Iíll admit that Europe and Australia are my ďbucket listĒ trips. But sometimes the best vacation is in your own backyard: the so-called staycation. With a staycation, you get to see your local community in a whole different light, from the perspective of a tourist and not a resident. What you experience gives you a new appreciation for your state. Did I mention itís cheap?
So what are the best states for staycations? Hereís my top 5 list based on places Iíve lived and visited, as well as places some of my best friends call home.
Who itís good for: The Mountaineer
Why: For the adventurous, Colorado has hiking, camping, skiing, mountain biking and other incredible outdoor activities. Check out awesome sites like Dinosaur National Monument, Pike's Peak, the Flatirons, Hanging Lake and other natural wonders. Take a trip from Durango to Silver Springs via train or hike in, making camp in the wilderness.
The main thing that sets Colorado apart from other Front Range states are its big cities like Colorado Springs, Fort Collins and Denver. With these cities, you get everything in one lovely package: good jobs, large culturally rich communities and the wide open setting of the American west at its finest. With excellent craft beer communities and delicious dining options, you won't be missing coastal cities one bit.
Who itís good for: The Part-Time Adventurer
Why: Though many think of Arizona as nothing more than a desert, it is a wonderful place for tourists and residents alike. Like Colorado, it has stunning vistas for the eyes and plenty of adventures for those seeking adrenaline rushes. Visit the skywalk over the Grand Canyon, go mountain climbing, whitewater raft in the Colorado River, and more. The climate, especially in winter, is incredible. With sunny warmth in the south for outdoor activities and montane cold in the north for skiing and winter sports, youíre within striking distance of both.
Obviously you'll want to see the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and Monument Valley. But don't forget about the spectacular golf courses, old western movie set tours in Tucson and dining in Phoenix at one of the many fine restaurants.
Why: California's size coupled with its diverse range of climate and topography make staycation possibilities practically endless. Some think of east coast states as having all the history while the west coast gets the fun. Historically speaking, it was California's amazing mountain ranges and landforms that helped John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, make a case for the idea of a national park, leading to the preservation of nature for future generations.
California has everything, mountains, farmland, wine country, beaches, and countless activities for each area. Though rich in natural beauty, there is no shortage of city life, from the small but artistically rich Laguna Beach, to Los Angeles and Hollywood with their glitz and glamour, to San Francisco, with its famous Chinatown, fine dining, and unbelievable architecture.
Why: Well, the first and most obvious point of interest is New York City. It's a veritable world capitol of music, art, architecture, food, theater, finance and more. The city is so large that even when you live there, it still takes a lifetime to see and experience most of its offerings. But outdoorsy types aren't left out in New York, not by a long shot. Upstate New York is known for striking landscapes and quaint historical towns, as well as beautiful Appalachian parks for camping, hiking and boating. Less widely known is western New York's wine country, which is a pleasant and delicious surprise to many.
Who itís good for: Lovers of Relaxation & Recreation
Why: Florida had to make this list. First, it's the vacation capitol of the United States, for everything from spring break blowouts to family vacations at one of Orlando's many theme parks. Yet, regardless of how wonderful the beaches and theme parks are, Florida is so much more. Worlds away from one another, the bustling and culturally unique Miami brings a Latin vibe thatís beloved worldwide, while the panhandle, affectionately known by locals as the Redneck Riviera, is the favored destination for Southerners in spring and summer. On the peninsula, Orlando and West Palm Beach feature world class golf courses.
Donít forget the east coast, with Cape Canaveral and all the NASA related attractions, and St. Augustine, the oldest permanently occupied European settlement. Florida has both the Atlantic and the Gulf waters rolling onto its shores, but there are lakes and springs that are perfect for fishing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding, water skiing and glass bottom boat tours. And delicious seafood can be found anywhere in the state. Because of the seasonality of visitors, plenty of hotels offer low cost rooms with Florida resident discounts widely available. Normally hotel stays are prohibited during a true staycation, but when itís so cheap, itís hard to argue with the benefits of getting a hotel near the beach or theme park.
My State Isnít on This List. Is It Bad for Staycations?
Definitely not! Great staycations start with looking at your home state through the eyes of a tourist. It's enormous fun to check out for yourself what draws tourists. Of course, if you're not personally excited about your state's options, it may be time for you to move! You deserve to love where you live.