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The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2014

From country music to herbal cocktails to horseshoe crabs to Rodin, our third annual list takes you to cultural gems worth mining

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15. Ketchum, ID

(The Trailing of the Sheep Festival; Tim Tower)

Located adjacent to Idaho's famous Sun Valley, the tiny town of Ketchum, Idaho (population: 2,706) is hardly an unknown spot—Ernest Hemingway lived (and died) here—though perhaps sometimes overlooked for its more recognized neighbor.

Miners settled in Ketchum—originally named Leadville—in the 1800s, and in 1880, Ketchum was one of the most prosperous mining towns in the Northwest. By the 1890s, however, a new industry had taken over; shepherds passing through the area would drive their sheep through Ketchum, toward the Sawtooth, Boulder and Pioneer Mountains. By the 1920s, Ketchum was the largest sheep shipping station in the United States. The legacy of sheep shipping is celebrated to this day with the Trailing the Sheep Festival, held in Ketchum and nearby Hailey. The festival takes place over four days in October, with exhibits, storytelling and a parade through the streets of downtown Ketchum.

Visitors looking to explore a different legacy can check out Ernest Hemingway's last house and grave. The prolific American author lived in Ketchum from 1959, when he bought a house in the town, to 1961, when he committed suicide in the same house. Though Hemingway's house is not open to the public*, his grave is located in the Ketchum Cemetery, and a memorial, dedicated to the author, stands one mile east of the Sun Valley Lodge.

Beyond the historical, present-day Ketchum is a celebrated center for arts and culture in the Wood River Valley. The town is home to 20 art galleries and boasts a year-round lecture series, as well as various musical and theatrical productions at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts.

Of course, it's perfectly fine to visit Ketchum in search of outdoor adventures. Like Sun Valley, Ketchum is nestled near the base of Bald Mountain, which is known worldwide for its fine skiing.

- NG

*The original post stated that Hemingway's house is open to the public. It is not. The sentence has been corrected to reflect this.


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