US election swinging states: What those 10 US states Australians don't know much about are actually like to visit


The US election has dominated the news this week, with the outcome hinging on a series of swing states that Australians might not know too much about. Sure, Nevada and Arizona are pretty familiar territory, but what about the others that have proved tantalisingly close to call? Well, many are dotted with attractions that make it worth looking beyond the better-known states when planning a US trip.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo: iStock

The horse-and-cart old-fashionedness of central Pennsylvania is flanked by two of America's most outrageously underrated cities. Pittsburgh is in a beautiful river confluence setting, with the Andy Warhol Museum and absurd global themed rooms at the Cathedral of Learning visitor highlights. Philadelphia, meanwhile, is crammed with historic attractions and top drawer museums. The Eastern State Penitentiary, Independence Hall, Museum of Art and Constitution Center should top the list. See

Amish farmland in Pennsylvania.

Amish farmland in Pennsylvania. Photo: iStock


Milwaukee, WIsconsin.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Photo: iStock

Wisconsin's Milwaukee is the spiritual home of American brewing – it's a great place for beer tours. But the state's underplayed charms lie in its forests and lakes. With long shorelines along Lake Michigan and Lake Superior, there's plenty of beach to go around, and state parks line up on the edges. American Football fans, of course, will want to beeline it to Green Bay to watch the Packers, every romantic's favourite team. See

The Great Lakes turn to ice in winter: Here, the ice caves at Apostle Island National Lakeshore.

The Great Lakes turn to ice in winter: Seen here, at the ice caves at Apostle Island National Lakeshore. Photo: iStock


Downtown Detroit, Michigan.

Downtown Detroit, Michigan. Photo: Getty


Detroit is massively undersold. Grand art deco architecture comes with the Motown Museum and the original Ford factory. The gigantic Henry Ford Museum on the outskirts in Dearborn is arguably the best museum in the US, too. But Michigan's at its best around the Great Lakes. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers sand hills stretching over the horizon, while the islands further north each have their own charm. Car-free Mackinac Island, with historic forts and big limestone cliffs, is most popular. See

Michigan's Great Lakes: Grand Haven pier

Michigan's Great Lakes: Grand Haven pier Photo: iStock


Cincinnati, Ohio.

Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: iStock

Perennial swing state Ohio is odd because it has several cities competing to be centre of gravity. Visitors are generally better off sticking to the north of the state, however. Here, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland can immerse music fans for a day and the Cedar Point theme park in Sandusky is home to some of the most terrifying rollercoasters on earth. Science fans will lap up Thomas Edison's Birthplace in Milan. See


Georgia's famed oak trees.

Georgia's famed oak trees. Photo: iStock

Sprawling Atlanta is frankly greedy in its attractions haul. The World of Coca-Cola, behind-the-scenes tours at CNN, Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park should keep you busy. Outside the big city, Savannah does the antebellum historic vibe thing and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the north of Georgia are fab for mountain walking, State Parks and lakeside retreats. See

Savannah, Georgia.

Savannah, Georgia. Photo: iStock


A shingled house in Kennebunkport, Maine.

A shingled house in Kennebunkport, Maine. Photo: iStock

In the spotlight for its senate battle, Maine butts up against Canada and has the mountains and forests to prove it. But most visitors to Maine have got the coast in mind. A succession of quaint, old-fashioned seaside towns serving up fish, lobster and chowder are connected by winding coastal roads and charming cove beaches. The Acadia National Park – combing steepling rocky headlands, Native American heritage and reliable moose-spotting – is the jewel. See

Acadia National Park, Maine.

Acadia National Park, Maine. Photo: iStock

See also: The surprising US state that's home to 4600 islands


Rurul Iowa

Rurul Iowa Photo: Neal Johnson

The classic swing state is rather too obsessed with farming to put in much of a bid for tourist dollars. Most things worth seeing are in the east of the state. These include the hiking trails and caves of the Maquoketa State Park and the prehistoric archaeology of the Effigy Mounds National Monument. Otherwise, the National Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium in Dubuque should tick the educational box. See


Beach houses in Alabama

Beach houses in Alabama Photo: iStock

There are beaches along the Gulf of Mexico coast, but civil rights is the theme that runs through Alabama's key attractions. Major stops include the Civil Rights Monument in Montgomery, the Voting Rights Museum in Selma, plus the Civil Rights Institute and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham. Less hard-hitting is the Smithsonian-affiliated US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville. See

North Carolina

Hipster Asheville, North Carolina

Hipster Asheville, North Carolina Photo: iStock

North Carolina's Outer Banks – ribbons of sand stretching for over 150km – come with chilled beach towns, historic forts and the Graveyard of the Atlantic shipwrecks museum. There's also the spot at Kitty Hawk where the Wright Brothers conducted the first flight.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee. Photo: iStock

The western end of the state is very different – all mountain towns, scenic drives along the Blue Ridge Parkway and under-the-radar hipster city Asheville. See

Outer Banks, coastal North Carolina.

Outer Banks, coastal North Carolina. Photo: iStock


Glacier National Park, Montana.

Glacier National Park, Montana. Photo: Getty

Montana is best entered along the precipitous Beartooth Highway, which switchbacks at high altitude through the mountains and lakes of Yellowstone National Park before a dramatic descent. Despite decent cultural attractions such as the gold rush-era Garnet Ghost Town, Montana is unashamedly about the outdoors. It is big sky country and the Glacier National Park is the icing on the cake. Expect soaring mountains, dreamy turquoise lakes, a barrage of waterfalls and A grade backcountry hiking. See

Disclosure: David Whitley has been a guest of tourism authorities in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

See also: Twenty things that will shock first-time visitors to the US

See also: The 10 great US states Australian tourists are missing