Aside from its cities and geographical diversity, America is also rich in cultural history and attractions, and even its smallest towns attract visitors from around the world to experience their unique heritage. We pick 10 of the best to explore.
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Situated between the Big Bend National Park and the Davis Mountains, Marfa is a small city in the desert of West Texas. The city was founded in the 1880s, and its population at the time of the 2010 United States Census was only 1,981. Despite its tiny population, however, Marfa is now regarded as an important tourist destination, with people traveling from all over the world to see the Minimalist art for which the city is known. The Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum founded by Minimalist artist Donald Judd: Ballroom Marfa, a non-profit performance space dedicated to showcasing the best in modern visual arts: and the ghostly Marfa Lights are just a few of the attractions of the city.
With a larger population of 10,031 (as of the 2010 Census), Sedona lies between the Yavapai and Coconino counties in the Verde Valley region of northern Arizona, and boasts the most dramatic scenery in the West. The red monoliths and soaring burnt-orange pinnacles which surround this small town clearly illustrate why the area is known as Red Rock Country. An inspirational location, Sedona draws artists of all kinds to shop in its boutique shops, visit the Mexican-inspired Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, and to learn of its artistic heritage. The German Surrealist painter Max Ernst lived here with his wife in the 1950s, and the Egyptian sculptor Nassan Gobran founded the Sedona Arts Center, which now exhibits the work of 120 local artists.
Nebraska City, Nebraska
Nebraska City has a population of only 7,289 in 2010 and some of the oldest buildings in the state. Explorers Lewis and Clark, traveling down the Missouri River, passed through the town in 1804, and today the Lewis & Clark Missouri River Visitors Center celebrates their discoveries. The city also has the state’s only officially recognised Underground Railroad station, the Otoe Country Courthouse and a museum for almost everything (such as the Kregel Windmill Museum, the Nebraska City Museum of Firefighting, and the Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard).
With Victorian cottages, beaches rich with fossils, and a strong arts tradition, Petoskey is a place of quiet charm, with a population of 5,670 as of 2010. The city also has a literary history; the Hemingways summered near to Petoskey in the early 1900s; now, McLean & Eakin Booksellers encourage literary creativity, regularly hosting readings and short story contests. The city also has many arts venues, and is home to the Northern Michigan Artists Market with its famous Gallery Walk, ‘the art lover’s night out on the town’, and the Crooked Tree Arts Center, which hosts exhibits and family friendly workshops.
Fairfield has a population of around 9,464 and is the site of the Maharishi University of Management, which aims to provide a ‘consciousness-based’ education. With a bustling student community, the ecologically-aware Abundance Eco Village, and a strong belief in meditation, Fairfield is endlessly surprising and has been dubbed America’s most unusual town. Attractions include the Maasdam Barns Museum, numerous examples of Vedic architecture, the Orpheum Theater independent cinema, ICON, a contemporary art gallery which exhibits the work of around 300 local artists, and regular art walks.
Known as one of the most beautiful southeast Alaskan cities, Sitka is situated on an island flanked by snow-capped mountains and the Pacific, with a population of around 9,046. With views of Mount Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano, Sitka was first inhabited by Native Tlingit Indians but became the capital of Russian America in 1808. The Battle of Sitka in 1804 led to the creation of Sitka National Historical Park, which became a national monument of commemoration in 1910. The Park still towers with spruce, hemlock, and the impressive totem poles, and remains Sitka’s most popular attraction. Other attractions include the Chichagof Island, the Russian Bishop’s House, and a huge number of hiking trails to follow.
Another town with a literary legacy, Provincetown was frequented by Jack Kerouac, who made notes for On the Road whilst staying here. With a population of 2,994, Provincetown is a popular retreat destination for writers and artists, and has a strong gay and lesbian community. Surrounded by water on three sides, the town has some of the country’s most beautiful beaches, resulting in an influx of visitors during summer months. The town is also known as the nation’s oldest art colony, and its Cape Cod School of Art, founded by painter Charles Webster Hawthorne soon after his arrival in 1899, was the first school to teach outdoor figure painting. The Provincetown Art Association and Museum is also an important site in town, and was founded in 1914 with the intention of unifying the community.
Hanover, New Hampshire
Hanover, with a population of around 11,260, is situated in the upper valley of the Connecticut River and is home to Dartmouth College. The city is a polished New England haven, complete with ski resorts, cabins available to rent, and lake views. Dartmouth’s Hood Museum of Art is also of cultural interest, and has been collecting artefacts since 1772, amassing around 65,000 objects of historical and artistic importance. The Hopkins Center is also notable, designed by Wallace Harrison, and named one of the nation’s best performing arts centres by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Situated between the Blue Ridge and the Allegheny Mountains, Lexington has a population of around 6,998 and is home to Washington and Lee University, founded in 1749. Named one of the friendliest towns in Virginia, Lexington is also notable for its enthusiasm for architectural and historic preservation, as is illustrated by the scenic Downtown Buena Vista, with Victorian shop-fronts and trees lining the road, and Downtown Lexington, which is on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Performing arts also have a strong presence here, with the Lime Kiln Theater and Clark’s Ole Time Music Center offering drama and mountain dance respectively.
Lanesboro is nestled in the Root River Valley, has a population of around 754, and calls itself the ‘bed and breakfast capital of Minnesota’. The Victorian buildings lining Parkway Avenue, boating on the river, and geocaching on the Root River State Bike Trail are just some of the attractions which draw tourists from miles around. The cultural centre of town, however, is the Commonwealth Theatre, which was opened in 1989. The Lanesboro Arts Center also provides a cultural outlet for the town, putting on musical performances and hosting exhibitions for local students and established artists.