Do you love to visit different areas of the United States? Did you realize that you can learn a lot about other areas without ever leaving home or school? It’s true! Today, Wonderopolis will take you on a virtual journey to Appalachia!

So exactly where is Appalachia? It’s a geographical and cultural region in the eastern United States. Named after the Appalachian Mountains, which help define the territory, Appalachia stretches from southern New York to the northern parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.

The Appalachian Mountains themselves stretch all the way from Canada to Alabama, but the cultural region we call Appalachia traditionally only includes the central and southern portions of the range. Appalachia encompasses about 205,000 square miles of land, including all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Appalachia is home to over 25 million people, almost half of which live in rural areas. In the past, Appalachia relied heavily on mining, forestry, agriculture, and heavy industry, and as many as one-third of its residents lived in poverty.

Today, much of Appalachia has diversified into new manufacturing and service industries. As a result, the overall poverty level is much lower, but there are still stark differences between areas that have diversified and those that haven’t. Some areas have become successful, while others remain in a state of widespread poverty.

The people of Appalachia have often been portrayed as backward, uneducated “mountain men” given to feuding and violence. These stereotypes have been popularized by the media over time, but they don’t bear any resemblance to today’s residents of Appalachia, who live in and enjoy one of the most beautiful areas of the U.S.

In fact, Appalachian culture is known for its literature and music. Traditional Appalachian music developed from Irish and Scottish fiddle music. African-American blues musicians introduced the banjo in the late 1700s, and the instrument has become a prominent symbol of the music of the region. Appalachian music played an important role in the development of modern country and bluegrass music.

Another popular feature of Appalachian culture is its folklore. Created from a mixture of European, Native American, and Biblical influences, Appalachian folklore often features regional heroes such as railroad worker John Henry and frontiersman Davy Crockett.

Today, Appalachia is a popular tourist destination. Its mountain terrain, beautiful scenery, and outdoor recreational opportunities bring millions of visitors and billions of dollars to the area each year. Perhaps the most famous attraction in the region is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a hiking trail that extends between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. Generally known as the Appalachian Trail, it is almost 2,200 miles long and part of the Triple Crown of long distance hiking in the U.S.

18 Join the Discussion

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  1. I have heard of the Appalachia Mountains but never Appalachia and if I didn’t know what Appalachia is I wouldn’t have know were Appalachia is,
    it goes into my favorite state Kentucky!!!!!

    • Hey Kate, you’re up bright and early! HOORAY for WONDERing on the weekends! :)

      It’s awesome that you have heard of the Appalachian Mountains, and now you know even more about the Appalachian region! Appalachia sure does cover a lot of territory, including the great state of Kentucky! We hope you have a SUPER day, Wonder Friend! :)

  2. Wow amazing! I have been there before it is so cool. I have wanted to go again. Trust me it is awesome! I think tomorrow’s wonder will be like about your pointing finger maybe?

    • Hey Zoe, we’re so excited that you have been to Appalachia before, and you’re itching to go again! Thanks for telling us about your cool connection to our Wonder and for sharing your guess, too! We think the next Wonder will make you smile! :)

  3. I have heard of the Appalachian mountains but I never knew where they were. Before I read your article I thought the mountains were in Asia!

    • WOW, we’re so happy you learned something new with us, Wonder Friend Vedha! It’s always fun to discover a new place, even if it’s through the virtual world of the computer! Thanks for sharing your comment with us and telling us about your new knowledge! :)

    • Great question, Wonder Friend Kate! Many folks enjoy Bluegrass music, it’s got a folk music feel to it! Bluegrass music has roots in Appalachia, which means that a good amount of that music started in the Appalachian region. We hope you’ll lend your ear to some Appalachian music soon! :)

  4. Cool! Hey this is my first second comment! :) I dont like stereotypes, just saying… They are untrue…. I liked my virtual visit to Appalachia :)

    • Hey there, Wonder Friend ACT! We couldn’t agree more about stereotypes– we are glad you don’t use them! We’re happy you visited Appalachia with us, and perhaps you can take an adventure to the Appalachian Mountains in the future! :)

    • Hey Molly, we’re so glad you’re here! It sounds like you’ve got a birthday coming up– happy early birthday! :)

      We learned all about where Appalachia is… it covers a lot of states! Be sure to check out our Wonder for more information… you’re on the right path! Thanks for visiting us today! :)

    • Hey there, Sarah, we hope you’ll check out our Wonder… or look at a map of the United States to answer your question! Appalachia covers parts of Kentucky… but does it include Lexington? :)

  5. Appalachia! Wow!
    I have a friend that lives in Kentucky! Do you think she’s seen the Appalachia before? My parents have one taken a detour to Kentucky, we turned around and went back. The second time I REALLY wanted to see what Kentucky looked like without a map or someone describing it to you! Found a lot of smoking stores sadly. But… I bet Appalachia is beautiful!

    ~Kayleekitti c:

    • It sounds like you have lots of cool connections to Kentucky, Kayleekitti :) and we Wonder if you and your friend in Kentucky can Wonder about Appalachia together? That sounds like fun! The trails in Appalachia are very beautiful and filled with nature! Perhaps you’ll Wonder and wander to Appalachia in the future! :)

    • WONDERful, Sydneyu28! We love music, too! It can make learning so much more fun! Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder Friend! :-)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Where is Appalachia?
  • What states are included within Appalachia?
  • How large is Appalachia?

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Try It Out

Ready to learn more about Appalachia? Check out one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • The Museum of Appalachia offers a fun online tour of its Music of Appalachia exhibit. Grab a friend or family member and head online to learn more about Appalachian tunes. Do you like Appalachian music? What about it appeals to you? Which instruments seem to be featured prominently? Do you think it would be fun to go to a party with Appalachian music? Why or why not?
  • Can you be a cartographer? That’s a fancy word for a mapmaker. Download and print out this Appalachian States Activities pack and follow the directions to create your own custom, homemade map of Appalachia!
  • Check out Visit Appalachia online if you want to learn more about the states in Appalachia and what they have to offer. Explore these areas online to learn more:

If you’re up for a challenge, create a brochure that encourages friends and family members to visit Appalachia. What sites should they not miss? What can they expect to see? Can you come up with a Top 10 List of Things to Do in Appalachia? Create a brochure and share it with others. Do they want to visit Appalachia right now? If so, plan a trip and see it for yourself!

Still Wondering

National Geographic Xpeditions’ Life in the Mountains lesson introduces children to the idea that people in different parts of the world have different customs and habits of daily life, even if they live in similar landscapes. They view pictures of and discuss life in the mountains of Colorado and Nepal and write stories describing what it might be like to live in the mountains of Nepal.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s Wonder of the Day gets right to the point!

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