Quickly Learn the 50 US States and Capitals – How to Get Awesome Results

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Would you like to be able to quickly learn the 50 US states and capitals?

It can seem like a daunting prospect. Especially if you also want to be able to identify the location of the states on a map.

Read on to find how you can get awesome results using simple memory techniques.

1 Introduction

Before we look at how to quickly learn the 50 US states and capitals, let’s give ourselves some context with a quick Geography lesson.

It’s always helpful if you can see the ‘big picture’ rather than just learning things in isolation.

Let’s start by looking at a map of the world.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - world map
A map of the world. Don’t worry – the world’s not really flat!

OK, let’s zoom in a little and look at the relevant continent – North America (that’s the section at the top left of the world map).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - americas continent map
The North America continent (and, below it, unsurprisingly, is the South America continent)

Some things to note from the map above:

  • The USA is the large block of red in the top half of the map
  • Immediately above the USA is Canada (the orange block)
  • Immediately below the USA is Mexico (the lime green block)
  • The USA includes Alaska. This is the red block to the left (West) of Canada.
  • Note that for convenience, Alaska is often shown on maps of the US states to a much smaller scale and ‘floating’, as if it were an island.
  • The USA also includes Hawaii.
  • Also for convenience, Hawaii is often shown on maps of the US states as being much closer to the USA mainland than it really is. It is actually over 2,000 miles to the South West of the USA.

2 Why its Hard to Quickly Learn the 50 US States and Capitals

So, why is it so difficult to learn the 50 US states and their capitals?

Well, they are basically two lists of 50 random names. Most of which are pretty boring.

Our memory prefers patterns and structure. And things that are interesting.

Imagine your typical commute to or from work. If I asked you to describe 5 of the people that you had seen would you be able to do it?

Probably not.

Now, what if on your journey the following happened:

  • As you leave your home you are almost deafened by the sound of ‘9 to 5’ being blasted from a car’s sound system. You look to see the source of the noise and see the Batmobile cruising down the road!

    Batman has the window wound down, his arm hanging out and his hand tapping on the door in time to the music. It appears that he has a day job!
  • Just as you are wondering whether or not you are dreaming, you hear this strange clip-clop noise like a horse galloping. It’s Dolly Parton in high heels and chasing after Batman! Perhaps he owes her royalties for the use of her song.
  • You decide it may be safer to take a cab and so hail one. When you arrive at your work building you pay the driver and start to get out of the cab. Wait a minute. This cabbie looks familiar.
    “Excuse me.” you start
    “Are you …”.
    You don’t get a chance to finish.
    “Are you talkin’ to me?” says Robert De Niro, menacingly. He looks angry.
    Taking no chances you exit the cab and enter the building.
  • Immediately in front of you in the lobby is a suspicious-looking man. He has dark hair and is wearing a long, dark coat. He’s also wearing sunglasses indoors! He is carrying a heavy holdall. Security seems suspicious of him too and moves to search him.

    As the man opens his coat the nearest guard is clearly shocked. The man pulls out two automatic weapons and proceeds to shoot the security guards! As one of the guards calls for back-up a woman enters the lobby. Dressed all in black, and also wearing sunglasses, she starts shooting too.

    “CUT!!” you hear someone scream. “Who the hell is that?”

    The man and woman turn around to look at you. It’s Keanu Reeves and Carrie Ann Moss!

    You’ve just ruined a Matrix shoot!

Do you think that you would remember these 5 people?

I think that you probably would!

3 The Solution – Memory Techniques

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - brain
The human brain – it’s not how big it is, it’s how you use it!

The human brain is incredible.

However, that doesn’t mean that we all have Rainman-type abilities – most of us need to give our brains a helping hand in order to get the most out of them.

The key to memory techniques is the way in which the information is memorised. They make use of factors that influence our memory.

Out of interest, can you still remember the 5 people from the commuting example above? I bet you can! We need to make the states and capitals equally memorable.

So, what possible methods do we have for how to quickly learn the 50 US states and capitals?

The main ones are:

  • Repetition.
    Good old fashioned rote learning. Read through a list of the 50 states and capitals each morning and each evening. Eventually, the information will begin to ‘stick’ in your memory. This isn’t a very quick approach (you could speed it up by increasing the number of repetitions per day).
  • Flashcards.
    You have a set of cards. Each card contains the name of the state on one side and the name of the capital on the other. You work through the cards and try to recall the matching item. It’s basically still repetition but is more interactive, and so more memorable, than list reading. You can also have cards that show the state on a map.
  • Songs.
    Learn a song that incorporates the state names and capitals. These can be highly effective as they make use of our sense of hearing (incorporating other senses makes things more memorable), there is a rhythm to follow (our brains like order), and they are often humorous (which also tends to be memorable).

    You’ll find many examples of these using Google or YouTube. Here is an Animaniacs example.
  • Imagination.
    This is a very powerful approach and enables you to incorporate the other factors influencing memory. The crazier the image that you imagine, the more likely you are to remember it. This is the approach that we will be using below.

We’re going to focus on that last one. Coming up with a series of fictional scenarios to help make memorising this information more … memorable.

These scenarios won’t be factually accurate. The stories won’t make any sense at all. The links will be tenuous in the extreme. But, hopefully, they will be memorable!

Once the post is complete, I’ll read it through and attempt to put all 50 states, and their capitals, in the correct location on a map. I’ll share the results at the end of the post.

It would be great if, after reading the post, you gave this a try too and noted your results in the Comments section at the end of the post. Then try repeating the process (re-read the post and then re-do the test) the following day.

4 A Map of the US States

OK, so before we get started, let’s take a look at the task in map form.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - us map with state labels
A map of the US states – remember the warning about Alaska and Hawaii!

5 A Table of the US States and Capitals

… and in table form …

3New JerseyNJTrenton1787
8South CarolinaSCColumbia1788
9New HampshireNHConcord1788
11New YorkNYAlbany1788
12North CarolinaNCRaleigh1789
13Rhode IslandRIProvidence1790
18LouisianaLABaton Rouge1812
24MissouriMOJefferson City1821
25ArkansasARLittle Rock1836
29IowaIADes Moines1846
32MinnesotaMNSt Paul1858
35West VirginiaWVCharleston1863
36NevadaNVCarson City1864
39North DakotaNDBismarck1889
40South DakotaSDPierre1889
45UtahUTSalt Lake City1896
46OklahomaOKOklahoma City1907
47New MexicoNMSanta Fe1912
A quick reference table for the states and capitals

6 How to Quickly Learn the 50 US States and Capitals

Right, that’s enough preamble, now we move on to the actual memorisation phase.

It’s basically a 2-step process:

  1. Link the state name to the map
  2. Link the capital name to the state name

So, we want to form some sort of link between the state outline on the map and the name of the state.

It doesn’t have to (and won’t!) be perfect. You need to use your imagination. It just has to be enough to prompt your memory to say “Oh yes, that feature means that this is [State name].”

Note that some states are pretty featureless in terms of their outline.

We can overcome this by linking them to neighbouring states or using mnemonics with the state initials.

Now, you can use the same links that I use below if you wish. However, if you take the time to come up with your own links then that will be even more effective for you.

OK, let’s do this …

6.1 The Two Loners

Do you remember the North America continent map from the introduction? And the notes that accompanied it?

In particular, there were 2 states that were not linked to the rest of the USA. That alone makes them distinct and more memorable.

So let’s start with them.

1. Hawaii (Honolulu)
First, we have the group of small islands way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean (but often shown at the bottom left of a US states map for convenience).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - shirt & shades
Shirt and shades

They look like a random scattering of different shapes … much like you might find on a Hawaiian shirt! So, that’s our link for this state – you see the random patterns, you think of the shirt, and you think of Hawaii.

For the link to the capital, we can think about who might be wearing the shirt. Imagine that there is a tiny person wearing the shirt. So small that you can’t even see her. But you can hear her! “WELL … you know you make me wanna shout.” booms out this powerful lady’s voice. It’s Lulu! And she reminds us that the capital of Hawaii is Honolulu.

2. Alaska (Juneau)
Second, we have the state often shown as an island next to Hawaii but which is actually attached to Canada.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - baked alaska
Baked Alaska

Do you notice how there is a central mass and then thin ribbons of land running out from the bottom left and bottom right? Think of this as a giant Baked Alaska with the ice cream centre melting and running out at the sides. This reminds us that the state is Alaska.

And Do You Know (Juneau) why it’s melting? Because somebody keeps moving it from West of Canada to South of Arizona!

OK, do you see how this works?

It’s nothing high-brow. It’s silly images and words – but those are more memorable than boring images and words!

Well done – that’s 2 map locations, 2 states, and 2 capitals so we’re 4% done already!

Moving on to the mainland, we’re now going to create some mnemonics that make use of the identification letters for the states.

6.2 CANT – Arnold

3. – 6. California (Sacramento), Arizona (Phoenix), New Mexico (Santa Fe), and Texas (Austin)

These 4 states lie to the South West of the map and all border Mexico. If you take the first letter for each of the states, in order from left to right, you get CANT. This is to remind you that you can’t cross the border to Mexico without a passport.

Just remembering these 4 letters may be enough for you to remember the states … but here are some added visuals to help further (and link the capitals).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - ferrari california
Ferrari California

C : Driving across the states in a bright red Ferrari California is Arnold Schwarzenegger (former governor).

He is driving at 125mph as he is on a sugar rush, evidenced by the fact that he has in the passenger seat a sack of Mentos (Sacramento).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - phoenix

A : As he crosses the state line he sees a giant flaming bird, 30 stories high, arising from the horizon (Arizona).

It’s the mythical Phoenix (and Arizona’s capital)!

Determined to catch up with it, Arnold drives even faster and is soon entering the next state.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - escort mexico
Escort Mexico

N : Arnold pulls over at a cafe for a quick break. As he exits the cafe he notices an attractive woman dressed in a Father Christmas outfit just getting into a classic British car.

“That’s a Ford Escort, isn’t it?” says Arnold, trying to impress. “Yes.” says the woman “It’s the Mexico model.” (New Mexico) Fancying his chances, and the attractive woman, Arnold asks “What’s your name?”. The woman pauses, making Arnold sweat, before replying “My name’s Fay.”.

So, given her attire, she’s Santa Fay! (Santa Fe).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - austin healey
Austin Healey

T : Fay tells Arnold about a classic British car rally taking place in the next state. So, off he sets again.

Sure enough, within minutes of entering the new state, he is passed by a speeding car – driven by Sharleen Spiteri, leaning out of the window and singing very loudly. It’s the lead singer of Texas!

And she’s driving a classic Austin Healey car. Suddenly, the boot flies open and inside are 2 men fighting – the Bionic Man and a Stone Cold wrestler. It’s Steve Austin vs Steve Austin!!

That brings us to 12% done already!

6.3 OKNSN – Obelisk

7. – 11. Oklahoma (Oklahoma City), Kansas (Topeka), Nebraska (Lincoln), South Dakota (Pierre), and North Dakota (Bismark)

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - obelisk

These 5 states sit immediately above Texas. Think of them as being a massive obelisk, with each state forming part of the overall tower-like structure.

As in the previous section, we’re going to use the first letter of the state to make a mnemonic, starting from the base of the obelisk above Texas all the way to the top. This gives OKNSD. Remember it by thinking of these words; Obelisk Koala Nonchalantly Skates Northwards.

So, use that little sideways obelisk shape at the top-left of Oklahoma to remind you of the starting point. Then picture a giant obelisk that has fallen across the 5 states, with a Koala on top of it (like King Kong climbing the Empire State Building) as he nonchalantly, arms held behind his back and whistling a little tune, skates northwards through the states.

Again, these letters may be enough for you to remember the states … but here are some added visuals to help further and add the capitals.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - oak tree
Oak tree

O : So, what caused the obelisk to fall? It looks as though somebody planted a tree too close to it and the roots made it unstable. Doh! In fact, it was planted many years ago as a tiny acorn by a Simpsons character. It’s an Oak by Homer! (Oklahoma).

Tied around the old oak tree are lots of yellow ribbons. Homer has obviously been listening to the 1970s Oak Tree ditty (Oklahoma City).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - cans

K : Have you ever seen a Koala wearing skates? No, exactly – they are from Australia, why would they need skates?! So, our intrepid adventurer has to improvise. He raids some trash and finds 2 cans that he moulds into shape. That is, he uses Cans As (Kansas) skates!

Part of the moulding process involves making some holes so that he can see his toes through the cans. He’s a Toe Peeker (Topeka)!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - new car
New car

N : As the Koala crosses the state line he is dazzled by a brilliant light shining up at him alongside the obelisk. Unfazed, our nonchalant marsupial simply puts on his sunglasses. Having done so he can now see the cause of the bright light. It’s a New Brass Car (Nebraska).

The driver of the car seems very uncomfortable and barely able to fit in it. He looks to be around 6 feet 4 inches tall and, making him even taller, he is wearing a top hat! It’s former president Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - coat
Coat A

S : This is the first of a North-South combo of states. As we are headed from the South to the North then this first one is obviously the South one. Still skating along, our Koala looks down from the obelisk and sees an actress wearing a coat with a giant letter ‘A’ on the back of it. It’s her Coat A (South Dakota).

She too is skating but not on the obelisk, she’s skating along a huge Pier (Pierre) running parallel with the obelisk.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - bismarck

N : Well, our nonchalant Koala has made it to the top of the obelisk. And this final state is the second of the North-South combo – the North Version. The Coat A (North Dakota) actress is still skating alongside but she is running out of pier.

As she crosses the state line she performs a massive jump, like an Olympic ski-jumper, and flies through the air until … she lands on a battleship! It’s the Bismarck (Bismark).

That’s 22% done.

6.4 MINOW – Fish

12. – 16. Montana (Helena), Idaho (Boise), Nevada (Carson City), Oregon (Salem), and Washington (Olympia)

OK, we’re now going to loop back to cover some more Western states, ignoring the central, square-shaped ones for now.

Continuing the mnemonic approach, the first letters of these states give us MINOW. In terms of the sequence, imagine the shape of a fish hook starting in the state to the left (West) of North Dakota, running South West through 2 states towards California before curling upwards again through the 2 coastal states.

Remember it by thinking of these words; Minnow In Need Of Water (we are looping back towards the sea). Picture a fish, out of the water, walking along on this giant hook!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - mountains

M : The start of the hook is in a Mountainous (Montana) state. As a visual aid, if you look at the South West corner of the state it actually looks like some loosely drawn mountains.

Now, it’s already tricky for our fishy friend as he is out of the water but now he has to cross mountains. Just as he thinks that things couldn’t get any worse an evil sorceress appears – it’s Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter books!

Fortunately, it’s just actress Helena Bonham Carter (Helena) practicing the role and she kindly agrees to take our fish over the mountains and into the next state.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - hoe

I : Our fish slides down the hook from the top of the mountains and into an agricultural area. As he slides past one particular field he spots a lady, with arms as big as Popeye, using an enormous hoe to carve out the initials IDA in the ground. It’s the IDA hoe (Idaho).

Helping her, with their own little hoes, are her 4 boys. They are each carving out an initial of their own to show BOYS (Boise).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - dollars
Taxable Income!

N : Our fish is approaching the crook of the hook when, appropriately enough, he spots Al Capone. Despite various criminal endeavours do you know what resulted in his arrest? He was a tax evader. A Notorious Evader (Nevada).

Capone is actually singing to an audience who are seated in chairs arranged in a semi-circle around the crook(s). All looks normal (ish!) apart from … the automobiles stacked up on top of each other on the 5th chair from the start of the row. There are Cars On Seat E (Carson City)!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - gold bars

O : Looping back up now our fish can actually see the sea from the next state. He can also see lots of gold mines. And those little railway carts used for transporting gold ore. Except they are all empty – the Ore’s Gone (Oregon).

The reason for the empty carts soon becomes apparent. There is a group of witches and they are casting a spell to steal the gold ore and turn it into gold bars. Why are they doing this? So they can sell them. These are Sell ‘Em (Salem) witches.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - ton

W : At last, the plucky fish has made it to the final state. His journey to water is nearly complete. As he climbs off the giant hook he can hear the sound of water and poor singing. The water isn’t from the sea … it’s from a shower. And the occupant of the shower, singing “He Ain’t Heavy”, is a 1 Ton weight! It’s a Washing Ton (Washington).

Suddenly an argument erupts – somebody else wants to use the shower. Good luck with that, who could shift a ton weight? Except … perhaps … it’s Arnold again! The former Mr Olympia (Olympia) flexes his huge muscles and evicts the ton weight.

That’s 32% done.

6.5 WCU – Squares

17. – 19. Wyoming (Cheyenne), Colorado (Denver), and Utah (Salt Lake City)

You’ll notice that we’ve left some very square-shaped states in the centre of the Western side of the map so let’s now deal with those.

Being the square, logical people that we are, we’ll start at the top and work clockwise. These states are Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. The first letters of these states give us WCU.

Square suggests something or someone that is boring. Somebody that doesn’t like strange or exciting things. Let’s use a mnemonic that is the complete opposite of this: Waitress’s Chocolate Underwear! Or, if you find it more memorable (which is the objective!), Waiter’s Chocolate Underwear!

Just picture your choice of serving person, completely naked apart from the chocolate underwear, and the stunned looks on the faces of the customers. Nothing boring about this individual!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - ming

W : Despite the fact that she is wearing chocolate underwear, she is not the only person in the cafe that is noticeable in appearance.

This individual is wearing a bright red robe with gold trim and a huge collar – it has massive points, like a shirt from the 1970s, but more so, and a circular section behind his head. To complement the look he has a shaved head and a long wispy beard. He keeps muttering to his companion something about Flash Gordon. Why it’s Ming (Wyoming) the Merciless!

Ming’s companion appears to be a Native American, complete with a war bonnet decorated with eagle feathers and beadwork. He tells Ming that he is from the Cheyenne (Cheyenne) tribe.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - doe
Collared Doe

C : Feeling as though she needs a break, our waitress takes a walk. The cafe is situated at the ‘T’ junction of the 3 WCU states and she soon finds herself in a new state. After a while, she spots a doe in a woodland area. Our ‘anything but boring’ waitress decides she will ride the doe and puts a collar on it – it’s a Collared Doe (Colorado).

Suddenly the doe stops, transfixed. What is it? Slowly the doe moves forward again and we can hear it now, too – it’s country music. And then we see a man sat on a tree stump, playing his guitar and singing a song. It’s none other than John Denver (Denver)!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - tar

U : Eventually John goes home and the waitress continues her doe ride into the next state. However, the ride soon grinds to a halt – the doe’s feet are stuck in something. It’s Tar (Utah).

With much effort the doe gets free of the tar and moves towards a giant lake to wash off the tar. The tar comes off well and the waitress decides to have a quick drink. She soon spits it out though – it is incredibly salty. It’s a Salt Lake (Salt Lake City).

By this time the chocolate is starting to melt so the waitress decides to head home!

That’s 38% done. And we’ve done all of the larger Western states. Now it’s time to move on to the smaller Eastern states.

6.6 MIMAL – Leg

20. – 24. Minnesota (St Paul), Iowa (Des Moines), Missouri (Jefferson City), Arkansas (Little Rock), and Louisiana (Baton Rouge)

OK, let’s start moving Eastwards. We’ll next tackle the line of states running parallel to our obelisk states, working top to bottom (or, thigh to foot!).

These states are Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The first letters of these states give us MIMAL.

You can remember these letters with the mnemonic Major Injury Means Artificial Leg. And you can link this to the map by seeing the line of states as a leg with the bottom one, Louisiana, being shaped a bit like a foot.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - mini

M : Let’s imagine an artificial leg that comes to life. Like Arnold’s Terminator, but just the leg! Being a single leg it’s quite difficult to get around so our leg is on the lookout for some transport. Fortunately, he spots a car sales lot, but they are all one make and model – they are Minis. As confirmed by the salesman “Minis Sold Here” (Minnesota) he shouts.

The leg is contemplating stealing the car when he notices that the salesman has a halo! And the lot is called “Road to Damascus Cars”. This salesman is St Paul (St Paul)!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - iou

I : Being an artificial leg he has no money and so leaves the salesman an IOU (Iowa) as he drives to the next state.

Before long he spots a hitch-hiker. Dressed in black, with a crimson shirt and … a white dog collar! It’s Desmond (Des Moines) Tutu. ‘Why not?’ thinks the leg, and stops to give the archbishop a ride.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - lioness

M : The leg puts his foot down and they are soon in the next state. They approach a zoo and Desmond persuades the leg that they should pay a visit. First, they see some lionesses, then a tigress, a leopardess, cow elephants, and mare zebras. “I’m sensing a theme here.” says Desmond to the zoo owner. “Yes” says the owner “This is my Miss Zoo Here” (Missouri) “We are quite new and are waiting for some male animals.”

On their way to the zoo exit Desmond and the leg see a tall, dinosaur-like man playing with a young cat. It’s Jeff Goldblum. As a pair, they are Jeff And His Kitty (Jefferson City).

The leg starts hopping back to the Mini. As does Desmond. And Jeff.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - saw

A : Entering the next state the Mini occupants see a recycling plant. It’s a long building with a huge saw in the middle. Tin cans are going in one end and coming out as half cans at the other end. “How are you doing that?” Jeff asks the plant owner. “We just use Our Can Saw” (Arkansas) says the woman.

“Is it all automated?” asks Jeff. He seems very interested. “All except for the operation of the saw.” says the plant boss. “That bit is done by hand. By just one man, actually.” Jeff seems incredulous and decides to take a look. Sure enough, it is being powered by one, very small, but very strong, man. He keeps raising one eyebrow and scowling. His name badge on his uniform says ‘Dwayne’. It’s Little Rock (Little Rock)!

Dwayne decides to join the Mini party and off they go towards the foot state.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - anna

L : Our unlikely party of travellers enter the foot state of our imaginary leg of states and immediately see an athletics event taking place. The 100m relay event is about to start and the leg wants the Mini group to enter. Desmond doesn’t seem keen!

They take their places; Desmond, Jeff, Dwayne, and the leg on the last leg! It starts remarkably well and our Mini team is ahead at the halfway point. Then the runner in the next lane catches Dwayne, it’s singer Louise Redknapp. The final leg will be the Mini leg against … tennis player Anna Kournikova. The Rock and the leg against Louise and Anna (Louisiana).

The Rock passes the Mini team’s blue baton to the leg and he hops off at great speed. Louise passes her team’s Red Baton (Baton Rouge!) to Anna and she is level with the leg. They approach the finish line and the leg lunges and … wins by a foot!

Our team celebrates and then goes their separate ways. The Mini adventure is at an end.

That’s 48% done.

6.7 MAGF – Clint

25. – 28. Mississippi (Jackson), Alabama (Montgomery), Georgia (Atlanta), and Florida (Tallahassee)

Moving Eastwards from the foot we come to our next grouping of states.

These states are Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. The first letters of these states give us MAGF. You can remember these letters with the mnemonic Magnum Armed Gunman Fires. Or, if you are old enough to remember the Dirty Harry films, MAGnum Force.

And you can link this to the map by seeing the outline of the states as being shaped a bit like a gun (like a Magnum wielded by Dirty Harry, perhaps). We’ll be moving Eastwood Eastwards, and then South.

Clint Eastwood is on a mission. He needs to find a particular location – and he’s going to cross 4 states to find it!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - vw van
Hippie van

M : Clint is jogging at a reasonable pace but soon realises that this is going to be far too slow for his mission. He spots an old VW Camper Van, painted with flowers, coming his way and takes out his gun to persuade the driver to stop. She does so. She is dressed like somebody from the 1970s; bell-bottom jeans, a flowery blouse, sunglasses, and a big floppy hat. This Miss Is Hippie (Mississippi).

As Clint goes to sit in the passenger seat he thinks he is seeing the ghost of somebody else from the 1970s – Michael Jackson (Jackson). However, the man explains that he earns money from being a look-a-like and is on his way to a look-a-like convention. Clint gets in one of the rear seats instead and gives instructions for Miss Hippie to drive to the next state.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - michelle obama
Michelle Obama

A : As soon as they cross the state line they get caught in a traffic jam. It looks as though there is a political rally of some sort. As they crawl forward they catch a glimpse of the speaker – it’s Michelle Obama (Alabama). She is talking about the importance of peace. Suddenly she sees the hippie van … and the Peace slogan! And runs towards it. Before Clint, Michael, or Miss Hippie can protest, Michelle has joined them in the van! “Thank goodness.” she says “I was just seeing how long I could get away with it. I’m actually a look-a-like!”.

And while they are all watching Michelle, somebody else gets into the van. This is Field Marshal Montgomery (Montgomery), or at least another look-a-like pretending to be him! Wow! Look at all those ribbons and medals! He has so many they look as though they are weighing him down. He is also on his way to the convention.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - george
George Michael

G : Miss Hippie drives on, through the next state, with Clint still directing. She wonders whether any more people will join their little party. As they approach the South East corner of the state, which is shaped like a lower case ‘g’ on its side, a row breaks out in the rear seats and Miss Hippie turns to ask them to be quiet. As she turns back to the front she has to take evasive action to avoid hitting a hitcher!

Good grief, it’s George (Georgia) Michael. Or rather, yes, you guessed it, yet another impersonator! “Come on, then,” says Miss Hippie “you may as well join the others!”.

Smiling, the man turns towards the side of the road and says “Hey, I found us a ride! Come on.” He is talking to a fellow impersonator. Tall and muscular. Long hair and a beard. Webbed hands! And carrying a trident!!! It’s … Aquaman from Atlantis (Atlanta).

George and his friend get in the van. “I’m gonna need a bigger van.” thinks Miss Hippie.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - flowers

F : Our intrepid travellers now cross into the final state. Shortly after crossing the state line, our flower-power Miss Hippie decides to stop at a flower shop – much to Clint’s annoyance. The shop sign reads ‘Ida’s Flowers’. Miss Hippie goes into the shop and meets with Florist Ida (Florida). Miss Hippie buys some flowers.

Before leaving the shop Miss Hippie asks Ida “Do you know where they are holding the look-a-like convention?”. “Of course.” says Ida “It’s on the roof of that building over there.” Ida points at a huge building in the distance. “Well,” replies a surprised Miss Hippie “it’s very Tall, I See.” (Tallahassee).

She heads back to the van and drives to the tall building. They arrive and everybody files out of the van and into the building; Miss Hippie and Michael Jackson, Michelle Obama and Field Marshal Montgomery, George Michael and the Man from Atlantis, and … Clint. In the lift to the roof, Miss Hippie stands right next to Clint. That Magnum doesn’t look real! “Just a minute!” she says. Clint smiles. “Yes, I’m here for the convention too!”. He takes out his Magnum water pistol and soaks her!!

That’s 56% done. Yay, over halfway.

6.8 TNS – Axe

29. – 31. Tennessee (Nashville), North Carolina (Raleigh), and South Carolina (Columbia)

Our next collection of states are Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The first letters of these states give us TNS. You can remember these letters with the mnemonic Timelords Never Swim.

The Doctor is hunting for an ancient axe that has strange powers. Imagine the TARDIS landing first at the base of the axe handle on our map, then the top of the handle, and then the axe blade.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - 10 shirt

T : As The Doctor exits the TARDIS at the first location (the base of the axe handle on our state map), with a trusty sidekick, it becomes obvious that there are other people looking for the axe. A small crowd has gathered – 10 of them, in fact. Samuel Eto’o, Sam Elliott, Shannon Elizabeth, Sheila E., Sheena Easton, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Stefan Edberg, Shirley Eaton, Sven-Goran Eriksson, and Sylvan Ebanks-Blake. That’s Ten SEs (Tennessee).

Samuel starts shouting “I’ve found something! I’ve found ..” WHOOSH! Samuel has just spontaneously combusted. He’s now just An Ash Pile (Nashville).

The Doctor takes out a Sonic Screwdriver to examine the Ash Pile. “Hmm,” says The Doctor “we have to move. Now.” To The Doctor’s surprise, it isn’t just the sidekick that takes note of the warning – the 9 remaining SEs come too! Oh well – plenty of room in a TARDIS.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - liner

N : The TARDIS materialises in a new location (the top of the axe handle on our state map). “Where are we?” asks Sheena Easton. The Doctor opens the door and goes outside. There is a river nearby. On it is a very large boat. There are people on the deck singing. Singing ‘Jingle Bells’ and “We wish you a merry Christmas’!!! “Well,” says The Doctor “there are carol singers on the deck of a liner. And I can see that this is the start of the Catawba River. That must be the North Carol Liner.” (North Carolina).

The sidekick and the 9 join The Doctor.

And so does somebody new …

He looks out of place (and time!). He is wearing what looks to be tights and a frilly shirt. And he has a big ruff around his neck. As he walks he is juggling two potatoes and two pouches of tobacco. “Oh Walter,” says The Doctor “what on Earth are you doing? I told you I’d take you back after I’ve finished this mission,”. It’s none other than Walter Raleigh (Raleigh). Seems he has a bit of a thing for boats!

“We’ve missed the boat.” says Sophie “It’s quite slow though – what if we swim out to it?”. The Doctor looks unusually nervous and mutters “Timelords Never Swim”

WHOOSH! While The Doctor’s back was turned, another of the SEs has gone up in flames – it was Sam. Out comes the Sonic Screwdriver again! “I know what it is.” says The Doctor “Follow me.” Everybody gets back inside the TARDIS.

S : The TARDIS appears at its final state (the axe head on our state map). Sheena Easton approaches The Doctor again for confirmation of their location. The TARDIS door opens and everybody follows The Doctor. What’s that awful sound?

“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way”. It’s carol singers again – but this is not pleasant to listen to. Who are these dreadful singers? Looking out across the river to the liner the singers seem very small – and familiar. It’s Stan, Kyle, Eric, and Kenny from South Park! Making this the South (Park) Carol Liner (South Carolina).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - columbo

The liner docks and the passengers disembark. Minutes later … WHOOSH! “They killed Kenny!” cry the remaining South Park kids. As The Doctor approaches, Sonic Screwdriver in hand, a man in a crumpled, beige raincoat pushes past. “Excuse me. Coming through. Coming through.” The man looks at the pile of ash. He scratches his head. He asks questions of the South Park kids. He begins to walk away, the kids relax, but then he turns around “Just one more thing.” It’s TV detective Columbo (Columbia)! “Which of you kids is hiding the axe?”.

Seeing that Columbo has the matter in hand, The Doctor and his sidekick get back in the TARDIS before anyone else notices. And off they go – hopefully, to return Walter!

That’s 62% done.

6.9 OWVK – Pyramid

32. – 35. Ohio (Columbus), West Virginia (Charleston), Virginia (Richmond), and Kentucky (Frankfort)

This next batch of states contains Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, and South Carolina.

In terms of locating these states on the map, picture them as a huge pyramid, immediately above the axe in the previous section, and spanning the 4 states that we are looking at.

The first letters of these states, clockwise from the top, give us OWVK. You can remember these letters with the mnemonic Original Wonder Vomits Kangaroo (picture the pyramid erupting and spewing a giant kangaroo from its tip!).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - letter o
Letter ‘O’

O : We are climbing up the pyramid, marvelling at its height, and admiring the view as we climb. As we approach the very top we notice a big, gold letter ‘O’ spinning around at the top. It’s a High O (Ohio). Perhaps it was an ancient fast food symbol!

We continue to admire the view and notice a big, red column. It’s not as tall as the pyramid but still pretty impressive. As we move around for a better look we notice something odd about the appearance of this column (other than it being bright red). It has windows! And wheels! It’s a column in the form of a bus. A Column Bus (Columbus).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - cowgirl kit
Western gear

W : We start our descent of the pyramid. Suddenly we hear singing. We spot the singer – a lace top, skirt, fishnet stockings, crucifix jewellery – it’s Madonna (on Holiday!). She’s also wearing a cowboy hat, cowboy boots with spurs, and a gun in a holster – as if appearing in a Western. She’s singing her hit ‘Like a Virgin’. This is Western Like a Virgin (West Virginia).

As we approach she stops singing and approaches and … starts dancing! Her arms are swinging back and forth, with the right arm coming forward as the left leg steps forward, and then moving back as the left arm matches with the right leg. It’s very entertaining and, in parts, amusing. She’s dancing a solo Charleston (Charleston).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - madonna

V : Madonna accompanies us on the rest of our descent and, as we near the base of the pyramid she starts to strip! Off comes the hat. And the holster and gun. And the spurs. And …

… hold on, hold on. At this point, you need to decide, based upon your age and preferences, just how far you want Madonna to strip in order to make the scene memorable! The key point is that she takes off all of her Western kit. Why? Because this is no longer West Virginia.

Madonna starts singing her song ‘Like a Virgin‘ (Virginia) again, but this time without the Western element.

At the base of the pyramid are a massive mound of money, jewellery, works of art, and gold bars. Madonna runs to the mound and dives in, throwing the money in the air, and rolling around in the spoils of her success. This is Madonna’s Rich Mound (Richmond).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - kfc
Kentucky Fried Chicken

K : Leaving Madonna to enjoy herself we move around the base of the pyramid to our fourth state. What’s that delicious smell? Hmmm, smells like fried chicken. Hungry after our pyramid exertions we go in search of the source of the smell. And here it is, built into the base of the pyramid, a Kentucky Fried Chicken (Kentucky) restaurant.

We go in and order some fried chicken, of course. However, there is another smell that attracts our attention too. Hot dogs! So, having a big appetite after our ascent and descent of the pyramid, we order a hot dog as well. When it arrives we decide that we need some ketchup too, so we open up the bread roll and see … a pyramid-shaped Frankfurter (Frankfort)! Nice marketing exercise – but tricky to eat!!

That’s 70% done.

6.10 WIIM – Horseshoe

36. – 39. Wisconsin (Madison), Illinois (Springfield), Indiana (Indianapolis), and Michigan (Lansing)

These 4 states (Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan) are the ones in a horseshoe shape, looping around Lake Michigan.

The first letters of these states, looping from top-left, down, across, and up to top-right, give us WIIM. We’ll remember these letters with the mnemonic Warhorse Ignites Irritating Magician.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - scones

W : Imagine that you are going for a horse ride along the inside of the 4-state horseshoe shape. You are happily galloping along in the first state when you come across a group of people having a tea party in the middle of a field.

“I say.” says a posh Englishman “If you were to partake in an English Cream Tea, what would you expect to be included?” It appears that there is a bit of an argument going on. “Well,” you say ” a cup of tea, obviously. And it would also have to come With Scones In (Wisconsin), and jam, and cream.”

Suddenly, you are pelted with scones from every direction. The tea party diners seem deranged. It’s a very hot day, perhaps they’ve all gone Mad In the Sun (Madison)!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - clown

I : Leaving the madness behind you trot into the next state. What’s this? The circus is in town. You approach for a closer look but there is no entry to the large marquee. But you can still hear what is going on.

There is a band alternating between playing the classic ‘Entry of the Gladiators’ (Clown music) and ‘Yakety Sax’ (Benny Hill Theme), interspersed with the occasional honk of a clown car. Yes, you are listening to lots of Silly Noise (Illinois).

Suddenly the clowns leave the marquee. BOING! One flies up into the air. BOING! And another. BOING! BOING! They launch into the air again as soon as they land. How are they doing this? On closer inspection, you see that there are giant springs buried in the ground. Yes, this is a Spring Field (Springfield).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - indy

I : Skirting around the field of springs you trot into the next state and into a woodland area. All seems quiet and tranquil until …

CRACK! What the heck was that? It sounded like the crack of a whip. Just as the nature of the sound registers in your brain you actually see the tip of whip wrapped around a tree branch – and then Indiana Jones (Indiana) swings past, holding on to the other end of the whip in one hand and an artefact in the other.

Hot on his heels is a number of law enforcement officers. Yep, they are the Indiana Police (Indianapolis).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - chicken

M : You and your horse ride onwards and into the final horseshoe state. This is quite an agricultural state and you are soon riding past a farm. As you do so, you see a man frantically running around in a complete panic. “What’s wrong?” you enquire. “Have you seen My Chicken?” (Michigan) he asks. “She’s a prize-winner and she seems to have disappeared.” He adds.

“Why is she so valuable?” you ask. “Because she Can Sing!” (Lansing) replies the farmer. Well, you can see how a singing chicken might be valuable, can’t you?!

That’s 78% done. Over 3/4 of the way there – keep going!

6.11 PNVNM – Dinosaur Back

40. – 44. Pennsylvania (Harrisburg), New York (Albany), Vermont (Montpelier), New Hampshire (Concord), and Maine (Augusta)

Can you believe that we just have the North East section of the map to cover now?

And that it contains 22% of the states?! (Although this includes the smallest states in the country).

I picture this last section as being a seated dinosaur!! The square of Pennsylvania is the seat and Maine is the head. Use your imagination!

We’ll do it in 2 sections. This one will be the seat and the back part of the body (the parts that border with Canada). The next part will be the front of the body.

Taking the first letters of these states, running from the seat to the head, give us PNVNM. We’ll remember these letters with the mnemonic Penguins Never Venture North Midwinter.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - pencil van
Pencil Van

P : Harry the penguin, determined to improve his knowledge of US states, resolves to travel across 5 of the North-Eastern states. Now, penguins don’t move very quickly so he decides to buy a vehicle for the journey. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have much money and ends up buying an old van that was used for deliveries by a pencil manufacturer. It’s a Pencil Van (Pennsylvania).

Being a penguin, Harry prefers things to be quite chilly, especially when he is sleeping. So, to further save costs, he sets up a refrigeration unit in the back of the van to maintain his own little iceberg for sleeping on. It’s Harry’s iceBerg (Harrisburg).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - egg
Egg Yolk

N : After his overnight sleep, Harry drives into the next state. Feeling a little hungry he stops at a cafe for some breakfast – bacon and egg to eat and a cup of coffee to drink. When Harry starts to eat his first egg he finds that the yolk is rock-solid! Unimpressed, Harry calls the chef over and demands a replacement, but only for the centre of the egg. He just wants a New Yolk (New York).

The waitress that brings Harry his new yolk seems familiar. It’s Jessica Alba! Is she down on her luck? Or practicing for a film role? Whatever it is, Harry wants to make the most of the opportunity and asks her for an autograph. She smiles politely and takes out her order book to write on. There is no room on the table so she puts her foot on a seat and rests the book on her knee while she writes. Harry is very happy – an autograph written on an Alba Knee (Albany).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - rat
Rat (Varmint!)

V : Driving through the next state, Harry is suddenly forced to slow down. The road is full of rats! And mice. And cockroaches. There is a real vermin problem here. Harry spots an exterminator getting out of his van. The van logo reads “Varmint (Vermont) B Gone”.

This exterminator is carrying a large box of something. As Harry carries on driving he notices the varmints are being forced to go in a different direction. But by what? Suddenly it becomes clear as the exterminator empties the contents of his box. It is full of peel from citrus fruits! And it adds to an already enormous pile of peel. There is a Mountain of Peel Here (Montpelier).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - horse
Shire Horse

N : The varmint delay has made Harry hungry so, in the next state, he decides to stop for another meal. Before long he spots a sign – ‘The Equine Eatery’. That sounds interesting – although Harry hopes it doesn’t involve eating horses, he likes horses.

Harry orders ham and eggs, hoping that there will be no problems with the yolk this time. His meal is brought to him by … an Appaloosa horse! He tucks into the eggs and is happy that they taste delicious but … this time the ham is off! Harry sends it back and waits. Shortly, his new ham is brought out to him by an enormous Shire horse. It’s the New Ham Shire (New Hampshire).

Just as Harry is about to tuck into his new ham … BOOM! What the heck was that? The whole restaurant shakes. Cutlery and crockery clatter to the floor. The horses are going wild. Harry looks out of the window and sees that a plane has landed on the road! It looks a little dated but is very sleek and has a pointed nose that is angled slightly downwards. It’s a supersonic Concorde (Concord).

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - lion
Lion’s Mane

M : Harry can’t get settled again after the Concorde catastrophe and so drives on to the last state on his little road trip.

In the distance, Harry sees what looks like a lion. Lay in the middle of the road! Harry approaches cautiously. As he gets closer he sees that the poor lion is in trouble – his giant Mane (Maine) is terribly matted and, in an attempt to untangle it, he has got a foot stuck in it. The lion is huge compared to Harry, but Harry decides that he must do the right thing. He takes out his trusty Swiss Army Knife and sets about freeing the lion’s foot.

The lion, now able to stand and get out of the road, is hugely relieved. And, it appears, somewhat vain! “I’m very grateful,” he says “but how do I look now that my mane has been cut?”. Not wishing to upset the lion, Harry proceeds to flatter the lion. “Very dignified,” he says. Then, feeling like a walking Thesaurus, he adds “Distinguished. Imposing. Stately. Majestic.” He pauses for effect before finishing with “One might even say August.” (Augusta). The lion holds his head high and, having had his pride restored, he sets off to find his pride!

That’s 88% done. Nearly finished!

6.12 MRCNDM – Dinosaur Front

45. – 50. Massachusetts (Boston), Rhode Island (Providence), Connecticut (Hartford), New Jersey (Trenton), Delaware (Dover), and Maryland (Annapolis)

OK, we’re now moving on to the front part of the dinosaur body.

And our final section! Hooray!!

Well, you know the routine by now, let’s take the first letters of these states, running from the head to the feet, to give us MRCNDM. We’ll remember these letters with the mnemonic Mastering Recall Complexities Necessitates Dinosaur Mnemonic.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - master

M : Well, Harry the penguin now needs to get home again. He decides to improve his knowledge of states still further by looping back along the other 6 states in the North East section.

As he enters the first of the new states (the one that looks like the dinosaur’s claws on its little front legs!) he sees a martial arts studio. Animals are good at martial arts, he thinks. Dragons. Tigers. Even Pandas. Perhaps he can demonstrate his Penguin Fu skills. He enters the studio. He is met by Master Chew, a huge Hippo with powerful jaws, who immediately teaches Harry a set of moves. And another. And another. As an incentive (or threat!) he is told that he cannot leave until he can perform all 3 series of moves. That is, he must complete Master Chew’s Sets (Massachusetts).

Harry is very skilled and completes the sets the first time. “Impressive!” says master Chew. “But can you now defeat Boss Ton? (Boston). Boss Ton is an enormous Rhinocerous! (Who looks as though he easily weighs a ton). Harry slides forward on his stomach, jumps up alongside his opponent, and touches a spot just behind his ear – and paralysed him! “I didn’t teach you that move!” says Master Chew. “No,” says Harry “you didn’t.”. He smiles, releases Boss Ton, and leaves.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - ridgeback
Rhodesian Ridgeback

R : Harry is still smiling when he arrives in the next state. “Better slow down.” he thinks, “This is the smallest state and I don’t want to pass through it before appreciating what it has to offer.”. As he slows down he sees a lake ahead. With a strange, moving island! When he gets closer, Harry sees that the island is, in fact, made up of hundreds of dogs all swimming next to each other. They look to be quite big dogs … with distinctive ridges of fur on their backs. It’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback Island (Rhode Island).

Even more bizarre is the fact that there appears to be somebody on the island! And they are dancing!! What a strange sight. The dog island is slowly swimming to shore, whilst the dancer continues to, well, dance. As the dogs make dry land they encircle Harry. Even Harry’s martial arts skills may not be enough against this many opponents. “Now, now. Show some manners.” says the dancer to the dogs. “Hello.” she says to Harry “I’m Violet. But you can call me Vi. I’m a professional dancer, looking for new ways to perform my art.” Harry isn’t convinced that the Pro Vi Dance (Providence) will catch on but, given his situation, he says “It was excellent. I’m sure you will be a great success.”.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - connect4
Connect Four

C : Harry drives on into the next state. This is the belly of the dinosaur and is located immediately above Long Island (It’s a good job that Long Island is part of New York state and so we don’t need to think about what dinosaur body-part this might be!).

As Harry nears the end of his drive across this state he finds that he can’t immediately pass to the next new state without passing through part of one (New York) that he has already visited in the first trip. This is signified by a state border that comprises a gargantuan Connect Four (Connecticut) game – travellers must get 4-in-a-row against another traveller before crossing the border.

Harry watches the 2 people in front of him battle it out. They are getting very animated. As Harry looks closer at the players rather than the game he realises that they both look very familiar. One, a lady with blonde hair, places her counters using magic! The other, an older gentleman wearing a fedora, uses a whip to swing across the game to place his counters! It’s a Hollywood battle – Melissa Hart and Harrison Ford (Hartford). Suddenly, Harrison loses his grip on the whip and falls off – he now gets to pass the border in an ambulance. Melissa is declared the winner. Harry had picked up enough tips watching the Hollywood battle to be able to comfortably beat his opponent and move on to the next (new) state.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - jersey

N : Harry drives South (along the dinosaur’s thigh), sticking to a coastal route as far as possible to admire the scenery. At a particularly beautiful section of the coast, Harry decides to take a walk. He then decides to take a swim – he is a penguin after all. However, moving from Antarctica to the USA has made Harry soft! When he gets out of the sea he finds that the is freezing cold. Fortunately, in the USA, unlike Antarctica, there are shops that sell clothes. Harry finds a thick, wool New Jersey (New Jersey) in a shop and immediately puts it on.

“Hey!” yells the shop assistant “You can’t just put it on without buying it. And, no, you can’T Rent One (Trenton) either!”.

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - deli
Deli Wares

D : Harry continues South (along the dinosaur’s lower leg). Before long he is hungry again and looks for somewhere to stop and eat. Up ahead he spots a sign ‘Daisy’s Delicious Deli Delights’ and, being a fan of alliteration, decides to stop there. He isn’t disappointed. Daisy’s Deli Wares (Delaware) are indeed delicious and delightful.

Not only that, but he discovers that there is more food on offer upstairs in ‘Daisy’s Delicious Dessert Delights’. When confronted by a giant Knickerbocker Glory he was so overcome that he Dove (Dover) into it and ate his way out!

quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - mary

M : Crossing the state border Harry realises that this is the final state of the second leg of his trip (and the foot of the dinosaur!). Harry notices that this state has a large bay running through the middle of it. And there is somebody flying across it! This woman runs to the shore, takes an almighty leap, opens her umbrella, and flies across to the other side. She seems to be having great fun as she then repeats the process in the other direction. Harry moves in for a closer look … of course, it’s Mary Poppins! As Mary Lands (Maryland) again Harry goes to speak with her.

Suddenly, before Harry can speak with her, there are police cars everywhere with their lights flashing and sirens wailing. Apparently, the police aren’t happy with Mary’s exploits. A police officer gets out of the lead car. It’s Anna Kournikova again! Making this the Anna Police (Annapolis).

Harry beats a hasty retreat, not wanting to become involved in this matter. As he drives away he sees Mary take off again!

Well, that’s it – 100% done.

Congratulations, you’re well on the way to learning the names of all 50 states and capitals. And their location on a map of the United States.

7 Quickly learn the 50 US States and Capitals – Re-cap

OK, that was a lot of information to take in so let’s have a quick re-cap.

  • The Two Loners. Not a part of the US mainland but always shown in close proximity on state maps.
  • CANT. The 4 states where you can’t cross into Mexico without a border check. Arnold’s car trip.
  • OKNSN. Obelisk Koala Nonchalantly Skates Northwards. Koala’s journey along the obelisk.
  • MINOW. Minnow In Need Of Water. Fish’s journey along a hook.
  • WCU. Waitress’s Chocolate Underwear. Waitress’s journey in underwear.
  • MIMAL. Major Injury Means Artificial Leg. The journey of the Terminator leg.
  • MAGF. Magnum Armed Gunman Fires. Clint’s journey along a Magnum with the look-a-likes.
  • TNS. Timelords Never Swim. The Doctor’s investigation of the axe case.
  • OWVK. Original Wonder Vomits Kangaroo. Journey around the pyramid.
  • WIIM. Warhorse Ignites Irritating Magician. A ride around the horseshoe states.
  • PNVNM. Penguins Never Venture North Midwinter. Harry goes North in his van along the dinosaur’s back.
  • MRCNDM. Memory Recall Complexities Necessitate Dinosaur Mnemonic. Harry goes South in his van along the dinosaur’s front.

8 Quickly Learn the 50 US States and Capitals – Results

OK, my approach here for the first run-through was in two parts:

  1. Print off a blank map (like the one below) and draw the key images onto the map as a visual reminder (also below). The quality of the drawings isn’t important – as you’ll see!
  2. Print off another copy of the map and label the states and capitals.
quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - us map without state labels
Map of the 50 states – unlabelled
quickly learn 50 us states and capitals - us map drawn images
Stop laughing at my artistic shortcomings!

Going forward, I (and you) will be able to dispense with the first part as the images will become embedded in our memories. (Images and journeys are recalled far more readily than lists of raw data)

So, how did I do?


Thoughts and observations:

  • I am, as you might imagine, extremely pleased with the results.
  • In the interests of full disclosure, I did have a bit of a wobble on 2 of the ‘dinosaur back’ states (Vermont and New Hampshire). I knew the letter that each began with, because of the mnemonic, but couldn’t immediately recall Harry the penguin’s story for each of them. They came back to me after a couple of minutes.
  • The above point may suggest that those 2 stories need to be tweaked to make them more memorable. On the other hand, for a first attempt, the results are very impressive and the stories are likely to ‘stick’ more with repetition (see ‘spinning plates’ below).
  • The very act of creating this post, rather than just reading it for the first time, is likely to have had a beneficial effect on my recall.
UPDATE – 1 week later

OK, so I thought I would test myself again 1 week later without re-visiting the stories above.

Guess what?

100% again!!

The key to shifting this ability to recall the information in the short-term to being able to recall it in the long term is to continue to re-visit the information periodically.

How frequently you need to re-visit information that you are trying to memorise is summarised in the Spaced Repetition concept. For example, world memory champion Dominic O’Brien uses a system based on review periods of:

  • 2 hours
  • 1 day
  • 1 week
  • 1 month
  • 3 months

You (and I!) don’t need to stick rigidly to this timetable – O’Brien is, after all, a world memory champion! Reviewing more frequently is OK. The key is to keep increasing the period between reviews.

Spinning plates!

Have you ever seen a plate-spinning act?

Basically, a plate or bowl is placed on top of a vertical pole and then spun. The gyroscopic effect of the spinning stops the plate from falling. Obviously, the spinning will slow over time and so, if action is not taken, the plate will fall.

Therefore, the person performing the act will need to move the pole to keep the plate spinning.

Easy enough. But the acts don’t stop with one pole and plate – they have multiple poles and plates. As each new pole/plate combination is created the person needs to go back to shake one or more of the poles already in use.

Well, our memory works in a similar way to the spinning plates. Hence the Spaced Repetition concept.

You can’t just read through this post once and expect that to be enough to be able to learn the 50 US States and Capitals, and their map locations, forever.

Periodically, you need to re-visit this post and/or your own story notes in order to keep the plates spinning!

Like spinning plates, your learning needs to be re-visited periodically

9 Frequently Asked Questions

To round things off, here are a few frequently asked questions.

What is the quickest way to memorise the 50 US states and capitals?

Lists or raw data are boring! Our brains prefer things that are funny or unusual, things that make use of our senses, things that shock or delight us.

This can be utilised by using our imagination to create bizarre stories and journeys that our brains are more likely to recall.

In this case, a series of journeys around the United States.

What memory techniques can be used to easily memorise all US states and capitals?

The following 4 techniques are all effective methods for this task:

1. Repetition. Good old-fashioned rote learning. It isn’t fast. It isn’t interesting. But it works … eventually! The more repetitions that are used, the faster the results.

2. Flashcards. Each card contains the name of the state on one side and the name of the capital on the other. You work through the cards trying to recall the matching data on the opposite side of the card to the one that you are looking at.

3. Songs. Our memories work best when we are able to involve our senses. So a song, incorporating the names of the states and capitals can be very useful. Such songs are often amusing, too, which makes them even more memorable.

4. Imagination. One of the most effective techniques for memorisation is the combination of a journey and an imaginary story (the more bizarre, amusing, shocking, the better).

What are the fifty US states and capitals?

Here are all 50, in the order that they were added:

1  Delaware  (Dover)
2  Pennsylvania  (Harrisburg)
3  New Jersey  (Trenton)
4  Georgia  (Atlanta)
5  Connecticut  (Hartford)
6  Massachusetts  (Boston)
7  Maryland  (Annapolis)
8  South Carolina  (Columbia)
9  New Hampshire  (Concord)
10  Virginia  (Richmond)
11  New York  (Albany)
12  North Carolina  (Raleigh)
13  Rhode Island  (Providence)
14  Vermont  (Montpelier)
15  Kentucky  (Frankfort)
16  Tennessee  (Nashville)
17  Ohio  (Columbus)
18  Louisiana  (Baton Rouge)
19  Indiana  (Indianapolis)
20  Mississippi  (Jackson)
21  Illinois  (Springfield)
22  Alabama  (Montgomery)
23  Maine  (Augusta)
24  Missouri  (Jefferson City)
25  Arkansas  (Little Rock)
26  Michigan  (Lansing)
27  Florida  (Tallahassee)
28  Texas  (Austin)
29  Iowa  (Des Moines)
30  Wisconsin  (Madison)
31  California  (Sacramento)
32  Minnesota  (St Paul)
33  Oregon  (Salem)
34  Kansas  (Topeka)
35  West Virginia  (Charleston)
36  Nevada  (Carson City)
37  Nebraska  (Lincoln)
38  Colorado  (Denver)
39  North Dakota  (Bismarck)
40  South Dakota  (Pierre)
41  Montana  (Helena)
42  Washington  (Olympia)
43  Idaho  (Boise)
44  Wyoming  (Cheyenne)
45  Utah  (Salt Lake City)
46  Oklahoma  (Oklahoma City)
47  New Mexico  (Santa Fe)
48  Arizona  (Phoenix)
49  Alaska  (Juneau)
50  Hawaii  (Honolulu)

10 Acknowledgements

Featured image provided courtesy of OpenClipart-Vectors


11 The End

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66 thoughts on “Quickly Learn the 50 US States and Capitals – How to Get Awesome Results”

    • Thanks for your comment, Alexis. I think that a lot of kids are taught the states but then as you grow-up you don’t re-visit the learning and so you gradually forget – it’s the spinning plates thing! 🙂

    • Thanks, Rebecca, much appreciated. Yep, there always seems to be one that eludes us, doesn’t there? 🙂

    • Thank you, Luke, for your feedback. I think many of us were bad at school when faced with bland lists of things to learn – it’s much easier if you make it more entertaining!

  1. I remember attending a seminar years ago about memory techniques and at the time I amazed myself with actually being able to put it into working practice. But I haven’t done it for ages, so this post was a great reminder of a successful technique that really works, thank you, Richie!

    • Thanks for your feedback, Lisa. Yep, these techniques really do work – I’m glad that I was able to provide you with a reminder.

  2. This is great Richie! I learned the 50 states song when I was in grade school and I still sing it in occasion to remember. I never was required to learn the capitals though. I’ve used all the techniques you mention to memorize things (even right now as I’m studying for a certification exam). I’ve even unknowingly used the one you use here. I’ve always found those little silly stories useful in helping me remember. I like the one you gave about Hawaii (where I currently live) about the aloha shirts!

    • Thanks, Clarissa, that’s very kind of you. That’s good to know about the song still being memorable for you now. Good luck with the certification exam 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment, SS&GP. Yes, of course – see the results section 🙂 My question is – can YOU do it?

  3. I don’t live in America, so I can’t relate to having to remember all the states with their capitals. However, what a great study method. I’m a story person and stories will definitely help me to remember things.

    All the best, Michelle

    • Hi Michelle. Thank you very much for your comment. I’m glad that you enjoyed the study method. btw, I’m a Brit – I never had to try to learn the states and capitals either 😉

  4. Since I’m from the UK I genuinely don’t know too much about America, although I do have a basic understanding of states, and do know of some of the states included. I’ve been to Florida and California before, but everything else on this post was genuinely very new to me.

    I also think this is the most in-depth blog post I’ve ever read. Incredible stuff x

    • Hi Kayleigh, thanks very much for your feedback – I’m glad that you enjoyed the content. I’m from the UK, too – learning 50 states, 50 capitals, and 50 map locations just seemed like a great memory challenge 🙂

  5. We have a returning joke with my dad where we are unable to name all the 50 states, so this will definitely help me win this time!

    • Hi Simona, thanks for your comment. The technique really does work – let me know how you get on.

  6. Wow! What an amazing resource! I’ve always been grateful I had far less provinces/territories and capitals to learn in Canada as a kid than my US counterparts with theirs, but I’ve always wished to be able to list all the states. Thanks so much for all the work you put into this. The fun stories will be so much more helpful for memorizing than just a list.

    • Hi Alison. Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad that you found the post to be useful. Let me know the results if you decide to test your knowledge 😉

  7. Geez! this is superb. I have to memorize the states, capital and the airports before when i was working in an online travel agency. If I have known this before, it will be easier. Great article Richie!

  8. Hey, Richie. This was a really informative blog post.

    The part that stuck out to me was, “Our memory prefers patterns and structure. And things that are interesting.” This is important to keep in mind when learning and studying!

    • Hi and thank you very much for your positive feedback. Yes, memory is a fantastic thing – if we give it a little help! 😉

  9. This was such a great and informative post and this is a good way to help remember the states. I always trying to same them from the top of my head but always end up leaving out a few. Thanks for sharing this method.

    • Thanks for your comment, Rebekah. It’s a lot to remember, for sure – but having a method certainly helps.

  10. This was a great post! I’m in the UK but for some reason I’ve always been really familiar with US states. Despite the fact I’ve never been to the US haha! I’d love to learn them all for a personal challenge!

    • Hi Jenny, thank you for your feedback. Go on, challenge yourself! And let me know how you get on …

  11. This is such a great way to learn the capitols of all the States! Thanks so much for sharing this important information.

  12. It’s a fun way to remember the states of the United States. Yolk for Newyork, Clint Eastwood encounters Micheal Jackson ghosts, and so on…

    I have bookmarked it for future revisits.

    Thanks for creating an interesting, helpful, and fun post.

    • Thanks for your comment, Sara. I’m glad that you found the post to be fun as well as interesting 🙂

  13. I’ve never intentionally tried to learn the different states of the US, as Brit living in the UK, but somehow, due to American TV shows and films I probably know more US state names than I know regions in the UK.

    But if you do want to learn the states and their capitals in the USA, then this post seems like a great way to do that

    • Hi and thanks for your comment. Yes, I suspect many of us absorb a certain amount of information just from watching the various US films and TV programmes 🙂

  14. I am from the UK so I am pretty clueless about the states but this is a really interesting post.

    I learn through repetition and songs in particular. I think I would struggle to retain all the states though. Although I would love to tour America and see them all!

    Brilliant post x

  15. This is so helpful!! I can never remember all 50 states so I might have to try these techniques! Thanks for sharing!

  16. This is interesting! I’ve never had to learn this as I’m Canadian but I did take a tourism class and we were tested on geography so we’ve gone through all the states. Thanks for sharing your tips!

    • Hi Lynn. Thanks for letting me have your feedback – I’m glad that you found the post to be interesting.

    • Hi Rosie. It’s a vast country, isn’t it? Which states have you been to and, crucially, can you remember their capitals?

  17. Cool mnemonics and study tips. We had to memorize the states and capitals when I was in school. Would have been helpful to know then!

    • Hi Tangela. I’m glad that you enjoyed the tips – sorry that they weren’t around when you were at school! 🙂

  18. I am always amazed by how detailed and interesting your posts are! These are some really great tips and I’m excited to test my knowledge! Em x

    • Thank you very much, Emily. I do try to make my posts fairly comprehensive (but it does mean that I don’t post very frequently! 😉 ). Let me know how you get on with the memorisation of the 50 states.

  19. I would love to learn all the states and capitals! This post is great, Ill have to come back to it when I have more time and start learning them all.

    Corinne x

    • Hi Corinne. Go for it!! It seems like a daunting proposition initially but with a technique like this, it really is possible.

    • Hi Ruth. Well, if you love it, that’s good enough for me – I must be doing something right 🙂

  20. Your post is like a crash course in geography, and I’m strapping in for the wild ride! Who knew that learning the US states and their capitals could be this much fun? Your techniques had me thinking I could become a geography guru faster than I can say “Albuquerque.”

    And let’s talk about your mnemonic tricks – you’ve turned state names and their capitals into a mental circus act that I can’t look away from. It’s like you’ve unleashed the hidden comedian within each state’s name, and I’m here for the giggles.

    • Hi and thank you for your very kind words. Have you tried testing yourself yet to see how many states and capitals you can remember using this technique?


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