(Photo: courtesy of Aspen Chamber Resort Association)
As you watch the sun dip below 14,000-foot peaks from Allred’s restaurant, toast your craft beers to a vacation well spent in Telluride, Colo., a historic ski town hip enough to host film and bluegrass festivals.
Telluride, rated No. 7, is just one of the small towns with outsize personalities that proved irresistible to the Travel+Leisure community. For our first America’s Favorite Towns survey, we asked our fans and followers to nominate their favorites on social media with the hashtag #TLTowns—and then to vote for the 744 towns in 55 categories, including farmers’ markets, museums, adventure travel and family-friendly hotels.
To determine the overall popularity results, we calculated each town’s average score. The results reveal that T+L readers have a soft spot for small towns in the Rockies, with the No. 1 title going to Aspen, Colo. It scored highly for its attractive locals, beer scene and Victorian-era Main Street. Read on for more of T+L’s favorite towns.
Beauty abounds in this tony ski town, from the 14,000-foot heights of the surrounding peaks to its residents, who won the No. 2 spot in the survey’s attractive people category—second only to the southern belles of Oxford, Miss. (Looks aren’t everything: Aspenites also scored No. 3 for intelligence.) Victorian-era brick façades housing chic boutiques like Fendi and Prada lend an Old West–meets–Fifth Avenue appeal to the former mining town’s walkable streets, which encompass the No. 3–ranked Main Street and No. 1 town square.
Estes Park, Colo.
Elk wander the streets at will in this gateway town to Rocky Mountain National Park, where a bustling Main Street encourages visitors to stroll with ice cream cone in hand. Its 2 million annual visitors can choose from rustic to regal accommodations that earned high marks in the cool motels (No. 1), B&Bs (No. 4), and vacation homes (No. 9) categories. Historic inns like the 105-year-old Stanley Hotel, which inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining,” came in at No. 3.
St. Simons, Ga.
The ebb and flow of the Atlantic dictates life in this resort town on an 18-square-mile island off the Georgia coast. T+L readers gave St. Simons high marks for the caliber of its residents, scoring ninth place for most active and sixth for their intelligence. They’re lucky to live in a beautiful natural setting, with miles of sandy beaches and sprawling oaks. Attractions include golf courses and an 1872 lighthouse with sweeping views.
Southern charm reigns in this coastal Inner Banks town. Its antebellum architecture and a pirate past helped earn it the survey’s No. 3 spot for historical sites. Beyond Blackbeard landmarks, Beaufort also draws raves for local flavors: Visitors can shop for just-picked pears, farm-fresh cheeses and handmade crafts under majestic oak trees at highly rated farmers’ markets. Given its research centers for Duke University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it’s no surprise Beaufort also ranked No. 8 for intelligent people.
Amelia Island, Fla.
Thirteen scenic miles of Atlantic coastline remain one constant on this barrier island that has absorbed French, Spanish, English, and Mexican influences over the course of a tumultuous 400-plus years. Horse-drawn carriage rides and homes-turned-B&Bs preserve a colonial character in the 50-block historic district of Fernandina Beach, the island’s hub.
This hamlet in the Greenbrier Valley offers something for everyone, with art galleries and cool cafés filling a historic downtown and a rugged surrounding countryside voted No. 1 for adventure travel. Browse local shops like kid-friendly Honnahlee and Bella the Corner Gourmet to purchase some of Lewisburg’s top–rated cool souvenirs. Or, plan your visit during April’s annual chocolate festival or the state fair in August to see why readers ranked it No. 4 for both fairs and festivals.
Deep within a glacier-carved valley, this rustic mining camp–turned–vacation destination is perhaps best known for its pristine Rocky Mountain scenery and steep, challenging ski terrain. T+L readers recognized that it’s also a cultural hub, rating it No. 1 in the music category for annual events like the Telluride Bluegrass and Blues & Brews festivals. Those seeking a holiday winter wonderland should note that the town also snagged the No. 1 spot for Christmas lights.
There’s a festival for virtually every month of the year hosted in 18th-century Franklin’s brick-paved downtown—named among the country’s best by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. You might sample beer and Irish whiskey at the Main Street Brew Fest each March or bluegrass fiddling in late July, or join a Dickens-themed Christmas celebration. The town also ranked No. 3 for Christmas lights.
A strong local foodie culture earned this college town votes in a variety of dining categories, including cafés (No. 2), ice cream (No. 4), burgers (No. 5), and coffee (No. 9). Sandwiched between the Green Mountains and glittering Lake Champlain, Burlington is a four-season center for boating, biking, hiking, and skiing. Refuel with a maple creemee (Vermontese for soft-serve ice cream) at lakeside cafés or some spuds at Al’s French Frys, a 1940s institution.
Cradled by Mount Mansfield and the Green Mountains, this small valley town shines in autumn and winter. Coming in at No. 4 for fall visits and adventure vacations, it sees its fair share of leaf-peepers, hikers, skiers and snowboarders. Visitors can take their pick of historic inns (No. 5), cool motels (No. 6), family-friendly hotels (No. 10), and other great places to stay, including the Stowe Mountain Resort and the Austria-inspired Trapp Family Lodge, of “Sound of Music” fame.
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