There are years, that when vacation time comes one wants a place that fills two criteria. First, relative proximity; because one doesn’t need the additional stress of replacing lapsed passports, currency exchange calculations, customs, missed connections, and colicky baby seatmates. Somewhere truly off the radar, gentle on the wallet and with something to enrich the mind, warm the soul and challenge the body. The Travel folk at Smithsonian.com have an annual mission to find and list the best small towns to visit in the USA as they proclaim “from sea to shining sea.” Top make the list, a town is defined as having a population of under 20,000 and they all make it with room to spare. In fact one admits to a year round population of only 137. They run the gamut of attractions from majestic world heritage sites to pint-size wonders. But they seem to share two qualities. One, of being viable for families, couples and lone wolves. And two, most are diversified, in that there is more than a single attraction and there’s a concerted effort to make them all-season. From the white beaches of Florida to the west coast of Alaska here are twenty towns that Smithsonian.com no less recommends filtered through the prism of Escape Here’s experts and street smarts. If Tinder had a vacation app, these are places you would seriously want to consider swiping right:
20. Vernal, Utah -Pop 10,334
Jurassic park meets the Wild West. The land around vernal is rich with fossils from the period which began about 200 million years ago and has become the most popular prehistoric period in contemporary imagination. The Carnegie Quarry contains some 1500 actual dinosaur bones embedded in the rock. The towering pink dinosaur that greets you on arrival indicates the town’s main industry. They even discovered remains of a previously unknown species of dinosaur here in 2010. There are also significant thousand-year-old petroglyphs from indigenous people as well as examples of nineteenth century homesteads. The rugged terrain around town is scenic in the extreme with three state parks with exceptional white water rafting.