The 20 Best Small Towns in America of 2012- page 6 | Travel | Smithsonian
The narrow-gauge Durango & Silverton train steams through history above the Animas River. (Photo by Scott DW Smith.)

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

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6. Durango, CO

Durango, CO
(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

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