Where did Mardi Gras originate? What state has its own flavor? Where can you find the largest living organism? The 50 states that make up the United States of America have colorful histories and interesting tidbits that make each state unique. Here are 50 state facts that will impress your friends. 

A man stands on the edge of a rock at the Grand Canyon at sunrise
Impress friends with these fun US state facts © Skreidzeleu / Shutterstock

Alabama 

While Mardi Gras is most associated with New Orleans, the Alabama city of Mobile is where the tradition originated in the US.

Alaska

Not only is Alaska the largest state in the country (more than twice as large as Texas), Wrangell–St Elias National Park & Preserve covers a larger area than nine US states.

Arizona

Don’t get too close (ouch!) or scratch initials in saguaro cactus; fines for cactus graffiti run up to $5,000.

Arkansas

Home to America's only operational diamond mine – Crater Diamonds State Park. 

View of General Sherman from the ground up
General Sherman is the world's largest tree by volume © Chiara Salvadori / Getty Images

California

California's Sequoia National Park is home to the world's biggest tree by volume, a sequoia named General Sherman.  

Colorado

The 13th step leading to the entrance of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver is exactly 1 mile above sea level. 

Connecticut

“Yankee Doodle,” the state song, is believed to have been penned in derision by the British about Connecticut volunteers in the French and Indian War. 

Delaware

Jamaican reggae star Bob Marley lived in Delaware from 1965 to 1977. 

Maine Avenue Fish market illuminated at night
Maine Avenue Fish Market has been continuously in operation since 1805 © Allan Baxter / Getty Images

District of Columbia

The Maine Avenue Fish Market is the oldest open-air fish market in the country. 

Florida

South Florida is the only place in the world where both crocodiles and alligators can be found in the wild. 

Georgia

Gainesville, Georgia, often considered the poultry capital of the world, passed a 1961 law making it illegal to eat fried chicken with a fork. 

View of Waikiki beach
Hawaii has the most isolated large population center on Earth © Matt Munro / Lonely Planet

Hawaii

Hawaii has the most isolated large population center on Earth, almost 2,400 miles from California and about 4,000 miles from Japan. 

Idaho

Yes, there is an Idaho Potato Museum. Yes, Idaho potatoes are an exceptionally delicious and abundant crop. You’ve probably had one; 13 billion pounds are harvested yearly. 

Illinois

Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) was the tallest building in the Americas until One World Trade Center in New York City eclipsed it, but the Willis Tower roof stands 100ft higher than that of One WTC, which took the title based on its lofty spire. 

Indiana

Indiana, the “Crossroads of America,” has more miles of interstate per sq mile than any other US state. 

Close-up of a woman holding roasted yellow Mexican corn and shaking seasoning filled with garlic chilli salt
The Iowa State Fair takes place over 11 days © VDB Photos / Shutterstock

Iowa

The Iowa State Fair began in 1854 and has been held every year on the Iowa State Fairground since 1856. One of the largest and most well-known state fairs in America takes place over 11 days in August, encompassing more than 450 acres filled with campsites, live music stages and over 200 vendors selling food. 

Kansas

It was once illegal to put a scoop of ice cream on cherry pie. 

Kentucky

Although Kentucky is the home of bourbon, about a fifth of the state’s 120 counties are completely dry, meaning no liquor sales allowed. 

Louisiana

Thanks to its French heritage, Louisiana is the only state in the country to adhere to a civil law system, as opposed to the common law used in the other 49 states.

Full view of the Portland head lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth Maine
The Portland head lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth Maine is a popular attraction © Joe Dube / 500px

Maine

Maine has almost 60 active lighthouses along its coast.

Maryland 

Baltimore’s NFL franchise is the namesake of local author Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven.”

Massachusetts

Lake Chargo-ggagoggm-anchaug-gagoggcha-ubunagun gamaugg, in the town of Webster, is the longest place-name in America.   

Michigan 

Mackinac Bridge crosses 5 miles over the Straits of Mackinac; its exposed span means that the bridge sometimes closes due to extreme weather.

Minnesota

Bloomington’s Mall of America is 4.87 million square feet and could fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside it. Surprisingly, it’s only the fifth largest shopping mall in the country by retail space.

People watch the Mississippi river flowing around Turtle Island at Hannibal
The Mississippi River is the life-line of the state © Rush Jagoe / Lonely Planet

Mississippi

The name of the state comes from the Ojibwe words Misi zipi, or “Great River.”

Missouri 

Missouri was named after a tribe of Sioux Indians called the Missouria, or Missouri. The name means “he of the big canoe”.

Montana 

The only state in the US with a Triple Divide, which allows waters to flow to Hudson Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Pacific Ocean.

Nebraska

Kool-Aid was invented in the town of Hastings in 1927. 

Sun shining down on the death valley
Death Valley is the hottest place on Earth © Jinny Tan / Lonely Planet

Nevada

Averaging about 10 inches of rain a year, Nevada is the driest state in the US. 

New Hampshire 

The first free public library was founded in Peterborough, New Hampshire in 1833. 

New Jersey

New Jersey has the most diners in the country. 

New Mexico 

New Mexico has an official state question: “Red or green?” This refers to which variety of chile sauce you’d like on your food. Answer “Christmas,” and you’ll get both.

The statue of George Washington at the Federal Hall in New York City
George Washington's presence continues to loom over parts of New York © Kamira / Shutterstock

New York 

George Washington was declared Commander in Chief at NYC’s Federal Hall at the first United States Congress in 1789. 

North Carolina

The waters off the Outer Banks became known as “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” after causing over 1,000 shipwrecks amidst its sandbars and strong currents. 

North Dakota

North Dakota is the No. 1 producer of honey in the country. 

Ohio

Ohio’s state flag is the only burgee-shaped one in the country (it’s like a pennant with a triangle missing at the end). 

A wild longhorn (Bos taurus) cow on the prairie in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma
Enjoy a cowboy way of life in Oklahoma © Richard G Smith / Shutterstock

Oklahoma 

The official state poem is “Howdy Folks,” an ode to Oklahoma cowboy Will Rogers by David Randolph Milsten. 

Oregon 

Oregon is home to the world’s largest living organism, a fungal colony in the state’s Blue Mountains.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s small town of Indiana is known as the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, a testament to its status as one of the top suppliers of Christmas trees in the country.  

Rhode Island

Rhode Island played host to the first open golf tournament in 1865.

Colorful facades of rainbow row homes in Charleston
Get your groove on in South Carolina © TriggerPhoto / Getty Images

South Carolina

The official state dance is called the “shag.” Quit your giggling, it’s a form of the jitterbug. 

South Dakota

South Dakota has more lines of shoreline than Florida. 

Tennessee 

Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry hosts the longest continuously running live radio program in the world, broadcast every weekend since 1925. 

Texas

The official state dessert is pecan pie, surely because the state is so rich in pecan trees (it’s third in the nation for its pecan harvest). Ooey, gooey and delicious, Lady Bird Johnson brought a recipe for this favorite Texas treat along to the White House when she became first lady. 

Aspen Trees in the Pando Clone near Fishlake Utah
The Pando Clone, an aspen colony, is the heaviest living organism on earth © Reuben Jolley / Getty Images

Utah

Pando, a grove of quaking aspens in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest, is one of the world’s largest and oldest living organisms, linked through a shared root system. 

Vermont

Vermont is the only state in the US to have its very own state flavor. That’s right: it’s maple. 

Virginia

Before colonists planted tobacco in Jamestown after a mulberry blight, silk was meant to be this colony’s cash crop. 

Washington

Pub trivia in Seattle might host a picture round of salmon; Washingtonians are expected to know their spawning chinook from non-spawning coho. 

The New River Gorge Bridge
Every year, hundreds of BASE jumpers parachute off the New River Gorge Bridge © ESB Professional / Shutterstock

West Virginia 

On the third Saturday in October, hundreds of BASE jumpers parachute from the 876 foot-high New River Gorge Bridge, which is closed to vehicles for the event. Pedestrians can stroll the bridge, watch the action and shop at the many vendors. 

Wisconsin

The Green Bay Packers are owned by the people of Green Bay (pop. just over 100,000). The football team is a nonprofit whose fans support it, and the team supports them with a bolstered economy, plenty of charitable giving and even a Lombardi Trophy from time to time. 

Wyoming

Devil's Tower was the first national monument in the US in 1906. 

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