Heads up, Democrats, Republicans, independents, and the 47% of you who didn’t vote at all — I’m trying to say something nice here.
Whether you were celebrating or numb with shock after the Presidential election, the results are what they are. As a country, we’re watching what happens, hoping that the divisive rhetoric dies down, and quite frankly worrying about people’s rights, their health, and their families.
While the election and its aftermath have kept the news media and social sites buzzing, I’ve been working on a major freelance project for a hospitality client. I’m writing more than 100 search-friendly pages of content, each one focused on a specific city or unique point of interest.
I’m only part of the way through, but I’m learning a ton about all of these different places across the country. And in the process, I feel like I’m connecting with more of America.
My four big takeaways so far:
- Pleasantly surprised at our commitment to art and culture throughout the nation.
- Seeing massive efforts to protect the environment and improve sustainability.
- We’re more connected every day, thanks to technology and social media.
- Our dedication to preserving U.S. history is incredible. (As an example, see #12 below.)
Here’s 38 things I’ve learned. You might find some of them boring and some of them cool, that’s OK. But they should all give you a little more insight into what’s out there in America:
- American University in Washington, D.C. is on track to be carbon neutral by 2020.
- As you travel along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that spans the Washington/Oregon border, the ecosystem changes from dry grasslands to a temperate rainforest in just 80 miles.
- At the San Jose International Airport, there’s a mural called “Hands” on the outside of the building that can be seen from more than a mile away.
- Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, has the largest baseball stadium in the spring training Cactus League — and is home to two teams: the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. (And you can get Dodger Dogs there, too.)
- Chattanooga, Tennessee claims to have the fastest internet connection in the Western hemisphere, with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.
- Chicago O’Hare International Airport is incredibly committed to the environment — with the first major on-airport apiary, the first aeroponic garden, and more than 300,000 square feet of vegetated green roof on 12 different facilities. They even use a grazing herd to clear dense vegetation on the property.
- Columbus, Ohio claims that its Short North Arts District is “the SoHo of the Midwest.”
- Durgin Park, the oldest existing restaurant at Faneuil Hall in Boston, was opened in 1827. (Although there was also a restaurant there as far back as 1742.)
- Elvis Presley was 22 years old when he bought his famed Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee for $102,500 in 1957.
- Gatlinburg is home to the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, where you can see the jalopy from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the Batmobile, and Herbie the Love Bug — as well as an 8-mile loop of Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, which is the largest gathering of independent artists in the country.
- Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Iron Maiden and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have all recorded concert albums or videos at the Long Beach Convention Center.
- Mount Vernon is open to the public every day of the year, and it’s owned and maintained not by the government — but by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. (Also, there’s a whiskey distillery on site.)
- Osceola County Stadium in Florida is home to the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. #BOO
- Phoenix’s Gila River Arena has a $5 million “dancing fountain” water display, similar to the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
- Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center is the largest “green” building in the world, with both Gold LEED certification and Platinum certification for an existing building.
- Raleigh-Durham International Airport has an annual Bluegrass Music Series every fall, with musicians performing live in the baggage claim area.
- Repticon — a convention featuring thousands of reptiles and exotic animals from around the world — is held annually at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, Texas. (Bonus: Pasadena is also home to the Armand Bayou Nature Center, the largest urban wilderness preserve in the country.)
- Rockefeller Center is actually 19 buildings.
- Sacramento is now known as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”
- San Francisco’s Moscone Center has one of the largest city-owned solar electricity installations in the country on its roof.
- The Dallas Convention Center has the world’s largest heliport/vertiport on top of the building.
- The first South by Southwest festival had about 750 attendees. Today, tens of thousands of people show up to Austin every year.
- The Grand Ole Opry has been on the radio since 1925.
- The home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs racetrack has the world’s largest 4K video screen.
- The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, Oregon, is the oldest of its kind in the U.S.
- The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens have the largest jaguar exhibit in North America.
- The Knoxville Convention Center’s world-class art collection is valued at more than $1 million.
- The Leo Rich Theater in Tucson, Arizona presents a week-long Winter Chamber Music Festival every year.
- The Merriweather Post Pavilion — a historic outdoor concert venue located in a 40-acre forest in Columbia, Maryland — was designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry.
- The Ontario Mills (CA) shopping mall gets ten times more visitors annually than Disneyland, and also has the largest concentration of movie screens west of the Mississippi.
- The Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon is considered by experts as one of the finest public Japanese gardens located outside Japan.
- The University of Cincinnati is one of the “World’s Most Beautiful College Campuses” according to several magazines.
- The Virginia Beach Convention Center was the first in America to earn LEED Gold certification as an existing building.
- Times Square isn’t really a square.
- Tropicana Field, home to MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays, has a 10,000-gallon tank containing more than 30 cownose rays just behind the center-field wall.
- Tucson International Airport displays more than 100 original artworks by local artisans.
- Tulane University has a highly regarded School of Tropical Medicine, the only one of its kind.
- Tulsa International Airport has an Air and Space Museum with a full-domed planetarium, and a Cultural Advisory Group comprised of local citizens chooses artwork to showcase throughout the terminal.
I haven’t been to most of these places, and I’ll wager that most of you haven’t either.
But I can’t help feeling like this project is bringing me closer to the greatness (and untapped potential) that lives in America.
It makes me feel like things will be OK.
And right about now, a lot of us need that confirmation.
If you liked this blog, let me know in the comments below and I’ll post even more of these facts as I work through my project. Thanks for reading!