Travel the highways and byways of the U.S. and you just might stumble across Intercourse, Hell, or Cool. Our top picks for small towns with funny names offer more than just a laugh, though: You can also find Gold Rush history, serious fishing, healing waters, a mean ice cream sundae, and ways to save on a trip.
Some say Intercourse got its name from an old race course, others attribute it to an intersection of major roads, and some look back to a time when the word had strong connotations of fellowship and friendship. Regardless, it doesn’t get much more wholesome than the village of Intercourse.
In the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Intercourse offers rural scenery and both Amish and Mennonite culture. Lodging options for all budgets and plenty of hearty food at reasonable prices free up vacation dollars for regional treats such as locally crafted quilts and Amish buggy rides.
Named at the turn of the century after resident W.H. Boring, there’s no reason to be bored in Boring, Oregon, located about 30 minutes from Portland near Mount Hood. Visitors can stop by Red Pig Garden Tools, specializing in hand-forged garden tools; take a tour of the Guide Dogs for the Blind’s Oregon campus; or enjoy the outdoors along the Springwater Corridor biking and walking trail. The wealth of free activities and proximity to Portland make Boring an affordable day trip.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
In Truth or Consequences, the southwestern landscape matches the drama of the town name. Named after a 1950s radio show, the city halfway between El Paso and Albuquerque attracts visitors with its unusual name and famed waters. Truth or Consequences is well known for its geothermal springs, which provide hot water to the many bathhouses in the downtown historic district. Greater Sierra County is rich in ghost towns, deserts, and mountains. As one of the country’s most affordable spa towns, Truth or Consequences is easy on the wallet, too.
As it turns out, Hell does freeze over. Hell, Michigan, that is. Dubbed “Hell” by 19th century farm wives whose husbands returned home drunk after turning their grain into whiskey at a local still, today’s Hell has a sense of humor. Local hangout Screams Ice Cream serves up the Grave Digger banana split, has a coffin of ice cream toppings, and offers Hell-branded souvenirs. Is a T-shirt not enough? You can also get married in Hell or be mayor of Hell for a day.
The town of Cool in the foothills of the Sierras offers visitors a taste of California Gold Rush history and plenty of outdoor activities. Named after an itinerant preacher in the 1800s, Cool sits along historic Highway 49, just a stone’s throw from where gold was discovered in 1848. Cool is less than an hour from Sacramento Airport.
Located along the Texas-Louisiana border in the Piney Woods region, Uncertain is home to Caddo Lake, Texas’ largest naturally formed lake. The 32,700-acre wetland is full of bayous, sloughs, and Spanish-moss-draped cypress trees. Why Uncertain? Stories of the name’s origin vary: One refers to a notoriously unreliable boat landing site on Caddo Lake, while another has to do with the state of Texas taking too literally the word “uncertain” noted in the name box of the town’s application to become a city back in the early 1960s. Uncertain attracts visitors looking to fish, hunt, birdwatch, and explore the lake by boat. Affordability is a sure thing with Uncertain’s wealth of outdoor activities and rustic lodging options.
Just north of Phoenix in the high Sonoran Desert sits the town of Carefree. Created in the 1950s as a community dedicated to leisure, it’s a place where you can drive down Easy Street … or Lazy Lane, or Carefree Drive. Area resorts feature golf, spas, and outdoor activities. Downtown, residents and visitors enjoy outdoor concerts and other events. The town’s proximity to the transportation hub of Phoenix makes it an easy destination to be carefree.
Last Chance, Idaho
Driving along Highway 20 in Idaho, blink and you’ll miss your chance to see Last Chance. It’s part of the community of Island Park, created in the late 1940s to circumvent the state’s liquor laws that banned the sale of alcohol outside of city limits. Located about 30 miles south of West Yellowstone, Last Chance may be small, but it’s a nature lover’s paradise. Fishing and hiking are popular pastimes, and travelers also pause in Last Chance for its outdoor supply shops and general store.
Two hours from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in Western Maryland’s picturesque Garrett County, lies the small town of Accident. The name is a happy accident, a reference to an unexpected coincidence between surveying crews. The sleepy town’s biggest draw is the historical Drane House, the oldest standing structure in the area. Nearby activities such as rafting and climbing programs from Adventure Sports Center International offer more reasons to check out the area.
It may sound like a character assessment, but the name Normal actually comes from the 19th-century name, derived from the French école normale, for teachers’ colleges. Attractions in the city of Normal range from the Children’s Discovery Museum to Rader Family Farms. Nearby, find Route 66 experiences and even wineries.
More from SmarterTravel:
- The 10 Best Regional Foods in America
- The 10 Best Road Trips in the U.S.A.
- 11 Hidden Natural Wonders in the United States
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2010. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.