Flags waving curbside as the local high-school marching band strides down Main Street; a mom-and-pop bakery that's been serving up pastries and coffee for 40-plus years; and a new microbrewery that's revived a former grain mill, revamping a small neighborhood section that's sat empty for decades. These are just a few of the things that we love about small town America. Coast-to-coast, the U.S. is filled with such locales that sing to our imaginations and offer a distinct sense of place: whether it's the cowboy culture of Medora, North Dakota, or the Bavarian-themed charm of Helen, Georgia.
Our 2019 Best Small Towns include the former spring training grounds for the Chicago Cubs, a frontier town that helped transform the Grand Canyon into a national park, and the self-proclaimed “Ice Cream Capital of the World.” Go on, be inspired!
Read more: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/15-best-small-towns-visit-2019
Avalon, California (pop. 3,764)
It's been 100 years since chewing gum mogul William Wrigley Jr. purchased a majority share in the Santa Catalina Island Company, both preserving and transforming the 74-square-mile Channel Island—about an hour boat-ride south of Long Beach, California—into the pleasure resort it is today. Avalon is at its helm, a picturesque community situated on the boat-filled waters of Avalon Bay and surrounded by an island's worth of hiking routes, bicycling trails and hidden beaches. To celebrate Wrigley's role in local history, Avalon's Catalina Island Museum is running “Wrigley’s Catalina: A Centennial Celebration,” a multimedia exhibit of videos, photos and artifacts, through January 19, 2020, to coincide with a year's worth of centennial-related events.
A century later, Wrigley's influence remains everywhere: from Avalon's iconic Art Deco and Mediterranean Revival-style Catalina Casino gathering hall, home to both the world's largest circular ballroom and the restored Avalon Theater—where famed Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille often hosted private screenings of his films—to the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. There’s a plaque marking the grounds where Wrigley’s Chicago Cubs did their spring training, as well as memorabilia at the Catalina museum. The island's Catalina Chimes ring intermittently throughout the day from their Spanish tower perch, and Wrigley's former mansion, Mt. Ada, is now a hilltop B&B with a wraparound dining terrace offering unbeatable ocean views.
You can still sample salt water taffy at Lloyd's of Avalon where a young Norma Jeane Baker (aka Marilyn Monroe) once worked, or try a hand at making Catalina tile—the island's most native art form—at Silver Canyon Pottery. Clear waters and colorful marine life including sea stars and octopus make Lovers Cove a snorkeler's paradise, while golfers of all abilities have their pick between the surprisingly challenging Catalina Miniature Golf Gardens and the professional 2,100-yard Catalina Island Golf Course that, at 127 years, happens to be the oldest operating one west of the Mississippi. In Avalon and its surrounds, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, and e-bike and golf cart rentals are also par for the course.
Lodgings range from the sleek and modern Aurora Hotel to the 1920s Hotel Atwater, which is just completing a multi-million-dollar renovation. For rum-filled libations at a local landmark, try the tiki-themed Luau Larry's (and it’s signature “Wiki Wacker”), or opt for shrimp tacos and margaritas at Descanso Beach Club, where staff members will deliver them directly to your chaise lounge in the sand.