We’ve all heard of the “popular” states like New York and California that draw hundreds of millions of tourists every year, but what about the ones we sometimes forget about, like Delaware or Oklahoma? As with any place, certain areas and attractions will draw more attention than others, for reasons good or bad. But that doesn’t discredit the greatness of those lesser-known. And this definitely applies when talking about the United States. Each one has its own bit of history and culture that make it unique and different. Because of this, it can be argued that every state is worth at least a short visit, just some aren’t quite as popular as others.
However, the issue is that popularity definitely influences which states one hears more about and, in turn, which states we can easily forget about. Simply seeing or hearing a state name like New York or Hawaii over and over can be enough to make it seem more desirable as a travel destination and thus determine the likelihood of one visiting. Perhaps if we saw more media coverage or TV shows set in places like Missouri or West Virginia, they would gain popularity and we would be more inclined to remember them. So, without further ado, here are 10 of the most popular states in the US, and 10 more that we may sometimes forget about.
20 Missouri (Forgotten): The Show-Me State
Missouri is an often-forgotten state, but it has much to offer. The Ozark Mountains, Mark Twain National Forest, St. Louis Zoo, and wonderful waterfalls, hills and caves throughout the state. The Show-Me State is very spread out and also the home to the Gateway Arch which overlooks the Mississippi River. You can catch a tram to the top of the arch or cruise around below in riverboats. Missouri is also known to have excellent food and a fun nightlife in places like Jefferson City and Branson. Just watch out for tornados in the north!
19 Arizona (Popular): The Grand Canyon State
Arizona is popular for many reasons. Its Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend, the Four Corners, and much more! The desert climate beautiful mountains make for some of the most striking sunrises and sunsets. With the year-round warm weather, Arizona provides a spectacular scene for swimming, hiking, camping, and countless other outdoor activities. Head up north in the winter, and you’ll find more than enough snow for skiing and snowboarding. Arizona has a bit of everything and it is no wonder it is among ten of the most popular states in the US.
18 Oklahoma (Forgotten): The Sooner State
The Sooner State may be on the lesser-popular list of states due to its hot and humid summers, chilling winters, and general spaciousness of the state itself. Tornados and generally undesirable extreme weather conditions can make getting around and having an active lifestyle difficult. But the great plains, mountains and friendly people may help boost the state’s popularity. For now, perhaps the most popular thing about Oklahoma is the musical.
17 Virginia (Popular): Old Dominion
From its rich colonial history to its beautiful rolling hills, Virginia has much to offer anyone passing through. When in the Commonwealth of Virginia, one can explore the arts and music of Richmond, take a trip to the ocean, hike the mountains of Shenandoah, spend the day at Busch Gardens theme park, or just hang out by the James River. The bays and islands of Virginia are also worth a scenic stay, as well as the famous four-season Wintergreen Resort. Enjoy skiing, camping, hiking, and all things nature, history and art in Old Dominion.
16 West Virginia (Forgotten): The Mountain State
Ahh West Virginia… The overlooked younger sibling to Virginia. While the Mountain State lives up to its name and is full of awesome mountains, rivers and countryside, it seems as though the sheer amount of countryside of the state is enough to deter popularity. Perhaps due to the ruralness or difficult job market, West Virginia has unfortunately ranked quite low on every mental health category according tohealth.com. This doesn’t discredit the amount of history or beauty of West Virginia, just maybe suggests that a curious visitor simply stop by and pass through.
15 Colorado (Popular): The Centennial State
As one of the most beautiful states in the US, Colorado has some of the most amazing scenery you can find in America. On top of the Rocky Mountains, Great Plains, and Colorado Plateau, this state is full of canyons, rivers, dunes, prairies, etc. But if you need a break from all the breathtaking nature, Denver’s big city atmosphere is right there in the heart of the state. The weather is pleasantly warm in the summer, and snowy in winter, perfect for summer campfires and winter shredding. The nature of Colorado has made it a very popular place to live and vacation.
14 Connecticut (Forgotten): The Constitution State
Connecticut is often stereotyped as a rich person’s state where people talk with accents and Yale students go to school. Perhaps the Constitution State is very underrated as outsiders are unfamiliar with its four seasons of weather, charming towns and bustling cities, acres of farmland, and various historical attractions. If tempted to give Connecticut a chance, one may be inclined to check out the popular Seaport museum, Long Island Sound, Mystic Aquarium, Yale’s New Haven, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, and more. Perhaps the stereotypes of Connecticut can be broken and one may view it as the locals do.
13 Washington (Popular): The Evergreen State
Home to Seattle, Starbucks and the widely-held stereotype of constant rain and gloom! Washington State is so much more than coffee and hipsters though. The state contains some of the most beautiful nature in the Pacific Northwest. National and state parks attract countless hikers and campers year-round, powder during the winter months is some of the best for skiing and snowboarding, and not to mention the nightlife and music scene. Whether coming to the west side for Seattle, mountains and that beautiful coast, or the east side for miles and miles of orchards, apples and desert-y Spokane, there’s always something amazing to see or do in Washington.
12 Nebraska (Forgotten): The Cornhusker State
Frequently deemed “flat” and “boring,” Nebraska remains one of the 10 most-forgotten states in the US. However, to the contrary, the Cornhusker State has a wonderful nature scene and a handful of attractions that may make you think otherwise. For example, Chimney Rock, the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, Scotts Bluff National Park, and the Calamus River. As with most places, there is usually more than meets the eye. Locals sometimes claim that it may seem boring at the start, but Nebraska definitely gets “better” and more exciting the further west you go. Might be worth a try!
11 Hawaii (Popular): The Aloha State
Ahh, the Aloha State. Famous for its island paradise vibe, this honeymoon destination is definitely one of the top 10 most popular states. From luaus and surfing to rich culture and cuisine, Hawaii is one of the most beautiful states to visit in the US. Depending on which island you venture to, you can be anywhere from super touristy to super local and remote. Hawaii is generally thought of as an expensive place to live and vacation but if you have the means, you’ll easily find out why so many people vacation to the islands every year.
10 Iowa (Forgotten): The Hawkeye State
Iowa may come to mind when thinking about presidential primaries and corn fields, which may explain why it is often forgotten at times outside the election. The Hawkeye State has beautiful lakes, great land for camping, fishing and hunting, theme parks like Adventure Land, and much more. But beyond nature and attractions, Iowa has recently received Top 10 rankings in infrastructure, health care, education, opportunity and quality of life according to usnews.com. Based on these ratings, it is quite possible that Iowa may make its way up to the Top 10 most popular states in years to come.
9 New York (Popular): The Empire State
An obviously popular one, the Empire State is home to Niagara Falls, the Statue of Liberty, Central Park… And, while it has been termed a “concrete jungle,” New York is so much more than just a city. Beyond the New York we typically see on TV, there are national parks, the Great Lakes, beaches, orchards, wineries, several mountains and lookout spots perfect for hiking. This state is bustling with activity, history, scenery and life. New York has a lot to offer, it just depends on the type of experience you want to have!
8 Idaho (Forgotten): The Gem State
A common thought that comes to mind when one hears the word “Idaho” is Washington’s neighbor with the potatoes. According to their license plates, the potatoes are quite “famous” in Idaho. But the Gem State is so much more than starchy spuds. The mountainous to desert like lands of Idaho are home to places like Coeur d’Alene, famous for its awesome views and scenic atmosphere. Hidden Springs, American Falls, and various lakes and rivers make Idaho a nature-lovers dream. Unfortunately, too-often forgotten, Idaho is actually a scenic beauty of a gem and definitely worth a visit.
7 Texas (Popular): The Lone Star State
Being a very large state, it’s no wonder that Texas has a wide variety of people and cultures throughout. The Lone Star State combines scenic desert to the west, southern charm in the east, and diverse forests, mountains, cities, deserts and beaches scattered throughout. Known for its rich culture and tasty food, Texas is much more than just cowboys and steak. If you have enough time to travel throughout Texas, you can expect to experience a little bit of everything in this state. Varying climate, people, culture, food, etc. Plus, everything is bigger in Texas!
6 Indiana (Forgotten): The Hoosier State
A state with a reputation for farmland and automotives, Indiana is not the most popular of the 50. Besides being the birthplace of Michael Jackson, it can be said that Indiana doesn’t have much else of a reputation. However, locals will tell you that the Hoosier State is quite underrated. There are many things to do and places to visit such as the Indianapolis Zoo, Children’s museum, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Lucas Oil Stadium, Fort Wayne, etc. So why not give Indiana a chance and check out a place like Indianapolis and see what the locals are talking about?
5 Nevada (Popular): The Silver State
With the Grand Canyon just next door and the beautiful Mojave Desert just outside the city, Nevada has a wide range of natural spectacles that will easily take your breath away. Probably most famous for being the home to Sin City, Nevada also has countless opportunities to immerse yourself in night life, casinos, and parties. But beyond the slot machines, there is also comedy, magic, music, and shows of all kinds. So, whether visiting for anything from spring break or a crazy weekend to a scenic road trip, Nevada will provide an interesting mix of lights and nature to discover.
4 Delaware (Forgotten): The First State
Even though it was the very first “state,” Delaware still ranks low in popularity and can oftentimes end up being forgotten. However, The First State is home to some of the best beaches in the US, 18th century colonial landmarks, Lewes, the waterside district of Wilmington, and a fairly popular state fair. Delaware weather is fairly mild in the spring and fall. But with its hot summers, Delaware provides an excellent climate for its popular beaches such as Rehoboth, Bethany and Dewey beaches. And aside from cold winters, the only other weather to look out for is the occasional hurricane!
3 Florida (Popular): The Sunshine State
For better or for worse, Florida remains one of the most popular states in the US when it comes to vacation. This peninsula of humidity, fancy resorts and Disney World has become a “retirement state” and popular vacation spot. Surrounded by beautiful beaches and waters on three sides, Florida is in no shortage of blue water and white sand. From Miami beach, to the Keys, to the Everglades, Florida will not disappoint when searching for a great water destination. Rich in nightlife as well, you can definitely have yourself a great little time while in the Sunshine State.
2 South Carolina (Forgotten): The Palmetto State
Some refer to South Carolina as similar to North Carolina, just more people. However, like all others, the Palmetto State has its own characteristics and aspects that separate it from its neighbor to the north. For one, South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach ranks among the most popular beaches in the US. The Palmetto State also has great fishing, hunting, and deep history. Though the extreme weather may make one weary, the subtropical beaches, rich history, and memorable historic cities should be enough to warrant at least a visit.
1 California (Popular): The Golden State
Another obviously popular state... Cali has everything from Disneyland to Joshua Tree. Dotted with iconic national parks, golden bridges, Hollywood, giant redwoods, and more, California has much to offer anyone from the reality show-obsessed to the hipster PNW nature lover. With many a music festival, as well as beautiful coastline beaches and weather, California is a place where there is always something going on. So, the next time you find yourself in Cali, maybe check out a sunset on the water, spot an actor in an LA café, or just take a drive and keep on California dreamin’.