When is the last time that you visited small town America on a boomer road trip? While metropolitan U.S. cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Los Angeles get most of the travel attention, you’re doing yourself a disfavor by not including an off-the-beaten-path small town in some of your travel plans. By highlighting five of my small town America favorites, I’m encouraging you to drive the backroads, walk the main streets, enjoy the community celebrations and meet the citizens (they’ll be happy to talk to you) in America’s villages and small towns.
Stevensville, Montana, population 1,907
Well, of course I’m going to include Stevensville, Montana as a small town America favorite. Alan and I live here! And it took moving to a small town to appreciate this way of living. I’ve seen more parades since we moved to Stevensville than I have in my entire life. As a former majorette in a marching band, I KNOW parades.
But seriously, Stevensville is Montana’s first permanent settlement, which the town celebrates during June’s Western Heritage Days festivities, including a parade down Main Street. Or you can come back in August for the Creamery Picnic and another parade. History buffs will want to visit St. Mary’s Mission, the true beginning of Stevensville.
However, Alan and I are drawn to the outdoor recreational opportunities in Stevensville. We can access any number of trails into the Bitterroot Mountains for a hike before breakfast. Kootenai Creek Trail is one of our favorites. And nearby forest roads provide plenty of off-road options for riding our ATV. Cyclists will appreciate the 50-mile Bitterroot Trail, a paved path that travels through the Bitterroot Valley from Missoula to Hamilton. Alan enjoys riding the portion between Stevensville and Victor or Stevensville to Florence (and of course back).
There’s so much to tell you about Stevensville and the Bitterroot Valley that the writing’s on the wall. I need to create a separate article about my new home town.
Mendocino, California, population 894
During a coastal California road trip, Alan and I discovered the seaside charms of Mendocino in the northern part of the state. Our headquarters at Sea Rock Inn offered relaxing views and walkable access to this quaint Victorian village. Although the visit included stormy weather, as soon as the rain stopped, we headed for the trails at Mendocino Headlands State Park to watch the surf pound into the rocks below the cliffs.
Coastal Living calls Mendocino a dream town for good reason. Next time, we’ll enjoy coastal walks on Glass Beach and Bowling Ball Beach, ride the Skunk Train, go wine tasting at nearby vineyards or enjoy a seafood festival or two.
Ouray, Colorado, population 1,021
If your looking for a town that’s held on to its historical significance, visit Ouray, Colorado in the San Juan Mountains. Two-thirds of the town’s original Victorian structures are still used as shops, galleries, restaurants and homes. And most hotels in Ouray are within walking distance of the main streets.
Alan and I visited once during a 4th of July weekend. One of the highlights: a parade down Main Street where firemen sprayed the crowd with water from the fire hose. Or maybe it was that time we were having dinner in the Outlaw Restaurant during a Jeep Jamboree and a motorbike roared right through the door and up to the bar—with the owner on the back.
Ouray owes its beginnings to the gold and silver mining boom of the late 1800’s. That legacy has left active boomer travelers with a maze of hiking and four-wheel-drive trails providing access to Colorado’s “Swiss Alps.” We’ve had so much fun exploring Yankee Boy Basin, Last Dollar Road and Engineer’s Pass. Not into four-wheeling? Driving the Million Dollar Highway will do.
Micanopy, Florida, population 622
The small village of Micanopy—population 600—proves there’s more to Florida than beach resorts or Walt Disney World. Located south of Gainesville, Micanopy’s town center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Stroll through antique shops or my favorite, Mosswood Farm Store, where visitors learn about the old way of doing things before we mechanized our lives.
Later drive to Cross Creek, the home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. She wrote the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Yearling, on a manual typewriter in the living room. Looking for something more active? Enjoy a morning kayaking on the Ichetucknee River.
Republic, Washington, population 1,083
Another town with mining history, Alan and I visited Republic, Washington on the way to Canada at the beginning of our Alaska Highway road trip. Although we only stayed the night at the Northern Inn, the adventure opportunities we learned about will bring us back for sure. Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the many ATV trails. And, of course, there’s hiking, birding, fishing and nine lakes to visit. Or you might enjoy digging for fossils at the Stonerose Interpretive Center & Eocene Fossil Site. The K-Diamond-K Guest Ranch looks like a good choice for next time. You know how we love guest ranches.
Have I inspired your next trip to small town America? Or do you have a favorite village or small town to share? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an email with your thoughts.
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