Are you still trying to plan that perfect summer vacation? Me too- I have a couple in the discussion phase but haven’t hit purchase on those plane tickets just yet. And you may not have to do that. A new study by our friends at conducted research to determine the best US states for summer vacation. I’m a lifelong North Carolina resident, but I would have guessed of the two Carolinas that South Carolina would have made the list. Myrtle Beach and Charleston are both major tourist hot spots. But those two cities weren’t enough to top North Carolina.

Yep, North Carolina made the list of top states to visit for a summer vacation in 2023. Five-year-old me never would believe that. In fact, I once asked my parents why we had an airport in Charlotte because why would anyone come here on vacation? Obviously, I now know that people travel for other reasons. But I also now know that there are some fantastic attractions and places to visit in North Carolina. These include fabulous beaches on the Outer Banks and a personal favorite of mine Topsail Island. Then there are the mountain towns of Boone, Asheville, and Blowing Rock. And even Charlotte, Raleigh, and Greensboro have a variety of activities for visitors to participate in.

So where did North Carolina rank on this list? Keep reading to find out. I have to say a few of the states that made the list, don’t make sense to me. Perhaps I’m missing out though!


  • 1. Virginia


    Room Availability Score: 73.4

    Room Affordability Score: 55.1

    Crime Rate Score: 85.8

    Sunlight Score: 51.0

    Attractions Score: 77.5

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 68.8

    I thoroughly enjoyed spending time in Charlottesville, going to Monticello, and wineries. Virginia is also home to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia Beach, Busch Gardens, and Kings Dominion. And you can be a short drive from Washington DC (which I’m convinced everyone did as a summer vacation except my family).

  • 2. Florida


    Room Availability Score: 100

    Room Affordability Score: 24.4

    Crime Rate Score: 61.3

    Sunlight Score: 81.6

    Attractions Score: 67.3

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 66.9

    Gulf and Atlantic Beaches, The Keys, Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Sea World, and almost every other family activity imaginable. My only surprise is it wasn’t first on the list.

  • 3. Illinois


    Room Availability Score: 63.2

    Room Affordability Score: 73.4

    Crime Rate Score: 71.5

    Sunlight Score: 53.0

    Attractions Score: 71.4

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 66.5

    Of course the home to one of the nation’s largest cities- Chicago would make the list. I’ve only been to the airport, however, but may be going this fall. So let me know what I should do!

  • 4. Georgia


    Room Availability Score: 87.7

    Room Affordability Score: 67.3

    Crime Rate Score: 49.0

    Sunlight Score: 69.3

    Attractions Score: 57.1

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 66.1

    Savannah is one of my favorite cities in the country, then of course there is Tybee Island, St. Simons Island, or numerous other beaches. And Atlanta offers so much for families to do including the Georgia Aquarium (read about my recent visit here), the Coca Cola Museum, and College Football Hall of Fame.

  • 5. Ohio


    Room Availability Score: 69.3

    Room Affordability Score: 83.6

    Crime Rate Score: 57.2

    Sunlight Score: 34.6

    Attractions Score: 73.4

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 63.6

    Tourism highlights in Ohio include Cedar Point (on my bucketlist), the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, multiple zoos, and a special shout out to the house from A Christmas Story.

  • 6. Indiana


    Room Availability Score: 53.0

    Room Affordability Score: 91.8

    Crime Rate Score: 59.2

    Sunlight Score: 44.8

    Attractions Score: 59.1

    Full disclosure I had to Google this one as Indiana was not on my short list, nor did I think it would make this one. But some popular tourist attractions in Indiana include Holiday World, The Children’s Museum on Indianapolis, and Indiana Dunes National Park.

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100):

  • 7. Kentucky


    Room Availability Score: 38.7

    Room Affordability Score: 93.8

    Crime Rate Score: 63.3

    Sunlight Score: 55.1

    Attractions Score: 55.1

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 61.2

    Kentucky Bourbon and the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky would make more of an adult vacation for me. But don’t let that fool you there are plenty of others things to do including the Louisville Slugger Factory for baseball lovers, Mammoth Cave National Park, and the National Corvette Museum.

  • 8. Iowa (TIE)


    Room Availability Score: 30.6

    Room Affordability Score: 95.9

    Crime Rate Score: 65.4

    Sunlight Score: 46.9

    Attractions Score: 61.2

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 60.0

    Sorry to an Iowans this one really has me scratching my head. I mean I’d visit if my team made the College World Series again. But the top 10 best places for vacation? That’s a no from me. Tourist attractions on Google lead me to the Field Of Dreams, Shrine of the Grotto of the Redemption, and Maquo Caves State Park.

  • 8. New Jersey (TIE)

    New Jersey

    Room Availability Score: 46.9

    Room Affordability Score: 36.7

    Crime Rate Score: 91.9

    Sunlight Score: 32.6

    Attractions Score: 91.8

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 60.0

    I’ve heard great things about New Jersey beaches, and of course, being a short drive (or more realistically train ride) to New York City gives New Jersey points as well.

  • 10. California (TIE)


    Room Availability Score: 97.9

    Room Affordability Score: 16.3

    Crime Rate Score: 36.8

    Sunlight Score: 91.8

    Attractions Score: 51.0

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 58.8

    As one of the largest states of course there is a lot to do in California. I’ve been on numerous summer vacations there and enjoyed things such as the beaches of southern California, San Diego, Disneyland, and Long Beach. Then there’s Napa Valley, San Fransisco, Carmel-by-the-sea, Yosemite National Park, and the list goes on and on.

  • 10. Pennsylvania (TIE)


    Room Availability Score: 81.6

    Room Affordability Score: 40.8

    Crime Rate Score: 67.4

    Sunlight Score: 18.3

    Attractions Score: 85.7

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 58.8

    With tons of history to explore Pennsylvania is a great summer vacation spot. Philadelphia has tons to offer dating back to pre-American Revolution times.

  • 12. Maryland


    Room Availability Score: 42.8

    Room Affordability Score: 46.9

    Crime Rate Score: 69.4

    Sunlight Score: 42.8

    Attractions Score: 89.7

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 58.3

    Proximity to DC certainly boosts Maryland on this list as well. Then there’s Ocean City, as well as a variety of museums and aquariums.

  • 13. New York

    New York

    Room Availability Score: 83.6

    Room Affordability Score: 22.4

    Crime Rate Score: 81.7

    Sunlight Score: 14.2

    Attractions Score: 87.7

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 57.9

    You knew New York would make this list, though being so far down in borderline criminal. If for no reason other than New York city but there’s also upstate New York and Niagra Falls.

  • 14. Texas


    Room Availability Score: 95.9

    Room Affordability Score: 53.0

    Crime Rate Score: 28.6

    Sunlight Score: 93.8

    Attractions Score: 16.3

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 16.3

    Austin has long been on my bucket list, and of course Waco and the Chip & Joanna compound. Galveston, Dallas, Houston, the San Antonia Riverwalk? Texas is another one that needs to be higher on this list in my opinion.

  • 15. Arizona


    Room Availability Score: 89.7

    Room Affordability Score: 48.9

    Crime Rate Score: 46.6

    Sunlight Score: 100

    Attractions Score: 18.3

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 56.7

    The Grand Canyon State makes for a perfect summer vacation, though it will be a hot one. The Pheonix Zoo as well as Scottsdale are worth a visit. And the views in Sedona certainly live up to expectations. Perhaps add on a visit to Flagstaff as well.

  • 16. North Carolina

    North Carolina

    Room Availability Score: 91.8

    Room Affordability Score: 57.1

    Crime Rate Score: 30.7

    Sunlight Score: 57.1

    Attractions Score: 44.8

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 56.3

    At 16th on the list, we finally get to North Carolina. While I  as a  child asked why Charlotte had an airport because who would come here for vacation, I now see that North Carolina is a great vacation spot. From incredible beaches to the mountains and of course everything in between. I probably don’t have to tell you how great North Carolina is.

  • 17. Mississippi


    Room Availability Score: 32.6

    Room Affordability Score: 85.7

    Crime Rate Score: 44.9

    Sunlight Score: 73.4

    Attractions Score: 40.8

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 55.5

    Between Ocean Spring and Biloxi there’s plenty for tourists to do in Mississippi. If you’re like me and love college football and towns perhaps pay a visit to Oxford and or Starksville.

  • 18. Michigan


    Room Availability Score: 65.3

    Room Affordability Score: 65.3

    Crime Rate Score: 79.6

    Sunlight Score: 28.5

    Attractions Score: 36.7

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 55.1

    I seem to get a lot of targeted ads for Michigan tourism, highlights include the “coastal” (think Great Lakes) towns, cities like Detroit, and national parks.

  • 19. Kansas


    Room Availability Score: 26.5

    Room Affordability Score: 97.9

    Crime Rate Score: 32.7

    Sunlight Score: 85.7

    Attractions Score: 28.5

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 54.3

    Kansas is another state that puzzles me making this list. But according to Google some of the most popular tourist attractions in Kansas include The Witchita Gardens, the Museum of World Treasures, and the Old Town Cowboy Museum.

  • 20. Massachusetts


    Room Availability Score: 44.8

    Room Affordability Score: 10.2

    Crime Rate Score: 98.0

    Sunlight Score: 20.4

    Attractions Score: 95.9

    Summer Vacation Score (Out of 100): 53.9

    Between big city life in Boston or the coastal New England paradises of Cape Cod and Marthas Vineyard, I fully support Massachusetts being on this list.

  •'s Methodology

    • decided to rank the Best US States To Vacation This Summer by ranking these five points:
    • Accommodation Availability: The number of two-room accommodation options on for two adults and two children (aged 10 & 12 years old), from 06/11/23 – 06/18/23.
    • Accommodation Affordability: The % of the above search results that are less than $200 per night.
    • Crime Rate: The crime rate per 100,000 residents from World Population Review – with the states with the lowest crime rates having the highest scores (inverted).
    • Average Sunlight: The annual sunlight per state, measured in (kJ/m^2) from Stacker.
    • Landmarks & State Parks: The number of National Historical Landmarks and State Parks in each state – taken from National Park Service & State Parks.
    • All five data points were measured out of 100 using the PERCENTRANK formula, and an average was found to create a ‘Final/ Summer Vacation Joker Score’. States were ranked from highest to lowest final score.
    • All data was collected and correct on 04/26/2023.

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