fifty nifty United States-based care packages?
June 24, 2013 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Help me create a list of mailable, share-able, care-package items from all the U.S. states/DC for my college student son and his friends.

My son is starting undergrad in August and I'd like to send him care packages from all 50 states/DC over the next 4 years (and PR/Guam/USVI if people have ideas). Each package should have food to share as well as something interesting but not trinket-y to do (no dust-collecting bottles of Outer Banks sand). Ideas I'm thinking of from the places we've lived:

- Virginia: Route 11 chips and a copy of Jefferson's 10 rules
- DC: a DVD of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and ... ???
- Maryland: a DVD of Avalon or maybe some John Waters instead, and chips/salsas/treats from Trader Joe's
- New York: Chocolate Pizza and some skateboarding gear (although this can come from anywhere, it's just that he took up skating in NY)

I would love ideas from everywhere else! He's an enthusiastic omnivore after being vegetarian for most of his life, so he'll eat anything (is buffalo jerky a good pick for SD?). Reading material is ok but only if it's really the main thing from a given state (Maine=Stephen King!) because that's more solitary than shared, and he's going to be reading so much already. Music is good, maybe grunge CDs for Washington, Springsteen for NJ.

It's looking like about $30 per package which is doable. But that's an average so all suggestions are welcome even if they cost more.
posted by headnsouth to Shopping (58 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Georgia is famous for both peanuts and peaches.
posted by Michele in California at 1:55 PM on June 24, 2013

NJ: salt water taffy
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2013

Oranges are the obvious food from Florida (but out of season now, sadly), and for destinations--aside from Miami, Key West, other beaches and various springs--there's also Disney World, the Everglades, and the Dalí museum in St. Petersburg.
posted by johnofjack at 2:06 PM on June 24, 2013

Tastykakes from PA
(their online store is temporarily offline, but should be up within the next 4 years)
posted by NoraCharles at 2:07 PM on June 24, 2013

Minnesota: you can go cheap with a can o' Spam and instructions on how to fry it using an iron and some tin foil.

Wild rice is the traditional "unique food from Minnesota" that I bring along when I travel, but unless he's motivated to fully cook something new, it's not a good dorm food.
posted by Elly Vortex at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2013

North Carolina: the main food thing is pulled pork, which, alas, is tough to ship. But there's also Cheerwine soda, Moravian sugar cookies from Old Salem (get the spice kind omg so good), and Mt. Olive pickled products. (Damn now I want Moravian cookies. They're so good! Wafer-thin! Comes in a tube like Pringles!)

And for the non-food part, maybe a DVD of Bull Durham or a CD of the Carolina Chocolate Drops?
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

For Puerto Rico: How about plantain chips (also available at Trader Joes), and the Three Films from Roger Coreman's "Puerto Rico Trilogy"

For Pennsylvania: Clark Bars (or Zagnuts) and Heinz Pickles, and the 1978 version of "Dawn of the Dead" which was filmed at a Pittsburgh suburban mall. Or even the original Night of the Living Dead, which was filmed in Pittsburgh.

Tennessee can be "Nashville" and some Picallilly Relish.

Hell, do this and he'll get a great education in great cinema!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:09 PM on June 24, 2013

For Maryland, what about a tin of Old Bay and some Utz crab chips?

DC: send him some hippie crack. Unf, so good.

Kentucky: Send him some Ale-8.

Ohio: Buckeyes!

You might be able to get some ideas from this thread too.
posted by kerning at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2013

Response by poster: I did think about a case of oranges from Florida but that would be pretty expensive. I'm hoping to get more specific "buy this product from this seller because this place is the only place it's made" advice.

(on preview, thanks showbiz_liz that's exactly what I'm looking for!)
posted by headnsouth at 2:10 PM on June 24, 2013

Michigan: chocolate-covered cherries.
posted by Empidonax at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2013

South Carolina: Charleston Tea from America's only tea plantation

Firefly Vodka. You may want to save this care package til Junior year.

And here's the link to the SC State Museum's gift shop
posted by chiababe at 2:11 PM on June 24, 2013

oh, and for west virginia, can you send him a copy of breece d'j pancake's book? the stories are beautiful and really capture rural appalachia, plus he was an amazing writer.
posted by kerning at 2:15 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Texas: kolaches. I'm trying to find a link to anything other than Kolache Factory.
posted by politikitty at 2:18 PM on June 24, 2013

Pres. Jefferson also has a book called Notes on Virginia. Also Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, which is mostly on the Lewis and Clark expedition, but also focuses on the relationship between Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis.

For Washington, I'd recommend the best movie ever filmed in its largest city-- no, not the Tom Hanks movie, but Cameron Crowe's "Singles." For food, hmm. Smoked salmon, or salmon jerky would be good. Apples or apple products (dried applies would ship well). From the other half of the state, maybe some Cougar Gold, cheddar cheese produced at WSU's dairy.

Alabama: Some blues music from Muscle Shoals (which is to say, nearly any R&B or southern rock recorded in the '60s or 70s) in Fame Studios or the Muscle Shoals Sound (the rhythm section from the former split off and formed the latter).
posted by Sunburnt at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Barbecue states such as Texas, Missouri, and the Carolinas produce 3 different classes of sauces: tomato based, mustard based, and cider vinegar based. Texas, though, would be right for chili-- you could send a mix. New Mexico, on the other hand, is right for chiles-- Hatch chiles, preferably. You could cook up some chile-based condiment if you can't send the fresh article.

Colorado: the famous government printing office in Pueblo should have some appropriate publications for ... everything and everyone.
posted by Sunburnt at 2:24 PM on June 24, 2013

In addition to peanuts (or even boiled peanuts), send a coke.

It originated in Georgia. It is still a big part of the economy there.

For music:
"The devil went down to Georgia"

The B52s are from Atlanta.

R.E.M. is from Athens Georgia. Their song "Losing my religion" references a Southern expression that the band had to explain in an interview because it was not generally known.
posted by Michele in California at 2:25 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Southern Candymakers in Louisiana has delicious pralines and tortues. He will be very popular if he shares these in the dorm! Also Zapp's potato chips are amazing.
posted by radioamy at 2:26 PM on June 24, 2013

Also, you are the most awesome parent ever.
posted by radioamy at 2:27 PM on June 24, 2013

Seconding Old Bay seasoning for Maryland. For Kentucky, yeah, Ale-8-1 is a good option, although benedictine spread is also a Kentucky original. Also, Derby pie. Goetta is also good for either Kentucky or Ohio (it's a Northern Kentucky/Cincinatti thing).

And on the goettalike front, scrapple associates pretty strongly with the mid-Atlantic — it seems particularly like a Pennsylvania thing to me, but if you find yourself reaching to find something for, say, Delaware...
posted by jackbishop at 2:29 PM on June 24, 2013

Vermont: there are a lot of local sugarmakers who got sort of socked by Irene and you can buy stuff from them. Mom and Pops Maple is a local suggestion (they're right up the road from me). Fat Toad Farm are also near me and make goat's milk caramel that is to die for and Ed Koren does the labels. Good if you are a New Yorker fan.

Non-food item, I would suggest Man with a Plan if you can track it down. very local and adorable. There is also Super Troopers which is funny in a YMMV way (I love it) but not actually from here. If he likes Phish type music, there are some good Phish albums and other stuff on their website. Do not attempt if he does not already like Phish. Ben & Jerry's is also the stock answer but their best stuff doesn't really ship well. I do sort of love some of their shirts however. Cabot cheese is the best cheese in the world though not that unusual and he probably has it at school. Neighborly Farms has a sage cheddar and a chipotle cheddar that are both terrific.
posted by jessamyn at 2:32 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

For Oregon, A pair of $200 Nikes would be an astonishing gift. I hope someone will come up with a better idea. There is so much entrepreneurship in Oregon; there must be something more suitable.
posted by Cranberry at 2:35 PM on June 24, 2013

Actually, Metafilter is made in Oregon. mathowie, cortex and pb are all residents.
posted by Cranberry at 2:36 PM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]

Maine - lobster? Or Wild Maine Blueberry Jam and a Stephen King book or movie; I suggest The Stand, or sign him up for the LLBean catalog, also a good place to order Maine gifts from.
posted by theora55 at 2:36 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Chicago: Lou Malnati's pizza, Portillo's Italian beef, Vienna Hot dogs, Eli's Cheesecake and/or Garrett's popcorn - all available here.
posted by sarajane at 2:44 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm from Montana, and that's known for Huckleberries. You can find tons of items that you should be able to ship, such as chocolates and fudge. I also bought huckleberry pancake mix once too.
(Missoula, MT/Flathead region is also known for Flathead Cherries.)
posted by Crystalinne at 2:46 PM on June 24, 2013

Montana: the best beef jerky I've ever had.
posted by wearyaswater at 2:54 PM on June 24, 2013

For Oregon, skip the $200 Nikes because those are made in offshore sweatshops. I'd go with smoked salmon instead. Or beer. Or something made from a log.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:12 PM on June 24, 2013

West Virgiinia. Ship Pepperoni Rolls, the state food.
posted by sandmanwv at 3:31 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Michigan, Mint oil or direct link to Crosby Mint Farms. Mint oil has numerous uses, including unclogging a stuffy noses and other uses. Spearmint and peppermint available.
posted by 6:1 at 3:37 PM on June 24, 2013

Minnesota requires Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls and Nut Goodies.

For Rhode Island, some coffee milk and a hairpiece should do.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:40 PM on June 24, 2013

Virginia Diner peanuts

My dad gives them to EVERYBODY for Christmas.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:43 PM on June 24, 2013

Oh, duh, and the movie is What About Bob

Filmed in Moneta, VA, near Smith Mountain Lake.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 3:44 PM on June 24, 2013

Connecticut has things that don't ship well, at least for food: pizza, hamburgers, and Carvel. PEZ moved here in the '70s so that could be fun (or even a gift card for the local thin-crust pizza place.) Worst case scenario, make some nutmeg spice cookies?
For object, and perfect for groups: The Wiffle Ball.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:46 PM on June 24, 2013


Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Dropkick Murphys, James Taylor, The Cars, Aerosmith or Boston cds.
New Balance or Converse sneakers (Converse not officially made here anymore, but...)
Necco wafers/Valentine's hearts candy.
Guitar Hero.
Cranberry anything.
Sam Adams.
Taza chocolates.
Cape Cod potato chips.
Movies: Ted, Moneyball, The Departed, Shutter Island, Mall Cop, The Town, The Fighter, The Social Network and our personal favorite, 21.

MIT sweatshirt (not Harvard. Never Harvard).
posted by kinetic at 3:56 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh dangit you already had VA!
posted by Ms Vegetable at 4:04 PM on June 24, 2013

For Iowa (and for junior or senior year, of course), might I suggest Templeton Rye? There's info on how to find it at their website. That's my best suggestion for food/drink, because unfortunately most of Iowa's delicious specialties—world's best corn on the cob! super-thick pork chops! giant pork tenderloins!—don't ship so well.

The go-to movie for Iowa is, of course, Field of Dreams—can't go wrong with "'Is this Heaven?' 'No, it's Iowa.'" Or if you're getting tired of movie suggestions, you could send a poster of American Gothic or another Grant Wood painting, if he likes art. Or, if those are both too obvious, another (much quirkier) idea would be a funny pro-Iowa T-shirt from Des Moines's hipster haven Raygunhere are some examples.
posted by honey wheat at 4:08 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oregon: hazelnuts and The Goonies

Alaska: salmon jerky, a Tom Bodett book, a DVD of Grizzly Man

California: almonds or olives from The Olive Pit,
posted by vespabelle at 4:13 PM on June 24, 2013

Look, I don't know how you package it up, but I know it involves some duct tape and Bondo, but if you can somehow include this YouTube video of the Wicked Good Band (circa '89) you can give them some Maine Humor. I'd also include a can of Sardines, maybe a package of Dried Fish (don't ask - just shriek away in revulsion), and a pink flamingo.
posted by Nanukthedog at 4:14 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I can't believe kinetic didn't mention Marshmallow Fluff for Massachusets!

And for Idaho: an Idaho Spud candy bar.
posted by vespabelle at 4:16 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

california: see's candy, dates from hadley's, stuff from the oakville grocery, bakery goods from canter's, walnuts.

i tried to hit multiple regions, but i can't think of anything from far north california.
posted by koroshiya at 4:28 PM on June 24, 2013

On, Wisconsin!

Food to share: Usinger's sausage, Larsen's kringles which are also available vegan, Colby cheese or any kind of cheese curd, chocolate covered Door County cherries and/or cherry wine for when he is of age, cow pies, Jelly Belly jelly beans, Nueske's bacon, Potter's crackers. If he and his friends are adventurous eaters, you can send him a few jars of Ma Baensch.
Note: I have been vegan for long enough that I have never eaten/tasted most of these things, but my friends tell me they are good.

Something to do: I know it mostly takes place in Illinois, but the best scene takes place in Milwaukee, and I will always be convinced that everyone on earth should own at least one copy of Wayne's World. Zang.
posted by divined by radio at 4:38 PM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Other Washington State suggestions - Applets & Cotlets, Almond Roca or geoduck.

Or an Xbox.
posted by brookeb at 4:44 PM on June 24, 2013

I can't believe kinetic didn't mention Marshmallow Fluff for Massachusets!


Quick, let's hope if I mention a Dunkin Donuts mug and a Boston Marathon shirt, Deval Patrick won't throw me out.
posted by kinetic at 5:22 PM on June 24, 2013

I fully approve of Nanukthedog's Wicked Good Band recommendation, and suggest also tossing in the original Bert & I album on vinyl. Instead of dried fish (blech), how about a box of needhams (yum).
posted by Orinda at 5:26 PM on June 24, 2013

Thirding marshmallow Fluff for Massachusetts. And I'm not sure how many Parker Brothers/Hasbro games (like Monopoly) are still made in the state, but they were for a long time! Also:
  • cranberries (fresh, canned sauce, or craisins)
  • Necco wafers and conversation hearts
  • Polar flavored seltzer (beloved by many and very hard to find outside of New England, but very heavy to ship!)
  • stationary/paper from Crane & Co (they also make the paper used in U.S. currency, so you could always just enclose a $20)

posted by mskyle at 6:18 PM on June 24, 2013

Vermont - proud home to King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT Sells assorted bread, pastries, sandwiches and soups at their cafe, but they also sell flour, baking mixes and kitchen gear.

Maple syrup! Or maple syrup candy. The place I go for this is Sugar Bush farms in Quechee, VT but their are places everywhere.

Archer Mayor is an author from Vermont.

New Hampshire - "Live free or die." merchandise. Jodie Picoult and John Irving are resident writers.
posted by MadMadam at 6:24 PM on June 24, 2013


Food - yeah, can't think of much here that would ship well. Pork tenderloin sandwiches, persimmon pudding, sugar cream pie... Maybe if you can find some persimmon jelly/jam/preserves, but I couldn't find any Indiana sources that ship in a quick search. Another idea: I'm not sure how specifically "Hoosier" it is, but Just Pop In is Indiana-based and makes really good flavored popcorn. I can attest that their spicy cheddar (under the "Spice of Life" section) is downright addicting.

Movies - we're all about sports movies. Rudy, Hoosiers, Breaking Away.

Music - John Mellencamp, hands down. Michael Jackson/The Jackson Five are also from Indiana, originally, but Mellencamp is more quintessentially Hoosier.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:02 PM on June 24, 2013

For New Mexico, you could go with some Sadie's Green Chile sauce or just the cans of Hatch green chile that you might even find in your local supermarket. If you'd prefer to stay away from food, a ristra or perhaps some luminaries would represent the state well.
posted by jeffch at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2013

Also from Oregon, Pendleton! A very nice gift would be the Yakima Camp Blanket. Rogue Brewing has amazing looking beer bottles (though Deschutes beer is better, in my opinion, and they've been doing interesting seasonals the past couple years). It'll be a while till your kid is 21, most likely, so Oregon hazelnuts are fairly well-known. Tillamook cheddar is some of the best. Check out the Made in Oregon store online for more ideas.
posted by amanda at 8:56 PM on June 24, 2013

From Oklahoma, Head Country BBQ sauce. From Texas, Texas-shaped tortilla chips.
posted by neushoorn at 6:02 AM on June 25, 2013

Ah. I see I rather missed the mark, then.

Musicians from Florida: T-Pain, Tom Petty, Bo Diddley, Against Me!, Less Than Jake, Iron & Wine, Holopaw, George & Gwen McCrae, Sam & Dave, Jimmy Buffet.

DVDs: Monster, Sunshine State, Bad Boys I & II, Miami Vice, Get Shorty, Ace Ventura, Dexter, Gates of Heaven & Vernon Florida.

books: Their Eyes Were Watching God, Swamplandia!, the Dexter series, and nearly anything by Carl Hiaasen.

foods: I can't really think of anything that's affordable, a practical delivery, available now, and only ever comes from Florida. Tupelo honey comes the closest, but there are also a few producers in south Georgia.
posted by johnofjack at 6:59 AM on June 25, 2013

Illinois: a Giordano's pizza or Portillo's Italian Beef. I strongly associate Bags with Chicago, though I think it's common throughout the Midwest as Cornhole; it's a great game for college kids, and pretty cheap to pick up. It's also "beanbag toss" online.
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:05 AM on June 25, 2013

Seconding smoked salmon and Cougar Gold cheese for Washington--you get both sides of the Cascades that way! Which reminds me--Tim's Cascade potato chips are delicious, and a local favorite. Go for the jalepeno flavor. Also--you can still buy soap made from Mt. St. Helens ash, I believe.

And now for some randoms.

Texas - the classic cult film Slacker.
Louisiana - the literary masterpiece A Confederancy of Dunces.
Maryland - get him a big thing of Old Bay. This is actually perfect for a college student. He can dump it on everything, like Sriracha.
California - Jelly Bellies. Plenty of movies and books to choose from too, but for my money, go for the great forgotten comedy of the '90s, Steve Martin's L.A. Story.
posted by duffell at 12:13 PM on June 25, 2013

North Dakota would like to make this very easy for you. They've got a site called Pride of Dakota which is just materials from the state (so food, weird local gifts, books sometimes etc).

On the food side, I'd suggest lefse (there's a store on the Pride of Dakota site that says it'll ship to anywhere in the US so you should be good). Maybe rhubarb cordial or a berry wine once he's 21, if you can get it (North Dakota has restrictive liquor laws so I'm not sure if shipping is possible). A recipe for tater-tot hotdish from one of the many heritage cookbooks?

For books (if you need them to round out a basket), I'd suggest titles by Chuck Klosterman (Fargo Rock City) or Louise Erdrich (Round House, probably).

As for music, uhhhh Lawrence Whelk? There's relatively few famous musicians from the state, to be honest. Maybe Fargo Rock City would have some better ideas.
posted by librarylis at 11:45 AM on July 1, 2013

Oh I forgot to add: if you go for a movie, do not pick Fargo. If you must, pick Jesus Camp or better yet, something more obscure. North Dakotans would like it to be very clear that Fargo was filmed in Minnesota.
posted by librarylis at 11:50 AM on July 1, 2013

Adding to kinetic's list--also fun from Mass, Boston baked beans (either the candy or the real thing), and Bread! In! A! Can! (B&W Brown Bread. You can get it without raisins, too.)

Granite paperweight or something commemorating the Old Man of the Mountain for New Hampshire?
posted by marmot at 1:56 PM on July 3, 2013

I did not know this was here until I saw it mentioned on MetaTalk. I feel that Ohio has been under-represented in the answers thusfar. So:

- Buckeye candies were mentioned above (bonus points if you buy them from Anthony Thomas, or another Ohio company.) This is also a not-that-hard-to-actually-do thing to do.
- OSU head football coaches are in general a thing; search on Etsy (etc.) for the good stuff. Yes, people do sketch Woody, and the prints really do sell for $10+, and people will frame them and put them up on their walls. I know at least three people with OSU head football coach bobbleheads: almost anything and everything has a version of itself with an OSU theme on it.
- I sent apple butter and maple candies to last year's Quansee. We're apparently apple butter fanatics, though I'm not clear on exactly why. Anyway, each year you can buy apple butter from the Apple Butter Fest.
- You can similarly buy pumpkin anything from the Circleville Pumpkin Show. I suggest you get something smaller than the scary world-record pumpkins.
- If you actually put it in a basket, we're the home of Longaberger. Yes, that is a building shaped like a basket.
- We're also the home of Victoria's Secret, heh. Perhaps not appropriate for a parent to give a child.
- I'm not sure exactly what it says about us, but an aviator stationed in Ohio was the namesake of Murphy's Law. Anyway, all kinds of aviation gifts would be totally appropriate - we're the birthplace of John Glenn, the Wright Brothers, and Neil Armstrong, and the first forty years of aviation research was predominantly done in the Dayton area. We also have the National Air Force Museum, so a model of a B-2 stealth bomber or the Enola Gay is totally a legitimate inclusion. General Tibbets was not from Ohio, nor was his mother - but he did die here.
- My sisters and I like to say that Ohio is a great place to be from. This is probably why the Drew Carey Show and MASH are full of Ohio jokes. Special gift-giving potential exists with Tony Packo's Cafe hot dogs, obviously (since a gift of them was an actual plot point in the show, twice!) And who doesn't want to wear a Mud Hens hat?
posted by SMPA at 10:08 AM on December 21, 2013

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