Last Saturday I decided to ask my youngest if he’d like to go on an impromptu road trip with me and he immediately agreed. We were on the road within two hours with extremely minimal prep. We drove a lot but saw a ton as well and had a great time together. One of the things we enjoyed were the welcome signs of the places we visited.
Colorado (our departure point) uses the slogan “Welcome to Colorful Colorado” and I think they’ve had it for a long time. Recently I watched the movie “Vacation” again and there is one in there too so it’s been at least 33 years now. The sign is woodsy and charming and while it isn’t particularly colorful, it does describe our state well. The random stickers that overly excited visitors adorn it with gives it some more color I suppose.
Heading North, we quickly entered Wyoming. This sign has always been one of my favorites. The cowboy motif (that they also use on their license plates and pretty much anything else remotely connected to the state) is perfect and the slogan “Forever West” literally gives me goosebumps. I love driving through Wyoming and while I don’t smoke, the scenery always reminds me of the Marlboro Man’s powerful imagery that I remember seeing on TV as a child in a country far away from here.
After Wyoming came South Dakota. Mount Rushmore is one of its many claims to fame and is represented on the welcome sign as well along with their slogan “Great Faces, Great Places”. Their sign is large, colorful and very well designed.
I am pretty sure it’s new as well, if you search you will easily find the older one which is more of a drawn illustration and not nearly as nice. Sorry that the picture features my kid and our ride almost more than the sign itself, this article was a bit of an afterthought and not planned at the time.
Obviously North Dakota is just to the North of South Dakota and unfortunately they didn’t do very much with the sign that we passed. Perhaps they have a different sign elsewhere? We were on a relatively small road and not an interstate where we entered. I am quite pleased with how my picture turned out though if I may be so bold as to toot my own horn here. I’m not sure if Jim Grey or our other shutterbugs could have done better.
At least it uses an interesting font and isn’t just completely plain such as for example a municipal street sign…North Dakota is a state I had not had an opportunity to travel through previously; we traversed it from West to East and then headed North at Fargo. As opposed to the frozen landscape depicted in the movie “Fargo”, in the summertime it is lush with greenery and crops and is a beautiful drive, sort of like Iowa but a bit less hilly. Their slogan appears to be “Legendary” which is certainly more intriguing than “You Betcha” or “Yeah, But That Tru-Coat!”
Given its relatively recent history, I had thought the state would be covered with oil-drilling installations but frankly I saw less of those than I do when I drive to Denver from my home, so they either keep them well camouflaged or they are really off the beaten track. In any case, a pleasant surprise and our lodging in Bismarck was the nicest place we stayed during the trip (Staybridge Suites via HotWire if anyone cares).
From North Dakota, we entered Manitoba. First off, the Canadians ARE the world’s friendliest people as evidenced by the border guard that informed me that my passport was expired but that she wasn’t concerned by it (no biggie, eh!) and let us in anyway after giving us a rundown of all the sights that Canada has to offer.
Right after the border post is the above monument to Manitoba with a large and well-run visitor center right behind it. I’m not sure what the other entry points offer in regard to signage but this was impressive and a very good start to the northern portion of our trip. Bonus points for the large Canadian flag too, and at least it’s not on a gigantic backback.
After enjoying ourselves in Winnipeg we headed West along the Trans Canada Highway and eventually entered Saskatchewan. Again, another overly large monument at the crossing point with a great visitor center and gift shop next to it. Like Manitoba before it, Saskatchewan goes all out. I tried to lift my son on top of the sign but couldn’t quite reach if that helps you to picture the size. (Oh, and my kid is 47 inches tall so maybe that helps too.)
Saskatchewan is known for its potash production and while I think that the bushel above is supposed to be wheat (also on their license plates), what struck me was the absolutely huge expanses of a bright yellow-topped crop all over the place that turned out to be Canola after I made some inquiries.
After spending part of a day and a night in Regina, we headed back South towards home. The most direct crossing into the U.S. is in northern Montana and the border guards there didn’t even notice that my passport was expired so that all went much better than it could have…
The U.S. Border post didn’t have any kind of visitor center either that I could see, it all looked kind of like a well fortified large and very tall bunker to be honest, and not particularly welcoming and without any obvious parking facilities nearby.
I didn’t see any sign post for Montana at all there but when we eventually left Montana and passed back into Wyoming, we doubled back to snap the Montana sign at its southern border, again in the middle of nowhere on a smaller highway.
Placed on stilts about twenty feet in the air but off on the side of a hill (I somehow stood near the road and zoomed in on the sign), it was certainly colorful and attractive but could have been a bit larger as Montana and its scenery really is larger than life itself. The actual backdrop here couldn’t be any drearier (and drier) but in general Montana is extremely scenic with non-stop photo opportunities.
So, what does your state or province (if you live somewhere other than the ones pictured above) do to welcome visitors that arrive via your highways? Post a pic in the comments if you want or just describe it…Maybe I’ll decide to visit and check it out for myself on the next trip.