“Fifty Nifty United States”: a comprehensive ranking of the best, the worst of what each state has to offer

Peyton Lewis ‘23, Managing Editor/Layout Director and Kiarra Rocker ‘23, Feature Editor

Each state has a variety of things to offer in its contribution to the overall image of the United States of America. Based on four categories, flag, shape, nature, and what it is known for, we have established the bottom three states and the top three states for each category. 

Flag:

Top three:

1. Arizona – The flag of Arizona features a simple yet effective design. The color combination of crimson red, mustard yellow, burnt orange, and navy blue work well together to create a flag pleasing to the eye. The design is not overly complicated as it features a red star on a blue backdrop with alternating red and yellow stripes extending outward from the star.

2. New Hampshire- The New Hampshire flag is one of the strongest elements the state has to offer. A beautiful landscape with a boat nearing a port is shown. Unlike the majority of its counterparts, this flag actually manages to depict a landscape without it looking crowded. Two borders of leaves surrounding the center attraction frames the flag nicely. The flag also manages to utilize an array of colors without it being unpleasant to look at. Overall, this flag is a wonderful example of what an attractive flag looks like.

3. California- The flag of California takes the bronze spot as the flag depicts a simple brown bear standing on a hill, with a star on the corner, and a simple red stripe on the bottom. This flag effectively features an animal, which many states attempt but unfortunately fail to do successfully. Every color used complements one another in a way that is strikingly elegant.

Honorable mention: Oregon, for not only being doubled sided, but for featuring a really cool beaver on one side.

Bottom three:

1. Delaware- There are no words to describe the monstrosity that is the flag of Delaware. Its attempts at combining a bright orange and teal color are ineffective, resulting in an unsettling color palette. The image features two colonial era gentlemen and a gold crest with a brown cow, although from far away the cow may resemble a poorly drawn bear. Overall, the art and color combination results in a flag that should make any tourist turn for home instantly.

2. Illinois- While not as disastrous as Delaware, the Illinois flag is still one of the worst things this state has to offer. It showcases a cartoonish bald eagle perched on a rock with red speech bubbles containing the words “Union”, “National”, and “State Sovereignty.” The whole design is childish and tacky and not something that belongs on a state flag. 

3. Kentucky- The main downfall of the Kentucky flag is the inability to read any of the words it displays. In narrow, bright yellow lettering the flag reads “Commonwealth of Kentucky.” The design is lacking aesthetic appeal and fails to draw the viewer’s attention. Overall, while it is not the worst flag on this list, it is certainly not the best. 

Shape:

Top three:

1. Michigan- The classic mitten shape unsurprisingly lands the state in first place for best literal state shape. Michigan’s configuration is a standout compared to the other 49 states. Afterall, in how many other states can residents use their hand to show where they live?

2. Oklahoma- While the state may not shine in other categories, Oklahoma’s strength lies in its shape. The state bears close resemblance to a pot, with its square body and long rectangular extension. Though not as eye-catching as Michigan, Oklahoma has a creative enough shape to land it in second place.

3. Texas- Texas’ abstract shape earns it the bronze in this category. The large original shape instantly draws one’s eye when viewing a state map.

Honorable mention: Hawaii, which was social distancing before it became cool.

Bottom three: 

1. Colorado- Unfortunately, while Colorado has much to offer, its shape is not one of them. There is not much to say for this state as a basic square does not leave room for commentary. That is why Colorado wins the award for worst shape overall. 

2. Wyoming- Similar to Colorado, Wyoming’s shape is boring and easy to pass right over when viewing a state map. The unoriginal shape wins Wyoming second worst in this category.

3. Rhode Island- Rhode Island’s size is its downfall for this ranking. The tiniest state in the country is easy to miss and does not catch one’s eyes at all. The crowdedness of the East Coast does not do this microscopic state any favors either.

Nature:

Top three:

1. Alaska – Alaska takes the gold with its breathtaking scenery; filled with immense mountains, vast forestry, miles of coastlines, tundra, volcanoes, scenic rivers, glaciers, and diverse wilderness. It has fittingly been described as “the last frontier.” Alaska is one of the only states that can say it has a multitude of beautiful national parks. Uniquely, the Aurora Borealis is present and reliable most of the year, with which the majority of the lower 48 cannot confidently compete. Alaska’s largely intact natural landscape, which allows for ecosystems to function naturally through the state, rightfully places it in the champion spot.

2. California- Filled with the most diverse and complex landscapes, California lands itself in the runner up spot. The Golden State has endless coastlines and beaches, remarkable mountainscapes, huge sequoia trees, along with an abundance of hidden gems scattered throughout the state. California is home to some of the greatest National parks like Yosemite, Redwood, or Death Valley. It is obviously clear as to why so many people travel or even come to live in the expansive landscape, as there is something for everyone.

3. Oregon- Another Pacific state rightfully places up on the podium. Oregon also has extremely diverse landscapes with lush forestry and a scenic coastline in the west, Cascade Mountains down the center, and a desert area in the east. The Northwest state has notable beaches with rugged coastlines and peaks scattered with evergreen wilderness, making it a gem of the west coast.

Bottom three:

1. Ohio – Like the majority of what Ohio has to offer, its nature is not much. Sure, it may have a few scenic areas—if that is what you want to call it. The supposed “scenic” routes are littered with seemingly never ending fields and winding roads that give no escape to this vast landscape. The only remotely scenic part of Ohio is the southern part—and depending on where you are, you have to unfortunately travel through all of Ohio to see the underwhelming scenery. The title of “flat and forgettable” awards Ohio with last place.

2. Kansas- Another flat and forgettable state is the runner up. Ever find yourself in Kansas? If so, we are sorry. You will want to go straight back home with the miles upon miles of deserted fields. Kansas has never been known for vast forestry or beautiful waterfalls, but there is only limited scenery regarding what Kansas could actually be known for, resulting in one of the lowest rankings.

3. Nebraska- Of course, another “Great Plains” state takes the bronze. With nothing notable about the landscape, unless you count isolated open plains and natural rock formations as notable, Nebraska can safely be placed in the lower tier.

Who/What is the state known for:

Top three:

1. Utah (National Parks)- National parks make great travel destinations for all ages, with beautiful, breathtaking, scenery great for photos. Many National parks offer a once in a lifetime view that leads to a memorable vacation for all. That’s why Utah, which is known for its national parks, takes gold in this category.

2. Alaska (Northern Lights)- The Northern Lights are an event that many people only get to see in photos or on television. Very few people get the opportunity to witness this spectacular light show first hand. Alaska, which is home to these extraordinary lights, earns silver for this category.

3. New York (Broadway)- Hamilton, Wicked, Rent, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera—only a handful of musicals that have been performed on the legend that is Broadway. Whether you are a musical theater aficionado or a casual fan, Broadway musicals are a popular event for visitors of New York City. This is why, when it comes to what each state is known for, New York takes third.

Honorable Mentions: Wisconsin (cheese), Louisiana (Mardi Gras), Nevada (Las Vegas), and Washington (coffee).

Bottom three:

1. Oklahoma ( Tornadoes)- Tornadoes are some of the most deadly natural disasters in America. There is no possible way to put a positive spin on tornadoes. So, since Oklahoma is known for these devastating events it earns itself a spot in the bottom three.

2. Iowa (Cornfields)- In comparison to other states like Alaska and New York who are home to the Northern Lights and Broadway, cornfields are extremely unimpressive. Since Iowa has nothing better to offer, it seems appropriate to award it “the most boring state.” Sorry Oklahoma, you still sit last because of your whirly winds of destruction.

3. Arkansas (Bill Clinton)- Arkansas, having your claim to fame be an impeached President who made national headlines with his sex scandal is not exactly impressive. This is why Arkansas has earned itself a spot in the bottom three for this category. In general, Arkansas itself is pretty forgettable, and lacking in something impressive to be known for is not helping its situation much. 

While these categories are only a fraction of what each state has to offer, they provide a unique glimpse into the “fifty nifty” United States.

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