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3 Super Cool Towns
Longing for small-town life with an edge? Then you won’t want to miss these unique vacation spots.
What do Lewisburg, West Virginia; Ely, Minnesota; and Cayucos, California, have in common? Each was the number one pick by voters in Budget Travel Magazine’s Coolest Small Town competition. The contest, which allows online visitors to select their favorite small U.S. town, doesn’t reward the quaint or the cute. Although they’re small, these towns are nothing like Mayberry. They’re hip little burgs with personality plus. Although each has a population under 10,000, they’re packed with fun things to do. So if you’re looking for an exciting small-town vacation, check out these cool U.S. towns.
The next time you’re looking for a great vacation spot, think small.
The Coolest Small Town of 2011
Lewisburg, which is located in southern West Virginia’s beautiful Greenbrier River Valley, was voted the coolest small town of 2011. Although its population is only 3,830, Lewisburg has a wonderfully diverse collection of unique shopping opportunities, from quirky art galleries and antique stores to outdoor outfitters, yoga studios and gourmet cooking shops. It also offers a wide variety of eating establishments that visitors will love, from roadside barbeque joints to fine restaurants like the renowned Food & Friends, which was featured on the Food Channel.
Lewisburg is living proof that you can find big entertainment even in a small locale. The little town has a movie theatre and a playhouse, as well as its own Carnegie Hall. Music, food and fun are staples of life here, especially on the first Friday of every month. That’s when area businesses host the aptly named First Fridays, which features live music, free food and other entertainments on the streets of downtown Lewisburg. Lewisburg’s Chocolate Festival is another celebration both locals and tourists enjoy. The multi-day spring celebration includes tastings, cooking demos, contests and more—even a 10k race for charity.
Outdoor enthusiasts will also find Lewisburg an ideal small-town vacation spot. It’s located not far from the hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and boating and fishing opportunities for which WV is well known. Well-maintained trails for hikers and equestrians, as well as cyclists, are located in nearby Pipestem Resort State Park and Greenbrier National Forest. If you’re in the market for a lake vacation, Summersville Lake is also nearby. Summersville Lake is the largest lake in WV and a popular fishing and boating spot. Lewisburg is also near the Gauley River, where bungee jumpers do their thing off the Gauley River Bridge every fall on Bridge Day.
The Coolest Small Town of 2010
Ely, Minnesota, was voted the coolest small town of 2010. Like Lewisburg, it’s another great vacation spot for outdoor enthusiasts, especially those who love to spend time on the water. Ely has even fewer residents than Lewisburg. It also has a more rustic look. In fact, it’s little more than a crisscross of cabins, pubs and shops. You won’t find a Wal-Mart in Ely!
Located just five hours outside Minneapolis, Ely offers many of the recreational activities that lake lovers like—canoeing, camping and fishing—as well as many of the charms of village life, including pubs and microbreweries where visitors and residents can socialize over a pint. Try your luck fly fishing, take a tramp in the woods, or simply relax on the porch of one of the town’s bed and breakfasts. The views of the nearby boreal forest and lakes that make up Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, a million-acre land preserve, are stunning. The town also offers shopping. Like everything else in Ely, it too is oriented toward outdoor living. In fact, the small town boasts more than 25 outdoor outfitters!
The Coolest Small Town of 2009
In 2009, Cayucos, California, was voted the number one coolest small town in the USA, and the small beach town is still cool today. The atmosphere? Relaxed. The scenery? Beautiful!
And the amusements? Definitely for beach lovers. Located between San Francisco and Las Angeles, Cayucos offers serious beach fun, especially for surfers. It’s also perfect for gourmands, who will enjoy the wonderful food and drink for which Cayucos is well known—tasty organic coffees, cookies topped in sea salt, and homey meals served up in charming bed and breakfasts like the Cass House Inn.