Parks and Recreation takes place in the fictional city of Pawnee, Indiana. With Leslie Knope working for the Pawnee Parks and Recreation Department—and later running for and becoming a councilwoman—the city of Pawnee and its history plays a large part in the sitcom. Everything Leslie and co. does is for the benefit of this small, made-up town.

Over the course of seven seasons, it’s easy to forget about some of Pawnee’s most intriguing facts. After all, Leslie spews so many out over each episode that it can be hard to keep up. But now that the series is over, we’re looking over some of the many unique things that make Pawnee, Pawnee.

10 Location, Location, Location

Leslie talks about Pawnee like it’s the gem of the United States. She thinks it’s the best city in America and will say that whole-heartedly to anyone who crosses her path. The citizens aren’t always the cleanest or nicest but she stands by her views. But where exactly in Indiana is Pawnee?

Ron, Leslie, and Ann have all mentioned that Pawnee is in south-central Indiana and is just 90 miles from the state’s capital, Indianapolis. It’s also just 35 miles south of Bloomington. Funny enough, both Bloomington and Indianapolis are real cities, unlike Pawnee. But according to Parks and Rec, Pawnee is the seventh-largest city in the state.

9 Where Does The Name Pawnee Come From?

With a name like Pawnee, fans can’t help but wonder where the name came from. Leslie makes it known that the Wamapoke tribe has deep roots in Pawnee but they’re surprisingly not the ones who thought of the name.

According to Leslie, the founder of Pawnee was Reverend Howell. Howell was said to be a “functional illiterate” and couldn’t spell the word “paradise,” so he wrote down Pawnee instead. Is Pawnee paradise? Not if you ask Ron and Donna…


8 Is Pawnee Based On A Real City?

Now that we know Pawnee is a fictional city in the southern end of Indiana, fans can’t help but wonder if showrunners were inspired by a particular town to form Pawnee. After all, the facts Leslie dishes out in episodes are very detailed.

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According to the city’s Fandom page, there are rumors that Pawnee is actually designed after two cities just south of Indianapolis: New Albany and Clarksville. The area and the populations are far too similar to Pawnee for it to be a coincidence.

7 The Officials Of Pawnee

Every state has an official animal, bird, treat, flower, etc… These are things that separate one state from the next. Even some cities have their own official items to differ from neighboring towns. Pawnee is no different.

Aside from the ravenous raccoons and annoying locals, Pawnee has some prestigious official things themselves. The official city tree is comically the Indiana Common Shrub. The official bird of Pawnee is the Giant Grizzled-Neck Cackling Pigeon (which is hilarious). Pawnee even has an official city drink: Frooties!™ Carbonated Corn Syrup.

6 Pawnee Maps

Pawnee is home to 80,000 people and is in a great location for those who need to commute to nearby large cities. When creators had to create a map of Pawnee, Fandom notes that they flipped a map of Muncie, Indiana, upside down to act as its own independent map.

When cameras needed to do a closeup of the map of Pawnee, they used the streets and parks found on a map of Christchurch, New Zealand. Finding a map of Muncie or Christchurch would make excellent gift ideas for the biggest Parks and Rec. fans. 

5 Some Notable Businesses With Unique Names

With Leslie working for Pawnee’s government, she’s well-connected with local businesses and knows the way of the land when it comes to zoning issues and open lots. In fact, some of the best episodes are those where Leslie is mingling with other business owners.

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One reputable business is the fast-food restaurant Paunch Burger. Other comical restaurants in Pawnee are Fatsack and Big ‘n Wide, adding to Pawnee’s rumored obesity.

4 Town Slogans Throughout The Years

In one episode, Leslie is talking about the book she wrote about Pawnee’s history. While sitting in her office, she goes into great detail about the slogans Pawnee had over the years. And no, they weren’t all flattering or respectful.

From 1820-1824, Pawnee’s slogan was “Pawnee: The Paris of America.” In 1880-1934, the slogan was “Pawnee: A Town and a Place.” After WWII, Pawnee had slogans like “It’s Safe to be Here Now,” “Home of the World Famous Julia Roberts Lawsuit,” and “Welcome Taliban Soldiers.” Before Leslie turned the slogan to “When you’re here, then you’re home,” it was “First in Friendship, Ninth in Obesity.”

3 Pawnee’s Land Was Stolen From The Wamapoke

The parks and recreation department has a ton of familiar faces that stop by from time to time, like Barry the accountant, and Ken Hotate. Ken Hotate is the tribe leader of the Wamapoke and he converses with Leslie often to make sure Pawnee’s government is abiding by the agreement between them and the tribe.

Shown through multiple colorful pieces of art, Pawnee settlers stole the land from the Wamapoke and took everything they had. Leslie notes that Pawnee’s history is full of devastation, and the Wamapoke tribe is proof of that.

2 The Mayor Only Made An Appearance Once

Before Jerry became the future Mayor of Pawnee, Mayor Gunderson held the title for almost 40 years.

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His name was brought up numerous times throughout the series but no one sees him until his death in “Two Funerals.” When fans eventually saw Mayor Gunderson, he was played by comedian Bill Murray.

1 A List Of Its Sister Cities

With Pawnee being a fictional city, the characters did a good job of name-dropping sister cities; or cities that are comparable to Pawnee. Some similar cities are Pyongyang, North Korea; Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo; and Krakow, Poland.

Just in case there are any Parks and Rec. fans who want to imagine where Leslie and Ben fell in love or where the park department transformed open lots, they can look at these sister cities!

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