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.

Here's Each State’s Favorite Comic Book Universe

drante, iStock / Getty Images Plus
drante, iStock / Getty Images Plus

The hype surrounding the Marvel Cinematic Universe had barely subsided into a low roar after the 2018 releases of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War when 2019 brought us two more back-to-back MCU blockbusters: Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame. Between the films themselves and the ceaseless stream of fan theories, celebrity content, and toys, it seems like it’s Marvel’s world and we love nothing more than living in it.

But in a recent nationwide analysis by DISH sales agent USDish.com, it appears that a majority of America actually prefers the DC universe over Marvel's. The study used Google Trends data to find out which comic book universe—and which superhero—each state searched for most often. DC is most popular in a surprising 32 states, while Marvel is tops in a mere 14 state. Four states (Alaska, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Kentucky) were tied between the two. DC was also the winner when it came to most popular individual superheroes, though with a smaller margin: 29 states went with a DC hero, while 22 chose someone Marvelous. Superman, a DC creation, held the number one spot in eight states, the most of any superhero.

Illustrated map showing most popular comic book universe in each state
USDish.com

The outcome differs pretty significantly from last year’s study, in which Marvel reigned supreme in 37 states, and DC in only 8 (the remaining five were tied).

It seems, however, that states don’t have a loyalist mentality when it comes to comic book universes: Plenty of states’ most searched-for-superhero was not from its most searched-for universe. Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi, for example, all chose DC and the Hulk, while Texas and Iowa chose Marvel and Superman.

In a couple of instances, the actor who plays the superhero possibly influenced the results. Captain Marvel, brought to life by California-born Brie Larson, was California’s most popular superhero, while Jason Momoa’s Aquaman came out on top in his home state of Hawaii.

Though the list of top superheroes by state is heavily occupied by uber-popular names like Thor, Batman, and Black Panther, it’s not without a few head-scratchers. Kansas and Michigan both apparently love Green Lantern, while Delaware’s top superhero was Batman’s sidekick Robin.

See the full list here to find out what your state thinks.

[h/t USDish.com]

The Most Popular Ice Cream Flavor in Each State

iStock/Tatomm
iStock/Tatomm

Summer is almost here, and as scorching hot days become more prevalent, so will the opportunities to eat ice cream. Familiar flavors like vanilla and chocolate can be found in every part of the country, but in some states, unique specialty flavors reign supreme over the classics. To see which ice cream flavor your state prefers, check out the graphic below.

WorkWise Software compiled this list using Google Trends to determine which popular ice cream flavors are searched the most in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Unsurprisingly, vanilla and chocolate are two of the most-searched ice cream varieties, but neither flavor claims the top spot. That distinction belongs to cookies and cream, which topped search results in 14 states.

The list also includes a few flavors that are hard to find outside specific regions. Superman ice cream, a swirl of blue, red, and yellow, is most popular in its home state of Michigan. In Pennsylvania, residents are searching for a state specialty called teaberry ice cream, which is pink and tastes like a wintergreen mint.

After reading through the full ranking below, check out our list of the best ice cream parlors in each state.

Map of most popular ice cream flavors by state.
WorkWise Software

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER