Carhenge
Carhenge by Jacob6493 (CC BY-SA)

Every State’s Strangest Claim to Fame

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Carhenge
Carhenge by Jacob6493 (CC BY-SA)
Luggages Moving On Airport Conveyor Belt Overhead View
onurdongel/istockphoto

Alabama: A Home for Unclaimed Baggage

Unclaimed Baggage might sound like a self-help book, but it’s actually a popular store in Scottsboro, Alabama, where more than a million people annually shop for hidden treasure among lost and unclaimed luggage, AL.com says. The 50,000-square-foot facility “works with major airlines to purchase orphaned suitcases from all over the country,” giving shoppers a chance at buying something valuable — sight unseen, of course. Who feels lucky?


Related: The Unclaimed Baggage Store: Does it Deliver Deals?


Wrangell-St. Elias
Nps.gov

Alaska: America's Biggest Park

Alaska is home to the largest American national park, Wrangell-St Elias National Park & Preserve, which covers 13 million acres and contains parts of four major mountain ranges, nine of the 16 highest peaks in the U.S. (including an active volcano), and a glacier that’s larger than the state of Rhode Island. The whole thing is equal to six Yellowstones. We’re talking big, 20,000+ square miles big.


Related: Surprising Facts About America's National Parks


Sonoran Sunset
Brent_1/istockphoto

Arizona: Serious Cactus Laws

Arizona is serious about protecting the iconic saguaro cactus, which can reach up to 50 feet tall and has a lifespan of 150 to 175 years. It’s a felony to damage or remove the plants without prior permission from the state, punishable by up to 25 years in prison and a fat fine. Cactus thieves beware.


Crater of Diamonds Sign
PaaschPhotography/istockphoto

Arkansas: Diamonds in the Rough

There’s a place in Arkansas where diamonds can be found just lying around in their original volcanic source. Better yet, people can take them home when they find them. Crater of Diamonds State Park near Murfreesboro says more than 33,100 diamonds have been found there since the park opened in 1972 — including the Uncle Sam, the largest diamond found in the U.S. at 40.23-carats. Bring your own mining equipment or rent some on site.


Related: The Best Treasure-Hunting Destinations in America


Hollywood Bowl
Hollywood Bowl by Mcarey10419 (CC BY-SA)

California: A Century-Old Landmark Venue

It’s hard to believe that people have been flocking to the Hollywood Bowl for 100 summers now to hear everyone from Billie Holiday to the Beatles perform in the concentric-arched bandshell. The 59-acre site in Bolton Canyon was purchased for $47,500 in 1919 and a wooden platform with a canvas top served as the first stage in 1922.


Related: Bucket-List Destinations for Music Lovers


Crestone, Colorado beauty
CampPhoto/istockphoto

Colorado: A Reptile Refuge

There are alligators in the Rockies? Well, kind of. Nearly 300 gators live in the San Luis Valley (near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve) in an 80-acre exotic animal refuge with waters fed by geothermal wells. Originally a tilapia farm, the owners brought in 100 baby alligators to dispose of fish remains and the Colorado Gator Farm opened to the public in 1990. It’s now home to “dozens of unwanted, illegal, and abused reptiles from all over the world,” according to the Alamosa Convention & Visitors Bureau. 


Related: 21 Places to Safely See Wild Animals Up Close


The Hartford Courant
Wikimedia Commons

Connecticut: George Washington Advertised Here

The history of the oldest continuously published newspaper — the Hartford Courant — is fascinating and includes interactions with George Washington (who took out an ad in it), Thomas Jefferson (who sued it), and Mark Twain (who tried to buy stock in it). It began as a weekly paper in 1764, and its third publisher (in 1777) was a woman, breaking that glass ceiling early on.


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Doing taxes
shih-wei/istockphoto

Delaware: More Businesses Than People

Generous tax laws and loopholes have long made Delaware a popular state for companies to call home — at least on paper. As of the end of 2020, more than 1.6 million businesses had incorporated in the second-smallest state in the union including almost 68% of the members of the Fortune 500, according to the secretary of state’s office. That’s a little more than 1 company for each of the state’s 989,948 people.


Related: Strange But True Tax Laws From All 50 States


Brevard County
Wikimedia Commons

Florida: A History-Changing Discovery

One of the most significant archeological finds in the U.S. is in Brevard County, just outside of Titusville. That’s where, in 1982, dozens of bodies — believed to be 8,000 years old — were accidentally discovered in a peat bog. Radiocarbon dating suggests they were older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt, forcing historians to re-examine America’s ancient history.


Related: The Most Endangered Historic Places Across America


HALL COUNTY COURTHOUSE
BOB WESTON/istockphoto

Georgia: A Bone to Pick About Eating Fried Chicken

Many places would consider eating with your hands to be gauche, but in Gainesville, you can be arrested for eating fried chicken with a knife and fork — or really anything but your fingers. No joke. The city passed an ordinance in 1961 to promote it as the “poultry capital of the world.” And while it was basically a publicity stunt, the law remains on the books. Don’t test them.


Related: Best Hole-in-the-Wall Spots for Fried Chicken in Every State


High detailed Hawaii physical map with labeling.
BardoczPeter/istockphoto

Hawaii: A Constellation of Islands

Hawaii is much bigger than you think — and continues to grow due to volcanic action. It’s generally known for its “main” islands, but there are a string of islands, islets, seamounts, and shoals that extend 1,350 miles to the northwest in a protected area that covers 582,578 square miles, according to Hawaiian Airlines.


Related:  The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Idaho Potato Museum
©TripAdvisor

Idaho: A Tuber Tribute

When most people think of Idaho, they think of potatoes. And they should, considering the state grows nearly a third of America’s spuds. Sure, things there, like wheat, sugar beets, and barley are also grown there, but unlike the potato, they don’t have their own museum.


Related: Must-Visit Food Museums Across America


Robert Pershing Wadlow
Wikimedia Commons

Illinois: A Tall Tale

It’s known as the Land of Lincoln even though Abraham Lincoln wasn’t born there. Maybe it should be called the Land of Wadlow instead in honor of Robert Pershing Wadlow who was born in Alton and grew up to an astounding 8 feet, 11 inches tall. The former Ringling Brothers Circus star is still the tallest human in recorded history according to the Guinness Book of World Records


world’s largest ball of paint
world’s largest ball of paint by Steven Pierson (CC BY-SA)

Indiana: A Painting Project That Snowballed

Fans of odd roadside attractions might want to check out the world’s largest ball of paint in Alexandria, where Mike Carmichael has been adding layers of paint to a baseball since 1977. After more than 27,000 coats of paint, the ball weighs more than 2½ tons, according to Atlas Obscura. Visitors are encouraged to help with new coats. It’s a lot of work.


Related: Weird Tourist Attractions Across America


Capt. James Tiberius Kirk
PxHere

Iowa: Where the Trek Begins

Historical markers dot the landscapes of most states, but Iowa might be the only place with one that celebrates something that won’t happen for another 200 years — the birth of Capt. James Tiberius Kirk on March 22, 2228, in Riverside. Originally erected outside a hair salon, it was moved in 2021 when the business decided to expand.


Related: Bizarre Celebrity Product Endorsements


Misty sunrise over wheat field in Kansas
ricardoreitmeyer/istockphoto

Kansas: An Even Outlook

A 2003 study found that Kansas was indeed — as people are fond of saying — flatter than a pancake when researchers compared the state’s topography to an IHOP flapjack. Subsequent research (seriously?) found that six other states (Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware) were even flatter.


Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky USA
benedek/istockphoto

Kentucky: A Great Void

This state is the home of the largest known underground cave system in the world. The National Parks Service says Mammoth Cave covers 420 miles, “but that is just what has been discovered to date” since mapping began in the 1950s. There’s evidence humans have been visiting the caves for 5,000 years.


Related: Fun Day Trips for Families in Every State


St. Louis Cemetery No. 1
St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 by joeshlabotnik (CC BY)

Louisiana: 'City of the Dead'

St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 is the oldest and most famous “city of the dead” in New Orleans with more than 600 above-ground tombs and monuments attracting 200,000 visitors a year. Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau rests there and at some point so will actor Nicolas Cage, who bought a 9-foot-tall pyramid-shaped tomb there that was featured in the film “Easy Rider.”


Related: 51 Spooky Graveyards Across the Country


Patriots Day Parade
flySnow/istockphoto

Maine: A Forgotten War

Students of history will remember the time Maine went to war with the British Canadian province of New Brunswick. Doesn’t ring a bell? We’re talking about the Aroostook War, a border dispute fueled by Britain’s need for more timber. British troops and militiamen from Maine faced off in the lumber-rich area in 1838 for several months without engaging, according to Britannica.com. A truce and joint occupancy of the area followed, and the boundary was finally settled in 1842.


Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England


Edgar Allan Poe
Wikimedia Commons

Maryland: An Edgar Allan Poe Mystery

For decades, a mysterious masked visitor to the grave of Edgar Allan Poe would leave three red roses and cognac in the wee hours of Jan. 19, toasting the famous author on his birthday. Smithsonian magazine says the ritual in Baltimore’s Westminster Burying Ground began around 1949 and was witnessed by a small group of onlookers. It ended in 2009 as mysteriously as it began.


Related: 13 Cemeteries With Celebrity Star Power


Slightly overdone chocolate chip cookies in a messy pile
boblin/istockphoto

Massachusetts: A Sweet Origin Story

Ever wonder where chocolate chip cookies came from? The Sugar Association says it was the invention of Ruth Wakefield who ran the Toll House restaurant in Whitman. “The delicious mix of crispy cookie and melted chocolate chunks first appeared in her 1938 cookbook ‘Tried and True,’ and was intended to accompany ice cream.” She later sold the rights to the recipe to Nestle — the one you see on the back of every package of their chocolate chips. Yum.


Mackinac Bridge at Sunset
doug4537/istockphoto

Michigan: A Long Suspension Span

Sure, California’s Golden Gate Bridge gets all the glory, but Michigan’s Mackinac Bridge — which spans 5 miles over the Straits of Mackinac to connect the state’s upper and lower peninsulas — is no slouch. The “Mighty Mac” opened in 1957 after 3,500 workers spent two years building it from 71,300 tons of structural steel and 931,000 tons of concrete.

Related: Beautiful Historical Photos of Famous American Bridges 


Palmer House Hotel
Palmer House Hotel by McGhiever (CC BY-SA)

Minnesota: A Spirited Place to Stay

Sauk Centre’s Palmer House Hotel has been the subject of paranormal studies for years. It’s even said that famed author Sinclair Lewis — who wrote about his hometown in the book “Main Street” and worked at the hotel — might be one of the ghosts people say they’ve seen around the 120-year-old building. It’s now a popular spot for guests hoping to have “an experience,” says owner Kelley Freese.


Related: The Most Haunted Hotels in America

Mississippi River basin
Mississippi River basin by Shannonchan (CC BY-SA)

Mississippi: A River Ran Through It

In the wake of disastrous flooding, the Army Corps of Engineers built a scale model of the Mississippi River basin on 200 acres of parkland near Jackson in order to develop controls for the river. It took two decades to build the massive model — with the help of World War II prisoners of war — which detailed 15,000 miles of the river and its tributaries. After 79 simulations, computers had improved enough to more efficiently study the problem, and the site was turned over to the city. Once a tourist destination, the area was closed after efforts to restore the overgrown model fell apart.


World’s Fair
Wikimedia Commons

Missouri: A Fare Share

If you’re a fan of iced tea, cotton candy, ice cream cones, hamburgers, hot dogs, and even club sandwiches, you can thank the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. These foods didn’t necessarily debut at the fair, but they were popularized at the exposition attended by 20 million people, according to the New York Times.


Browning, Montana.
Wikimedia Commons

Montana: A Matter of Degrees

Think the weather is erratic in your state? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that on Jan. 14-15, 1972, the temperature in Loma went from -54 degrees to 49 degrees in a 24-hour period. That 103-degree swing was a record, breaking the previous mark of 100 degrees set on Jan. 23-24, 1916, in — where else? — Bowning, Montana.


Related: The Coldest and Warmest Cities in Every State


Carhenge
Carhenge by Jacob6493 (CC BY-SA)

Nebraska: Auto Art

You’ve probably heard of Stonehenge, but do you know about Carhenge? It’s a re-creation of England's prehistoric monument in Alliance, Nebraska, with each stone being replaced by a car. The brainchild of experimental artist Jim Reinders was finished in the spring of 1987 and has since grown to include more car sculptures, according to Atlas Obscura.


Nevada National Security Site
nnss.gov

Nevada: This Place Is the Bomb

Between 1951 and 1992, 928 nuclear tests were conducted above and below ground at the Nevada Test Site — about 65 miles north of Las Vegas. (And you thought it was neon that made the signs glow.) The site — now known as the Nevada National Security Site — offers free general-interest tours including a stop at Sedan Crater, one of the largest man-made craters on Earth. While the tours were suspended due to COVID-19, they are expected to resume soon. See the NNSS website for details.


Prisoner
chinaface/istockphoto

New Hampshire: Plates Served With Irony

How’s this for irony: The state’s license plates that include the state motto “Live Free or Die” are made by prison inmates working for New Hampshire Correctional Industries. You can’t make this stuff up. Inmates in the program also can learn how to refinish and upholster furniture, make custom woodworking products, and other skills.


Hadrosaurus
Hadrosaurus by Audrey.m.horn (CC BY-SA)

New Jersey: A State Dinosaur

Only a handful of states have a state dinosaur. In New Jersey’s case, that’s the duck-billed Hadrosaurus that made its home in the forests and swamps along the state’s ancient seacoast about 80 million years ago. New Jersey adopted the herbivore in 1991 based on work by teacher Joyce Berry and her fourth-grade class.


Smokey Bear
Wikimedia Commons

New Mexico: The Bear Facts

Fun fact: Smokey Bear was a real bear cub found in the Capitan Mountains of New Mexico during a wildfire in 1950. Firefighters found him in a charred tree with badly burned paws and hind legs and people around the country followed news of his recovery. The poster boy for conservation and wildfire prevention lived his life in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., and was buried in his home state after his death in 1976.


Union Square
Union Square by Tdorante10 (CC BY-SA)

New York: A Unique Recruiting Station

A Navy battleship sat in New York City’s Union Square in 1917. The USS Recruit, a 200-foot wooden boat, was built to house Navy and Marine recruiting forces as the United States entered the first world war, according to the New York Times. “The landship, as it was called, had a 36-piece band and 40 crew members who swabbed the deck, conducted drills, and greeted New Yorkers, perhaps most warmly those with the potential to become Navy men.”


Roanoke Island
Roanoke Island by Bohemian Baltimore (CC BY-SA)

North Carolina: An Enduring Mystery

Historians say Virginia Dare was the first English child born in colonial America. And while records cite her birthday as Aug. 18, 1587, to parents who were part of Sir Walter Raleigh’s expedition, nobody knows what happened to her or the rest of the group of about 120 that landed on Roanoke Island — then part of the Virginia colony but now part of North Carolina.  

Snow angel's print on a snowcovered area. Aerial foto.
familylifestyle/istockphoto

North Dakota: How Bismarck Earned Its Wings

When 8,962 people simultaneously made snow angels on the Capitol’s lawn in Bismarck on Feb. 7, 2007, the feat made the Guinness Book of World Records. The event, organized by the State Historical Society of North Dakota, has withstood at least one challenge over the years.


William Harrison,9th President Of United States
pictore/istockphoto

Ohio: POTUS Deaths

It’s a fact: Half of the presidents who died in office were from Ohio. Those would be William Henry Harrison (who was born in Virginia but lived in the Buckeye state when he was elected), James Garfield, William McKinley, and Warren G. Harding. In 1841, Harrison was the first president to die in office (pneumonia); Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, and died six months later; McKinley was assassinated in 1901; and Harding had a heart attack in 1923.


Humor - Your closing slide is the end
jskiba/istockphoto

Oklahoma: A Contest That's Nothing to Sniff At

For nearly 60 years now, the little town of Beaver has been the home of the annual World Championship Cow Chip Throw each April. And yes, a cow chip is exactly what you think it is. “A cow’s turd smells like money to us out here,” one Beaver resident told The Oklahoman at this year’s event. Ewww.

Cannon Beach Oregon
zschnepf/istockphoto

Oregon: Upon This Rock

Cannon Beach is home to one of the most photographed pieces of basalt on the planet — the 235-foot tall Haystack Rock. But you might not know that the iconic piece of seaside scenery provides a habitat to a wide range of seabirds, including a circus of Tufted Puffins that summers there, and its tidal pools show off sea stars, anemones, crabs, and other creatures at low tide.


Related: The 20 Best Beaches on the West Coast

Marmota monax, groundhog known from movie groundhog day with punxsutawney phil for weather forecast
Jens Otte/istockphoto

Pennsylvania: The Groundhog's Usual DIgs

Once a year, Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney becomes the home of the most celebrated weather forecasting rodent on the planet, Punxsutawney Phil. But what most people don’t know is that the rest of the year Phil can be found at his home in the town’s library on Barclay Square. Pretty nice accommodations for someone that works once a year.


Getting ready for 4th July
M_a_y_a/istockphoto

Rhode Island: Where Patriotism Runs Deep

If you think your town is patriotic, get a load of this. Bristol’s July Fourth festivities date back to 1788 when a pastor and Revolutionary War vet “conducted a series of religious services and speeches known as Patriotic Exercises to give prayer and thanks for the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” according to Governing.com. The fun starts on Flag Day and culminates with a popular parade on the Fourth.

Rhesus monkeys
Rhesus monkeys by Timothy Gonsalves (CC BY-SA)

South Carolina: Welcome to the Monkey House

Morgan Island (also called Monkey Island) on the Morgan River near Beaufort houses more than 3,000 free-roaming Rhesus monkeys, federally protected and bred for research by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. The 2,000-acre island is owned and managed by the state’s department of natural resources. Only researchers are allowed on the island to tag the monkeys and take 500 a year for medical testing, says Atlas Obscura.


Milkyway
Wikimedia Commons

South Dakota: Real Star Power

The state’s reputation as one of the least populated also means minimal light pollution, making it ideal for stargazers, especially in places like Badlands National Park on the western plains where the Milky Way, stars, and satellites are easily visible on a clear night. The park offers night sky programs during the summer with rangers and volunteers helping out on Fridays.


Related: See the Stars: Dark Sky Destinations Across America


The Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee
The Grand Ole Opry

Tennessee: In Tune With its Music

When it comes to state songs, the folks in Tennessee have decided one just isn’t enough. That’s probably no surprise for a state that contains Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry and Elvis' home in Memphis. With the recent addition of country/bluegrass duo Dailey & Vincent’s version of “I’ll Leave My Heart in Tennessee,” there are now 11 official state songs, a list that includes “Rocky Top” and “Tennessee Waltz.” 


Related: Strange Facts About Graceland


Bracken Cave
Bracken Cave by Daniel Spiess (CC BY-SA)

Texas: The Original Bat Cave

More than 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats live in the world’s largest bat colony in Bracken Cave on the outskirts of San Antonio. No friend of the corn earworm moths, “the Bracken colony alone is estimated to consume over 100 tons of these moths every summer night,” according to a state website. They say everything is bigger in Texas, but come on.


Philo Farnsworth
Wikimedia Commons
Haskell Free Library
Wikimedia Commons

Vermont: No Border Dispute Here

For more than 100 years, the Haskell Free Library and Opera House has operated on the U.S.-Canadian border, serving patrons of Stanstead, Quebec, and Derby Line, Vermont. When we say “on the border,” we mean you can sit in the opera house seats in the U.S. and watch a production on the stage in Canada. Canadian patrons walk across the border to enter the library from Vermont without going through customs — and have to go straight back to their own country. It’s an interesting arrangement that’s stood the test of time.

Virginia
plateshack.com / Wikimedia Commons

Virginia: Virginia Is for Lovers and Vanity Plates

You’re so vain. You probably think this fact is about you. Virginia has the highest volume of vanity — or specialty — license plates per capita of any state in the country with 19% of drivers owning one in 2021, according to a story in Virginia Living, citing stats from the American Association of Vehicle Administrators and the state’s department of motor vehicles. The state offers a wide variety of plates that let drivers associate themselves with good causes and nonprofits.


Boeing's
jetstar.com

Washington: The World's Largest Building

Boeing’s final assembly factory in Everett is the world’s largest building by volume, covering 98.3 acres and 472 million cubic feet. Built in 1967 to manufacture 747s, it has more than 300,000 employees, its own fire department, security team, daycare center, and fitness center on a campus big enough to fit Disneyland with 12 acres to spare. 


Spruce Knob Trail, West Virginia
©TripAdvisor

West Virginia: Its Civil War Roots

History.com says slavery was dividing western Virginians from the rest of the state even before the Civil War. But when Virginia seceded from the Union, delegates met in Wheeling to form “The Restored Government of Virginia.” It became the 24th U.S. state when President Abraham Lincoln added it by proclamation in April 1863.


Wheels of Cheeses
MaryMarin/istockphoto

Wisconsin: Cheese, of Course

Madison is home to the international World Championship Cheese Contest, which has been held biennially since 1957. Hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, it’s billed as “the world’s premier technical cheese, butter, and yogurt competition.” A Gruyère from Switzerland took top prize for the second year in a row in 2022.


Jackalope
Jackalope by cogdogblog (CC BY)

Wyoming: On the Hunt for a Mythical Creature

It’s legal to hunt the wily pronghorn jackalope in Converse County, but only on June 31. You’ll need a license, of course, or risk a $13 fine and possibly a sentence of 13 months' “hard play in Douglas, Wyoming.” It’s all part of a legend that began in 1932 when a taxidermist and his brother mounted antlers on a rabbit, creating a cottage industry and giving Douglas the nickname of Jackalope City.


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