Sometimes it’s difficult to see the beauty in your own backyard. But that’s exactly what we implore you to do with the good ol’ United States. That’s why we painstakingly researched what this year’s top 10 states should be. Stop, take a breath, look around and make the familiar, unfamiliar again. Do it and you’ll see a world of adventure open up. We now present to you part two of Global Medical’s “Top 10 States to Explore” series. Read on and be inspired.
#5 Minnesota: Find your wide-open field of dreams right here
Ah, the Midwest. We find it at the intersection of those two disparate but quintessentially American coasts: east and west. The divide between the two began in 1849, when hundreds of thousands of forty-niners, migrated to California and—legend has it—they were carrying lattes and surfboards.
Early settlers of the frontier didn’t fly at the time, but some of the states here have been erroneously dubbed “fly-over” states. Yes, erroneous because we think America’s Heartland is full of great destinations—like Minnesota. All those Gold Rushers who never made it past the Midwest—seems they found their own wide-open field of dreams right here.
Minnesota alone has 90,000 miles of beautiful shoreline—that’s more than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined. In fact, if you have a penchant for wide rivers, mighty hills and deep culture, then this state is for you: its roots run incredibly deep when it comes to adventure. Between wild places like the Minnesota River and the Southern Lakes; small-town excursions like the North Shore Beer Trail in Duluth; and Native American heritage stops all along the Minnesota River Valley, this state is an endless eruption of spoils. All that is just a smattering of potential outdoor diversions you'll experience.
Then there’s the food. Philadelphia may have its cheesesteak, but Minneapolis has its Juicy Lucy. Plus, the folks you’ll meet in the Twin Cities area can’t be beat. Minnesotans are open, friendly, and straightforward and they prize themselves on their work ethic, heritage and independence. A sunny day in June may come with a price tag, but they take the winter weather with a shrug and a stoical smile.
In the end you don't find many places like Minnesota. Not just because it has miles of boast-worthy beaches along countless top-notch fishing lakes (Darling, Winona and Victoria to name a few). No, the real reason is because when you set foot in this portion of the U.S., it just feels like home. In fact, the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the very definition of "welcome." Come work in the middle of America; you'll leave thinking the Midwest is best, too.
#4 Hawaii: Less neon lights, more white-sand beaches
Trust us, you won’t tire of this place. You’ll enjoy its luster. You’ll end up preferring its Pacific waves to those blaring neon lights in the contiguous United States you're used to. That's right, Hawaii replaces that stop-and-go lifestyle with its own unique glow. You’ll see it in its dissonant cliffs; in its harmonious beaches; in its twisty-turny roads; and in the tanned smile of every local that's so enormously thankful to call these shores home.
Six islands make up this state. Three active volcanoes continue to sculpt its boundaries. And every last one of these ocean sanctuaries has quite the distinct personality. Kauai has perspective-shattering cliffs along the Napali Coast. Oahu gives just the right amount of city life while still blessing tourists with famous Hawaiian views (think Waikiki Beach). Molokai packs an incredible haymaker with its white-sand Papohaku Beach. Lanai trades in traffic lights for moon-invoking landscape at Keahikawelo (Garden of the Gods). Maui attracts artists and artisans alike due to its inspiring landscape. (Head to the top of Haleakala National Park to understand why these locals are so endlessly inspired.) And the Big Island, can we just say wow. The coffee farms of Holualoa. The rainforests of the Hamakua Coast. The black beaches of Punaluu. A few footsteps in any one of these above-mentioned sights will tempt you to abandon everything you know and let the ground below be your new home. Find yourself here.
#3 New York: The world turns with the Empire State
When it comes to great mountain and beach destinations, New York isn't always first-to-mind. Tall buildings, yes. Hiking boots and bikinis, no. Believe it or not there are places in the Empire State where there's rarely a hint of city life and always a steady influx of relaxation. In Upstate New York for example, sky-high mountains take the place of towering skyscrapers. Gridlocked traffic is traded in for infinite hiking trails. And the bright lights of Time Square are replaced by the most star-filled skies imaginable.
Head to Northeastern New York and visit the historic and beautiful and large Lake Champlain. Fishermen know it grows the biggest bass and the rest of us know its waters host wonderful distractions: kayaking, sailing and island-hopping. You'll also see orchards and wineries and gorges and caves and the rest of the land is beautifully battle-torn from the War of 1812.
West of that, in the Finger Lakes Region, you’re surrounded by sprawling vineyards and quiet roadways. Still, this portion packs a lot of punch. We're sure Mark Twain would completely agree. He wrote his most famous works high on a hilltop (Quarry Farm) with his head literally in the clouds. We can see why he adored it so much: Victorian homes dot leagues of blue hills and breweries and festivals add luster to the city.
Farther west you can watch 40 million gallons of water rush over 170-foot cliffs at Niagara Falls. Though, the Greater Niagara region is more than crashing water. It’s also a mecca of art (think Albright Knox Museum) and architecture (Frank Lloyd Wright anyone?) And when it comes to food, where else are you going to find the original Buffalo chicken wings (Anchor Bar in Buffalo is where it all started).
Don’t leave New York State without visiting New York City. Its skyline is world-famous and its streets and nightlife have an unmistakable beat you can’t help but dance to. The world turns with this iconic city and you should, too. Never been? A number of stops belong on your list. The Empire State Building, Central Park, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty just to name a few. After, sink your teeth into real-deal New York art (MoMA), food (A Slice of Brooklyn Pizza Tour) and culture (Carnegie Hall).
When you depart this expansive state, you may not remember every landmark conquered but you won't soon forget the miles of Upstate country you carved, the series of NYC restaurants you frequented, and the feeling of the Empire sun beating on your back every last mile. Spend some time in New York where every moment is inescapably great.
#2 Washington: Rain or shine, this state is picture-perfect
People travel to Washington for very specific reasons: relaxing at mountain resorts, dining at farm-to-table restaurants, driving along scenic byways, imbibing in local beer, and yes, stocking up on coffee beans.
Now, coffee may be the drug of choice in Seattle but there's a lot more to this city than skinny lattes (or dreams of winning back-to-back Super Bowls). Seattle is one of those rare American cities where you can be outdoors almost year-round without freezing or sweating. The foodie in you will appreciate the enclaves of fresh seafood restaurants and a journey through Pike Place. And come rain (no doubt about it) or shine the outdoors enthusiast in you will enjoy North Cascades National Park, plus all the vibrant seaside parks scattered along the coast.
Southwestern Washington is in a class all its own. When you're right between Portland and Seattle nothing's out of reach. You can sip on local wines, spend a day pulling in champion-sized salmon and steelhead from nearby rivers, or take a private tour of one of the world's most famous volcanoes (Mount St. Helens).
In Eastern Washington you'll find a near infinite amount of lakes, an almost impossible expanse of mountains and a passionate-about-nature-and-nightlife city sitting beautifully in the center of it all, Spokane. More than 20 wineries are nearby but we suggest Arbor Crest since it's about the cliff-top views as much as the fantastic wine.
You can probably tell, it's not hard to paint a pretty picture of Washington. On the west, you’ve got a year-round mild climate and the greenest of views. And in the rest of the Evergreen State, you've got resorts and unending outdoor adventure. What's not to love? The residents are proud to call this cross-section of America home; when you get here you'll see why.
#1 Arizona: A too-huge world of wonders
In Arizona everything somehow seems grander and larger than life. Long before the first cowboy rode onto the silver screen, the world's love affair with this Wild West state burned bright.
Come here to witness the spectacle that is the Grand Canyon; admire the giant saguaros (pronounced "suh-wah-ro”) that dot the Sonoran Desert; or stand at the celebrated Four Corners—the only point in the U.S. where the boundaries of four states touch (though if you read the news, the surveyors apparently missed the real mark by 2.5 miles).
Then there’s Phoenix—the oasis town that has it all. Just imagine: you can raft in the sun-filled Salt River Canyon, hike in McDowell Preserve, and dive into endless spas and retreats all in a short amount of time. Two hours south of Phoenix you'll find another something-special city, Tucson. There aren't any beaches here, but there are deserts and mountains that frontier legends blazed through. There isn't infinite mild weather, but there are four un-boring seasons awash with color. And there aren't any waves crashing but it does grow tons of grapes, in fact, the area is surging with wineries (the region's appropriately called Napa-zona).
Ultimately, Arizona's more than warm temperatures and desert landscapes. There are caves to cool off in and forests to hike through. Find out what lava-tube-spelunking is all about in the entirely underground, 1.5-mile long Coconino Cave. Or trek near seven national parks and monuments in the world's largest ponderosa pine forest. Go on, rethink Arizona. Then grab your hiking boots and head out into this too-huge world of wonders.
Be sure to read part one of "Global Medical's top 10 states for locum tenens doctors to explore in 2015"
Locums for a Small World Blog
The U.S. is a beautiful, electrified land: east to west, too-tall mountains storm onto too-long plains and then disappear into too-big coast. Each state is respectively remarkable. (They all have their own landscape, their own character, even their own energy.) Part one of Global Medical’s two-part "Top 10 States to Explore" series highlights some of the most remarkable states in the union. Read on and be inspired.
#10 Virginia: America's beautiful battleground and gateway to the South
Powerful Native American nations lived off the land now known as Virginia for centuries. English settlers then came and established their first permanent colony in 1607 giving birth to a new way of life in the New World.
You could say Virginia is old—because it is. Its age shows even in its nicknames (e.g., Old Dominion and the Mother of States). It’s not ashamed though. This state is proud to show its hard-fought scars. It’s been a battleground for many violent paradigm shifts throughout American history (think the Revolutionary War and the Civil Rights movement). So we look to VA and what we find wrapped up in its 42,774.2 square miles is an abundance of wisdom, beauty and character.
On the state's eastern coast you can bet there are a slew of great places to explore. Like Ferry Farm—on the banks of the gorgeous Rappahannock River—where you can visit the house George Washington grew up in. Or take to the Grapes and Grains Trail: you'll come across four wineries, a brewery, a distillery and tons of jaw-dropping scenery along the way. Oh, and if you run out of things to do (which you won't), Washington D.C. isn’t far off.
Farther in-state you can road-trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway; kayak the Upper James River; drink and dance at the Blue Ridge Blues and BBQ festival; or cruise into the famous orange-hued Virginia sunset on Smith Mountain Lake. There's Shenandoah National Park, too, with 196,000 acres of trails, caves and rivers.
Life moves pretty fast. It's important to slow down and take a deep breath every once in a while. Luckily that's not hard to do in Virginia. Come breathe in rich colonial towns (think Jamestowne), golden mountain communities (think Roanoke), silvery coastal cities (think Virginia Beach) and the most happening capital city in the South (Richmond). Take time to experience everything the Mother of States has to offer.
#9 Oregon: World-famous wine, craggy coastline and America's most European city
Try as you might you won't find another place like Oregon. In the south of the state there's this incredibly blue body of water high up on a mountaintop: It's called Crater Lake and it's the deepest lake in the United States. Make it to the top and you've got 2,000-foot-high views with nothing but infinite old-growth forest and rivers in every direction. Oh, and have you ever heard of a cliff-top lighthouse called Heceta Head? No? Drive north along the coast to catch it. Whale watching is probably at its finest here.
Keep heading north for a while and you'll start seeing massive rocks jutting out of the ocean at Cannon Beach. This place is much more than mist and monoliths though, it also doubles as an artistic town. Change course east with a slight southward bent and you'll arrive at Multnomah Falls—a grand waterfall that fringes the Historic Columbia River Highway. Then there's Mount Hood southeast of that (Portland's eye candy and Oregon's resort hotspot), Smith Rock southeast of that (a towering rock notorious to climbers everywhere), and the Painted Hills a tad east of that (a sea of multi-colored mountains). Make sure you check out all of Oregon's wonders.
Next to all these peaks and waterfalls and lighthouses you'll find farmers' markets, wineries and breweries with the freshest produce, the choicest of Pinot Noir and the frothiest of ales. And these places are only a few short hours from awesome cities and towns.
What about Portland? How can we forget the Rose City (named for its three stunning rose gardens plus the Annual Rose Festival)? The city that's been described as America's most European? The city that comes to mind whenever you think Oregon? If a pretty magazine is your only source for choosing travel destinations, you probably won't visit this riverside city. Because as gorgeous as it is, as cultured as it is, as downright everything-you’ve-ever-wanted-in-a-city as it is, you won’t find it bookmarked in some glossy brochure: you’ll hear about it from outdoorsmen, foodies, artists, explorers of all types, and now us. Here's a litany of things to do in Portland.
#8 Florida: There's no getting away with being uninspired in this inspiring land
Break your routine and try something new. Try Florida. A place with ineffable beaches and bogs; with waves that flit and sparkle; and with cities that dance and shine. Keep in mind, blue skies and pristine beaches are just the beginning of what makes the Sunshine State a can't-miss.
Northern Florida, for example, is replete with diversity. What with its oak-canopied Tallahassee, its raucous-nightlife-having Panama City, its river-city-by-the-sea Jacksonville, its food-with-a-Cajun-flair Gainesville, and its relax-in-the-morning-surf-in-the-afternoon Pensacola—there's no getting away with being uninspired in this inspiring land.
Jump way southeast and you’re in the thick of striking scenery—Port St. Lucie. Residents and tourists have long referred to this stretch of Florida as the Treasure Coast. Spend any time here and you'll agree the name is fitting. The waters offer up awe-inspiring marine life and a fishing scene second to none. Back on dry land, you'll find beachside boardwalks and farmers' markets galore. And with over 250 days of sunshine each year, how could you not treasure a place like this?
Farther south you'll find a sparkling city. It doesn't matter where you grew up, you've heard of Miami. In fact, you probably have an indelible composition of the city's colors in your head: green, blue, gold and every imaginable shade between. You'd be right to conjure that up. But if you go beyond the pretty images, you'll see a city with colors that don't register on any spectrum. We won't fault you for being blissfully unaware. Come see all the colorful music, dance, theatre, film, art and nightlife going on behind the scenes.
Massachusetts is great for so many reasons. Let’s start with reason number one, Boston. Four centuries of iron-hearted American history radiate through this town. It’s a proud city and it shows everywhere. It's not called the Cradle of Liberty…the Athens of America…the Hub of the Universe for no reason. It’s because cultural and political revolutions were born here. It’s because colonial and cutting-edge architecture is housed here. It’s because cream-of-the-crop colleges and universities drive the world ever-forward. It’s because top-notch seafood is served, sports history is made, avant-garde art and music is created, and the most epic showing of Independence Day is echoed across New England.
Southeast of the Hub you’ll find Cape Cod and the Islands (AKA reason number two Massachusetts is great). You get all kinds of culture, adventure and cuisine here. It’s all at your beck and call, too. Take a daytrip to Martha's Vineyard or Nantucket; try a fried-oyster slider at a top-notch seaside restaurant; or whale-watch on a speedy catamaran. Blue skies are known to stretch for miles in summer. And amazing surf notoriously pounds the white sand and snow in winter. This portion of the state is stunning in every season.
Come to Central and Western Massachusetts and you’ll find another reason this state is so great. In fact, you’ll roll around in greatness here. There’s perhaps the perfect amount of vineyards. And where there isn’t a winery there’s a historic town beautifully boxed in by farmland. Some notables: the Berkshires with bed-and-breakfasts and spa retreats, the Mohawk Trail with 63 miles of heritage and hiking, and Old Sturbridge Village with country stores, water-powered mills, and blacksmiths all showing you what life was like in the 19th century.
What are you waiting for? All of Massachusetts is glorious. Come pay homage to opulence in Cape Cod or honor history at the Freedom Trail in Boston (2.5 miles of epic American history). Come visit the Salem Witch Museum or eat your way through the North of Boston Seafood Trail; relive the “shot heard ‘round the world” in Lexington and Concord, relax near the craggy coastline of the North Shore. No matter what, you’re bound to have a good time. It’s family-friendly. It’s high-energy. It’s down-to-earth. And it’s all here.
#6 California: For those with an appetite for everything
Remember when you first saw the ocean? It was bigger than you could’ve imagined. California stirs the very same sentiment. There’s nothing like standing at Half Moon Bay at full morning mist, or catching the energy of Yosemite as the moon rolls into the forest, or getting drenched by sun and crystal-clear waters at Lake Tahoe, or even climbing toward the sky on the 90-year-old Giant Dipper rollercoaster in Santa Cruz. California is full of sights to make you feel small again.
Every traveler with an all-encompassing appetite should consider this state. It has coast. It has mountains. It has amusement parks. It has giant cities known the world over. Robust art scenes dominate in San Francisco and San Diego. Los Angeles’ culinary legacy continues to grow. And the scenes that authors and artists past painted of Big Sur still exist.
There’s nary a soul who doesn’t know about the power of California: its Hollywood streets, its golden beaches, and its poeticized tracts of land. The Redwoods stand tall. The wineries smooth over. The waves break. California is brilliant.
If you want to see all the above and more in one fast-paced adventure, then drive down coastal Highway 1. It’s a must to head down this stretch of California. In fact, go out of your way to make this happen. Why? Well, let us paint the picture. There are endless streams of clouds covering the sea. Underneath those big whites are cliffs and bridges and mountains and beaches. And while you’re barreling down that quintessential highway, those very same clouds roll far below you making it look like you’re on top of the world. Believe us, other motorists are just as mesmerized.
Stay tuned for our next blog to see which states made the rest of the lineup!