I recently read an interesting article at budgettravel.com about the coolest small towns in America. Budget Travel has run this feature on the top 10 small towns under 10,000 in population for the last five years. The towns are nominated and voted on by readers. After perusing the lists I’ve noticed some recurring features that make these towns “cool.”
• Scenery: Beautiful beaches, tall pine trees, lakes, mountains and rivers can be found in most every “cool” town. What’s cool about this scenery is not simply that the town is conveniently located in a scenic area, the town has taken steps to make the scenery accessible. Parks have been built along waterways, wildlife centers funded in natural areas, biking and hiking paths explore the great outdoors. These small towns haven’t just built large hotels to take advantage of the scenic views, they’ve made the scenery an integral part of their identity.
• Culture: Outdoor music festivals, buildings repurposed as art galleries, paintings on the sides of barns and building for the public to view and renovated theaters all help distinguish these towns as culture-friendly communities.
• Food: Sea salt cookie bakeries, regional barbecue, wines from local vineyards – the food is as unique as the towns themselves.
• Shopping: Nearly every cool town boasted a vibrant downtown with unusual locally owned businesses. Stores that sell locally made products and cater to visitors that yearn for originality stand out like the goat cheese shop in Waitsburg, Wash., or a gift shop celebrating Kennett Square’s top agriculture export – mushrooms.
• Imported locals: Nearly every cool town story has a transplant from the big city that fell in love with the town, sold their successful business or cashed in their stock portfolio to open a gallery/bed and breakfast/café. I take this as a sign that many Americans are looking for a better quality experience when it comes to choosing where they live or vacation.
If you look at the list of what makes a town cool, you can see McPherson has many of those qualities. It takes nature to provide you with great scenery or agriculture opportunities but it really requires forward-thinking and innovative individuals to create a town that is interesting enough to draw new residents and visitors.