Since moving abroad I have met many friends who dream of visiting the United States. Being an American I think I sometimes forget how desirable a place it is and how diverse the landscape and cities are. When asked where to visit I have found myself recommending these five states the most. California and New York are the go-to destinations, and as amazing as they are, there is so much more that makes up the true “heart” of the country. Obviously, there are many, many more worthy places, but in my experience these states really have something special. I’ll be glad to do a Part 2 if anyone would be interested and I have a post on US cities coming up soon.
This may not seem like such an “underrated” state due to the plethora of world famous locations like The Grand Canyon or Antelope Canyon, but I feel as though people make there way there if they happen to be in California or Las Vegas already, and not deliberately to see those sites. People are often dissuaded by the heat and general distaste for a “desert” location but I must say that Arizona is much more than heat and rocks. Yes, of course, The Grand Canyon is a must visit as is Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend. But beyond those world-famous locations, take a trip to the Havasupai Indian Reservation and hike out to a breathtaking waterfall (or take a helicopter ride) or make your way to the otherworldly Coyote Buttes.
Now, I’m a bit biased towards Virginia, having grown up there, but I must say it is a special place. If you are interested in history I can think of no better state to visit in the US. Let’s start with Williamsburg and Jamestowne, where you can walk through full replicas of the cities of the past complete with re-enactors and restaurants and shops. I truly didn’t appreciate the uniqueness of the place until I was long moved away. I’ve never seen anything else that matches the size and is as immersive in authentic history again. If you’re now tired of the slower pace of history, take a break and head to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, one of the best theme parks in the country, but one of many located in Virginia. If you head out to western Virginia you will be met with the beautiful Smoky Mountains and Shenandoah National Park where you can connect with nature in the peaceful forests and many cave systems to explore.
“The South” is known around the world, for better or worse, for it’s culture, flavors, and hospitality. Louisiana is about as “southern” as you can get but brings a distinct taste to the table. New Orleans is not a city to be missed if you visit America, as it is the embodiment of the “melting pot” mentality that the United States is so proud of. Take a dinner river boat cruise along the Mississippi River or a ghost tour to one of the above ground cemeteries. Go to the aquarium or appreciate the architecture as you smell the crawfish and beignets. Outside of New Orleans stay at one of the many plantations, like the Myrtle’s Plantation, see the eerie and enchanting spanish moss hang off the trees, and make friends (not enemies) with one of the many alligators found in the swamp country.
To me, it doesn’t get much more “American” than Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania is landlocked in the heart of the country and brings natural beauty, bustling cities, and kind people to the forefront. Visit Philadelphia for historic sites and unique cuisine or Pittsburgh for the energy and culture. Gettysburg is a must visit as it was the site of the most famous battle in the Civil War and has been preserved for visitors, a humbling experience to say the least. Make a stop at Penn’s cave where you can explore the cavern by boat or visit Fallingwater, the famous by home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The state is large and no matter what direction you go you’ll find something beautiful. The Poconos, Lake Erie, Laurel Canyon, Hersey Park, the list goes on and on for things to do. Or, you can just head over to Scranton and see if you run into Michael or Dwight.
Washington is awe-inspiring. “Beautiful” is not a strong enough word. Diablo Lake in the North Cascades National Park is blue like you’ve never seen blue, Mt. Rainier peaks over the horizon like something out of Middle Earth, Olympic National Park or Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument will leave you speechless. Honestly, you can not go wrong if you’re looking to connect with the nature you’ve always heard about in the US. View Orcas swimming off the coast, stay in a treehouse deep in the forest just 30 minutes outside Seattle or hike a bit of the Pacific Crest Trail if tents are more your speed. After you’ve had your fill of the ravishing landscape, make your way to Seattle where you will be met with a bustling and coffee obsessed community. And hey, you can always make your way up to Canada from here!
What is your #1 American destination?