The United States is a big and beautiful country with a wide variety of amazing landscapes. Scattered throughout the country there is a mix of bustling big cities and laid back rural towns that add to the country’s diversity. Many people who visit the United States for the first time, or live here and haven’t traveled that extensively, don’t realize just how big and diverse the United States really is.
The fifty states that make up the United States are different, and in some aspects, they can be very different. In this five-part series of articles, I am going to help you get acquainted with the fifty states that make up the United States of America. By outlining the top travel destination or event in each state, I hope to teach you a little bit about that state and perhaps give you some ideas for future travel plans. I will go in alphabetical order, highlighting ten states in each article. In this article, I am focusing on Alabama thru Georgia. You can find links to the other articles below. I hope you enjoy!
- Part 1 – Alabama to Georgia
- Part 2 – Hawaii to Maryland – Coming Soon!
- Part 3 – Massachusetts to New Jersey – Coming Soon!
- Part 4 – New Mexico to South Carolina – Coming Soon!
- Part 5 – South Dakota to Wyoming – Coming Soon!
The Gulf Coast
Alabama’s Gulf Coast is a beautiful area that has an abundance of great activities for tourists to enjoy. If you are looking to spend some time outside, visitors can enjoy some water sports, guided boat trips, golfing, deep-sea fishing, and even some amazing adventure zip lines in the area. One of the prettiest areas in the Gulf Coast region is undoubtedly the Gulf State Park, which has beautiful fine sand beaches, backwoods trails, abundant wildlife, and a beautiful freshwater lake. For those that are looking for additional entertainment, the Gulf Coast Zoo and the Waterville USA water park are also fun options.
Some other great things to see while you are in the state include the Tuskegee Institute, which was founded by freed slave Booker T. Washington after the Civil War for the education of African Americans. The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, which is located in the historic Carver Theatre, pays homage to the history of American Jazz. If you are looking for some additional outdoor activities, the Little River Canyon National Preserve has some great hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking opportunities for you to enjoy.
Glacier Bay National Park
When most people think of Alaska, they think of mountains and glaciers. There is no better place to see the beauty of Alaska’s glaciers than at Glacier Bay National Park. Covering 3.3 million acres of pristine wilderness, Glacier Bay National park has some of the most beautiful mountains, jaw-dropping glaciers, and rugged coastline that you will find in Alaska. Visitors to the park can take a guided boat ride up to the glaciers, try sea kayaking, go rafting, do some whale watching, or even try their hand at mountaineering. No matter what draws you Alaska, Glacier Bay National Park will keep you wanting to come back for more.
If you are going to be staying in Alaska for an extended period, the state has no shortage of things to do. This is especially true if you are an outdoor enthusiast. In addition to Glacier Bay National Park, there are seven other national parks in Alaska. Most notable of these is Denali National Park and Preserve, Kenai Fjords National Park, Wrangell – St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and Katmai National Park and Preserve. All of these parks are amazingly beautiful and definitely worthy of a trip to Alaska.
I am guessing that most of you expected me to put the Grand Canyon National Park as my must-see location for Arizona. If you did, you wouldn’t be wrong. In fact, there are countless must-see places in Arizona that I could recommend. In addition to the Grand Canyon, there is Horseshoe Bend, Saguaro National Park, Monument Valley, Petrified Forest National Park, Lake Havasu, and countless others. However, I decided to go with one of my favorite places in Arizona, which is Antelope Canyon.
Up until about a few decades ago, very few people knew much about Antelope Canyon. The canyon sits on private tribal land and social media didn’t exist to plaster pictures of this epic slot canyon all over the Internet. Now that pictures of the canyon have started to spread like wildfire, it is hard to find an opening on a tour to see this amazing work of mother nature. If you want to visit, I would recommend that you book your tour well in advance as spots fill up really fast.
Some other areas in Arizona that are worthwhile to explore are Sedona, which is a town at higher altitude in Arizona that is world renown for mountain biking, rock climbing, and its high-end resorts. It is a beautiful area. The Painted Desert is also a very beautiful area. If you are in that area, make sure you stop by and see the Canyon de Chelly National Monument. It is in close proximity to Monument Valley, so it is easy to combine those into one trip. Finally, along the border with Mexico is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is a great place to do some desert hiking and star gazing in the Sonoran Desert.
Hot Springs National Park
Known as “the American spa”, Hot Springs National Park is one of the best-kept secrets of the US National Park System and one of the best places to visit when you are in the state of Arkansas. The park lies approximately 55-miles (or 89 kilometers) west of the state capital and is nestled in the foothills of the heavily Ouachita Mountains. The 47 natural hot springs release approximately a million gallons of naturally heated water each day. In addition to being able to take a hot bath, the park also offers countless miles of beautiful hiking trails, beautiful scenic drives thru the mountains, and plenty of picnic spots.
Some additional spots in Arkansas that are amazing to visit are the Ozark Mountains and the Ozark National Forest. Within the mountains, you will find Mount Magazine, which is the state’s highest point. It is an easy climb for beginners so everyone can enjoy it. Within the mountains, you will also find Eureka Springs, which was founded as a mountain health resort and is considered one of North America’s best preserved 19th Century towns.
If you would like to try your hand at mining, the Crater of Diamonds State Park is the world’s only public diamond mine. The diamonds are few-and-far-between, but if you do find one, you get to keep it. Finally, if you are into history, the Historic Washington State Park is the preserved settlement where Davy Crockett and Sam Houston stopped on their way to fight in the Alamo. That is a pretty big piece of American history you can explore.
California is another state where I could list dozens of amazing things to see without having to give it much thought. The state has nine national parks, including the infamous Yosemite National Park, Redwood National Park, Sequoia National Park, Death Valley National Park, and Joshua Tree National Park. In addition, it has some amazing national monuments within the state’s borders, such as Muir Woods National Monument. However, I believe one of the most underrated areas inside California is undoubtedly the Big Sur region of coastline.
This rugged stretch of coastline between the cities of Carmel and San Simeon has some of the most beautiful coastlines in the state of California. The winding and scenic highway 1 takes you along a coast that has an abundance of state park land, sea-side cliffs, and beautiful cypress trees, and an abundance of wildlife.
On the north end of Big Sur, there are plenty of world class golf courses, including the infamous Pebble Beach golf course, as well as plenty of great shops and restaurants in the town of Carmel. Just to the South of Big Sur, you can see a popular Northern Elephant Seal rookery that is typically filled with giant elephant seals.
If you are into theme parks, California has a big selection of those to choose from. Between Knott’s Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, California’s Great America, the Disneyland, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Disney California Adventure Park, there is a park for everyone of all ages and interests.
Ski in the Rockies
If the state of Colorado is known for anything above all else, it is known for its mountains. With the heart of the Southern Rocky Mountains located inside the state, Colorado is one of the most mountainous states in the continental United States. One of the byproducts of having so many beautiful mountains is an abundance of amazing ski resorts. Colorado has those in abundance. With world renown ski resorts like Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Keystone, Steamboat, and countless others, Colorado is the epicenter of the American ski scene.
While you are in Colorado, the state also has some amazing national parks that you can check out. Rocky Mountain National Park and the Great Sand Dunes National Park are my favorites, but there is also Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and Mesa Verde National Park that are also amazing to visit. If you are in the Denver area, the Garden of the Gods and Red Rock Amphitheater are also well worth checking out. Red Rock Amphitheater is one of the coolest outdoor amphitheaters in the world.
Long Island Sound
With its rolling hills and beautiful coastline, the state of Connecticut is a gem of the Eastern seaboard of the United States. There are many amazing things to see and do in Connecticut, but one of my favorites is to check out the Long Island Sound. This tidal estuary of the Atlantic Ocean is home to some of Connecticut’s most vibrant cities including Bridgeport, New London, Stamford, Norwalk, and New Haven. On the other side of Long Island Sound lies the Bronx in New York City.
When you visit the Long Island Sound, make sure you take the time to explore the many islands in the Sound. You will find some amazing opportunities to do some sea kayaking, eat some fresh lobster at the Guilford Lobster Pound, take a guided boat cruise, take a lighthouse tour, and even find a pirate adventure.
While you are in Connecticut, there are some additional places that you should check out. If you are into shopping, then the main avenue in Greenwich is widely considered the Rodeo Drive of the Northeast United States. The number of high-end shops is impressive. For those who are fans of unique and interesting architecture, Architect Philip Johnson’s glass house in New Canaan is pretty impressive to see. It is considered one of the top landmarks in Connecticut.
For those who are looking for a little more outdoor adventure, the Talcott Mountain State Park near Bloomfield has some spectacular hiking trails that can also be used for biking and cross-country skiing, as well as some breathtaking views. You can also check out the New England Air Museum at Windsor Locks to see more than 80 historic aircraft. They even have a flight simulator on-site that you can check out.
With the distinction of being the first state to ratify the United States Constitution, you can say that Delaware is the oldest state in the United States. However, that isn’t the limit of the state’s charm. There are countless things to see and do in the state of Delaware. My favorite happens to be Bethany Beach.
This small coastal town has everything you would ever want in a quiet beach vacation destination and more. A wide beach boardwalk is perfect for evening strolls along the beach and nearby Delaware Seashore State Park has some outstanding windsurfing, horseback riding, beach volleyball, and clamming and fishing opportunities. To the South, Fenwick Island State Park has some great surf-fishing spots, some amazing sand dunes to explore, and lots of places to lay on the beach or go swimming.
In addition to the Bethany Beach area, there are many other amazing things to see and do in the state of Delaware. For history buffs, the city of Dover is steeped in American history as it was one of the hubs of the American revolution. There are several statues and other landmarks around the city that highlight the state’s role as the first US state.
If you are looking for some more beautiful scenery, the Brandywine Creek State Park has plenty of that. This nature preserve has a beautiful Tulip Tree forest and a marshland that is great to hike thru, as well as a nature center and countless recreation activities. The state’s newest state park, Auburn Heights Preserve, allows visitors to take a trip back in time to see what the world was like when steam-powered cars roamed the streets. With the world’s largest collection of steam-powered cars, it is a sight to behold.
The Cape Henlopen State Park has an absolutely breathtaking water tower that attracts a lot of visitors each year, as well as a World War II-era tower that is a great piece of history. If you are looking for a great hiking trail while in the area, the Junction and Breakway Trail, which starts just outside the park, is a great trail to hike in the warmer months and snow-shoe or ski in the winter months.
While there is an endless number of things to see and do in the state of Florida, it would be almost criminal not to highlight Disney World as my top attraction for the state. With a total of nine destinations, including six theme parks, the Disney World complex in Florida is one of the premier family vacation destinations in the entire world. In addition to the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom theme parks, Disneyworld also includes the Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach water parks. When you aren’t spending time in the parks, you can also enjoy the Disney Springs shopping area, ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, and the Disney Boardwalk for additional entertainment.
However, the fun that can be had in the state of Florida is not just limited to theme parks and water parks. Florida has a countless number of fun things to see and explore outside of Disney World as well. If you are in Southern Florida, Miami has an amazing nightlife and some of the best beaches in the United States. It is also in close proximity to the Everglades National Park where you can do some hiking the park’s amazing trails, take an airboat ride in the wetlands, and enjoy the abundance of wildlife that lives in the park.
Southern Florida is also home to Biscayne National Park, which is one of the best places in the United States to go snorkeling and scuba diving. The wreckages you and explore and the marine wildlife you can see makes the park one of the top tourist destinations in the state. While in Southern Florida you are also close to the Florida Keys, which are a beautiful collection of islands off the tip of Florida. Again, this is a prime area for snorkeling, scuba diving, and boating. If you have the time, you can visit Dry Tortugas National Park, which is an old fort that was established on an Island off the Florida Keys. It is a beautiful fort that is well worth exploring.
The Tampa Bay area, which sits South of Orlando, is home to the Florida Aquarium, Busch Gardens Theme Park, and the Tampa Bay History Center. All are excellent attractions that are well worth checking out. On the Atlantic Coast North of Miami, Fort Lauderdale has some of the best beaches and boating canals in the state of Florida. It is a big spring break area, so the restaurants, nightlife, and shopping are superb.
For the sports enthusiasts, you can always make a stop in Daytona Beach. Not only does Daytona have beautiful beaches and great nightlife, but it is home to the Daytona International Speedway where the Daytona 500 is held every year. Finally, for those interested in science and space, making a stop in Cape Canaveral to see the Kennedy Space Center can be an experience to remember for a lifetime. This is where NASA has launched all of its manned spacecraft since the 1960s, so it has a lot of great space history there to explore.
The state of Georgia is blessed with an abundance of beautiful landscapes, amazing cities, and friendly people. Like most of the states in the United States, there are many fun and amazing things to see and do in the state. However, when it came time to pick the location or event I would highlight in Georgia, my mind went right to the Okefenokee Swamp. It is such a unique and interesting landscape and something that you won’t find in my other states in the United States. It is the most ecologically intact swamp in North America, which makes it a special place.
There is also no shortage of things to do in Okefenokee. In addition to taking a walk on the Chesser Island Homestead/Boardwalk and taking a drive on the scenic Swamp Island Drive, canoeing, kayaking, and wildlife watching are popular activities inside the swamp.
Outside of the swampland, the state of Georgia is filled with other amazing things to see and do. One of the more well-known and popular destinations inside the state is the city of Atlanta. Considered by many to be the capital of the Southern United States, Atlanta is a bustling city with a vibrant nightlife, a great public transportation system, and a seemingly endless supply of things to do. If you are downtown, Peachtree Street intersects the high-rise buildings and is a great avenue for exploring the city. There are many great shopping and restaurant options to choose from in the downtown area.
You will find Georgia Tech University in the downtown area, which is a beautiful campus to explore. On the Northwestern edge of the city is Centennial Olympic Park, which was built for the 1996 Olympic Games, and the Georgia Aquarium. Both are amazing places that draw a lot of tourists to the area.
Outside of Atlanta, the city of Savannah is another destination that draws a lot of tourists annually. This fabled city is famous for its grand mansions, historic statues, and beautiful moss-covered trees. It is also home to Old Savannah, which is the largest national historic landmark district in the United States. It includes over one hundred city blocks and two dozen parks and other green spaces to explore.
Georgia also has an abundance of parklands for visitors to explore. Stone Mountain Park, which is located just North of Atlanta, was established to honor and remember the soldiers of the American Civil War. Visitors can ride a vintage steam train that will take them around the mountain that has the faces of several Confederate Army leaders, including Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, carved in it. The Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park is a historic Civil War battlefield that visitors can visit to learn the history of the bloody war.
For those of you who are sports fans, a trip to Augusta National Golf Course is a great destination to visit. Home to the Master’s Golf Tournament, it is one of the most iconic golf courses in the world. Inside the nearby Augusta Museum of History, you can learn about 12,000 years of area history that includes Native American artifacts and relics from the time when slavery haunted the area.