There are 50 glorious states in the United States of America and each has it's own culture, history, resources, and famous figures just waiting to be discovered. When we travel on our quest to see all 50, we make it a point to appreciate the diversity of the U.S. by dialing into each individual state, understanding it's distinguishing characteristics and "personality" if you will. This sense of curiosity makes our trips infinitely more interesting, educational, and fun. The discovery takes part in two phases-the research, and the experience. Once finished, we are all left with a very broad understanding of each particular state and what makes it special in it's own way. Here are a few tips to help you and your family make the most of this incredible not be missed educational opportunity.
The Research- Ask yourself and the members of your family what you think of when you hear the name of the state? Just brainstorm and make a list with anything and everything that comes to mind. Then look through guidebooks like Fodor's or Frommers and websites like TripAdvisor and make a list of the most popular activities and things to see and do are. Once you have your two lists, see if you can make any connections. Obvious ones will come together like for example Kentucky, horse racing, and The Churchill Downs Racetrack and Kentucky Derby Museum and the Kentucky Horse Park. Some may not be so obvious...I did not know that Montana was famous for mineral mining until I read about the World Museum of Mining, The Mineral Museum located at Montana Tech University and the Spokane Bar Sapphire Mine. Are there any special foods associated with the state your visiting? Find out and then seek out places online and in your guidebooks so you can make sure you get a taste. Check reviews to make sure it'll be a tasty version of whatever it is your trying.
The Experience-Once you've arrived in the state you're visiting, engage your senses and try your best to soak up the local culture. Listen for accents and notice what folks are wearing-how are these things different from where you live. Notice the landscape, any particular trees, plants or flowers? The one thing that shocked me the most about North Dakota that I had a hard time wrapping my head around were places with not one tree in sight, only grass as far as the eye could see-that really made me think about the lifestyle of North Dakotans and how hard it must have been for those homesteaders. Taste local dishes and think about why those things are popular in that state. When we were in New Orleans and tried Beignet we talked about the French settlers influence in Louisiana and how it even affected the foods folks eat today. Notice the smells too, from foods in open air markets, the state fair ( for me it was corn dogs, lemonade and livestock) and the forest or the shore. You can even touch when its appropriate-like a Buffalo hide, or the fabric right off the loom, or the controls in the cockpit of an old fighter jet. Make sure you and your family talk about what your experiencing and recognize how all those things make the state you are visiting unique and special.
Be curious and take the time discover and explore. You and your family will truly have an adventure in every sense of the word. You will learn by engaging all 5 senses and will return with wonderful memories and a new appreciation of a place that is most likely much different that where you live and yet still part of the same country and home to us all.