The 20 Best Small Towns in America of 2012
From the Berkshires to the Cascades, we've crunched the numbers and pulled a list some of the most interesting spots around the country
- By Susan Spano and Aviva Shen
- Smithsonian magazine, May 2012
The narrow-gauge Durango & Silverton train steams through history above the Animas River. (Scott DW Smith)
All aboard for mountain fun, plus classical tunes and—gasp—vaudeville.
It would be a bald-faced lie to say that Durango (pop. 16,900) isn’t devoted above all to outdoor recreation, from mountain biking and black-diamond downhill skiing to Iron-man triathlons, white-water kayaking and rock climbing. But between adventures in the surrounding San Juan Mountains, people celebrate life Western-style in the old railroad and mining town’s lamppost-lined historic district, among art installations along the Animas River greenway, and at the nearby Music in the Mountains festival come July (heavy on the classical offerings, but a bit of pop, too), the Fort Lewis College Community Concert Hall, and the Henry Strater Theatre, a.k.a. the “Hank,” a showcase for vintage melodrama and vaudeville. Best of all, the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, opened in 1882 and now a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, still carries passengers 45 miles into the heart of the high San Juans, pulled by a coal-fired, steam-driven locomotive, with the occasional bluegrass band or cowboy poet onboard for entertainment. -- SS
Read how these towns were selected.