Archive | A Virtual Tour of America RSS feed for this section
August 31, 2012

Puerto Rico: An American Territory

 

The Basics 

Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States.  It is technically called the “Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.”  The name is Spanish for “rich port.”  Now, many locals call the island “Isla del Encanto,” which means “Island of Enchantment.”

Puerto Rico is made up of a number of islands, the largest being the island of Puerto Rico.  But, there are also some smaller islands just off its shores.  Puerto Rico is in the Caribbean Sea, in between the Dominican Republic and the US Virgin Islands.   It is part of a group of islands called the “Greater Antilles,” which includes other nearby islands like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Jamaica.

Puerto Rico was owned by Spain for many years.  In fact, Christopher Columbus claimed the island for Spain. He named it “San Juan Bautista” in honor of John the Baptist.  Eventually, the island became known as Puerto Rico and its largest city retained the name “San Juan.”  Spain controlled Puerto Rico for about 400 years!  Puerto Rico was transferred to America as part of the treaty that ended the Spanish-American War (remember, Spain lost Guam to America in that war as well?).

 

Its Claim to Fame

San Juan was an important port for hundreds of years – a place for ships to get much needed supplies and make repairs to equipment.  Most ships that explored the New World stopped at least once in San Juan.

Music!  Puerto Rican music is a combination of local culture and other influences, such as Spanish and African traditions.  Quite a few American pop starts are Puerto Rican (RIcky Martin, Gloria Estevez, and Marc Antony).

The main island of Puerto Rico is mostly made up of beaches along the coast and mountains in the middle. The islands are home to a number of natural wonders, including underwater rivers, caves, rainforest, waterfalls, and the Puerto Rico Trench.  The Puerto Rico Trench is where the Caribbean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean.  It is the deepest point in the Atlantic.  This Trench is where two plates of the earth meet, and as a result the area has seen a number of earthquakes over its history.  The rainforest in Puerto Rico is home to many plants and animals that are not found anywhere else in the world – including quite a few endangered species.  El Yunque is the only rainforest in our national park system.

 

What Makes it Tick

Puerto Ricans are considered to be American citizens.  As a result, they can travel freely throughout America.  But, they do not have all the rights of a full citizen.  For example, they are not allowed to vote in our Presidential elections.

Puerto Rico has its own Constitution and governs itself – Puerto Rico has a Governor and a Congress.  Over the years, many people have talked about the possibility of Puerto Rico becoming an independent country or a state.  In fact, the Puerto Ricans will vote on what kind of relationship they want to have with America during the upcoming elections this fall.

Many parts of Puerto Rican life come from a mix of Spanish, Caribbean, African and American cultures.  For example, Puerto Rico has its own unique version of Spanish, which has been influenced by the native population, other Caribbean Islands and the Canary Islands.

 

If You Visited

If you visited Puerto Rico, you would probably play on one of its many beaches – 300 beaches, in fact!  Or, you might explore some caves, go on a zip-line, or explore the rainforest.  You can even take a ferry to one of the smaller surrounding islands like Culebra.

You would probably hear the sing-song call of Puerto Rico’s tiny tree frog, called the coqui.  The coqui only lives in Puerto Rico and could be called its “mascot.”  Its song is similar to its name – “ko-kee.”

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Puerto Rico scrapbook for information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Have you ever visited Puerto Rico? If so, we want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.  Do you have any photos of Puerto Rico to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Puerto Rico.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.seepuertorico.com/

August 30, 2012

The Virgin Islands: An American Territory

 

The Basics 

The US Virgin Islands are an unincorporated territory of the United States.  The US bought the islands from Denmark in 1916 and named them the US Virgin Islands.  Before that, the islands were called the Danish West Indies and were controlled by Denmark since the 17th Century.  America paid $25 million in pure gold for the US Virgin Islands!  One of the reasons that America purchased the islands was to ensure that they could not be taken over by Germany as a submarine base.  Denmark was just too far away to protect the islands, and so America wanted to take over the job itself.

The US Virgin Islands is a collection of islands – over 50 in total (some of those are tiny).   The main islands are Saint Thomas, Saint Croix and Saint John.  The Virgin Islands are in the Caribbean Sea, in between Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands.     Most of the islands were made by volcanoes, making some of them hilly and rocky.  But, they all have one thing in common – nearly perfect white sand beaches!

Like many of the other American territories, the US Virgin Islands has its own Constitution.  In addition, it has its own government that looks quite similar to our federal government.  The people elect a Governor and representatives to its Legislature.  In addition, its courts  our similar to our federal judicial system.

 

Its Claim to Fame

Buck Island is near St. Croix – it is an uninhabited island that is also an underwater national monument.  Buck Island and the coral reef that surrounds it are home to many different species of animals, plants and fish.  Buck Island is home to three different kinds of sea turtles, some of which are endangered species.  There are underwater trails in Buck Island, making it easy to explore if you are snorkeling!

Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas is home to the famous 99 Steps, which lead from the harbor up to the oldest part of town.  It is unclear why these steps were made by the Danish – some think that it was a way to use the bricks that were stored in the bottom of the ships (they served as a ballast – keeping the ship upright in rough waters).  Some people think that they were built to follow orders from Denmark that the town be created in an orderly, grid-like fashion.  Either way, the steps are hundreds of years old and quite a work out!  If you count them, you will find that there are actually 103 steps!

 

What Makes it Tick

The culture of the US Virgin Islands is a combination of native and African influences.  The native people, called the Carib, controlled the islands until the Europeans took them over.  Denmark used the islands as a slave trading post, bringing slaves over from the western coast of Africa.  These slaves worked on the island plantations, which grew the labor intensive crops of sugar cane, cotton and indigo.

Sometimes, the US Virgin Islands are two hours ahead of the rest of America!  The islands are on Atlantic Standard Time, which is one hour ahead of the East Coast.   But, the US Virgin Islands but do not observe daylight savings time (neither does Puerto Rico).  As a result, from the months of March to November, the US Virgin Islands are two hours ahead of New York!

 

If You Visited

If you visited the US Virgin Islands, you would probably spend a lot of time at the beach!  The islands are known for their sandy white beaches.  And, the water is fairly calm, thanks to a number of reefs surrounding the islands.

You may hear the traditional island music, “Quelbe.”  Quelbe was created by African slaves who lived on the islands.  It is a mixture of African and European music and dance.  During the plantation days, the Danish would not allow African instruments or dance.  As a result, the slaves would create their own instruments, such as bamboo flutes, steel triangles, and dried gourds.  The slaves also copied the popular European dances, changing them to include some of their African culture.

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our US Virgin Islands scrapbook for information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Have you ever visited US Virgin Islands? If so, we want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.  Do you have any photos of the US Virgin Islands to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about the US Virgin Islands.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.visitusvi.com/

Fun Recipes – http://www.visitusvi.com/culture_history

 



August 29, 2012

American Samoa : An American Territory

 

The Basics 

American Samoa is part of the Samoan Island chain in the South Pacific.  It is a series of volcano islands that is about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand.  American Samoa is technically the southernmost part of America.

It is considered to be an unincorporated territory of America, rather than a state.  What is a territory?  An American territory is land that is owned by America but not part of any state.  The federal government has authority over all territories, but the territories do not have representation within the American government.  The President is responsible for all American territories, and delegates the day-to-day supervision to the Secretary of the Interior, who is in charge of the Department of the Interior (which is in the Executive branch of our government).

Towards the end of the 19th Century, quite a few countries wanted to control parts of the Samoan Islands.  American, English, German and French ships all stopped in the Samoan Islands – it was a place for ships to get supplies and fuel along their trade routes.  Whaling ships also stopped for supplies.  Finally, these countries signed a treaty that divided up the Samoas (and other islands in the South Pacific) among themselves.  In 1900, America took control of a small group of islands in the eastern part of the Samoas.

 

Its Claim to Fame

American Samoa was an important military base for many years.  In World War II, there were more military personnel living on the islands than native people.  Now, very few military personnel live in American Samoa permanently.

There was discussion about making American Samoa a state around the time that Hawaii was admitted into the Union.  But, the local leaders fought this and instead asked to be abel to establish their own local government.  In the 1960’s, they got their wish.  The American government no longer appoints the governor of American Samoa – that person is elected by the local residents.  In addition, American Samoa even has its own constitution!

 

What Makes it Tick

The southern part of the Pacific Ocean is full of tuna!  As a result, tunafish is American Samoa’s largest export.  Both Starkist and Chicken of the Sea have had canning facilities on the islands over the years.  Do you have tunafish in your pantry?  Maybe that tuna was caught in the ocean near American Samoa!

Residents of American Samoa are considered “US Nationals” – they can travel freely within America but are not considered American citizens.

 

If You Visited

If you visited American Samoa, you would find an unspoiled tropical paradise.  Since American Samoa were formed by volcanoes, much of the land is mountains and forests.   Most of the towns are small communities along the coastline.

If you travel to the island of Tula, you can visit a traditional American Samoa village.    American Samoa has worked hard to maintain its heritage, and many people still live in clans of extended family – these traditional groups are called “aiga.”

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our American Samoa scrapbook for information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Have you ever visited American Samoa? If so, we want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.  Do you have any photos of American Samoa to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

 

August 28, 2012

The Mariana Islands: An American Territory

 

The Basics 

The Mariana Islands include about 15 islands in the western part of the Pacific Ocean – in between New Guinea and Japan.

The Mariana Islands consist of two separate areas – the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Territory of Guam.  We learned about a American territory when we took our virtual tour of American Samoa.  But, what is a Commonwealth?  It is an area owned by America (but not included in a state) that has been granted the authority by Congress to govern itself under a constitution.  It has a federally-approved government.  Unlike American Samoa, natives of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam are considered to be American citizens.

Some of the northern islands are very different from the southern islands.  The very northern part of the Mariana Islands are part of an underwater mountain range – they were formed by volcanoes that erupted over thousands of years.  As a result, they are made of mountains and forests.  Some of these islands are so rugged that no one lives on them.   The southern part of the Mariana Islands, however, are coral islands.  They were created from thousands of years of coral deposits.  As a result, they are quite a bit flatter.

Its Claim to Fame

Many people think that Ferdinand Magellan sailed through the Mariana Islands during his quest to sail around the world.  Magellan was an explorer that lived in the 1500s – Spain paid him to search for a western trade route to Asia.  Magellan was the first European to ever sail on the Pacific Ocean (he even named the Pacific Ocean!).  Magellan got to the Pacific by going around the very southern tip of South America – can you guess what it is called?  The “Straits of Magellan.”

Magellan claimed the islands for Spain and named them Las Marianas, in honor of King Philip of Spain’s wife, Mariana of Austria.   America gained control of Guam after winning the Spanish-American War in 1898.  The northern Mariana Islands had a number of different owners before becoming an American Commonwealth.  In fact, they were owned by Japan until America took control after World War II.

The islands are near the Mariana Trench – which is the lowest point on earth.  It is the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.  The earth’s teutonic plates meet at the very bottom of the Trench.  It is long – about 1,500 miles long!  And, it is deep – over 6 miles deep!

 

What Makes it Tick

Guam saw a lot of action in World War II.  In fact, Japan attacked Guam the day after it attacked Pearl Harbor.  Even today, the American military has a large presence on Guam.

The Northern Mariana Islands and Guam are very different culturally, largely due to their different ownership over the years.   The Northern Marianas are influenced by the Asian cultures.

 

If You Visited

The Mariana Islands have perfect sand beaches and crystal clear water – they call themselves “America’s Best Kept Secret.”  If you visited, you would probably make a lot of sand castles, snorkel, or search for shells!  Guam claims to have some of the clearest water in the world – sometimes you can see over 150 feet below the surface!

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Mariana Island scrapbook for information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Have you ever visited the Mariana Islands? If so, we want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.  Do you have any photos of the Mariana Islands to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about American Samoa.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.mymarianas.com/default.asp

http://www.visitguam.org/Pages/Default.aspx

August 27, 2012

Washington DC

Washington DC

 

The Basics 

Washington DC is officially called the “District of Columbia.”  It is a “capital district” under the Constitution.  It is not a state, but is owned and operated by the federal government.  It does have a Mayor and a City Council, however, which represent the people who live in DC.  It also has a nonvoting member in the House of Representatives (otherwise it has no representation in our federal government).

It was made up of land donated by both Maryland and Virginia (later, Virginias land was given back to it), and is situated along the Potomac River.  Its location was selected by none other than George Washington himself!

 

Its Claim to Fame

The National Mall is in the heart of DC, with Washington Memorial on one end and the Lincoln Memorial on the other and a reflecting pool in between.   Washington DC has many memorials that honor important people in our country’s history – from Presidents to soldiers that gave their life for our freedom.

DC was the first planned city in America – the whole thing was designed before construction even began!   Soon after America won its independence, President George Washington hired an architect and city planner named Pierre Le’Enfant to design a national capital.   He looked at some of the newly redesigned cities in Europe for inspiration and planned a capital city that had open spaces, wide avenues, monuments, statues and parks.  The city is divided into four sections, all which come together at the Capitol. – Northeast Quadrant, Northwest Quadrant, Southeast Quadrant, and Southwest Quadrant.

 

What Makes it Tick

The federal government!  All three branches of our federal government are based in DC, including all the different departments of the executive branch.  And, most of those The federal government has many buildings within DC.  There are the “Big 3,” of course – the White House is the President’s residence and office (who is head of the Executive Branch), the Capitol is home base for Congress, and the Supreme Court Building houses the highest court in the land.  But, there are many other interesting buildings to visit!  The US Treasury comes to mind – don’t you want to see how money is made? You could also visit the Library of Congress and see the original documents that created our great country -  the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

 

If You Visited

You could also go to the National Cherry Blossom Festival in the spring.  The Festival commemorates the gift of 2,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington DC from the city of Tokyo in 1912.  The gift was meant to celebrate the friendships between the two countries.

 

Some of our country’s best museums are in DC – the Smithsonian comes to mind!  In fact, the Smithsonian Institution has 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoo.  Some of the most famous Smithsonian museums are the National History Museum and the Air and Space Museum.

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Washington DC scrapbook for information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Have you ever visited Washington DC? If so, we want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.  Do you have any photos of Washington DC to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Washington DC.  Visit these websites to learn more:

August 22, 2012

Hawaii – “The Aloha State”

Hawaii map

 

 

Just the Facts…

 

bird – Nene
flower – Hibiscus
tree – Candlenut
capital – Honolulu
union – 50th on August 21, 1959
population – about 1 1/2 million

 

 

The Basics 

Hawaii is the last of the states to join the Union.  Before becoming a state, Hawaii was independent.  For almost 100years, Hawaii was a monarchy – which means that it had a king!  It was called the Kingdom of Hawaii.  The monarchy was overthrown in 1893 to create the Republic of Hawaii.  Shortly after that, it became an American territory.  But, it did not become a state until 1959.

It is made up of a group of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  There are eight main islands.  Maybe you have hear of some – Hawaii, Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, Lanai, Niihau, and Kahoolawe.  But, did you know that there are also many smaller islands that are included in the state?  Currently, there is no ferry system in Hawaii – you have to fly to get from island to island.

The islands were formed by underwater volcanic activity thousands of years ago.  Even today, there is an active volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Magma flows from the volcano and hardens into rock as it cools, slowly making the island bigger!

 

Its Claim to Fame

There are two official languages in Hawaii – English and Hawaiian.  Native Hawaiians are considered to be Polynesian – Hawaii is part of northern Polynesia.

The Big Island is home to an active volcano named Mauna Loa.  It is one of the biggest active volcanoes in the world!  It extends up from the floor of the ocean, so what we see as part of the Big Island is only the very tip of the huge volcano.  “Mauna Loa” means “long mountain” in Hawaiian.

Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese on December 7, 1941 – “a day that will live in infamy.”  This event took America by surprise and brought us into World War II.  It was one of the biggest disasters in the history of our military.

 

What Makes it Tick

Hawaii is known for pineapples!  Mr. Dole came to Hawaii in 1899, bought some land and started growing pineapple plants.  He developed a system to preserve the pineapple in cans, so that it could travel to the mainland without becoming rotten.  A few years later, he was known across America as the “Pineapple King”!  In 1922, he bought the whole island of Lanaii and created the largest pineapple plantation in the world.    Until the 1990s, Lanaii produced about 75% of the pineapples grown in the whole world.  While you are at the famous Dole Plantation, you can ride the Pineapple Express train, walk through the pineapple fields, and make your way though the world’s largest maze – the Pineapple Garden Maze!

Hawaii is known for some other unique agricultural products, besides pineapples – we are talking about coffee, macadamia nuts, and sugar cane.  Do your parents drink coffee in the morning? Maybe they are drinking Hawaii’s famous Kona coffee.  Coffee has been grown in Hawaii for over 100 years!

 

If You Visited

If you visited Hawaii, you might watch a surfing competition!  Hundreds of surfers go to the north side of Oahu in search of the “perfect wave.”   Some of the waves along the Bonzai Pipeline can grow as high as 30 feet!  A popular thing to do after watching a surfing competition is to stop in Haweila Town for some rainbow shaved ice!

Or you might walk on lava in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Mount Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is located on the Big Island of Hawaii.   The lava fields are still active – sometimes you can see the steam coming up through the ground!  There are also volcano cones, craters, and steam vents – it seems like a completely different world!

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Hawaii state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Hawaii? Or, maybe you have visited Hawaii?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Hawaii?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Hawaii to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Hawaii.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/index.htm

http://www.dole-plantation.com/

August 21, 2012

Alaska – “The Last Frontier”

 

Alaska map

Just the Facts…

 

bird – Willow Ptarmigan
flower – Forget-Me -Not
tree – Sitkaspruce
capital – Juneau
union – 49th on January 3, 1959
population – about 750,000

The Basics 

Alaska is the biggest state in the Union – 22 of America’s smallest states could fit inside Alaska’s borders!  And, it is surrounded by either oceans or Canada – in fact, it has more coastline than any other state.

America bought Alaska from Russia in 1867.  The Russians thought that the land would be hard to defend from British advancements.  So, rather than take the chance on a war with Great Britain, it decided to sell it and let America deal with British advancement across Canada.  Lucky for us!

Alaska is the least densely populated state, which means that it has fewer people per square mile than any other state.  Interestingly, it also has the largest native population of any state.  The name, “Alaska” is from a Native American word meaning “great land.”

 

Its Claim to Fame

Mount McKinley is the highest mountain in North America – its summit is over 20,000 feet above sea level!  And, it is home to five glaciers.   Mount McKinley was named in honor of President McKinley, who was President around the time that the mountain was first explored.  It is called Denali by the native Alaskans, which means “great one.”  Mount McKinley is a popular challenge for mountain climbers.  It was first climbed successfully in 1913 and people have been attempting to climb it ever since.

Alaska is so far north that the number of hours of sunlight varies greatly between winter and summer.  In the summer, southern Alaska gets about 18 hours of sunlight per day!  And, it gets only 6 hours of sunlight in the winter!  Could you imagine it is dark when you go to school and dark when you come home?  The amount of sunlight varies even more as you travel north – in northern Alaska it is light for over a whole day during the summer solstice (June 21). And, the opposite occurs as well – northern Alaska experiences over 24 hours of darkness over the winter solstice (December 21).

The Aleutian Islands are off the coast of Alaska, – there are over 50 islands and many of them are active volcanoes.   In fact, the islands are part of the Pacific ring of fire – they are formed along the arc where two two teutonic plates within the earth meet.  They form a sort of bridge between North America and Asia, and some scientists think the first humans came to North America through these Islands.   They are the westernmost part of America.  Even though they are very close to Russia, there is a full day difference between them!  How can that be?  Well, the International Data Line goes around the Aleutian Islands in an effort to keep the Islands on the same day as the rest of Alaska.  The International Date Line is a line on the earth (it is not real!) that separates one day from the next.  Most of the time, it is at 180 degrees longitude, but it moves a little to one side of another to keep countries on the same day.

 

What Makes it Tick

Fishing is a major industry in Alaska – commercial fishermen catch everything from salmon to crab to halibut.  Sport fishing is also a big industry in Alaska – people come from all over the country to fish the streams and rivers of Alaska.

Alaska sits on top of huge oil reserves!  The problem is how to get at that oil – so much of the land is frozen!  And, how to get it to the rest of America – the coastline in northern Alaska is frozen with ice, making it difficult for ships to travel to the oil.  The Trans-Alaska oil pipeline makes its way from the northern part of Alaska (where the oil is) to the southern coast of Alaska.  Here, the oil can be loaded onto huge ships and transported to other parts of America, where it will be refined into gasoline.  Who knows, maybe when your parents filled the car up with gas last time, some of that gas came from Alaska!

 

If You Visited

If you visited Alaska, you might go to Denali National Park.  It is home to countless types of wildlife – grizzly bears, caribou, moose, polar bears, mountain goats, dal sheep and wolves.  Farther north is home to the polar bears, seals and sea lions!

Chances are that, if you visited, you would take a boat or plane somewhere!  Many places within Alaska are accessible only by boat or plane – there are many areas that are not accessible by road.  What would it be like to live somewhere where there is no road?  You would have to take a boat to do everything – get groceries, see friends and go to the movies!

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Alaska state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Alaska? Or, maybe you have visited Alaska?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Alaska?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Alaska to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Alaska.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.alaskakids.org/

http://www.alaska.gov/kids/

 http://www.travelalaska.com/
August 20, 2012

Arizona – “The Grand Canyon State”

 

Arizona map

Just the Facts…

 

bird – Cactus Wren
flower – Saguaro Cactus Blossom
tree – Yellow Palo Verde
capital – Phoenix
union – 48th on February 14, 1912
population – about 6 1/2 million

 

 

 

The Basics 

Arizona is part of Southwestern America.  It is one of the Four Corner states – the corner of Arizona meets Utah, New Mexico and Colorado in one place!  About 1/4 of all the land in Arizona is reserved for Native American tribes by the federal government.

Northern Arizona is rugged, with forests, steep mountains and deep canyons.  It even has some ski resorts!  Southern Arizona, on the other hand, is dry desert.  The Rio Grande River forms the border between Arizona and Mexico.

There are a few theories as to where the name “Arizona” came from -  some people think that it is named after a Native American word that means “small spring,” and some think it comes from a Spanish phrase that means “arid zone.”

 

Its Claim to Fame

Northern Arizona is home to one of the greatest wonders of the world – the Grand Canyon!  It was carved by the Colorado River over millions of years.  The Grand Canyon is more than 250 miles long, and some parts of it are more than one mile deep!   The Grand Canyon is considered to be sacred land by the Pueblo people.  Some scientists say that North America’s entire geological history can be seen in the rocks of the Grand Canyon.

Arizona is home to the Sonoran Desert, one of North America’s largest deserts.  It is one of the only places in the world where the Saguaro cactus grows – one of the largest cactus in the world.  It can live to over 150 years old, and grow to be over 70 feet tall.  When it rains, the Saguaro cactus will absorb the rainwater, getting larger and larger.  This water helps the cactus survive until the next rainfall.

 

What Makes it Tick

Arizona is one of the only states that does not observe daylight savings time.  So, people in Arizona do not “spring ahead” and “fall back” like the rest of us.  As a result, in the winter it is on the same time as its neighbors, but in the summer it is one hour behind its neighbors!

When it first became a state, Arizona depended on agricultural and mining -  including a number of goods that started with the letter “C” – copper, cattle, citrus, and cotton.   People came to Arizona from all over the country to try their hand at mining for gold, silver and copper.  Today, it produces over one-half of America’s copper.

 

If You Visited

If you visited Arizona, you might take a look at one of the world’s largest meteor crater.  The Barringer Meteor Crater is enormous – over a mile wide and 500 feet deep!  Scientists estimate that a huge meteor hit northern Arizona about 50,000 years ago.  They also estimated that it was traveling over 25,000 miles per hour – that is definitely faster than your dad’s car!

Or, you could stay in Supai, a town at the bottom of the Grand Canyon!  It is the capital for the Havasupai Indian Reservation and close to the famous Havasupai Falls.  The only way to get to Supai is to take a helicopter, hike, or ride a mule along a trail that leads to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.  There are no cars in Supai.  And, if you sent your grandparents a postcard from Supai, it would take a long time for them to get it – all mail comes out of Supai by mule!

Or, you might visit the Wild West!  For many years, Arizona was part of the wild frontier, and there are reminders of its wild past everywhere you look!  Arizona was home to a number of ghost towns, gold mines, cowboys and outlaws.  Today, you can visit the Goldfield Ghost Town or the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.  Or, you can try your luck in gold prospecting, using a pan and sifting through the dirt the old fashioned way!

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Arizona state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Arizona? Or, maybe you have visited Arizona?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Arizona?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Arizona to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Arizona.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.arizonaguide.com/

http://www.barringercrater.com/

http://www.nps.gov/grca/index.htm

http://www.arizonarevealed.com/oldwest.html

August 17, 2012

New Mexico – “The Land of Enchantment”

 

Just the Facts…

 

bird – Roadrunner
flower – Yucca flower
tree – Pinyon Pine
capital – Sante Fe
union -47th on January 6, 1912
population – about 2 million

 

The Basics 

New Mexico was owned by both Spain and Mexico before it became part of America.  It is in between Arizona and Texas, just south of Colorado.  Sante Fe was originally a Spanish colony that was founded in 1608!

Some people consider New Mexico to be part of the Mountain states.  Most of northern New Mexico has mountain ranges and forests – in fact, the southern Rockies are in New Mexico.  As you get farther south, the land flattens out until it is desert near the border with Mexico.

New Mexico has a high population of both Native American and Hispanic people, which has influenced its culture over the years.  In fact, almost one-half of the population has a Hispanic heritage.  The Navajo and Pueblo tribes are the biggest Native American populations in New Mexico.

 

Its Claim to Fame

New Mexico is home to ancient cliff dwellings – they are cities carved into the sides of mountains and within caves by Native Americans.  The Pueblo people lived in these cities long ago.  The most famous is probably the Gila Cliff Dwellings, which is a National Park.

The Sante Fe Trail linked the southwest to the eastern part of America in the 19th Century.  It was a popular trade route before railroads made it west.  It was also the path many people took when heading to the western frontier.

 

What Makes it Tick

The federal government – New Mexico is home to three air force base, a missile testing facility and two federal research centers.  The most famous of all these government facilities is the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Los Alamos was originally created for one main purpose – to develop a bomb that could end World War II.  And, it succeeded.  After that, Los Alamos directed its attention to the Cold War and America’s arms race with Russia.  Now, it is one of the biggest science centers in the world.   In fact, the scientists at Los Alamos discovered the existence of ice on the moon!

For part of its history, New Mexico was officially a bilingual state – the original state constitution required that all laws be published in both Spanish and English.  Now, the state is required to provide public education in both Spanish and English.  In addition, the official state song is bilingual – both the English and Spanish versions were approved by the state legislature!  New Mexico’s state sone is “New Mexico – Mi Lindo Nuevo Mexico.”

 

If You Visited

If you visited New Mexico, you might tour Carlsbad Caverns.  It is a national park in the southeastern part of the state.  There are over 100 caves in the park.  Carlsbad Cavern is the biggest cave and known for its stalagtites, which are limestone formations that hang down from the ceiling.  Over 20 of the rooms within the Cavern have been named by various explorers – the Big Room, Bottomless Pit, Fairyland, Kings Palace, and Queen’s Chamber are just a few!   The biggest part of the Cavern is over 200 feet high!

Or, you could ride one of New Mexico’s historic railroads.  Take a tour on the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad through the Cumbres Pass.  It is the highest railroad in America, traveling up to 10,000 feet through the mountains.  It has changed very little since it was built in 1880 – the engine still runs on steam that is created by coal!

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our New Mexico state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in New Mexico? Or, maybe you have visited New Mexico?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about New Mexico?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of New Mexico to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about New Mexico.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.newmexico.org/

http://www.cumbrestoltec.com/

http://www.nps.gov/gicl/index.htm

http://www.nps.gov/cave/index.htm

August 16, 2012

Oklahoma – “The Sooner State”

 

Oklahoma map

Just the Facts…

 

bird – Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
flower – Mistletoe
tree – Redbud
capital – Oklahoma City
union – 46th state on November 16, 1907
population – about 3 1/2 million

 

 

 

The Basics 

Its name comes from a Native American phrase that means “red people.” It lies in between Texas and Kansas, just west of Arkansas. It was owned by France for a number of years, before it was purchased by America, as part of the Louisiana Purchase.

Oklahoma has a lot of different geographical regions.  The eastern part of the state has small mountains and forests.  Southeastern Oklahoma is part of the Ozarks.  And the western part of the state is mostly prairie.   The western portion of Oklahoma is subject to some severe weather.

 

Its Claim to Fame

For some time around the end of the 19th Century, much of Oklahoma was called “Indian Territory.”  The federal government gave much of the land that is now Oklahoma to Native Americans during the settlement of the West.  The “Five Civilized Tribes” were relocated to Oklahoma – those are the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Cherokee, and Seminole tribes.   They were forced to leave their homeland (much of which was in south and southeastern America) and move to Indian Territory.  At one point, almost 30 tribes called Indian Territory home. Even today, over 25 languages are spoken in Oklahoma – that is more than any other state!  And,  over 50 Native American tribes are represented in Oklahoma.

Did you know that many Native American tribes have their own government and headquarters (kind of like our Washington DC)?  Well, they do!  In fact, Oklahoma is home to more tribe headquarters than any other state.  Tribal governments make and enforce their own rules on their reservations.  For example, on the XX reservation in Oklahoma, XX tribal law rather than Oklahoma state law applies.

 

What Makes it Tick

Agriculture is important to Oklahoma, especially cattle and wheat.  Long ago, cattle drives went through Oklahoma – the ranchers from Texas were bringing their cattle to the railroads in Missouri.  The cattle ranching tradition continues in Oklahoma today.  There was a period of time in Oklahoma’s history that many farms failed – during the 1930’s there was such a big drought that many parts of Oklahoma had terrible dust storms.  Crops failed because of lack of rain, leaving miles and miles of dirt fields.  Winds picked up the dirt (since there were no plants to hold down the dirt) and created huge dust storms.  Some of the clouds were so big that they traveled all the way to the East Coast – dirt filled snow fell in New England during the winter of 1934.  In fact, much of the dirt from Oklahoma ended up in the Atlantic Ocean!  Many people were forced to give up farming and move to look for work.   Many headed west to look for work in California.

Natural gas and oil are very important to Oklahoma.  In fact, Tulsa calls itself the “Oil Capital of the World.”  Oil was discovered in Tulsa in 1901 and the small little cattle town was never the same!  The city grew overnight.  Within 20 years, Tulsa was home to over 400 oil companies!

 

If You Visited

If you visited Oklahoma, you might go to the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City.  It is an annual Native American arts and dance festival – over 100 tribes participate!  The Festival opens with a parade and includes one of the biggest and best traditional dance competitions. In addition, it has is one of the largest native art shows in America.  If you visited, you would be able to buy pottery, sculptures, paintings, jewelry, beadwork, and baskets made by some of the best Native American artists in America.

Or, you might take a road trip on the Famous Route 66!  Route 66 was one of America’s first highways – it linked small rural towns with some of the biggest cities in America.  Route 66 is almost 2,500 miles long! It starts in Chicago and ends in Los Angeles, going through eight states in the process – Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.  Construction was started and stopped many times before the highway was completed – the project started in 1926 and was finally finished in 1938.

 

Want to Know More? 

Check our Oklahoma state scrapbook for an industry map, state symbols and information we received from the Governor and Board of Tourism.

Do you live in Oklahoma? Or, maybe you have visited Oklahoma?  We want to hear from you!!  Post a comment at the end of this page.

  • What is your very favorite thing about Oklahoma?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat?
  • What is your favorite thing to do?
  • What other special or unique facts do you want to share about your home state?

Do you have any photos of Oklahoma to share? Email them to: info@grandtourkids.com. Or, post them to our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/GrandTourKids

Our tour includes just a few things that are interesting and special about Oklahoma.  Visit these websites to learn more:

http://www.travelok.com/

http://www.oerb.com/ForKids/tabid/59/Default.aspx