100 Great Things About America

It’s time for a breather, America. Fire up the grill, ice down the drinks, and pop open that patio umbrella. Health care, the oil spill, Afghanistan, China, Elena Kagan and financial reform will all be waiting on Tuesday, July 6th. We promise. What won’t be, though, is the chance to lean back and remember why we care enough about our country to spar over these things and in the end, remain united.

“Freedom,” Albert Camus pointed out, “is nothing else but a chance to be better.” For 234 years, America has strived, fought, invented, pushed, pulled and dragged itself towards the better. Fortune was keen to enumerate our progress.

There’s no claim to ranking or exclusivity here, so leave the nitpicking aside for another day, though feel free to add to our list in the comments section. Without further ado, and in almost no particular order, we present the Fortune 100 Great Things About America.

1. The Internet

Oh yes, invented in the USA — maybe Al Gore helped.

2. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights

3. Baseball

America’s pastime…steroids or not

4. Mount Rushmore

Home of the original “your face here” gimmick

5. Food in New Orleans

If you can remember it the next morning

6. Rock and roll

Find a Beatles or Stones song uninfluenced by American music. Just try.

7. Hawaii

Mauna Kea, Kaua’i…you gotta see it to believe it.

8. iPod, iPad, and everything Apple

9. Barbecue

Carolina, Mississippi, K.C., Memphis…it’s all good.

10. Ford Mustang

Who needs a German car? We’ll take the classic.

11. Wikipedia

This article that mentions a popular fact site is a stub. You can help us by expanding it.

12. Buffalo

Because this is a real sentence: Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo. Don’t believe us? Check on #11.

13. Slam dunks

Thanks to Doctor J

14. Broadway

If the Lion King ever closes, Cats will come back.

15. Bluebirds

Listen to mine sing

16. Google

Because no one stands up to China better

17. Mark Twain

The original American bad-ass

18. The national anthem

19. Iced drinks

When will the rest of the world figure this out?

20. Beaches

Cape Cod, Kiawah, Zuma — ours are better.

21. Madison Square Garden

A little threadbare but still the biggest stage in America’s biggest city

22. Delivery pizza

23. The Grateful Dead

Long may the followers of Uncle John’s Band live on.

24. YouTube

We keep clicking on home videos even after Charlie bit our finger — again!

25. The Super Bowl

The parties, the ads — oh and a sports game, too

26. Fishing

China rules the commercial catch, but more people fish for fun here than anywhere else.

27. Monopoly

A game we sometimes play in real life, too.

28. The Big Apple Circus

Where joy and, occasionally, fear comes in clown twelve-packs by tiny car

29. M&M’s

Imitators don’t stand a chance

30. Facebook

Friend us? Just kidding… but seriously. Please friend us.

31. Thanksgiving

Loosen your belt and watch the parade

32. Pickup trucks

Our nation’s first outlet for unfunny bumper stickers

33. The Simpsons

May Bart and Lisa never make it to high school.

34. Oprah Winfrey

But after 2011, no more free cars for the audience

35. Frisbees

Not just for dogs

36. Mad Men

Jon Hamm + Christina Hendricks = cooler than the actual ’60s

37. New York/Boston sports rivalry

For our safety, we decline to comment.

38. MRI machine

Perfect for after that Yanks-Sox game

39. Patagonia

The first to make polyester clothes out of old plastic bottles

40. Archie Comics

Betty or Veronica: 68 years and the debate rages on

41. The Golden Gate Bridge

Dirty Harry meets Full House. Uh oh.

42. Jazz

Even before Ken Burns discovered it

43. Fantasy football

44. S’mores

45. Trader Joe’s

If cheap wine were apples, we present the modern Johnny Appleseed. Amen.

46. The 4th of July

47. Harley Davidson

The motorcycle company that has survived both the Great Depression and the Hybrid Obsession

48. March Madness

So crazy it spills into April

49. Scrabble

As Facebook proved, it’s Scrabulous

50. Kegs

Even useful when empty, as moorings

51. Slip ‘N Slide

Simple. Genius.

52. Ice cream

Ben and Jerry’s, Breyers, soft serve… ours freezes the competition

53. Yellowstone National Park

54. Oreos

This choice bribed by the secret dairy farmers’ cartel

55. Edward R. Murrow

A journalist who was cool? Sigh.

56. Restaurant week

The one week a year when snooty waiters have to play nice

57. Washington D.C. monuments at night

Lincoln looks good

58. Bugs Bunny

Every parent’s dream: he’s nice to doctors and he eats his veggies

59. Etch A Sketch

Don’t shake away our faith in this one

60. Coca-cola

Hmmm… what does the “coca” stand for again?

61. Flip flops

Not the John Kerry kind, though both can be found on Nantucket

62. Vegas weddings

63. Napa wine

If anyone orders Merlot, we’re leaving

64. Willie Nelson


65. eBay

The only place where you can buy a single cornflake

66. Blueberries

Our favorite fruit that can’t check email

67. The Rockettes


68. Charles Barkley

Hosting Saturday Night Live and pitching for T-Mobile, Sir Charles is now larger than life

69. Blue jeans

Levi Strauss invented the modern version only to see them become boringly ubiquitous

70. County fairs

We recommend you eat your corndog after swinging that sledgehammer at the High Striker game

71. The Oscars

A celebration of everything good and awful about Hollywood

72. Veterans

Thank you

73. Steakhouses

Thankfully, not rare

74. The Tiffany box

The only package more powerful than its contents

75. Sports mascots

The San Diego Chicken vs. the Phillie Phanatic

76. The Great Lakes

77. Salt water taffy

Delicious even though they contain neither salt nor water

78. Roller coasters

Possibly the only 30-second activity worth a three-hour wait

79. HBO

Even if we’re unsold on the vampire craze

80. The Everglades

Where else would you go to get drunk and wrestle an alligator?

81. Bonnie and Clyde

Do you and your honey bunny rob banks? No? Then sit down.

82. Chewing gum

But please, remember that it’s a silent activity

83. The light bulb

And we just keep inventing better ones!

84. Religious freedom

From Pilgrims to scientologists

85. Bagels

If you’ve never tried one, come to New York and make your first one an H&H

86. Judd Apatow films

87. The Billboard 100

Measuring our music since 1958

88. Chipotle

And the guacamole really is worth the extra $2.25

89. Dalmatians on fire trucks

Black and white and red all over

90. Disney movies

Not yours, Nicholas Cage. The old school, animated ones

91. New Year’s Eve

Every country has one, but they all watch Times Square

92. Elvis Presley

A hound-dog and the King

93. Cowboys

94. Turducken

A true American delicacy: a chicken in a duck in a turkey

95. Netflix

The only movie rental survivor

96. Spring Break

We plead the Fifth

97. Escalators

First used commercially in Yonkers, NY in 1899—who knew?

98. Stand-up comedy

Unless you are singled out

99. Redwood trees

The oldest is 2,200 years old

100. Bendy straws

Invented by a Cleveland entrepreneur—and perhaps Ohio’s most significant contribution, though we tip our hats to the Wright Brothers and its 8 U.S. Presidents