Best Towns

Lincolnville, Maine

WITH ITS ALLURING CONTRAST of mountains giving way to Penobscot Bay, on Maine's jagged central coast, Lincolnville attracts people who could live anywhere: artists, writers, boatbuilders, and...

Salida, Colorado

"NOW THIS," BRAG THE SIGNS on highways "is Colorado." Refugees from Front Range cities like Denver and Boulder are drawn to this oasis at 7,038 feet in the Upper Arkansas Valley, near the center...

Sandpoint, Idaho

IT'S EASY TO GET SEDUCED by Sandpoint: You cross the two-mile bridge over Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced Pon-der-AY) and drink in the spectacular Selkirks mountainscape looming over...

Mountain View, Arkansas

"WHEN YOU FIRST PULL into town," says a woman who moved to Mountain View 20 years ago, "you just feel like you came back home." Might be the human-scale topography of north-central Arkansas...

Lander, Wyoming

IT'S PUZZLING WHY even more climbers don't end up in Lander, where the high desert meets the Rockies and calm, sunny days are the norm. Everything from abundant bouldering routes to sandstone...

Etna, California

THIS TIME-WARP RANCH TOWN in the Scott River watershed is one of the last untrammeled outposts of wild California—a well-situated launching point for backcountry rambles on foot or on...

Cashiers, North Carolina

COMBINE THE DRASTIC granite dropoffs of the Blue Ridge escarpment with more than 80 inches of rain a year and something dramatic is bound to happen. Around the town of Cashiers (pronounced CASH...

Georgetown, South Carolina

IT'S A TOSS UP trying to decide which is more astonishingly preserved: the downtown of South Carolina's third-oldest municipality, bordered by the Sampit River, shaded by live oaks, and riddled...

Hood River, Oregon

LEST THERE BE ANY UNCERTAINTY about what put this Columbia River Gorge town on the map, consider a few local businesses: Big Winds, Windance, Realwind, Windwing, and Second Wind. Or the fabled...

Haines, Alaska

MANY A TRAVELER washing ashore in Haines can't resist mentioning the TV show Northern Exposure. Original, no; understandable, of course. Nestled on a peninsula between soaring 7,000...

Lanesboro, Minnesota

FIRST-TIME VISITORS might be forgiven for asking, This is Minnesota? Indeed, the topography seems a little misplaced—there are no lakes in all of Fillmore County. (The last round of...

Bellingham, Washington

Texans talk about football, Manhattanites about real estate, Coloradans about inches of new powder. In Bellingham, they know their anadromous fishes. One recent night, Lummi tribespeople held...

Santa Fe, New Mexico

This is how Santa Fe usually sets the hook: The unwitting mark passes through town on a college road trip. Nearing the Plaza, she blinks in disbelief at adobes blushing umber in late...

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga's darkest hour arrived in 1969, when Walter Cronkite dropped a bombshell on the six o'clock news: The EPA had ranked the nation's worst cities for air pollution, and Chattanooga...

Eureka/Arcata, California

A couple of years ago, a USDA economist cooked up a method of quantifying the unquantifiable: how attractive a place is. He created a scale that factored in climate, surface water, and variety...

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