The Strangest Fact About Every U.S. State
Which state has a law against shooting Bigfoot? Do you know where to get coffee milk? Check out these bizarre facts from every state in the Union.
Alabama: Huntsville is Rocket City?
You mention Florida or Texas when discussing rockets and outer space. But Huntsville—nicknamed Rocket City—is the home to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Space and Rocket Center—not to mention a number of the great minds behind the first rocket launches.
Alaska: A three-month day in Utqiagvik
The town of Utqiagvik (also known as Barrow) is a place in Alaska where sunrises and sunsets are a little wonky. Because of its northerly position at the Arctic Circle, the northernmost town in Alaska goes 84 days without seeing a sunset.
Arizona: The tribe that lives in the Grand Canyon
Thousands of people tour the Grand Canyon each year, but most don’t realize that there are people who actually live inside it. The Native American Havasupai tribe inhabits Supai Village, deep in an arm of the Grand Canyon. You can make reservations to visit but plan to hike in and spend the night. Find out the cheapest months to visit any of the 50 states.
Arkansas: Pike County diamonds
The notable Crater of Diamonds State Park in Pike County, Arkansas is the only currently active diamond mine in the United States. It is also where three of the largest diamonds ever found in the U.S. were sourced. Better yet, if you go there and manage to dig up your own diamonds, you get to keep them.
California: The fortune cookie’s origin in San Francisco
No, it’s not an ancient Chinese tradition: The fortune cookie found in your Chinese takeout bag seems to have originated with a baker in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1890s (though it may actually have Japanese origins). Find out how the iconic cookie came to be by taking the tour.
Colorado: Aspen says no to snowballs
To be more specific, Aspen has a law against launching any kind of missile or projectile. This includes stones and—yes, really—snowballs. This law was put in place in an effort to protect the local buildings. Here are more of the dumbest laws in the United States.
Connecticut: Birthplace of the lollipop
The Lolly Pop was actually the name of a racehorse, believe it or not. The first trademarked Lolly Pop candy was created in New Haven by The Bradley Smith Company. It soon became interchangeable with the spelling “lollipop.”
Delaware: Late to the national monument game
Delaware was the last state to get a national monument fad. When it finally did, the state got several at once, thanks to President Barack Obama and VP Joe Biden declaring such sites as Woodlawn Park, the Old Sheriff’s House, and Dover Green national monuments (among others) in 2013.
Florida: The beach is never more than an hour away
Everyone thinks of sunshine and sand when they think of the Citrus State, and for good reason: No matter where you are in the state, you’re always within 60 miles of a beach. Not bad.
Georgia: Governors galore
One state, one governor—that’s how it works, right? Not for Georgia. Back in 1947, in what’s known as the Three Governors Controversy, the state election produced a candidate who seemed to be elected with irregular votes, an outgoing governor refused to leave, and an elected lieutenant governor who declared himself the successor.
Hawaii: Where people live the longest
It’s not hard to imagine why Hawaii residents enjoy longer lives, thanks to all the sun, warm weather, beaches, and stunning geography. But actually, Hawaiians—with an average lifespan of 81.3 years—barely edge out Minnesotans (81.1), according to research published in the medical journal JAMA. (In case you’re wondering, Mississippi has the shortest life expectancy: 74.7 years.)
Idaho: Center of the universe
In 2004, Mayor Ron Garitone proclaimed his town of Wallace was the absolute center of the universe. Why? His point was that if no one could prove it wasn’t true, then it must be fact. He was a little sore with the Environmental Protection Agency at the time: The EPA claimed that the levels of naturally occurring lead sulfide in the town’s soil was dangerous and needed to be removed. When the town pointed out they’d been living with it for generations, the EPA responded that unless the locals could prove lead sulfide’s safety, it would be considered dangerous. Which is how the mayor was able to claim that Wallace was the center of the universe—no one could prove otherwise.
Illinois: The Chicago River flows backward
In 1900, a sanitation committee in Chicago finished engineering a plan to make the area’s drinking water safer. Instead of having the polluted Chicago river pour into Lake Michigan, they reversed the flow of the water by constructing new canals.
Indiana: The mystery of the Hoosier
The residents of Indiana are proud to be known as Hoosiers, despite the fact that no one actually knows what a Hoosier is. Theories include that it’s a shortening of what pioneers used to say when someone knocked: “Who’s here?” or that it’s a reference to the locals’ reputation for vicious fighting—including scratching and biting: They often had to ask “Who’s ear?” after a scrap. Read up on some of the funniest town names in America.
Iowa: World’s largest strawberry
Kansas: Flatter than an IHOP pancake
People in Kansas joke that their state is “flatter than a pancake,” so a group of geographers actually put the assertion to the test. In 2003, they bought a pancake from IHOP and, through precise measurements and calculations, figured out that Kansas is indeed flatter than a pancake. Check out the funniest jokes about all 50 states.
Kentucky: The “Happy Birthday” state
Two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, worked as teachers in Louisville in 1893. They co-wrote a “Good Morning to You” song for their students; the kids liked it so much that they slowly began creating their own lyrics, including “Happy Birthday to you.” And eventually, we had a song to sing on birthdays.
Louisiana: Actor Nicolas Cage builds his tomb
Talk about being prepared: Nicolas Cage has already built a tomb for himself, and it’s in New Orleans’s famous St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. It’s in the shape of a pyramid (insert your own National Treasure joke here), and it has an engraving in Latin that reads “Omnia ab uno” which translates to “Everything from one.”
Maine: Machias was the site of the first Revolutionary War naval battle
It is not a battle that most people think of—or even know about—but the Battle of Machias was a key moment in the Revolutionary War, being the first naval battle. U.S. militiamen commandeered a merchant ship, armed it, and chased down and captured a British naval escort. It’s referred to as “the Lexington of the seas.”
Maryland: Where the Oujia board appeared
As one would expect of a supposedly paranormal object, the Ouija board has a spooky beginning. According to Charles Kennard and his investors, who made and trademarked the game, the board named itself“Oujia.” Learn about the scariest urban legends from each of the 50 states.
Massachusetts: Charlie on the train
Visitors may be puzzled by the CharlieCard and CharlieTicket—the passes Bostonians use to ride the T. Who’s Charlie? In 1949, a local politician campaigned with a ditty about a guy named Charlie who got on the train but couldn’t get off because he didn’t have money for the exit fare. The politician lost, but Charlie stuck, and everyone who uses the train system in Boston uses his card.
Michigan: The first English-speaking locale to abolish capital punishment
The debate about capital punishment is ongoing, but the first state to officially get rid of it was Michigan. With just a few state-mandated executions in its history books, the government made the practice completely illegal in 1963. It was first nearly abolished in 1847—the only exception was for the crime of treason. These are the cheapest states to live in.
Minnesota: Gasp—it’s not the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”
It’s actually more: The official count for the state of Minnesota is 11,842 lakes.
Mississippi: It literally means “great river”
America’s greatest—and arguably most famous—river facilitates trade and commerce throughout the history of the nation. At 2,350 miles long, it’s the second-longest river in the nation, working its way from northern Minnesota down to the Gulf of Mexico. The name, though, is borrowed and fitting: It comes from the Native American tribe the Ojibwe, and translates to “great river.”
Missouri: The deadliest tornado in U.S. history
Back in 1925, the deadliest tornado in this country’s history started in Missouri. The tornado then passed through Illinois and Indiana, killing nearly 700 people and injuring around 13,000.
Nebraska: Stonehenge made out of cars
It’s called Carhenge, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: Cars arranged to resemble the famous U.K. site. All of the cars are painted gray to further the resemblance. The artist, Jim Reinders, created it in 1987 as a tribute to his late father.
Nevada: 85 percent government-owned
Nearly all of the state of Nevada is owned by the government. The state’s combination of parks and reserves help explain why the percentage is so high—and this of course includes Area 51. Check out the 10 things the government isn’t telling you about Area 51.
New Hampshire: Site that marks the end of the Russo-Japanese War
New Hampshire is the logical place to end a war between Russians and Japanese after all, right? Well, it was in 1905, when the Treaty of Portsmouth officially ended the war and was mediated by President Theodore Roosevelt.
New Jersey: The first baseball game
A thousand and one cities across America claim to be the home of the first baseball game, but they can all sit down because it is, in fact, Hoboken that can claim the title. The New York Nine played the New York Knickerbockers at Elysian Fields in 1845.
New Mexico: The highest state capital
Soaring up to 7,000 feet above sea level, Santa Fe qualifies as the highest capital city in the U.S., easily clearing the Mile-High City of Denver, Colorado. Here are more surprising facts from each of the 50 states.
New York: Fluency first
New Yorkers impress for many reasons, but this fact may be the best: One of the most ethnically diverse places on the planet, New York City is home to more than 800 languages. (For the record, there are nearly 7,000 languages in the world right now.)
North Carolina: Owns American Idol
The TV show American Idol has been a hit since 2002, pitting thousands of contestants against each other to sing their way to fame. Strangely, an astounding seven finalists have all come from North Carolina. Is it in their DNA?
North Dakota: The largest collection of scrap-metal sculpture
There are seven stops on the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota. Each one is an art installation featuring a sculpture made out of recycled pieces of scrap metal. Not only are the pieces inventive and quirky, but these sculptures make up the largest scrap metal collection in the world. Check out more hidden gems across the U.S.
Ohio: Rocker’s alley
The Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl was born in Warren, Ohio. The locals decided to honor their native son with a landmark featuring the world’s largest drumsticks and the dedication of a street alley to Grohl and his musical accomplishments.
Oklahoma: More Native American tribes than any other state
From the Cherokee to the Seminole, Oklahoma is home to 39 Native American tribes. It has the greatest amount of land in the U.S. set aside for reservations; the state’s name is based on Choctaw words that translate to “Red People.”
Oregon: Go for the mushroom festival
Oregon is known for its natural landscapes and beautiful coastline, yet many people go to honor the humble mushroom in a yearly festival. People in Oregon love hunting and consuming the fungi so much they make a celebration out of it. Find out how many states you can identify on this blank U.S. map.
Pennsylvania: Proud home of the NFL Steagles
Think you’re a true sports fan? Well, did you know that for a time the Pittsburgh Steelers fan and the Philadelphia Eagles were one team? In 1943 during World War II, the teams didn’t have enough players to field separate teams, so they combined into one and adopted the name the Steagles.
Rhode Island: It’s all about the coffee milk
If you don’t live in Rhode Island, you’re unlikely to know about coffee milk—and it’s not coffee with milk. This is quite literally coffee-flavored milk. It’s made with syrup and is an Ocean State favorite.
South Carolina: The state dance is “The Shag”
Every state has an official state flag and bird, but as of 1984, South Carolina has an official state dance—and it’s called “The Shag.” Get an overview of the moves and learn the basics with this video.
South Dakota: Divorce capital of America?
Before Nevada claimed the throne, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was famous for divorce. Why? People could establish residency in less than three months, and the judges were divorce-friendly. That changed early in the 20th century when locals decided divorce wasn’t what they wanted their city to be known for. Check out some more weird things the 50 states are famous for.
Tennessee: Birthplace of Mountain Dew
Although the exact date is a bit muddy, the drink Mountain Dew was invented in Tennessee. The name originally referred to Prohibition Era distilled moonshine. Sometime after 1928, a non-alcoholic soda adopted the name Mountain Dew.
Texas: Bigger than Europe
Well, bigger than any individual country in Europe, anyway. Although France comes the closest, no European country is bigger than Texas.
Utah: Home to the biggest living organism on the planet
The trees that comprise the Pando (“Trembling Giant”) organism in Utah look like individual trees, but they are actually all identical. In terms of DNA, they make up one massive creature, and they all can be traced back to one common root.
Vermont: The least religious state
Residents in the Green Mountain State identified as the least religious in the country, according to a 2014 Gallup poll. (Mississippi identified as the most.) Only one in four Vermonters regularly attend church or pray. Check out what every state in America is best—and worst—at.
Virginia: The state with the most similarities to The Lord of the Rings
Before Virginia turned to counties, the state was sectioned off into eight shires—yes, like the ones in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. (As far as we know, there are no hobbits in Virginia, though.) Now, all that remains of the shires is a distillery in their honor.
Washington: You can’t shoot Bigfoot
While the debate over Bigfoot’s existence continues to rage, just remember that you can’t shoot this apocryphal creature. You’ll have to take him or her alive if you happen to spot one in Washington. Shoot the beast, and you’ll be breaking the law and face fines or even jail time.
West Virginia: A state formed to abolish slavery
You know that the North and the South divided over the issue of slavery. But the state of Virginia literally split itself in two: In 1863, West Virginia ratified its own constitution to outlaw slavery (which the other half of Virginia did not want to do) and create its own state.
Wisconsin: The birthplace of the ice cream sundae
Few things are more American than the ice cream sundae, but would you guess that it was created in the state known for its cheeseheads? In 1881, in the town of Two Rivers, a man walked into a soda shop and asked the proprietor to top his ice cream with chocolate syrup—something only used in ice cream sodas—and dessert history was made. Find out where you can find the best ice cream in every state.
Wyoming: The first female governor
After her husband, who was governor of Wyoming, passed away in 1925, Nellie Tayloe Ross took over. That made her the country’s first female governor, a position she held for two years. She went on to become head of the United States Mint by special appointment of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, running that office for two decades. Next, don’t miss these 50 iconic bucket list ideas for every state.