Sebastopol, California

Population: 7,794

My Town: Sebastopol

"I definitely live in Sebastopol because of the community's alternative thinking," says Devorah Blum, owner and instructor at downtown's Yoga Studio Ganesha. "There's a nice energy here. I can feel the difference."

Apple orchards put this Sonoma County refuge for freethinkers on the map, but these days local pursuits in the name of holistic living go way beyond picking a few Gravensteins and baking a pie. At first glance it's a pleasantly retro Russian River Valley farm town: good schools, a Methodist church framed by palm trees, rolling vineyards, quirky folk-art sculptures assembled from salvaged junk in front yards along Florence Avenue. Even in the post-hippie enclaves of Northern California, though, you won't find many small farm towns that contain half a dozen yoga studios, two massage schools, several home-based meditation groups, an Ayurvedic healing center, a Buddhist zendo, a spa offering Japanese enzyme baths, two "equine experiential learning institutes," and a clinic that treats cancer patients with not only conventional Western protocols but also Chinese medicine, acupuncture, osteopathy, and jin shin jyutsu. "Sebastopol is a hotbed of green/eco/health-conscious lifestyles and businesses," says David Klein—and as editor of Living Nutrition magazine, which espouses a raw-food diet, he would know. Not too surprisingly, greens dominate town hall, and organics prevail at Andy's Produce Market and the Sunday-morning farmers' market. Even an alliance of vegan jocks, OrganicAthlete, is headquartered in town. Local businesses doing well by doing good include Traditional Medicinals (herbal teas) and Gourmet Mushrooms Inc. (suppliers to chefs and nutraceutical labs). If a career in the healing arts isn't your bag, you can always become a cellar rat: More than 100 Sonoma County wineries are a short commute away.

Recent transplants from Marin County have helped inflate the median home price past $650,000. But with lots of under-the-radar options—granny units, barns, the occasional yurt—locals aren't packing their bags.

Santa Fe, New Mexico. A longtime draw for second-home-owning Texans, spa-goers, art collectors, artists, and ski bums with a creative side, the City Different is also a vibrant education center for alternative medicine, with schools like the University of Natural Medicine and the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts.

Filed To: Best Towns, California
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