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Reader Nominations for Coolest Small Towns

Posted by cersonsky on Friday, December 26, 2008 11:20:15 AM
Ouray, CO Hard to get to, but worth it. North of the exclusive Telluride, and at the north valley base of the Million Dollar highway. Not of the faint hearted, surrounded by majestic peaks like nowhere else in the continant. Not expensive to visit, and lots of amazing vistas, day trips, hiking, jeep trails, and mountain wonders. 1. Is there a restaurant that's so amazing it could survive in New York? Not really, quaint and general store, great sweet rolls. 2. Where do locals shop for unique clothing, furniture, art, or gifts? Several small shops on Main street. 3. Is there a local mascot? If there is, it would be the mountain goat. 4. What's the weirdest piece of local folklore? Probably the Methanfedamine bust that included the local constibulary. 5. Anything else that qualifies as "cool" (i.e. organic coffee shops, wine bars, a hotel in a renovated barn or warehouse)? This old mining town is a destination for the tourist that is not afraid to leave the beaten track. Over the mountain from Silverton, and the narrow guage RR to Durango. The town is definately cool, (both literally and figuratively).

Posted by stargazer on Thursday, December 25, 2008 11:26:22 PM
SILVERTON, Oregon - quaint and charming old lumber town founded in 1854, suburb of the capitol city of Salem, home to the world class Oregon Garden and Resort which includes the Gordon House, open to the public and the only Frank Lloyd Wright home in Oregon, 20 specialty gardens and the 400 year old Signature Oak. Unique relationship between the gardens and the town - wetlands benefit from the town's excess reclaimed water. Silverton is also known as the 'mural city', which include Norman Rockwell's 'Four Freedoms'. The Silverton Mural Society ensures that these murals are well maintained. Drive from the interstate through the beautiful oak and agricultural farmland of the Willamette Valley for the wacky annual Homer Davenport Days customized couch races down main street. Davenport is the local famous person, a 19th century political cartoonist and writer and part of today's celebration is the international political cartoon contest. Silver Creek runs through town and a pedestrian walkway over the creek is a recent addition, adjacent to the city park, home of the annual art festival. There are many local artisans; the Silverton Art Association has monthly exhibits of county artists and the galleries carry their work. The town has numerous small shops - antiques (The Red Bench in particular), consigned clothes, a quilter, galleries, jewelers, florists, one shop in particular The Stone Buddha is quite unique. Silverton is the gateway to Oregon's largest state park, Silver Falls, with 10 waterfalls and abundant outdoor activities. Close by is Cooley's Gardens, established in the 1920's, and the largest producer of bearded Iris in the world; the annual display is breathtaking. Also nearby is the old Bavarian community of Mt. Angel, home of Oregon's largest folk festival, the annual Oktoberfest in September. Mt. Angel Abbey was founded in 1883 by the Benedictines on a hill above town and includes a renowned library as well as beautiful grounds with a fantastic view. The Gallon House covered bridge spans Abiqua Creek. Last but not least, Silverton has the first transgender mayor in the country. Stu Rasmussen/Carla Fong can be seen strolling through town in high heels and fancy dress. Apparently he is quite well respected. Mayor Rasmussen is a native and owns the historic Palace Theatre on the corner of Water Street. This may be as avant-garde as the town gets. My experience with Silverton is as the occasional visitor from Portland, but I make a point of stopping when I can. The murals transport me back to the 50's and the small logging town I grew up in. O'Briens on Water Street is a friendly, good eatery, especially for breakfast. If you like architecture, just enjoying the early 20th century bungalows on Water Street is a simple pleasure. There are also Italianate style homes to admire - I always think of lumber barons when I see them. The surrounding countryside is home to lavendar farms, hops growers, flocks of sheep and lots of horses, strawberry and cane fields; half of the pleasure is in getting there.

Posted by surf on Tuesday, December 23, 2008 8:50:39 PM
LONG BEACH ISLAND -- Comprised of six independent municipalities* totaling less than 7,000 residentsamong them, this 20 mile long island is off the coast of New Jersey in Ocean County. Traveling Route 72, less than two hours by car from the metropolitan areas of NY and Philadelphia, you'll drive to this island and be 4 miles at sea and always within walking distrance of water on a sliver of sand ranging 4-6 blocks wide. It is dotted with art galleries, antique shops and fine dining places. "Off the Hook" serves the freshest, gourmet take-out seafood (her dad owns/runs one of the largest commercial fishing fleets in NJ). Restaurants range from Voodoo Steak House with its Kobe beef to the Chicken and the Egg where college students are found amid artwork featuring dripping eggs instead of Salvador Dali watches and Rubenesque reclining hens. At the northern tip is the red and white Barnegat Lighthouse, recently relit after 6 decades of darkness. A 1/4 mile walkway into the ocean amidst one of the national major flyways is a great spot for watching waterfowl and wintering seals. You can catch the view from the top at the bottom via camcorders, in the interpretative center, so there's no need to climb it. At its southern end if the Forsythe Wildlife Refuge where people are banned from the summer beach so the piping plovers can mate. In between are unique, boutique shops, including one nestled in the belly of the reconstructed tallship, the Lucy Evelyn. Next door is even more shopping and eateries in Bay Village. Friday mornings register with the Southern Ocean County Chamber of Commerce to take a behind the scenes dock tour of the commercial fishing fleet at Viking Village. You might catch the local movie star in port - the Lindsay L, which was the Hannah Bodin in George Clooney's movie, "The Perfect Storm." The Surflight Theatre, a professional theatre, offers Broadway musicals and live shows for children throughout the summer and concerts and dramas are headliners the rest of the year. Children enjoy the Victorian Fantasy Island Amusement Park. Its casino arcade features prizes from chachkas to Llardo figurines. Adjacent is the Thundering Surf Waterpark and the adventure putt-putt Settler's Landing miniature gold with its signs telling the history of the area at each hole. The sheltered bay formed by the barrier island is a great water play land and home to charter boat tours, crabbing, parasailing, kayaking, windsurfing, sailing, boating, and water skiing. The ocean provides deep sea fishing, surfing and the newest sport - kite surfing. There are 3 museums: Barnegat Light Museum which houses a first order,1000 Fresnel lens, a pound fishing display and a visiting captain who drops in to relate stories of the sea, the NJ Museum of Boating which has a room dedicated to the sinking of the Andrea Doria and a large collection of paraphernalia from the deep and the LBI Museum which tells the history of the island. Special events abound, including a fall 18 mile run dedicated to the Munich athletes and ChowderFest which draws thousands to vote for the best white and red chowder and where cupholders have become an art form. Outdoor conerts and Victorian walking tours are held weekly. Architecture is dynamic, unique and available for summer rental. More than "houses," they frequently are called "sandcastles by the sea." Across the bay is the Tuckerton Seaport, a nautical, maritime village featuring decoy carving, boat building and folk crafts -- and where you can paint your own flattie, a two-dimensional decoy. Or you can ignore all this, take your beach chair and umbrella to the shore and watch waves lap at your toes all day for entertainment. *Although visitors freely move among the six towns, never knowing more than that they have visited Long Beach Island (LBI), the municipalities officially are Barengat Light, Harvey Cedars, Surf City, Ship Bottom and Beach Haven. In an odd situation, the sixth municipality, Long Beach Township, is interspersed among the other five in a confusion of neighborhood names such as Beach Haven Garden, Brant Beach and Loveladies. While the name Long Beach Island is not to be found among the state's 566 municipalities, LBI has what many municipalities do not -- its own official flag, which is diagonally divided into triangles of blue and white with a seagull spread across it.

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