- Every state has its “thing.”
- We considered each state’s history, their reputations, their natural wonders, and their most famous foods to devise a list of what every state is known for.
- From Wisconsin’s love of cheese to the magnificent Grand Canyon in Arizona, every state has something special to offer.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “California”? Maybe it’s the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, or the state’s beautiful sandy beaches.
Though there are so many things to know and love about every state, we attempted the impossible task of narrowing it down to just one thing, based on each state’s history, general reputation, natural wonders, and most popular foods.
While this list is far from all-encompassing, it’s a celebration of the quirks, attractions, and delicacies of the US.
Here’s what every state is best known for.
ALABAMA: College football
Think of Alabama and you’ll no doubt think of the excited chants of “Roll Tide!” at the University of Alabama. According to the Encyclopaedia of Alabama, college football is by far the most popular spectator sport in the state due to a history of successful seasons for the teams at both the University of Alabama and Auburn University.
While college football may be up in the air right now due to the coronavirus pandemic, as of now the University of Alabama is still planning to have a 2020 football season. According to Roll Tide Wire, the Southeastern Conference has announced the school will partake in a 10-game, conference-only game schedule starting September 26.
ALASKA: The Northern Lights
The Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, can be seen from Alaska between mid-September and late April, peaking in March. The further north you travel, the more likely it is you’ll be able to see the gorgeous glowing lights Alaska is famous for.
ARIZONA: The Grand Canyon
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, the Grand Canyon is located in Arizona. More than 6 million people visit the Grand Canyon National Park each year.
ARKANSAS: Former President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton is a native of Hempstead County, Arkansas, and served as the 40th and 42nd governor of Arkansas before becoming the 42nd president of the United States. Clinton was the second-youngest governor in the state’s history, after John Selden Roane, and had the second-longest term in the state’s history, 11 years and 11 months in total.
From the glitz and glamour of the golden age of Hollywood to the present day, California is known for being a celebrity stomping ground and for producing a majority of the film industry’s blockbusters and award-winning movies.
While the coronavirus pandemic postponed many Hollywood movies’ filming schedules, it appears that movie-making is resuming with added precautions.
Colorado is the nation’s No. 1 ski and snowboard destination, home to 38 ski and snowboard resorts. A few of Colorado’s ski resorts are among the largest in the nation, allowing skiers to experience the best of the best in regards to snow-covered slopes.
Connecticut is famous for its incredible Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, both located on Native American reservations. Guests can enjoy fine dining, deluxe accommodations, and a wide variety of attractions and shopping opportunities.
Both Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun closed temporarily as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, but are now open. At Foxwoods, gaming floors and some restaurants are operating at limited capacity, and face masks are required. Mohegan Sun is following similar guidelines to encourage social distancing.
The second-smallest state in the country, Delaware is home to Dover International Speedway, also known as the “Monster Mile,” which hosts two NASCAR races each year.
FLORIDA: Theme parks
Known as the theme park capital of the world, Orlando, Florida is home to fan-favourite theme parks and attractions like Universal Studios Orlando and Walt Disney World.
All four Walt Disney World theme parks are now open after temporarily closing due to the coronavirus pandemic, as is Universal Studios Orlando, with new, improved safety measures to encourage social distancing and hygiene.
Also known as the setting of “Gone With the Wind,” Georgia is known around the world for its peaches. The peach is the state fruit of Georgia, and a peach is even featured on the US Mint’s Georgia quarter.
Hawaii is recognised as the birthplace of modern surfing, so it’s no surprise that the state is famous across the world for the water sport. Surfing dates back to the 4th century and has become a huge part of Hawaii’s history and culture.
Idaho is the top potato-producing state and reportedly grows about 13 billion pounds of potatoes each year, most of which are brown russet potatoes.
ILLINOIS: Deep-dish pizza
When it comes to pizza styles in the US, it usually a match-up between New York and Chicago. Though there’s plenty of things to love about Chicago and the state of Illinois, the city is perhaps most well known for its famous deep-dish pizza.
INDIANA: Indianapolis 500
Otherwise known as the Indy 500 or the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race is held every year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. It is the oldest major automobile race in the world.
Iowa is known across the country for its robust farming community. Iowa is the top producer in the country of corn, soybeans, hogs, and eggs, and the state has about 87,500 farms. In 2015, Iowa farmers produced more than 2.51 billion bushels of corn, according to the US Department of Agricultural Statistics Service.
KANSAS: “The Wizard of Oz”
“Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” When Judy Garland uttered those iconic words in “The Wizard of Oz,” Kansas would forever be fondly remembered as Dorothy Gale’s home state. Today, Kansans are often reminded there’s truly no place like home when looking out on Kansas’ sprawling sunflower fields and beautiful farmland scenery.
KENTUCKY: The Kentucky Derby
The Kentucky Derby is known for its exciting horse racing, distinctly preppy fashions, and, of course, mint juleps. The race is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, and is the longest-running sporting event in US history.
LOUISIANA: Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras, the French celebration of “Fat Tuesday” before Ash Wednesday, is an annual celebration and parade lasting about two weeks. While the biggest event unfolds in New Orleans, Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout Louisiana and is marked by drinking, delicious food, bright colours, beads, and dancing.
Mardi Gras 2021 is still scheduled to go ahead, but events are subject to change.
Called the “sweetest, most flavorful lobster on Earth,” Maine lobster is known around the world. Lobster contributes an average of $US1 billion to Maine’s economy annually, making it not only what the state is known for, but a huge economic driver for the state as well.
Maryland sits on the Chesapeake Bay and is known across the country for its delicious blue crabs and crab cakes. Visitors flock to Maryland every year to get their fill of the delicacy and to attend the annual crab feast in Baltimore.
A New England staple, Dunkin’ – originally Dunkin’ Doughnuts – was founded in Quincy, Massachusetts, and has been a state-favourite coffee brand ever since. In 1950, Bill Rosenberg opened the very first Dunkin’ Doughnuts restaurant with the goal to “make and serve the freshest, most delicious coffee and doughnuts quickly and courteously in modern, well-merchandised stores.”
MICHIGAN: The auto industry
Michigan is the No. 1 state when it comes to car manufacturing. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, one in five US auto-manufacturing jobs are based in Michigan, and Wayne County alone has more auto-manufacturing jobs than any state except Kentucky.
MINNESOTA: The Mall of America
The Mall of America officially opened in 1922 in Bloomington, Minnesota, a suburb of the Twin Cities. It is the largest shopping mall in the United States, with more than 500 stores and 10 attractions, including an indoor theme park. It is visited by more than 40 million people every year.
Many stores in the Mall of America have now reopened after temporarily closing during the pandemic.
MISSISSIPPI: The Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world and is the second longest in the United States. According to the National Park Service, early European explorers used the Mississippi to explore what would one day become the United States. The river was also instrumental in the fur trade and the business of merchants in the early days of American history.
Budweiser was founded in St. Louis, Missouri, due to its direct access to the Mississippi River, German immigrants moving en masse to the area in the 1800s, and nearby cave formations that allowed brewers to keep their product cool before modern refrigeration was introduced. So, next time you crack open a cold one, thank Missouri.
Montana is known for its wide, grassy plains and flourishing cattle and ranch business. Cowboy culture is very much alive and well in the state.
The state also has a rich history of Native American culture and is home to the site of the last major Native American battle in United States history at the end of the Nez Perce War of 1877.
In Nebraska, one in four jobs is related to agriculture, and the state consistently ranks as one of the top cattle-producing states in the country. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture also reports that Nebraska’s farms and ranches utilise 45 million acres, which is 91% of the state’s total land area, and exported $US1,318,500,000 in beef and veal in 2018 alone.
NEVADA: Las Vegas
Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada by population and receives roughly 40 million visitors every year. The city is known across the country for its exciting nightlife, attractions, and dining, as well as for the famous Las Vegas Strip.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Fall foliage
New Hampshire is known for its beautiful fall foliage, and many leaf-peepers travel from across the country just to watch the fall leaves change colour along New Hampshire’s creeks and in the state’s quaint, quintessentially New England villages.
NEW MEXICO: Los Alamos
New Mexico is perhaps most well known for the town of Los Alamos, where the Manhattan Project and development of the atomic bomb during World War II occurred. On July 16, 1945, the world’s very first atomic bomb was detonated on the Alamogordo Bombing Range, 200 miles south of Los Alamos.
NEW YORK: Broadway
New York City has countless attractions that draw millions of visitors every year. However, one of the most notable things to do while visiting New York is to attend a Broadway show. According to Loving New York, 13 million spectators annually attend one of New York City’s Broadway shows, 63% of whom are tourists.
Broadway theatres are scheduled to be closed until at least January 3, 2021, with reopening dates hoping to begin in the new year.
NEW JERSEY: Diners
New Jersey is known as the “diner capital of the world,” with more than 500 diners located throughout the state. If you’re visiting New Jersey, make sure to work up a good appetite first!
NORTH CAROLINA: The Wright brothers
North Carolina’s state motto is “First in Flight,” after the Wright brothers’ famous flight at Kitty Hawk on North Carolina’s Outer Banks on December 17, 1903. It was the first “controlled, powered aircraft flight” in history.
NORTH DAKOTA: Ranches
Farms and ranches occupy more than 39 million acres, almost 90% of North Dakota’s land area. The state ranks first in the country for producing many common agriculture products, including spring wheat, flaxseed, and canola.
OHIO: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1983, after being chosen as the location over New York, San Francisco, Memphis, and Chicago. It attracts thousands of visitors each year. Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is considered a highly prestigious honour for the world’s most famous musicians.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is now open with updated hours of operation and health and safety guidelines.
While Oklahoma might be known for “Oklahoma!” the musical, it’s also a well-known spot for tornadoes. America’s very first tornado warning was issued in Oklahoma on March 25, 1948, and the state consistently ranks as one of the states with the most tornadoes.
OREGON: Craft beer
Portland, Oregon, as well as the entire state, is arguably known for its “earthy-crunchy” culture, beautiful hiking trails, cosy coffee shops, and craft beer breweries.
“Oregon is a consistent leader in the US for craft beer whether it’s the number of breweries per capita, the percentage of dollars spent on craft beer, or the economic impact per capita by Oregon’s breweries,” says Brian Butenschoen, executive director of the Oregon Brewers Guild.
PENNSYLVANIA: The Liberty Bell
Pennsylvania is rich in American history and is home to one of America’s most recognisable historical objects, the Liberty Bell. Visitors travel from far and wide to visit Philadelphia and marvel at this symbol of American freedom, crack and all.
RHODE ISLAND: Coffee milk
Only true Rhode Island natives are aware of the delicious drink that is coffee milk. Made with cold milk and coffee syrup, the fan-favourite beverage is also the state’s official drink. This unique-to-Rhode Island drink is delicious, so next time you’re passing through, be sure you grab a glass.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Beaches
South Carolina’s beautiful weather makes it easy to enjoy the state’s beaches and stretches of coastline. Home to Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island, South Carolina has been a destination for people from across the country.
SOUTH DAKOTA: Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore is one of the most iconic American tourist attractions in the country. Depicted on the side of the mountain’s face are former US presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. Mount Rushmore was originally conceived as an idea to drive tourism to South Dakota and its famous Black Hills mountain region.
The history of Mount Rushmore is controversial, however, and some see the monument as a painful reminder of how the land was taken from Native Americans. In addition, Washington and Jefferson were slave owners. Some activists have called for the monument to be removed entirely.
TENNESSEE: Country music
The state’s capital, Nashville, is known as “Music City” and is the home of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Country Music Awards. It is also the stomping ground of many country music legends. The state has also produced some of the most iconic names in country music, from Dolly Parton to Johnny Cash.
Texas is known across America for its delicious barbecue. Barbecue is not only part of the cuisine of Texas, but the culture. Though each part of the large state has its own way of cooking meat, Texas as a whole would probably argue that Memphis, Carolina, or Kansas City-style simply can’t compare to the dry-rub smokiness of Texas barbecue.
UTAH: National parks
Utah is home to five gorgeous national parks, most notably Arches National Park in Grand County, Utah. The state also has 13 national park service units and multiple national monuments.
VERMONT: Maple syrup
Vermont produces more maple syrup than any other state. In 2017, the state produced nearly 2 million gallons of syrup. Roughly 47% of the country’s maple syrup comes from Vermont, and each year, maple syrup lovers travel to St. Albans to celebrate everything maple syrup at the Vermont Maple Syrup festival.
Virginia is rich in American history and is regarded as “the birthplace of the nation.” The first settlers to set up a permanent residence in America arrived in what would become Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. In 1612, Jamestown settler John Rolfe began planting tobacco, and before long the plant had become a thriving industry in the state – an industry that has continued to this day.
Starbucks is known across the world as a global leader in coffee sales. However, the very first Starbucks coffee shop opened in Seattle’s Pike Place Market in 1971. Coffee fans can still visit the first Starbucks location, which has retained much of its original charm from the signage to the vintage chairs inside.
WEST VIRGINIA: Scenic roads
West Virginia is known for its scenic roads and highways, and the state markets its beautiful drives as a reason to visit the state. From mountain views to sweeping farmlands and tree-lined roads, West Virginia is arguably one of the most beautiful states to take a slow Sunday drive through.
Wisconsin’s famous cheese comes as a result of a thriving dairy industry. According to Wisconsin Cheese Mart, Wisconsin’s cheese-making industry produces “2 billion pounds of cheese every year, [or] 30% of the nation’s total cheese production,” which is more than any other state.
Wyoming, one of the most mountainous states in the country, is home to the Rocky Mountains as well as the first national park in the country,Yellowstone National Park, which features mountains, large canyons, rivers, hot springs, and geysers. The most notable geyser in Yellowstone National Park is Old Faithful.