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Surprises on list of ‘coolest towns in America’

By John Bordsen; jbordsen@charlotteobserver.com

The west Texas town of Marfa is a cool arts community in the middle of nowhere. It’s also where the 1956 James Dean classic “Giant” was filmed. Jane Withers and Earl Holliman, who both appeared in the movie, stand in front of the skeletal remains of the main ranch house from its set.
The west Texas town of Marfa is a cool arts community in the middle of nowhere. It’s also where the 1956 James Dean classic “Giant” was filmed. Jane Withers and Earl Holliman, who both appeared in the movie, stand in front of the skeletal remains of the main ranch house from its set. TMS

Seventeen of the coolest towns in America?

The “Locations” page of the aroundme.com travel website has a pretty solid list – it does, after all, include funky, free-wheeling and visually stunning Asheville. But there are some surprises, too.

Guess what community “has seen a boom in new, young residents” and is “ a hub of activity, with awesome dive bars and trendy restaurants setting up shop left and right”?

North Charleston, where the fatal shooting of Walter Scott has recently given the town national notoriety.

Most towns on the list have something in common: access to large nature areas and a college or university; those factors, combined, bring tourists to visit and an arts community to stay.

Here’s the list and some background on the towns.

Silver City, N.M.: Former mining town in the southwest part of the state is a reformed Wild-West town that’s gone artsy. It has Western New Mexico State and is near the Gila Wilderness.

Chattanooga, Tenn.: On the Tennessee River, close to the Appalachian Trail, it attractively reinvented itself after stagnating in the 1980s.

Athens, Ohio: Tiny college town (Ohio University) in the state’s southeast hills with its own network of nature trails.

Mount Desert Island, Maine: It’s ocean-side at Acadia National Park and home to the yachting types based at Bar Harbor.

Lawrence, Kan.: Settled by New England idealists in the 1850s, home of the University of Kansas, it’s a intellectual hot spot on the Plains.

Marfa, Texas: Improbable Dust Belt community has artists and UFO chasers.

Freeport, N.Y.: Town on Long Island is a magnet for those have the cash and time to live outside NYC.

Missoula, Mont.: Near seven national wilderness area and assorted national forests.

Sun Valley, Idaho: Famous winter destination for sports lovers; year-round haunt of the rich.

North Charleston.

Frisco, Colo: Former mining boom town is near the Cooper Mountain, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin slopes.

Asheville.

Oneonta, N.Y.: a college town (SUNY Oneonta and SUNY Oneonta) in the scenic Catskills. Comedian Paul Reubens lived here as a child; he grew into Pee-wee Herman.

Mercer, Wis.: In the wild, far north of Cheeseland, near the Michigan line; long ago transitioned from mining and lumber to tourism.

Port Angeles, Wash.: Near Seattle, on the Olympic Peninsula; across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Victoria, British Columbia.

Fennville, Mich.: Artsy community where vineyards reach toward the Lake Michigan beaches.

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