In a country as diverse and varied as America, it’s no surprise that many citizens look at each other like they’re not only from another state, but another planet. “How do they believe that?” “How is that the way they spend their free time?” “They eat what?” We find each other weird and baffling, and maybe that’s just part of the charm of what makes the U.S. such a wild and unpredictable country.
But before you go pointing fingers as the oddness of other states, you might want to remind yourself that your state has its strangeness, too. No place is without its bizarre aspects, and with that in mind, we’ve compiled the craziest fact about every state in the union. As you will see, none of us are without are weirdness. And for more fascinating weirdness, check out The 50 Weirdest Town Names in America.
Alabama: Yes, Sweet Home Alabama is a real place.
There is actually a place known as Sweet Home, AL. A historic house in the city of Bessemer, built by celebrated architect William E. Benns for a the city’s first undertaker—a man by the name of Henry Wilson Sweet. It’s earned a spot as a landmark by the Alabama Historical Association thanks in part to its unusual architecture, blending Queen Anne and Neo-Classical styles. For more fun facts, check out these 40 Facts So Funny They’re Hard to Believe.
Alaska: The produce is bigger than you.
Thanks to the state’s summer sun (delivering sunlight as much as 20 hours a day), produce here can grow huge. Recent years have seen the state produce a 138-pound cabbage, a 65-pound cantaloupe, and a 35-pound broccoli, just to name a few. And for more fun facts, here are 30 Facts You Always Believed That Aren’t True.
Arizona: Cutting down a cactus can get you prison time.
The native saguaro cactus is one of the things we most associate with Arizona, but they also take a really long time to grow, so laws have been put on the books prohibiting the removal of the spiny flora. Cutting them down, even on your own property, can result in a substantial fine or even jail time as much as 25 years. So just keep your distance from them and it will be better for everyone. And for more crazy legal facts, here are the 47 Weirdest Laws from Around the World.
Arkansas: It’s home to the largest gems in the U.S.
The largest diamonds ever found in the United States came from this state, including an 8.52-carat Esperanza gem discovered in July 2015 with an estimated value of $1 million. The largest rock found in Arkansas Crater of Diamonds State Park (and in the U.S.) was the 40.23 carat Uncle Sam, discovered in 1924. For $7, you can visit the park and try your own hand at diamond hunting. And for more on diamonds, check out the 20 Best Engagement Rings for Every Budget.
California: It’s illegal to bury people in San Francisco.
Burying the dead has been illegal in San Francisco since 1901. Because space was limited and real estate at a premium even back then, the city outlawed burials and moved all cemeteries to neighboring Colma, CA. Currently, the dead in that city outnumber the living by a ratio of 1,000 to 1.
Colorado: It’s the only state in U.S. history to turn down the Olympics.
Usually cities beg, borrow, and build all variety of venues to get one of the highest-profile events in the world to take place in their backyard, but in 1976, when the Olympic Committee awarded the Games to Denver, the city said, “thanks but no thanks.”
The reason? When the state put to a vote whether it would authorize a $5 million bond issue that would help finance the Olympics, voters rejected it by a nearly 60% margin, worried about the ballooning costs, pollution, and other side effects that could result. Innsbruck, Austria won as the backup. And for more great state-by-state trivia, don’t miss The Best Joke Written About Every U.S. State.
Connecticut: It’s the birthplace of the hamburger.
It was in the New Haven spot known as Louis’ Lunch where the world’s first hamburger was served in 1900. According to legend, when a customer asked if the meat they ordered could be served to go, owner Louis Lassen popped the dining spot’s “ground steak trimmings” between a pair of bread slices, and the “hamburger sandwich” was born. Those who want to taste a bit of history can still visit the original spot. Next, don’t miss the 100 Awesome Facts About Everything.
Delaware: Was once home to a legendary reggae singer.
Bob Marley lived in Delaware from 1965 to 1977, working for the Dupont Company and at Newark’s Chrysler assembly plant as he saved money to start a record company and return to Jamaica (his song “Night Shift” is believed to refer to this period). His son, Stephen, was born in Wilmington. And for more great trivia about your favorite musicians, here are the 30 Worst First Names for Your Favorite Band.
Florida: You can find both gators and crocs.
Florida’s Everglades National Park is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist. You can tell the difference since the crocodile has lighter skin and a narrower snout, while the alligator rocks dark skin and a broad snout—but you might not want to get close enough to determine these differences for either. And for more fun animal kingdom trivia, don’t miss the 40 Most Amazing Animal Facts of All Time.
Georgia: It has an official state ‘possum.
Named Pogo, he originally appeared in comic books in the 1940s, created by cartoonist and animator Walt Kelly (who came up with the character after visiting the Okefenokee Swamp in 1942). It was adopted as the state’s official possum in 1992. Pogo is definitely in the running to join these other 15 Animals with Impressive Titles.
Hawaii: There’s a state-specific language (and it’s really simple).
The Hawaiian language, ʻŌlelo HawaiʻI, consists of just 13 letters (five vowels and eight consonants). It has four rules: all words end in a vowel, every consonant is followed by at least one vowel, every syllable ends in a vowel. So, yeah, Hawaiians love vowels.
Idaho: Its state seal is the only one designed by a woman.
Emma Sarah Etine Edwards, the daughter of a former Missouri governor who settled in Idaho, won an 1890 contest with her design of a woman representing liberty and a man in miner’s garb, as well as elk horns and mountains as well as the Latin phrase “Esto Perpetua,” meaning “in perpetuity.” Not only did she get the glory of having designed the state seal, she won $100 in the contest.
Illinois: The “Windy City” nickname for Chicago has nothing to do with its weather.
It is believed to have been coined in 1890 by New York Sun editor Charles Dana referring to its competitor for the 1893 World’s Fair as full of “hot air.” While Chicago would win the hosting gig, the nickname stuck. And for more fun facts about cities, know that these are the 50 Cleanest Cities in the World.
Indiana: It’s the world’s popcorn capital.
The home state of Orville Redenbacher, Indiana produces more than 20% of the country’s popcorn supply, with almost half of all the state’s cropland used for corn. In 2014, the state’s farmers planted more than 91,000 acres of corn for popcorn.
Iowa: A mammoth amount of mammoths died here.
This state is lousy with mammoth bones. The ancient creatures were once abundant in this region and areas like Mahaska County have turned up a number of the creature’s remnants, with a number of digs underway.
Kansas: It’s home to the world’s largest ball of twine.
It can be found in Cawker City. The tradition started in the 1950s, when local man Frank Stoeber started on his massive ball, eventually donating it to the town, which residents have continued to add to in the years since during the annual “twine-a-thon.”
Kentucky: It used to be part of Virginia.
Yes, Kentucky was originally a county of Virginia, established in 1776. But as the citizens of the western part of the state became frustrated that their state capital was so far off, in the city of Richmond, they petitioned for statehood, becoming America’s 15th state in 1792.
Louisiana: The turducken was invented here.
Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme first tested it out at a lodge in Wyoming, but popularized the meat mega-dish in his 1987 cookbook, popularizing it through his New Orleans restaurant, K-Paul. There is some debate about who invented the dish—brothers Junior and Sammy Hebert, who owned a Louisiana butcher shop, claim it was they who came up with the idea of stuffing a chicken into a duck into a turkey. Either way, we have Louisiana to thank.
Maine: It has an actual desert.
We think of this state as a place of forests, lakes and lighthouses. But Maine also has its own desert—the 40-acre Desert of Maine, an expanse of silt and sand that came about due to over-farming but which has since become a popular tourist attraction in its own right.
Maryland: It’s the birthplace of the Ouija board.
Two people, Elijah Bond and Helen Peters, a medium, developed it in a Baltimore apartment. They asked the talking board what it would like to be made and the answer, naturally, was “O-U-I-J-A.” Though the apartment has since become a 7-Eleven, Bond’s contribution to sleepovers everywhere is immortalized on his tombstone, which bears the board.
Massachusetts: It’s illegal to frighten pigeons from their homes.
According to Section 132 of the state’s general laws: “Whoever willfully kills pigeons upon, or frightens them from, beds which have been made for the purpose of taking them in nets, by any method, within one hundred rods of the same, except on land lawfully occupied by himself, shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than one month or by a fine of not more than twenty dollars, and shall also be liable for the actual damages to the owner or occupant of such beds.”
Michigan: It’s Magic Capital of the World.
The city of Colon, MI, is the self-proclaimed place to hold that honorific. It’s earned this through hosting a four-day magic convention every summer, a Magician’s Walk of Fame, a magic-oriented museum, and a Magic Capital Cemetery—final resting place of no fewer than 28 magicians.
Minnesota: It’s home to an actual “tri-flowing” river.
This state’s waters flow in three different directions: south to the Gulf of Mexico, north to the Hudson Bay in Canada, and east towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Mississippi: This state has more churches per capita than any other state in the union.
That makes sense, since the citizens of Mississippi also go to church the most, according to Gallup (with 63% of residents saying they attend weekly or almost every week).
Missouri: Tornadoes are literally everywhere.
Missouri is also home to the deadliest tornado in U.S. history—the Tri-State tornado of March 18, 1925, which killed 695 people and injured 2,027 (not to mention destroyed about 15,000 homes throughout the region).
Montana: Much of the land is owned by the feds.
This is one well-protected state, with about one-third of its land either state/federal land (30 million acres) or national forest (16 million acres). It’s home to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone, and plenty of beautiful, rolling landscapes.
Nebraska: This state is the birthplace of Kool-Aid.
Edwin Perkins of Hastings, NE, had originally invented the sweet punch Fruit Smack, which he sold in liquid concentrate. But in an effort to cut down on shipping costs, he experimented with reducing it to a powder and struck on the invention in his mother’s kitchen in 1927.
Nevada: It’s the national capital of nuclear testing.
This state may be the nuclear capital of the country, with 928 nuclear tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site between 1951 and 1992 (just over 60 miles from Las Vegas).
New Hampshire: It’s home to (possibly!) the oldest man-made construction in America
Yup, a 4,000-year-old complex known as America’s Stonehenge that serves as an astronomical calendar and includes inscriptions in Ogham, Phoenician, and Iberian Punic Script. Or it might be 20th century hoax created to drive tourism here. To cover all possibilities, the site has been named “Mystery Hill.” If it’s a lie, we’ll be sure to add it to the 28 Most Enduring Myths in American History.
New Jersey: It has a volcano. (Yes, seriously.)
The approximately 440 million-year-old Beemerville volcano, located in Sussex County is no longer active but does offer some attractive hiking trails and has become a desirable area in which to buy property, too.
New Mexico: The capital is sky high.
This state’s capital, Santa Fe, is the highest capital in the country—sitting at 7,000 square feet above sea level (the highest city in the world belongs to Colorado, whose Leadville is 10,200 feet in altitude).
New York: The New York City Subway is always a mere hours away from a devastating flood.
Fact: Much of New York City is built on swamp and other wetlands, and the city relies on a crucial system of 753 pumps to remove 13 million gallons of water, street draining, and sewer flow every single day. Without them, much of the tunnels would be drowned within a mere hours.
North Carolina: It’s home to the most American Idol finalists.
While this state is known as the birthplace of a number of jazz legends (John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Nina Simone to name a few), it is curiously also the state with the highest number of American Idol finalists than any other state in the country. Go figure!
North Dakota: Big chain pharmacies aren’t welcome.
They like to keep it local here—state law requires that most pharmacies be owned by local pharmacists, so Rite Aid, CVS, and Walgreens are out of luck. In 2014, big pharma tried to change this but their attempts failed.
Ohio: It’s got the only flag in the U.S. that isn’t a rectangle.
The “swallowtail design” or “burgee” was adopted in 1902 features a large blue triangle meant to represent the state’s hills and valleys with stripes meant to symbolize roads and waterways—and a white circle in the middle serving as both the “O” in the state name and a reference to “The Buckeye State.”
Oklahoma: It’s the “Cow Chip Throwing Capital of the World”
Beaver, OK, features the annual World Championship Cow Chip Throw each April. What is a cow chip, you ask? Why, it’s dried cow dung. Fun!
Oregon: The largest living organism on Earth lives in this state’s Blue Mountains.
Measuring 2.4 miles across, it’s a honey fungus of the Armillaria genus that is calculated to be anywhere from 1,900 to 8,650 years old.
Pennsylvania: You can see Edgar Allen Poe’s raven
Fact: you can see the raven that inspired Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem “The Raven” at the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia. Originally the pet of Charles Dickens, which was then taxidermied and mounted, the bird makes an appearance in Dickens’ story “Barnaby Rudge.” But more famously this creature also inspired the melancholy Baltimore poet, who published his poem shortly after reviewing Dickens’ story, to great success.
Rhode Island: It has 1,021 people per square mile
Yes, this is the smallest state in the country, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in concentration.
South Carolina: It’s home to an insane amount of monkeys.
This state’s Morgan Island is also often referred to as Monkey Island, considering it houses 4,000 rhesus monkeys, which are bred on this land mass in order to serve for medical testing (including AIDS, polio, and bioterrorism).
South Dakota: The (fake) center of the United States.
Mount Rushmore isn’t South Dakota’s only famous monument. The small town of Belle Fourche, which has a population just under 6,000, claims to be the geographical center of the United States, and has the monument to prove it. The only thing? They’re making it up.
The actual center of the United States is about a 30-minute drive away, but that doesn’t keep Belle Fourche from capitalizing on its supposedly central location. “We’re not pretending to be the actual center,” Teresa Schanzenbach, the director of Belle Fourche’s Chamber of Commerce told the New York Times. “We’re providing a convenience.”
Tennessee: Where Jack Daniel’s whiskey was born (and died).
If you’ve ever picked up a bottle of Jack Daniel’s, you’re probably familiar with the brand’s label, which proudly proclaims the brand to be native to Tennessee. What you probably don’t know, however, is that legend has it the brand’s eponymous founder died in his home state after getting so frustrated by forgetting the combination to his safe that he kicked it and sustained an injury that eventually led to fatal blood poisoning.
Texas: Where you can legally tag a Bigfoot.
If you see a Sasquatch stomping around Texas, don’t be afraid to pull out your sidearm. In fact, since Bigfoot aren’t considered endangered in the Lone Star State, you’re welcome to hunt as many of them as your little heart desires.
Utah: Big fans of Jell-O.
That jiggly dessert voted “most likely to remain uneaten” at any holiday gathering? Well, don’t speak ill of it in Utah. In fact, Salt Lake City buys more Jell-O per capita than any other place in the United States.
Vermont: It’s the least religious state in the U.S.
Well, at least according to Gallup, just 22% of respondents say they consider religion to be important and consistently attend church.
Virginia: America’s vanity plate capital.
Virginia has the highest vanity license plates per capita of any state—around 16% of its population owns one.
Washington: This state has more glaciers than the other 47 contiguous states combined.
Of course, its 449 square kilometres of glaciers are not so impressive when put beside Alaska’s 90,000 square kilometres, but still.
West Virginia: Presidents love to sleep here.
This state’s famous Greenbrier Hotel, originally built in 1778, has hosted more than half of all the United States’ presidents. For over three decades, it offered a secret bunker where the U.S. Congress could convene in case of a nuclear emergency. However, after this fact was exposed by the Washington Post in 1992, its emergency use no longer served much value and it was simply turned into a meeting room. For more presidential trivia, learn the 20 Amazing Facts You Never Knew About the White House.
Wisconsin: The state bird is fake.
While the state’s official bird is the American robin, the official bird of Madison, WI is the plastic pink flamingo. This grew from a 1979 prank in which students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison planted 1,008 of the animals in the grass in front of the dean’s office. In 2009, the city’s city council voted to make the bird official.
Wyoming: Has a serious escalator deficit.
To discover more amazing secrets about living your best life, click here to sign up for our FREE daily newsletter!