My favorite small town in my state is _____________.
January 17, 2015 8:37 PM   Subscribe

Please tell me about your very favorite small (or smallish) town in your state or province (US/Canada, only, please).

We like visiting towns like Durango and Montrose, Colorado, Mendocino and Healdsburg, California, Port Townsend, Washington, Fort Davis and Alpine, Texas, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, Bisbee and Jerome, Arizona, to give you an idea of sort of aesthetic might interest us.

Big plusses include independent bookstores, "main streets," city parks, unique architecture, cafes, college campuses, movie theatres, street fairs, farmers markets, live music, good public libraries, access to hiking trails.

Preferably these are places that are worth spending at least one night overnight, and maybe a whole weekend (or longer).
posted by MoonOrb to Travel & Transportation (68 answers total) 110 users marked this as a favorite
Arcata and Blue Lake, CA
posted by unknowncommand at 8:40 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

You are cordially invited to visit Bellingham, WA. We have all of your big plusses.
posted by stennieville at 8:43 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

My wife and I are big fans of Julian and Idyllwild, which are both in California.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:47 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Osoyoos, BC, Canada
posted by Klaxon Aoooogah at 8:52 PM on January 17, 2015

Avalon, Catalina Island
posted by cairnoflore at 8:53 PM on January 17, 2015

Northampton, MA and the surrounding valley for hiking. It doesn't have interesting architecture (unless you find old colonial style interesting), but it's a slam dunk on all your other points.
posted by missmary6 at 9:24 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Stratford, Ontario. Most people go there just for the theatre, but it's lovely in off-season as well. Be sure to eat at the restaurant run by the Stratford Chef School, which is the best in Canada.

Niagara-on-the-Lake (also Ontario) is a gorgeous summertime (or fall) destination. Lovely Victorian and Edwardian houses, right in the heart of Ontario's wine and fruit country. Lots and lots of lovely hiking and walking all over the Niagara Escarpment, farmer's markets, and about 30-odd minutes away is one of my favourite restaurants, On The Twenty, located in Jordan.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:29 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. Year-round theatre festival; town layout geared for maximum day-trip tourism walkability/bikeability; never had a bad meal there.

Skaneateles, New York. One of my favorite places on the planet come spring, summer, and fall. Lovely little bookstores, restaurants, neat architecture, very walkable "Main Street," lots of private B&Bs.

(Edit: Jinx, fffm!)
posted by none of these will bring disaster at 9:31 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

I live in Bozeman, Montana, and I think we have everything on your list of pluses except perhaps the architecture (depending on how 'unique' you want). Also we have the Museum of the Rockies, a far better museum than you'd expect from a town our size. Just visit in the summer if you want to enjoy outdoor stuff like the parks, street fairs, and farmers market.
posted by traveler_ at 9:51 PM on January 17, 2015 [7 favorites]

Moscow, idaho
posted by jennstra at 9:52 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Corvallis, Oregon
posted by thug unicorn at 9:54 PM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

Montpelier VT is the smallest state capital in the US (8000 people) and the only one without a McDonalds (there is a McDs right up the road however) and it has a main street (maybe you saw the movie) and an open-to-the-public capitol building, a few cool bookstores and food places. From there it's a good home base and you can get to a lot of weird interesting towns like Glover, home of the Bread and Puppet Museum or Derby Line which has a library that's half in the US and half in Canada.
posted by jessamyn at 9:59 PM on January 17, 2015 [6 favorites]

This is a great question: I'd love to share some recommendations but would prefer to do so privately. I see your MeMail's off but please do write me if you're interested!
posted by smorgasbord at 10:15 PM on January 17, 2015

The towns of New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ sit just across the Delaware River from each other (there is a bridge). Info., and a bit more info.. A beautiful area around the river with other nice little towns around like Lumberville, Upper Black Eddy, etc.. There is hiking on either side of the river and museums in Doylestown nearby.
posted by gudrun at 10:24 PM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

Another vote for Northampton, MA - in the fall!
posted by anitanita at 10:31 PM on January 17, 2015

West coast checking in. I've been to all of the below and some are less authentic than others but they attract artists and are in beautiful locations and aren't like Vail CO expensive.

Ashland OR for Shakespeare and nasty lithia water, San Juan Islands WA, Washington CA is about the most end of the road place ever, in a good way. Downieville CA [shh], actually any town on 49 which is a fantastic drive. Winthrop WA [but not Twisp] in the Methow valley [pronounced met how]. Bolinas CA. Mariposa CA. Nevada City CA.
posted by vapidave at 11:04 PM on January 17, 2015

It isn't my state but I really liked Lander, WY.
posted by weathergal at 11:48 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ojai, California
posted by ambient2 at 12:28 AM on January 18, 2015

Wanted to add another vote for Corvallis, Oregon! Charming little college town, and so pretty!
posted by Happydaz at 12:32 AM on January 18, 2015

Ouray, Colorado.

It's a gorgeous little town with lots of neat features very nearby to it.

My favorite bit - It's 6 miles from Ouray to Telluride. That is, if you are a ghost and can walk through mountains. If you are corporeal, you can take the shortcut that is only ~30 miles. It is highly recommended as the views are astounding.

If you are possessed of fear, you can take the safer route - 97 miles around the San Juan mountains. It is a pretty drive, but nowhere near as much fun as the Black Bear Road.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:37 AM on January 18, 2015 [3 favorites]

Big Bay, Michigan. Lake Superior, lighthouse, wilderness, very, very small, beautiful. Note, there is NO shopping, NO highway, it snows a LOT in the winter...
posted by HuronBob at 3:56 AM on January 18, 2015

Honeoye Falls, NY is small, scenic, quaint, and looks like something out of a Jimmy Stewart movie.
posted by akk2014 at 4:56 AM on January 18, 2015

Missoula MT
Frederick MD
Fredericksburg VA
Chattanooga TN
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:14 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

New Paltz, NY
posted by third rail at 5:28 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Currently living in Kentucky: Fav = Berea
Formerly lived in Connecticut: Favs = Mystic; Niantic
posted by CincyBlues at 5:34 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for in a small town, because it's a 5 minute train true outside Chicago, but Skokie, IL is great. Weber got a ton of great restaurants, there's not an independent book store, but an amazing comic book store that's artist owned. We've got a fantastic library, and a farmer's market on Sunday during the summer. There are first preserves nearby and more cultures than you can share a sick at.
posted by Morydd at 5:37 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Shelburne Falls, MA is adorable.
posted by chaiminda at 5:39 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

It's not my state, and I haven't been there in a long time, but Marietta Ohio is one of the favorite places I've ever lived. It's a river town with lots of beautiful old architecture and history. I'd love to go back and visit.
posted by obfuscation at 5:43 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Berkeley Springs, WV - not my state, but I vacation there at least twice a year. It's like a little secret. Historic natural springs (where George Washington used to vacation - you can see his outdoor bathtub); an artist's haven with a charming main street dotted by a depression-era film theatre, great restaurants & cafes, galleries, bookstores, flea markets, spas (Atasia Spa comes highly recommended), organic grocers and holistic medicine shoppes, artist's sell their artwork in the park on the weekends; plus the Sunday farmer's market; you're right by the Hancock, MD entrance to the C&O Canal Path (one of the prettiest places in the mid-atlantic for autumn bike rides); not to mention the gorgeous/famous Panorama Overlook where you watch the sun set over the lush river landscape where the Pennsylvania, Maryland and WV borders meet. Plus there's an incredible farm-to-table restaurant right across the street (and if you make an advance reservation, they'll put you by a window where you can watch that sunset I mentioned). Also, VERY affordable lodging. I have rented three story vacation houses there with spectacular mountain views and hot tubs for $150 a night. You will be out in the middle of nowhere with no light pollution. Just yourselves, constellations in the sky, a hot tub and total quiet. Pretty fantastic after a long day of hiking or cycling. It's also very accessible from Washington, DC if you're ever tempted to combine the trip with one to a big city, for contrast. Go in October when the leaves are turning. The town swarms with red, yellow, and orange.

In Virginia, which is my state, I'd argue for Ashland, VA. It's just north of Richmond, a college town, like Berkeley Springs has a great historic film theatre, bookstores, (good!) antique & thrift shops, an excellent wine & beer/gourmet store, pleasing historic architecture, good places to eat and in general a lovely place to go for a walk. Richmond is cool and has Carytown for that super hip small town vibe within a city, but if you're ever there, I'd recommend Ashland as a day trip.
posted by nightrecordings at 5:52 AM on January 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

Davidson, NC hits everything on your list.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:02 AM on January 18, 2015

Seconding Berea KY, adding Danville KY (go to nearby Perryville for the civil war battlefield), and also Nashville, Indiana. Had to stay in Nashville for two weeks for work once and it's an interesting place.
posted by deezil at 6:05 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ithaca, New York
posted by Lucinda at 6:14 AM on January 18, 2015 [6 favorites]

Fayetteville, WV. Declicious restaurants, great outdoor activities.
posted by MsMolly at 6:29 AM on January 18, 2015

Vineyard Haven, and our five other towns here on MV. Just be careful you don't fall in love quit your job and stay forever.
posted by vrakatar at 6:38 AM on January 18, 2015

Staunton, Virginia.
posted by Namlit at 6:48 AM on January 18, 2015

St. Michaels, MD--a great example of classic Chesapeake Bay vacation town.
Berkeley Springs, WV (2nding)
Floyd, VA--truly small, so more an overnight than a 3-day weekend; tiny pocket of artsie weirdness.
Hood River OR--beautiful beautiful setting, short drive from PDX, excellent views of Mt. Hood, Columbia River Gorge, good restaurants, etc.
posted by drlith at 6:53 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Came to say Ridgway, CO, just between Ouray and Telluride. Now you can hit all three if you ever go back to Montrose!

In New Mexico, I love Madrid. It's tiny yet funky.
posted by dawkins_7 at 6:59 AM on January 18, 2015

Ellicotville, NY, pop. 376 :)

It has breweries, B&Bs, summer concerts, festivals, bike trails, harvest festivals, food, shopping, etc. It's also a short drive from Allegheny State Park (camping or whatever you want) or Holiday Valley (for skiing/snowboarding because we WNY-ers say "screw you, winter".).
posted by Verdandi at 7:22 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Husbunny went to Berea and Berea, KY is indeed quite cute and charming. If you go during a reunion weekend, there's a parade. Berea College has a very interesting history, being established by abolitionists. The students are primarily Appalachian and all are required to work. There's a huge folk art tradition with the school. So if you shop at the gift shops, you'll support the school and get some nifty articles.

You can travel south on 75 and hit London, KY, which is larger, and not as cute, but it's a great staging area for exploring Eastern Kentucky. Berea is about an hour to the north. London is a wide spot in the road with two exits off of the interstate. The best hotel in the area is the Hampton Inn.

Cumberland Falls, the only place where you can see a Moonbow!

There's also Levi Jackson State Park, which has some neat cabins from frontier days and a funky little putt-putt golf course.

Also in the area is Renfro Valley, if you're into that sort of thing.

There's the Chicken Festival in the fall.

Then as you head south, check out the first Kentucky Fried Chicken, in Corbin, KY.

May tick quite a few of your boxes.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Just one?! Ok, I'll try. For Connecticut: Stonington Borough.

Though I could have also said Putnam. Or Essex. Or Niantic. Or, since some of our smallest "towns" are actually cities, New London. Though I could also name probably about 20 others.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 7:45 AM on January 18, 2015

Not where I'm from, but where my great-grandma lives (and my grandparents grew up) -- Two Harbors, MN. Lots of other nice places around there as well -- Brimson-Toimi, Castle Danger, Ely...
posted by naturalog at 7:50 AM on January 18, 2015

Rye, NH. It's a small ocean town (about 5,000 people) with a beautiful sandy beach (Wallis Sands) and a beautiful rocky beach/trail system/marine science place (Odiorne Park). You can head out to the Isle of Shoals, eat excellent clam chowder, hit up the Hampton Beach strip and arcade, and it's about a 15 minute drive up a lovely windy shore road from Portsmouth. Portsmouth, which isn't exactly a large town (20,000 people) has many of the funky things you're looking for, including movie theaters, book stores, a sort of architectural museum of historical homes, interesting New England architecture otherwise, really good restaurants, farmer's markets and street fairs. And, since New England is mini, you're literally across a bridge from all that small-town Maine has to offer.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:01 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Salem, MA
Gloucester, MA
Marblehead, MA
Damariscotta, ME
posted by Sal and Richard at 8:05 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Fairfield, Iowa!
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:16 AM on January 18, 2015

Natchitoches and St. Francisville, Louisiana.
posted by Bourbonesque at 8:47 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sitka, Alaska
posted by belladonna at 9:02 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

St. Augustine, FL.
posted by saladin at 9:42 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was recently charmed by Saratoga Springs, NY
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

My two real favorites are both in Illinois (my birth state). Galena, IL you may even have heard of -- it's a town just up a tributary from the Mississippi and for various reasons of timing and geography its downtown is virtually unchanged since the Civil War. The town today is full of attractions and antiquing, and in fact feels a little too touristy on lovely summer days.

Dubuque, IA is nearby and has much more new development but still a lot of its old character. (It was a key location for shooting the ca. 1930-set labor-organizing movie F.I.S.T., about a fictionalized Teamsters.) It has a lovely incline railway, to boot. More of a small city?

Further into Iowa you have the infinitesimally small settlement (not even incorporated) Stone City, IA, immortalized in a fantastic Grant Wood painting. Almost everything is still as it was; even the quarry is still in operation. Not much to "see" in the tourist sense, which may be how you like it.

Back to Illinois, there's the small town of Mt. Carroll, once the site of the much-discussed Shimer College. The campus now houses a (seasonally operated) preservation and conservation teaching institute. It has a tiny downtown and a tiny historic area because it's a tiny town. But lovely to pass through.

Getting into the really deep nowhere of Western Illinois you have Bishop Hill. Once a Swedish religious dissident colony in the communitarian tradition, it is now a tourist town catering to those with Scandinavian roots. The central Steeple Building, which houses a museum today (originally a hotel), has undergone a recent exterior restoration and looks fantastic; I hope to get there for Midsommar.

(These, even Dubuque really, are too small for occupying a whole weekend, so may be best combined into a stay/daytrip itinerary).

In Wisconsin, there are a few really nice small towns to visit -- Monroe has cheese and a brewery; New Glarus has more cheese and more brewery (the famed Wisconsin-only brand) -- though I think it's gone overboard on the faux-Swiss Alpine Village motif; Cambridge has pottery and arts and crafts; Monticello has a neat downtown and a waterfall; Cedarburg is a nice daytrip from Milwaukee; Door County has several towns and is the quintessential Chicago/Wisconsin getaway locale; Ashland/Bayfield/Apostle Islands is another state favorite itinerary; and heck, even Duluth/Superior has its lake port charms.

If you really demand "all the things" on your Big Plusses list, you can't really go wrong with Madison, WI, though -- it has often ranked highly on places-to-live lists. It is a city of a quarter million people, though.

Oh, almost forgot, nobody has mentioned Madison, IN, a historic Ohio River port that has kept a lot of its old architecture. Don't know how it works for tourists these days, though.
posted by dhartung at 11:33 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hillsborough, North Carolina has a cute historic downtown and feels remarkably quaint for being so close to Raleigh/Durham.
posted by Pizzarina Sbarro at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2015

In California, San Luis Obispo. It hits all your requirements. Tremendous farmer's market downtown every Thursday night with lots of produce, crafts, and great food- considered by many to be one of the best in California. It's a small college town, walkable downtown with a couple of main drags (Higuera and Marsh), great parks, lots of outdoor activities nearby. You can hike the hills around town (Bishop Peak for example), or take a 10 minute drive down south to Pismo Beach and walk the beach. Or, another 15 minutes to the west, and you're in Morro Bay, a charming little seaside town with nice people, good food, and good kayaking. It has one of California's original missions and is a very conservation-minded town. There's some history there. No drive-thrus allowed, for example... a city law since the 1980s!

You're also not far from the Santa Ynez wine country (Buellton, Los Olivos, Santa Ynez) with lots of cool wineries (immortalized in Sideways). In the fall, it's apple season in See Canyon, and some small apple orchards have small markets where they sell fresh picked stuff. For beer fans there are good breweries in SLO (Tap It especially), and about 30 minutes up the 101 in Paso Robles (Firestone Walker, which is one of the best in the US).

In Arizona, I like Prescott. It's got a cool walkable downtown square with a historic Reconstruction-era courthouse, an old classic Whiskey Row, charming little hotels like the Motor Lodge, and good eats. There's tremendous places to hike and exercise. The town has a couple of lakes and reservoirs with great hiking trails surrounding them. You might have visited it or driven through while you were on your way to Jerome. It's less touristy than Jerome, but has plenty of history and lots to do.
posted by Old Man McKay at 11:57 AM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Roslyn, Washington (where they filmed Northern Exposure)
Wallace, Idaho has a quaint main street and some interesting architecture
Nelson, BC is beautiful and has some interesting architecture
posted by cda at 1:15 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Seconding Berkeley Springs, WV; friends own an ice cream shop there. :-) Smaller than Bellingham, WA by a long ways (but Bellingham is awesome!) Amherst, MA was a lot of fun; went to visit friends, great beer in a small town Downtown, plenty of walking and hiking trails.

For Virginia, things right off of Shenandoah National Park are excellent. Thinking on it, *everything* along the Appalachian Trail is pretty much spot on here, with the exception of things like Gaitlinsburg (Great Smoky Mountains)... which is a crowded tourist trap. ;-)

There's a guy, Rick Sebak, who does television (PBS) documentaries on Americana based out of Pittsburgh, PA; he'd likely be the guy I'd ask. :-)
posted by talldean at 2:56 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Athens, GA is the obvious choice, but UGA is so big that it doesn't feel like a small town when school is in session. For the small, comfy college town feel, you want Milledgeville, GA, home of Flannery O'Conner.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:50 PM on January 18, 2015

Rosendale, NY: adorable shops in the tiny main drag, world's cutest little beer place if you're into that, hiking and climbing all around, local theater, and it's about a 20 minute drive from new paltz and Kingston, which are also nice small cities/towns. If you go to Rosendale, make sure to have breakfast or lunch at the Big Cheese (cheese, local fare, vintage clothes, meals and coffee) and try to time you trip with one of the many local festivals (I highly recommend the pickle festival. )

I'll also second the vote for Frederick, MD. It's not a small town by population, but it still has that feel to it. The downtown area is big enough to make a day or two of and includes a fairly new independent bookstore and a few restaurants and a wine bar along Carroll Creek (smallish park on the waterfront). Very few chain stores downtown, great restaurants and cafes. There is also a local craft brewery, Flying Dog, that does tours and community events like movie nights at the local theater. There's a farmers market at the fairgrounds every Saturday. I'd recommend going either during the In The Streets festival or while the county fair is going on.
posted by cheerwine at 6:03 PM on January 18, 2015

You already named my favorite two Texas towns in your question, but there's some great ones in the hill country, too. Llano, Mason & Bandera are all county seats with lovely town squares & awesome historic courthouses. The Llano river is gorgeous, and the Dabbs Railroad inn in Llano is the coolest bed & breakfast in the state. Mason has the nearby fort, & some great architecture. In the summer, catch the bat flight at James River Bat Cave. Bandera has nightlife, swimming nearby on the Medina river & Hill Country SNA just outside of town.

If you've been to Alpine & Ft. Davis but haven't been down the road to Marfa, it needs to go on the list. The Paisano is expensive, but worth it for a night, & it puts you in easy driving distance of the River Road. Also, great bookstores & a thriving art & gallery scene.
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:12 PM on January 18, 2015

Come to Lanesboro, MN for the Rhubarb Festival. There's at least one great bike rental shop where you can get set up to ride about as far as a person could want on a smooth, gentle rails-to-trails path. (Depending on which direction you take, there may be a pie shop right on the route.) Lanesboro has a very impressive theater for a city of its size. No colleges right in town, but if you take a side trip to Minneapolis-St. Paul, you can go through Northfield, where Carleton and St. Olaf are located.
posted by lakeroon at 6:53 PM on January 18, 2015 [1 favorite]

McMinnville, Oregon is about an hour north of Corvallis, and recently won 2nd place in Parade Magazine's Best Main Street In America contest. It's got a great downtown, amazing food, small college, a nice little bookstore, and a real Dale Carnage-funded classic library.
posted by mathowie at 7:20 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

Rabbit Hash, Kentucky, has nowhere to stay and none of the attractions you are looking for, but if you come, you can always say you went to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.
posted by tizzie at 7:39 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

CTRL + F "Bozeman"

Ok, I see traveler_ got to it already but I will second that, it's exactly what you want. It's also a good base for exploring the surrounding area. Yellowstone National Park is about 90 miles south, for example. Livingston, to the east. is a smaller town with a charming main street. There are many opportunities nearby for hiking, fishing, rafting, climbing, kayaking, you name it.

Missoula, Montana also has many of the attributes you list.
posted by desjardins at 7:49 PM on January 18, 2015

Oxford, MD and Frederick, MD
posted by spaltavian at 6:47 AM on January 19, 2015

The village of Brockport, NY, has an independent bookstore, a Victorian main street, a cafe, a large state college campus, a movie theater that was built in 1907, a seasonal farmers' market, occasional live music, and is on the Erie Canal, with many walking/biking trails and parks. Hamlin Beach State Park is fifteen minutes north on Route 19. There are several cute Victorian bed-and-breakfasts to choose from, a great diner, and a combination head shop/tattoo parlor in case you get bored.

Drop me a line if you end up coming this way - I grew up nearby!
posted by SeedStitch at 6:54 AM on January 19, 2015

I'll second Nelson, BC, because, well, I live here. It's got everything on your list: A thriving main street without a lot of chains, interesting architecture, great coffee shops and coffee culture, a thriving arts scene all set in a beautiful mountain valley on a lake.
posted by sauril at 6:59 AM on January 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Glenwood Springs, CO. Stay at the Hotel Denver and enjoy the sweet downtown and hot springs.
posted by Sheppagus at 11:12 AM on January 19, 2015

Ely, MN
posted by starman at 6:36 AM on January 20, 2015

I'm going to second Athens, GA! PM me for any recs on restaurants, things to do, etc!
posted by robstercraw at 7:52 AM on January 20, 2015

(All links point to tourism-type websites, maintained by/for these locations)

New Mexico is pretty much made up of interesting small (to tiny, fading) towns, with one mega-region (Albuquerque, still under 1 million people) that still feels pretty small. The state capitol, Santa Fe, really isn't that big, and there's plenty to see and do.

Head up the road, and Las Vegas, NM has plenty to do and eat in and around the city. You could then take in a few of the small towns, if you like to see snapshots of what was, plus plenty of hiking. For example, there's Raton along I-25, just south of Colorado; Clayton, just west of northern Texas on I-87, or southwest of the Oklahoma panhandle on I-56; Tucumcari on I-40, west of Texas, Madrid (pronounced MAY-drid by locals, so I'm told, to differentiate it from MAH-drid, Spain), and Roswell is decked out in alien-everything, which is kitschy fun.

You can spend glorious weeks driving up the California coast and enjoy dozens of small towns in a variety of scales. San Luis Obispo was mentioned up-thread, but there are a ton of cute little towns adjacent to SLO, as the locals call it. There are the 5 cities around/including Pismo (I still don't know which cities are included in the 5, as there are 7 cities along the coast there), then up the coast to Los Osos, Morro Bay and Cayucos. Morro Bay is the "big" town of those three, and it's pretty small. Keep on driving north on Highway 1 you'll get to Cambria, San Simeon, Hearst Castle, and up into Big Sur. And every town has a Farmers Market.

If you like Spanish history, you can visit all the California missions, which are generally along or near the coast. Most have decent communities around them, but some, like San Miguel, are tiny.
posted by filthy light thief at 1:19 PM on January 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Lewes (pronounced like "Lewis"), DE. There's a ferry to Cape May, NJ, in case you need something a little bigger to explore nearby.

You can spend glorious weeks driving up the California coast and enjoy dozens of small towns in a variety of scales.

Having just biked down a chunk of the coast, I second Davenport, Carmel, Cayucos/Morro Bay, and SLO.
posted by psoas at 10:27 AM on January 22, 2015

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