Reader Nominations for Coolest Small Towns Budget Travel Monday, Feb 9, 2009, 2:24 PM Budget Travel LLC, 2016


Reader Nominations for Coolest Small Towns

Posted by CaptBren on Saturday, December 27, 2008 5:37:31 PM
Rockland, Maine is definitely one of America's Coolest Small Towns! Our downtown has undergone a huge transformation from being a smelly fish processing waterfront to being a hip art community. Our working harbor has, in recent years, become more of a yachting destination as sailors discover new cultural offerings and culinary opportunities. The Farnsworth Art Museum, with works by Fitz Hugh Lane and Alex Katz adding to the impressive paintings of three generations of Wyeths, is at the heart of downtown with art shops and galleries popping up all around. Our downtown movie theater was closed for a few years and reopened in 2005 after an extensive renovation. The Strand is once again alive and well and showing unique films and live stage performances at reasonable prices...sometimes even free. You can even order wine or beer in the balcony seating area! The downtown building where our local paper used to be published is now our visitor information center and the Maine Lighthouse Museum, home to the largest collection of lighthouse artifacts in the country. The waterfront boardwalk is frequented by locals walking their dogs or by visitors taking in the beauty of our large natural harbor gated by a mile long breakwater with a distinctive lighthouse at the end; the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse, currently undergoing restoration and open for tours on summer weekends. There are lots of great shops, restaurants, and cozy B&B's in town.

Posted by samba on Friday, December 26, 2008 10:04:39 PM
Although it's my second home, Sanibel Island, Florida has got to make this list. With less than 7,000 full time residents, this little resort Island in SW Florida sits on the Gulf of Mexico with almost 3/4 of the Island devoted to nature. In a day of swimming, walking, boating and biking, one can see dolphins, Roseate Spoonbill, armadillo, bobcats, alligators, and a large variety of palms, flowering bushes and trees. It's a tropical heaven that attracts visitors from around the world for the great shelling on its beaches and outstanding bird watching all over the Island. In addition to the beaches and nature, there are many good restaurants and lovely little shops. The island also hosts a nice variety of cultural events. It doesn't get any better than this given Sanibel's dedication to conserving nature and its ability to provide so many amenities. The shift in Sanibel's resident population is due to the shift in the way we now live. Once an island reserved for those full timers no longer in the work force, Sanibel is now growing its full time resident population to include the many younger families now able to "work" remotely. As a result of the emergence of a cyber work world and the growing popularity of home schooling (though Sanibel does have a very nice public school) many young families looking for that perfect small town existence have found it on Sanibel Island. These young moms and dads, much like the older moms and dads, are an interesting crowd. By and large, the folks who live on the Island are bright, curious, well educated and well travelled, and the island cuture reflects that in the choices of entertainment, restaurants and shops. 1. Is there a restaurant that's so amazing it could survive in New York? The Thisltle Lodge on Sanibel is one of many nice restaurants that could "pull it off" in NYC for its lovely meal presentations and good, professional service. 2. Where do locals shop for unique clothing, furniture, art, or gifts? Chicos began its existence on Sanibel Island. There are 2 Chicos on the Island and though Chicos is a chain, the merchandise on Sanibel is unique. You will not find these clothes in other stores. 3. Is there a local mascot? With all those real critters running around, who needs one? 4. What's the weirdest piece of local folklore? The folklore of Black Caesar, said to have been a former Haitian slave who escaped during the Haitian Revolution to become a pirate is an interesting story. According to folklore, Black Caesar came to the Gulf of Mexico during the War of 1812 to avoid interference from the British. In the Gulf he became friends with Gasparilla,another pirate from Spain, who allowed him to set up on Sanibel Island. Eventually the old Spaniard discovered Caesar had been stealing from him and chased him off, but not before Caesar's loot had been buried. So maybe there is buried treasure on Sanibel? 5. Anything else that qualifies as "cool" (i.e. organic coffee shops, wine bars, a hotel in a renovated barn or warehouse)? Ellington's Jazz Bar and Restaurant is definitely cool for a little tropical island. In addition, the outdoor cafe at The Green Flash overlooking the water as well as the cafe at Jerry's Supermarket and Amy's (Over Easy) cafe are all places that the hip and trendy--- as well as the non hip and non trendy---- can be comfortable in.

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