Travelling around America was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve always wanted to visit the USA and when moving out there to be an Au Pair for two years, never in a million years did I think I’d end up visiting all 50 states! The thing I loved about my 50 state challenge was how insanely different each state was – the landscapes, the people, the weather, the food; even states next door to each other still had their own unique charm that set them aside from their neighbours. Been reminiscing a lot about my USA travels lately so I figured I’d dive into the ones I loved the most and whittle them down to my official Top 10 – favourite US states!
How can somewhere as gorgeous as Hawaii not make the top 10?! Beautiful beaches, friendly people and awesome activities made for a perfect vacation when I visited. I spent my week in Maui whale watching, snorkelling and accidentally stumbling across a sunset drum circle party on a nude beach – definitely one to remember! The landscapes in Hawaii are incredible – palm trees, red and black sand beaches and bright blue skies were a photographers dream. Overall, my favourite activity was going to a traditional luau and feasting on tasty Hawaiian food – could munch on loco moco every single day!
Tennessee for me can only be described as a music lovers mecca. Nashville and Memphis are both insanely different, but whether you’re wandering around Graceland, visiting the Motown museums in Memphis or country bar crawling down the streets of Nashville – music is the glue that binds the two together. Aside from the bright lights and party vibes on Beale Street, my favourite part of my Tennessee trip was going to a gospel church in Memphis. The atmosphere was amazing and the sense of community was like no other – plus, Al Green was the pastor which added to Tennessee’s rich musical tapestry even more!
Before planning my Utah trip I wasn’t really sure what to expect – but the incredible scenery and national parks definitely weren’t the images I had envisioned! Utah is absolutely huge, so getting around included lots of long car journeys alongside some of the most scenic backdrops I’ve ever seen. I loved the contrast between my time in the built up Salt Lake City learning about Mormon culture compared to being slightly more off the grid and hiking in the stunning Arches & Bryce Canyon National Park. If you’re heading to a neighbouring state afterwards, try and add in a trip to the Four Corners – where you can one-up Mandy Moore in ‘Walk to Remember’ and stand in 4 states at once! Even if it’s apparently not the correct spot – it’s still a cool landmark!
Another state with an abundance of history, culture and nightlife – Louisiana; most specifically down in New Orleans. Cuisine here gets a special mention because the Southern, Cajun, Creole flavours are out of this world! It’s worth coming here with an empty stomach because after a few days of beignets, poboys, muffulettas and bowls of jambalaya you’ll wanna jump on a diet pretty quickly! One of my favourite things in New Orleans was the Mardi Gras museum – an awesome collection of floats and costumes all used in previous parades – way better than any art gallery or museum could showcase it! It made me want to revisit Louisiana when the Mardi Gras parade takes place, but even outside of party season there’s so much to do!
Another state with landscapes that are absolutely breathtaking is the beautiful Arizona. Best known for the world famous Grand Canyon, Arizona doesn’t disappoint. Boating through Antelope Canyon had our jaws dropping at the beauty, and the lesser visited Horseshoe Bend will capture your heart with how stunning it is! Sedona is home to red rocks, amazing sunsets and delicious prickly pear margaritas – a must try if you like your booze! Phoenix was hot, busy and packed with smiling locals more than ready to offer the best restaurant or bar recommendations. Overall, everywhere we went in Arizona we were stunned by the sheer beauty of the area and friendliness of the locals – would go back in a heartbeat!
If I could live anywhere in USA, Washington would easily be in my top 3. Seattle is a huge bustling city with a ton of museums, galleries, shops and stunning views. But, drive just 20 mins outside of the city centre and you’re surrounded nature – forests, mountains, lakes and hiking trails are everywhere, perfect for weekend trips out of the city. I’m a total city girl, but I love nature, especially mountain views and swimming in freshwater lakes – so Washington was perfect for me. If you head to Seattle make sure you grab some food from Pike Place market, check out the museum of pop culture and make the drive out to Olympic national park – it’s beautiful!
Texas – big, bold and bloody brilliant! Texas is the epitome of American stereotypes, huge portions of food, sports fanatics, country music and cowboys – what more could you want from an American trip?! Texas was my first solo trip in USA and I fell in love immediately. My trip in Texas was a huge loop with a bunch of activities – open mic nights in Austin, learning about US history in San Antonio, sightseeing in Dallas, rodeos in Fort Knox and getting my astronaut on at the Space Centre in Houston – it was incredible. Overall though – my favourite Texan experience was my day at a ranch in Bandera, although I’m not planning to be a cowgirl anytime soon, it was pretty tempting!
Florida – the state with 101 things to capture your interest. Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie wanting to experience the crazy rides at Universal Studios, a Minnie Mouse fan wanting to feel the magic of Disney, a sunbather in need of rest and relaxation in Key West or a party animal ready for a big night out in Miami – Florida has it all! I’m a mixture of all of the above, so my trips to Florida were packed to the brim of activities and sightseeing. Universal Studios was easily the best theme park I’ve ever been to – well deserving of the crazy high price point. Eating and drinking around the world at Epcot was crazy fun for a wanderlust (and food) addict like me, how else can you say you’ve been to 10 countries in less than 24 hours?!
2. New York
I first visited New York as part of a college trip back in 2010 and was astounded by the city that never sleeps. It’s the best place any city lover can go – which is why a few years later in 2015 I decided to become an au pair in America just so I could be that little bit closer to this incredible city! See a show on Broadway, take a walk through Central Park, go up the Empire State Building and be wowed by views across the city – and that’s just Manhattan! Take the trip way up North and see Niagara Falls up close, jump on a ferry to Staten Island and grab a pizza slice, sit on a stoop at a Brooklyn brownstone, binge buffalo wings in Buffalo or ride the ferris wheel at Coney Island. New York is one of my favourite spots in America – bonus points if you visit over a snowy Christmas and get the magic of ice skating by the Rockefeller tree, catching a Rockettes Christmas show as well as seeing the 5th avenue Christmas displays. Can you tell how much NYC has my heart yet?!
1. New Jersey
Dirty Jerz – probably not top of a lot of people’s fave states, and yes maybe I’m biased cos I lived there for 2 years but I LOVE it! It’s a perfect mix of suburbia and city, busy but calm, well known but under the radar. New Jersey definitely gets a worse rep than it deserves, thankfully it’s nothing like Jersey Shore depicts it as! It’s full of a variety of landscapes, communities and activities – it’s close enough to travel out to both New York and Pennsylvania and it’s honestly a perfect place to live. Go bar crawling in Hoboken, gamble in Atlantic City, take a hike at the Delaware Water Gap, sunbathe in Cape May, grab a bite at one of the amazing cafes and restaurants in the suburbs of Cranford, Montclair or Westfield, thrill seek at Six Flags, visit Eagle rock reservation in West Orange, party in New Brunswick, see the city skyline from Jersey City, feel like an Ivy League student at Princeton, wander through Watchung reservation – do it all! I’d love to move back there one day because aside from all the fun things to do there – it’s sense of community and suburban lifestyle make it an ideal place to settle down and enjoy life. New Jersey will always be my second home and should definitely be higher up on people’s must visit lists!
Have you been to America?! What states have I missed that should have made the top 10?! What states would you remove if you had the chance?! Drop a comment below and share the best states YOU’VE visited!