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.
Port Jervis, N.Y.
Nearest City: New York, 93 miles
Priced out of New York City by rising rents, many artists and shopkeepers are moving to this old railroad and canal hub on the Delaware River. "You can own a house with real character at a price that's unheard of downstate," says Mark Washburn, who opened an arts and crafts furniture store, Bungalow Antiques & Unusuals, with his partner, Billy Stephens, last year (80 Front St., 845/858-8021).
Cheap commercial real estate also attracted Gordon Graff and Debbie Raia. They started a gallery, UpFront Exhibition Space, four months ago to showcase the works of emerging artists and to host poetry and short-story readings (31 Jersey Ave., 845/856-2666, upfrontexhibitionspace.blogspot.com). The couple also owns Twenty Seven Gallery, an antiques store up the street (27 Front St., 845/856-2727). Visitors can stay at the 1880s Erie Hotel, which has nine single rooms (9 Jersey Ave., 845/858-4100, $70). The best dining option is Restaurant at 20 Front, housed in a neoclassical former bank. Chef Daniel Weber cooks American dishes like chorizo-stuffed pork chops and butternut squash risotto (20 Front St., 845/856-8955, twentyfront.com, pork chops $24).