Can You Name the Famous U.S. City From a One-Sentence Description?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

America is a land of stories, and stories have a way of being reduced to a shorthand everyone knows. Sometimes this shorthand isn't fair, and other times, if anything, it inflates reputations beyond all reason. America's geography isn't immune to this phenomenon. Every state has its state motto. Every highway has its nickname. Every city has its moniker.

How well-traveled are you in these United States? Most Americans barely move from the place of their birth, yet some have crossed the continent several times, learning of local communities far flung from their place of origin. Cities large and small have reputations for being a certain way - and it is the legends that are passed down, not the facts.

In music, literature, film and theater, we tell stories about the U.S. based in a preconceived notion about how things are here. America's stories are used as a sort of lexicon for places from Los Angeles to New York, so we can talk about things, places or people without ever directly referencing them.

In this quiz, your local knowledge will be put to the test. Can you name 35 famous American cities based on brief descriptions of them? This may sound easy, but how many major U.S. cities can you really name this way? Take the quiz and find out!

This is the city that never sleeps.

One of the many nicknames for New York City is "the city that never sleeps." This is probably because there is always someone awake and working in New York.


This is the capital of the nation.

While the capital of the U.S. has moved a couple times, it is currently located in the District of Columbia, in a city called Washington.


This is the city of angels.

Los Angeles has been called a lot of things, but the most poetic name references the Spanish meaning of the city's name: the city of angels. Los Angeles is in California.


This is the windy city.

Many people believe Chicago is called the windy city because of the wind there. Chicago sits on the great lakes, and the wind in Chicago certainly blows cold, but this is not the source of the name. It is the political corruption, the meaningless words or "wind" that Chicago is famous for, that gives Chicago its moniker.


Motown is another name for this city.

Most people think of music when they hear the word "Motown," but the name does not come from Detroit's musical tradition. Rather, the name comes from the motoring industry in Detroit, which extended its name to the city and to the musical style originating in the city.


This is the city by the bay.

San Francisco has a long history, going back to when it was a little port city sitting in a convenient spot for anyone in the gold rush.


It just rains all the time in this city.

If there is one thing Seattle is known for, outside of the corporations that call it home, it's the weather. Seattle gets a lot of rain, about 37 inches annually, on average.


This is known as the mile high city.

Denver is the capital of Colorado. It is also the mile high city, so named for its altitude.


The capital of New York is this city.

Albany, a city in the middle of New York State, has been the capital since colonial times. New York City is not the state capital, believe it or not.


Beantown is a name for this city.

Why is Boston called Beantown? Because of Boston baked beans, of course! Baked beans have been a staple in the diet of Bostonians for generations.


The capital of California is this city.

Sacramento was founded in 1848, and became the capital of California in 1854.


This place was originally called Lancaster.

Lincoln, Nebraska, was originally known as Lancaster. It's current name is a tribute to President Abraham Lincoln.


This place was originally called Hickory Town.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was renamed for the city and house of Lancaster in England - hence the red rose that is its town symbol. The town was founded with the name Hickory Town.


This is the city of brotherly love.

Philadelphia takes it name from the Book of Revelations, of all things. Philadelphia is a city in Asia Minor mentioned in Revelation, and its name roughly translates in Greek to "brotherly love," not "the city of brotherly love,"


This town once had the highest murder rate in America.

Back in the Old West, the aptly named Tombstone was the murder capital of the country, with rates higher even than modern day Detroit or Washington, even reaching back to their darker days in the 1970s and 1980s.


This city was the car theft capital of the U.S.

This unfortunate statistic was seen as emblematic of the problems plaguing Newark, most of which persist to this day. Along with car theft, breaking and entering, muggings and other crimes were common in Newark.


You've got to get out of _______.

Dodge City was an Old West town with a reputation for gunfights, and to this day, reenactors play out these famous fights for happy tourists. If you got in with the wrong people in that town back in the 1860s, you needed to get the heck out of Dodge.


Keep this place weird.

Portland, Oegon, is a unique place with a unique mix of conservative small town culture and West Coast liberalism, resulting in an unusual art scene and cultural affiliation. "Keep Portland weird" is an oft-repeated saying about the city.


Keep _______ weird.

The idea that the capital of Texas would be considered weird sounds counterintuitive, but Austin is also a college town with a vibrant youth culture and theater scene. Buy your T-shirt to help keep it weird.


This city is the home of the Sundance Film Festival.

The small town of Park City, Utah, is the home of the massive Sundance Film Festival, where film distributors buy the hits of the future and stars are made. If you plan on going for the festival, you had better make your sleeping arrangements long in advance.


This city may disappear because of climate change.

Miami sits at sea level, and it has already begun to feel the effects of climate change, with each storm causing more damage as the sea level incrementally rises. At some point, Florida will have to decide if Miami is worth preserving like Venice, or if it will sink beneath the waves.


This city is the spiritual home of jazz.

While many cities developed a jazz culture unique to them, New Orleans is one of the oldest. It's also famous for Cajun and Creole cuisine.


This town is home to a Mobile Museum of Art.

It may sound like a museum housed on a train, but the Mobile Museum of Art is a stationary building located in Mobile, Alabama. Trick question.


The U.S. Naval Academy is located here.

Annapolis, Maryland, is the home of the U.S. Naval Academy. This is where the best and brightest train to become naval officers.


This is the location of the C.M. Russell Museum.

Great Falls, Montana, is a classic town on what was the great Western frontier. The C.M. Russell Museum catalogs art and culture from the times of westward expansion.


The witch trials took place here.

The Salem witch trials are where the term "witch hunt" comes from, only in the case of the original trials, the hunt was literal. Of course, the witches were imaginary, but the trials and executions were real. Next time you are in the Boston area, go check out the museums in Salem.


What happens here isn't spoken of.

Las Vegas is very proud of its reputation as sin city, but to keep people showing up and not feeling guilty about it, the city has embraced it's "house rules" about morality. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.


This village is the northernmost one in the U.S.

Utqiagvik is a tiny village in northern Alaska. It may not have a YMCA, but it has a pretty amazing view. It was formerly known as Barrow, Alaska.


This is the state capital of Iowa.

Des Moines is the state capital of Iowa. With a population just north of 200,000 people, it's a smaller city, but it's pretty large for the region.


This city is in the middle of North Dakota.

All of these towns and cities are on the periphery of the state of North Dakota, except for Bismarck. It's named is connected to its large Germanic population.


This town is not in Yellowstone National Park and not in Wyoming.

All of the above towns are in both Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park, except for West Yellowstone. It is actually in Montana, right on the border with both the park and Wyoming.


This town is in Death Valley.

The aptly named Badwater is an unincorporated community in Inyo County, CA, located in Death Valley.


This town suffered the worst man-made disaster in U.S. history, until 9/11.

Johnstown was the victim of hubris in 1889. The South Fork Dam, shoddily built to create an artificial lake for a club built by and for the robber barons, broke, destroying the city and many others, in the ensuing flood. More than 2,200 people died.


This city is the home of Carnegie Mellon.

Carnegie Mellon University is one of the jewels in the crown of the city of Pittsburgh. It was founded in 1900 by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, as one of the many public works he funded in the wake of the Johnstown Flood, a disaster of his making.


The Woodstock music festival took place there.

Saugerties, New York, was the actual location of the Woodstock festival, despite its name. Saugerties is just one town over from Woodstock, an upstate New York village.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!