The personal-finance site WalletHub recently ranked all 50 states on their suitability for summer road trips. The study measured 32 factors ranging from number of historic sites per capita to “Idealness of Summer Weather”.
I’ve road tripped in each of the top four states during the summertime. They are:
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Texas became the 28th state in 1845. Its name comes from the native Caddo word for friend. Its capital is Austin.
Its nickname, the “Lone Star State”, refers to the single star on its flag, which was adopted in 1836, when Texas gained its independence from Mexico. Texas boasts a unique history; the expression “Six Flags over Texas” refers to the banners of the sovereign nations that have claimed its land: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, the United States of America, and the Confederate States of America.
Popular attractions in Texas include:
- Museum of Fine Arts in Houston
- NASA Space Center Houston
- Houston Museum of Natural Science
- San Antonio River Walk
- The Alamo in San Antonio
- State Capitol in Austin
- LBJ Presidential Library in Austin
- Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas
- George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas
- Southfork Ranch outside Dallas
New York was one of the 13 original colonies. It takes its name from the Duke of York, who later became James II, king of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Its capital is Albany.
Legends conflict on how New York achieved its nickname, the “Empire State”. George Washington once called it “the Seat of the Empire”. But it was the Erie Canal that made the nickname a reality. Completed in 1825, the Canal provided a waterway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, making the transportation of commercial goods much more efficient. As a result, New York City became the busiest port in America.
New York State is nothing like New York City. It’s beautiful, bucolic, peaceful, pastoral, and pleasant. The people are friendly and polite. Upstate New York is laden with mountains, rivers, lakes, springs, and falls. It’s the only state on both the East Coast and the Great Lakes. It spans early American history, as the 18th-century sites in the eastern part of the state give way to the 19th century as one travels westward, following the path of America’s expansion.
I have road tripped around New York several times, including twice in a single summer.
Interesting sites in New York include:
- Saratoga National Historic Park
- National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown
- Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown
- H. Lee White Maritime Museum in Oswego
- Fort Ontario State Historic Site in Oswego
- Joseph Smith Family Farm in Palmyra and Manchester
- Old Fort Niagara in Youngstown
- Niagara Falls
- Rockwell Museum in Corning
- Corning Museum of Glass
North Carolina was also one of the 13 original colonies. It was named after King Charles I of England. Its capital is Raleigh.
The precise provenance of its nickname, the “Tar Heel State”, is disputed, but it refers in part to the tar that was produced from its lush pine trees.
Daniel J. Findley, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, points out, “On the western side of the state, the Cherohala Skyway features amazing views of the Cherokee and Nantahala National Forests (each lends part of their name to the name of the road) which is flanked by scenic overlooks and access to hiking trails. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a world-famous scenic mountain parkway that ties 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. And, in between, there are many scenic drives which include natural areas, small towns, pottery, wine, and more.”
The southern state is populated with warm and welcoming people. I have driven through North Carolina many times, from college weekends to visit a friend in Raleigh to grown-up getaways to the Outer Banks, one of the most beautiful places in the eastern United States.
Fun places in North Carolina include:
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Mint Museum of Art in Charlotte
- Historic Rosedale Plantation in Charlotte
- SEA LIFE Charlotte-Concord Aquarium
- Fort Raleigh National Historic Site on Roanoke Island
- Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills
Ohio became the 17th state in 1803. Its nickname, the “Buckeye State”, comes from its state tree of the same name. Its capital is Columbus.
The state is also sometimes called the “modern mother of presidents”. Seven presidents, mostly more recent than Virginia‘s eight, were born in Ohio: Warren G. Harding, William Howard Taft, William McKinley, Benjamin Harrison, James A. Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Ulysses S. Grant.
The most beautiful part of the state is at the north, along its long coastline on Lake Erie. I have road-tripped across Ohio several times.
Intriguing spots in Ohio include:
- African Safari Wildlife Park in Port Clinton
- Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland
- National First Ladies Library in Canton
- National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton
- Kings Island in Mason
- Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden
A road trip is travel the best way to travel on your own terms. As Nancy McGehee, Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, points out, road trips “give you more control and flexibility. And you are not limited to one carry-on and a personal item!”
Dr. Findley offers a great list of things to consider when planning a road trip:
Proximity to your home location (every state has great road trip options, so think about where you are starting from and what would be a reasonable driving distance in the time you have available).
Availability of amenities that you are seeking (are you looking for food options, great hiking trails, lodging with a view, swimming, etc.) – make sure the place you are heading has the things you like to do.
Variety of activities (does your group have an eclectic mix of interests? Perhaps you need to consider an area that has a little of everything to make your group happy).
Comfort zone – are you looking for a new adventure or to rekindle some feelings of nostalgia?
Multiple stops versus a single location – do you want to stay in one place or make multiple stops during your trip? You might be able to find the variety and mix of amenities you want, along with staying in and getting out of your comfort zone by visiting multiple places are part of your trip.