April 22, 2012

"The 20 Best Small Towns in America."

Compiled by Smithsonian, placing "one quality above others: culture."

If you're like me, you'll go through the list looking for one in your state. And there is one in Wisconsin: Menomonie!


campy said...

There's two in New Jersey?

rhhardin said...

Culture is best avoided.

TWM said...

Oxford is a great town. Friendly people, beautiful area, great food, tons of cultural events, and one of the best college campuses in the USA. Add in the fact that Ole Miss, my Alma mater, has the best looking gals in the South, and you can't go wrong.

If they can just field a winning football team - although partying in the Grove even with a losing team beats partying anywhere else - it would be heaven.

Pastafarian said...

Key West is not a small town, nor are the college towns like Princeton and Oxford, MS.

And I've been to Bangor, ME, and there is not a reason in the world to ever go back.

Most amusing: they list The Tamarack as the cultural draw for a town in West Virginia. The Tamarack is a roadside rest. Yes, it's a big one, and it has shops like a mall, that sell local art. But it's a roadside rest. It's not a destination.

TWM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TWM said...

"Key West is not a small town, nor are the college towns like Princeton and Oxford, MS."

I don't know about Princeton or Key West, but Oxford has a population of about 19,000 in 2010. The college does add another 20,000 students, but I still think it fits into the small town category.

Republican said...

Interesting that each of the 20 small towns selected, have very small black populations, and the pics on the website don't show any blacks (or hispanics) in any of the "enlightened" and "cultural" settings.

Kate Danaher said...

Princeton is a "small town" the way Manhattan is a "burb". It's like they're conflating "twee" with "small". Princeton is twee. It is NOT small.

campy said...

What's their definition of 'culture'? Is there even a single NASCAR track in this whole group?

Paco Wové said...

Smithsonian's target demographic, based on the advertising found therein, is boomer and pre-boomer SWPL's, so its lifestyle judgements will be skewed in that direction.

Calypso Facto said...

Yeah, Menomonie, you're a good friend, but I gotta break it to you, Honey: you're no top 20. Downtown's blah and the lake is fetid.

Which leads me to try to think of a replacement as Wisconsin's best small town. Hmmm. Pepin? New Glarus? Lake Geneva? Bayfield? Hard to come up with a place that isn't mostly a weekend tourist town.

Dr Weevil said...

If you go to picture 11 and town 10 (Staunton, Va), you can see two of your regular commentators. I'm the bald guy in the blue shirt and white jacket standing up in the balcony. The other one may prefer to remain anonymous.

rcommal said...

I don't want to click through 20 times to learn what's on the list. Anyone other than I hate articles like this, where you have to work your way through a list, page by page by page? Just put the list up front, preferably with links to the individual page for each item, and then maybe I'll page through. I grant you that's a "maybe," but it's a much more likely one then when I feel vaguely coerced to spend far more time on an article or site than I want to, without better clues as to whether it'll be worth it.

This is NOT a complaint about Althouse or her choice of topic, or article. It's not her fault or problem, how some sites choose to present their content!!!! So it's probably unfair to rant here about what has become one of my hugest pet peeves in digital life. Still: I hate, HATE list articles done this way!! (Hell, and I'd prefer, almost always, a "view as one page" option even for most non-list pieces so that I can scan quickly, but the lack of that doesn't put my teeth on edge as it does with list articles.)

Anyway, I'll just have to live my life never knowing what the 20 best small towns are, beyond those I can I discern from references here in comments (at least insofar as I follow all of them).

Thanks for your tolerance. : )


TWM said...

"What's their definition of 'culture'? Is there even a single NASCAR track in this whole group?"

Can't say for the other 19, but Oxford has a good number of NASCAR fans. Sophisticated NASCAR fans as opposed to LSU or Miss State NASCAR fans . . .

Elle said...

"A group of people wanted this little winter paradise to have the same cultural features as Northern cities do."

From the Naples, FL, blurb.

Just one of the many reasons local unwashed Floridians love snowbirds. /sarc of/

Ignore the article and go anyway. Gorgeous with incredible shelling. Or head north and hit Captiva.

Phil 3:14 said...

It looks like museums and Shakespeare are key. Also looks like you won't see any "basic" working small towns on the list like:

-Lamar, Colorado
-Watertown ,NY
- Ottumwa, Iowa
- Artesia, NM

edutcher said...

Saw this a couple of days ago.

Most are little art communities and, from the look, a tad expensive-looking.

DADvocate said...

They selected Beckley, WV and didn't even mention that it is the center of the best whitewater kayaking and rafting in the eastern U.S. I guess culture doesn't involve actually doing something. Go run the Gauley River. It could be the most excitement you have, ever.

David said...

Culture is a thread in these towns, I guess.

Also, with a few exceptions, money and rich people. A very prosperous list.

Kit said...

I'd go with Gig Harbor, Ashland or Durango, thanks.

David said...

"you won't see any "basic" working small towns on the list . . . ."

I'd say Butler fits that description perfectly. I looked at the list and wondered how the hell Butler got on it.

ndspinelli said...

For What It's Worth opinion of towns I've visited:

Great Barrington: Agree

Taos: Agree

Red Bank: Have a friend from there..Sprigsteen country, but disagree.

Durango: Agree

Butler, Pa.: Disagree

Naples: Agree

Brattleboro: Disagree, I would pick Bennington @ the other end of the beautiful Molly Stark Trail.

Menominie: Please...I can think of several towns in Door County alone better than this fast food enclave.

Key West: Absolutely, could Hemingway and Truman be wrong?

Laguna Beach: Agree

ndspinelli said...

Republican, I respectfully disagree. In Taos, there is a big Mexican and Indian population.

Red Bank has a pretty good black and Hispanic[PR and Dominican] population.

Durango: Many Mexicans

Key West: Cuban

Ann Althouse said...

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev’rybody’s got their heads bowed down
The sun don’t shine above the ground
Ain’t a-goin’ down to Oxford Town

rcommal said...

Beckley is fine, though I do associate it more with the whitewater rafting to which someone referred. I think of Tamarack, rightly or wrongly, as more at Beckley than in it. As far as atmospherically arty little towns go, if that's a chunk of the criteria, in WV I'd more think of nearby Lewisburg ( the town to which my parents retired back in the '90s and where my dad still lives). I've been there countless times now, and I do like it, but I wouldn't put it on my own 20-best list (sorry, dad!), much less Beckley.

bagoh20 said...

I was born and raised in #7 Butler, PA - Pop. 13K.

Absolutely beautiful countryside. A great place to be kid, but after that you need to get out.

I left for California with $300 and no job or housing waiting at the other end. It was - and continues to be - a great adventure for this small town boy.

Big Mike said...

Staunton isn't bad, but for my money I'd go a little further south on Route 11 (or I-81, if you're in a rush) and pick Lexington, VA. It's home to Washington & Lee University (their antebellum colonnade is one of the most gorgeous college buildings anywhere) and the Virginia Military Institute. Lexington has the same Blue Ridge and Appalachian mountains that Staunton has, plus the Lenfest Center for the performing arts.

John Lynch said...

My town is #6. And Althouse has been here.

bagoh20 said...

Butler is entirely a working class town. When I was a kid there it was very industrial with most of the people in the town working for either a steel company or the heavy train car manufacturer. Both my father and my mother were welders. My mother worked welding heavy steal plate for 25 years while raising 4 kids, and providing us a great childhood there.

The population has shrunk 2,000 (13%) since then (13%) and has had chronic low employment for 40 years.

It is beautiful country through, with gorgeous farms and woods, much like Wisconsin in appearance.

Freeman Hunt said...

Interesting that Siloam Springs is on the list. Our guess is that they wanted to pick a Northwest Arkansas town, (It's a great area, but all of the towns sort of run together and most would no longer count as "small.") so they picked that one. Siloam Springs is, by the way, probably the most conservative town in this area. It's also slightly out of the way compared to others. Incredibly friendly place.

I agree with rcommal. I don't like that story format.

Bender said...

I'd go a little further south on Route 11 (or I-81, if you're in a rush) and pick Lexington, VA

Don't be in a rush. Go 81 on I-81 and you will get hit with a ticket that charges you not with a mere traffic offense, but a Class One criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and/or $2500 fine. So what if you tipped over 80 going downhill and the state trooper is in his hiding place in the median between some trees so you did not see him until it was too late.

And if you do end up getting tagged at 84 going downhill, even though you were careful to stay under 80 for hundreds of miles, you better go to court (scheduled some weeks later) even if you have to drive all the way from Arlington -- a three-hour drive -- which means leaving the house at 4 a.m. to be sure to get there before court starts at 8-8:30. If you do appear, there is a chance you might be able to talk it down to simple speeding, if you fail to appear, though, although they are not likely to issue a capias (bench warrant for your arrest), they will try you in your absence and you'll end up with a criminal conviction on your record even if they do only assess a fine.

Chuck66 said...

I like Menomonie. Would like to live there.

Only been to Oxford Mississippi once, but enjoyed my brief visit.

Bryan C said...

"Roughly halfway between San Francisco and Portland, the foothill town of Ashland tends to attract ex-urbanites who have tired of city life but don’t want to let go of culture entirely."

I'm imagining a faded, weather-beaten sign just outside of Ashland: "Last Culture For 100 Miles". Buzzards circle overhead.

None in Maryland. I guess our pleasant little towns are too much Mayberry and not enough Laguna Beach.

Mitch H. said...

Butler? Butler?!?

Admittedly, my notions of Butler are twenty years old, but when I was growing up north of Pittsburgh, Butler was an undistinguished, sooty, depressed mill town like twenty or thirty others in that section of the Rust Belt. It was *not* especially "rural". It's best selling point was that it wasn't Cranberry Township or Mars. The town doesn't even have a respectable university or private college.

I have a friend whose father runs a church camp near Butler, I'll check with him and see if there's something to this designation.

His comment: "I suspect bribery, although I don't think they have that kind of cash lying around..."