The Nominees for America's Coolest
We've pulled together a list of 22 nominees from coast to coast. Cast a vote to determine the readers' top 10 American small towns—and check the October 2009 issue of Budget Travel Magazine to see if any reader choices made the final cut.
Berlin is a great spot for water and land lovers alike. Surf, sunbathe, or fish at Assateague Island National Seashore, located on one of the few remaining natural barrier islands, or cycle along the 63-mile "beach to bay" trail nearby. Visit the Globe for an eclectic dinner and live music five nights a week. Chef Brook T. Lamar's Globe Crabcakes have won him the American Culinary Federation's Gold Medal. —reader burleybrown
Jim Thorpe, Pa.
Located at the base of a valley in the Pocono Mountains, Jim Thorpe is known for its scenic landscape and historic architecture. Experience a bit of Jim Thorpe's history with a ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway. For a look into a darker part of the town's history, take a ghost tour of the Old Jail, allegedly haunted by 17th-century murderers. Sample Eurasian-inspired vegetarian cuisine, like Thai papaya salad or stuffed whole portobello mushroom, at Café Origins. —reader dhugos
On June 20, the streets of Owego will be packed for the annual Strawberry Festival. With over 150 vendors and artisans lining the streets, visitors can explore what has been called the best-kept secret in the area of New York. Downtown shops and galleries stay open late for the monthly Third Friday Art Walk, featuring art, entertainment, and refreshments. At the Jailhouse Restaurant—the former county jail, transformed into an eatery in 1998, complete with cell blocks and prison-bed dining tables—try the pulled pork sandwich in the company of a ghost named George. —reader tioga
There's not a chain store in sight in Onancock, an old-school fishing village on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Roseland Theatre, the town's retro movie theater, shows first-run films and an international film series, and the North Street Playhouse has 12 to 15 theatrical productions each season. Grab a hand-dipped cone at Scoops Ice Cream and take the historic downtown walking tour, which includes a half dozen churches and Ker Place Historic House. If you prefer the water, take a guided kayak tour with Mary and Bill Burnham—some say the best way to see the Eastern Shore is from the water. You'll soon be on a first-name basis with the shop owners and artists in this friendly town, where the family-owned pharmacy is housed in the oldest bank building on the Eastern Shore. —reader BurnhamInk
You'll feel like you've been transported back in time in this Gold Rush town—yet this well-preserved 19th-century locale has a 21st-century vibe. In summer, the annual Britt Festival features more than 40 performances from internationally renowned musicians, as well as dance, musical theater, and Broadway musicals. Stop by MacLevin's Whole Foods Deli, which serves delicious kosher food like open whitefish sandwiches with a side of potato latkes and matzo ball soup. For the town's best cup of coffee, visit Good Bean Coffee, a café and roaster located in an 1859 billiards hall. —reader jillcobb15
Eureka Springs, Ark.
A self-proclaimed shopper's paradise, Eureka Springs has no chain stores. At the boutique Bath Junkie, you can create one-of-a-kind gifts—and suds for yourself, too. Satisfy your sweet tooth at Sweet's Fudge Kitchen with award-winning, handmade fudge and hand-dipped chocolates. Penuche, the kitchen's newest flavor of fudge, is made from brown sugar. For a glance at lions, tigers, and even bears, visit Turpentine Creek, a 450-acre wildlife refuge for big cats. Life doesn't stop once the sun goes down: Check out Chelsea's Corner Café for drinks and live music or try the "speedy martini" at Henri's Just One More. —reader gojigirld