Dave Barry's Only Vacation Guide You'll Ever Need

By Dave Barry


America is a land of rich diversity. Why vacation in Europe, with its high prices and strange food and incomprehensible languages when, with just a little effort, you can find those things right here? To help you get the most out of your "American Adventure," we've prepared the following state-by-state breakdown, which omits some states we forgot:

ALABAMA. Often called "The Pancreas of Dixie," Alabama offers a tremendous amount of culture, as well as turnips. The State Flower is the camellia; the State Dog is named Booger and you should not wake him up.

ALASKA. Despite being close to Alabama in the encyclopedia, Alaska is actually located in Canada. Alaska contains large quantities of nature in the form of tundra ("tundra" is the Eskimo word for "nothing"). The Official State Motto is: "Brrrrrrr!" The Official State Bird is covered with oil.

ARIZONA. This dynamic state features the subtle beauty of the desert ("desert" is a Spanish word meaning "tundra"). Arizona is also the home of the scorpion, the Official State Creature That Crawls Into Your Shoe and Can Cause Paralysis.

ARKANSAS. With its ideal location somewhere in the United States that we can never picture in our mind, Arkansas offers convenient access to adjoining regions, plus a football team whose fans wear masks with giant hog snouts (at least we ASSUME those are masks).

CALIFORNIA. The nation's most populous state, California truly lives up to its dynamic nickname, "The Nation's Most Populous State," with enough uniformed parking valets in Los Angels alone to conquer Easter Europe.

FLORIDA. The major state industries are tourism, bingo, obtaining senior-citizen discounts, and not having automobile insurance. The largest city is Miami (official tourism slogan: "Maybe you won't get shot").

GEORGIA. Although much of the state was burned down during the filming of GONE WITH THE WIND, Georgia rebuilt itself and is now an important part of the "New South" (which is similar to the Old South, except most of the pickup trucks are Japanese).

INDIANA. This is "The Hoosier State," named after the sound that pigs make when they sneeze. Abraham Lincoln lived in Indiana for a while, but he moved.

IOWA. The name of the state capitol, Des Moines, is French. It means "some of these Moines." The Official State Motto is "You Bet," which is what everybody there automatically says in response to any question:

PREACHER: Do you take this man to be your lawful wedded husband, even if he gets sick, or becomes poor, or brings home a dog that throws up a semi-digested mole head in your lingerie drawer?" IOWA BRIDE: You bet.

KANSAS. This state contains manufacturing and tumbleweeds, which are plants that form themselves into giant balls that roll across the prairie and burst into your motel room at night, which is why the American Automobile Association recommends that you always sleep with a weed whacker.

MARYLAND. This fast-growing state boasts a dynamic economy based on giving speeding tickets to people attempting to drive through. One of Maryland's major attractions is the Chesapeake Bay, a crab-intensive body of water that gets its name from the Indian word Cesapiq, which means "Chesapeake."

MINNESOTA. The major industries are (1) cows and (2) trying to get cars started, which is difficult because the entire state is located within the Arctic Circle. The largest city is Minneapolis, nicknamed, "St. Paul."

NEW HAMPSHIRE. This state, formerly Vermont, contains many rustic villages with names like "East Thwackmore" featuring quaint little inns where the harried visitor can escape from the high-pressure modern world, with its pesky flush toilets and central heating. One of New Hampshire's most popular attractions is the famous "Old Man of the Mountain," a natural granite formation that, when viewed from a certain angle, looks like rocks.

NEW JERSEY. Among the state's many historic sites is Giants Stadium, erected to mark the burial location of Jimmy Hoffa. The Revolutionary War also occurred in New Jersey, where on Christmas night, 1776, George Washington crossed the Delaware River near Trenton and, in one of the great surprises of the war, found a decent restaurant. New Jersey's Official State Disease is gout.

NEW MEXICO. Be sure to visit Carlsbad Caverns, an awesome spectacle in which visitors may witness the grandeur of some 250 million bats. Do not startle them.

NEW YORK. In New York City, follow these common sense safety rules: (1) always walk at least 30 miles per hour, (2) always keep your money in a safe place, such as Switzerland, and (3) never make eye contact. This is ASKING to be mugged. In the New York court system, a mugger is automatically declared not guilty if the defense can prove the victim has a history of making eye contact.

VERMONT. (See "New Hampshire.")