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I disagree.  I realize the point of these lists is to stir debate, but how can anyone put together a list of America’s 10 prettiest states and ignore Idaho?  Wyoming?  Outside of Jackson Hole, it all looks like one giant Rock Springs.  I once overnighted in Cheyenne, where my hotel was next door to a rail yard.  At 3:00 a.m., the place began stacking cars.  I had an almost identical experience in Montana.

Look, I got Alaska.  I’ve never been there, but friends vouch for the place, where it's sheer eye candy.  They also moved south to the lower 48 because they were sick of the crappy weather, large carnivores, and high cost of living.  I also got California.  Beaches and redwoods.  Pricey cost of living, but some great weather in the lower corners of the state.

Florida has big reptiles.  The lizards see you for dinner, and the snakes gobble everything else.

A friend at Idaho Fish and Game once told me that Idaho is like four to five states in one.  There’s a high desert and high peaks.  Green valleys and the Palouse.  Forests in the north and each region have distinct landmarks.  And who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon window shopping in King Hill, Kellogg, or Dietrich?  I'm sorry.  Even those places share the echoes of pioneers and better days.  And if you’re going to Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone Falls, or Ketchum, you may need to pass through some of those places to appreciate what we have.

What we need are ambassadors who can spread the gospel of the Gem State.  I realize some of you want to keep the place a secret, but I’m not inviting visitors to stay.  Just come for an occasional visit and spend all of your money.

LOOK: Here are the best lake towns to live in

Many of the included towns jump out at the casual observer as popular summer-rental spots--the Ozarks' Branson, Missouri, or Arizona's Lake Havasu--it might surprise you to dive deeper into some quality-of-life offerings beyond the beach and vacation homes. You'll likely pick up some knowledge from a wide range of Americana: one of the last remaining 1950s-style drive-ins in the Midwest; a Florida town that started as a Civil War veteran retirement area; an island boasting some of the country's top public schools and wealth-earners right in the middle of a lake between Seattle and Bellevue; and even a California town containing much more than Johnny Cash's prison blues.

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