This Map Shows the Ultimate U.S. Road Trip

The concept of a road trip is as American as apple pie, and yet, devising the “best” U.S. driving route is a bit of a head scratcher. Much depends on time parameters, personal preference, and frankly, how long you want to spend behind the wheel.

Tracy Staedter at Discovery News decided to take on that challenge, enlisting Randy Olson—Michigan State University doctoral student and the man behind the famed (and super helpful) Where’s Waldo algorithm—to devise what you might call the platonic ideal of the United States road trip. The parameters were: It had to hit all of the 48 continental states, every stop had to be a National Natural Landmark, a National Historic Site, a National Park, or a National Monument, and of course, had to be confined to car travel and within U.S. borders.

With a stop in Washington D.C. and two in California, the result is 50 points of all American awesomenesss.

Here are the destinations:

1. Grand Canyon, AZ
2. Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
3. Craters of the Moon, ID
4. Yellowstone National Park, WY
5. Pikes Peak, CO
6. Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM
7. The Alamo, TX
8. The Platt Historic District, OK
9. Toltec Mounds, AR
10. Elvis Presley’s Graceland, TN
11. Vicksburg National Military Park, MS
12. French Quarter, LA
13. USS Alabama, AL
14. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL
15. Okefenokee Swamp Park, GA
16. Fort Sumter National Monument, SC
17. Lost World Caverns, WV
18. Wright Brothers National Memorial Visitor Center, NC
19. Mount Vernon, VA
20. White House, Washington, D.C.
21. Colonial Annapolis Historic District, MD
22. New Castle Historic District, DE
23. Cape May Historic District, NJ
24. Liberty Bell, PA
25. Statue of Liberty, NY
26. The Mark Twain House & Museum, CT
27. The Breakers, RI
28. USS Constitution, MA
29. Acadia National Park, ME
30. Mount Washington Hotel, NH
31. Shelburne Farms, VT
32. Fox Theater, MI
33. Spring Grove Cemetery, OH
34. Mammoth Cave National Park, KY
35. West Baden Springs Hotel, IN
36. Abraham Lincoln’s Home, IL
37. Gateway Arch, MO
38. C. W. Parker Carousel Museum, KS
39. Terrace Hill Governor’s Mansion, IA
40. Taliesin, WI
41. Fort Snelling, MN
42. Ashfall Fossil Bed, NE
43. Mount Rushmore, SD
44. Fort Union Trading Post, ND
45. Glacier National Park, MT
46. Hanford Site, WA
47. Columbia River Highway, OR
48. San Francisco Cable Cars, CA
49. San Andreas Fault, CA
50. Hoover Dam, NV

That list starts with the Grand Canyon, but you could theoretically begin anywhere as long as you drive in sequence after that. Staedter guesses it would take a little over nine days of driving straight through, but more realistically is a two- or three-month trip.

For the nitty gritty on how he came up with the route, check out Olson’s blog. After determining the stops, the main goal of the algorithm was to find the shortest distance between points.

Olson wrote to Staedter: "Instead of exhaustively looking at every possible solution, genetic algorithms start with a handful of random solutions and continually tinker with these solutions — always trying something slightly different from the current solution and keeping the best one — until they can’t find a better solution any more."

And whether or not you understand the specifics of how it was created, the map is truly a marvel and the kind of itinerary you'll probably spend all winter dreaming about. See the full, interactive map here, and for additional #travelgoals, check out Olson’s road trip maps for U.S. cities and Europe.

The Most Popular Beer in Each State, Mapped

DavidPrahl/iStock via Getty Images
DavidPrahl/iStock via Getty Images

In case you were unaware: September 7 is Beer Lovers Day. While Americans hardly need a good reason to throw back a cold one, that there's an entire day dedicated to our favorite sudsy beverage makes it taste that much better. But do regional flavors impact beer preferences? That's the question VinePair, a site dedicated to our love of adult beverages, sought to answer when it created a map to find each state's favorite brand of beer. Or, at least, most states.

Though they were only able to gather data from 35 states, 22 of those states chose Bud Light as their favorite brew, making it the hands-down winner. Coors Light came out on top in three states (the mid-Atlantic region seems to enjoy the Silver Bullet) while New Glarus Brewing Company’s Spotted Cow Ale, a Wisconsin-produced beer, is the favorite brand of—you guessed it—Wisconsinites.

Does your state’s most popular beer brand match your personal preference? Check out the full map below, or visit VinePair to read more.

Get Excited for Fall With This Interactive Peak Foliage Map

Kirkikis/iStock via Getty Images
Kirkikis/iStock via Getty Images

The season of scarves, sweaters, and pumpkin spice everything is almost upon us. No matter how you feel about the end of summer, it's hard not appreciate the colorful foliage when it reaches its peak in autumn. Those red, orange, and gold leaves may be visible outside your window sooner than you think; the interactive map below from SmokyMountains.com shows you exactly when to expect them.

Fall foliage normally peaks sometime after the autumnal equinox, which falls on September 23 in 2019, but exactly when depends on variables like rainfall and temperature. Each year, the tourism website SmokyMountains.com looks at weather forecasts and historical trends from NOAA and puts together an interactive map showing when foliage is predicted peak across contiguous U.S.

Warmer temperatures have led to peak foliage occurring later in the season. In 2019, Northern New England, a place famous for its leaf-peeping, will see the brightest leaves around October 5. Peak foliage won't reach the rest of New England until October 12. Around October 26, parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oregon, and Illinois will be treated to the most spectacular leaves of the season, and in Southern states like South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee, peak foliage won't begin until November 9. By November 30, the fall foliage will have passed its peak everywhere but along the Gulf coast.

By sliding the scale beneath the map, you can see when foliage is expected to peak in your part of the of the country. You can also use the tool to plan trips around the changing leaves.

"We believe this interactive tool will enable travelers to take more meaningful fall vacations, capture beautiful fall photos, and enjoy the natural beauty of autumn," Wes Melton, the site's data scientist and CTO, said in a statement. "Our nationwide fall foliage prediction map is unique—it is one of the only fall leaf tools that provides accurate predictions for the entire continental United States."

If you can't pick just one destination to take in the foliage this fall, you don't have to—a train ride or a road trip are some of the best ways to see as much of it as possible.

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