What is a flyover state (and are they really so boring)?
Published on March 17, 2022 / Updated on February 12, 2024
You’ve probably heard the term, but you might be wondering exactly what a flyover state is? You might even be able to name a couple of so-called flyover states – Kansas might spring to mind. But is Ohio a flyover state? Or what about Texas or Georgia?
Read on to find out where so-called flyover states begin and end and why they’re called that.
The term flyover state describes the huge swath of the US that sits between the East and West Coasts. In the US, it can be used as an insult to talk about states that people prefer to fly over to reach the bright lights of New York City or Los Angeles. The phrase flyover country was first recorded in the dictionary in 1980, so it’s a fairly recent term for what people also call Middle America or the heartland.
Geographically, flyover states cover the Midwest, the Great Plains, and the southern and mountain states. Or basically, any states that aren’t on the coasts or in the northeast. But it’s not really that simple and if you’re looking for a list of flyover states, you could ask 20 different people and get 20 different answers.
Using a fairly broad geographical definition, here is our list of flyover states:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Is Texas really a flyover state? A lot of people will argue that Texas, Illinois, and Nevada aren’t flyover states, along with many others on the list. And when most people talk about flyover states, they’re usually thinking about mostly rural states, like Nebraska, Kansas, and Arkansas.
The picture of flyover country gets more complicated when we look at actual statistics for which states that people fly over more often than they land in. West Virginia comes out top here, with way more people passing over the state in the air than landing. In second place we have Kansas and then in third, there’s Mississippi. But, Connecticut, not a flyover state, has far more people flying over it than Texas, Minnesota, or Arizona do. So, is it fair to call Texas a flyover state? Not really. But you could argue (and we will) that it’s not fair to call any state a flyover state.
This is absolutely not true. First, the cities of Las Vegas and Chicago are in so-called flyover states. Have you ever heard Las Vegas and boring in the same sentence? We didn’t think so. In fact, flyover states have tons to offer and many places worth seeing.
There are awe-inspiring national parks, including the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Rocky Mountain in Colorado and Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Arches in southern Utah. You can also visit lively cities like New Orleans, Minneapolis, St. Louis, and Tulsa. In New Mexico or Oklahoma, you can dive into Native American history and culture or you can check out the scenic Smoky Hills in Kansas. That’s right, Kansas has hills.
From outside the US and even from the inside sometimes, America often appears to be New York City and California with a whole lot of states you should skip over as quickly as possible in between. But, if you just fly over flyover country, you miss great cities, incredible landscapes and a heap of US history and culture. The flyover states are definitely not dull.