HOMETOWN ESCAPES

Photos: Coolest Small Towns in America

For six years running, Budget Travel has pinpointed the best hometown escapes in the country. Enjoy this look inside America's small wonders!

  1. Lewisburg, W.Va. (Winner 2011): This speck on the map in the Greenbrier River Valley lays claim to one of only four Carnegie Halls in the world. Here is a view of the town square from the roof of City Hall. Population: 3,830.

    (Michael Mohr)
  2. Astoria, Ore. (Winner 2011): Astoria has always been on the frontier, both the Lewis and Clark variety (they set up camp here in 1805) and the geographic (it sits both at the mouth of the Columbia River and in a teeming temperate rain forest). Population: 9,477.

    (Justin Bailie)
  3. Clayton, N.Y. (Winner 2011): Some shore communities take their location for granted. Not so with Clayton, where most activities, from fishing to visiting the Antique Boat Museum, seem to revolve around the water. Population: 1,978.

    (Stephanie Adams)
  4. Eureka Springs, Ark. (Winner 2011): This late-1800s Victorian spa retreat is known for everything from its Queen Anne–style B&Bs and its shows to its historic downtown. Population: 2,073.

    (Michael Mohr)
  5. La Pointe, Wis. (Winner 2011): The residents of La Pointe, a quiet, North Woods enclave of artists on Lake Superior, take pride in waving hello to everyone they pass—even when they're driving. Population: 309.

    (Daniel Shea)
  6. Phoenicia, N.Y. (Winner 2011): Phoenicia may look like a one-street river town sandwiched between hills in New York's Catskills, but it's got a bookish, cosmopolitan vibe in its soul. Population: 309.

    (Jean-Paul Bernard)
  7. Newtown Borough, Pa. (Winner 2011): This small town is close enough to Amish Country that it's not unusual to see horses-and-buggies. It's also home to the nation's oldest movie theater, Newtown Theatre, in operation since 1906. Population: 2,384.

    (Jean-Paul Bernard)
  8. Cedar Key, Fla. (Winner 2011): This two-square-mile hamlet 130 miles north of Tampa produces the best clam chowder outside of New England. It's also America's second-largest producer of farmed clams. Population: 896.

    (Stephanie Adams)
  9. Ripon, Wis. (Winner 2011): You won't find a more utopian college town than Ripon, where students and professors form an integral part of the community. Population: 7,733.

    (Daniel Shea)
  10. Greensburg, Kans. (Winner 2011): After a 2007 tornado destroyed 95 percent of Greensburg, those who stayed vowed to build the ecofriendliest town ever. In place of cornfields and barns, you now see wind turbines, LED streetlights, and art galleries galore. Population: 777.

    (Michael Mohr)
  11. Ely, Minn. (Winner 2010): The best backyard in the country—this is a town where there are more wildlife centers (two) than Wal-Marts (zero), and more canoe and fishing outfitters (27) than, well, anything else. Population: 3,470.

    (Courtesy ShakataGaNai/Wikimedia Commons)
  12. Cloverdale, Calif. (Winner 2010): Some 90 miles north of San Francisco, Cloverdale is ground zero for Sonoma County's highly regarded Zinfandels. Population: 8,454.

    (Melissa Barnes)
  13. Brevard, N.C. (Winner 2010): Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains 45 minutes south of Asheville, this redbrick town is an outpost of authentic Appalachia. Population: 6,716.

    (Andre Jenny/Alamy)
  14. Saugatuck, Mich. (Winner 2010): Time seems to have stood still in this lake town, where arts-and-crafts homes, picket fences, and Upper Midwest charm are still the order of the day. Population: 954.

    (Sally Ryan)
  15. Kennett Square, Pa. (Winner 2010): In this prototypical American town 38 miles west of Philadelphia, tradition is taken seriously—and everyone roots for the home team. Population: 5,273.

    (Michael Mohr)
  16. Bandon, Ore. (Winner 2010): Bandon is the rare small town that qualifies as a full-blown foodie destination, thanks to a long-growing season and chefs who get their hands dirty. Population: 3,295.

    (Stock Connectiton Blue/Alamy)
  17. Cuero, Tex. (Winner 2010): Old West meets modern art in this small town an hour and a half south of Austin. Locals come to reconnect with their roots amid 19th-century storefronts, yucca plants, and BBQ joints—all while enjoying the great music-and-arts scene. Population: 6,571.

    (Courtesy 2008 Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons)
  18. Nyack, N.Y. (Winner 2010): Nyack is one of the most artistic towns in the Hudson River Valley. There's no shortage of antiques shops, galleries, restaurants, and charming B&Bs. Population: 6,737.

    (Michael Mohr)
  19. Medicine Park, Okla. (Winner 2010): Built as a planned resort for overheated Okies, this charming town is a patchwork of manicured lawns, arched footbridges, and red cobblestoned lanes. Population: 385.

    (Joel Zatz/Alamy)
  20. Egg Harbor, Wis. (Winner 2010): Surrounded by more than 300 miles of hidden coves and pocket beaches on Lake Michigan, Egg Harbor has been a refuge for residents of Milwaukee and Chicago for years. Population: 1,194.

    (Courtesy Royalbroil/Wikimedia Commons)
  21. Cayucos, Calif. (Winner 2009): About halfway between San Francisco and L.A., Cayucos is everything you want in a mellow beach town—serious waves and serious food. Population: 3,000.

    (Courtesy San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conventions Bureau/Wikimedia Commons)
  22. Lexington, Va. (Winner 2009): This 19th-century hamlet between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains looks like it came straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Population: 6,867.

    (Nathan Beck)
  23. Breaux Bridge, La. (Winner 2009): In the world's crawfish capital, an hour southwest of Baton Rouge, days revolve around Cajun meals and music. Population: 8,200.

    (Courtesy Ken Lund/Wikimedia Commons)
  24. Tubac, Ariz. (Winner 2009): Over the years, everyone from Spanish missionaries to maverick cowboys has called this high-desert town home. These days, you're most likely to find artists roaming the streets. Population: 1,900.

    (Jess Topping/The New York Times/Redux)
  25. Wallace, Idaho (Winner 2009): Every single building in Wallace is on the National Register of Historic Places. Population: 1,000.

    (Courtesy Mandy/Wikimedia Commons)
  26. Saugerties, N.Y. (Winner 2009): Home to three independent bookstores like Our Bookshop, pictured, Saugerties calls itself "the book capital of the Hudson Valley." Population: 5,000.

    (Brad DeCecco)
  27. Mt. Vernon, Iowa (Winner 2009): As seen in artist Mark Benesh's version of American Gothic on a barn outside of Mt. Vernon, art isn't just confined to gallery walls. Population: 4,671.

    (Sandy Dyas)
  28. Jacksonville, Ore. (Winner 2009): Once a gold-rush town, Jacksonville now thrives off of liquid gold—a peaceful oasis from the tourist whirl of Napa. Sample the goods at a tasting on Quady North's patio, with free seasonal fruit and cheese, shown here. Population: 2,750.

    (John Clark)
  29. Rockland, Maine (Winner 2009): With a Japanese-born sushi chef and a Perry Ellis–trained boutique owner, Rockland has just enough sophistication to balance out the saltiness of Maine. Population: 7,680.

    (Courtesy Hannahjones/Wikimedia Commons)
  30. Whitefish, Mont. (Winner 2009): Both folksy and stylish, Whitefish is the perfect place for ski bums and urban refugees to congregate. Population: 7,723.

    (Courtesy WikiCapa/Wikimedia Commons)
  31. Port Jervis, N.Y. (Winner 2008): This canal hub on the Delaware River is the perfect New York oasis, full of high-art galleries and low-cost real estate. Population: 9,161.

    (Michael Mohr)
  32. Manitou Springs, Colo. (Winner 2008): The residents, and the businesses they patronize, are very eclectic—like the Kinfolks Mountain Shop, which sells outdoor gear and is also a bar and live-music venue. Population: 5,038.

    (Richard Nowitz)
  33. Yellow Springs, Ohio (Winner 2008): Yellow Springs is somewhere "you can breathe and feel very comfortable expressing yourself," says Kim Korkan, owner of the Winds Cafe & Bakery. Population: 3,675.

    (Jamie Holly/Wikimedia Commons)
  34. Mazomanie, Wis. (Winner 2008): Mazo, as the locals call it, is chockablock with artists thanks to affordable rent and a co-op started in 2006. Population: 1,522.

    (Courtesy Freekee/Wikimedia Commons)
  35. Point Reyes Station, Calif. (Winner 2008): Between the beautiful scenery, active food scene, and Point Reyes National Seashore, it's amazing we all don't spend our lives as resident Laurie Manarik did: "figuring out how to spend the rest of my life here." Population: 818.

    (Courtesy Edward Betts/Wikimedia Commons)
  36. Belfast, Maine (Winner 2008): Resident Bob Hansen is amazed at the influx of artists who have moved to Belfast in the last few years: "Not just people with paintbrushes—there are jewelry makers, glassblowers, and weavers." Population: 6,840.

    (Andre Jenny/Alamy)
  37. Catskill, N.Y. (Winner 2008): Affordable homes and beautiful landscapes provide for a healthy artist community, which supports institutions like the 1920s community theater on Main Street, shown here. Population: 4,340.

    (Michael Mohr)
  38. Truth or Consequences, N.M. (Winner 2008): T or C, as residents call it, still capitalizes on its quirky 1950 name change. Resident Susan Morrongiello Koenick came for the name and stayed for the culture. Population: 7,163.

    (Lightworks Media/Alamy)
  39. Livingston, Mont. (Winner 2008): With its cheap rent, views of the Rockies, and Yellowstone only an hour away, Livingston is home to a lot of "young people living the good life." Population: 7,163.

    (Walter Bibikow/Age Fotostock)
  40. White River Junction, Vt. (Winner 2008): White River Junction reinvented itself into an artists' colony several years ago, supporting quirky new businesses like the Main Street Museum and the Center for Cartoon Studies. Population: 2,569.

    (Courtesy Mickmaguire/Wikimedia Commons)
  41. Millerton, N.Y. (Winner 2007): The Irving Farm Coffee House, pictured here, is a prime example of Millerton residents' preference for independent businesses over chain stores. Population: 925.

    (Lauren Keenan)
  42. Millford, Pa. (Winner 2007): Millford is host to a large collection of Victorian houses, the most prominent of which is the newly refurbished Hotel Fachere, shown here, where you can peacefully rock your days away. Population: 1,292.

    (Lauren Keenan)
  43. Yachats, Ore. (Winner 2007): Considering the awe-inspiring scenery and a deli like Grand Occasions, where you can take it all in with a slice of seasonal pie, you may want to move to Oregon, too. Population: 617.

  44. Waitsburg, Wash. (Winner 2007): The Whoopemup Hollow Cafe, shown here, is just one delicious asset in Waitsburg's culinary arsenal. Population: 1,212.

    (Ioyal Baker)
  45. Paia, Hawaii (Winner 2007): Chic shops and small hotels like the six-bedroom Kuau Inn make Paia the Mauians' getaway spot in Hawaii. Population: 2,499.

    (Douglas Peebles)
  46. Parkville, Mo. (Winner 2007): Though bustling Kansas City is only 10 miles away, Parkville offers some healthy reminders to slow down, such as the Park University clock tower, shown here. Population: 4,059.

    (Courtesy Edit32/Wikimedia Commons)
  47. Silver City, N.M. (Winner 2007): These historic buildings sport motifs inspired by Indian designs at Bullard Street. Population: 10,545.

    (Marek Zuk/Alamy)
  48. Petersborough, N.H. (Winner 2007): With the country's oldest art retreat, Petersborough hosts "a cool blend of artists and regular folks," who can congregate at Harlow's Pub, pictured here. Population: 5,883.

    (Pamela Gleeson)
  49. Tuscumbia, Ala. (Winner 2007): Flooring-and-plastics millionaire Harvey Robbins bought up several buildings in Tuscumbia in order to save his hometown, which is now host to thriving small businesses and artists. Population: 7,856.

    (The Protected Art Archive/Alamy)
  50. Collinsville, Conn. (Winner 2007): With the largest kayak-and-canoe supplier in New England, and a zip line across the pictured LaSalle Market & Deli, Collinsville "has been attracting more and more young people," says college student Scott Juhl. Population: 2,686.

    (Christopher Percy Collier)
  51. Barnard, Vt. (Winner 2006): Communal cooking at the Barnard General Store, pictured here, is just one of the foodie-friendly stops in Barnard. Population: 947.

    (Morgan & Owens)
  52. Murphys, Calif. (Winner 2006): While gold was the draw of Murphys's original inhabitants back in the 1880s, "people here are mostly concerned with friendships and community" these days, explains Jennifer Wren Stoicheff, founder of Alchemy Market and Wine Bar. Population: 3,075.

    (Jonothan Sprague)
  53. Homer, Alaska (Winner 2006): Resident Will Shlein believes those who live in the town "feel the special energy of the people and the earth" here in Homer, which is known as the Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea. Population: 5,250.

    (Courtesy Keith Parker/Wikimedia Commons)
  54. Bisbee, Ariz. (Winner 2006): With its unique inhabitants and stylish amenities, quirky and culture are both at home here in downtown Bisbee. Population: 6,050.

    (Duncan Stewart)
  55. Fayetteville, W.Va. (Winner 2006): From white-water rafting to mountain biking, Fayetteville serves as a launch site for all kinds of adrenaline junkies. Population: 2,670.

    (Oliver Gerhard/Alamy)
  56. Hudson, N.Y. (Winner 2006): Hudson's Ex-Manhattanites have found a cultured haven away from the hustle, with plenty of yoga, antiques shops, and spots like Hudson Wine Merchants, pictured here. Population: 7,220.

    (Robert Wright)
  57. Great Barrington, Mass. (Winner 2006): With a supportive and active community, Great Barrington is the kind of small town that brings out the can-do in its residents. Says local Rachel Fletcher: "You can really get involved without having to write a check. Everyone here—from old-timers to new arrivals—really takes care of the town." Population: 7,500.

    (Morgan & Owens)
  58. Rocheport, Mo. (Winner 2006): Rocheport was revitalized when a stretch of the Katy Railroad was converted into 225 miles of hiking trails. With 350,000 hikers now passing through every year, a healthy community of B&Bs and bistros began to emerge. Population: 200.

    (Courtesy Missouri Division of Tourism)
  59. Marfa, Tex. (Winner 2006): With the Chianti Foundation as a centerpiece to a thriving art scene, Marfa is a huge draw for the greater art world. Population: 2,005.

    (Courtesy Paul Joseph/Wikimedia Commons)
  60. Hood River, Ore. (Winner 2006): With Oregon-raised beef and Oregon-grown produce coming in, "think locally" could be a town motto. Population: 6,360.

    (Justin Bailie)

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