Colorado has life figured out to a degree that is somewhat frustrating for outsiders. Gorgeous hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter that offsets the caloric excesses that accompany the state’s position as one of the foremost craft beer-loving, munchie-having states out there. Hurting its ranking? Fake-nice guys with distressingly in-shape calves who’ve been working as part-time ski instructors for the past decade while depleting their trust funds after failing out of Boulder.
You probably thought you’d be higher, didn’t you California? You just assumed because of all your formidable cities to eat/drink in, and your pretty highways jutting out over cliffs, and your hockey team named after a Disney movie about a hockey team that you’d just walk away with the ranking, right? You figured because you have world-famous celebrities like Ethan Embry, Tyler Posey, and Jake Busey that we would just succumb to the tidal wave of collective talent and throw you in the top spot? You think because we want to drink all your delicious craft beers and dip our fries in the burger spread from In-N-Out and eat Mission burritos while listening to claymation California Raisins sing Motown music that we’d just give it up so easily, like Julia Roberts does in that movie about your history where she drives a Lotus to a hotel room then doesn’t kiss Richard Gere JUST TO MAKE A POINT ABOUT LOVE?
Well, we’re sorry. Your expansive land mass coupled with your anger-inducing 2:30pm traffic jams, weird subcultures of people vain on the outside (Hollywood) and on the inside (Silicon Valley), and potentially apocalyptic future have to be factored in. Now please tell us you’re not out of avocados.
Did you know there are temperate rainforests in the state most often confused with a district very far from it?!!? Or that it's the largest producer of both hops and spearmint oil?!? Or that Seattle would be the greatest city in the US if it didn’t rain for 10 straight months and Seahawk fans would occasionally just chill out and stop yelling, and you could just take those ferries Meredith Grey uses in that show about her body parts all the freaking time? Well it would. Also, according to that book Boys in the Boat, its crew team beat Hitler or something.
Lakes are easily top three in the “Types of Bodies of Water, Ranked” story that’ll probably be written in a week or so. Since Minnesota has 10,000 of them (or at least CLAIMS to), that’s a good place to start, even if Los Angeles jacked their on-theme NBA team. Its people are generally too busy trying to stay warm to be rude to anyone, its burgers are often stuffed with molten cheese, and its summers are as legendary as Gordon Bombay would have been if that jerk coach hadn’t been so mean to him in pee-wees.
Once you unpack the complicated racial tension caused by the US’ unlawful annexation of the island and exposed by that one beach scene from the seminal Hawaii movie of our time (Blue Crush), you come to realize that most people wish they were the ones that grew up here. Of course there is that beauty, the nearly obscene mix of volcanoes and beaches, and beaches made out of old volcanoes. Then there’s the food, everything from saimin and malasadas (thanks Portugal!), to poke and plate lunches. And now, thanks to Israel Kaanaoi Kamakawiwo'ole, everyone has heard a much chiller version of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" at a wedding. All told, Hawaii remains America’s version of that cooler cousin who knows how to surf, and teaches you complicated swear words.
My nephew is under the impression that all people from Louisiana are actually just alligators dressed in bayou-ready attire speaking with Cajun accents, but my nephew is also 3 and likely wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles costume RIGHT THIS MINUTE. In reality, very few alligators in Louisiana speak.
More to the point, we all know the high regard to which we hold the food and drink culture of New Orleans and the rest of Louisiana (thank you for Tabasco, po-boys, and cocktails), but aside from that, the wharves of New Orleans were where craps was invented in the early-19th century, and the term Uncle Sam allegedly started when Louisiana was a US territory, and dockworkers would mark goods from the States with a “U.S.” and say they came from “Uncle Sam.” Also, there’s a 900-ton bronze statue of Shaq dunking on fools at LSU. I’d like to hear what the alligators have to say about that.
Any state that loves beer enough to name its baseball team after it and loves sausage enough to make anthropomorphic versions of it race during said baseball team’s games has its priorities well established. Wisconsinites must chuckle at the notion that a bar focusing on fine ales, house-made charcuterie, and artisanal cheeses can endeavor to position itself as trendy -- beer, cheese, and meat -- really reinventing the wheel there, everybody! Milwaukee’s a sneaky, underrated big city and Madison’s properly rated as one of the finest college towns in the country. Step by Step was an underrated TGIF sitcom. On Wisconsin! On Wisconsin, indeed.
Things that are really important to Kentucky: making all the good bourbon, drinking all the good bourbon, drinking all of said good bourbon while wagering on horse races, eating open-faced sandwiches that are covered in an irresponsible amount of liquid cheese, making peace with sleazy basketball coaches you’d otherwise dislike because Ashley Judd needs something to root for, dammit. All things considered, Kentucky has it pretty figured out.
Maine is so hot right now. Both literally, because it’s the summer, and in a more metaphorical sense, because Portland has become the new Portland, and food journalism is entering its hipster/nostalgia phase, in which it has become recently very cool to rediscover old places that have been doing the same damn thing forever. And outside of Portland, that is Maine. Mainers don’t give a damn about your trend forecasts, they’re just going to keep naming their children “Wade,” selling L.L.Bean backpacks to middle schoolers, using the term “down East” to mean South, and hilariously calling ham subs with American cheese “Italians.”
And we haven't even scratched the surface on its borderline monopoly on the high-end lobster supply, its delicious blueberries, or the fact that it has literally thousands of islands you don't even know about where dudes named Wade are probably eating lobsters and drinking Moxie as we speak.
Far too much of the Michigan narrative centers on Detroit and its many issues. The Motor City’s become a scrappily rising underdog you can’t help but root for, but Michigan’s greatest strengths lie in the state as a whole. Did you know Michigan has more coastline than any state other than Alaska? Did you know it has such an embarrassment of beer riches that you can easily hit Bell’s and Founders in the same afternoon? Did you know the UP is so remote and uniquely beautiful that it almost feels like a secret 51st state where they inexplicably love British meat pies? Did you know most residents are more than happy to apologize for Kid Rock? If you answered yes to at least three of these than you already understand Michigan’s charms. If you answered no to these questions, you should listen to the dulcet tones of Michigan tourism pitchman Tim Allen and get yourself there immediately.
Matt Lynch is Thrillist's deputy editor, was born somewhere in the middle, and is still there. Try and guess the name of that crazy place: @MLynchChi.