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10 Charming American Towns That Aren't Famous Yet (But Will Be Soon)

The charm and beauty of these places is undeniable, but the secret's been out for decades.


By Stephen Heyman, Travel + Leisure

Move over, Woodstock. See ya, Sedona. All across the country, picturesque hamlets like Thomas, West Virginia, a former coal town nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, and Tubac, Arizona, a frontier village turned artist colony in the Sonoran Desert, have begun attracting first-time visitors.  
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Lists of America's greatest small towns tend to consist of the usual suspects: Ojai, California; Sedona, Arizona; Taos, New Mexico; Ketchum, Idaho; Marfa, Texas; Woodstock and Hudson, New York; Mystic, Connecticut; and so on. The charm and beauty of these places is undeniable, but the secret's been out for decades. But one of the unexpected byproducts of the renaissance of America's midsize cities has been the emergence of a fresh crop of lovely little towns that have undergone appealing makeovers that make them ideal for a weekend excursion. Here are 10 of the best new contenders to American small-town greatness.

Thomas, West Virginia (population 600)


The funky music lodge the Purple Fiddle launched the rebirth of this surprisingly beautiful old coal town buried deep in the Allegheny Mountains, which now draws weekenders from Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh. Its main street, formerly deserted, now contains a third-wave coffeehouse, a vintage-record store, a craft brewery, art galleries, and smartly curated antiques shops.

Salida, Colorado (population 5,300)


This laid-back hot-springs town and ski village in the Rockies three hours south of Denver, has become a year-round retreat for artsy, free-spirited folks who would never go to Vail, even if they could afford it. For visitors, there's the Amigo Motor Lodge, a swanky Southwestern "boutique motel."
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High Falls, New York (population 627)


Once called the Williamsburg of the Hudson Valley by the New York Times, this tiny hamlet (where Marc Chagall lived and painted in the 1940s) attracts New Yorkers with its hip vintage stores and urbane comfort food at restaurants like Kitchenette, opened in 2014 by team of restaurateurs previously based in Tribeca.

Tubac, Arizona (population 1,200)


An hour south of Tucson, this frontier village and artists' colony attracts transplants from Los Angeles with its traditional pottery shops, well-preserved Spanish fortress, and beautiful nature trails. At night, locals congregate over prickly pear margaritas at The Goods, a much-loved canteen.
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Lostine, Oregon (population 300)


The luxury furniture designer Tyler Hays raised the profile of this farming community in the foothills of the Wallowa Mountains when he revamped the old country store M. Crow & Co., which now sells collectible furniture and artisanal knickknacks alongside meat, vegetables, and hardware. Now enough people make the trek out from Portland (five hours away) to support a high-concept hostelry, the Kickstarter-funded Jennings Hotel, in an old brick building in the neighboring town of Joseph.

North Adams, Massachusetts (population 13,533)


In the years since the 1999 opening of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (better known as MASS MoCA) in a converted complex of old industrial buildings, this small town has gradually reinvented itself as a Berkshires-Based cultural hub that is home to a smart set of galleries, bookshops, cafes, and live-workspaces for artists. The Porches Inn, a boutique hotel in a collection of 19th-century Victorian row houses, is just steps from the prestigious museum.
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Paducah, Kentucky (population 25,000)


Recently named a UNESCO "Creative City," this little town two hours from Nashville and three hours from Louisville presents an interesting case of urban renewal on a small scale: as recently as the 1980s, its classic main street was mostly vacant, but following $100 million in investment and an artist-relocation program, the historic district now generates $200 million in annual tourist revenue. The 1857, a 10-room boutique hotel in a historic building within view of the Ohio River, is a testament to the town's reinvention.

Lititz, Pennsylvania (population 9,388)


Located in Lancaster County's Amish Country, Lititz (named after a castle in Bohemia) claims to be "America's coolest small town." It makes a decent case with a bevy of choice antique shops and solid eateries along its tree-lined streets, like the Tomato Pie Cafe, a lunch spot in an old trolley stop (the original soda counter has been turned into an espresso bar).
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McCloud, California (population 1,101)


This old mill town on the southern slope of Mount Shasta, in far northern California has become popular with all manner of nature lovers, from spelunkers to fly fishermen. It's surrounded by more than 1 million acres of national forest and has a busy downtown that's full not only of bike shops and camping outfitters but also great restaurants and cafes.
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Mount Dora, Florida (population 12,534)


That Old Florida feeling reigns supreme in this historic village about an hour north of Orlando, which is surrounded by a chain of about 1,400 small lakes. Dine on top-notch Floribbean cuisine from a James Beard Award-winning chef at 1921 by Norman Van Aken, and take in the retro atmosphere is from a rocking chair on the porch of the Victorian-era Lakeside Inn, the oldest continually operating hotel in the state, which has been carefully renovated by a new owner in recent years.

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Travel Magazine: 10 Charming American Towns That Aren't Famous Yet (But Will Be Soon)
10 Charming American Towns That Aren't Famous Yet (But Will Be Soon)
The charm and beauty of these places is undeniable, but the secret's been out for decades.
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