Many of America’s largest cities have grand nicknames. New York is the Big Apple, while Chicago is the Windy City. Los Angeles is the City of Angels. Yet thousands of smaller towns from coast to coast hunger for their own world-class nickname. Dozens of towns proclaim themselves as the “World Capital” of this or the “World Center” of that. These nicknames are a source of great civic pride, often emblazoned on the town seal and celebrated in festivals. Here are 10 towns around the U.S. with big claims to fame.
10. Monticello, Kentucky: Houseboat Capital of the World
There are three houseboat manufacturers in this town of 6,000-plus, and many of those boats find their way to nearby Lake Cumberland, which helps drive the local economy.
For those who have an outdated image of houseboats as a relic of the 1970s and ’80s, think again. Some of these are floating mansions, measuring over 100 feet in length and boasting four and five bedrooms. Houseboats are big business in Kentucky, leading lawmakers in 2014 to proclaim the state, “The Houseboat Capital of the World.”
9. Douglas, Wyoming: Jackalope Capital of the World
The jackalope is a bizarre, mythical creature that looks like a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope. Despite its mythical status, the town of Douglas has had some fun with the jackalope through the years. There’s a jackalope statue in the town square, and the town’s official website boasts the tagline, “Home of the jackalope. We know Jack.” Douglas even offers a hunting license for the one-day jackalope season, which is the same day each year — June 31.
8. Columbia, Tennessee: Mule Capital of the World
One wouldn’t think this would be a hotly contested title, but it is, with at least five other U.S. towns hosting annual mule-related festivals. But Columbia’s Mule Day celebration tops them all. First held in 1840, the multiday festival each spring now draws more than 200,000 people to this town in central Tennessee. The highlight of the festival is the Mule Day Parade, but there are enough other activities, from live music to the annual crowning of the Mule Day Queen, to keep everyone entertained.
7. Castroville, California: Artichoke Capital of the World
The artichoke is an under-rated vegetable that is rich in antioxidants and other health benefits. Ancient cultures considered it an aphrodisiac. Those are just a couple of the fun facts visitors can learn at the Castroville Artichoke Festival each spring. The city’s nickname drew some buzz recently when the popular Netflix show Stranger Things featured the character Dustin wearing a Castroville Artichoke Festival shirt.
6. Stuttgart, Arkansas: Rice and Duck Capital of the World
The town is the headquarters of Riceland Foods, which is the world’s largest rice-milling company. And each November, this town in southeastern Arkansas hosts the World Championship Duck Calling Contest, where hunters gather to share their talents for duck calls. It’s a big deal, with the winner taking home a prize package worth some $15,000 in 2017. That’s a far cry from the first contest back in 1936, when the winner got a hunting jacket worth a few dollars.
5. Venice, Florida: Shark’s Tooth Capital of the World
According to the local tourism officials, you can find more fossilized shark teeth here than anywhere else in the world. If you’re too lazy to stroll the beach looking for those teeth, visit during the Venice Shark’s Tooth Festival, where you can pick up some of these natural wonders from vendors.
4. Anoka, Minnesota: Halloween Capital of the World
This suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul claims to have been the first U.S. city to host a Halloween celebration, in 1920. You can’t blame those folks for hosting that first party. As AnokaHalloween.com notes, “When Anokans awoke to find their cows roaming Main Street, their windows soaped and their outhouses tipped over, they decided something had to be done.” By 1937, the celebration had grown so big town officials sent a proclamation to Washington, D.C., designating Anoka as the “Halloween Capital of the World.” Almost 100 years after that first celebration, the festivities continue with a massive celebration each Halloween that draws visitors from throughout the Midwest.
3. Gonzales, Louisiana: Jambalaya Capital of the World
They know a thing or two about jambalaya in Louisiana’s Cajun country, but the folks in Gonzales, located about 50 miles west of New Orleans, claim supremacy in this tasty dish. The town has boasted the title “Jambalaya Capital of the World” since 1968, and every Memorial Day weekend Gonzales hosts the Jambalaya Festival. Cooks vying for the festival’s coveted grand prize work on a massive scale; the festival holds the Guinness record for the world’s largest pot of jambalaya.
2. Groton, Connecticut: Submarine Capital of the World
This city of some 40,000 in southeastern Connecticut has certainly earned the title: the town’s General Dynamics Electric Boat company has been building submarines for the U.S. Navy for more than 100 years. Not coincidentally, the Naval Submarine Base New London, the Navy’s primary sub base on the East Coast, is located in town.
1. Hatch, New Mexico: Chile Pepper Capital of the World
You don’t have to wait for the annual Hatch Valley Chile Festival each year to see why Hatch claims this title. Drive through the small town in southern New Mexico in late summer at harvest time and you’ll see chile peppers everywhere — for sale at stands, drying on people’s fences, even piled by the thousands to dry on tin roofs. Residents eat the peppers in sometimes three meals a day, and pepper aficionados have the famous “Hatch Chiles” shipped around the U.S. Locals claim the Hatch Valley’s soil and growing conditions make the peppers the most flavorful in the world.