Meet the Coolest Small Town in America 2016
Congratulations to Sykesville, Maryland, the winner of Budget Travel's 11th annual Coolest Small Town in America contest! With an enthusiastic campaign to amass the votes needed to claim the title "coolest," Sykesville earned its victory by a wide margin.
The Coolest Small Town in America contest is one of the high points of our editorial calendar at Budget Travel, and we love getting to know more about these amazing communities across the country where so many truly cool things are happening in the worlds of art, food, public parks, and community spirit. This morning, I had the privilege of hearing from some of Sykesville's residents, and I couldn't help asking the obvious question: How does it feel to wake up in the Coolest Small Town in America 2016?
Stacy Link, Sykesville town council member, enthuses, "When I pulled into town this morning, crossed the railroad tracks, and turned the curve at Baldwin's Station to get a clear view of our Main Street, I was like, 'Yes, we are!'"
Mary Vaccarino, owner of Revive & Company, says, "We're SYKED! This contest inspired us to show our community spirit and it shines. We are feeling blessed to live in such a great community.
Rachael Beck, owner of EW Becks Pub, tells us, "If you’re from Sykesville, you’re family. If you are a visitor to Sykesville, we will make you feel like family before you go."
Steven Colella, director of economic development for the Town of Sykesville, shares, "Waking up this morning to find out I work for the Coolest Small Town in America was pretty surreal. I knew throughout the contest that if we won, it could do big things for our town – promoting tourism, community events, and new businesses, but I was so focused on promoting the contest that I didn’t stop to think what it would mean if we won. Now that we did, it’s exciting and a little overwhelming to think of all of the COOL things that lie ahead!"
And each resident of Sykesville is looking forward to upcoming events such as First Fridays, the town Farmers Market, and Farm to Table Progressive Dinners.
Budget Travel's 11th annual Coolest Small Town in America contest started by gathering online nominations from tens of thousands of readers. The towns that received the most nominations (subject to a bit of editorial discretion for geographical and cultural diversity), made our 15 semifinalists list, and a month of voting saw towns like Sykesville; Baker City, Oregon; and Pipestone, Minnesota vying for the top spot.
This year's nine runners-up (all cool towns in their own right) deserve a shout-out:
Baker City, OR
Ocean Springs, MS
Steamboat Springs, CO
5 Tips for Navigating NYC's Outdoor Food Markets
When it comes to artisan food in New York City, summer means one thing: a myriad of open air food markets, [our favorite is Madison Square Eats, visit #MadSqEats for more info] where small batch food purveyors and local chefs serve up everything from ice cream sandwiches and wood-fired pizza to charcuterie and macaroons. But you'd better get there fast: just like the warm weather, these temporary markets only last so long. Here are five tips to help you fill your plate this season. Be Part of the CrowdSince each of the city's outdoor food markets is a showcase for several dozen different food vendors, deciding which to choose can be a real challenge. However, don't be afraid to follow the crowd. When it comes to food, New Yorkers have seen it all, so if a particular vendor boasts a lengthy line, there is probably good reason. After all, some things in life—especially savory bites and sweet treats—really are worth the wait. Paper or PlasticMany of us don't think twice about swiping our debit cards. However, be sure to visit the ATM before making a market trip. While some vendors are equipped to accept plastic, many run cash-only operations. Having cash in hand will ensure you avoid a worthless wait in line. Plus, you'll have a few spare dollars to add to the tip jars (you'll want to after tasting the delicious food!). Think SmallThe only real problem with open air food markets is that there is so much excellent food to try! Avoid the temptation of purchasing a full meal and instead give yourself the space to sample a variety of offerings. Many vendors offer half sizes of their well-known menu items, or single servings of their most popular specialties (think one cookie versus a package of three). There's no need to choose when you can have a small bite of it all! Ask QuestionsWhen eating out, diners do not often have the chance to step inside a restaurant's kitchen. However, at the city's open air food markets, the kitchen is on full display, and the chef is typically the one serving your food. While you wait and watch him assemble your order, don't be shy about striking up a conversation and asking questions related to the dish, the ingredients, or even the chef's inspiration for his menu. Embrace the opportunity to learn something new about your food and the people preparing it. ExperimentThink of the city's open air food markets like playgrounds for chefs: unlike at their brick and mortar storefronts, these temporary markets are an opportunity for them to experiment with new menu offerings with very little risk. Say so long to all your culinary inhibitions and take advantage of unusual seasonal ingredients, new cooking traditions, and eclectic menu offerings while they last! Who knows: you may just be biting into the next big thing! This article was written by Angela Brown, a freelance writer and a co-owner of Mayhem & Stout, a New York City-based artisan sandwich company. She is the voice behind the food blog The-Chefs-Wife.com, where she writes weekly narratives inspired by her experiences owning and operating a piece of the NYC food community.
5 Travel Shows You’ve Never Seen—But Should!
Anthony Bourdain is hardly a newcomer to the travel scene—his No Reservations food travelogue has been a television mainstay for over half a decade—so it’s no surprise to see his latest jaunt, The Layover, getting lots of media coverage. Bourdain’s program will see him seeking out new people, cultures and (of course) foods within the small window of time afforded him by airport layovers in Asia, Europe and the United States. The annals of television travel programs contain a number of icons, of which Bourdain is only one example. There’s Michael Palin, the Monty Python alumnus who has traveled the world in a number of television shows and books; David Attenborough, the naturalist filmmaker whose gravelly British accent should be instantly familiar to fans of the BBC’s Blue Planet and Human Planet; and a collection of contemporary pop-travel shows from The Amazing Race to Wild On! But these popular examples are only one side of the travel genre. What of the obscure, the low budget, the un–syndicated? Away from the big names and networks, there are travel treasures to be found for every category of viewer. For the Road Warrior: Forget those cross–country family roadtrips to the Hoover Dam: how about two–wheeling across the entire globe? Actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman did just that for their 2004 motorbike travelogue, Long Way Round, which took them 20,000 miles from London eastward to New York. Their trip spanned a huge range of environs, from the traffic gridlock of Rome to Mongolian deserts and Russian marshland along the fabled Road of Bones. The trip of a lifetime? Nope—in 2007 the two linked up again for another monster bike ride, this one the “Long Way Down” from the northern tip of Scotland down to Cape Town, South Africa. Where to watch it: Both trips are available on DVD from Netflix, as well as on the Long Way Round online store. For the Traveler with an Iron Stomach: Bourdain might crunch into some interesting cuisine in his wanderings, but for a real look at the dark side of travel food, follow Riku and Tunna on their Madventures. These two Finnish guys travel alone—no camera crew, support vehicles, or huge budgets—and wheedle their way into some of the world’s most exotic cultures and locales. In–between braving drug–fueled shamanic rituals in the Amazon and nuclear fallout in the ghost towns around Chernobyl, Riku and Tunna draw straws for the privilege of sampling some unusual eats—among them monkey brains, blood-gorged leeches, and human placenta. Where to watch it: DVDs of Madventures’ third season are available on the Madventures online store; previous seasons are currently sold out. For the Transit Enthusiast: If you’re the type who would rather take a tuk–tuk than a taxi, try out Charley Boorman’s By Any Means. Eschewing airplanes except when absolutely necessary, Boorman travels from Ireland to Australia (and Australia to Japan in the second series) using local transport. The program’s hook is more than a gimmick: from the windows of Philippine jeepneys and backs of elephants in Nepal, Boorman and his crew observe a world of cultures far removed from luxury cruises and first–class amenities. Where to watch it: Unfortunately for American viewers, both series are currently available only as region–locked DVDs on Amazon’s UK site. Another Boorman program, Race to Dakar—which details Boorman’s attempt to complete the cross–Saharan Dakar Rally—is available on Netflix. For the Backpacker: Three friends and a world of possibilities. It sounds cliché, but Departures’ simple premise—“the revelations of two travelers who strive to find themselves and new perspectives”—has fueled three seasons of globetrotting action. Along with their cameraman, Andre, wanderers Scott and Justin ride reindeer in Siberia, climb into an active volcano in Papua New Guinea, and feed feral hyenas in Ethiopia. The team is currently working on a new travel program, Descending, which will focus on the world’s great dive sites. Where to watch it: All three seasons of Departures are available on the show’s online store. Halogen TV also airs reruns. For the Do–Gooder: We hear lots of stories about how inconsiderate travelers contribute to despoiling the world. That’s why Explore22 is so refreshing: it’s a youth–oriented series that focuses on how travelers can discover and help struggling communities around the globe. Like the cast, the series is still young, but viewers have already been taken to Haiti for earthquake relief and to Peru, where the team joined a construction project to erect a new school. Where to watch it: Put down the TV remote: Explore22 is web–only, and the first few episodes are available for free viewing on the show’s website. Travel shows are no substitute for real experiences, but a good program can help illustrate the world’s wonders. Which travel shows have inspired your own wanderlust? —Ryan Murphy MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Top Budget Travel Destinations for 2012 Solo Travel Websites Worth Checking Out Learn a New Language for Under $100
Budget Travel's Coolest Small Town Results 2012? It’s a Tie!
In this season of elections and campaigns in politics, Hollywood, American Idol–land, and beyond, the closest contest of all may well have been Budget Travel magazine’s 7th "Coolest Small Towns." It was so close, in fact, that we have declared a tie between Beaufort, N.C, and Hammondsport, N.Y. Hammondsport and Beaufort had been locked in fierce battle for much of the month-long vote, seesawing back and forth for the top spot. In the final hours of online voting, toward midnight of Jan. 31, the traffic was so intense that it crashed the Budget Travel website. The site had been programmed to cut off voting at the stroke of midnight and declare a winner, and at precisely 12 a.m. it did—picking Beaufort, which was technically ahead by a few votes at that time. However, since voters in several parts of the country had been locked out due to the site crash, Budget Travel editors decided it was impossible to determine which town would have won had all things been equal for all voters. "We have to declare a tie," said Lisa Schneider, the general manager for digital products. "It’s the only thing that’s fair under these circumstances." In the end, more than 360,000 votes were cast, with Beaufort and Hammondsport receiving 36.2 and 36.0 percent of the vote respectively. Third place went to Weaverville, Calif., with 13.0 percent. The contest is open to towns with populations under 10,000. Last year’s winner was Lewisburg, W.Va. This year’s nail-biter was helped in no small part by the rising influence of social media networking as a virtual get–out–the–vote tool. The BT Coolest Small Towns page earned over 70,000 likes on Facebook and was Tweeted more than 3,300 times (including a Tweet by best-selling novelist Nicholas Sparks that said: "Everyone please vote Beaufort, NC! If it wins I will giveaway a few signed novels!" Sparks lives in New Bern, N.C.). On Facebook, readers and fans from all over the country banded together, proclaiming their love and support for their favorite small towns, sharing videos of their towns, and even dedicating their Facebook profile pictures to the cause (we're talking to you, Kim Price, Erin Cassidy, and Morgen McLaughlin). Mindful of the bragging rights—not to mention the potential marketing payoff—officials in several of the nominated towns campaigned tirelessly for their home bases. Local mayors gave repeated newspaper interviews. "There were 647 towns that were nominated and we made the top ten!" said Beaufort mayor Richard Stanley. New York State Senator Thomas F. O'Mara released a statement in support of Hammondsport, the only town in New York that made the top ten. Local media in all the top–10 towns joined in the chorus, sometimes gently, sometimes not. "No offense to the current leader, Hammondsport, N.Y., but Weaverville has a charm all its own and certainly deserves the notice," read an editorial in the Record Searchlight newspaper in Redding, Calif. But mostly, the towns were just grateful for the attention, no matter how the race finished. "It's an honor to be recognized in the top 10," said Jerome, Ariz. Mayor Jay Kinsella. Jerome finished in 8th place, with almost 5,600 votes—not bad for a town with only 378 residents. —Marc Peyser and Kaeli Conforti MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Why Don’t Americans Take More Vacation? To Go or Not to Go: 11 Places With a Bad Rap Caribbean Deals You Don't Want to Miss
15 Places Kids Should See Before 15: Nominate Now!
Last spring we revealed the 15 Places Your Kids Should See Before 15—a collection of important American landmarks debated and researched by our editorial staff—and the feedback we received was interesting. Some of you agreed with us, while others sounded off on our facebook and twitter pages, leaving comments saying we'd forgotten to leave out seemingly obvious places, and urging us to reconsider our choices and adjust our list accordingly. Now it's your turn to set the record straight. This year, we're giving you—our readers and fans—the chance to choose. Visit our official nominations page from now until Tuesday, February 21st, and make a case for a place you think every kid should see before they turn 15—whether it's a national park, monument, famous landmark, museum, or another memorable spot from your own childhood. Choose a place that is fun, educational, and would be especially memorable for a young child. If the place you're thinking of is mentioned already, vote "thumbs up" to make it go higher in the list and leave a comment about why you were going to nominate it. Be careful not to nominate a place that has already won in the past—you can double–check by clicking on the previous winners link on our nominations page—as these places will not be counted in the final tally. So far, the popular choices seem to overwhelmingly be national parks, followed by monuments and museums. Entire cities—like St. Augustine, Florida, and Boston, Mass.,—were nominated this year, as were little known places like the National Cowboy Hall of Fame. Space travel seems to be of interest this year as well, with the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and Kennedy Space Center both bringing in lots of votes. Don't wait much longer to voice your opinion—voting ends on Tuesday, February 21st. We'll be posting the results in March, so don't forget to check back! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 5 Easy Overnight Adventures for Kids A Family Field Trip Around the World Best Reader Tips for Flying with an Infant