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Ranking the American regions

| Wednesday, October 24, 2018

When I started to rank things for this publication, I knew this list was inevitable. I took my time to write it because of the controversy I knew would ensue in two ways. One is because I am literally ranking a core essence to everyone’s being which includes their friends, family, favorite food and even pets. The second is because I am conceptualizing a region with which you may not agree. Is St. Louis part of the South or the Midwest? Is South Florida its own region? Should Northern and Southern California be split? These are not easily answered questions, but I made my regions based on data from geography-based meme groups on Facebook, of which I am an active member. Rankings come from objective truth since I have obviously proven myself as the adjudicator of all things.

1. The Atlantic Corridor

This region is the heart of the United States’ and modern-day Western World’s culture. It includes the major cities and suburban sprawl from Washington, D.C., and its Northern Virginia area through Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York City and surrounding counties up to Fairfield and New Haven counties in Connecticut. It’s best defined by a night map that shows light because, like its flagship city of New York, it never sleeps. One goes there for art, business, politics, entertainment, history, whatever. It has all you need and is the center of the country culturally for a reason.

2. Western California

I did not divide Northern and Southern California but I did divide from the agricultural and more empty Eastern and the more populated Western California extending from the Bay Area to San Diego. This too is a hub of culture seen best with Hollywood and in business with Silicon Valley. Are you reading this on an Apple product? Thank this region and its massive economy paired with a diverse population. Beautiful and sunny, but it lacks the gravity and historical significance of the Atlantic Corridor so I put it just below.

3. New England

Small but intimate describes this part of the U.S. perfectly. Few areas have such defined regionalism as New England, consisting of all of New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, the rest of Connecticut and definitely no part of New York. They share a common history and even have a joint State Fair. Headlined by the wonderful city of Boston, New England also contains beautiful forests and coastline. Yes, it may not have the quite the number of opportunities as the two regions before it, but it holds its own just fine.

4. Pacific Northwest

5. Rocky Mountains

These next two are extremely similar, so I’ve grouped them to show how closely their ranks fell. In a completely biased manner, I ranked my home region No. 4 because of its beautiful landscape, quirky culture and because I’m making the list and you’re not so I get to put it top five, deal with it. The Rocky Mountain region is similar, but most only think of its Colorado portion when making an opinion. If Colorado were its own, it very well may push higher, but the Rocky Mountains include parts of Idaho, Wyoming and Montana that, although they can be nice, limit how high I’m willing to rank.

6. Hawaii

Hawaii is so culturally and geographically isolated from the rest of the U.S. that I had to rank it separately. There is not much to say about the state necessarily. It’s absolutely beautiful with warm weather year-round, but it costs quite a bunch of money to live there and island fever can be a real thing. Great place to visit, not as great of a place to live all the time.

7. South Florida

8. Alaska

These are both regions I can humbly say I do not know much about. I decided to go with South Florida as a separate region starting at Interstate 4 and moving down to Miami and Key West. Both of these I get perspectives of from media mainly, with some personal opinions sprinkled in. They seem attractive for certain reasons (the party scene and warm weather of South Florida, the nature and individualism of Alaska), but I do not know enough personally to rank them too high or too low.

9. The South

10. The Gulf Coast

The South would be the majority of area in the states Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Southern Virginia, Northern Alabama and Northern Florida. The gulf coast is defined as the extension of coastal Houston through New Orleans and up to Tallahassee, Florida. Both of these are quite similar with amazing, fattening foods and some fantastic cities. Once you get out of the “hotspots” you are left with pretty bare and undesirable parts of the country, though. Although I love seafood, the Gulf Coast is just a hair below the South because it does not contain as much of the charm, and I think I like “Forrest Gump” too much.

11. Midwest/Great Lakes

12. Appalachia

I feel these rankings will be the most controversial because of the experiences of Notre Dame students. There is nothing specifically wrong with the Midwest or Appalachia except for the dying industries and lack of cultural destinations outside a few specific areas. Even grouping the Midwest is difficult. I went with your standard Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan, but also included parts of Pennsylvania and upstate New York all the way to Eastern Minnesota. I have loved my time at ND, and likewise, the one service trip I went on to Appalachia was pretty sweet. You’re crazy, though, if you think this is my top spot to live or visit outside of what is personally significant. Don’t think of this too much as being low on the list, think of the other regions as being just really high.

13. Great Plains

14. The Empty West

15. The Southwest

The Gadsden Purchase was a mistake, simple enough. The Empty West are the regions of Eastern Washington, Oregon and California; Western Utah and Idaho; and most of Nevada and its Great Basin. There are not good areas, but at least people respect that by not living in its uninhabitable heat and lack of resources. However, the Southwest does not follow this trend by making cities in the middle of nowhere and deciding to populate them. Like King of the Hill says, Phoenix is a testament to man’s arrogance. It can be 117 degrees out and people from the Southwest will say it’s OK because it’s a “dry heat.” No, it’s not, it is still unbearable. The Great Plains don’t need much description because, like its region, there is not much substance to it.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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