Right now at Budget Travel, we're busily putting the final touches on our September 2010 issue. I've been invested in one story in particular, our annual feature on the "Coolest Small Towns in America," and I couldn't be more excited about how it's turning out.
What's made this story really exceptional—from all the other gazillions I've ever worked on—is how impressively engaged you, our readers, have been from the get-go.
Last year, when we asked you to nominate your favorite towns in the country with a population of less than 10,000, you answered with 147 intriguing, enticing picks. Our editorial team had a tough time narrowing that list down, but managed to select 20 contenders.
From there, we asked you to pick your favorite, and the response was through the roof. We received a whopping 439,411 online votes. Our September issue will reveal the winners.
Over the past month, I've gotten the chance to talk with some residents from each of our top picks, and one thing has really struck me: Every single local I've talked to—from the chef who recently moved to Bandon, Ore., to the mayor of Cuero, Tex.—all of them are utterly, entirely convinced that their tiny town is the best in the country, if not the whole world.
That kind of enthusiasm is contagious, and now, my roster of dream trips has shifted from the far-flung and exotic (Patagonia can wait) to the tiny, three-stoplight towns across the U.S.
I'm already eyeing a free Saturday this summer to take the hourlong train ride from Manhattan up to Nyack, N.Y., to go antiquing, and my next weekend-long escape from the city is very likely going to be to Ely, Minn., to take a canoe trip in its North Woods backyard and go pub-hopping in town afterward.
The race has already begun for our 2011 "America's Coolest Small Towns" contest. I, for one, know I'll be watching the nominations closely—I'm eager to get more travel ideas!