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100 Best Small Towns

100 Best Small Towns

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PHOTOGR APHS: BOB STEFKO (1, 25, 31, 48, 64, 89 ); R ANDALL LEE SCHIEBER (4, 66); JOHN NOLTNER (5, 8, 9, 13, 51, 77); DOUG SMITH (35); BR AD ZIEGLER (37); ROY INMAN ( 67); CLINT

FARLINGER (75); JASON LINDSEY ( 80 )

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CONTACT Senior Travel Editor Barbara Morrow

at barbara.morrow@meredith.com

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100 BEST
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SMAL L-TOWN GE TAWAYS

When a free weekend comes along, everyone wants to use it wisely. And no one knows more great places to spend a getaway than Midwest Living . We’ve been visiting the region’s small towns for 20 years, and our list of the 100 best will guarantee you find the perfect place to escape for a little shopping, sightseeing and relaxing.
PRODUCED BY TREVOR MEERS ● REPORTING BY BARBARA MORROW, KENDRA L. WILLIAMS, KATIE KNOROVSKY AND HEATHER LOEB

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Midwest Living June 2007

Travelers tap into this scene with classes at Fish Creek’s Peninsula Art School and the newer Hands-on Gallery. For this list of the 100 best small-town getaways. stages one of the best. scenery. bay views) and Jesperson’s (good pie!) deliver memorable meals. No wonder they’re so good at it. starting with Midwest Living’s first issue in 1987. an outdoor show with flames billowing around a cauldron of whitefish. but you’ll need only a weekend in any of these 100 to see why we did. epitomize what’s most appealing. We excluded suburbs. Top off this meal with pie made with cherries from the orchards that flourish in the peninsula’s interior. bookends to Peninsula State Park. offering an ever growing to-do list for travelers and a relaxed attitude. potatoes and onions. 1 1 Ephraim/Fish Creek. dining. It took us years to compile this list of the best places to visit. shopping.000. multiday potential and wild card (for special events such as festivals). creating more than 300 miles of coastline. Local restaurants. and Charlevoix (population: 3. MI 3 Galena. Tucked into this shore are lighthouses. Visitors rent bikes at the park entrance and ride to water views. 2 Petoskey/Charlevoix. lodging. and our top towns. The 80-mile-long Door Peninsula extends into Lake Michigan on Wisconsin’s east side. WI Who needs New England? The Midwest has its own coastal charm around the Great Lakes. visitors golf at the Inn at Bay Harbor. IL These neighboring resort towns along the Lower Peninsula’s northwestern shore began entertaining vacationers who came by steamship more than a century ago. In the warmer months.100 SMALL-TOWN GETAWAYS BEST The Midwest has about 8. vibe. Our editors have been on the road ever since. Along the busier Green Bay side. and we didn’t consider livability factors such as education or employment. walkability. The preservation movement in this old lead-mining town (population: 3.000) climbs hills along Little Traverse Bay. beaches and a lighthouse. located in Door County. including Andante (fine dining.600) has effectively defined the trend toward small 40 Midwest Living June 2007 . it’s hard to tell where one white clapboard village wrapped around a blue harbor ends and another begins. we added another layer of research that spanned several months and ranked towns in 12 categories: attractions. proximity to major cities.500 towns with populations less than 20. known for first-class hospitality and one of more than a dozen lodging choices in Fish Creek alone. we’ve been looking for the best ones for 20 years. Petoskey (population: 6.000) nestles between Lake Michigan and Lake Charlevoix 17 miles southwest. Artists inspired by the county’s scenery show their work in the two towns’ dozen galleries. Charlevoix’s boutiques string along the waterfront. The beach and harbor are steps from the 100 shops and galleries of Petoskey’s Gaslight District and landmark Stafford’s Perry Hotel. Plentiful shopping runs toward high-end boutiques. five state parks. golf courses and pretty towns seemingly plucked straight from a painting. But Ephraim (population: 349) and Fish Creek (population: 200). The signature meal is a fish boil. outdoor activities. are the best examples of it. Practically speaking. Fish Creek’s White Gull Inn. good food is equally ample. a first-class resort with courses heralded as the Midwest’s Pebble Beach. arts scene. 30 beaches.

13. MI 15. 28. MO German village that feels like it’s on the Rhine is hub for Missouri River wine country and cyclists’ beloved Katy Trail.towns reinventing themselves. a re-created village and 80. furniture. SD Another Black Hills boom in progress. Nebraska City. 16. spa treatment or pottery class. Deadwood. Northfield. WI 9. including shops and two picture-perfect college campuses. Mount Rushmore. with lots more going for it. Lanesboro. Some 50 inns and hotels welcome travelers. Geneva. WI A mix that surprisingly works: classic Victorian town with the fourdiamond Osthoff resort and a road-race course with 400 annual events.000 tulips blooming for May festival. KS May be more Swedish than Sweden 4 (in an old-timey way). And the effect is spreading to surrounding towns like Savanna. pastries. 21. with a growing group of art galleries as well as 1880s steam train rides. BEST MN 10. IA Go Dutch with a gingerbread-trimmed downtown. Stillwater. Plus wolf and bear centers. 29. the business district’s century-old buildings now house more than 90 shops filled with antiques. Crazy Horse Memorial. MN A haven for cyclists and other lovers of the peaceful outdoors with the Root River trail. 25. 22. Hermann. 14. Atchison. gateway to the Black Hills’ best: Custer State Park. IN An epicenter of the simple farming life. quilts and other crafts. Marshall. WI Promenade like the Victorian socialites who founded this pretty resort town—on the 21-mile path around the lake. 27. If Main Street or the many festivals get too crowded. also winter sports and stunning Black Hills scenery. WI 18. Spring Green. KS How did Amelia Earhart ever leave her pretty hometown on the Missouri? One clue: She never saw Nell Hill’s popular home furnishings shops. Midwest Living June 2007 41 . inns and productions at the Commonweal Theatre. Custer City. with authentic crafts. SD Growing like an Old West boom town. Strong arts scene includes Bethany College. part of a new hands-on arts scene. and restaurants serve seemingly every taste. Elkhart Lake. Framed by northwestern Illinois hills. 17. Hill City. Saugatuck/Douglas. 23. MI It takes a weekend to see all the significant buildings (850) in this designated National Historic Landmark District. (See the Honolulu House!) 26. South Haven. past grand estates. MN The town still proud of defeating Jesse James (celebrated at a huge fall festival). Elkhart Lake. resorts and chefs gone North Woodsy. 15. Leland/Suttons Bay. views and local wines. plus shops downtown and riverboat rides in nearby Brownsville. 12. Lake Geneva. MI Beaches that stand out even on Lake Michigan within walking distance of downtown and inns. plus good food. Shipshewana. MN A wear-yourhiking-boots-to-dinner spirit energizes this jumping-off point for Boundary Waters canoe trips. with hearty Amish-style food. MI On the Leelanau Peninsula near Traverse City. carriage tour. fresh foods at the edge of wine country. escape with a hot-air balloon ride. SD Old West aura mostly intact despite a huge gambling scene. LakeMI FOR ROMANCE 5. WI Inspired arts scene includes Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin home and studio and a world-class outdoor theater. Ely. 11. Mackinac Island area. NE Newcomers don’t expect the striking Lied Lodge and the farm of Arbor Day founder J. 20. Grand Marais. foods and festivals. Sterling Morton. home accessories and art. a recipient of the lake’s bounty: fresh fish. 18. Pella. Weirdly appealing House on the Rock is nearby. 19. Lindsborg. MN A onetime fishing village between the North Woods and Lake Superior draws both outdoorsy types and a big community of working artists. 24.

A brick river walk leads visitors close to touring riverboats that regularly dock with loads of vacationers.200). ND Westerntheme-park of a town. KS The town Eisenhower credited with making him who he was. 133 downtown blocks are on the National Historic Register. near Mississippi headwaters at Itasca State Park. which has served as a model for preservation of other towns. Wabasha. where Grumpy Old Men was filmed. IN Near Indiana Dunes and home of a huge Wizard of Oz festival. WI LUXURY 7. 42 . MN 44. Mineral Point. Cottonwood Falls. Medora Musical celebrates TR’s spirit. gateway to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. MN A hub for the vacation area around central Minnesota’s lakes. Genevieve. don’t miss summer’s weekly turtle races! 43. Artists set up easels among the swimmers and sunbathers enjoying the crescent of white sand to capture Oval Beach (considered one of the country’s best) on canvas. some of the area’s best bike trails and Clifty Falls State Park. with buildings dating to 1817. OH Historic sites and old-time crafts in area’s first permanent settlement. 42. Drives out of town meander to several award-winning wineries. Ely. Coshocton. home and library. museums and shops. you wouldn’t guess it’s surrounded by busy lake resorts. Nauvoo. riverboat rides and Twain shows. WI Quintessential Wisconsin lake town scene: water sports and supper clubs. 49. NE Home of Fort Robinson. an old riverboat port of 12. WI Artists working among preserved buildings in an 1820s Cornish lead-mining town. site of key Western events. Also. residents take for granted having their portraits painted. IA Seven villages preserve a communal society’s spirit with dining. 26. 44. winter is for snowmobiling on extensive trail system. 48. a re-created cow-town complex. WI Summer is for lakeside resorts. MN So laidback. Summer also brings an acclaimed film festival and jazz. MO Amazing French Colonial architecture in one of the oldest settlements west of the Mississippi River. Hannibal. and a stroll through Madison’s hilly streets provides glimpses of lush gardens around grand old homes. Green Lake. OH Another Midwest Amish hot spot. Amana Colonies. Cedarburg. crafts shops and homey restaurants. KS Tiny but cool base for exploring the Flint Hills.400 so tied to the past. 32. 39. Chadron. 45. high-end lodging/dining at Grand Central Hotel. 34. lots of boutiques and river cruises.and chamber-music series. Tours of his museum. Frankenmuth. on Ohio River Scenic Byway. Tom Sawyer’s cave. Visitors not only find original art adorning studio windows. Weston. Their likenesses hang in one of the 40 galleries that liberally mingle with an appealing collection of boutiques.100 SMALL-TOWN GETAWAYS BEST 4 Madison. Corydon. MI These side-by-side Lake Michigan shore villages are so artsy. Decorah. OH Living history at Roscoe Village with rides aboard horse-drawn boats on the Ohio-Erie Canal. MO A time capsule of a town rich in preCivil War history with shops. IA Bluffs and clear streams surround a college town known for its major Norwegian-American museum and outdoor sports. 38. MI “Little Bavaria” with chicken-dinner restaurants. 40. IL Restored buildings and reenactors in onetime Mormon enclave on the Mississippi. MN Eagle watching on the Mississippi including the National Eagle Center. KSBayfield. 31. Chesterton. with tours. Park Rapids. Cottonwood Falls. BEST REMOTE 51. 51. too. 50. Pine Ridge landscape 5 Saugatuck/Douglas. Ste. Park Rapids. IN Indiana’s original capital with a vibrant town square including a 55year-old soda fountain.050) and Douglas (population: 1. now holding shops and galleries. where seven waterfalls flow. Marietta. Abilene. but also they get accustomed to encountering sculptures on almost every corner in Saugatuck (population: 1. Eagle River. 46. 37. Antiques dealers fill the district. IN Towering limestone bluffs and the Ohio River frame picturesque Madison. 47. MN 48 30. world’s largest Christmas store (Bronner’s) and year-round festivals. some converted to inns. Nisswa. WI National Register limestone buildings as sturdy as the work ethic of their German builders. Berlin. plus live music at Emma Chase Cafe. 36. Medora. MO Fact and fiction blur in Mark Twain’s hometown on the Mississippi with tours of his home. 52. museums and old homes. 41. Also a winery and historic hotel. 33. 35.

Baraboo. 60. The surrounding peninsula is marked by pay-onyour-honor berry and apple stands and an absence of chain stores. 61. the only inhabited Apostle. a white column commemorating a U. That’s fine with the artists who live and work in studios tucked amid the town’s 250 shops and the countryside. 74. OH BEST FOR FAMILIES 8. 54. biking and golf. Valentine. Okoboji/Spirit Lake. IN Historic buildings. 8Put-in-Bay. WI A lighthouse guarding a Lake Michigan harbor. 53. Bishop Hill. 56. IN Lake Superior adventure awaits visitors to this town of 600 on the Bayfield Peninsula. For the best area view. OH Hilltop Denison University looks down on a New England-style town. so most visitors leave cars behind. river views in Pikes Peak State Park. IN The “Small Town” John Mellencamp sings about. Red Wing. which offers shops. shops and museums as well as Salt Fork State Park. IN An antiquing hotbed featuring buildings from the early-1800s heyday of the National Road. Hudson. Williston. WI Inns. Only boats connect South Bass Island and its town of Putin-Bay (population: 128) to the mainland. OH Funky shops and cafes in a freespirited college town near a 75-mile bike path. Bayfield’s harbor is full of kayaks and tour boats going to and from the beaches. ferries to the Apostle Islands and a serious ecoconscious ethic. plus lots of places for hearty food. 58. Fort Scott. The artists’ colony founded by Indiana painter T. a museum and places to eat. Granville. 75. OH A gateway to the rolling woodlands of southern Ohio’s Hocking Hills. IL Shops selling Amish everything. Port Washington. Location. MN A quaint Mississippi port with restored St. inns and cafes catering to cyclists on the Katy Trail. 70. Logan. climb the 352-foot Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. a renowned beach. antiquing and outdoor activities in a pretty town in the St. KS A frontier fort with 20-plus restored and re-created buildings. an inn and labyrinth recalling communal life. NE A cowboy spirit prevails in a town that’s the base for canoe trips on the famed Niobrara River. Detroit Lakes. relaxed mood. That usually reduces the traffic noise among shops and restaurants to no more than the hum of golf carts and jingle of bells on rental bicycles.100 SMALL-TOWN GETAWAYS BEST BEST SMALL-TOWN GETAWAYS 6Nashville. Circus World Museum and 500-foot cliffs in Devil’s Lake State Park. Baraboo. IL Descendants of settlers preserve a Swedish-American Utopian community’s legacy. OH Near glass factories. WI 23. Medora. Elsah/Grafton. OH An antiquers’ mecca. McGregor/Marquette. Near the Dells. Ohio’s largest. the 22 Apostle Islands lie just offshore. . New Glarus. IA Hubs for Iowa’s “Great Lakes” region with small amusement parks. 65. Arcola/Arthur. OH A storybook family getaway is just a ferry ride away from northwest Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline. Most summer nights bring performing arts under the old-fashioned Big Top Chautauqua tent. 73. Indiana’s largest. 66. including museums. a haven of hills and forests 55 miles south of Indianapolis. cave tours. SD 30. 71. victory in the War of 1812. 76. 59. antiques shops and inns along the Mississippi. Hannibal. 7Bayfield. 67.C. More relaxed explorers ride ferries to Madeline Island.000) also suits hikers and others who explore nearby Brown County State Park. including Alpine architecture and Heidi and Wilhelm Tell weekends. who was drawn by the vistas that seem to spread from every hilltop. The shops. WI Home to Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center. 57. Hill City. Ashland. Steele. ND 31. ND See a restored frontier fort at the historic junction of the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers. 44 Put-in-Bay. Rocheport. The woodsy setting around Nashville (population: 1. Location. MO Shops. WI Location. New Harmony. On summer days. inns and restaurants of Bayfield look down from hills along the lake. James Hotel and tours of famous Red Wing pottery. Family attractions fill the island.S. 62. MN A resort town favoring a folksy. lighthouses and campsites in the legendary archipelago. Yellow Springs. 63. Seymour. and home of 204year-old Golden Lamb Inn. MO 65. the seat of Brown County. IL Historic buildings. 69. WI A little bit of Switzerland. an art center and hiking in Jackson-Washington State Forest. Cambridge. 72. golf and more. (See story on page 19. lakeside lodgings and dining. fishing charters and a 1917 carousel. IA Neighboring towns appealingly situated along the Mississippi. Lebanon. celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. WI So-called progress never quite made it to Nashville. 64. 55. Croix River Valley. Like jewels tossed into the sapphire water.) 67 with hiking. Centerville. 68.

explore the island’s gateways. MN Music. plus vast Lake Oahe. KS Santa Fe Trail sites. New Ulm. Short drives lead to notable towns. IA The Field of Dreams movie site in a cornfield. 79. and the forests and craggy river valley still supply scenery visitors love. 93. Ogallala. OH 56. The queen of Victorian Era resorts. with the help of reenactors. a Lake Superior harbor and lighthouse tours. MI The timber of the St. 94. the white-columned Grand Hotel. Mantorville. 81. Train and riverboat tours are staples. Cambridge. 85.S. Chesaning. Visitors take carriage tours. Coshocton. 37. Jamestown. Croix and Taylors Falls.” 96. also farm toy. 80. ND A stop along Sheyenne River Valley National Scenic Byway. Kimmswick. doll and woodcarving museums. Louis.” 92. Fulton. 87. MO Civil War and Route 66 sites.100 SMALL-TOWN GETAWAYS BEST 9 9Stillwater. 83. 78. bike trails and drama at local theater. MI July’s Showboat Festival brings bigname performers. IA Bald eaglewatching and a lock and dam on the Mississippi. MI Victorian downtown connected to Lake Michigan by a boardwalk. SD Tours of the Capitol and memorials. including Marine on St. Arrow Rock. It’s become a cliche to say that arriving by ferry at an island’s harborside village is like stepping back in time. that you’ll wonder if the idea originated on this Gilded Age holdover. 89. George Washington Carver’s home. Croix River Valley on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border built the fortunes behind Stillwater’s Victorian mansions. summer riverboat rides from St. MN Jamestown. OH A Utopian community revisited. Census labeled the country’s “most German city. 98. 88. 97. 82. SD At the Black Hills’ southern edge. WI Lake Ripley and the “Salt-glazed Pottery Capital of the World. Back on the mainland. Scottsbluff. MO Twentyfive shops and 94 people in this Mississippi hamlet south of St. Dyersville. Oberlin. 86. Keokuk. MI 77. site of Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech and a Berlin Wall segment. NE Real-life cowboys hanging out in a base for visitors to Lake McConaughy’s white beaches. Munising. OH Home to Oberlin College.200) about 20 miles east of Saint Paul lures travelers with an irresistible mix: a dozen inns and a historic downtown sprinkled with antiques shops and bookstores that bring collectors from all over the world. Stillwater offers one of the regions most surprising boat tours: St. Hot Springs. Alto Pass/Jonesboro. linked by the five-mile Mackinac Bridge. occupies a bluff over the waters between Michigan’s peninsulas. Croix cruises in a gondola built in Venice. ND FESTIVALS 21. Frankenmuth. 84. ND Western history at a frontier village and buffalo museum. NewNorthfield. BEST FOR48. ■ 46 Midwest Living June 2007 . Valley City. Zoar. Copper Harbor. But it’s so true at Mackinac Island. MI Along one of the region’s best drives. MN Historic buildings. Because cars are banned. IL Rustic towns providing a base for outings in southern Illinois Shawnee National Forest and a growing wine scene. St. MN 10Mackinac Island area. MO An arresting vibe at Westminster College. Glarus. Carthage. 91. ride bikes. IN DePauw University anchors a town near Parke County’s famed covered bridges. 100. 90. Louis. the signature sound is the clip-clop of horses’ hooves. taste famous fudge and tour the 1700s fort. MI Laid-back neighbor to Lake Superior and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Lewis and Clark history. Plus. The town (population: 17. two notable museums and the 14-acre Tappan Square. Manistee. Council Grove. 95. Chimney Rock and pioneer museums. Pierre. 99. MO The 1834 Arrow Rock Tavern and the respected Lyceum Theatre. festivals and shops selling imports in what the U. an 89 important fossil dig and a wild horse sanctuary. Italy. Ignace (population: 2. NE Tastes of Oregon Trail life at the namesake bluff. WI 94.700) and Mackinaw City (population: 860). Greencastle. near Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.

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