Smithsonian’s 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in the U.S.

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Mar 22, 2014 11:00 am

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Smithsonian channeled its inner Norman Rockwell to come up with this list of best small towns to visit, and it undoubtedly contains some pearls. Rest assured, though, that these towns won’t be on the itineraries of the hordes of tourists visiting the Empire State Building or Disney World.

— Dennis Schaal

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Louise Palanker  /

A view of Chautauqua, New York, which topped the Smithsonian's best small towns to visit in 2014 list. Louise Palanker /

They beckon from nearly every corner of the country, from grand rivers and awesome mountains, from the Great Plains and a misty farm valley and a venerable whaling harbor, and what never fails to charm us is that each one follows its own, unhurried clock, saving up stories to tell and making time to talk.

These are Smithsonian’s list of America’s Best Small Towns to visit … Smithsonian magazine worked with the geographical information systems company Esri, which analyzed tons of data to find towns or cities of fewer than 15,000 residents where cultural opportunities abound, at least on a per capita basis.

Here’s the list:

1. Chautauqua, New York
2. Healdsburg, California
3. Williamsburg, Virginia
4. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
5. Woods Hole, Massachusetts
6. Marietta, Ohio
7. Beaufort, South Carolina
8. Sedona, Arizona
9. Nebraska City, Nebraska
10. Lanesboro, Minnesota
11. Spring Green, Wisconsin
12. Havre de Grace, Maryland
13. Columbia, Pennsylvania
14. Mount Dora, Florida
15. Ketchum, Idaho
16. Montpelier, Vermont
17. Harrodsburg, Kentucky
18. Silver City, New Mexico
19. Decorah, Iowa
20. The Dalles, Oregon

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