I’ve visited every state in the US multiple times — and some are simply too overhyped.
If you’re headed to New England, consider skipping New Hampshire in favor of Maine or Vermont.
Colorado is amazing, but there’s more to explore in the American West.
Every state is worth visiting, but some of them haven’t totally lived up to their hype for me.
I visited my 50th state at the age of 13, and have returned to each multiple times since.
Whether on trips with friends and family or in my career as a travel writer (or both), I’ve had memories and adventures all across the US.
And though I firmly maintain that there is no bad state to visit, I do believe that there are some states that get an exorbitant amount of hype they may not totally deserve, and I’m willing to name names.
Keep in mind that inclusion on this list means that your state has a reputation as a very cool place to visit — something other states, including my own beloved native New Jersey, would envy.
And since travel is ultimately subjective I reserve the right to fall in and out of love with every state as I revisit each one again and again.
I suggest visiting Maine’s coast or Vermont’s mountains before checking out New Hampshire.
Trips to New England are always a good idea in my book. But New Hampshire’s neighboring states, Maine and Vermont, outshine it as a travel destination.
Some devotees swear by the charms of New Hampshire’s lake region — Lake Winnipesaukee, in particular. As beautiful as it is, I recommend heading up a little further to the rugged and remote Moosehead Lake in the Maine Highlands for a truly immersive wilderness experience.
If it’s mountains you’re after, I suggest the Green Mountains of Vermont, which is home to charming mountain towns, more ski resorts, and the best terrain on the East Coast, in my opinion.
If it’s the seaside you’re looking for, I’d say bypass the 13-mile coast of New Hampshire for the hundreds of miles of rugged splendor in Maine that overlook the Atlantic Ocean.
Arizona is one of the more overhyped destinations in the Southwest.
Many are drawn to Arizona’s mild climate and natural beauty. But in recent years, I feel like its popular cities like Scottsdale and Sedona have become pretty overrun with tourists. And the steep prices and crowded hiking trails offer the opposite of rest and relaxation.
Why not check out another Southwest city, instead? If it’s transcendence you’re after, peruse the dazzling street art in New Mexico’s Santa Fe or Nevada’s Reno — the latter home to many for whom Burning Man is more of a lifestyle than a festival.
The same goes for hedonistic bachelorette weekends — if you’re committing to techno pool parties in broad daylight, you may as well swap Scottsdale for Las Vegas. Go big, then go home.
Everyone knows about Colorado — consider visiting a lesser-appreciated state instead.
Colorado residents, consider it a tribute to your state that the hype surrounding its mountains and resorts is such that the surrounding environs remain criminally underrated.
Although the Colorado Rockies are indeed formidable, the Tetons in Wyoming are younger, and their jagged peaks have not yet been totally rounded down by erosion and time.
Colorado has no shortage of attractions in hotspots from Aspen to Vail to Denver — but if you want a more remote and authentic cowboy experience (not to mention the best skiing in the country), also consider visiting Wyoming and Montana.
I feel like Oregon has been getting all of the publicity in the Pacific Northwest.
Although the majesty of Oregon’s Crater Lake and the stark drama of its monochromatic coast is not to be dismissed, I think its most popular city, Portland, is overrated.
Known as a hipster paradise for decades, Portland is now hailed as the must-visit urban destination in the Pacific Northwest — though I think the city often feels crowded, expensive, and pretentious.
I suggest you consider visiting Seattle, Washington, instead. Famous for its coffee culture and grunge music scene, Seattle’s nightlife is more closely concentrated, so you can bar-hop from live-music venues to wine bars in a single evening. (Nearby Bellevue is a haven for local vintners).
Seattle is also closer to the rugged wilderness that defines the region. Whereas Portland is an hour’s drive to the mountains or the coast, Seattle is located on the coast of the Puget Sound and is only a 20-minute drive from the Issaquah Alps, at the foothills of the Cascade Mountain range.
When visiting New England, head further north than Connecticut.
Connecticut has several aesthetically-enhancing geographical advantages, like its coastline overlooking the Long Island sound, rural farmland towards the northwestern portion of the state, and proximity to New York City.
But sometimes a state needs a couple of obvious flaws or idiosyncrasies to truly cohere as a magical destination.
Connecticut — one of the richest states in the nation that’s perfectly situated as the entrance to New England along the Eastern Seaboard — simply lacks grit.
If you want posh-meets-prep sophistication, head south to New York City‘s Upper East Side. If you want nautical charm, drive east toward Rhode Island. If you want real New England bravado — old salts, Red Sox fans, and Irish pubs — visit Massachusetts.
Of course, the state has its own quintessential charms — especially the beach town of Madison, the gorgeous Mayflower Inn, and the Gold Coast — but, as someone from the tri-state area, Connecticut is less enticing than bewildering in its relentless perfection.
There’s more to the Midwest than Missouri.
When it comes to the heartland, Missouri gets tons of attention for being a cosmopolitan capital and for its cultural legacy as the birthplace of Kansas City jazz and the St. Louis blues.
But although I admire its iconic Gateway Arch and music, I prefer to spend my time exploring the nearby countryside.
I believe the Midwest is best appreciated in more rural areas — driving through small towns or heading out into the great outdoors. If you’re looking for prairies of the purest perfection, drive further west to the bordering states of Kansas and Nebraska. The horizon is endless, with golden fields rolling beneath an enormous blue sky.
I once spent hours driving across vast fields of grass and prairie beneath the beams of a vivid rainbow in Nebraska, and it may have been one of the most gorgeous sights I’ve ever seen in the US.
I’d skip Pennsylvania on a road trip up the East Coast.
Finally, we return to the East Coast for our last section to visit the famous land of Benjamin Franklin, Grace Kelly, and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Pennsylvania is not only home to these three American icons, but also to the nation at large. It’s a state where America began. But it’s necessarily the state you want to start your vacation if said vacation is a road trip.
As a child riding in the backseat of my parents’ car on family road trips, I always felt like Pennsylvania went on forever, from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to a vast expanse of rolling hills and Amish country.
Perhaps because I’m from a bordering state of New Jersey, the landscape felt less impressive and too familiar. But even now as an adult, I believe that if you’re road-tripping from the South up to New England, you’re better off sticking to the coast.
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