Can You Name All The State Capitals in 7 Minutes?

By: Torrance Grey
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Ah, yes. We'll never forget those grammar-school days of being made to memorize all the U.S. state capitals! Not only was it something we weren't going to use in daily life (in comparison, algebra is a day-to-day essential), but why did it have to be so confusing? Few states have made their largest and best-known cities their capital. You mean Los Angeles *isn't* the capital of California? Other state capitals are downright obscure. (Montpelier? Really?)

In America's colonial days, capitals were often named after important European figures, like kings, or the discoverer of the New World itself, Christopher Columbus. As the young nation grew and expanded west, we began to see capital-city names with other inspirations, or from other languages. At least two states seemed to give up, naming their capitals after the state itself, as "_____ City" or "________polis." (We don't want to give you any spoilers here). 

However, like knowing all Seven Dwarfs or being able to recite the entire preamble to the Constitution, rattling off all the state capitals can impress people in bars. And some people insist that knowing the state capitals as a sign of a good education. Want to know how well you'd do if put on the spot? Test your memory with our quiz!


Salt Lake City might be the only city in Utah that outsiders can easily name. It's known for the gorgeous Mormon tabernacle.


Massachusetts keeps it simple. Its capital is also its largest city, home to Harvard University and a great deal of Revolutionary-era history.


The name "Oklahoma," given to the city and the state, is from the Choctaw language, meaning "red people." Oklahomans' are known as "Sooners," because early white settlers jumped the gun on land appropriations laws.


Nebraska is another sparsely-populated state. Omaha and Council Bluffs, neighboring cities, have a metro area of fewer than one million people.


Honolulu is commonly the first stop made by visitors to the islands. It's home to the former royal palace and to Pearl Harbor.


Denver is also known as the "Mile High City" because of its elevation. The entire state is fairly mountainous, making cross-county trips through Colorado, on Interstate 70, a difficult proposition for those with underpowered cars.


Austin is the capital of Texas, but it's also known for its arts community and the liberal attitudes of its residents. This stands in contrast to a lot of the rest of the state.


Atlanta's first name was "Terminus," for where the railway ended. This was referenced on the TV show, "The Walking Dead."


This one was probably pretty easy, what with the state's name being included. Indiana is known as the "Hoosier State," and is famous for its love of basketball.


Phoenix is Arizona's largest city, and also its capital. There really is a town called Surprise ... but it's not very big.


Idaho is one of the most oddly-shaped states in the union, with a narrow strip reaching up to the Canadian border. Boise, though, is located in the south.


Juneau, Alaska's capital, is also called "Dzanti Kiheeni" in the indigenous Tlingit language. If "Wasilla" sounded familiar, it's because it's the home of Sarah Palin, the unlikely vice-presidential candidate.


Ohio, the nation's seventh-most populous state, has no shortage of towns that could plausibly be the capital. If we'd wanted, we could have listed Dayton, Akron and Canton as well.


This is one that takes many students by surprise. Seattle and Spokane are much better known.


"Sacramento" means "sacrament" in Spanish (kind of obvious, eh?) and was a variant of naming cities after saints -- after which many of California's cities are named. Sacramento is located in north-central California.


Salem is a city in northwest Oregon, set inland. It's overshadowed by Portland, Oregon's biggest and best-known city.

New Mexico:

We like the idea of a political center being named Truth or Consequences, but that's not the capital. The people of Truth or Consequences renamed their town to get the show to visit and film from there.

New York:

Albany is north of the booming metropolis of New York City. Its name is derived from the Latin word for white, "albus," to honor a Scottish duke. ("Alba" was an old name for Scotland).


Montana is known for its geological wealth and its fantastic fishing. In the 1990s, it was vogue for Hollywood stars to have a second home in Montana.


We can understand why Nevadans didn't want their capital as Las Vegas. Nothing would ever get done!


Wyoming is almost the least-populous state in the nation, second only to Vermont. Cheyenne itself has a metro population of fewer than 100,000 people.


Milwaukee is, of course, the largest city. It's known for its breweries.

South Dakota:

The capital of South Dakota, Pierre, shows the influence of French explorers on the state. Likewise, the name "Sioux" is French-derived, attributed to explorer Jean Nicolet.

North Dakota:

Fargo is the most-populous city in North Dakota. Which is probably why the Coen brothers didn't name their 1995 film "Bismarck."


Wichita is Kansas's largest city. And Lawrence is beloved by fantasy fans because it's the home of the Winchester brothers of "Supernatural."


St. Paul's original name, dating from its time as an army fort, was "Pig's Eye." It was probably for the best that Minnesotans changed that.


Des Moines is the capital of this corn-growing state. Fun fact: Iowa is the only state whose west and east borders are entirely formed by rivers. (Okay, that wasn't all *that* fun).


This is another stumper. Most people would vote for the better-known cities of St. Louis or Kansas City.


We know Louisiana has a reputation for liking a good time, but its capital is not Bon Temps! That was the name of the small bayou town on HBO's "True Blood."


Jackson is not only Mississippi's capital, it's the largest city. Even so, more people are probably familiar with Biloxi, on the Gulf coast, because it's a resort/sea-fishing town.


It's easy to forget that Springfield is Illinois's capital. It has such a small-town feel you'd think it couldn't be the capital.


Many people today know Little Rock is the capital of Arkansas because of President Bill Clinton. Scandals from his years as governor made references to events "back in Little Rock" fairly common in news in the 1990s.


Kentucky is known for its bluegrass fields and horse-breeding farms, not big cities. Louisville and Lexington are the largest towns, outranking Frankfort.


Nashville is indeed Tennessee's capital. Most people know it, however, for being the world's capital of country music.


Detroit is the state's "flagship" city and its best known. But Lansing is the actual capital.

West Virginia:

West Virginia broke from Virginia during the Civil War. Its people -- the leaders and prominent citizens, at least -- did not want to secede from the Union.


Tallahassee's motto is "Florida's Capital City." Is it just us, or does that lack imagination?

North Carolina:

North Carolina is very proud of being the site of the first heavier-than-air flight, at Kitty Hawk. Many of its license plates bear the legend "First in flight."

South Carolina:

South Carolina's largest city, though, is Charleston. It's known for its fantastic restaurants and proprietary breeds of rice, grown in the state's humid environs.


Virginia takes pride in giving the U.S. more presidents than any other state. Eight, to be exact, starting with the first president, George Washington.


Annapolis is the home of the U.S. Naval Academy, and also its informal name. In the same way, the U.S. Military Academy is called "West Point."

Rhode Island:

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the nation, in terms of geographic size. It's known as the last state to ratify the Constitution, doing so only after the rest of the new nation threatened to treat it as a foreign power.

New Jersey:

Newark is New Jersey's largest city. Its airport is one of three major ones that serve New York City.


Montgomery is located in southern Alabama. It is conversely known both as the "Cradle of the Confederacy" and the "Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement."


Philadelphia, the "City of Brotherly Love," gets all the attention, of course. Harrisburg barely makes the list of Pennsylvania's ten largest cities.

New Hampshire:

"Concord," meaning "agreement or amity," is a fairly common name for cities across America. It's also the Granite State's capital.


Portland is Maine's largest city. Bangor is better known than it should be, by rights ... all because of the prolific work of Stephen King, who sets many of his books there.


This is another one that trips up students learning their state capitals. Burlington is Vermont's largest city -- although it's hardly a household name either.


Hartford is known for being the home base of a number of insurance companies. "Discovery" columnist Bob Berman notes that meteors struck a suburb of Hartford twice in 11 years -- a highly unlikely coincidence that Berman jokes might be a cosmic prank on all the insurance adjusters and statisticians living there!


Fun fact: Delaware has just three counties. That's fewer than any other U.S. state, even tiny Rhode Island.

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