After spending 2.5 years on the road and visiting 28 different states, my family and I have created a lifetime of memories. Whenever I share my travel stories, people often ask two questions: “What’s your favorite state?” and “What state were you happy to finally leave?”
While I can quickly answer these questions, I’ve never put much thought into ranking the best states to visit in USA.
So why not do that today? Let’s take a ride together and explore the 28 states I’ve visited. I will rank them from my favorite (where I would love to live someday) to my least favorite (the one you’ll never catch me in again). Buckle up, and let’s get started!
My favorite state, without a doubt, is Oregon. If you’re an outdoor lover like we are, Oregon has everything. From the breathtaking views of Mt. Hood, the high desert, the Tillamook Rainforest, and the Pacific Coastline, Oregon has a world of natural wonders.
I fell in love with Oregon during our first trip to Bend. Our visit to Lava Lands in the Deschutes National Forest was like nothing I’d ever seen.
Then, visiting Mt. Hood and spending time at Trillium Lake only reaffirmed my love for the state.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, we visited the Pacific Coastline. From the sand dunes in Florence to Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, it’s impossible to deny Oregon’s natural beauty.
When our full-time RV life is all done, Oregon will be the state we call home.
I love Washington for many of the same reasons I love Oregon. If you’re an outdoor lover, Washington is hard to beat. Fortunately, it’s the northern neighbor of Oregon, so with just a few hour’s drive, you can enjoy both states!
Visiting the Washington Coast marked my first time visiting the Pacific Ocean, something I never thought I’d be able to do.
We also spent considerable time near Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens. The views of those two mountains are something I’d never get used to. Washington was also the first time I went cliff jumping, and I got to do it with my two adventurous boys! That makes the memories even sweeter.
Washington also had excellent library systems, which is very important to us as we raise our boys.
3. New Mexico
New Mexico was a very unexpected favorite of ours. What was supposed to just be a “stopover” state turned into a state we loved.
Our first stop in New Mexico was Roswell. If you don’t know about Roswell, it’s where the UFO incident took place in the summer of 1947, when a rancher discovered unidentifiable debris in his sheep pasture.
So the town was full of aliens, which the boys loved! We visited the International UFO Museum & Research Center, which was a blast! We also did a pretty fun “spacewalk” that made us feel like we were on a different planet.
Apart from the out-of-this-world experiences in Roswell, we also loved White Sands National Park, which, coincidentally, also makes you feel like you’re on another planet. I felt like Luke Skywalker exploring distant galaxies on the massive dunes of pure white sand.
But instead of taking off in the Starship, we hopped on a sled and rocketed down the dunes. If you’ve never considered visiting New Mexico, I highly recommend it.
We only stopped in two different places in Utah, but that was enough for it to crack the top 5. Our first stop in Utah was in a tiny little town that gave us some “hills have eyes” vibes, so I won’t call it by name in case 1 of the 50 people in that town end up reading this article.
But, our boondocking spot was on an abandoned playground, so the boys had a blast opening the front door and stepping right onto a playground. We also learned the history of the Historic Coke Ovens, which was an added bonus.
But the best part of Utah was boondocking at the Bonneville Salt Flats. If you don’t know, the Salt Flats were formed when ancient lake Lake Bonneville dried up. Now, this majestic landscape serves as the racing grounds for generations of land speed racers from around the world.
There’s nothing like getting your truck up to 90mph on a speedway some of the fastest cars in history have driven on.
We also had so much privacy and panoramic views of some of America’s most beautiful natural wonders.
While Oregon is my favorite state, California is home to my top two National parks. I’d never heard of Pinnacles National Park before we visited, but it was a pleasant surprise.
My favorite part was the cave trails. Pinnacles National Park has two main cave areas: the Bear Gulch Caves, which are near headquarters in the East District, and the Balconies Caves, which are near the Chaparral Picnic Area in the West District. If you’re ever in town, be sure to check out both.
Yosemite is beautiful beyond words. Seriously, nothing I write here can do this national park justice. If you’re thinking of traveling full-time, Yosemite HAS to be on your list of stops.
If you’re wondering about the power and beauty of Yosemite, it led Roosevelt to expand federal protection of Yosemite, and it inspired him to sign into existence five national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges, and 150 national forests after visiting.
Yosemite National Park is an absolute must-visit for any outdoor lover.
The second time we got to Florida, we had no intention to leave. It’s the Sunshine State! No cold weather, flip flops, and board shorts all year. We absolutely loved the Springs. Three Sisters Springs near Crystal River, Florida, was our absolute favorite. We got to swim with Manatees!
We also saw dolphins off the Gulf Coast and loved spending time with the animals at the Hardee County Wildlife Refuge.
But, with the sunshine comes the heat, and with Florida comes hurricanes. There’s nothing quite like dodging a category 4 hurricane while towing your house and everything you own behind you. One of the many challenges of RV life we faced on the road!
And that leads to insane insurance prices in the state and extremely high overall cost of living. So, even though Florida had its perks, we decided to pack the camper and keep moving.
We went to Illinois for one reason – to see Superman. I’ve been a fan of the Man of Steel since Christopher Reeve made me believe a man could fly decades ago. At the southern end of Illinois sits Metropolis, the home of Superman.
And in Metropolis, IL is the Superman Museum.
The museum is full of collectibles and artifacts commemorating and honoring Superman in his various forms – books, comics, TV, movies, and more. If you like the big blue boy scout, you’ve got to visit Metropolis, Illinois.
We didn’t spend much time in Pennsylvania, but I made it a point to visit the state to take the boys to Hershey Park. Hershey Park is an amusement park named after the chocolate company. I visited Hershey Park once a year growing up, so it was important for me to let my boys experience it as well.
If you’re a fan of amusement parks, it’s a must-visit. In addition to the amusement park, you can also visit Chocolate World and take a tour to learn how Hershey makes its chocolate. And at the end, you get a free candy bar.
9. South Carolina
South Carolina is where we lived before we “launched.” I spent ten years in South Carolina, and it’s where I met my wife and where my kids were born. It will always be special to me, but it wasn’t where we were meant to spend the rest of our lives.
Port Royal, SC, was one of our first stops when we started traveling. It’s a lovely little beach town where everybody knows everybody. If you’re ever in Port Royal, stop by the Zen Den to see “Mamma Bear.” You won’t regret it.
10. North Carolina
North Carolina is where my wife was born and raised. We visited her mom in Ocean Isle Beach and spent time with her brother in Stone Mountain. If you’re ever near Roaring Gap, NC, you have to check out Stone Mountain State Park. They have some excellent trails with unbeatable views, and you can learn some history of the area.
We also spent some time near Emerald Isle Beach, another quaint little beach town. If you’re ever in the area, check out Sunset Slush.
Maryland is where I was born and raised. I grew up right next to the Appalachian Trail and Antietam Battlefield, so it was nice taking the boys out on some of those trails and teaching them some of the history of the area.
If you’re ever out near the Antietam Battlefield in MD, be sure to hike up to Weverton Cliffs for a fantastic view of the Appalachian Mountains and the Potomac River.
And while it’s not in MD, cross the border into West Virginia to spend some time in Harpers Ferry.
We passed through Virgina twice. The first time, we spent some time at Ridge Valley Alpacas. The boys absolutely loved hanging out with the Alpacas, and the owners of the farm were great.
The second time we were in VA, we caught COVID. After dodging it for two years, it finally caught up to us. We all felt like death, and our memories of VA are tainted by COVID. Fortunately, we all made a full recovery and kept traveling.
Ohio was fun for us because we visited friends we hadn’t seen in a while. We were only in the state for a few days, but seeing some old faces on the road was really nice. We did take the boys to the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio. Out of all 28 states, Boonshoft was by far our favorite museum. There was plenty for the boys to do, they never got bored, and they wanted to stay longer.
If you’ve got kids, you need to visit the Boonshoft Museum.
Speaking of museums, Mississippi had our second and third favorite museums we’ve visited so far. We took the boys to the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum and the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Both are in Jackson, MS, and both are worth a trip if you’re ever in the area.
Admittedly, we didn’t do much in Indiana. The campground we parked in was one of the best we’ve stayed at, so we didn’t wander too far off. It was one of those stops where we just needed to rest and recharge. The campground had a nice playground for the boys, plenty of places to take a nice walk, and a big pond to watch the geese and ducks.
We did get out a few times, though, and stopped by the Walnut Street Variety Shop. It’s an eclectic little store with something for everyone, and it’s definitely worth stopping by if you’re in the area.
We boondocked in Nevada on our way to the Pacific Northwest. Boondocking can be stressful, but once you get the hang of it, it offers so much peace and relaxation away from the world. We stayed at the Water Canyon Recreation Area and enjoyed some time in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the “real world.”
However, as you can tell from the picture, we had to deal with some smoke from the wildfires in the area. That’s always something to be mindful of when traveling in the West at that time of year.
Iowa was another spot where we Boondocked away from it all and didn’t do much in the outside world. Even if we wanted to get out and explore the area, there wasn’t much to do.
So we settled in at the Waubonsie Campground for a few nights and got some work done. We also made a few new friends, as you can see in the picture.
Missouri was a one-night stop-through. At this point, we were quickly heading back across the country and needed a spot to spend the night. We ended up at Montauk State Park. If you like to fish, this State Park is for you. It’s in a beautiful, remote location, and it is a trout fishing hotspot.
We didn’t spend nearly as much time in Colorado as I would’ve liked to. Sometimes, things just don’t work out how you’d like them to. But, we did get a chance to visit a nice small town with amazing mountain views. We stayed in a Hip Camp in Colorado, the only time we used that service, but it was well worth it.
However, we initially turned into the wrong driveway and were met with a warning shot. We turned around really quickly and got out of there! We’ll never forget the time our GPS almost got us shot!
The campground we visited in Alabama was really nice. It had a nice pool, clubhouse, and a decent laundry room (laundry is essential!). However, there really wasn’t anything else around. We were 20-30 minutes from a tiny town and then about another 20-30 to get to any major conveniences. This was another state we just took some time to relax and enjoy being disconnected.
The picture above is our old camper and truck before disaster struck in our least favorite state (keep reading to find out what happened!)
We found both of our camping spots in Georgia on Boondockers Welcome. The first spot we stayed at was owned by the nicest family we’ve encountered on the road. They treated us like we were part of the family and even invited us to a cookout at their home. It really was a great time, and we will forever cherish the memories we made there.
Our second spot was….different. Let’s call it Farmer Joe’s. Farmer Joe’s was a farm with donkeys and horses that would walk right up to your camper. The boys loved it. There were also chickens, ducks, and goats (we got to hold a baby!) It was amazing being surrounded by farm animals in every direction.
But, there were some strange vibes at this place. It kind of felt like a cult. People we were never introduced to would just pop up, working on the farm. They wouldn’t speak to us. They were just there, working. It was odd, but we have some incredible memories of riding horses and feeding donkeys.
We drove through some beautiful spots in Kentucky. We also drove through Louisville the weekend of the Kentucky Derby, which wasn’t very smart on our part. Pulling a 36-foot travel trailer through dense city traffic isn’t fun.
However, we were only in Kentucky for one night and slept in a rest area. Sometimes, that’s life on the road. One night, you’re on the side of a beautiful mountain, and the next night, you’re parked next to an 18-wheeler in a rest area.
Just like Kentucky, our trip to Louisiana wasn’t very exciting. While we drove through some beautiful places, we didn’t camp anywhere spectacular. Unless you count the parking lot of a Cracker Barrel spectacular.
If you don’t know Cracker Barrel, it’s an old-style diner serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Each restaurant features unique local finds that reflect the community’s history, so you can learn about the area you’re in while you dine. We had an amazing breakfast before we hit the road again.
Arizona is hot. There are some beautiful places in Arizona, but it is hot. We stayed at a nice campground with a river flowing through it, and I spent a lot of time hanging out there with the boys. We also went on a really nice hike on the Cliffrose Trail nearby.
Another time we were in Arizona, we Bondocked next to giant cacti near Saguaro National Park. We don’t have cacti like that on the East Coast, so that was an amazing experience. The visit to Saguaro National Park is also well worth the visit.
We would later find out that our dog got parvo that nearly killed him when we were in AZ, and that kind of soured us on the state. No one ever told us about parvo on the East Coast, so if you’re heading to the southwest, be sure your dogs are up to date on their parvo vaccine.
Idaho was an adventure for all of the wrong reasons. We planned to stay at the Frank C. Jones access area for the night, but things didn’t quite work out as expected. The campground was smaller than it looked in the pictures, so I went out on foot to check it out before we pulled in, and I was sure we’d be fine.
I pulled the camper down the twisty, narrow driveway to the spot where we were going to camp for the night, but we were too long to turn around to get into the spot.
The area was too narrow for our long truck and camper to turn around, leaving us with one choice – back the truck and camper up the narrow, steep, curvy driveway.
It was stressful and tested my driving skills, but we made it out without getting stuck or damaging the truck or camper. After that, we went back to a rest area we passed a few miles down the road and stayed there for the night.
I was excited when we pulled into the campground in Nebraska. It was a boondocking spot, and the place was practically empty. We found a HUGE spot right on the river. It was perfect.
For a night.
The next day, a tent camper chose the spot right next to us (even though the entire park was open), but we didn’t think anything of it. We’ve discovered in our travels that some people just like to be close to other people.
However, one morning, I looked out at our generator, and there was a phone and a phone charger plugged into it, but they weren’t ours.
Our neighbor, who we later found out was homeless, helped himself to our generator without ever speaking to us. I spoke to the guy, and he turned out to be harmless, but he completely destroyed our peace and quiet.
We let him charge his stuff on our generator, but we left a couple of days earlier than we had planned. We always err on the side of caution because of our boys.
We did not enjoy Wyoming. Wyoming was supposed to be a quick stopover for one night, but it turned into our second most stressful stop (our most stressful stop is next). Driving down the interstate to our boondocking spot, my wife suddenly noticed the camper was sitting unevenly.
I pulled over to check things out, and after a quick inspection, we noticed that one of our leaf springs snapped right in half. All things considered, we were extremely lucky. When the leaf spring broke, it wedged itself in the undercarriage of the camper. If that didn’t happen, we could’ve lost control of the camper, and it could’ve ended in disaster. It’s one of the many ways in which road trips can be dangerous.
We were only a mile away from our boondocking spot, so we slowly pulled the camper there and parked. We tried fixing the leaf spring ourselves, but we couldn’t get a corroded screw out. We called around to a few mechanics, but in such a small town, there weren’t a lot of options, and the ones that were available were charging astronomical prices.
We didn’t have a ton of money to spend on the repair, so we tried to fix it again ourselves until we were referred by a local campground to a mobile RV mechanic who happened to be staying in the area at the time.
When they found out what happened, they fixed the leaf spring free of charge. They were amazing people, they even gave the boys free hats. We will be forever grateful to them, and I will always pay their generosity forward.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the disasters. At one point in time, Texas was on our short list of states we might settle down in when we stopped traveling. But now it is ranked as the worst state we visited.
And, in Texas’s defense, it’s mainly due to horrible luck.
It started on our way to the 7IL Ranch when our truck started breaking down. I lost power steering on the way to the ranch, but we still made it. However, while trying to back into our spot, I realized I couldn’t turn the truck sharply enough and hit a tree.
I left a massive hole in the roof that we had to cover with a tarp while we waited 4 days for an insurance adjuster to show up. And this was in the dead of summer, so it got HOT in that camper.
When the insurance adjuster finally showed up, he said the camper, our house, was totaled. Now we’re homeless with nowhere to go. Fortunately, insurance paid for a hotel while we figured things out. We ended up in the hotel for a week with everything we owned in a Uhaul trailer in the parking lot.
We didn’t know what would happen, and we were prepared to end up crashing at one of our parent’s houses until we figured things out.
But, on my birthday, we were lucky enough to finance a brand new camper, and after unloading the Uhaul and getting all of our stuff into the camper, we were back on the road.
But the ‘fun’ didn’t stop there. After about a week in the new camper, my wife totaled our pickup truck. Fortunately, everyone was okay, but it really shook up my wife, and we were left without a way to pull our camper.
Now, just like we had to figure out how to get a new camper, we had to figure out how to get a new truck.
Keep in mind we had just replaced our first truck after the incident with the power steering that led me to total the first camper.
So now we’re truck shopping. It took us about a month to get things situated with insurance and then find a truck we could afford and use to pull the trailer. We eventually did and got back on the road, but everything had changed.
We will not be back to Texas.
Reflecting on a Journey: 28 States, Endless Memories
As our journey across 28 states comes to a close, it’s clear that each place has left its unique mark on our family’s story. From the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Oregon to the unexpected challenges in Texas, our travels have been a mosaic of experiences, teaching us about the diversity and richness of the United States.
These rankings are more than just a list; they are a tapestry of memories, lessons learned, and the joy of exploration. While some states captured our hearts more than others, every stop along the way contributed to our family’s adventure, shaping our perspective and enriching our lives.
As we continue our travels, we carry with us not just souvenirs, but the invaluable experiences of each state we’ve visited. To fellow travelers, may your journeys be just as enriching, and to the states that hosted us, a heartfelt thank you for the memories that will last a lifetime.