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Reader Nominations for Coolest Small Towns

Posted by daisypearl on Friday, January 30, 2009 11:24:00 AM
My nomination for the most terrific small town [in the world--forget the United States] is Little Switzerland, NC; it is nestled in the central range of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a short drive from I-40, I-81, I-26, large cities [Asheville, Knoxville, Charlotte], and convenient airports. The Penland School of Crafts, a unique college offering classes in the arts, is within 30 minutes of downtown. The county is home to many artists and craftspeople who have chosen the area because of the climate, topography and the laid back style of living. Many new residents have been drawn to the surrounding community based on the quality of life and cost of living. Little Switzerland itself is a tiny town--official population 46-- but the surrounding community numbers many more. The town started in the early 1900s as a summer home area for all the flatlanders who were sweltering down in the piedmont of NC. They built the community and it has enlarged today to encompass the downtown area, a world-class lodging facility [the Switzerland Inn]. Adjacent to the Inn are several businesses representing many of the artists and craftspeople who live in the area. There are two terrific restaurants. The Switzerland Inn has a large dining room with a knock-your-socks off view to the mountains; there are two smaller dining rooms with a more intimate ambience. A varied menu is offered and all three meals are served daily: hearty breakfasts; lunches with your choice of salads, sandwiches, soups; and an evening meal of steak, fresh fish, pork and all the accompaniments. The Switzerland Cafe is less formal and is the hub around which "downtown" Little Switzerland revolves. The owners strive for the best possible barbecue in NC and, in my opinion, certainly achieve their goal. They have a varied luncheon menu of soups, sandwiches and salads. In the summer their weekend evening entrees include fresh fish, steaks, and delicious pasta. The chef/owner oversees the kitchen and food preparation; she is also a talented baker and the dessert case is always filled with wonderful delights. The other owner manages the Switzerland General Store; this store contains a great wine and beer selection, representative works from local artisans and memorabilia from the area. The area is incredible--forests, mountains, waterfalls--all within a few miles. If you want to stay for a summer there are many super homes for rent; there are also realtors for those folks who come to the area and simple cannot leave. You can roam up and down the Blue Ridge Parkway [about 0.5 miles from downtown Little Switzerland] and view high mountain ranges and deep valleys. The Parkway is a National Park Service property with controlled access--no trucks or commercial vehicles. Along the drive the Parkway has many overlooks for maximum enjoyment and also trailheads if you wish to hike the area. For those of us who have relocated here to realize that "this is our backyard" never fails to make us realize how very lucky we are. The area is full of history, charm and wonderful people. Every day I live here I love it more.

Posted by ksjerram on Wednesday, January 28, 2009 7:42:42 PM
The resort community of Horseshoe Bay is located in the heart of the Texas hill country, an hour NW of Austin and 90 minutes N of San Antonio. This small town of about 4,000 residents exudes the serenity of a quiet hillside village as it sprawls out along the southern border of beautiful Lake LBJ. The 23-mile, constant-level lake offers views of multi-million dollar homes of the rich and famous as well as Horseshoe Bay lighthouse, the oldest of the state's four inland lighthouses. You will find safe, quiet neighborhoods with mostly upscale homes and condos. Nowhere else can you possibly find such a beautiful combination of palm trees, cactus and yucca. It is a photographer's paradise. You'll drive along boulder-lined winding streets going up and down among the hills and through low-water crossings where you see turtles sunning themselves on partially submerged rocks. Nature delights you with abundant views of Whitetail deer foraging on the hillsides or napping on lawns. You'll catch an occasional armadillo or roadrunner and you'll wonder at the amazingly graceful birds flying overhead only to be startled by their lack of beauty when you see them on the ground finishing off the remains of the most recent road kill. Not to be outdone by the wildlife, local residents are the most inviting reason to visit Horseshoe Bay. They are some of the most welcoming, friendliest people you will ever meet. Many belong to one of the two local churches "up on the hill". St. Paul the Apostle conducts services for those of the Catholic faith and The Church at Horseshoe Bay is an interdenominational church offering services for those of Protestant persuasion. Seasons vary. Spring is warm with waterfalls flowing and cactus blooming. Almost everywhere you look, you see Texas Bluebonnets (state flower), wildflowers and butterflies covering the hillside meadows making it just perfect for a round on one of the three championship Robert Trent Jones, Sr. golf courses or a casual hike along the beautiful trails. Summers can be quite hot but pleasantly lack the humidity to make them unbearable. Perfect for a day at the pool, lake or a place in the shade with a good book. Fall comes late with the brilliant colors of turning trees taking you right into the holiday season. Winters are a mixture of warm and cool days with nighttime temperatures ranging from cool to cold. These cool evenings find local residents relaxing around a chimenea with friends, perhaps sampling a new wine variety chosen from the broad selections of local wineries. Landlubbers have a choice of golf, tennis, hiking, biking, hunting and horseback riding while water lovers may choose to boat, fish, sail, kayak, water ski, swim or just bask in the sun. Bird watching, deer watching or visiting one of the local spas also ranks high among locals. The Horseshoe Bay Beacon, a free weekly paper, keeps residents and visitors in tune with activities in and around town. There are many weekly and monthly happenings to choose from, such as Yoga/Pilates meets twice a week. Hill Country Trekkers (hikers) meet weekly. The International Club and the Bingo Banquets meet monthly. There are also annual events such as the 4th of July vehicle and boat parades and the celebration open to residents and visitors. Although there are not yet an abundance of restaurants, you will enjoy different dining experiences whether at Resort restaurants or local Taste of Thyme or The Tall Texan. There are currently two new shopping venues in the planning. Village Square and the Shoppes at Hi Circle will bring upscale retail to Horseshoe Bay. The Horseshoe Bay Resort provides 3 championship golf courses, an 18-hole par 72 putting course that is beautifully landscaped and home to 15 birds including parrots and flamingos, 4 swimming pools, white sand beach, spa, fitness facility, full-service marina, 5 dining facilities, 12 professional tennis courts, Marriott Hotel and luxury villa rentals. The Resort is a members-only club, although hotel and villa guests are granted temporary membership allowing access to many of the Resort amenities during their stay. The Resort also operates an airport and jet center, a full-service FBO with fuel services, hangar space, tie-downs, charter jet service and 6,000-foot runway. Neighboring communities compliment Horseshoe Bay offerings with venues such as the Hill Country Theatre, annual boat races, Main Street USA-style street fairs and festivals, wineries, live music, restaurants, marinas and boat rentals plus CastleRock ... a Living Architecture of Art and Culture, Music and Magic currently under development that offers the look and feel of Santa Fe or Sedona right in Horseshoe Bay's backyard. Horseshoe Bay is the perfect place to be active or do nothing at all — truly one of America's coolest small towns ... It's almost like a piece of Heaven nestled into the hills of the beautiful Texas Hill Country.

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