The Best Vacation Spots in Every U.S. State
From sea to shining sea
Whether you’re planning a last-minute getaway or a serious vacation five months out, you don’t have to jet-set across the globe to get away from it all. As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to look much further than your own backyard. Here, the best vacation spots in every single U.S. state.
Alabama: The Gulf Shores
Sandy dunes, white beaches, clear water and world-class golf courses are just a few of the attractions that lure vacationers to Alabama’s Gulf Coast, just south of Mobile.
Anchorage gives visitors access to Alaska’s gorgeous wildlife--striking mountains, salmon fishing, hiking and biking--plus the sophisticated, urban comforts of fine dining and shopping.
Think: Gorgeous red-rock vortexes and sharp canyons surrounded by idyllic desert scenery. Add to that world-class spas and art galleries and you’ve got the best spot in the whole entire state. Plus, it’s the perfect starting point for a trip to the Grand Canyon.
If you need a rest from city life, nowhere is quite like this small mountain town nestled right up against the Buffalo River. Come in the summer to white-water raft in the rapids and zip-line through the lush Ozarks.
California: Santa Barbara
About an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, this coastal city stretches before the Santa Ynez Mountains. The “American Riviera,” as it’s sometimes called, Santa Barbara is saturated with celebs, and is known for its Mediterranean-style architecture, great restaurants and gorgeous beaches.
Glitz and glamour aside, this Colorado village is a stunning place to visit any time of year. (The bustling ski town turns into a green Rocky Mountain retreat come summer.)
This slow-paced seaside town on Connecticut’s Gold Coast has a totally different vibe from the fancy Greenwich lifestyle you might associate with the state. In Madison, you’ll find simple summer pleasures like lobster shacks, ice-cream stands and
quiet beaches like Hammonasset Beach State Park.
Delaware: Rehoboth Beach
Set on the Atlantic coast, Rehoboth’s pristine beaches are a popular getaway for folks fleeing hot D.C., Maryland and Delaware summers. Rent a bike and stroll down the charming boardwalk lined with bars, funky shops, live music and restaurants.
Florida: Sanibel Island
In a state full of oceanside vacation towns, Sanibel (off Florida’s peninsula on the Gulf of Mexico) is a paradise above the rest. Its white beaches are swept with some of the most beautiful patterned seashells you can find in the country, and the crystal waters are perfect for boating, fishing and snorkeling.
Georgia: Tybee Island
Set 18 miles east of Savannah, this barrier island is a popular southern vacation destination. Here, you’ll find quaint bed-and-breakfasts, a historic lighthouse, three miles of sandy beaches and a long stretch of pier popular among fishermen and and musicians.
OK, Hawaii kinda isn’t fair, since the whole state is a vacation haven. But since we had to pick one spot, we went with Maui, known for sprawling golden shores and secret snorkeling coves. The road to Hana--a winding and narrow 65-mile stretch along the Pacific--might be the most scenic route we’ve ever come across.
Idaho: Coeur d'Alene
Surrounded by dozens of scenic lakes and located just 30 miles east of Washington state, Coeur d’Alene is an outdoorsy haven. During the summer, there’s great golfing, watersports and hiking, and during the winter it’s all about that #skilife.
Midwesterners head to this small town on the Illinois-Wisconsin border to escape the summer heat. Galena contains one of America’s cutest main streets, as well as family-owned, local wineries and rolling hills. Don’t miss your chance to take a sunset hot-air-balloon tour.
Make a trip to Chesterton to visit the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 15 miles of large sand dunes that border Lake Michigan’s Southern shore. With beaches, hiking trails, camping sites and cabin rentals, it’s basically everything you want from a relaxing getaway.
Who knew Iowa is home to five terrific lakes? At the center of them is West Lake Okoboji, known for waterskiing, tubing, golfing and sailing. Oh, and did we mention the outdoor movie screenings?
Kansas: Monument Rocks
At the Monument Rocks National Monument 25 miles south of Oakley, you can examine giant chalk formations covered with fossils that are 80 million years old. (Who knows, you might even see evidence of a dinosaur.) While you're sightseeing in the area, check out Castle Rock, an ancient pillar of limestone.
There’s more to Louisville than the Kentucky Derby. Here, you’ll find live bluegrass music, art galleries, bourbon distilleries and wine trails.
Louisiana: New Orleans
Come for the jazz clubs, French-Creole-style architecture and swamp tours. Stay for the po’ boys, jambalaya and beignets.
Blueberry farms, rocky coastline, sandy beaches, clam shacks and picturesque cottages are just some of the things that make this coastal town the quintessential New England vacation spot.
Maryland: St. Michaels
You might recognize this adorable Chesapeake town from the movie Wedding Crashers. The red-brick streets are lined with Victorian homes and boutiques, and the pier is scattered with blue crab restaurants and docked boats.
Massachusetts: Cape Cod
Drive over the Bourne Bridge and you’ll find yourself in the jewel of Massachusetts, where birch and beech forests give way to sandy dunes, lighthouses and quaint clam shacks as far as the eye can see.
Michigan: Traverse City
There’s a reason why top chefs like Mario Batali love Traverse City. Surrounded by cherry blossoms, farmland, vineyards and dunes, this hip, small town in northern Michigan is a short driving distance away from the state’s best wineries. Plan a visit to 2 Lads Winery to taste local Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
Biloxi, on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, draws tourists year-round for its warm climate, casinos and resorts. Take a ferry ride to nearby Ship Island and keep a lookout for dolphins along the way.
Missouri: Lake of the Ozarks
Ever wonder what total relaxation looks like? We’re pretty sure it’s this lake, where you can fish for walleye, catfish and largemouth bass.
Montana: Big Sky
This mountain town just southwest of Bozeman is the gateway to Yellowstone National Park. Visit during the winter for some of the best (and least crowded) skiing in the States.
Located on the Missouri River, this city on the Lewis and Clark Trail is worth a visit. One highlight is the Old Market, where brick warehouses dating back to the 1880s have since been converted into a row of galleries and farm-to-table restaurants.
Nevada: Lake Tahoe
So, you’ve already taken the obligatory trip to Sin City. Now, head to South Lake Tahoe, a stunning, year-round setting for outdoor activity. (Don’t worry, you can still gamble.)
New Hampshire: Portsmouth
You might not realize that Portsmouth--with its brick streets, colonial-style houses and bustling Market Square--is the third-oldest city in the country. The highlight of this lively port city is the waterfront, which is lined with upscale restaurants, pubs, seafood shacks and ice cream parlors.
New Jersey: Cape May
This darling seaside town at the southernmost tip of New Jersey is pretty far from the world of Snooki and The Situation. Think: colorful Victorian homes, old lighthouses, tranquil beaches and horse-drawn carriages ambling up the streets.
New Mexico: Santa Fe
At the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains sits Santa Fe, an enchanting city with a small-town vibe. Art lovers go gaga
for the many craft shops selling New Mexican turquoise and pottery, and the charming restaurants with sculpture gardens in the back.
New York: Montauk
Nicknamed “The End,” Montauk is a small seaside town full of natural beauty and pristine shores. While not entirely free from the throngs of New Yorkers escaping the city, Montauk remains a down-to-earth haven for artists and fishermen.
North Carolina: Corolla
You don’t need to pack much more than a swimsuit, T-shirt and flip-flops for a trip to this carefree beach town in the Outer Banks. You might even spot a wild horse as you stroll along the shoreline.
North Dakota: Fargo
News flash: Fargo, the largest city in North Dakota, is actually pretty hip. In recent years, it’s attracted a techy and entrepreneurial crowd, and as a result, the downtown streets are filled with hip bars and restaurants (like the new hot spot Würst Beer Hall).
This summer village is found on a small Lake Erie island not far from the Canadian border--and it’s known for an adorable Victorian-era downtown and vibrant nightly party scene.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma City
This friendly capital city is on the rise. Just look at 21c Museum Hotel, a trendy boutique that sprung up in a derelict Ford Motor Company assembly plant. Of course, that’s the norm in Bricktown, where restored, red-brick warehouse buildings line the riverwalk.
Twenty years ago, Bend was virtually unheard of. But today, this up-and-coming city attracts crowds for its gorgeous landscapes and blossoming cultural scene. Above all, Bend is known for craft breweries (you’ll find over two dozen) and easy access to the great outdoors.
Pennsylvania: Jim Thorpe
This yearlong tourist destination in the Pocono Mountains is the perfect spot for white-water rafting during summer or a romantic cottage getaway during the snowy winter. (Just be sure to book a room with a fireplace.)
Rhode Island: Little Compton
Little Compton is one of the Ocean State’s best kept secrets. Driving toward the beach, you’ll pass rolling farms, Sakonnet vineyards, clam shacks and bait and tackle shops.
South Carolina: Beaufort
Antebellum mansions, Spanish moss and lowcountry cooking are just a few of the selling points for this historic, coastal Carolina town. Book a stay at the Cuthbert House Inn (it’s the epitome of Southern hospitality) and soak in the charm.
South Dakota: Deadwood
In the heart of the Black Hills mountain range, Deadwood is a real rough-and-tumble Western town, where legends like Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane and Seth Bullock once walked. Now saloons, rodeos and parades transport visitors back in time to the Gold Rush years.
It’s called the country capital of the world for a reason. For a vacation full of live music, honkey-tonk and lots of bourbon drinking, head immediately to this bustling town.
Texas: Hill Country
Stretching just north of Austin to San Antonio, the Texas Hill Country is known for fields of wild bluebonnets, stellar country music and barbecue that’ll blow your mind. The towns of Bandera and Fredericksburg are two highlights along the 200-mile stretch of country.
You might be surprised how much this tiny southwestern town has to offer, but there’s much more than blue skies and red-rock canyons. Take a short drive from Moab’s adorable brewery- and bakery-clad main street to find Canyonlands and Arches National Parks, where you can hike and climb around the rock formations.
This progressive, Birkenstock-wearing, tofu-eating college town is home to a thriving art scene and an outdoorsy community. Nature-seekers will enjoy Burlington’s hiking and biking trails on the Lake Champlain shoreline with views of the Adirondacks.
Teeming with galleries, craft breweries and public art, there’s no doubt that Virginia’s capital city is experiencing a serious revival. Richmond is also one of the most exciting culinary destinations right now, thanks to hip, new restaurants serving everything from local oysters to small-batch ciders.
Washington: San Juan Islands
Lopez, Shaw, Orcas and San Juan are the four largest of the San Juan Islands, located between Seattle and Vancouver Island. Each is a nature-lover’s paradise, home to lush forests, rocky coastlines and orcas that swim around the channels.
West Virginia: Fayetteville
Many travellers visit Fayetteville to go rock climbing or white-water rafting in the New River Gorge. But don’t underestimate the charming downtown, lined with interesting restaurants, coffee shops and craft stores filled with pottery and artwork.
In Bayfield, on the shores of Lake Superior, charming fishing village meets cosmopolitan hot spot. Don’t miss a kayaking day trip or guided boat tour to the carved rock formations found on the nearby 21 Apostle Islands.
Wyoming: Jackson Hole
In the heart of the American West, majestic Jackson Hole is surrounded by the snow-capped Teton Mountains and wild Snake River. But don’t worry, indoor gals: There are also luxurious five-star hotels, top spas and trendy restaurants.