8. Cooperstown, NY
New Yorkers know Coopertown as a village—”America’s most perfect village” to be clear—which makes it sound even smaller and ideal, doesn’t it?
Cooperstown is a 3 1/2 hour drive from midtown NYC, which makes it an ideal spot for city dwellers to shed their weekday skins and head for a vacation filled with historic charm.
In 1785, a County judge named William Cooper founded the village but it was his son, James Fenimore Cooper, who more or less overshadowed his father by writing The Leatherstocking Tales, a series of novels, including The Last of the Mohicans.
Many notable cultural institutions in the US are based in Cooperstown; among them are the Farmers’ Museum, the Fenimore Art Museum, Glimmerglass Opera, and the New York State Historical Association are based here.
For those of you who love America’s pastime, the Baseball Hall of Fame is situated here in Cooperstown.
Other activities include riding on a trolley, sitting down to a gourmet meal in the historic Cooperstown Village, relaxing in a family-owned bed and breakfast that blends nostalgic charm with modern class. Aiming for the best 18 of your life on the immaculately manicured fairways of Leatherstocking Golf Course is one of the other many activities Cooperstown residents and visitors participate in.
7. Anacortes, WA
Anacortes is homeport to the San Juan Islands in the beautifully wild Pacific Northwest. Located on Fidalgo Island, it is a stop along the way between Seattle and Vancouver BC—the San Juans and International Ferry makes it a destination point for the Washington State Ferries.
The location of Anacortes makes it ideal for whale watching, kayaking, sailing, birding, fishing and crabbing, hiking the rugged shoreline and biking the many pathway that wind around the entire island.
With all of that outdoor activity, it’s no wonder why Anacortes residents are among the fittest in the US populace.
And with all the fishing, it’s also no wonder that TV’s Deadliest Catch fisherman, Jake Anderson, calls Anacortes home.
At the heart of this small town is Old Town, which is alive with art galleries, antique shops, one-of-a-kind shopping and accommodations that go from elegant to quirky.
6. Papillion, NE
In 2015, Time Magazine named Papillion #2 on their list of Best Places to Live. Likely, because it’s a small town with a bustling economy.
Residents can live and earn a big-city salary too. Omaha—home to five Fortune 500 companies—is only nine traffic-less miles away.
But the town itself is home to major employers, SAC Federal Credit Union and Black Hills Energy, as well as Fidelity Investment’s new $200 million data center.
The sleepy downtown core kept it out of the public eye for a long time, that is until recent renewal breathed fresh air into it.
The Sumtur Amphitheater, an outdoor performance venue, now pulls big name performers, hosts movie screenings, and offers myriads of free recreational events to the public. The new Midlands Place shopping center is flush with great restaurants—a stone-fired pizza and French bakery among them—the Northwood Cheese Haus market, and a wine and painting studio called Twisted Vine.
5. Bemidji, MN
Bemidji has several monikers, like “the first city on the Mississippi” and the “curling capital” of the U.S. The official name is itself an Ojibwe word for “a lake with crossing waters”.
The small town sits on the south west shore of Lake Bemidji, the northernmost feeding lake for the Mississippi River. You can imagine then how much Bemidji relies on water for sport, recreation and commerce.
Besides its 400 lakes, Bemidji also boasts 500 mi of snowmobile trails and 99 mi of cross-country ski trails. But not everything happens on the water and snow.
This small town also has gorgeous forests to explore, like Lake Bemidji State Park, Big Bog State Recreation Area, Chippewa National Forest and Itasca State Park.
Sporty residents wait the year for their favorites events to come up, including The Bemidji Polar Days (actually a week-long event), The Minnesota Finlandia Ski Marathon (Minnesota has a large Nordic population), The Dragon Boat Festival during the first week of August, and The Paul Bunyan Triathlon on the third Saturday of August.
4. Clarksdale, MS
Named after founder John Clark (mid-19th century), Clarksdale is an agricultural and trading center with a rich history of civil rights action—it hosted Dr. Martin Luther King during related visits in 1958 and 1962, and became the first school district in Mississippi to achieve SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accreditation for both black and white schools.
Music lovers should know that Clarksdale was also a tiny epicentre for blues music in the country and several Mississippi Blues Trail markers are located there.
One such marker is located at a Stovall Road cabin where bluesman Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) lived 1915-1943 before moving to Chicago. A second one is at the famous Riverside Hotel where delta-traveling performers stopped to perform (it’s also where Bessie Smith died).
The latest maker was devoted in 2009 to Clarksdale native, Sam Cooke.
The Delta Blues Museum—a pet project of the band ZZ Top—is a bragging point for locals and definitely worth a visit for any classic rock lover.