THE COOLEST SMALL TOWNS IN THE U.S.A.

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Read about towns in Maine, Missouri, Iowa, Colorado, Washington, and New York

Gunnison, Colorado

At an elevation of 7,703 feet, Gunnison, Colo. rises above most small towns and epitomizes small-town Colorado. Gunnison, or Gunny, as the locals affectionately call it, offers adventurous visitors much delight. Located in the Gunnison Valley, it provides free-of-charge 360-degree mountain views that enrich the soul. Fishing Gunny's trout-filled rivers, lakes, and streams is a world-class experience. The waters are never crowded. But if you find locals, they will surely offer a quick smile, genuine greetings, and accurate advice about what fish are biting on. Hartman's Rocks is a mountain-biking, four-wheeling, bouldering, hiking paradise that covers more than 6,000 acres, and is merely a short bike ride from the coffee shop downtown (and an equally short trip back to the Gunnison Valley Hospital). Less than thirty miles up the main road from the undulating campus of Gunny's small liberal arts college Western State College is the famed ski resort Crested Butte, or in local-speak CB. It may be necessary to live in Gunny for a while if one wants to sample all it offers, but one trip is all it takes to appreciate this small town's land, people, and shooting-star-riddled sky. --Robert H. Scott III, Ph.D.

Kingston, New York

Visit Kingston, N.Y.--what a lovely place, nestled in the Catskill Mountains. The portico-covered uptown area, with many artists' studios, antique stores, and galleries, is gorgeous! All-natural meat and produce stands are there for the taking. Just two hours from Manhattan, with some of the most beautiful stone houses in the country. The only city in the United States with original stone houses built during the 1600s, on four adjoining corners. The Old Dutch Church, built in 1661, burned to the ground in 1663 during the Indian massacre; it was rebuilt in 1669 of stone, and still stands. Other stone beauties include: the Court House, c.1684; the Senate House, c.1676; The Hoffman House, c.1688; still a working restaurant with original fireplaces. Kingston was the first capitol of New York State, there's loads of history here, and it is charming. Sitting right on the Hudson River with mountain. views, there is ice skating, skiing and winter sports. For weekend visitors in late summer or fall, pick-your-own farms abound, particularly many apple orchards! The bistros, cafés and pumpkin patches lure you back into a forgotten time. Worth the trip for an old-fashioned homemade ice cream cone, or to visit one of the local wineries. Still a bargain to live there, it's certainly worth the trip from anywhere. --Lois Concra

Peculiar, Missouri

When I think of Peculiar, Mo., I don't think it is peculiar. I think it is anything but. We're a small town--with a diner where our whole family meets every Saturday morning for breakfast (usually at least 15 people, sometimes more); where the high school football team has won the state championship two years in a row; where our kids can breathe the fresh country air, have occasional snow days from school in the winter and catch frogs down by the pond on hot summer nights; where you can wake in the mornings and see wild turkeys strutting across your driveway, and squirrels and redbirds practically sharing the same fence post. Things change, but in Peculiar things change slowly. We have yet to get high-speed internet service, but we did recently get our first electric stop light. Peculiar does not have any museums, tourist attractions, or a neat historic shopping district. But what this small town does have is people who sincerely care, root for each other, and are passionate about living the small town life. And Peculiar is a place I am proud to call home. --Rebecca Lowery

South Bend, Washington

We live in the small town of South Bend, Wash. on the bend of the Willapa River. It is a town of 1800. We came here from Seattle in 1954, never dreaming we would spend the rest of our lives here. We raised four daughters who, unfortunately, migrated to bigger towns, went to college, did well, and are all happy--and looking forward to each visit back home. It is a fishing village with lots of fishing boats along the river during fishing season. It is also the home of many oyster beds, claiming to be the largest oyster-growing area in the United States. Oysters from South Bend are shipped all over the world. South Bend also has a shrimp and crab facility. Pacific County's Courthouse is here; it's  one of the few remaining original courthouses in the country. People here are friendly. In the stores, customers are called by their first name. I worked in real estate for 18 years, and during that time, I met many people who were just traveling through South Bend. Some of them stopped and eventually moved here. The prices for real estate are reasonable. There are no big traffic jams, no traffic lights, good water and environment conditions, clean air--what else would you want? One of our greatest achievers was Helen Davis, who wrote the state song "Washington, my Home." A Congressional Medal Winner, Bob Bush (now deceased) is also from South Bend. Actually, many other great people in Washington came from this small town. We are all very proud of our town and of our friendliness. Come visit us and find out why. --Sylvia Halldorson

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