3. Decatur, GA
With a population of 19,335 (as of the 2010 consensus) and several zip codes included in the city bounds, Decatur is likely the largest of the small towns on this list.
But don’t think this quiet slice of Americana has outgrown its britches. The official motto is “A city of homes, schools and places of worship” although residents like to say that they like the unofficial one, “It’s greater in Decatur”, better. During the American Civil War, Decatur became a strategic site in William Tecumseh Sherman’s campaign against Atlanta.
Today, Decatur’s downtown and residential neighborhoods wear the mark of history with their many preserved structures and sites. Most of them remain privately owned, but they’re still nice to drive by.
Safewise recently named Decatur among the 50 Safest Cities in Georgia, mainly due to the fact that the town has an aging population.
Popular city-run programs include aerobic seniors, ageless grace, yoga, and needlework, neighborhood cleanup campaigns, and advocacy for the elderly and disabled.
2. Silver City, NM
Silver City, as one might imagine, was a silver mining town and mining of other elements remain as the basis for the economy. But the small town has really refined its image over the years.
Now, it’s a tiny mecca not only for spectacular Gila Wilderness but food and art too. Take, for example, the more than 50 murals that have been painted on historic buildings throughout downtown (a map of each location can be found here).
The Silver City Art Association keeps the art scene vibrant by supporting local galleries and helping with the mid-July Silver City Fiber Arts Festival and the early-August Silver City CLAY Festival. It’s no wonder The Culture Trip ranked Silver City as one of the 10 Most Beautiful Towns in New Mexico.
1. Carrboro, NC
Finally, we have come to the number one small town in all of America. Known as a central hub in all of North Carolina for its rich musical history, cultural activity, and a historic district replete with all the essentials of an incredible small-town, Carrboro is a must-visit destination for any travel enthusiast looking to see one of America’s greatest small cities.
For starters, this fairly large small town prides itself on being one of the most progressive communities in the Southern United States.
For example, in 1995 it’s left-leaning residents and policy-makers have seen Carrboro become the first municipality in North Carolina to elect openly gay mayor, Mike Nelson, (it was also the first in the state to grant domestic-partner benefits to same-sex couples).
In 2002, Carrboro was one of the first communities in the South to openly oppose the Iraq War and the USA PATRIOT Act.
One of the great traditions of Carrboro is in its music scene. In the autumn, locals and visitors congregate for the Carrboro Music Festival, a free event that celebrates local music. You may think that the local music scene couldn’t fill the day long fest, but each year 150 acts perform at dozens of venues around the downtown.
One of the most notable music venues in all of America, Cat’s Cradle, calls Carrboro its home. Cat’s Cradle’s rich history includes showcasing artists such as Nirvana, Public Enemy, Iggy Pop, and Joan Baez. It is a staple of live music culture in the US.
Additionally, Carrboro is very student friendly, as it is located just west of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of the pre-eminent public universities in the US. Students at UNC-Chapel Hill regularly convene throughout Carrboro’s many youth-friendly festivals, venues, and local attractions.
True to many small towns, one of Carrboro’s best attractions is their Farmer’s Market, featuring local produce, cheeses, baked goods, and artisan crafts. True to the mission of great farmer’s markets, Carrboro’s farmer’s market requires all sold goods to have been produced within 50 miles of Carrboro, ensuring the tradition and value of small farmers is cherished in this historic city.
With a distinctly liberal tendency, a rich cultural tradition in the performing arts, a commitment to organic & local farmers and their food, an association with one of the world’s pre-eminent universities, and its general feeling of having a classic small town feel, Carrboro is a profoundly unique destination for visitors and residents alike.
Featured image by lincolnh via Wikimedia Commons