As I look back over 2014 U.S. travel, it has been, among other things, a year of new/old towns that Ruth & I have liked and lingered in. The best were:
1. Susanville, CA There isn’t one particular reason why this town named for Susan Roop won us over. Maybe it’s just because it’s prosperous and comfortable. Star of Lassen County, it has a wide main street lined with local stores, not chains, where Ruth bought a chance on a unique quilt but didn’t win. Not a tourist Mecca, its #1 attraction seems to be the Biz Johnson Trail.
2. Ely, NV Our 1st trip of 2014 took us here and I’m still thinking about this bedraggled, isolated town that began as stagecoach and Pony Express stops. Maybe the Central Theater, Economy Drug Soda Fountain, and proximity to Great Basin National Park had something to do with it.
3. Tonopah, NV This central Nevada time-warp place, kind of a living ghost town, was a total surprise.
4. Cedar City, UT We accidentally hit this family-centered southwest Utah service-oriented community close to Zion National Park on a beautiful summer evening when almost everybody in town was in City Park for Groovefest. The music was fine and the audience as much fun to watch as the entertainers.
5. Mason City, IA This north central Iowa town invites visitors to “Experience the Art of Hospitality”. We certainly did with our main focus on the only Frank Lloyd Wright hotel, the Historic Park Inn, still in existence and lovingly restored. Meredith Wilson, the composer of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” who created The Music Man, was born and raised here. You’ll enjoy this American musical chestnut much more after seeing his hometown.
6. Sturgeon Bay, WI The largest community of vacation magnet Door County, Sturgeon Bay lures yacht fanciers, music lovers, gallery browsers, us, etc.
7. Bryan, TX Texas has more interesting small towns than most other states, and this year we added Bryan to our list of favorites. Check out the LaSalle Hotel and the Carnegie Library across the street from it, go out to Messina Hof Winery and buy some shockingly good Tawny Texas Port, and explore Bryan’s nostalgic downtown shops before they change.
8. Abilene, TX There’s a tremendous small city spirit here and some great attractions–Frontier Texas!, Paramount Theater, National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, etc.
9. Beaufort, SC One of the most beautiful small towns in the United States and definitely off the grid unless someone like R. Alan Stello Jr. takes the time to tell you not to miss it.
10. New Ulm, MN Settle by German immigrants who still influence its culture, architecture, beer quality, etc., New Ulm is an unexpected treat best visited in the summer, unless you really like cold weather.