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In a country as vast and storied as the United States, there’s always something surprising you can learn about the law, history, mysteries, and more in each of the 50 states. For instance, in Alaska, the moose laws are unbelievably specific. (It's illegal to serve one an alcoholic beverage in Fairbanks.) Or in Florida, it's illegal to skydive on Sundays if you're a single woman. And did you know about Hawaii’s deep-rooted appreciation for Spam? Read on to learn mind-blowing facts about all 50 United States, from Alabama to Wyoming.
Alabama: The Country's Only Mail Route Delivered by Boat
In the small Gulf Coast town of Magnolia Springs, the country's only year-round river postal route was established 100 years ago to circumvent the muddy clay roads, which were nearly impassable on horseback. If the thought of floating down a quiet rural river and delivering mail to nearly 200 mailboxes everyday sounds perfectly quaint, think again — alligators and snakes are spotted almost daily, and fish can sometimes make their way onto the boat and into the mail undetected.
Alaska: Moose Protection Is No Laughing Matter
Most places have strict animal protection laws, but Alaska has some of the downright strangest — and most specific — wildlife legislation around. In Fairbanks, for instance, it’s illegal for a moose to walk on the sidewalk. It’s also illegal to give a moose an alcoholic beverage, push a moose out of a moving plane, or to even look at a moose from a plane. Maybe strangest of all is the fact that these ever had to be made laws in the first place.
Arizona: Cactus Theft Is a Punishable Offense
Succulents may be beloved house plants, but keep your hands off of Arizona’s cacti — it’s illegal in the state to dig them up, a crime that’s potentially punishable with a 25-year prison sentence. Cactus theft is a big problem in the desert, largely due to the difficulty of growing them from scratch. The tree-like saguaro cactus, native to the Sonoran Desert, is considered among the most valuable, and is the most likely to garner a felony charge for its theft.
Arkansas: The Only Active Diamond Mine in the U.S.
The only active diamond mine in the U.S. — and the only public one in the world — is in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Visitors to the Crater of Diamonds State Park are allowed to mine for gems and get to keep whatever they might find. It might just be worth the dig — the biggest diamond ever discovered in the U.S., nicknamed “Uncle Sam” and weighing just over 40 carats, was found at the site in 1924.
California: Real Estate Is Expensive (Even in the After Life)
It seems that real estate has always been a hot button issue in California. In 1900, San Francisco actually banned new burials and moved the remains of 150,000 deceased to new graves in nearby Colma after the San Francisco land occupied by graveyards was deemed too valuable (as well as a health hazard). While Colma’s “above-ground” population is only about 1,500, its deceased numbers somewhere near 1.5 million.
Colorado: Don't Ride a Horse Under the Influence
Horses are considered non-motorized vehicles and are quite common in parts of Colorado, and if you’re relying on one for transportation, you’re expected to follow the rules of the road. That means you can get ticketed for DUI — or, rather, an RUI, for riding under the influence. The infraction is considered a simple traffic violation rather than a more serious drunk-driving charge, but nonetheless, it’s best to avoid it altogether.
Connecticut: The First Statewide Speed Limit (12 M.P.H.)
Connecticut was the first state to institute speed limits for cars. Previously, legislation did exist in some places for non-motorized vehicles: in New York, for instance, it was illegal to drive any horse-drawn vehicle in anything as “fast” as a gallop. But in May 1901, the state of Connecticut made it illegal to drive anything with a motor faster than a whopping 12 mph on city roads — and even slower, even coming to a stop if needed, when approaching horse-drawn vehicles.
Delaware: 200 Times as Many Chickens as People
No, it's not because the fowl roam free and naturally — the state boasts a $1.7 billion poultry industry, existing as the primary driver of the state’s agricultural economy. The chicken business is said to have been started by accident: In 1923, a woman named Cecilia Steele ordered 50 chicks for her backyard, planning on raising them for eggs. The hatchery, however, accidentally sent 500, and while she sold hundreds of them off, she also began raising them for meat.
Florida: No Skydiving on Sundays for Single Women
Florida’s frequent weird news stories can sometimes make it appear a little lawless, and while the residents are, of course, required to obey their government’s rules just like every other state, the laws in the Sunshine State do sometimes tend towards the strange. One such ruling states that it’s illegal for single women to skydive on Sundays. While it seems unlikely that this outdated law would ever actually be enforced, it’s best for the single ladies of Florida to parachute over some of the state’s beautiful views on some other day of the week, just to be safe.
Georgia: A "Hospital" Where Cabbage Patch Kids Are Born
BabyLand General Hospital is the place where Cabbage Patch Kids are "born," and it’s a surreal must-see for pop-culture aficionados who find themselves in Cleveland, Ga., which is the hometown of the Kids’ creator, Xavier Roberts. The 70,000-square-foot building fashions itself after a real hospital — doctors and nurses tend to the baby dolls in nurseries, there’s a special section for preemies, and even recovery rooms where the babies — er, dolls — are weighed and measured.
Hawaii: More Spam Per Capita than Any Other State
Forget all that delicious fresh Pacific seafood — Hawaiians prefer Spam. The canned meat — lovingly nicknamed “Hawaiian steak” — appears on menus in fancy restaurants and fast-food chains such as McDonald's and Burger King, and takes the place of fresh fish in the popular sushi-inspired snack called Spam musubi. It’s so beloved that it even has its own annual festival, Spam Jam, where some 20,000 Spam lovers congregate to buy up special edition flavors and celebrate the humble luncheon meat.
Idaho: A Bed-and-Breakfast Shaped Like a Giant Beagle
Dogs are barking and need to take a load off? If you happen to be in Idaho, why not book a room in the Dog Bark Park Inn, a bed and breakfast in Cottonwood that’s shaped like a giant beagle? Opened by husband and wife artists in 2003, the quirky Inn also features dog-themed decor as well as a gift shop featuring the couples’ chainsaw art. A sign at the entrance to the giant beagle reads “a noble and absurd undertaking,” and we couldn’t agree more.
Illinois: Pumpkin Capital of the World
Next time you sip your seasonal pumpkin spice beverage, tip your hat to Morton, Illinois, the self-declared pumpkin capital of the world. Why? The village is actually home to the Libby’s canning plant, and produces a whopping 82 percent of the canned pumpkin in the whole world. Though its population is only 16,000, the village’s annual pumpkin festival in mid-September draws upwards of 35,000 people every year.
Indiana: Where Santa Claus Lives Year-Round
When you think of Santa Claus, you think of the North Pole, but the big guy in red has a year-round presence in the midwestern U.S., too. In 1856, the town changed its name from the already-taken Sante Fe to Santa Claus in order to open their own post office. Christmas decorations and festive street names can be found all over town, and a giant Santa statue sits in front of city hall. Every year, several thousand kids’ letters to Santa arrive at the post office, and a group of volunteers work hard to make sure each one of them gets a reply.
Iowa: Once the Land of the Woolly Mammoth
Woolly mammoth bones that are thousands of years old have been found frequently in Iowa — and they’re often uncovered completely by accident. The city of Oskaloosa contains the midwest’s only site with multiple mammoth remains, and will hopefully help researchers construct a better picture of how so many of the prehistoric pachyderms not only ended up in what is now known as Iowa, but why they stayed, and how they died.
Kansas: The World's Largest Ball of Twine
Kansas boasts the world’s largest ball of twine — but, somehow, the title didn’t come without a fight. Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Missouri also have oversized roadside twine attractions, and have argued over whose giant ball of twine is, in fact, the biggest, for years. But it’s Cawker City’s, started in the 1950s and added to every year during the city’s Annual Twine-A-Thon, that is the victor in the great twine debate.
Kentucky: Where You Can See Rainbows and Moonbows
You’ve heard of a rainbow, but what about a moonbow? It’s similar to the popular multicolored meteorological phenomenon, only it happens at night, and Kentucky’s Cumberland Falls State Park claims to have the only one in the western hemisphere. The rare phenomenon requires very specific atmospheric conditions — full moon, condensation in the air, no light pollution — to occur, and can often appear more pale white than rainbow-hued.
Louisiana: Nicolas Cage's Morbid Connection
Actor Nicolas Cage owns a nine-foot, pyramid-shaped tomb in the oldest cemetery in New Orleans. Cage purchased the mausoleum in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 back in 2010, presumably for his future burial, though he has remained mum on his plans. There is no name on the modern structure — which stands in stark contrast to the crumbling, centuries-old graves surrounding it — but is instead inscribed with the Latin words “omnia ab uno,” which translates to “everything from one." The actor is known to visit the tomb from time to time.
Maine: A Desert Surrounded by Pine Trees
When you think of Maine, you probably think lush forests, quaint coastal living, and cozy L.L. Bean casuals. But the state also has a desert, a 40-acre site of sand and silt in Freeport, that’s the result of both ancient glacial residue and eventual over farming. The Desert of Maine is dotted with sand dunes and is surrounded, of course, by the state’s more recognizable greenery, and its unique landscapes make it a popular tourist destination.
Maryland: Where the First Six-Pack of Beer Was Sold
Baltimore's National Brewing Company brought cans of its cult-favorite pilsner Natural Bohemian — affectionately referred to as Natty Boh — to the first six-packs sold in stores in 1943, forever changing the drinking game. While it’s still a beloved local staple (Baltimore accounts for 90 percent of sales), Natty Boh hasn’t been brewed in Maryland since 2000, when the Pabst Brewing Company bought the brand and moved production to breweries out of state.
Massachusetts: Where Burritos Are Legally Not Sandwiches
That’s right — a real judge presiding over a real court in Worcester, Mass., made the ruling in 2006 after a Panera Bread tried to block a Qdoba Mexican Grill from opening in the same plaza. Panera Bread cited their lease with the White City Shopping Center, which states that the strip mall cannot rent storefronts to other sandwich shops. After hearing testimony from a variety of food experts and consulting the dictionary, Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Locke decided in Qdoba’s favor, stating that it came down to a sandwich having two pieces of bread as opposed to the single tortilla used to make a burrito.
Michigan: Home to Another Disneyland (And It's Not What You Think)
Called “Hamtramck Disneyland” and located in — you guessed it, Hamtramck, just outside of Detroit — the attraction is unfortunately not an amusement park, but instead a folk art installation that has become a popular tourist destination and the subject of two documentaries. Built over the course of 30 years by General Motors retiree Dmytro Szylak on top of his two garages, the bold and busy structure is a pastiche of Americana artifacts and symbols from his Ukranian upbringing. After his death, a group of local residents and artists saved the house and structure, renting it out as apartments and housing an artist in residence, ensuring it remains a fixture of Detroit’s booming public art scene.
Minnesota: Keep Your Tires Squeaky Clean
Dirty tires on your vehicle? That’s illegal in Minnetonka. According to the City of Minnetonka, a “truck or other vehicle whose wheels or tires deposit mud, dirt, sticky substances, litter or other material on any street or highway” is considered a public nuisance and could land you a ticket or other penalties. Considering Minnesota has a pretty robust network of off-road vehicle trails, there’s likely a good reason this one was put on the books.
Mississippi: Worship Is Even More Serious Than You Thought
If you interrupt a worship service, you can be arrested on the spot (including via citizen’s arrest) and not only fined up to $500, but potentially also serve a six month sentence behind bars. The law was put into place in 1848, and while some Mississippi legal professionals feel that it’s no longer necessary, a 2017 survey of some local residents proved that not everyone thinks it should be taken off the books.
Missouri: The Weirdest Summer Olympics in History
The 1904 Summer Olympics are memorable for a number of reasons. Only 12 countries participated, mainly due to the cost and slow speed of travel to St. Louis at the time, and due to confusion and crossover with the St. Louis World’s Fair, the games dragged on for nearly five months between July and November. The marathon in particular was one of the most disastrous events: athletes competed in hot, dusty conditions, and suffered sickness and awful injuries as a result (those that didn’t immediately drop out, that is). The 1904 games were also, however, the first games in which gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.
Montana: The Only Official State Motto in Spanish
You might be surprised to find out that less than half of U.S. states have official state mottos in the English language. Many of them are in Latin, but only one is in Spanish — and its state was neither a former Spanish colony nor shares a border with Mexico. Montana’s motto “Oro y plata” translates simply to “Gold and silver” — a nod to the state's mineral reserves that were discovered in abundance in the mid-19th century, earning it the nickname “The Treasure State.” (As “montaña” is Spanish for mountain, the motto isn’t the only thing the state has borrowed from the language.)
Nebraska: A Stonehenge Made of Cars
It's the replica of England's famed Stonehenge that you never knew you needed in your life. Head to Alliance, Neb., where 38 cars — all painted grey and all vintage American-made models — are arranged to mirror the prehistoric English rocks. Carhenge was built in 1987 by local resident Jim Reinders; although he faced challenges from city council during its construction, the public came to his defense and helped preserve the odd art project. In the years since, other car sculptures have been added to the site, which is now known as the Car Art Reserve.
Nevada: Home to a Self-Proclaimed Country
Nevada is home to seemingly endless delightful curiosities, but maybe none more intriguing than the Republic of Molossia. Founded in 1977 by Kevin Baugh, Molossia is a self-proclaimed independent country situated on privately owned land in the desert near Dayton. It’s what’s known as a micronation — complete with its own currency, a postal service, space program, and, of course, a president (who, in case you haven’t guessed, is Baugh). The micronation has a population of 34 (30 people, 4 dogs) and welcomes visitors sporadically between April and October. Since it is not recognized by the United Nations or any major government, you won't need a passport to cross the border, but they do recommend you bring it so that customs can stamp a page.
New Hampshire: The Only State Without Mandatory Seat Belt Laws
Other states were close on New York’s heels when they passed a law requiring seatbelts in 1984, but the Live Free or Die state is still without any legislation on the books. Luckily, the majority of people do still choose to buckle up, with 70 percent of New Hampshire residents wearing a belt. It’s still lower than the national average, however, which is around 90 percent.
New Jersey: No Pumping Your Own Gas
New Jersey is the last state in the U.S. where it is illegal to pump your own gas. This is thanks to the Retail Gasoline Dispensing Safety Act and Regulations, which was put into effect in 1949 with the aim of protecting the public from fire hazards sometimes associated with pumping fuel. Former state Governor Chris Christie has said that residents prefer having someone pump their gas, but critics of the law say that self-serve pumps would save consumers money.
New Mexico: More Than 400 Ghost Towns
Go just about anywhere in New Mexico and you’re probably not too far from a ghost town. No, not the haunted kind (at least we don’t think so), but rather the abandoned remains of once-thriving farm, mining, or railroad communities who fell victim to rail route changes, economic downturns, or unknown factors over the years. Some estimate there to be more than 400 ghost towns throughout New Mexico, in varying degrees of decay, where you can glimpse the remains of lives that once were.
New York: A Mystery Spot That Defies Space and Sound
In the northeastern Adirondacks region of New York state, you'll find The Lake George Mystery Spot, marked by a compass etching in the ground, along with an X in the center. When you stand on the X, face the lake, and speak, your voice reverberates in an echo that feels removed from reality, while people standing just a few feet away will hear your voice as normal. While some theorize that the circular wall around the site or position of the lake and the mountains cause the echos, a local indigenous legend says that an ancient god once appeared at this spot and the sounds are those of his wisdom echoing still.
North Carolina: Entire Towns Submerged Beneath Lakes
North Carolina has some stunning lakes that are well-loved for their scenery and recreation, but what most people don’t know is that entire towns remain submerged beneath. Lake Norman, Jordan Lake, and Fontana Lake are all man-made lakes built on top of abandoned towns — some for the creation of energy dams, some to prevent future flooding — and many structures, from homes to old mills, were left in place.
North Dakota: An Abandoned Pyramid from the Cold War
The Egyptian Pyramids may have an aura of mystique and historical gravity, but an abandoned pyramid in North Dakota evokes a whole other sense of intrigue. The pyramid, officially known as the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, was built in 1975 as a defense tool for the U.S. Army in the Cold War. But the facility was only operational for two days before the government determined its location, and the danger of hitting friendly targets, was too risky, abandoning it altogether. The concrete complex towers eerily over the plains outside the small town of Nekoma, with dozens of missile launchers and a massive radar system still intact.
Ohio: Dr. Seuss Removed a Lake Erie Reference in "The Lorax"
In the 1971 classic The Lorax, a story about the importance of taking care of the environment, Dr. Suess, AKA Theodore Geisel, wrote about a species of animals called the "Humming-Fish" whose future was uncertain due to water pollution. "They'll walk on their fins and get woefully weary in search of some water that isn't so smeary,” he wrote. “I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie.” At the time, the lake was indeed terribly polluted, but by the mid-’80s, cleanup efforts resulted in a cleaner lake and replenished fish population. Employees of Ohio Sea Grant, a Great Lakes education group, wrote to the author and asked him to reconsider, and he very kindly obliged.
Oklahoma: Pigeons Are No Joke
Pigeons have a reputation as a nuisance, often being regarded as little more than flying rats. But in Oklahoma City, there’s an entire museum dedicated to the creatures, which are not only extremely intelligent but have a long-running relationship with mankind. At the American Pigeon Museum, visitors can see several real-live beautiful breeds of the misunderstood bird, learn about the history of pigeon racing, and marvel at the important role they played as wartime messengers — for instance, did you know that several pigeons have received the Dickin Medal of Honor? Who’d have thought.
Oregon: The World's Smallest Park
Oregon is home to bountiful green space, but it also happens to be the home of the world’s smallest park. Located in downtown Portland, Mill Ends Park was the creation of Oregon Journal columnist Dick Fagan. In 1948, Fagan noticed that a hole dug for a utility pole was never used, and instead started filling up with dirt and weeds. He claims to have one day spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole, and after running out of his office and catching it, made a wish for his very own park. Many years and several creative musings on the two-foot circle later, the city designated it an official park in 1976. Fagan also maintained that it was the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland. Only in Portland!
Pennsylvania: An Underground Mine Fire Has Been Burning for Over 50 Years
The borough of Centralia, Penn., just over 100 miles from Philadelphia, was once a prosperous mining town of 1,200, but in May 1962, a fire started in a coal deposit, quickly spreading across acres of mine. The official cause of the fire has never been determined, but the most likely theory is that an abandoned mine shaft that had been used as a garbage dump ignited and spread. By the mid ’80s, toxic gases had been leaking into local homes; the government started paying to relocate residents, and Centralia soon became a near ghost town. The fire is only one of over 30 active mine fires in the state, but is the most well known — and it could possibly burn for 100 more years. Tourists still flock to the desolate rural area to catch a glimpse of smoldering cracks in the pavement, and Centralia is even said to have inspired the 2006 horror movie Silent Hill.
Rhode Island: Officially the Longest Name of Any State
Rhode Island may be the smallest U.S. state, but you might be surprised to learn that it also has the longest name: the official state name is State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. In 2010, the State Senate and House of Representatives allowed Rhode Island voters the chance to officially shorten the name to the State of Rhode Island, a change that supporters said would mark the state’s evolution from its involvement in the slave trade. Residents voted to keep the name the way it is.
South Carolina: An Island Entirely Inhabited by Monkeys
Morgan Island — known informally as Monkey Island — spans 2,000 acres in the state’s Lowcountry and is home to nearly 4,000 Rhesus macaques. The original colony of 1,500 arrived in South Carolina via a Puerto Rico research facility in the 1970s, and has been used by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases ever since. Tourists are not allowed on the island proper, but can take in one of the only two Rhesus colonies in the U.S. (the other is in Florida’s Silver Spring State Park) via boat tours.
South Dakota: The World's Only Corn Palace
For almost 130 years, this kitschy tribute to the state’s agricultural achievements has stood in the city of Mitchell, S.D. Originally built in 1892, the multi-purpose community arena is elaborately decorated on the inside and out with massive, multicolored folk art corn-cob murals; the themes change every year, with the most recent being “South Dakota’s Home Grown.” Each August, the annual Corn Palace Festival celebrates another crop year and harvest.
Tennessee: It's Illegal to Share Your Netflix Password
No, sharing your Netflix password isn't just frowned upon in Tennessee — it's illegal. In 2011, the state passed a law stating that sharing or selling passwords for any number of subscription services could land you a fine of $2,500, a misdemeanor charge, and up to a year in jail. The law is the result of pressure from record industry lobbyists as the music business still struggles to stop hemorrhaging money. Netflix, specifically, doesn’t frown upon password sharing — they know it happens, and simply expect the owner of the account to make sure anyone using it is following the terms of service.
Texas: Rescheduled Halloween for Its Love of Football
Football is practically a religion in Texas. In 2014, the small town of Decatur even rescheduled Halloween so it wouldn’t interfere with the standard Friday night high school football game. At the suggestion of the police chief, trick or treating was moved up a night to Thursday, Oct. 30, largely because, the chief said, the majority of the police force would be needed at the game.
Utah: Where Researchers Practice Living on Mars
The Mars Desert Research Station was built near Hanksville in the early 2000s to simulate what it would be like to live on the red planet. From communications and technology, to living quarters, and testing medical procedures, the crews practice several aspects of life outside of planet Earth. Utah’s often harsh desert conditions and altitude make it the perfectly inhospitable place to navigate these challenges.
Vermont: Where Billboards Are Banned
Vermont is known for its scenic rolling green hills and open fields, and in 1968, the state banned billboards in order to preserve its natural beauty. The law came into effect largely thanks to state representative (and environmental activist) Ted Riehle. Vermont has a long history with fighting to keep giant advertisements from blighting its landscapes, even organizing a citizens’ committee to have seven billboards swiftly removed in the late ‘30s. Alaska, Hawaii, and Maine have also prohibited billboards.
Virginia: Only Just Decriminalized Swearing in Public
Despite the fact that the outdated law had been deemed unconstitutional and was rarely enforced, it was still on the books as a misdemeanor that carried up to a $250 fine. However, in the Virginia General Assembly in February 2020, the Senate voted 37-7 to remove the crime, which was formally known as “profane swearing in public.”
Washington: Illegal to Harm Sasquatch
The southwestern Washington county of Skamania took it upon themselves to issue an ordinance back in 1969 stating that causing harm to the tall, hairy creature would come with up to one year of jail time and/or a $1,000 fine. The law was put into place after several civilian sightings of the Sasquatch led an increased “hunting” activity. The county does, however, encourage people to “shoot” the elusive Bigfoot with a camera should they ever encounter it.
West Virginia: Roadkill Can Be Haute Cuisine
It might sound like a stunt reality-TV food show, but the Roadkill Cook-Off is very real. The ambitious culinary festival takes place every fall in West Virginia’s Pocahontas County, serving up unusual dishes made out of animals often found at the side of the road. Think squirrel gravy over biscuits, iguana tacos, quail meatballs, black bear stew, and more. The festival is a boon to the local economy, and a fun and enlightening reclamation of a stereotype of the rural community.
Wisconsin: Only Just Legalized Snowball Fights
The Wisconsin city of Wausau went viral in late 2019 for an old law that prohibited throwing snowballs, earning it an anti-fun reputation. But city officials fancy themselves otherwise: in late 2019, when they met to discuss amending the ordinance, one councillor even brought a snowball into the meeting, throwing it across the room. Lawmakers finally struck down the law in January 2020 after a 50-year ban on snowball fights.
Wyoming: Only Two Escalators in the Entire State
You read that right. Both of the state's escalators, it turns out, are in the city of Casper (if you want to get nitpicky, you could technically say there are four: two sets of escalators, each with ascending and descending stairs). As for whether there is any mystery or specific reasoning for the dearth of moving stairs? City officials have said matter of factly that, outside of stairs, elevators are the way to go in terms of cost effectiveness and efficiency.