When it comes to beauty, states are a lot like people. Some are blessed with jaw-dropping topography or a ruggedness so handsome that it burns an image onto your brain and sets your heart a-flutter each time someone speaks his name. Still other states fail to elicit that spark, garnering nary a second glance. That's just the nature of things: there's no escaping geography and genetics.
In a beauty pageant between the states of California and Connecticut, California would surely win every time.
But that's not to say that Connecticut, named one of the ugliest states in America in a recent SF International Travel Examiner article, doesn't have some admirable qualities.
As a firm believer in "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and an advocate of giving the benefit of the doubt, I would like to come to the defense of Connecticut, Delaware, Kansas, Nevada, and Oklahoma, and a find a little beauty in all of them.
It's easy to agree with Bob Ecker, the author of the Examiner article, that Delaware is one of the ugliest states in the Union if you often think of the "First State" as nothing more than a couple toll booths with representation in Congress. But when you make Delaware the destination, it is often a delight. A summer day trip to the town of Lewes, settled by the Dutch in 1631, means an afternoon of swimming in the bay, antique shopping, and a stop at one of eastern Delaware's many farm stands.
Ecker lists Nevada "with a heavy heart," but makes some valid points for its inclusion among the ugliest because of its history as a nuclear test zone and its unforgiving geography. Indeed, neon-enhanced Las Vegas has an aesthetic pleasing to some eyes. But it's hard to imagine adding to the ugly list a state that can claim part of Lake Tahoe.
While Connecticut's urban centers aren't much to look at, its colonial architecture and its maritime legacy are wonderful and combine nicely at Mystic Seaport. Ecker also hates Hartford, but the state seat does have a soaring, Gothic Revival-style capitol building that far exceeds the small state's stature.
Ecker's argument against Oklahoma almost proves the opposite point: "There's another level of infinite, lonely flatness to Oklahoma that takes your breath away." Imagine a visitor from a mountainous land setting his sights on Oklahoma for the first time and being awed by the "infinite flatness." Oklahoma is also home to the most American Indian tribal headquarters. While modern reservations are hardly a thing of beauty, if you ever get the opportunity to visit a tribe on a feast day, the colorful and emotional spectacle will endear you to the Southwest.
This poetry about the Sunflower State proves that beauty can be found anywhere, even on the lonesome prairie of Kansas. Esther M. (Clark) Hill's "The Call of Kansas," which describes the state's fragrant summer rains, windswept plains, and dusty, wild roses, will make you want to visit, if only for a New York minute.