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The 20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2013

From the blues to the big top, we’ve picked the most intriguing small towns to enjoy arts and smarts

(Illustrated maps by John S. Dykes)

6. Petoskey, MI

Petoskey, MI
(Brian Kelly Photography)

In the summer the Indians picked the berries along the road and brought them down to the cottage to sell them, packed in the buckets, wild red raspberries crushing with their own weight.
—Ernest Hemingway

The Hemingways started summering near Petoskey in 1899 when Ernest was a baby and trains and steamer ships brought city people in search of fresh air, boating, fishing and widely advertised “Million Dollar Sunsets.” Hemingway immortalized Michigan’s Lower Peninsula in his Nick Adams Stories, but his “The Indians Moved Away,” quoted above, was a bit premature. Some 4,000 members of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of the Odawa Indians still live nearby and operate the Odawa Casino in town.

Petoskey (named after chief Ignatius Petosega) is charm central, graced by concerts, vintage architecture, art galleries and Friday night festivities that attract folks to the petunia basket-draped downtown Gaslight Shopping District. Jesperson’s Restaurant has been serving local sour cherry pie since 1903 and the doors are still open at bay-front Stafford’s Perry Hotel, which catered to summer people in the Victorian heyday. The Little Traverse History Museum has taken over the old rail depot, and a United Methodist Church built in 1890 is now home to the Crooked Arts Center, with pottery and painting studios, films, dance and music recitals.

In nearby Bay View, a Methodist summer camp and Chautauqua Assembly, the events traditionally started as soon as the lilacs bloomed. (One night in 1895, folks could choose between Mark Twain and a stereopticon lecture on “Babylonian Religion and Ideas.”) Today the tidy community of Victorian cottages puts on concerts, operas and musical theater. The Hemingway Society pays its respects at Windemere, a cottage on Walloon Lake eight miles from Petoskey and still owned by the family.

Papa isn’t the only literary figure around. The novelist Ann Patchett, of Nashville, who has vacationed in the “dreamy little town,” adores McLean & Eakin Booksellers, an independent shop that sponsors readings and short story contests. “It’s the kind of store where I could happily spend a summer,” Patchett wrote not long ago.

Others prefer the beaches, hunting for fossilized coral Petoskey stones, everybody’s favorite souvenir of summer on the shores of Lake Michigan.


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