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Episodes: A list of states I have been to, ranked by how long I have spent in each (with notes on quality of life)


Emily VanDerWerff

Jan 30 2016

10 min read



1) South Dakota

I lived here for the first 23.5 years of my life and have been back for lengthy visits many times since. It is a beautiful, windswept, lonely place. I love it like no other on Earth, and yet I don't think I could ever move back there. I don't know that people were meant to live with that much space around them. It opens up cracks.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

2) California

I have lived here for the last 10.5 years. I spent the first few years in Riverside, which was a dumb idea, but have lived in Long Beach and Los Angeles also, and that's a much better idea. I also enjoy the state's far north (particularly Eureka), the Bay Area, and the Central Coast. 10/10. Would live again.

Yelp review score: 4.5/5

3) Wisconsin

I lived here for a little under a year straight out of college, working at the newspaper in Milwaukee, in addition to other visits throughout the years. I kind of love Wisconsin, and if I were to move back to the Midwest, it would be here. Hugely underrated.

Yelp review score: 4/5

4) The District of Columbia

Not even a state. Lived here for two months during the move over to Vox, and I came to really like it. What surprised me was how small it felt, compared to Southern California. As a South Dakota boy, I am always a bit surprised to find a big city feeling small, but there you have it. Chief advantage: You can walk literally anywhere from anywhere else within the district.

Yelp review score: 4/5

5) Indiana

I also lived here for two months, when working for a political campaign. However, I haven't really been back since. I was in southern Indiana, which is a lot more like the northern South than the Midwest, but I still remember the way fog rose off of the green hills, or how the people were friendly even when they hated you. Also: Really great ice cream place.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

6) Minnesota

As we get into the "places I have taken vacations to" portion of our list, we begin with a state that I have traveled to for innumerable band trips and brief visits and other things. Minnesota seems like a nice enough place, but there are too many people who know me there.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

7) Iowa

My sister lived here for a while. The best thing I can say about Iowa is that loose meat sandwiches are kind of fun, and it always seems like The Music Man is about to start happening all around you at any given moment.

Yelp review score: 3/5

8) Idaho

A different sister lives here. It's very beautiful, but it also feels like the kind of place where you could wander into an armed standoff at any given moment.

Yelp review score: 3/5

9) Michigan

I was born in Michigan and technically spent the first two months of my life here, so it should probably be higher. I don't remember any of that, though, because I was a dumb baby. It is a giant Bruce Springsteen song in its fourth and final verse, after the Clarence Clemons solo, but before the lengthy fadeout over organ music. Nice beaches, tho.

Yelp review score: 3/5

10) Missouri

I spent two weeks in a training course here in Columbia right after college. I've also visited St. Louis a couple of times. My main memory of Missouri is that I had a good time at the training course, and it was the place I first ate at Chipotle. Life changing.

Yelp review score: 2.5/5

11) Illinois

Have been to Chicago a few times on various trips. Also traveled there for frequent work stuff when I was at The A.V. Club. My wife and I also drove it from north to south when moving once and found Springfield rather charming. Points off for the dread curse the ghost of Abraham Lincoln placed on me.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

12) New York

I was going to say that I have only ever been to New York City, but that's not true. I also drove through Buffalo once and visited Niagara Falls. So I have really gotten the full New York experience.

Yelp review score: 4/5

13) North Carolina

My entire impression of North Carolina is based on visiting the upper class neighborhoods of Raleigh and also various beautiful beaches. Thus, North Carolina is the best state in the union.

Yelp review score: 4/5

14) Texas

My entire impression of Texas is based on spending a few days in Austin every year, and driving through West Texas to get there. Austin is nice. El Paso feels like a guy hanging over the edge of a cliff. I have to assume everything else is guys wearing cowboy hats and shooting pistols into the air.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

15) Nebraska

I have driven through this state a lot. Pro tip: There is, like, the Walmart Supercenter of sex shops on the outskirts of Grand Island (or, at least, there used to be).

Yelp review score: 2/5

16) Hawaii

If you have not been to Hawaii before, I very much recommend it. I spent a week there last summer, and pretty much all I did was sleep. Oh, and I got to see a manta ray. He seemed pretty chill.

Yelp review score: 6/5

17) Arizona

I have driven through this state a lot. Pro tip: Never leave the interstate in Phoenix. You will lose five hours of your life and not be entirely sure why.

Yelp review score: 1/5

18) New Mexico

New Mexico is like Arizona if Arizona knew what it was doing.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

19) Nevada

If you are going to leave California, pretty much, you are going to drive through Nevada for at least a little bit. Once you get out into the Nevada desert, it feels like literally everything is a nuclear bomb test site.

Yelp review score: 3/5

20) Oregon

I love Oregon. I always thought I would move here, until I read that article about how a giant earthquake is going to swallow it whole. I still might move here, because I love it that much. I'll just buy earthquake shoes or something.

Yelp review score: 4.5/5

21) Washington

I can't move to Washington. The constant rain would make me way too happy.

Yelp review score: 4.5/5

22) Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was way lower on this list until I realized I've spent a surprising amount of time here in little dribs and drabs over the years. It's all been in Philly and Pittsburgh, though. That said, I think both cities are super keen.

Yelp review score: 4/5

23) Utah

True story: My family once went on a tour of the Temple Square facilities in Salt Lake, and we were never once proselytized to by Mormon missionaries because my mom was wearing a dress that made her look like she was straight off a polygamist compound. Truer story: If you ever try to drive through Utah, it will take you four hours longer than you had planned, because all roads lead to SLC, and nobody there knows how to drive.

Yelp review score: 2/5

24) Colorado

Super beautiful state. Mountains are great. I have a bunch of friends here. Good Times is one of the country's finest regional fast food chains. Points off for the way everybody is super fit. Who needs that kind of pressure?

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

25) Wyoming

Some of the best hours of my life have been spent in Aladdin, Wyoming. Beyond that, though, this is the state you go to if you need to hide a body or something.

Yelp review score: 3/5

26) Montana

Montana is what Europeans picture when they imagine America, I'm pretty sure.

Yelp review score: 4/5

27) Kansas

I know I have spent a lot of time in Kansas. I remember almost none of it. That feels pretty accurate.

Yelp review score: 2/5

28) Virginia

Of the two states that surround DC, this is by far my favorite. Also, Richmond is a great city to drive through at 1 in the morning.

Yelp review score: 3.5/5

29) Maryland

Whatever, Maryland. You barely have sidewalks.

Yelp review score: 2.5/5

30) North Dakota

This is a demon-haunted place, and we try to avoid it.

Yelp review score: Just a little devil emoji and then an emoji of a guy throwing up.

31) Ohio

I have been to SeaWorld Ohio. Every time I meet someone from Ohio, I tell them all about it, and their eyes kind of glaze over. Anyway, Cleveland is great.

Yelp review score: 3/5

32) Florida

My only impression of Florida is going to Miami once a few years ago. And I fucking loved Miami. Everything I've heard makes me never want to venture into the rest of the state, but I'd go back to Miami in a heartbeat.

Yelp review score (Miami only): 4.5/5

33) New Jersey

I almost left my teddy bear on an airport shuttle in Newark. So I get why everybody hates Jersey.

Yelp review score: 2.5/5

34) Delaware

Simply brilliant.

Yelp review score: 10/5

35) Oklahoma

Have driven through this state once. It was at the time Carrie Underwood was on American Idol, so it was all anybody could talk about. Then I ate at a Sonic for the first time. Feels like I got the gist.

Yelp review score: 1.5/5

36) South Carolina

I have been here for about an hour, while driving around with my parents on one of our North Carolina trips. It seemed a little overgrown, and I didn't even get to go to that one weird Mexican restaurant.

Yelp review score: 1.5/5

37) Georgia

The Atlanta airport is really nice.

Yelp review score (Atlanta airport only): 4/5

38) Kentucky

When I lived in Indiana, some fellow campaign workers and I drove across the border for five minutes to say we'd been. It was dark. We went to a rest stop. The bathrooms were clean.

Yelp review score: Incomplete data.

Unvisited: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia

Not ranked: Puerto Rico

Also not a state, I'm told, but I really loved it. You should make a point of visiting.

Yelp review score: 5/5


Episodes is published at least three times per week, and more if I feel like it. It is mostly about television, except when it's not. Suggest topics for future installments via email or on Twitter. Read more of my work at Vox Dot Com.

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