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10 Coolest Small Towns: Mazomanie

By Erik Torkells
updated February 21, 2017
These towns all have fewer than 10,000 people—but they can rival larger cities when it comes to good food, culture, and quality of life.

Mazomanie, Wis.
Population: 1,522
Nearest City: Madison, 24 miles

"I got tired of driving through a ghost town," says Bob Brumley when asked why he founded his artists' co-op, the Iron Horse Gallery (18 E. Hudson St., 608/795-2789, ironhorsegallery.org). The co-op began in 2006 with five artists and now has 18—as well as a café, A Better Buzz.

Mazo (may-zoh) is chockablock with artists, many of whom were drawn here by the historic down­town and cheap real estate. "You can't swing a stick in these hills without hitting an artist," says Brumley. Along with galleries, Mazo boasts the Mazomanie Historic Arts Center (103 Crescent St., 608/575-9390, mazoart.com) and Mazomanie Movement Arts Center, a dance studio with a circus camp (2 Brodhead St., 608/795-0014, mazomac.com). Even the Wall Street Gallery & Bistro exhibits artwork (14 Brodhead St., 608/576-6694, wallstreetgallery.com, pastas from $15).

But there's more to life than art. You can buy Wisconsin-made souvenirs at Walter's General Store (34 Brodhead St., 608/795-4455); stay at the Walking Iron B&B, an 1865 Italianate house (21 State St., 877/572-9877, walkingiron.com, from $90); and rent bicycles at ProCycle (30 Brodhead St., 608/795-0019, procycle­bikes.com). Ask politely and the staff might tell you how to get to the clothing-optional Mazo Beach—or Bare-Ass Beach, as it's known among some in town.

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