In 2023, I finally visited my 50th state — Alaska.
I thought it'd be perfect to save the biggest, most remote state for last.
Alaska was filled with incredible food and activities and I would go back.
For years, it's been my goal to visit all 50 states.
Growing up in Pennsylvania, frequent road trips to New England and Florida allowed me to check off coastal states in quick succession.
In subsequent years, easy access to New York City airports made it relatively easy to use holiday weekends to check off more. Around 2010, I saw No. 48 (Hawaii) and No. 49 (North Dakota) as part of family vacations.
But instead of making plans for Alaska, No. 50, I pivoted my focus to exploring Asia, Europe, and South America. My idea was that Alaska would always be there.
But after the height of the coronavirus pandemic around 2020, I refocused on North America. By 2023, I knew it was time to visit my last state.
Here's why I'm glad I saved Alaska for last.
Alaska is so big that each city almost felt like a different state
Alaska's vastness is put into perspective when you remember you can fit two of the second-largest states (Texas) inside of it.
In part because of its size, each part of the state has a different feel.
I started in Fairbanks and had to wear sunglasses on the way to my hotel — it was so bright and sunny out even though it was around 10 p.m. In Ketchikan, I experienced rainy, Seattle weather.
In Anchorage, I was reminded of home as I experienced traffic jams. Here, though, they were caused by a goat that went too far down a cliff adjacent to the Seward Highway.
The state was filled with incredible activities and memorable cuisine
I mined for gold outside Fairbanks, sampled reindeer sausage in Anchorage, and explored the scandalous side of Ketchikan's history along Married Man's Trail.
I visited several museums and was especially impressed with the Alaska Native Heritage Center in Anchorage's replicas of where indigenous people lived. Each dwelling had a member from the given tribe to tell stories and answer questions.
Food-wise, I ate at least one memorable thing in each city. The omnipresent Thai food huts in Fairbanks served as the backdrop for the most surprising culinary experience I've had in the United States.
I ordered my pad Thai through a window and never got out of my car, which made more sense once I learned most vehicle owners use heaters to stop their engines from freezing in the below-50-Fahrenheit winters.
I tried salmon in Ketchikan, the salmon capital of the world, but I most remember the soft, Parisian-like seaweed gnocchi I ordered in the most touristy part of town.
In Anchorage, I had Southeast Alaskan oysters with plum-wine foam that made me nearly forget every oyster bar I've ever tried in the Northeast.
I was intimidated at first, but I'm glad I saved Alaska for last
Alaska ended up being No. 50 for two main reasons.
First, it's probably the most difficult to get to from the Northeast, with direct flights being seasonal and limited.
Second, I was intimidated. How would I, who never even lived in an unattached house, enjoy the largest, least densely populated state?
But once I was aboard Alaska's Denali Star train, enjoying the changing landscapes over a plate of reindeer bolognese while oblivious to the lack of cell-phone reception, I realized I may have saved the best for last.
And I know I'd definitely like to return.
Read the original article on Business Insider