The Nominees for America's Coolest
We've pulled together a list of 22 nominees from coast to coast. Cast a vote to determine the readers' top 10 American small towns—and check the October 2009 issue of Budget Travel Magazine to see if any reader choices made the final cut.
In this old lumber town, known as the Mural City, you'll find large-scale paintings on the sides of local buildings. The most famous mural is Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms. Stroll through nearby Silver Falls, Oregon's largest state park, where you can see 10 waterfalls. Back in town, visit the Stone Buddha for Asian antiques and jewelry, and for a homey breakfast go to O'Briens, but beware that the signature hotcakes are huge. —reader stargazer
Downtown Pahoa—only about a block long—boasts great restaurants, wooden sidewalks, and a charm you won't find anywhere else in Hawaii. Main Street has maintained its Western-style storefronts and boardwalks. There are also performances on Main Street and at the Akebono Theater, the state's oldest theater. If you're planning on visiting Pahoa overnight, stay in the historic Kapoho Village Inn, which housed some of Puna's earliest travelers; the spacious rooms have antique furnishings. —Budget Travel
Located along the Ohio River, Vevay is home to the first commercial winery in the United States. For a sip of that history, stop by the Ridge Winery tasting room. Sit on the riverside deck and enjoy free samples of the wine as you watch the river flow by outside. On the first Friday of each month, Main Street stays awake with late-night shopping and dining, gallery openings, live entertainment, and free carriage rides. And if you're in town on the last weekend of August this year, check out the highly regarded Swiss Wine Festival. Try the riverboat cruise, visit the beer garden, or watch the fireworks on Saturday night. Don't forget to stop by G.G.'s Grill before you leave town; order the handmade sweet-potato fries. —reader SwitzCntyTourism
Mineral Point, Wis.
Mineral Point, once a mining community, has a long history but still looks to the future. Architectural walking and driving tour booklets are available for $3 at the Chamber of Commerce office, so visitors can enjoy the well-preserved historic buildings. Take an art class at Shake Rag Alley to experience the offbeat creativity of the town. The Alley Stage has a new performance each month. For a lunch break, head to the Red Rooster Café for a traditional Cornish pasty with a figgyhobbin for desert—both were staples in the miners' diets. —reader minpt
Port Austin, Mich.
Just over 100 miles from Detroit, this old farming town is called one of the state's best-kept secrets. On Saturday mornings, visit the Farmer's Market, where you can buy locally grown fruits and vegetables and even handmade games and clothes. Afterward, order pecan waffles at the Lake Street Emporium. At the Farm Restaurant, all menu items are made from seasonal herbs and produce from the restaurant's own garden. And if you'd like to experience the lake, visit the marina to rent a boat or arrange a fishing charter—or, if the water's too chilly, see a show at the Port Austin Community Playhouse. —reader meb
The Little Traverse Bay Area provides residents of Petoskey (and visitors) with some amazing natural vistas. On some nights, you can even see the northern lights. The town also has great shops and restaurants. Have a cup of coffee at Roast and Toast, where they roast their own beans, or try some Italian gelato at American Spoon Foods. For shopping, walk over to the Gaslight District, and don't forget to buy a Petoskey stone at Bailey's Place. The stone, which is actually petrified coral, is found in the bay on which the town is located. —reader ChristieStruck
Founded in 1854, Grinnell maintains its historic architecture. The town is filled with residential architectural beauties—most buildings in downtown date back over 100 years. Take a tour of the Grinnell Historical Museum, which holds artifacts of the town's past, such as one of the first 50 electric refrigerators made by the Grinnell Washing Machine Company in 1932. Attend Date Night at the Bourbon Street Restaurant and enjoy an elaborate Cajun meal. The Happy Days Festival in August includes a carnival and a car show. —reader bmenner