We here at Gawker have embarked on a journey to discover America's worst state. We began yesterday, profiling the eight least-worst states in the union, and today we continue on our journey to the bottom of the heap.
States 42-34 offer varied landscapes and varied peoples, but mostly they are significant in that they aren't worse than the states ranked directly below them. So please come explore Louisiana, Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, and Georgia with us.
The bayou state is viewed as a backwater by many, but it's so full of great food and one great city that it can't rank too low.
The Good: New Orleans is one of America's best cities. It's old and weird and feels like Europe. The nation would be a lot more boring if New Orleans didn't exist, so we're glad that it does. Besides New Orleans, Louisiana boasts beautiful coastline, ridiculously good food, and music (zydeco! jazz!) that makes the heart sing. Also, the Pontchartrain Causeway is something to behold, as is the drive in from Texas on 10.
The Bad: Louisiana is full of horrors. There are amoebas, crazy, Kermit-voiced governors, and guns in church. The towns of Houma and Monroe are examples of what kind of towns exist where New Orleans doesn't, and there are lots of alligators that want to eat you.
Final Score: 6.89
The mile-high state is a land of controversy and confusion, but when you're stoned and skiing you hardly notice.
The Good: Mountains everywhere! You can ski and do the whole apres ski get drunk thing and all that and then be back to Denver, not a terrible city, in the same day. Colorado is smooshed up against the Rockies in gorgeous fashion, it feels dramatic and looming and scary and inviting all at once. And Boulder is the chillest of the chill.
The Bad: Well, Denver is actually kind of awful. And once you go east of Denver? Yikes. Flat as flat can be and a whole lotta nothing. And if you keep going, you hit Nebraska. Whoops. Also, Colorado Springs is home to a lot of wacko fundamentalism that speaks to many parts of the nation but is sincerely very scary.
Final Score: 6.83
The hard, up-turned nose of America, Maine is cold and unforgiving. But it's also, like, really pretty and stuff.
The Good: The Maine coastline, with its lighthouses and ocean-swept rocks, is postcard perfect. There are quaint little towns, pragmatic "You can't get theah from heah" folks, and outlet shopping. Acadia National Park is the Northeast's only National Park and it is a wonder. Portland has a restaurant called Duckfat that is as delicious as it sounds.
The Bad: Turns out, those pragmatic folks don't much care for the gays. Maine is also frickin' freezing most of the time. Because of the Labrador Current, you can barely go swimming in the state's pretty-looking ocean waters. Plus, Maine is basically the middle of goddamn nowhere. There's nothing there! Just a bunch of weird old islands, places like Vinalhaven where the people you're staying with when you're ten don't even have TV and oh god it's so boring.
Final Score: 6.81
Long believed to be freedom's grundle, Virginia is a not entirely awful place to escape the beltway.
The Good: I don't know if you've heard, but this is a good state for lovers. It's also a good state for being near D.C. but not in D.C. NOVA is as much of a bourgie liberal paradise as you'll find that far down on the latitude lines, and Charlottesville has much to recommend it, surprisingly. Speaking of Charlottesville, Virginia's state schools are some of the best in the nation.
The Bad: We are talking about Virginia here. We are talking about Ken Cuccinelli, who likes to pretend gays aren't people. Virginia can oftentimes be the front lines of the culture war, doing horrifying things that the affirmed northerners just above it can point at in horror. Virginia is for lovers, but only a specific kind of lovers.
Final Score: 6.55
38. New Mexico
If New Mexico was good enough for Georgia O'Keefe and her vagina flowers, it's good enough for us.
The Good: Santa Fe and its environs are pretty goddarn lovely. Taos is a weird arts mecca for that one aunt you have who just never quite fit in anywhere else. Albuquerque is home to Breaking Bad, so it must be a great place!
The Bad: Well, everything outside of the Santa Fe area is something of a horrorscape. The people don't want gays in their yearbooks, though they should really be more concerned about all the ghosts. The strange grasslands around Roswell (itself an enormously depressing town singularly focused on a non-event that didn't happen sixty or so years ago) are vaguely menacing, as are the Carlsbad Caverns, with their caves full of dark secrets.
Final Score: 6.51
The Keystone State is a land of contradictions, of eastern progressiveness and western Amishness.
The Good: Philadelphia, despite its history of being mean to Tom Hanks and Antonio Banderas, is a great city — an old and decaying place where you can still smoke in bars (right?) and get the sandwich of your dreams. The true unheralded urban gem of Pennsylvania, however, is Pittsburgh, a city that feels like what an American city should feel like. It's gritty and pretty and shitty and they put french fries on their sandwiches. Whether you're in the Strip or Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh is a place to be cool. Also there are lots of Amish people in Pennsylvania and Amish people are pretty great. But mostly Pennsylvania just has good sandwiches.
The Bad: Thanks a lot for Rick Santorum, assholes. Pennsylvania is a deceptively big state. You think it's all mid-Atlantic, East Coasty liberal shtick, but then you look out on the horizon and realize the rest of it's Pennsylvania too and once you get into Bucks County or Altoona or wherever the hell else, it's a whole different kind of place. So thanks again for Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania's answer to the question "What would evil look like if it wore a suit and had a daughter?"
Final Score: 6.38
The Land of Lincoln is the beating heart of America, a place you stop in on your way to somewhere else but end up staying in forever.
The Good: Chicago! The Goodman! Steppenwolf! Improv Olympic! Second City! Chicago is, weirdly, America's theater town, a place where important, meaty works of theater and comedy are created. Chicago also has bonkers-good food (they put bacon in their pancakes!) and is very beach-accessible, even if said beach is a weirdo pretend fake-ocean. Outside of the Windy City (named so for the politicians, not for the wind, dope) there is picturesque farmland, the perfect John Hughesian suburbs of the north shore, and the surprisingly stirring Lincoln homestead in Springfield.
The Bad: Illinois is corrupt as fuck. Remember this guy? And, like, every governor and mayor before him? And once you step outside of the surprisingly stirring Lincoln homestead, you're in goddamn Springfield, which is a perfect example of what happens to a town when no one pays any attention to it for fifty years. There's also the creeping inferiority complex that runs through Chicago. Chicagoans are often a little too eager to defend their city against New York or Los Angeles. Stop it, Chicago! You're trying too hard. Just do you, girl. Just do you. (Look to Pittsburgh for a lesson on how to do this beautifully.) Mostly, though, Illinois sucks because it's pretty fucking cold in the winter.
Final Score: 6.3
The mitten-shaped land of miseries is a scenic and scenically troubled place to call home.
The Good: Boy oh boy is Michigan pretty. What with all them lakes they got up there and all that crazy snow and stuff. Did you ever watch this beautiful show? That covers the UP pretty well. And say what you will about Detroit, but there's a kind of hard-boned, old-school urbanness to that city that is a rare commodity in 2011.
The Bad: "Hard-boned, old-school urbanness" is a polite way of saying that Detroit is an absolute hellhole, the kind of place that you think about and wish that we could allocate some funds to just airlift everyone the fuck out of there. Flint and Grand Rapids aren't doing much better. Michigan can sometimes feel like a scary totem of what's to come for the rest of this fading super-nation, so it's kind of annoying to constantly have that reminder, ever teasing us.
Final Score: 5.88
The Peach State can be just peachy, but also a little too preachy.
The Good: Savannah is a pretty special place. You don't get a lot of towns in America like Savannah, so we should be glad we have it. And there's certainly something to be said for the sprawling drone of Atlanta, the way it's become in a lot of ways the black capital of America and the gay epicenter of the South. Georgia is steeped in history — a lot of it is sad, bloody history, but it's history nonetheless and it makes the whole place feel a bit haunted in a cool, grim way. Georgia is full of ghosts, but it's also wonderfully alive.
The Bad: Well, it's Georgia. I mean, there's this and this and lots of other stories like that. And as anyone who's ever flown a Delta flight can tell you, Hartsfield–Jackson is a nightmare of an airport.
Final Score: 5.86
The countdown continues Monday with eight more states. Be there!
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 1
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 2
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 3
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 4
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 5
The Worst 50 States in America: Day 6
Photos: Louisiana (kenlund/Flickr); Colorado (sebastian_bergmann/Flickr); Maine (pdstahl/Flickr); Virginia (auvet/Flickr); New Mexico (stuseeger/Flickr); Pennsylvania (auvet/Flickr); Illinois (OZinOH/Flickr); Michigan (roguepoet/Flickr); Georgia (kenlund/Flickr)