Top 8 Questionable US City Tourism Slogans

Question: how do you represent your city or town – be it a major tourist destination, or an out-of-the-way farm town no one really knows about it – in a few snappy words?

Another question: should you even try?

When San Diego’s FM 94.9 radio station asked Lonely Planet for help on the city’s new tourist slogan (‘Happy Happens’) last week, I started poking around to a hundred or so tourism slogans around the country and noticed a few things.

  • Many towns simply ask you to ‘visit,’ ‘experience’ or ‘discover’ them – no elaboration offered.
  • Some demand you do things, with various imperatives (Laramie’s ‘Live the West,’ Chicago’s ‘Make No Little Plans,’ Jefferson City’s less insistent ‘You’ll Feel the History’).
  • Others simply describe themselves (Denver’s ‘The Mile-High City,’ Lexington’s ‘Horse Capital of the World’).
  • Many stress their proximity to adventure (Casper’s ‘Adventure Capital,’ Eugene’s ‘Real Adventures, Real Close’) or nature (Seattle’s charming ‘MetroNatural’).
  • Some don’t worry about it: a list of slogan-free places ranging from Houston to Green Bay.

I’m all for a slogan, IF it makes sense – I really like Albuquerque’s ‘It’s a Trip’ and Salt Lake City’s “Different by Nature” is clever – but sometimes it’s not really worth forcing the issue. I mean, even New York City doesn’t have one.

This brings up my list of most questionable ones:

AMARILLO, “Step Into the Real Texas” You been? This Route 66 survivor – famed for its Cadillac Ranch and steaks – situates its stockyards just west, so the eastward breeze coming in from the Rockies sends a cow scent across town. When you catch it, walking on Amarillo parking lots, it’s tempting to look down and be sure NOT to step into the real Texas.

ANNAPOLIS, “Come Sail Away”
The city that used to bill itself as “Crabtown,” now asks you to come, listen to 1977 Styx songs, and LEAVE. Essentially, it could be “Drop By. Buy Fudge. Go.” This is akin to the Delaware state quarter, which shows a Delawarean (Caesar Rodney) on horseback leaving the state.

DALLAS, “Live Large. Think Big”
I’m not trying to pick on Texas – it’s just a bonus – but this one makes me dizzy. First of all, it’s demanding we double-task. Secondly, is there really a difference between “large” and “big”? Even in Texas? Their website could do without the Coldplay-esque soundtrack too.

FARGO, “Always Warm!”
I love you Fargo, but this is just not true. The average lows in January in Fargo are two degrees below zero.

PHILADELPHIA, “It’s Easy to ___ Here”
What, defecate on a rabbit? Lose your pencil collection? Leaves too many openings for a joke. Also, Philadelphia should ask the Roots, Hall & Oates and the Hooters to team up and re-do that soundtrack.

NORFOLK, “Life. Celebrated Daily”
Norfolk was my first home, but, sorry, Norfolk has 2.16 times the national average murder rate.


SAN DIEGO, “Happy Happens”
It feels worse to say aloud than to see, but considering San Diego’s $8 million tourism campaign is targeting sunny Los Angeles, Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Jose, why not “Our Sun Could Beat Up Your Sun”? Or follow Will Ferrell’s Anchor Man to “Pleasure Town” on the back of a unicorn? At least have a photo where a kid’s not being knocked in the back of the head with a surfboard as LSD flowers look on.

TOLEDO, “Do Toledo”
Don’t they know what that did for Dallas?

Any questionable ones I missed?

At some point in the future, I’ll tackle questionable state tourism slogans.

About Robert Reid

Robert Reid is a travel writer (Lonely Planet, New York Times, ESPN), travel expert (Today Show, CNN's Headline News), travel videographer (76-Second Travel Show) and travel artist (don't ask).
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14 Responses to Top 8 Questionable US City Tourism Slogans

  1. Ron Taylor says:

    A working slogan for a Georgian Bay group, called Georgian Bay Tourism is Waves of Adventure, or Waves of Romance. The Southern Georgian Bay Group is located at the Gateway to Georgian Bay–Lake Huron north of Toronto see Georgianbaytourism.on.ca
    Very appropriate to the clean fresh, adventurous waters and sunsets along Southern Georgian Bay, Ontario Canada

  2. brian says:

    We get that occasionally when people see our promise statement. Of course we know that the weather can cool down part of the year. (OK. We know it is cold in the winter.) But the warmth of the welcomes that our visitors receive is downright tropical, all the time. 🙂
    http://www.fargomoorhead.org

  3. Robert Reid says:

    Sorry Fargo. I had a great visit there a number of years ago — staff at visitors center, btw, kept me well fed with popcorn (and edible brochures), so I agree with the ‘warmth’ of the locals there — no doubt.

  4. Baltimore easily has the sorriest attempts at slogans:

    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0105/p20s01-lihc.html

    The City that Reads (more often bleeds or breeds) was the worst, but at least they aren’t promoting the fact that it is one of the only cities where the syphillis rate is actually GROWING.

  5. “Not to far … not to crowded… just perfect!” is the one used by the travel region called Ontario’s Near North just north of Toronto

    http://ontariosnearnorth.on.ca

    give you the feel of being easily accessible and not over-run by people

    Don’t you think so too?

  6. Natalie says:

    Richmond, KY held a contest a few years back to come up with a new slogan for the town.
    Lucky me, my Dad’s slogan won:
    “Richmond, Where Home is Just Around the Corner”
    They didn’t realize at the time it was a jab against Kentucky’s tendency to…well…inbreed?
    It was quickly changed to “The City That Works.”
    It’s a total lie though, since many residents are unemployed.

  7. Irina says:

    “What happens here, stays here”; A new slogan can boost a place’s image, but only if it’s around long enough to stick in the minds of travelers.

  8. Anonymous says:

    For a short time in the late 80s or early 90s, Minnesota had a sign that read, ” Minnesota–the brain power state.” My friend & I were road tripping in college & he has it preserved on video.

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  10. We get that occasionally when people see our promise statement. Of course we know that the weather can cool down part of the year. (OK. We know it is cold in the winter.) But the warmth of the welcomes that our visitors receive is downright tropical, all the time. 🙂

  11. estafa scam says:

    Yes some strange slogans,je,je

  12. We get that occasionally when people see our promise statement. Of course we know that the weather can cool down part of the year

  13. fix credit says:

    Thanks for posting route 66 has a bunch of great cities to be sure.

  14. I love the Texas’ slogan, “Live large, Think Big”. It’s simply awesome. Way too cool for me.

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