Not all states are created equal. This is my completely unbiased ranking of the fifty states, from number one to number fifty. This will be a three part post. This first part will be numbers 1-15. The next post will be 16-30, and the final (and best) post will be 31-50. I will surely offend many of you (purposefully), but if you aren’t happy with my rankings, make your own. These rankings are, of course, based on science. Without further ado, the top 15:
1. Washington: Even from a completely objective standpoint, there is nothing to dislike about this state. It has every form of geography, from desert and high plateaus in the east, to glacial tundra in the Cascade Mountains, to rain forests in the Olympic peninsula. Bigfoot will almost assuredly be discovered here, and this state produces the most apples of any state in the Union (which means more apple pies). It doesn’t have all the baggage that comes from some historical event like the Civil War, and not as many Indian massacres took place here as in, say, Montana. Seattle (Washington’s flagship city) is a thriving metropolis like New York or Los Angeles, except with fewer gangs, less congestion, and more Asians–all positives. Spokane, the eastern half’s flagship city, should win the prize for best small city in America and actually hosted the 1974 world’s fair. It is also home of the greatest small town in America: Trout Lake. If a foreign power could hand pick one state out of our great nation to ingest into itself, Washington would surely be the top choice.
Public Market in Seattle, WA and the North Cascades in Washington–I mean, come on
2. Oregon: Oregon is nothing more than one of Washington’s most promising children, but the apple has not fallen far from the tree. Gorgeous beaches, beautiful landscapes, a laid-back spirit, and the city of Portland (which is secretly a cleaner, more interesting version of Seattle) make Oregon stand above the rest. Plus, beavers are just wondrous creatures.
The Oregon coast
3. Alaska: It’s the second most likely landing place for bigfoot, and no other state can beat the scenery. If the United States fell victim to attack by a foreign nation, there is a good chance that nation would forget that Alaska existed and let it be. It would then be ground zero for a new America. Alaska is not higher than 3 because it’s dark for half the year, and let’s face it: that’s just depressing.
4. Michigan: Rach is from Michigan, so that alone probably bumped it up a few notches. If we were engaged in a massive land war with a foreign power in a post-apocalyptic environment, Michigan would be in pretty good shape. Canada would certainly not attack it from the north (the mounties are just not that strong). After Ohio and Indiana undoubtedly get overrun from the south because neither state has any natural barriers, all Michiganders could cross the Mackinac Bridge, burn it behind them, and be safe in the Upper Peninsula. The UP is by far the better part of the state anyways, because let’s face it: southern Michigan is basically northern Toledo. Some refugees from Ohio would probably be able to make it over the bridge before it was burned, but many would be left on the southern shore to be taken prisoner. This would, once and for all, decide the greatest rivalry of all time in favor of Michigan.
5. Wyoming: This primarily gets ranked so high because there are so few people there. I was once spending the night with my brother at a shady hotel in Rawlins, WY. Some folks decided to appear outside our hotel door with guns and started yelling they were going to shoot the place up with their AK-47s. Though it was 1 in the morning, my brother and I snuck out of the hotel and got out of town as fast as possible. Just typing those last few sentences makes me want to visit again. What a great place.
The state pen in Rawlins, WY
6. Maine: I’m not thrilled at my choice to rank Maine at 6, but it feels like it would be a crime to rank it any lower, seeing that Maine gives us such great lobsters. Also, my favorite Civil War general, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (the hero of Little Round Top) was from Maine, and so is Stephen King. Would I be shocked if someday Rach and I spent the waning years of our lives in a quaint little cabin on Maine’s Atlantic Coast, fishing poles in one hand and walking stick in the other? No, no I would not.
7. Idaho: Yes, I know what your first thought is: southern Idaho could be used as the filming location for a war movie based in Afghanistan. No argument here. But Idaho, too, is one of Washington’s young children, so I cannot rank it lower than seventh. Northern Idaho is absolutely rugged and stunning, and there are just so many things you can do with an Idaho potato.
Southern Idaho (top) versus northern Idaho (bottom)
8. Pennsylvania: The birthplace of freedom. The site of the liberty bell (is it still there in Philadelphia?). I was in Philadelphia one time with my family for about three and a half hours, and during that time we witnessed a bank robbery and a hit and run. It was a great visit. But seriously, I was a Civil War buff when I was a kid, so my heaven was visiting a place like Gettysburg. And if I’m forced at gunpoint to root for a Big Ten team, it’s Penn State (my grandpa went to school there). Pennsylvania is basically everything New Jersey has tried to be and isn’t, and it does it without trying.
9. Montana: I flirted with the idea of moving Montana all the way up to #2. Missoula may have the highest number of deer per capita of any city in the union, so the very fact that there are not thousands of people dying every year there from head on collisions with deer is a miracle in and of itself. The state is boundless and the sky really does look big. The Little Bighorn battlefield is one of the best little-known parks in the country. I knocked Montana down a little because I feel like Montana, as a state, is still trying to find itself. It’s in its adolescent years. Check back in 10-20, and we’ll see where it lands. Big upside.
10. North Carolina: The natural beauty is undeniable, and though it is not as rugged as some of the mountainous western states, it compensates through its old-style southern charm. I think Last of the Mohicans was filmed there, so that is a big plus in my book. I was there with my cousins and brother one time, and our relatives kindly gave us tickets to a Charlotte Bobcats game. They were playing the Boston Celtics the year that Boston won the NBA championship. Charlotte had the ball, up by 2 with three seconds to go, and all they had to do was inbound the ball. Of course it was stolen, and Ray Allen hit a three as time expired to give Boston the win. We were sitting about 10 rows back from the court, right behind Ray Allen’s family (they were going crazy). Great memories in Charlotte.
11. California: I was born in southern California and have many relatives that still live in California. Rach and I honeymooned in the San Francisco area, and the Napa Valley is one of the most beautiful places on earth. California has everything you would want: beaches, mountains, forests, cities, country, rustic, glamour. But that’s also it’s biggest flaw. I kind of compare California to going into a place like Target. There are so many great things in Target, but you really have to focus and choose which section of the store (electronics, sports, food, etc.) is important to you that day. Otherwise it’s overwhelming. And there are just too many sea lions in San Francisco. The ecosystem cannot possibly support that many on the wharves there.
Napa Valley, CA
12. Alabama: Every time I drive through southern Alabama, I am just in awe. The countryside is immaculate and green, with gorgeous pastures and small ponds–and just dotted with tons of trailers. It is just like camping every day down there in southern Alabama. The regular folk don’t have to camp on vacation–their lives are camping. And I can’t help but think that is maybe the way we are supposed to be living. Plus, there is never any chance of anything changing anytime soon, because people in Alabama spend all their spare time watching Auburn or Alabama play football.
13. West Virginia: I personally have a great deal of fondness for the mountaineer state. West Virginia was the only state in the Union to separate from a Confederate State during the Civil War. The city of Morgantown is vastly underrated, and beautiful to boot, and I love the movie October Sky. But did you know October Sky was mostly shot in eastern Tennessee? That fact alone knocks West Virginia out of the top 10.
This shot is probably in the woods of east Tennessee
14. Minnesota: I was once in the Mall of America around Thanksgiving and got to go inside what was allegedly the largest gingerbread house in the world, so that was pretty neat. Also, the nickname of Minnesota is the gopher state, a big plus. What are golden gophers though? Some weird hybrid breed that I–a professional gopher trapper–have never heard about? Also, Minnesotans need to calm down about the “Land of a Thousand Lakes” gimmick. It was cool for about the first 2 or 3 decades, but once you’ve seen about 10 of the 1,000, you probably don’t need to see the other 990.
15. Colorado: There are those of you out there who will rank Colorado much higher than I, but the Denver airport conspiracy creeps me out a little bit. For those of you that don’t know, the Denver airport may be ground zero for the illuminati as they take over the world in five or ten years. Can we really rank a state that might be ground zero for the new world order higher than fifteenth, regardless of how many great ski resorts it has? The natural beauty is incredible, of course, and Denver is a Top 6 or 7 American city, but how can we rank a state that got rid of Tim Tebow higher than fifteenth? I’m only asking the questions.
“New World Airport Commission”?
Make sure to check back in a couple days for more of the rankings. Comment below if you think I ranked these states wrong. Which states would you put in the top 15?