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.

Each State’s Favorite Romantic Comedy of the Century

Bridesmaids (2011)
Bridesmaids (2011)
Universal Pictures

The nation might be divided when it comes to choosing between three-hour superhero blockbusters and even longer (albeit slower-moving) mob epics, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: Everybody loves a good 90-minute romantic comedy.

Having said that, states do have differing opinions about which one reigns supreme. After asking 4629 Americans to choose their favorite 21st-century movie from Rotten Tomatoes’s list of 150 best romantic comedies of all time, House Method found that a staggering 19 states love 2005’s The 40-Year-Old Virgin above all others. In second place, with 11 states, was Kristen Wiig’s oft-quoted modern classic Bridesmaids from 2011. According to those stats, we simply can’t get enough of Judd Apatow—not only did he direct and co-write The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but he also produced Bridesmaids.

favorite romantic comedies map
House Method

Apart from those two riotous romps, the votes were scattered across many other movies. 13 Going on 30 (2004) and 500 Days of Summer (2009) won four states each, and 2005’s buddy comedy Wedding Crashers came in fifth place with three states.

Amy Adams’s tour de force as a fairytale princess-to-be battling the terrors of present-day Manhattan in 2007’s Enchanted was adequately appreciated by just one state—Nebraska—and Delaware went with 2001’s Amélie, a movie almost as hard to describe as Delaware itself.

Certain quintessential flicks are surprisingly scarce on the map. Only Montana chose 2001’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, and 2003’s Love Actually is exalted by Hawaiians and evidently no one else.

favorite romantic comedies by state
House Method

Since the study just included movies released in 2000 or later, The-40-Year Old Virgin and the rest of the contenders didn’t have quite as much competition as they could’ve had. Meg Ryan-led classics When Harry Met Sally... (1989) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993) came out before the turn of the century, as did other top rom-coms like My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Say Anything (1989), and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999).

In the mood for more talk of love and laughter? Find out 40 fun facts about your favorite romantic comedies here.

[h/t House Method]

The One-Day Record Snowfalls In Each State

Greenseas/iStock via Getty Images
Greenseas/iStock via Getty Images

Long after you’ve grown out of believing in magic, every thick, whirling snowstorm still seems to have been cast upon your town by a winter warlock (or Frozen’s resident ice queen, Elsa).

It’s also pretty magical when those inches of stacked snowflakes add up to a message from your manager telling you not to come into the office. In southern states like Georgia or Florida, sometimes all it takes is a light dusting.

But even those characteristically balmy places have hosted some serious snowstorms over the years, and David Cusick for House Method crunched the numbers to find out which ones made the record books. Using data from the National Centers for Environmental Information, Cusick created a map showing the one-day record snowfall for each state.

Florida finished in last place with a scant total of 4 inches, which occurred in Santa Rosa County on March 6, 1954. About two years before that, on January 14, 1952, Colorado had a staggering 76 inches—that’s more than 3 inches per hour—a national record that’s remained unchallenged for nearly 70 years.

Made with Flourish

But other states have come close. The snowstorm that hit Colorado in 1952 wreaked almost as much havoc in California, whose record from the same day was 75 inches. And Washington saw 70 inches of snow in November 1955, beating its 52-inch record from 1935 by a full 18 inches.

Though Midwestern states have gained a reputation for harsh, snowy winters, their one-day record snowfalls are surprisingly moderate. The Illinois and Indiana records are 24 and 26 inches, respectively, both slightly lower than Ohio’s 30-inch snow day from 1901. In 1993, North Carolina bested Ohio’s record by 6 inches.

Wondering how your individual county’s record compares to the overall state one? Cusick created a map for that, too, which you can explore below.

Made with Flourish

[h/t House Method]

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