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.
Located in a valley on the Winooski River, this intimate town hosts the New England Culinary Institute and the annual Green Mountain Film Festival. The Dairy Creme, open seasonally to serve super-thick shakes and blizzards, is a local favorite. And of course, a state capital wouldn't be complete without a stop by the home of Vermont's State House, complete with a gilded dome. Free guided tours are given every half hour July through October. —Budget Travel
At the Vergennes Opera House, locals participate in everything from karate lessons to performances by the Little City Players, a community theatre company. The Opera House also shows a different movie every week in its Friday Night Flicks program. At the Black Sheep Bistro on Main Street, visitors can dine on affordable French food and wine. —Budget Travel
Take a drive along River Road to see the scenic Russian River, which traces one side of town, or canoe along the river for great views of the surrounding hills. Just five minutes outside of town is the 6,805-acre Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve. Back in town, Stumptown Brewery and Smokehouse brews its own beers and features beer from other local breweries on tap. This year marks the seventh annual Beer Revival and BBQ Cookoff, where 25 brews and 25 BBQ recipes are served up all afternoon. Get your $50 tickets early—last year's event sold out beforehand. —Budget Travel
How do we define 'Coolest Small Town'?
The town must have a population under 10,000—we're talking small towns, not big cities. It's also got to be on the upswing, a place that's beginning to draw attention—and new residents—because of the quality of life, arts and restaurant scene, or proximity to nature. And cool doesn't mean quaint. We want towns with an edge, so think avant-garde galleries, not country stores.