Living the MINI Cooper Life: MINI Takes the States

MINI isn't just a car, it's a community of owners. And every 2 years they come together for MINI Takes the States to cement the culture.

Mini Takes The States Featured Image

Fun cars, great people and the ultimate introduction into the MINI club.

If you’ve ever driven a MINI Cooper or know someone who has, you probably understand that MINI isn’t just a car, it’s a club. MINI owners are passionate for how these cars drive, for the English aesthetic, the history, the engineering and for the opportunity to hang out with other MINI owners at events like MINI Takes the States. 

For someone like me who loves cars and driving, it was a surprise to find myself more fascinated by the community than just the car. 

But, that’s the magic of MINI Takes the States. 

Matt And Katie And Their Honeymoon Mini During Mini Takes The States 2022

Matt and Katie and their honeymoon MINI during MTTS 2022. Photo: Annika Carter

Mini Owners Hit the Road, Together

What is MINI Takes the States (or MTTS, as insiders call it)? It’s a road rally or, simply put, a way for drivers to get together and just drive. It’s what Matt and Katie, a bubbly young newlywed couple on their honeymoon waited for two years for: they got married in 2020 and have been putting off their honeymoon until they could celebrate during MTTS. They drove the rally with wedding photos on their dashboard and her veil wrapped around the driver’s seat. 

MTTS is designed to bring MINI Cooper owners from across the states (and yes, I mean all 50 states) together to experience new sights and cruise new roads together. One owner, Kiki, sported a MTTS lanyard covered in the custom pins that owners create and trade during the event. She attended with her husband, driving her 1988 MINI Cooper “Daisy,” her sixth time driving MTTS. But in true spirit of all owners driving their MINIs, he drove his own MINI.

MTTS 2022 took place July 9th – July 17th and covered 7 states, beginning in Burlington, VT and finishing in Spartanburg, SC. The event takes place every two years, but has been MIA since its last rally in 2018 because of COVID-19. 

And MINI owners were just itching to get back. I joined the MTTS crew for two days, driving from the Pennsylvania Poconos through Hershey, PA (and yes, of Hershey Chocolate World fame), Gettysburg PA to Fredrick MD on the first day. The second day took us to Roanoke, VA after a gorgeous cruise through Shenandoah National Park. While some MINI owners choose to drive the entire route, others pop in and out for small sections closer to home. 

Related: 2022 MINI Cooper Hardtop Makes Driving a Manual Transmission More Fun

Kiki With Her Lanyard And Vintage Mini Cooper

Kiki with her lanyard and vintage MINI Cooper. Photo: Annika Carter

Rise and Rally: Breakfast, Social Time and Fund Raising

Every morning, the group is up bright and early to head to the Rise and Rally, which on my first day took place at the fair grounds in Frederick. This is the one time for all the MINI owners to get together in one place, which is a challenge: there were simply too many cars for us to do this elsewhere — there were more than 600 cars participating by my second day. To give a you an idea of what that manyMINIs looked like, Rise and Rally gathered at the fair ground’s horse track. The cars wrapped over halfway around the track, lined up 3-4 cars wide!

At Rise and Rally we enjoyed breakfast, raised money for charity (the official charity of this year’s event was Best Friends Animal Society), and chatted with fellow MINI owners (well, I guess I was an imposter “Fellow MINI Owner,” but I tried my best!).

There I met two MINI owners, Karen and Lea Ann, who sell stickers, pins, keychains, and other fun wares out of the back of their Clubman to raise money for the event’s chosen charity each year. They are such enthusiastic MINI fans they even created a Facebook group – The MINI Skirts.

Related: Tackling the Rebelle Rally, the Female-Only Off-Road Rally, As A Newbie

Minis Lined Up At A Scenic Overlook Along The Mini Takes The States Drive Route

MINIs lined up at a scenic overlook along the drive route. Photo: Annika Carter

A Daily Drive … And Scavenger Hunt 

After the Rise and Rally, we embarked on our daily journey. The MTTS 2022 app guided us on the suggested route, winding over mountains and through valleys, cruising through small towns, and passing historic landmarks and national parks along the way. Along the route, the app provided participants with tasks, quizzes, and fun facts that you could only access by reaching the waypoint (so you couldn’t just sit down at the hotel at night and pretend like you completed all the tasks!). These waypoints varied from taking a photo of a pet you met on the road in celebration of National Pet Day, to a quiz over Milton Hershey’s first candy “love,” to a challenge to video yourself reciting an original poem about your MINI. It was easy to find yourself looking forward to the next pin point on the map to see what the next fun, and sometimes outrageous, task would be.

The best part of the driving was seeing ALL the other MINIs on the road. We would wave and honk at every other MINI we saw, and they would wave and honk back. Along the MTTS app route, we would find ourselves cruising in a line of 5, 10, sometimes even 20 MINIs. At major waypoints, such as Hersheys Chocolate World, Gettysburg, or scenic pull-offs in Shenandoah National Park, we would discover parking lots absolutely overrun by MINIs! And if you pulled up in your own MINI, you were instantly surrounded by friends. 

While we drove long distances and found ourselves in the car for long hours each day, it did not feel like a boring road trip. The excitement to discover another Mini driver or complete the next MTTS App Task made the trip nothing but fun!

Related: MINI Wants to Give Your Kid a Hand with College: Best Car For College Students

Getting Behind The Wheel Of The Mini Cooper For Two Days Was A Treat On Its Own Copy

Getting behind the wheel of the Mini Cooper for two days was a treat on its own copy. Photo: Annika Carter

Great Cars Make Long Drives Even More Fun

During MTTS, I had the opportunity to drive the 2023 MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works and the 2023 Mini Cooper S Resolute edition, a brand new special edition. The John Cooper Works, or JCW, is a MINI turned up to 11. It has bigger, grabbier brakes, more power, and more aggressive styling (or as aggressive as you can get on a MINI Cooper). The Cooper S Resolute edition is primarily an appearance package, with unique seats, stripes, matte gray exterior trim, wheels, and dashboard design.

MINI forgoes some of the modern conveniences that we have come to expect out of cars priced from the mid-$30,000 – $40,000 range. There is no Android Auto and Apple Car Play is a bit challenging to set up (it stumped us for a little while). There are no blind spot monitors, no power seats, and center console is tiny. 

But what MINI lacks in modern amenities, it makes up in soul. It is one of those cars that you just can’t be sad while driving. The ride is smooth, although with the sportier suspension you really feel the road, bumps and all. The car is peppy and fun, hugging each curve and darting around on country roads. Plus, it is one of the few new cars that is still available with a six-speed manual transmission for the stick shift enthusiasts out there.

And, it’s the soul of MINI: a car that is simply fun without having to worry about practicality.

Mark And Serena And Their Mini Monkey Butt

Mark and Serena and their Mini Monkey Butt. Photo: Annika Carter

Meeting MINI Owners Made this Event Priceless

Beyond a doubt, though, my favorite part of the whole trip was the people. Where else would you meet the owners of Monkey Butt, a MINI that owners Mark and Sereta bought just so they could participate in MTTS? 

MTTS brings together an unmatched passion for MINI. It was unlike any other car scene that I have ever been a part of. These drivers choose to drive MINI not because they want the fastest car on the block, or because they want a luxury car to show off to their friends, but because they love MINI and the MINI community. Multiple owners told me, “When you buy a MINI, you don’t just get a car. You get a friend group.” The more owners I met, the more apparent this became. 

Even MINI’s own Product Manager, Shirley Nguyen, attended MTTS not as an executive, but as a participant with her husband and 14-month old twins.

It didn’t take a two day drive to convince me how much fun MINI is to drive, and the style that it adds to your life. But talking to MINI owners it became clear that ownership is not just about the car or the drive. It is ALL about the love and the community. And that is something that could sell me on any car. I am already thinking about how to rent a Mini and participate in MTTS in 2024….

Disclosure: I was MINI’s guest for this drive; MINI provided the John Cooper Works Resolute edition, travel and accommodations. The incredible community of MINI owners and fans provided the heartfelt enthusiasm. I provided my own opinions. 

The Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works And The 2023 Mini Cooper S Resolute Edition

The MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works and the 2023 MINI Cooper S Resolute edition. Photo: Annika Carter

Car Shopping

Need a new car? Whether shopping for a new car or a used car we recommend using our car shopping service

Tire Shopping

Need new tires? We recommend Tire Rack

Car Repair

Need to get your car repaired? We recommend Repair Pal. Exclusively just for Girls Guide to Cars readers, call (877) 323-1708 to speak to RepairPal Car Genius for FREE automotive repair advice and if needed to find the right shop for you!

Annika Carter has over four years of performance driving experience, both with and without professional instruction. She has driven... More about Annika Carter