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Favorite Small Towns

Via readers write about their best-loved little towns in seven Western states.

Wyoming Dinosaur Center in Thermopolis, Wyo.
Photo caption
The Wyoming Dinosaur Center digs up the past in Thermopolis, Wyo.

BEND, ORE. "Set at the foot of Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, which offers some of the area's best skiing and snowboarding, Bend is a great place to shop and explore," says Joyce Green of La Pine, Ore. "What's more, it has six fine breweries, each serving excellent food."

BENICIA, CALIF. "I call it the undiscovered Sausalito," writes Kris Saad of Benicia. "It's a walkable waterfront town with a true main street, plenty of parking, and great weather. Our favorite spot for breakfast is the First Street Café—try their homemade scones."

CORRALITOS, CALIF. "Charming little cafés, great places to ride bikes, and affordable lodging make Corralitos a favorite spot when we're vacationing in the Monterey Bay area," says Scott Mason of Castro Valley, Calif. "We never leave without some smoked ham and other meats from the Corralitos Market."

COTTAGE GROVE, ORE. "This town 20 miles south of Eugene has a charming main street, where the end of Animal House was filmed," writes Robin Beerbower of Salem, Ore. "Stay at the Village Green Resort and walk to the Cottage restaurant. Hike the trail by Dorena Lake. Or to step back in time, explore nearby covered bridges or drive up into the Bohemia mining district."

FAIRFAX, CALIF. "This town at the foot of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County has been called Mayberry on acid, but that's an oversimplification," writes Jonathan Korty of Fairfax. "There's a classic car show each September and the area's best music and arts festival in June. An excellent movie theater, seven fantastic restaurants, a Wednesday farmers' market, the tastiest organic ice cream, and hot summer nights from May to October."

FERNDALE, CALIF. "Set among the redwoods, with Victorian buildings all along Main Street," says Amy Rodrigues of San Jose, "the town holds some unusual events every year: a lighted tractor parade at Christmastime and a kinetic sculpture race in May."

JACKSONVILLE, ORE. "Farms, orchards, blackberry thickets, and pretty country houses line the drive into this town just west of Ashland," writes Rebecca Thistlethwaite of Aromas, Calif. "The Victorian downtown is full of shops and cafés. Spend a leisurely day in town or drive up the Applegate Valley to wineries, fruit stands, and mom-and-pop eateries."

MOUNT PLEASANT, UTAH "You'll find meadows and mountains here that will take your breath away," says Craig Nelson of Danville, Calif. "The townsfolk are cheerful and often respond to travelers' inquiries with 'You bet!' This place truly lives up to its name."

OAKLEY and PEOA, UTAH "You won't find famous stores in these little towns near each other on Highway 32 northeast of Park City," says Mary Jo Roberts of Provo, Utah. "Just local people, local crafts, cemeteries, and a small grocery store at the base of the scenic Uinta Mountains."

OAKRIDGE, ORE. "Nestled amid mountains, lakes, and streams, Oakridge has riverside motels, a campground, and a beautiful flower-filled park for picnicking," writes Louise Fiedor of Grants Pass, Ore. "Across the river is a trail through a lush, ferny forest."

REVELSTOKE, B.C. "A very forward-looking, untouristy town in a beautiful mountain setting," writes Nancy Sasser of Choteau, Mont. "I don't ski, but Revelstoke has extensive new lift projects in the works. There's a beautiful new indoor saltwater swim park with something for everyone, and many motels and campgrounds give free passes. Every night in summer there's a free concert in the town square."

SWAN VALLEY, IDAHO "Bordered by trapper cabins and rustic ranches, Swan Valley (population 225) stands at the beginning of Idaho's Teton Scenic Byway," says Judy Scott of Pocatello, Idaho. "A must-stop is the Rainey Creek Country Store, where you can get ice cream in dozens of flavors and bear claws with chocolate and cashews." visit

THERMOPOLIS, WYO. "It's all about hot water here," says Jim Blanford of Buffalo, Wyo. "There are RV parks, numerous hotels, two public hot spring pools, and a state park, all in a gorgeous red rock setting. Nearby are a dinosaur center, a bison preserve, and white-water rafting."

VIRGINIA CITY, NEV. "Visitors ask, 'Does anyone live here?' " writes Cynthia Kennedy of Virginia City. "But the thousand people who do take pride in the town's rich history and offbeat events: the mountain oyster fry, outhouse race, camel race, and boar's head feast, to name a few."

WALDPORT, ORE. "A short drive from Newport's aquarium, the tide pools at Seal Rock, and coastal Oregon's parks and waysides, tiny Waldport sits on sun-splashed Alsea Bay," says Paula Riley of Reno, Nev. "It's known for its friendliness, good beaches, antique shops, tasty fish tacos, and easy access to wet and wild crabbing."

WILLIAMS, ARIZ. "This town calls itself 'Gateway to the Grand Canyon,'?" says Harold Roy Miller of Stagecoach, Nev. "The six-block downtown has restaurants, shops, and a railroad station for a train to the canyon. It's close to fishing and hunting—with cross-country skiing in winter. There are even a few resident ghosts."

Photography by Gary Crabbe/Enlightened Images

This article was first published in January 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.