Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On the Road- Exploring Small Towns In America

As I look forward to some fall travel, I've been researching various options and alternatives.I want to go to places I haven't been, have new experiences, and get the best value for my budget. As such, I've been doing both online research as well as reading books to assist with my planning. As a seat of my pants traveler, I may well throw the plan out the window, but I would certainly like to have one to throw out, if you get my drift.

Today I've been spending time reading a book I got quite awhile back from Amazon. The book is  the 100 Best Small Art Towns In America.  It includes both travel information and stuff about the arts scene in general and what it would be like to live or visit there (granted each town only is covered by a few pages).

small towns on the road always interest me. Whether it's driving with a purpose to Denver, or just taking a road trip as the mood strikes, I am always looking for interesting side trips. I appreciate small towns along the way that are unique and an example of where they are and what they are. While not an art town per se, Moab, Utah comes to mind. Yes, there are the Arches (some of which have fallen since we were there). Yes, there is much mountain biking and sightseeing to experience. But the town itself has a flavor all its own-from the bikes hanging on the wall at the restaurant we ate at onwards. It's this kind of place, where one can spend a day, or maybe two, that attract me on my trips. Don't get me wrong, larger destinations have their own rewards, and a few of them are on my radar (although I've decided my gulf coast drive will probably not include New Orleans as that may be a week on it's own).  Right now though, Im not looking for "destinations" to visit.

Small (and medium sized) "art" towns have their own rewards.  I like seeing geographical conceps of art and culture. I'm big on arts festivals, local theater and local concerts. I enjoy exploring walkable neighborhoods.  This is not to say that larger towns do not have all these advantages. It's simply more easy for me to hit a small town with this kind of color during my road trips. What's more these are places that I can ejoy in a day, knowing I have not seen everything, but that I have seen and done plenty-and probably eaten a bit as well. A pie in every state? Were I to try, say, to stop in a large city on my way to Denver, I would surely leave frustrated if I were only able to spend one day. One day in a small local town leaves me with a completely different feel-even if I want to see more.

While one would expect many of these types of towns to be in the southwest, its amazing just how many are across thewhole  west (and other places as well).  As always, one of my two fall trips will be a drive to Denver to celebrate birthdays and see the aspens before they fall. I always try to take two separate routes, even if one takes me a bit out of my way.  I had planned to make my "upwards drive" through Santa Fe (I have driven through but never stayed).  Looking further afield, there are many options for off road travels on my way-this time and other trips. For example, I knew that Durango was a town just beneath the Purgatory Ski Resort (named such for good reason, I drove there from Denver..and lived), but I had never thought of it as a destination on my own.  I often take interstate 70 home, but never thought of extending the drive a bit to Lawrence, Kansas (hello, Janette!).  While visiting family, I'll make at least one day trip, to Loveland, Colorado.  Before you ask, Boulder is NOT on my radar.  Boulder is......Boulder.

My other road trip goal is a quick gulf coast road trip. I have yet to explore the options of where to stop and what to look for, although I do know that my starting point would be Galveston and my end point will be Biloxi.  What interesting places I'll find along the way?  That's just too soon to answer.


  1. You need to participate in a contest for among the finest blogs on the web. I'll advocate this web site!

  2. I'm with you, Barb! I so love hitting the small towns & finding what little gems they have! I don't get to travel often, but small towns are always so welcoming I find!! :)

  3. Agree, a great way to travel. (I loved Sedona, AZ, when we were there in Feb., not really a small town, but very nice.)

    If you like small art towns, you gotta come to the Northeast. They're scattered all over Pa., NY and New England, and you could spend all summer going from one gallery to the next fair to the following auction or exhibit or out-of-the-way museum.

  4. This post was the perfect reminder. I have the book you are talking about along with one called the 100 Best College Towns in America. I had never thought of using the books as a way to put together interesting vacations, but you have inspired me.

    Thanks, Barb

  5. We were in Moab last Saturday. Yes, it is an interesting town. Good Ice Cream shop, not so good italian place. But it was 103 degrees so we didn't do a lot of touring!

  6. Sightings, I do plan to come back to the northeast at some point-I did go to college in connecticut.

  7. Thanks bob, I may need to check out the best college towns book as well,

  8. rj, we didnt have italian. I was there early summer/late spring so there was still alot of biking and rafting going on. We drove from denver to sand diego via utah, monument valley, tuscon and onward.

  9. If you get to Biloxi be sure to go the extra mile to Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile, AL. It's an easy 1/2 day trip from Biloxi.

    We use a lot of travel books and internet sites to create our road trips. Our favorite is "Road Food." :) We have been known to plan an entire trip around FOOD!


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