travel tips

Thirty-Three Nifty United States

Did you have to learn the names of all 50 states when you were a kid? In my elementary school, one of our favorite songs was “Fifty Nifty”, where we sang all the states in alphabetical order. As an adult, I’ve met other adults from other schools who also still know “Fifty Nifty” by heart. While I’m not going to sing it to you, I am going to list all of the states from my home country and tell you a bit about which ones I’ve been to.

Alabama- Haven’t been there yet.

Alaska- I’d love to, but it’s difficult to get there.

Arizona- I don’t remember my first time in Arizona because I was a baby. Apparently, I went to the Grand Canyon then, but visiting again when I was 29 was much more memorable. Other than Mexico, it’s the closest out-of-state destination from where I currently live, so I’ve also been just to see random roadside attractions.

Arkansas- I took a “get to know you” trip with two coworkers when I worked in Kansas City. We decided on Northwest Arkansas because it was somewhat nearby, yet none of us had been there before. I was pleasantly surprised that “The Natural State” lives up to its name.

California- I currently live here! I also lived here between the ages of one and three. And because I have lots of relatives in this state, and California itself is a good vacation destination, I’ve spent a lot of time throughout my life in this state.

Colorado- Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of living there, particularly in Colorado Springs. I visited a couple times as an adult to places like Boulder, Denver, and Estes Park, but in 2020, I got to temporarily live my dream by spending a month in the Springs. 

Connecticut- Nope, haven’t been there.

Delaware- During my high school’s East Coast trip, I rode a bus through a small part of Delaware while going between DC and Philadelphia. I don’t even know if that should count. What do you think?

Florida- Every kid’s dream: I got to go to Walt Disney World. In fact, I went to Walt Disney World four times before taking a Florida trip to someplace other than Disney. As it turns out, Fort Lauderdale is a great place to kick off a cruise vacation.

Georgia- I’ve made plans, but none of them have stuck yet.

Hawaii- I went to Oahu when I was nine and Maui when I was twenty-eight. I think I preferred Maui, just because it wasn’t as much about city life as Honolulu was. Each day, I took a trip to a different part of the island that provided diverse landscape.

Idaho- I’ve made the joke that Idaho doesn’t exist. However, for a nonexistent state, I’ve been there a few times, mostly on choir tours or other road trips. However, I’ve seen very few potatoes there.

Illinois- My experience with Illinois has mostly been just driving through. However, on my last drive through Illinois, I spent a jam-packed day in Chicago, doing everything from seeing my reflection in the Cloudgate Bean to standing on the see-through 103rd-floor ledge of the Willis Tower.

Indiana- Illinois was often paired with Indiana for driving through. So I’ve mostly made roadside attraction stops in this state, such as the park where Johnny Appleseed was buried.

Iowa- Because I’ve lived in both Nebraska and Missouri, Iowa has made it to my list. The two most memorable parts of Iowa were the amusement park Adventureland and the sculpture park in downtown Des Moines.

Kansas- Even though I lived on the Missouri side of Kansas City, I had to drive through Kansas state to get just about anywhere. We always cheered whenever we crossed back into Missouri. It’s not too exciting of a place, and the time I crossed the entire state in one day was probably the most exhausting day of my life.

Kentucky- I only barely crossed the Ohio-Indiana-Kentucky border, but I had a great experience at the Creation Museum. Although that was my main destination, I also had fun horseback riding and sleeping in a bank vault!

Louisiana- Haven’t been there.

Maine- Nope, not yet.

Maryland- I can’t tell you much about my time in Maryland, because it was the same bus trip that brought me through Delaware. We did stop at this big rest area, though.

Massachusetts- It’s on my list of places to go.

Michigan- Despite having several housemates from Michigan, none took me to their home state.

Minnesota- I went out here three times for work trips when I lived in Nebraska. Once was just passing through on the way to Wisconsin, but the other two times were for recruiting events at Crown College.

Mississippi- No, but for some reason it was important I learned to spell it.

Missouri- My first time in Missouri was for a weekend conference. Somehow, we made it to Kansas City without ever touching Kansas state. I never would have guessed that I was going to move to Kansas City, Missouri nine years later. During my time living there, I saw a lot more of the state, but it was short-lived as I decided to move after only four months.

Montana- I’ve been to Yellowstone National Park. My sister has lived in Montana for years, and someday I need to visit her there.

Nebraska- I lived in Fremont for two years while interning, and later media managing, at my first year-round camp job. The first year, I was without a car, so my travel was limited to the mercy of coworkers willing to drive. I saw quite a bit of Omaha and a few other spots around the state, though.

Nevada- I’ve been to Reno a few times, and Las Vegas once (or twice if you count when I was two years old). But mostly, my time in Nevada has been just driving through dry, barren landscape. 

New Hampshire- I haven’t seen much of New England, including New Hampshire.

New Jersey- When my 10th grade class visited New York City, we stayed in New Jersey. Not much to recall about the state itself other than a standard hotel room and lots of traffic.

New Mexico- When I moved back west after my short-lived time in Missouri, I drove through New Mexico via Route 66. Okay, it was actually Route 40, but I did pull off to see several Route 66 attractions. 

New York- My school took a trip to New York City in 10th grade. That was a whirlwind of sightseeing. Quite a few years later, I rode a bus to Niagara Falls with a transfer in Buffalo. I think I enjoyed my time in Niagara Falls better, but it may be because I didn’t get to plan my own Manhattan schedule.

North Carolina- I’ve applied for a few jobs here, but never got to the point of visiting.

North Dakota- Nope. 

Ohio- I moved to Ohio sight unseen. To this day, I make fun of how terrible a place Ohio is, but there were a few things I liked about the state, especially interacting with the Amish in Holmes County. This was also the first time I worked at an outdoor education camp, which really shaped what I’m doing career-wise today.

Oklahoma- I’ve been twice within four months of each other. The first was an introductory trip with my new coworkers, where we stayed at an old west retreat center and played at The Gathering Place. The second time was when I was leaving that job, but because I was only driving across the panhandle in the snow, I didn’t do much sightseeing at that time.

Oregon- I’ve spent more time here than any other state or country. I was born here, I went to school here from preschool through community college (fun fact: my preschool and my college were located just three blocks away from each other, but they didn’t exist at the same time), and of course, I enjoyed all kinds of road trips through the scenic landscape. I always enjoyed driving down the coast, but there was plenty to do inland as well. 

Pennsylvania- Although I haven’t been able to spend the night in this state, I’ve seen quite a decent portion of it. My 10th-grade class drove through here between DC and New York and spent a day in Philadelphia. I also rode a bus along Lake Erie.

Rhode Island- Nope. It’s not even an island.

South Carolina- I haven’t been to the Carolinas.

South Dakota- This state is famous for Mount Rushmore, which is where I went my first time to this state. A short time later, I was back in South Dakota for a music festival. This was all during the first month of living in Nebraska, so I thought I’d visit South Dakota a lot while living there. However, I never visited again.

Tennessee- I took a trip to Nashville (and a couple surrounding towns) and Martin. This was the first place I ever stayed in a hostel, and now, I can hardly remember how I traveled without hostels!

Texas- I stopped in Amarillo overnight. I bought spray paint, ate Texas BBQ, and the next morning, I legally vandalized Cadillac Ranch. I was surprised to learn that spray paint doesn’t work too well in below-freezing temperatures. Yes, in Texas, which I always pictured as a giant hot desert, there was snow on the ground and temps in the twenties!

Utah- What a salty place! I could tell when I crossed the border between Nevada and Utah because the landscape went from brown mountains to white salt flats. I camped on the Salt Lake and floated with the brine shrimp. The next day, I went into the city and saw Temple Square.

Vermont- I haven’t seen it.

Virginia- My 10th grade class spent some time in Alexandria. It was mostly because it was cheaper to stay here than in DC, but we did some tourist things in Virginia as well, including a downtown ghost tour, Arlington, and Mount Vernon.

Washington- I visited the Oregon border town of Vancouver (not Canada) when I had relatives living there. Later, this was the scene for the first out-of-state trip I took without family, when I was twelve and went on my first choir tour. One of our tour stops was Seattle, which is still a city dear to my heart.

West Virginia- I’ve been to every state surrounding West Virginia, but not West Virginia itself.

Wisconsin- I went to two different camp conferences in two consecutive years, both in early March. One was in Lake Geneva, and I had to borrow shorts because it was so warm. The other was in the North Woods, which was so freezing and deep in snow that I walked on the solid lake!

Wyoming- I’ve been to Yellowstone, and this was also a state I visited twice while moving cross-country (one move in either direction).

As a bonus, I’ve also been to Washington, DC. As mentioned in conjunction with other states, this was part of my 10th grade East Coast school trip. Ever since then, I wanted to go back and spend more time on my own with the things that would interest me.

There you have it. I’d like to start working on getting to the other seventeen states on this list, because it would be really nifty if I could get to fifty!

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