and culminate as the cherry on top of the iconic Pacific Northwest experience. Although we didn't visit Seattle, we have heard it has a hip vibe. We are, though, fans of Spokane—a quirky city with a gorgeous riverside park, great shopping, and food.

Every campsite we stayed at in Washington was a winner, especially Kalaloch Beach in Olympic National Park, where you will find the Tree of Life. A Sitka Spruce that symbolizes resilience for all who witness it. Washington is a state with wild natural beauty; we cannot wait to return.

District of Columbia

A must-visit for American citizens and visitors alike, D.C. has all the architecture, history, and culture of a little baby Europe. Although D.C. is comparatively a young Capitol city, its offerings to travelers are diverse. Mike said it is architecturally as impressive as France. I am not sure many would agree. You will find something for everyone in museums dedicated to anything that suits your fancy, from the Air and Space Museum to Natural History Museum and the National Zoo. Take in a performance at the beautiful Kennedy Center for the Arts. Enjoy a scenic boat cruise or water taxi to surround yourself with the D.C. feels and give your feet a break from monument trekking. Explore the food scene by sampling foods at Union Market, where you will find a diverse menu from soul food to Korean bowls and a fish market. However you enjoy the city, you will experience an undeniable sense of nostalgia, patriotism, grandeur (call it what you will) of being immersed in a transformational city that has shaped the trajectory of a nation.

The most popular and iconic American city is found on the coast of New York. New York City and Broadway deliver the best entertainment, culture, and food that the East Coast and probably the entire country offer. No other city has more Michelin-starred restaurants. There are 41 theaters in the Theater District, and Central Park is perhaps one of the most famous city parks in the world, being the setting for over 350 movies. New York is much more than Manhattan and the Big Apple. Travel to the western reaches to visit Niagara Falls in its epic wonder (although we honestly prefer the Canadian side for views and lodging). Plan on staying the night to see the falls lit in a rainbow of light, and the skies erupt with fireworks! Maybe you prefer water a little more still. Check out the Finger Lakes region of New York. Carved in the last glacial age, this region is New York's wine-producing area. Another beautiful area that people visit in New York State is Watkins Glen State Park. There are gorgeous waterfalls and rock walls, and trails galore. Watkins Glen promises to leave you spellbound!

This rounds out our Top 10 Must Visit U.S. States list. What do you think? Do any interest you? Which have you visited? It is slow going here in blogland, but we hope to bring you much more content on each of these states and many more of our favorites. There are so many beautiful places to visit in each state, and I wish I could feature each individually because places like Gettysburg, PA, Charleston, SC, and Gatlinburg, TN, rank high among my favorite U.S. cities, but that is a post for next time!

Drop a comment and let us know if you agree or which you would switch out for a different state.

22 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page