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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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16. Montpelier, VT

(Vermont State Capitol; Courtesy of Flickr user J. Stephen Conn)

Montpelier might be one of the smallest state capitals in the country, but don't mistake its tiny size for a sleepy town: Montpelier bustles with culture and charm both classically New England and uniquely its own. The New England Culinary Institute is situated here, making the tiny town a haven for food lovers: check out Salt Cafe, a 20-seat establishment created by former food writer Suzanne Podhaizer, that’s serving up no-frills seasonal fare, some of it plucked directly from Podhaizer's own garden. Or take a stroll through Montpelier’s weekly farmer's market, Capital City Farmers Market, where more than 50 vendors sell anything from raw goat’s milk to hand-dyed wool.

Downtown Montpelier offers charming shopping options: browse The Getup Vintage, where you can find original beaded dresses from the 1920s, or stop by the Buch Spieler record shop, where you can try out an original 1896 pump organ. Or, take a trip to the fantastical Rivendell Books, which houses more than 400 rare and signed books for sale, and visit the shop's mascot, Veruca, a Russian desert tortoise.

For a more historical tour of Montpelier, the State House offers free half-hour tours of the building. The Vermont Historical Society also offers tours of the Vermont History Museum (for $5), where visitors can walk through an original Abenaki wigwam.

Film lovers should think about visiting the town in March, when Montpelier becomes home to the Green Mountain Film Festival, an annual festival that began in 1997. The festival screens mostly new work from around the world, interspersed with a few classic films. Most of the films shown are documentaries, and some are student-made.

- NG

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