Quirkiest Town Names in America: Allgood to Zig Zag

Greetings from Hell, Michigan. Photo by Victor Block towns with unusual names
Greetings from Hell, Michigan. Photo by Livingston County CVB

Vacationers seeking a double thrill can go whitewater rafting on the Colorado River and then zip line over a canyon. Farther east, in North Carolina, travelers are after a different goal – fine dining. And up in a tiny community in Minnesota, visitors are immersed in Finnish culture.

Quirky Town Names

If these travel experiences interest you, where they’re located adds to their appeal. They’re among countless towns and communities throughout the United States that have names which are delightful and droll, sometimes comical and always curious. Stories of how communities ended up with their unusual names can be as intriguing and entertaining as the unique monikers themselves.

No Name, Colorado

Take the case of the Colorado destination. When Interstate 70 was being laid out there, a future exit was located near an unnamed village. The highway planners temporarily identified the off-ramp as “No Name” and lo and behold the term stuck.

Despite this affront, No Name, Colorado is not a no show when it comes to attractions. Nearby parks offer hiking, biking, rock climbing and other outdoor pursuits as well as lovely waterfalls and breathtaking views.

Barbeque, North Carolina

The tale of the North Carolina community began when an early settler thought that mist rising from a creek resembled meat-cooking pits he had seen on Caribbean islands. He referred to the stream as Barbeque and that name was adopted for the community which grew nearby. Visitors to Barbeque, North Carolina may enjoy North Carolina-style barbeque in its chopped, sliced or pulled manifestations.

Embarrass, Minnesota

A small community in Minnesota holds the title of coldest place in the continental United States. Fur trappers from France who were among the first Europeans to arrive in the area had trouble navigating a shallow, twisting river and called it Embarras, meaning “to hinder with obstacles.”

Later immigrants from Finland arrived in Embarrass (an S had been added to the name) to work at mines and logging camps. They built houses, barns and saunas using traditional methods and materials which provide tourists to Embarrass, Minnesota with an introduction to a slice of Finnish culture.

An Amish buggy ride in Intercourse. Photo by Brian Evans
An Amish buggy drives along the roads in Intercourse, PA. Photo by Brian Evans

Intercourse, Pennsylvania

A different way of life greets visitors to a community in Pennsylvania whose name has a double meaning. One explanation for its source is that it originally was located at the intersection of two major roads. Another is that when the community was a British colony, social interaction among people – called “intercourse” in the English spoken at that time — was an important part of the culture.

The lifestyle of the Amish who live in Intercourse today has changed little over time. Manicured farms have no electric wires, and horses pull plows that till the fields and buggies which take the place of cars.

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Other communities with out-of-the-ordinary names have their own stories. A small town in New Mexico originally was called Hot Springs because of mineral-rich thermal waters which spas and bath houses claimed could cure “anything that ails you.” In 1949, the producers of the “Truth or Consequences” radio program sought a town willing to take on the name of the show as a publicity stunt. The people of Hot Springs agreed and the rest, as they say, is history.

Continued on next page