12 Best States to Visit, According to Traveler Who’s Been to All 50

I’ve traveled to all 50 states, and some of my favorite ones came as a surprise.

Ashley Nealy headshot against bright green wall


After loving to travel my whole life, I embarked on a challenge to visit all 50 states.

Ashley Nealy


After seeing a friend take on a challenge to visit 50 states by the time they turned 40 years old, I decided to embark on my own travel journey through the US.

I counted up all the states I’d already traveled to, the ones I needed to revisit, and the ones I’d never been to. Eventually, I made my way to all 50.

Here are the 12 states that I enjoyed the most.

Wyoming is home to Yellowstone, one of America’s most interesting national parks.

Ashley Nealy in front of yellowstone sign left, infront of old faithful right


Yellowstone is my favorite US national park, so Wyoming is at the top of my list.

Ashley Nealy


Yellowstone made me question everything I knew about our planet. The majority of the national park — 96%, to be exact — is in Wyoming, making it my favorite state.

From seeing Old Faithful, a world-famous geyser, erupt exactly at the predicted time to admiring the Grand Prismatic Spring‘s beautiful colors up close, the natural wonders within the park were unmatched.

It was quite a sight to see gas fuming from the Earth. Just be sure to read the park signage, and for your own safety, don’t get too close to the geysers’ eruptions or the hot springs’ waters.

Montana’s glaciers are just one of the state’s many chilling, thrilling sights.

Ashley Nealy montana (in front of mountains on both left and right)


I saw massive glaciers in Montana in Glacier National Park.

Ashley Nealy


Montana isn’t the state with the most glaciers (that’s Alaska), but Glacier National Park is still a cool place to check out glaciers and high-up views.

Since I don’t trust my driving skills enough to navigate alongside steep cliffs, I took the Red Bus Tour, which picked me up from my hotel and took me on an eight-hour tour of the park’s east side.

We started at the Continental Divide, stopped for a bite to eat in West Glacier, and then continued our journey through the park, which closely rivals my beloved Yellowstone.

Going-to-the-Sun Road is the most popular route to see St. Mary Lake and Lake McDonald Valley, with stunning mountains in the background.

Vermont is a hidden gem for foodies, and I still think about the ice cream and poutine I ate there.

Ashley Nealy standing in front of ben & Jerry's truck left, plate of fries on right


Vermont was a foodie’s heaven, with a Ben & Jerry’s factory and drool-worthy poutine.

Ashley Nealy


I fell in love with poutine when I visited Vermont. Borrowed from Canada, this dish is made of french fries topped with cheese curds and delicious beef gravy. It was so good that I ordered it as both an appetizer and as a side item.

The state is also home to Cabot Creamery and the Ben and Jerry’s factory.

I visited the Cabot Farmers’ Store to sample cheeses and came across maple syrup, another Vermont staple, when I was there. I learned about maple-sugaring season and grabbed a rare bottle of pure-amber maple syrup to bring back home.

The Ben and Jerry’s factory was closed for tours when I was in Waterbury, Vermont, but I did visit the Flavor Graveyard, where all the brand’s discontinued flavors rested in peace with individualized tombstones.

Of course, I got a couple of ice cream scoops to enjoy as well.

Wisconsin had some of the best lactose-based foods I’ve ever tried.

Ashley Nealy in wisconin, in front of water left, cheese curd right


When I was in Wisconsin, I tried deep-fried and bacon-wrapped cheese curds.

Ashley Nealy


If you couldn’t tell by this point, I’m a dairy lover, so of course, Wisconsin is on my list of the best states. I knew about cheese curds ahead of time, but I’d never had an authentic version of this snack until I visited the Midwestern state.

I had two variations of cheese curds: classic deep-fried and bacon-wrapped. Both were among the best things I’d ever tasted in my life.

I was so in love with this food that I had to get another order at a second restaurant called Dairyland. It also served frozen custard, which was some of the best ice cream I’ve had.

There’s something truly special about Wisconsin’s dairy.

Oregon’s doughnuts and bookstores won me over.

Ashley Nealy eating voodoo doughnuts (left) and standing in front of portland sign (right)


Voodoo Doughnuts is an essential stop on any visit to Portland.

Ashley Nealy


I didn’t know much about Portland, Oregon, before my visit but found out that it was filled with doughnuts and books.

Powell’s City of Books in Portland looked like a supermarket full of books. It rivaled all the other amazing bookstores I’ve been to, which makes sense since it’s the largest independent one in the world.

Voodoo Doughnut is also a Portland staple.

When I was there on a Sunday morning, customers formed a line very early just to get a taste. Inside, there were carousel displays of unique doughnuts. I tried the bacon-maple bar and the limited-edition strawberry crush.

Aside from eating great food, I took a ride on a three-seater bike by the riverwalk and got ice cream in the Pearl District every night.

Minnesota’s Mall of America was massive, with a theme park and over 500 stores inside.

Ashley Nealy in the mall of america in minnesota


The Mall of America has four floors, and each one is over a mile long.

Ashley Nealy


I visited the Mall of America, the nation’s largest shopping mall, in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Aside from boasting a theme park and over 520 stores, the shopping center also had a Lego store with a 34-foot-tall Lego robot.

Each of the mall’s four floors was over a mile long, so I couldn’t walk through the entire shopping center.

However, I did stop at the Crayola Store, the largest collection of Crayola products, to find every color crayon imaginable and, of course, the food court.

South Dakota’s Crazy Horse Memorial is unfinished, but I still got a great view of it.

Ashley Nealy infront of crazy horse memorial in south dakota


The Crazy Horse Memorial was wondrous, even though it remained incomplete.

Ashley Nealy


Construction on the Crazy Horse Memorial, a massive tribute to the Ogalala warrior, began in the Black Hills National Forest in 1948, but issues in the rock have slowed the process. It’s still unfinished.

I was able to check out the side profile of this large mountain carving as I ate at Laughing Water Restaurant.

I ordered a Native American Taco — which had taco meat, refried beans, and other toppings on Indian fry bread — and had a taste of the Tatanka Stew, made with buffalo meat. It was my first time trying that meat.

Idaho is known for its potatoes, and the french fries there didn’t disappoint.

Ashley Nealy in idaho left, fries on right


Idaho is famous for its potatoes, so I tried many different variations of fries during my visit.

Ashley Nealy


I love french fries, so I had to rank Idaho as one of my top states.

I ate at Boise Fry Company, which fittingly operates under the motto of “delicious friends with burgers on the side.”

The menu offered fries made from a variety of potatoes — including russet potatoes, gold potatoes, red potatoes, purple potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes — but I only ordered the Idaho potatoes. However, I got them in every available cut.

They also had 13 different sauces and a number of different seasonings.

When I was in Boise, I also walked alongside the Boise River in search of the famous blue football field at Boise State University’s Albertsons Stadium. Although the field was closed, I was still able to catch a glimpse of the colorful turf.

New Hampshire exposed me to a new side of colonial history.

Ashley Nealy in new hampshire


I learned about riveting history in New Hampshire.

Ashley Nealy


In Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I went on the Black Heritage Trail, which shed a different light on African American history and slavery than I was familiar with from my time in the South.

The Black Heritage Trail consists of about 24 landmarks throughout downtown Portsmouth, each with its own unique story to tell.

I visited in spring, before the popular summer season, and was still able to request a private guided tour.

The tour ended at the African Burying Ground Memorial, which paid tribute to African slave graves that people paved and built over.

Hawaii is hands down my favorite tropical destination.

Ashley Nealy in hawaii, standing in behind fence (left) and posing in front of water (right)


Maui had some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.

Ashley Nealy


I stayed on Maui, an absolutely pristine island.

I took a guided tour down the famous Road to Hana, jokingly nicknamed “The Divorce Highway” for its 60+ miles of curves, turns, and one-way roads.

During this tour, we stopped at many sites including Wai’ānapanapa State Park, a roadside cave, a waterfall, and a beach full of giant sea turtles.

Alaska is filled with action and adventure, and I’m already looking forward to my return.

Ashley Nealy holding Alaska flag in front of winter weather


The final state on my list was Alaska, and I already want to return.

Ashley Nealy


Snow and hot springs may seem like an interesting combination, but that’s exactly what I saw when I visited Fairbanks, Alaska.

Although I originally went to see the Northern Lights, I wasn’t able to catch them since the clouds weren’t cooperating. Luckily, there was much more to do than just look up at the sky. For example, I ate a reindeer-sausage crepe and soaked in the Chena Hot Springs.

Alaska was the last state I visited, but I left knowing that I have to return.

Arizona has a winning combination of great food and gorgeous nature.

Ashley Nealy in arizona


I took a tour bus into the mountains in Arizona.

Ashley Nealy


Scottsdale has no shortage of good eats, like Sugar Bowl, a great ice cream shop to grab a cone and cool off from the Arizona heat.

A short trek from Scottsdale, Montezuma Castle is a fascinating historic indigenous landmark.

Plus, Sedona was absolutely gorgeous. I ventured on a heart-dropping bus tour that took me high up the mountains.

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