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We Dare You to Visit These Hauntingly Beautiful Montana Ghost Towns
Sure, you know Montana as the home of two of America's most famous national parks. But there's another side to Big Sky Country that's decidedly, well, haunting. Montana's history is largely based on the gold and silver deposits that lured miners here in the 1860s, hoping to strike it rich. Boomtowns sprang up providing the services they needed--lodging, saloons, schools, general stores, livery stables, and churches. And, for the troublemakers who couldn’t behave by the code of the West, there was a jail or two. This history remains frozen in time at many of Montana’s ghost towns where, thanks to preservation efforts, you can wander through the settlements. Some of the towns are still occupied, while others are abandoned, and, according to locals, ghosts of the past can occasionally be seen and felt moving about. Bannack (Donnie Sexton) When gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek in 1862, the town of Bannack got its start as miners arrived hoping to strike it rich. Today, with over 50 buildings still standing, it is one of the best-preserved ghost towns in the US as well as a State Park. Town tours, living history weekends, ghost walks in October, and ice skating in winter make Bannack a year-round destination. Bannack Days, the third weekend in July, is a lively celebration of a bygone era, with demonstrations of pioneer life, reenactments, gold panning, music, wagon rides, and candle-making. Also, be on high alert: there's a likelihood of a stagecoach holdup by would-be robbers looking for the loot. Elkhorn (Donnie Sexton) Peter Wyes, a Swiss immigrant, discovered a vein of silver back in 1870 at what is now Elkhorn Ghost Town State Park. In its heyday, the town of Elkhorn was home to 2,500 people, many of them immigrant families. While there are many ramshackle buildings scattered about, Gillian Hall and Fraternity Hall are the town's showpieces. These wooden structures were the heart of the community where the locals gathered for dances, prize fights, graduations, and theater productions. Various fraternal groups, such as the Masons and Oddfellows, used the second floor of Fraternity Hall for their meetings. A cemetery tucked into the mountains is the resting place of many children who died from the diphtheria epidemic that ravaged the town between 1884 and 1889. Garnet (Donnie Sexton) Named for the semi-precious ruby stone found in the area, the town of Garnet sprung up in 1898, a year after gold was discovered in the Garnet Range by miner Sam Ritchey. The town haphazardly grew to 1,000 strong with four hotels, four general stores, two barber shops, a union hall, a school, a butcher shop, and 13 saloons, and numerous other businesses. Today, Garnet, which is located about 30 miles east of Missoula off Highway 200, is open year-round. Just keep in mind that winter access is only possible via snowmobiling or cross-country skiing. Granite (Donnie Sexton) The skeletal remains of Granite Ghost Town, at one time home to over 3,000 miners and their families, and business owners, sit above the delightful town of Philipsburg. The town got its start in 1872 when a prospector named Holland discovered silver. In its heyday, the Granite yielded $40 million worth of silver, making it the richest silver mine on earth. Bi-Metallic, a second mine in the area, yielded about $12 million worth of silver. But the town had its challenges. The soil was decomposed granite, which made it impossible to dig wells, so water had to be transported in. The mining came to a halt in 1893 when the demand for silver plunged. Nevada City (Donnie Sexton) With news of gold being found in Alder Gulch in 1863, the sister towns of Nevada City and Virginia City sprung up and would eventually swell to a population of 10,000 people. By the end of the first three seasons, about $30 million worth of gold was removed from the Gulch within the first three seasons. Throughout the 18th and 19th century, it is estimated that this area in Southwest Montana yielded $100 million worth of gold. Today Nevada City is an outdoor museum with over 100 buildings, and thousands of artifacts which tell the story of Montana’s early mining days. Entrance into the Nevada City Museum takes visitors through the Nevada City Music Hall, a colorful antique collection of automated music machines, many of which are still in working order. Virginia City (Donnie Sexton) Virginia City is both a ghost town and a lively summer destination, complete with historical accommodations, eateries, stagecoach tours, and theater productions. Every August, the Grand Victorian Ball is an occasion to dress up in period costume and parade across the boardwalks of Virginia City before heading to the dance hall to two step with the Virginia Reel, Spanish Waltz, and other period dances. Boot Hill Cemetery, overlooking the town of Virginia City, is the final resting place of five road agents, who were hanged by the Vigilantes on January 14, 1864. The criminals' notorious leader, Sheriff Henry Plummer, was both lawman and outlaw famously responsible for orchestrating the robberies of stage coaches. Pony (Donnie Sexton) Pony, set against the mountain backdrop of the Tobacco Root Mountains, is unique in that it's a ghost town as well as home to about 100 residents and the Pony Bar, the only place for miles to get a cold one. Like many of the ghost towns in southwest Montana, the discovery of gold led to its creation. From 1860 to 1870, it was home to over 5,000 people who settled in to strike it rich or provide the services to miners. The town’s name comes from one of these miners, Tecumseh Smith, who was nicknamed "Pony" because of his small stature. The most notable building in Pony is the twenty stamp mill constructed in stone. Virgelle (Donnie Sexton) The homestead-era town of Virgelle is located a short distance from the Missouri River in Central Montana. Two buildings remain, the Virgelle Mercantile and the Bank Building, owned by the town’s two residents. The Mercantile was built in 1912 by Virgil and Ella Blankenbaker, who had moved to Montana and settled in the area. The Mercantile was originally a general store serving the needs of local settlers, with upstairs used as boarding rooms for those working the spur line railroad that followed along the river. Today, the restored Mercantile is an antiques store on the first floor, with guest rooms upstairs. Six homesteader cabins, all from within a 40-mile radius of Virgelle, have been brought in for additional cozy accommodations.
Get to Know: Nevada City, CA, One of the Coolest Small Towns in America 2017
Nevada City, CA, is no. 3 on Budget Travel’s list of the 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2017. When I visited Nevada City in July, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, I loved strolling up and down Broad Street, where cool boutiques and unique shops rub elbows with local ice cream, BBQ, and historical sites. When I mentioned to locals (who range from families who trace their roots here back several generations to recent transplants and weekend warriors from the Bay Area and Silicon Valley) that Budget Travel has named their town one of the coolest in America, I generally got one of two reactions: A high-five and a thanks, or a whispered, “Please don’t tell everybody about us.” Well, the secret is out. Nevada City and its surrounding area are definitely having a moment. Just a few days after my visit, the California Arts Council named the region the Grass Valley-Nevada City Cultural District, honoring its evolution from a gold-mining hub in the mid-19th century to its reinvention, starting in the 1960s, as a cultural hot spot that draws artists, writers, and technology innovators. Where gold-hungry miners once panned, culture now thrives. We love Nevada City for its music and art, food, and the surrounding rivers, lakes, and nearby mountains. I found perfect burgers and wings at Bistro 221, along with local craft beer and lively conversation. Up the street, the Nevada City Chocolate Shoppe serves heaping scoops of great ice cream made by locals with deep roots in the community. Music lovers flock to the Miners Foundry for live acts, the town is the epicenter of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, devoted to nature and adventure filmmakers, and with incredible hills, switchbacks, and scenery, the Nevada City Classic is one of the, well, coolest bicycle races in the U.S. The Miners Inn, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member, in nearby Grass Valley, pays homage to the region’s history with a decidedly more upscale welcome than those 19th-century miners ever got. A grand lobby hosts cocktail events for guests, and the hotel’s beautiful woodwork and comfortably appointed rooms are a real treat. My wife and I really enjoyed our gorgeous room, and we loved chatting with the staff about the Grass Valley-Nevada City area, its history, and their recommendations about food and fun.
Celebrate the 4th of July in One of the Coolest Small Towns in America
#1 ASBURY PARK, NEW JERSEYFireworks over the beach and boardwalk. If you want to witness the fireworks “hailin’ over Little Eden,” that Bruce Springsteen commemorated in his classic song “4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” book your spot at the historic Paramount Theater’s fireworks viewing party overlooking the beach. Asbury Park is an easy road trip from New York or Philadelphia, and we named the Jersey Shore town the “Coolest” in America 2017 for its revitalized Boardwalk; great shopping, dining, contemporary art, and views of one of the East Coast’s most beautiful beaches; and its welcoming, diverse vibe and LGBTQ-friendly legacy. #2 BISBEE, ARIZONASouthwestern art, history, and quirkiness. Two words: coaster races. Bisbee celebrates American Independence with its own quirky tradition, with mini-race-cars coasting down its main drag. After that, the town gets more traditional with an old-timey parade and fireworks display. Bisbee is a cool road trip from Tucson. It’s an awesome cross between a 19th-century copper-mining town and a hip artist colony. Bisbee’s narrow streets evoke the Old West, with some of the best vintage architecture in the U.S., but the town’s vibe is decidedly contemporary, with galleries, craft beer, art walks, funky boutiques, and an aesthetic that happily embraces the word “weird.” #3 NEVADA CITY, CALIFORNIACounty-wide celebrations, including an all-day fair. An all-day fair, a parade featuring vintage cars, and evening fireworks are on tap all around Nevada City, a cool road trip from San Francisco Bay Area or Sacramento. Nevada City may be a little off the beaten path (60 miles northeast of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains), but residents value the Gold Country town for its music and art scene, food, and proximity to some of California's amazing rivers, lakes, and the Sierras. For live music, locals swear by the Miners Foundry. For a Sundance feel without the hordes, savor the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. And if you're hankering for a pro cycling race and don't plan on dropping in on the Tour de France anytime soon, hightail it to the Nevada City Classic.
Meet the Coolest Small Town in America 2017
Budget Travel’s mission is to inspire and inform you to see more for less. For avid travelers, that means road trips, national and state parks, great beaches, great cuisine that won’t break the bank, and lodgings for under $200/night. It means discovering lesser-known destinations that are just waiting around the next turn in the road. And it means being open to the cultural and ethnic diversity, the creative energy, and unparalleled natural beauty that have defined America for more than two centuries. Our Coolest Small Towns in America program is an editor-curated celebration - inspired by thousands of reader suggestions and photos shared across platforms over the past few weeks - of the communities across the U.S. that we feel best exhibit the qualities we prize. From the Jersey Shore’s “coolest comeback” to an arts colony near the Mexican border to a California gem in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, every one of the Coolest Small Towns in America 2017 is a one-of-a-kind vacation waiting to happen. If you’re among the 80 percent of Americans who plan to take a road trip this summer, add some of these towns to your must-see list. READ: "Best Budget Destinations in America, Part 1: The Northeast" Leading the pack is the Coolest Small Town in America 2017, Asbury Park, New Jersey, an easy road trip from New York or Philadelphia. The coolest comeback in America may be right here in Asbury Park - the revitalized Boardwalk offers great shopping, dining, and views of one of the East Coast’s most beautiful beaches. This beach town that helped launch Bruce Springsteen is, not surprisingly, a music mecca - check out shows at the legendary Stone Pony, the Paramount Theater and Convention Hall, and other venues. We love Asbury Park’s cultural diversity, welcoming vibe, and year-round calendar of events: Fourth of July fireworks, Oysterfest, Zombie Walk, and so much more. Here’s the complete list of our 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2017. We’ll be celebrating each town in depth in an upcoming story that takes a close look at the people and places that make each one of these communities so special: 1. Asbury Park, New Jersey 2. Bisbee, Arizona 3. Nevada City, California 4. Chatham, Massachusetts 5. Mountain View, Arkansas 6. Cannon Beach, Oregon 7. Philipsburg, Montana 8. Milford, Pennsylvania 9. Glens Falls, New York 10. Indianola, Mississippi READ: "Best Budget Destinations in America, Part II: The West"
America's Coolest Small Towns 2014
#1 Berlin, MD (Population: 4,563) If you found yourself admiring the scenery in the films Tuck Everlasting and The Runaway Bride and thought to yourself, why can't I live somewhere as beautiful as that, you might consider visiting Berlin, MD, where both movies were shot. Not far from Maryland's teeming Ocean City and gorgeous Assateague Island, Berlin's downtown is a National Register Historic District and plays host to fun events all year long, from the regular farmers market to one-of-a-kind bashes like the Berlin Fiddlers Convention, New Year's fireworks, Victorian Christmas (complete with horse-drawn carriages), and, yes, even bathtub races. The town draws beach lovers, hikers, kayakers, and bird watchers-and history aficionados will want to stop by Merry Sherwood Plantation, Taylor House Museum, and the historic downtown. #2 Cazenovia, NY (Population: 2,756) If Central New York isn't already on your travel radar, get ready for a big, and very pleasant, surprise! Cazenovia, on the shores of Cazenovia Lake, may make you feel like you've discovered the perfect small town you thought didn't really exist. Start with a stroll down Albany Street to get a sense of the community's long history, with architectural styles dating back to New York's colonial days. The Scottish-themed Brae Loch Inn only increases your sense of having escaped the "real world" (or at least its cares), and the inn serves an exceptional Sunday brunch. #3 Buckhannon, WV (Population: 5,645) Whether you're rafting down the Buckhannon River, delving into local Civil War History at the Latham House, or tucking into a "hot belly" BBQ pork sandwich at CJ Maggies American Grill, Buckhannon is a charming host. Smack dab in the heart of West Virginia, Buckhannon received the most nominations of any town in this year's Coolest Small Towns preliminary round. With an artsy Main Street (with specialty shops, antiques, and galleries), historic downtown, and a paradise for nature and wildlife lovers just outside of town, Buckhannon just may be "the little town that could." #4 Travelers Rest, SC (Population: 4,750) Travelers Rest gets its travel-mag-ready moniker from the pioneer days, when travelers followed a trail dotted with the occasional tavern or inn. But the town offers not only restful, comfy lodgings but also world-class outdoor activities. Nearby state parks and bike trails (including the legendary 13.5-mile Swamp Rabbit Trail) basically invite you stay outdoors all day long. TR's vibrant downtown is the place to browse for antiques, sip from artisanal coffee, and indulge in Southern faves like BBQ, fried chicken, and waffles. We congratulate Travelers Rest on its succeeding in making the Coolest Small Towns list of 15 finalists for the second year running! #5 Mathews, VA (Population: 8,884) Mathews is not just a town but also Virginia's second smallest county, with just 84 square miles and no traffic lights. But we know "small" and "cool" go together like beaches and cottages. Speaking of which, Mathews includes miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline that make it a prime summer destination for beachgoers, bird watchers, cyclists, fishermen, and kayakers. The General Store of your small-town dreams has been converted into a visitor center that's also devoted to the work of local artists. Don't miss Point Comfort Lighthouse, and the overflowing seafood (including fresh fish, blue crab, clams, oysters, and mussels). #6 Nevada City, CA (Population: 3,046) Nevada City may be a little off the beaten path (60 miles northeast of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains), but residents value the Gold Country town for its music and art scene, food, and proximity to some of California's amazing rivers, lakes, and the Sierras. For live music, locals swear by the Miners Foundry. For a Sundance feel without the hordes, savor the Wild and Scenic Film Festival. And if you're hankering for a pro cycling race and don't plan on dropping in on the Tour de France anytime soon, hightail it to the Nevada City Classic. #7 Rockport, TX (Population: 9.133) Never heard of Rockport? Well, we hadn't either, which just means it's now not only a candidate for Coolest Small Town but also for one of our best-kept secrets. Here, artists, saltwater fishermen, and birdwatchers have been lured to Texas's warm Gulf coast. That combination of activities and interests makes Rockport that kind of town where people return summer after summer for vacation; and many of them eventually decide to relocate permanently to this friendly place. Rockport is also home to the Texas Maritime Museum, the Rockport Center for the Arts (with changing monthly exhibits by local artists), and of course beautiful Rockport Beach. #8 Estes Park, CO (Population: 6,017) When your town is the headquarters for Rocky Mountain National Park, you've got a pretty good head start on other cool burghs. Skiing and snowshoeing the surrounding mountains is a must in winter, and rafting, fishing, and wildlife viewing are on tap in warmer months (if you're lucky, you'll catch a glimpse of the iconic bighorn sheep with its curved horns). Speaking of "on tap," the area abounds with craft breweries and excellent wineries, plus world-class dishes prepared by imaginative chefs that belie the small-town environment. The best news of all may be the, in the wake of last fall's devastating flooding, 90 percent of the area's lodging, restaurants, and attractions are open for business. (Estes Park invites you to "Stay Strong," with proceeds from your stay helping to fund recovery efforts.) #9 Galena, IL (Population: 3,400) Nestled among rolling hills along Illinois's Galena River, this bustling town has a thriving downtown with unique boutiques, antique shops, art galleries, and restaurants. Visit one of the area's three local wineries, hike the easy, beautiful hills just outside town, kayak the gentle rivers, and golf at one of the state's most prized courses. Even non-locals find Galena's history fascinating, with must-sees like the Ulysses Grant Home and Museum, where the Civil War general and 18th president once lived (the museum's exhibits are dedicated to Grant's life and major battles he was involved in, such as the siege of Vicksburg). #10 Elkin, NC (Population: 4,024) In the lovely Yadkin Valley Wine Region of North Carolina, Elkin is about one hour north of Charlotte in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here, you'll find just about every outdoor activity you might like, including hiking, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, bird watching, and cycling. But when you're ready to relax after a day in the wild, the town's galleries, historic sites, shops, theaters, wine trails, and restaurants that offer a wide range of tastes for everyone, from fine dining and gourmet sweets to an old-fashioned soda shoppe with "world famous hotdogs." Fun happenings include the Yadkin Valley Wine Festival, the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival, Elkin Fiddlers music, and fantastic Cruise events.
Berlin, MD, Leads Our Coolest Small Town Voting!
Congrats to the folks in Berlin, MD, who have organized a great early turnout in our Coolest Small Town 2014 voting! After Buckhannon, WV, shot to the top in the early days of voting last weekend, Berlin steadily built a lead. While we consider every one of our 15 contenders cool towns, the final results are now in the hands of folks like you all over the U.S. (and, really, all over the world) who visit us each day to cast a vote for their Coolest pick. In past years, we've seen incredibly devoted boosters organize worldwide campaigns to propel towns like Lititz, PA; Beaufort, NC; and Hammondsport, NY, to the toppermost of the list. Voting continues till 12:00 a.m. on Tuesday February 25 (that's more than four weeks away), and you're allowed to vote once each day. Got a fave town on the list? Vote early, vote often! And check back here at This Just In for regular updates. As of Sunday night, here's how our 15 contenders stood: 1. Berlin, MD 2. Buckhannon, WV 3. Mathews, VA 4. Travelers Rest, SC 5. Cazenovia, NY 6. Rockport, TX 7. Kelleys Island, OH 8. Galena, IL 9. Nevada City, CA 10. Elkin, NC 11. Estes Park, CO 12. Deadwood, SD 13. Pahoa, HI 14. Huntington Woods, MI 15. Everglades City, FL
More Places to go
Nevada County is a county in the Sierra Nevada of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 98,764. The county seat is Nevada City. Nevada County comprises the Truckee-Grass Valley, CA Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Sacramento-Roseville, CA Combined Statistical Area, part of the Mother Lode Country.
Placer County ( PLASS-ərr; Spanish for "sand deposit"), officially the County of Placer, is a county in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 348,432. The county seat is Auburn.Placer County is included in the Greater Sacramento metropolitan area. It is in both the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada regions, in what is known as the Gold Country. The county stretches roughly 65 miles from Sacramento's suburbs at Roseville to the Nevada border and the shore of Lake Tahoe.
The Coast Ranges of California span 400 miles (644 km) from Del Norte or Humboldt County, California, south to Santa Barbara County. The other three coastal California mountain ranges are the Transverse Ranges, Peninsular Ranges and the Klamath Mountains.Physiographically, they are a section of the larger Pacific Border province, which in turn is part of the larger Pacific Mountain System physiographic division. UNESCO has included the "California Coast Ranges Biosphere Reserve" in its Man and the Biosphere Programme of World Network of Biosphere Reserves since 1983.
Squaw Valley (also known as Olympic Valley) is an unincorporated community located in Placer County, California northwest of Tahoe City along California State Highway 89 on the banks of the Truckee River near Lake Tahoe. It is home to Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley Ski Resort), the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Olympic Valley is the smallest resort area to host the Olympic Winter Games.