From sea to shining sea, America has always been best viewed from the open road. These 11 states offer some of the best scenery for those looking to hit the road this summer.
With Memorial Day, Summer Solstice, and Independence Day now firmly in the rearview mirror, we find ourselves officially in the heart of the summer travel season. And from sea to shining sea, America has always been best viewed from the open road.
The personal finance website WalletHub is celebrating the summer season by looking at the “Best States for Summer Road Trips.” The website looked at 21 different metrics in 3 categories in order to rank the 50 states. Those categories included driving and lodging costs, road conditions and safety, and fun and scenic attractions. The latter gave points to states with scenic byways, national parks, and other popular tourist attractions.
In general, the western states did quite well. In fact, all but 2 of the top 11 states are west of the Mississippi River. States that didn’t do so well were mixed geographically, from Connecticut (50th) and Delaware (48th) in the northeast, to Mississippi (47th), and both Dakotas (South Dakota ranked 46th; North Dakota ranked 49th).
The list is sure to set off many discussions, and of course the findings, though based on data, are very much subjective.
What follows are the 11 states that ranked highest on the list. Take a look and then leave your thoughts in the comments. Which states don’t deserve to make the list? Which states are your favorites for road trips?
Arizona boasts a number of attractions for tourists, from natural wonders like the Grand Canyon and Cathedral Rock to urban centers like Phoenix, with its science center, musical instrument museum, and professional sports teams. The state was ranked 13th overall in the “Fun and Scenic Attractions” category, but its best score was for low driving and lodging costs. It had the fifth-lowest camping prices.
Idaho’s Sun Valley is a favorite spot for well-heeled skiers and other vacationers. The state’s mountains, lakes, and waterfalls make for gorgeous drives, and its Craters of the Moon National Monument offers an out-of-this-world experience. But don’t forget Idaho’s cities. Though small in population, Boise has an out-sized arts and culture scene.
Medical professional perhaps think of North Carolina’s Research Triangle when they think of the Tar Heel State, but the northern half of the Carolinas also boasts an array of natural wonders, from its shoreline in the east to the Appalachian Mountains in the west. The state has the second-most scenic byways of any state and ranked 12th for “Fun and Scenic Attractions.”
The Rocky Mountains, Pike’s Peak, and the Garden of the Gods are among the top attractions in scenic Colorado. Hikers, fishers, and shutterbugs will find plenty to
pique their interest here. The state ranked 14th for “Fun and Scenic Attractions” and 11th for “Driving and Lodging Costs.” It’s no wonder, then, that 71.3 million visitors came to Colorado in 2014, a new record for the state.
Between Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, and Jackson Hole, one would almost think Wyoming has more tourist attractions than residents. About 10.1 million people visited the state in 2014. While that’s much smaller than Colorado, it’s a huge number for a state with only about a half-million residents. The state also scored in the Top 10 in WalletHub’s survey for road safety and lodging costs.
Another western state comes in at sixth place on the list. Top attractions in Utah include the Zions, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks, as well as the Park City ski resort area, the Great Salt Lake, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ temple in Salt Lake City. Utah’s roads were ranked the second-safest of any state, and Utah tied for the third-most scenic byways of any state.
Ohio has a broad mix of attractions, from natural sites like the Lake Erie waterfront and Hocking Hills State Park to cultural meccas like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park. Ohio earned sixth place in the “Road Conditions and Safety” list and seventh place in “Fun and Scenic Attractions,” according to WalletHub.
Washington State is another destination that offers just about anything a traveler could hope for. From the Cascade Mountains to its Pacific Coast and coastal islands, to the Space Needle and Pike Place Market in Seattle, the state’s worthy of multiple road trips. In fact, it comes in first place for “Fun and Scenic Attractions” in WalletHub’s list. However, it ranks in the bottom 5 in terms of gas prices and car thefts.
Minnesota’s famed 10,000 lakes make it a sportsman’s paradise. Meanwhile, its Twin Cities have been recognized as cyclist-friendly cultural hotspots. The state earned top marks in WalletHub’s Road Conditions and Safety ranking. Tourism is a $12.5 billion industry in Minnesota, and the state hopes to grow that number even more. Last year, it launched an “Only in Minnesota” advertising campaign that represented its largest-ever tourism advertising campaign.
Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam, and Lake Tahoe are among the attractions that draw visitors to Nevada each year. You can find a cheap all-you-can-eat dinner on the Vegas strip, or pitch a tent in one of the state’s national parks, as the state has America’s lowest camping rates. However, like Washington State, Nevada ranks poorly for gas prices and car thefts.
In this iteration of the Washington v. Oregon debate, the Beaver State wins out. WalletHub ranked the state third in “Fun and Scenic Attractions” and fourth in “Road Conditions and Safety.” The state tied for third place for number of scenic byways. Top attractions include the Crater Lake National Park and Columbia River Gorge, as well as the Oregon Coast Trail.
To view WalletHub’s complete report, click here.