Spanning almost 3,000 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific (and that’s not even including Hawaii or Alaska), the United States has a destination for every kind of traveler. Sprawling cities, snowy mountains, and tropical beaches are just a few of the perks to exploring this diverse and beautiful nation. But with so much square mileage, 50 states, and five territories, it can be tricky knowing where to start. Figure out which state is best for you and your favorite kind of travel with our list of the best U.S. states for every type of traveler.
Whether you’re hiking 14ers or feeling your heart race as you plunge down a rushing river, Colorado is the perfect place for outdoorsy travelers. Hit up both famous and unknown ski resorts from Vail to Sunlight Mountain, trek or mountain bike a section of the famous Colorado Trail, and test your skills flyfishing in Estes Park. And that’s just a small list of everything the Centennial State has to offer in terms of one-on-one time with Mother Nature. Best of all, you can reward all your outdoor efforts and adventures with a soak in the Ouray hot springs, a beer at one of the state's 10,000 registered craft breweries, or seek out some real deal R&R in Colorado’s wellness hot spot, Boulder.
City Lover: New York City
New York City is America’s largest metropolis with its core, Manhattan, potentially the most famous borough in the entire world. If you’re a city lover, look no further than the Big Apple to scratch that itch of hustle and bustle with the shopping, restaurants, unique neighborhoods, and sparkling skyline to match. Dress up for a Broadway musical, taste dishes from all corners of the globe, and admire the imposing skyscrapers at popular vantage points from Central Park to the Statue of Liberty. The residents of New York represent over 180 countries around the world which makes it one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world. You’re also close to other big East Coast towns like Boston, Philadelphia, and the U.S. capital, Washington D.C.
From Duke Kahanamoku Beach on Oahu to Wailea Beach on Maui and Poipu on Kauai, no other state has as many enticing tropical beaches as Hawaii. The island archipelago features abundant swaying palm trees, turquoise water, and colorful reef systems. Each island has its own claim to beach fame, from Kauai’s waterfall-studded rainforest to Oahu’s peaceful lagoons and the Big Island’s volcanic activity. The tiki drinks, abundant wildlife, and prolific rainbows don’t hurt either.
Budget Conscious: Wisconsin
The Midwest is the best place in the U.S. to find budget destinations and Wisconsin does travel better than most. Explore the trendy, mid-sized cities of Milwaukee and Madison, get some fresh air in the Wisconsin Dells, kayak the Apostle Islands for a taste of the Great Lakes, or swim along the state’s 800 miles of shoreline. The Badger State offers a true taste of America at its best served with heaping helpings of hospitality. Whatever you do, don’t leave without sampling a Wisconsin cheese curd and their signature squeak.
No state does luxury travel (or living for that matter) better than California. From Los Angeles’ rooftop bars and cocktail lounges to a splurge in Napa wine country, your budget will know no bounds in the Golden State. Hide away from the paparazzi – and attempt to spot a celebrity doing the same – at the camera-free Chateau Marmont or simply pretend that you’re a VIP yourself in one of Palm Springs's luxury oases. California also happens to have the most Michelin stars of any state in the country. Make a reservation at one of only six three-star Michelin restaurants like The French Laundry or SingleThread.
For adrenaline junkies and the ultra-adventurous, there’s no better state to explore than America’s Last Frontier. With eight national parks, some so remote that they can only be accessed by boat or seaplane, you’re never far from a truly off-the-beaten-path experience in Alaska. If wildlife is a highlight for you, Alaska’s rugged terrain is sure to wow with its famous salmon run and crowds grizzly bears. Pods of orcas and stately moose will surely make an appearance, too. From glaciers and steaming volcanoes to the northern lights and icy fjords, there’s no better choice than Alaska for thrill seekers in the U.S.
No other American cuisine is as enigmatic as Southern fare and there’s no better place to treat your tastebuds than Louisiana. Both Creole and Cajun cuisine reign supreme in New Orleans. Overflowing muffuletta sandwiches, po boys piled high with fried shrimp, spicy étouffées and jambalaya, and irresistibly powdery beignets with a chicory coffee are just a smattering of what you can expect. Aside from New Orleans, it seems like each parish has its own claim to fame, from andouille sausage to boudin. Louisiana’s food scene has been influenced by French, Caribbean, African, and Hispanic influences making the food here as diverse as it is delicious.
History Buffs: New Mexico
The oldest continually inhabited city in the United States calls New Mexico home, but this isn’t the only reason the Land of Enchantment draws in history buffs. Both First Peoples, Mexican, and European influences can be experienced here. Start in the capital, Santa Fe, exploring its iconic museums like the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian or the fascinating Museum of International Folk Art. The Palace of the Governors, and, possibly the oldest church in the United States, the San Miguel Chapel, are must-sees too. But you’ll need to head out of town to truly experience the depth of New Mexico’s Native American heritage. Explore the ancient Taos Pueblo, thousands of hand-carved petroglyphs in Petroglyph National Monument, and the cliff dwellings at Bandelier National Monument.