We’re living in the age of itchy feet and bucket lists. My dream has always been to travel to each of the 50 states that comprise the USA. I’m not sure if I’ll be fortunate enough to achieve it, but I’m going to spend my life trying. The thing is though, you can drive through all of the states and say you’ve ticked off that list without ever leaving your car. I want to have a unique, distinct memory to take with me from each one. So far I’ve been to 17 states, but not necessarily on my own terms. In Arkansas I didn’t leave the car. In Georgia, I never ate peaches- and that just doesn’t seem right. I’ve lived on-and-off in the USA since 2012 but only about 4 weeks of my time altogether was spent as a tourist.
Today, I’m excited to share with you my dream for every state. I’m a big fan of the phrase “When in Rome, yada yada” and so I’ve decided to pick experiences that capture the essence of each particular state, but which also tell you something about myself. Feel free to use this bucket list to inform your own travel plans! And, be sure to let me know in the comments what you think of my choices. If you could spend only one day in a particular US state, what would YOU do?
Heart of Dixie
This one’s tough. I’ve always wanted to see Mobile. I think it’d be an atmospheric, writerly kind of hangout where I could compose poems by the sea during the day and party it up with a cheeky bit of Mardi Gras at night. HOWEVER, if I only had one day to see Alabama, and I could never come back, I think I’d take in the Iron Bowl. I love the romance of college football, and the Crimson Tide-Tigers rivalry is something I just wouldn’t be able to pass up.
Land of the Midnight Sun
This one’s easy. I’d go on a cruise through the Alaska panhandle. I want to see glaciers, bowhead whales, totem poles, and miles upon miles of untouched, pristine pine forests.
Grand Canyon State
When I went to Arizona in 2014 I took in the Grand Canyon and it was beautiful. But there’s one part of it I didn’t get to see that I really, really want to. Havasupai Falls. I’ve been obsessed with this place for nearly 10 years now. It’s a remote area characterized by these distinctive blue-green waters and dramatic rock formations. I’m pretty sure that the original Planet of the Apes was filmed there. So it’s always looked like an alien planet to me, and I think that’s why I’m so crazy about going there. It would be the closest feeling I could get to traveling to another world. It’s a 10 mile hike through dusty, arid terrain to get there, but when I’m there, I plan to take some photos, do some painting, and frolic in the water.
When I think of what makes Arkansas beautiful I think of snaking rivers at the foot of the Ozarks. I’d love to go canoeing in Arkansas.
Land of Milk & Honey
Well I’ve already traveled through Yosemite on horseback. Sometimes a bucket list item is something simple, brief and low-key. One thing I’ve always wanted to check off my list is to one day go through a redwood drive-thru (basically a hollowed out tree).
Switzerland of America
Garden of the Gods, hands down. For the same reason I want to see Havasupai. It’s beautiful and other-worldly.
Olde Mistick Village. It’s a quaint, rural town designed to look like an idyllic New England village of the 1720s. I’d stroll past cutesy mom n’ pop stores, take in the duck ponds, admire the watermills and breathe that clean, country air.
Land of Tax-Free Shopping
When I imagine my ideal afternoon in Delaware, I see myself antiquing; stopping off at quirky stores in the salty, beachgrass breeze.
My dream day in Florida involves touring through the Everglades and seeing the crockergators!
Georgia was my first state and it will always be special to me. Savannah was beautiful. When I go back, I want to eat peach cobbler at a roadside diner, surrounded by tall trees.
I want to see lava flowing into the ocean and sing “Burning Love”.
I consider myself quite the fan of the Boise State Broncos! Their trick play to win the 2007 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl got me into college football. I’d love to see them play on the blue surface of the Albertsons Stadium one day.
Land of Lincoln
Starved Rock State Park looks quite lovely, full of clandestine waterfalls and steep sandstone canyons.
Crossroads of America
I’d love to one day see a high school basketball game, and where better to take it in than the Hoosier State?
I’d pack my dSLR and some pastels and start trying to capture the lonesome beauty of the state’s barns, grain elevators, and gas stations.
As much as I’d love to see greyhounds running at full speed, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy it unless the animals were treated humanely. The ethics are iffy, so instead I’d choose to spend my day in Kansas at the Old Cowtown Museum in Wichita. Yeeh-haw!
I’d go to the batting cages at the Louisville Slugger factory. Duh.
I’ve always been fascinated with New Orleans. I’d love to live there, in a swanky apartment in the French Quarter, with a balcony in which I could sit in the warm breeze, listening to the sound of saxophones and women singing about crawfish. I’d get a beignet at the Café du Monde and love it.
There are so many gorgeous places in Maine that it’s almost impossible to pick just one. I’d go to Bar Harbor and photograph/paint the fog. Fans of Fallout 4 will recognize it as the basis for Far Harbor, and Bethesda did a great job of rendering the island with a haunted, post-apocalyptic aesthetic and populating it with giant, horrifically-mutated mantis shrimp here and there.
Old Line State
I wanna find the best darn crab cakes on the Chesapeake!
I’d love to spend the day in Nantucket, stopping at the whaling museum and the island’s various lighthouses.
Winter Water Wonderland
My perfect Michigan experience involves me eating fudge while riding in a buggy on Mackinac Island.
Land of 10,000 Lakes
I’ve been lucky enough to witness some of Minnesota’s beautiful wilderness on a couple of occasions. But that doesn’t mean I’m done yet. I would love to make a spiritual journey to Lake Itasca- a small, glacial lake in northern Minnesota that serves as the headwaters for the Mississippi River.
My pilgrimage to Elvis Presley’s birthplace has been long overdue. Elvis was born in a shotgun house in a little town called Tupelo, that now acts as a shrine for traveling fans.
Missouri is an interesting land, and one that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit on several occasions. But I’ve got unfinished business in this pretty place. One thing I have really wanted to see for a while is the river-town of Hannibal; the boyhood home of Mark Twain and the basis for the setting of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn.
Big Sky Country
On every visit I’ve made to the USA I’ve professed a desire to see an authentic rodeo. My wish could never be fulfilled however, because I was never quite in the right place. Well, Montana is the right place. Going to Montana and not taking in a rodeo would be like going to Rome and not seeing the Colosseum.
The panhandle is supposed to be beautiful; full of epic landscapes characterized by green valleys and rocky bluffs. I’d go there.
My next visit to Nevada will most definitely see me kayaking in Lake Tahoe, whose wondrous vistas you might recognize from The Godfather Part II.
Mother of Rivers
When I think of New Hampshire I think of the White Mountains, one of the quietest and most serene regions of the USA, and one of the most densely forested. My choice way of experiencing it would be to take the Cog Railway up Mount Washington.
Atlantic City is kinda like the Vegas of the East Coast. I’m not much of a gambler, but I’d love to take a stroll along the city’s famous boardwalk and imagine myself walking in the footsteps of many a pinstriped gangster.
The Land of Enchantment
To my mind, there’s no better cultural experience waiting for me in New Mexico than going to Taos Pueblo and observing a traditional corn dance.
Believe it or not, if I could pick one thing to do in the state of New York, it would be to stay at the Mohonk Mountain House. It’s a historic lakeside hotel where you can go hiking and get a nice spa treatment.
Tar Heel State
Without a shadow of a doubt, my next visit to North Carolina will be based around going to see a Duke-UNC basketball game. Do sporting rivalries get any better?
I’d love to attend a cowboy poetry festival!
For some reason I’ve always had a longing to see Cincinnati. Something about its riverfront atmosphere gives it a Southern charm. I’d like to see it for myself one day, taking in the bridges and the parks and the historic areas.
The Red Earth Festival would be an unforgettable and unmissable experience.
When I think of Oregon I think of white water rapids meandering through enormous, dense forests of redwoods and sequoias. The way I want to experience this state is rafting down one of these rivers!
Pennsylvania is one of the most beautiful and interesting states I have yet to visit. It looks to me like a painter’s dream. But if I had to pick one thing, I think I’d go spend the day in Pittsburgh and ascend the funicular on the Duquesne Incline.
I’d take a ferry from Providence and spend the day on Block Island. I love harbors and lighthouses. I think it would be a great place to have a quiet weekend of writing and painting.
South Carolina remains a favorite of my family when we look back at the states we have been to, and it’s a contender for number one in our power rankings. It’s an amazing place. If I were to go back, I’d make it my mission to see the fireflies at Congaree National Park.
As awesome as Mount Rushmore would be, I’m gonna have to pick Badlands National Park. Even the greatest man-made monuments fall short of the bizarre splendor of nature.
When I stayed in Memphis in 2012, I saw Graceland, but I never got to tour Sun Studio! But that’s okay, because it gives me another reason to comb back my pompadour and return.
Lone Star State
Texas has been my home for the past two summers, and at this point it’s probably about as familiar to me as anywhere else in the USA. There is a lot to choose from, but my biggest unfulfilled wish is to photograph or paint a field of bluebonnets.
Bryce Canyon National Park. I’ve never seen anything so epic as the photographs of those rock formations.
Green Mountain State
I’d die a happy man if I got the chance to photograph or paint the covered bridges of Vermont in the fall.
There’s so much history and so much beauty packed into this great state. It’s a place I desperately want to see for myself. In many ways I think of it as the birthplace of the USA. I’d spend my time here hunting down historic watermills reminiscent of the colonial days, and I’d photograph the heck out of them.
In general, the Pacific Northwest contains some of the most breathtaking scenery in the USA. But since I’m a Twin Peaks fan, I’d choose Snoqualmie Falls as the place I’d visit for a day.
I’ve long been intrigued by Harpers Ferry. I think if I was going to go anywhere in West Virginia, it would be the place where the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers meet.
Wisconsin will always be my home state. It’s the place I’ve traveled the most extensively. I’ve seen Lambeau Field, Madison, the Dells, Door County. I’ve made s’mores in the Northwoods, I’ve gone deer hunting, I’ve toured wineries and logging museums, and I’ve seen Aaron Rodgers at the Packers pre-season practice field. There are a couple items still left on my to-do list such as The House on the Rock and Washington Island, but one thing that has remained at the top of my bucket list for a long, long time is to visit the Apostle Islands. That would be a real treat.
Wow. This has to be the easiest decision yet. YELLOWSTONE OF COURSE!! I WANT TO BE DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD AND GET SURROUNDED BY BUFFALO.