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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

The narrow-gauge Durango & Silverton train steams through history above the Animas River. (Photo by Scott DW Smith.)
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17. Laguna Beach, CA

Laguna Beach, CA
(nik wheeler / Alamy)
Reality television might try to convince you that Laguna Beach is nothing but an affluent, spoiled suburb of Los Angeles, but don’t be fooled. The Laguna Canyon, rugged coastlines and abundant wildlife inspired an influx of artists from all over the country at the turn of the 20th century, and the area soon became an art colony (the artists’ cottages are still standing in the Crystal Cove Historic District). The first art gallery was founded in 1918 and now operates as the Laguna Art Museum. In the 1960s, counterculture took hold, resulting in the Sawdust Art Festival, a summer art show that prides itself on being educational and open to artists of all levels. And with Hollywood just a few miles away, it’s no surprise that the Laguna Playhouse, founded in 1920, has seen performances from the likes of Harrison Ford. Now it hosts a wide spectrum of theater and the annual Laguna Dance Festival. -- AS

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