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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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8. Marfa, TX

Marfa, TX
(Alyssa Banta)
With mock couture, edgy movies and ironic motels, it’s no cow town.

It’s just a flyspeck in the flat, hot, dusty cattle country of southwest Texas—closer to Chihuahua than Manhattan. But it’s cooking, thanks to an influx of creative types from way downtown: filmmakers like the Coen brothers, who shot No Country for Old Men in Marfa (pop. 1,900), indie rock bands and others who have brought such outré installations as Prada Marfa, a faux couture shop in the middle of nowhere by the artists Elmgreen and Dragset. Cultural camp followers arrived on their heels to open galleries, bookstores, gourmet food trucks and lodgings (in a historic Pueblo-Deco hotel and vintage trailer park called El Cosmico). It may have all started when people first noticed the Marfa Mystery Lights, an optical phenomenon popularly attributed to UFOs and celebrated with parades, battling bands and exhibitions every Labor Day weekend. Or in the early ’70s when New York artist Donald Judd landed in Marfa to plant his massive minimalist sculptures on a decommissioned military camp outside town, the core of the collection now at the Donald Judd and Chinati foundations. These days—move over Austin—an Our Town grant from the NEA is helping Marfa’s not-for-profit Ballroom Foundation create the Drive-In, an open-air art space designed by the cutting-edge New York architectural firm MOS. -- SS

Read how these towns were selected.

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