Beyond Flags and Capitols - Unique State Symbols
January 21, 2011 | Permalink
As we all learned in elementary school, America consists of fifty states, each of which has an official capitol (take a deep breath—no, you will not be tested), as well as a state seal, flag, and flower. But did you know that the list of official state symbols goes on and on from there? Wherever your U.S. travels take you, there are numerous state symbols to enjoy.
For example, most states not only have officially proclaimed state animals (often sub-divided to official mammal, reptile, insect, etc.) but also official state fossils. In 1982, thanks to the efforts of a persistent and dedicated fourth-grade class, Colorado designated the Plated Dinosaur, Stegosaurus stenops, the official state fossil. Need a break during a convention in Denver? Take a stroll through the Museum of Nature and Science on Colorado Boulevard to see the skeleton. Have your kids along? That’s all the excuse you need to take in the award-winning Prehistoric Journey exhibit, to watch dinosaurs battle up close and personal. And don’t forget to tell your kids that the skeleton on display was actually discovered during a field trip by a group of high school students and their teacher.
More interested in something more peaceful—and alive? Kentucky has designated the University of Kentucky Arboretum in Lexington the state’s official botanical garden. As you meander through the Arboretum’s year-round color and beauty “stresses melt away among the 100 acres of marvelous sights and sounds of our gardens.” The State Botanical Garden in Athens, Georgia, only about an hour from downtown Atlanta, is another tranquil respite, as well as a feast for the eyes any time of year with its various gardens focusing on herbs, flowers, conifers, shade, native flora and garden art.
Looking for more lively entertainment? Several states, including Illinois, Maryland, California and Pennsylvania have officially designated state theaters. California’s Pasadena Playhouse, in existence since 1917, lays claim to being America’s second-oldest regional theatre. It has featured such major performers as Gene Hackman, Leslie Uggams and Dustin Hoffman. The oldest theatre in the U.S., Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre, became Pennsylvania’s official state theatre in 1999. Its illustrious 200-year history includes performances by W.C. Fields, Harry Houdini, and the Marx Brothers.
And what state visit would be complete without taste-tests of the state’s official cuisine? You’d hardly be doing your duty in visiting New Orleans if you didn’t have a healthy helping of the official Louisiana State Cuisine, gumbo, though if you’re not a big sausage and shellfish fan, you could still do your duty by feeding on the equally official Louisiana State Meat Pie, Natchitoches meat pie. This spicy ground meat turnover originated in northern Louisiana (the town of Natchitoches even has a yearly meat pie festival), but you can order the savory meat turnover in many of the world-class restaurants in New Orleans.
Or maybe a pastry tour of the U.S. is more to your liking. In Texas you have your choice of two designated pastries: strudel and sopapilla. Back in New Orleans, who’d want to miss having the designated Louisiana State Donut, the beignet, along with a cup of the strictly unofficial state coffee beverage, chicory coffee, at Café du Monde? And when you’re back in Boston for your business meeting, why not buy a dozen Boston cream donuts to take back to your hotel to share with the folks on your floor? After all, besides being a neighborly thing to do, sharing the official State Donut of Massachusetts is practically an act of culinary patriotism, right?
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