Most Beautiful

Punta Gorda
Florida

This Gulf Coast community received the most votes in this category and the most votes overall! Gorgeous harbor and water views, stunning sunsets, and great opportunities for sailing and fishing got a lot of play in both photos and words.

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Jefferson City Winner
Missouri

The attractions most highlighted here include Missouri River views; a classic, domed capitol building; and a beautiful main street. Jefferson City also received the third most votes overall.

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Quincy
Illinois

Fans of this Mississippi River town at the Missouri border rave about its historical districts filled with stately Victorians and sheltered by lovely canopies of trees.

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Arvada
Colorado

This Gold Rush town outside Denver received the second most votes overall in addition to placing as a finalist in this category. It receives high praise for its Rocky Mountain views, manicured parks, and charming Olde Town.

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Cloudcroft
New Mexico

Some fans of this town, which was also a 2012 Friendliest finalist, emphasize the mountain views, wildlife, and Douglas firs and Ponderosa pines. Others focus on the Wild West architecture and the grand (circa 1911) Lodge Resort.

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Most Fun

Jim Thorpe
Pennsylvania

This 2012 Most Beautiful finalist returns with the most votes in this category. The natural surroundings that help make it beautiful also, it seems, make it fun. Many posts and photos highlight outdoor activities---as well as festivals and parades, quaint restaurants and shops, historic architecture, and, well . . . trains.

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Lombard
Illinois

Those who favor this town near Chicago are quick to point out its many fun festivals---especially the May Lilac Festival, which features a parade, an arts-and-crafts fair, and a gala ball.

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Corning Winner
New York

Corning’s supporters must really think it’s fun: it was a finalist in this category last year, too! Maybe it’s the Finger Lakes location and all those area wineries, or maybe it’s the famous glassworks and all those great boutiques and restaurants.

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Geneva-on-the-Lake
Ohio

Here’s another Most Fun finalist in both 2012 and 2013. This Lake Eerie community’s supporters cite arcades, nightspots, and other attractions along “the strip,” as well as water activities and area wineries. Several people also noted the local donuts (and pizza and ice cream).

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Nocona
Texas

Rodeo, a classic car museum, and shops selling authentic Western wear are among the appeals cited by those who voted for this North Texas Hill Country town on the Chisholm Trail. The many photos of smiling cowboys and cowgirls are also bound to make you smile.

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Friendliest

Kewanee Winner
Illinois

Topping the category is this northwestern Illinois town, where colorful murals celebrate civic pride and history and where good cheer, genuine courtesy, and community service are cited as hallmarks.

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Macon
Georgia

When people write about this college town---also known for its many landmark buildings and its music traditions---they use words like “comforting,” “welcoming,” and “down home.”

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Bradenton
Florida

One voter took extra steps to show how friendly this Gulf Coast town of is: “. . . . I posted a few photos I took to prove Bradenton is the friendliest city for certain. The people in the photo got together for five whole minutes to make a chain and many did not know each other.”

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Murray
Kentucky

The 2012 category winner is back with high praise for both its playfulness and its volunteer-minded citizens. Supporters cited organizations like Lost but Loved Animal Rescue, which created a very special dog (and people) park in town!

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Keokuk
Iowa

One voter summed it up best: “Come see our little river town, with the largest lock and dam on the Mississippi, and . . . the friendliest damn people you can meet!”

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Most Patriotic

Mandan
North Dakota

The place “Where the West Begins” received the most category votes this year and was a 2012 category finalist, too. It’s proud of its Mandan tribal heritage, its ties to the history of western expansion, its veteran’s cemetery, its rodeo, and its multi-day Fourth of July celebration.

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Gallup Winner
New Mexico

Honoring veterans is big here. So is honoring indigenous culture. The town is near both Zuni and Navajo reservations, and it hosts one of the country’s oldest and largest annual Native American gatherings. It’s also the place to learn about the Navajo Code Talkers who played a critical role in secure communications during WW II.

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Enterprise
Alabama

The home of Fort Rucker and the Army Aviation Museum—and a finalist this year as well as in 2012—has lots of posts from the many veterans who also call it home. Not surprisingly, the Stars and Stripes feature greatly in a lot of the photos.

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Fairborn
Ohio

Also taking wing as a finalist is the home to the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Air Force Museum. Supporters cite the wonderful Independence and Memorial Day celebrations and the community support of the military, with outfits like Operation Fairborn Cares, geared to helping recent veterans transition to civilian life.

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Jonesborough
Tennessee

The state’s oldest town prides itself on the many flag-adorned buildings in its historic downtown as well as its annual summer 1940s USO-style show, which honors veterans through skits and big-band musical production numbers.

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Best for Food

San Mateo Winner
California

Variety and ethnic diversity figure big on the menus in this bayside town just south of San Francisco. The finalist topping this category also has lots of food trucks and produce and specialty markets, including one with a “must visit” bakery.

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Walla Walla
Washington

Talk about civic pride: this southeastern Washington State town won the Friendliest category in 2011 and was a 2012 finalist in this category. Folks rave about all the cafés, restaurants, bistros, pubs, wine-tasting rooms . . . the list goes on. And, oh, yeah . . . the community college has a culinary program, too.

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Roseville
Minnesota

Just about every supporter who posted a note about this community just outside Minneapolis not only has a favorite place to eat in town, but also a favorite dish (or two or three) in his or her favorite place to eat.

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Galesburg
Illinois

Food lovers in this northwestern Illinois railroad town are proud of all the locally owned restaurants, many in the downtown historic district. As native son Carl Sandburg wrote, “. . . I am the workingman, the inventor, the maker of the world's food and clothes. . . .”

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Charlottesville
Virginia

This 2012 finalist is again a category contender. One supporter said it best: “. . . talented chefs and culinary artists drawing from local ingredients gives this more-than-just-a-college-town a leg up in the foodie world. Don't miss out by just reading reviews—visit and see for yourself!”

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Best for Geocaching

West Bend
Wisconsin

Shops, restaurants, and even the police department have signs in their windows that say “Welcome, Geocachers.” The town topping our new-in-2013 category also hosts a “mega” event that draws thousands of aficionados. And, word is, that area caches are both numerous and gratifying.

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Peachtree City
Georgia

People go geocaching by golf cart in this town, which was also a 2011 Most Patriotic finalist. What’s more, a lot of those who voted are very dedicated to the sport and up on the lingo. Read their posts for more info on the 300 or so area caches and for definitions of terms like “GZ” and “FTF.”

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Helena Winner
Montana

Geocaches on the Helena GeoTour are so rewarding that even locals swear they learn new things about their town. As one poster put it: “People have reported that [geocaching here] is fun, hard [with] different terrains.” What else would you expect from a Rocky Mountain town in Big Sky Country?

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Manhattan
Kansas

The various caches in and around this town have D/T ratings (i.e., difficulty of finding/ruggedness of the terrain) ranging from super-duper easy 1/1 to really, really, hard 5/5. The community is also very supportive---town events often feature booths with folks on hand to help everyone, even experienced geocachers.

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Merritt Island
Florida

Not only does this Space Coast community have what is reportedly the country’s only brick-and-mortar geocaching store, but it also has a very active geocaching association whose motto is “Take Pride in Your Hide.” Terrains vary greatly—some folks even geocache by kayak.

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2012 Town Winners

Bardstown, KY
Most Beautiful

Gainesville, TX
Most Patriotic

Santa Fe, NM
Best Food

Delray Beach, FL
Most Fun

Murray, KY
Friendliest

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Arvada the Beautiful!

Arvada, Colorado – located west of Denver with views of the Rockies, Arvada boasts an average of 300+ days of sunshine each year. The city’s welcoming attitude, the value placed on arts and recreation and its historic preservation make Arvada a community unlike many others. As Colorado’s eighth largest city, Arvada competes with the larger metropolitan areas in both commerce and entertainment but retains its small-town charm unmatched by other suburbs.

Established in 1870, Arvada enjoys a rich history beginning with Colorado’s first gold discovery. The historic “Olde Town Arvada” area, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, provides an eclectic shopping and dining experience. However, the riches bestowed on this town still continue in present time as visitors can’t help but be captivated by the town’s quiet tree-lined neighborhoods and stunning scenery.

With an abundance of natural and groomed spaces including hiking, biking and horseback riding trails, there is no shortage of ways to take in the beauty of ‘Colorful Colorado.’ There are more than 90 parks within the Arvada city limits including three skate park facilities, a dog park, a tennis center, two golf courses, 51 play grounds and 29 undeveloped open space areas. Some of the most beautiful destination points include:

West Woods Golf Course (a member of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program since April 2007) features three unique golf courses that provide brilliant natural scenery along with challenges for golfers of all skill levels. The Audubon Program is an award winning education and certification program that helps golf courses protect our environment and wildlife habitats. The Cottonwood course, true to its name, is lined with trees along its fairways, along with many creeks and ponds stemming from the Rocky Mountain water trickling down from the foothills. Its lush scenic layout lies very close to a nature trail, and the entire nine brings you “back-to-nature.” Foxes build their dens sometimes near the tees! Deer, mountain lions, coyotes and even an occasional bear have been seen in the vicinity.

Majestic View Nature Center and Community Park is a gem of a place to discover and appreciate the area's natural features and cultural history by interacting directly with nature! The 3,000 square foot Nature Center features hands-on nature and environmental displays, wildlife exhibits, a kid's area, classrooms and meeting space. The park encompasses over 80 acres, which includes a lake and wetland areas, a beautiful demonstration garden, interpretive trails, prairie grasses and many wildlife species

Two Ponds National Wildlife Refuge is the smallest urban unit in the National Wildlife Refuge System covering 72 acres and consisting of uplands, wetlands and three small ponds. By taking a short walk on the trails you may encounter sparrows, hawks, woodpeckers, red-winged blackbirds, magpies, warblers, waterfowl and herons. As the seasons change so does the landscape and its animal inhabitants. Two Ponds is used by more than 120 bird species, 22 which nest on the Refuge. Coyote, red fox, muskrat, raccoons, beaver, deer, and several species of small mammals are also observed at Two Ponds.

Finally, the City takes great pride in the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, the “crown jewel” for the community. Since its opening in 1976, the Arvada Center has become one of the largest and most well-respected multidisciplinary arts centers in the nation. The Arvada Center hosts nearly 350,000 visitors annually with year-round professional theater, two outdoor summer concert series and dance; art galleries; history museum; and classes for all ages. Nothing compares to Arvada! Visit us at www.arvada.org or “like” us at City of Arvada on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and YouTube.

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Bradenton, Florida

Located just south of Tampa and St. Petersburg on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bradenton has been known as “The Friendly City” for generations. In fact, the outgoing and approachable nature that inspired the nickname long ago is still alive and well today.

When vacationers hit America’s highways with their travel trailers beginning in the 1920, they often found that towns along the way did not embrace those they called “tin can tourists.” But in Bradenton, they found a community where the welcome was as warm as the weather. Here, they could gather each winter for fun and relaxation comforted by the fact that local residents genuinely appreciated their presence.

As drivers approach the city, they see “The Friendly City” proudly proclaimed on the imposing water tower that soars above the landscape. But the claim is no idle boast. Bradenton is characterized by charming southern hospitality that is flavored by the laid-back attitude of the neighboring gulf islands. Today, more than 2.8 million visitors enjoy the area’s warmth and friendliness each year.

In addition to the locations that still welcome travel trailers, there is a broad array of distinctive inns, historic downtown properties, and nationally known hotel brands. Many offer views of the Manatee River, which flows beside downtown Bradenton and invites visitors to spend memorable days kayaking, canoeing and fishing on the scenic waters.

Vacationers and residents alike celebrate abundant good times together. There are Pittsburgh Pirates spring training games at beautiful McKechnie Field. One of America’s newest riverside parks offers outdoor concerts, beach volleyball, a skate park and more. South Florida Museum boasts a planetarium and Snooty™, the world’s oldest living manatee. The historic downtown – alive with great restaurants and taverns – hosts a weekly farmers’ market and regular community festivals.

Friendliness even colors the city’s approach to arts and culture. Named the #2 small city for arts in America by AmericanStyle Magazine, Bradenton is home to the Village of the Arts, an eclectic community of artists living and working together in a downtown neighborhood. Here, visitors can immerse themselves in a world of creativity, tour working studios, and even chat about inspiration and technique with an artist over a glass of sweet tea. Bradenton is also home to a potpourri of thriving galleries, art centers, theater troupes and a full calendar of musical performances, including the Bradenton Blues Festival.

The friendly approach to life transcends fun times though. Mayor Wayne Poston reports that much business in Bradenton is still accomplished with a simple handshake. In addition, the community comes together to enthusiastically serve those in need. Residents built more than 100 homes for Habitat for Humanity, and volunteer at local food banks. The city is also home to Southeastern Guide Dogs, an organization that brings new hope to the visually impaired.

Bradenton, Florida has been “The Friendly City” for generations. Residents are still offering a warm welcome to visitors today.

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Charlottesville, Virginia: Without a doubt, best for food!

Just four miles from Charlottesville’s thriving downtown sits the home of America’s first foodie, Thomas Jefferson. On top of founding a nation, the president penned the first known American recipe for vanilla ice cream and is widely credited with introducing macaroni and cheese to the States. Dinner guests at his Monticello home included explorers, presidents and dignitaries including Daniel Webster who once described the legendary meals as “half Virginian, half French style, in good taste and abundance.” Over two centuries later, Jefferson’s culinary legacy can be tasted in the 100+ independent restaurants that are peppered throughout the vibrant college town of Charlottesville.

With a thriving agriculture scene surrounding and supporting the city of 42,000, the “farm to table” approach to food is not a movement in Charlottesville, it is a way of life. Acclaimed local chefs dream up and deliver creative dishes based on what is in season and peruse the local farmers markets for ingredients and inspiration. Meats and vegetables come from surrounding Albemarle County, which wraps the city with mountain vistas and farm land enriched by famously prolific Virginia soil. Cheeses are delivered freshly churned from nearby cow and goat farms, giving Charlottesville’s chefs a wealth of ingredients to apply their originality.

Residents pack the restaurants on every night of the week and nowhere is their willingness to come to the table more apparent than on the pulsating Downtown Mall. Lined with brick and available only to pedestrians, this eight block walking mall would make Jefferson eat out on a daily basis. Featuring over 60 restaurants, the Downtown Mall is a seven-day a week food festival, producing a dazzling array of menus. An example evening could start with the Roasted Brisket Hash at the acclaimed Brookville restaurant, progress to the renowned shrimp and grits at the family owned Hamilton’s and finish with a cone of locally sourced habanero hibiscus gelato at Splendora. A different exploration could begin with griddled pork belly at the 38-year-old C&O Restaurant, followed by acorn squash gnocchi at Glass Haus Kitchen and capped off with a steaming peach cobbler covered with Jefferson’s vanilla ice cream at the rambunctious Whiskey Jar.

All good food must be accompanied by good drink and the 32 vineyards, 4 cideries and 8 craft breweries within a thirty mile radius of the city and Albemarle County provide award-winning beverages to accompany the area’s meals. Desperate to create his own wine, Jefferson planted America’s first vines, only to be foiled by Virginia’s vacillating climate. Now, Charlottesville is home to vineyards that have won international competitions and have earned the area the unofficial moniker of “The East Coast Napa.” Even world-wide celebrities have joined in on the Central Virginia’s wine making! Donald Trump and Charlottesville’s own, Dave Matthews, operate neighboring vineyards only a ten minute drive from the city.

With an abundance of culinary history, homegrown ingredients, inspired chefs and gourmet residents to support the restaurants, there is not a more deserving candidate to win Best Food Town In America. Come visit Charlottesville and delight in a food scene that mirrors the dinners at Jefferson’s Monticello; plentiful, intensely local and unforgettable.

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Cloudcroft New Mexico: A Magical Mountain Setting

It seems that New Mexico’s first railroad builders had an impeccable eye for real estate. When the first trains reached the new town of Alamogordo in the late 1800s more timber was needed to continue the line. An expeditionary party set out for the Sacramento Mountains looming in the east. What they discovered was stunning. On the climb from the Tularosa Basin at 4,300 ft. they passed through vast Ponderosa pine forests teaming with game. The mountains and canyons were lined with striking sedimentary rock formations. Near the summit, at 9,000 ft. their trek opened onto a broad clearing. What they had discovered was the ideal spot for a cool mountain sanctuary. That was the founding of Cloudcroft. Construction began immediately on visitor accommodations and Cloudcroft welcomed its first guests in 1899. Soon word of this beautiful mountain idyll spread throughout the southwest and beyond, and set Cloudcroft on its destiny as a favorite mountain retreat.

Today, the rustic mountain charms of Cloudcroft still attract visitors from across the country and around the world. With its unique location surrounded by the immense Lincoln National Forest, Cloudcroft has become an outdoor lovers paradise. In the summertime the clean mountain air offers a cool alternative to the heat at lower elevations. The hiking, biking and horseback riding opportunities are nearly endless. Golf, photography and bird watching are first rate. But the outdoor fun is year-round. The Sacramento Mountains and the Lincoln National Forest are known across the country for excellent hunting. Popular wintertime activities include downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and sledding. Of course, our unique location, far-removed from the light pollution of large cities provides spectacular skies and incredible stargazing year round. That’s why the National Solar Observatory, an internationally known astronomical complex is located nearby. But the attractions of Cloudcroft are even bigger than the outdoors.

Most everyone, it seems, fantasizes at some point about getting away from it all and moving to a charming vacation spot. That’s Cloudcroft. Visitors understand quickly why we say we’re 9,000 feet above the stress level. There are no chain stores on Main Street. In fact there aren’t even any traffic lights! Instead visitors find the rustic charms of an old west mountain resort where festivals and holidays draw the whole town; where the shopping and dining are comfort classics created by friendly locals; and where chilling and chatting has been elevated to high art. Cloudcroft is the sort of casual retreat where friends and families find themselves slowing down and reconnecting.

When you want to capture a special feeling, a special experience, you can do that in Cloudcroft. After all, how many towns can brag about a hotel that caters to famous guests and a ghost who refuses to check out? At The Lodge Resort & Spa guests report sightings of Rebecca, a beautiful young chambermaid with striking blue eyes and shocking red hair who met her mysterious fate at the hands of a jealous lover nearly 100 years ago. The Lodge has also played host to the likes of Judy Garland, Clark Gable and Pancho Villa. With Cloudcroft’s long history of hospitality visitors will find a range of accommodations, from motels and cabins to campgrounds. And one thing you can count on no matter when you visit, you’ll find the mountains magical, and that Cloudcroft is naturally beautiful.

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Corning, NY: Where Fun is a Way of Life

It’s not often you stumble upon a place and think, “Wow, there’s something really special here,” but that’s exactly the impression so many people get when they come to Corning. It’s not just the natural beauty, fantastic food, and charming shops in our downtown. No, there’s something more. It’s like you can feel the excitement in the air – the crazy fun energy that encapsulates this vibrant small town. You know you’re in for a great time.

Anyone who visits America’s Crystal City gets the feeling that this would be a great place to live, and those who call it home know how lucky they are. After all, fun is just the way we do things here in Corning. We’ve got fantastic festivals mixed with awesome attractions and lots of hands-on fun. What’s not to love? Take it from someone who’s lived here her whole life – someone who travels a lot, but always returns – there’s this undeniable fun factor here, and it works like gravity. It draws you back, forcing you to compare Corning with every other small town you encounter, and you soon realize nothing else quite stacks up.

It’s the fact that we kick off summer by rockin’ out at GlassFest every Memorial Day Weekend. It’s that despite the falling snow, we get together and sip hot chocolate every December during Sparkle. There’s a camaraderie here and deep sense of pride in our community. We know what we have is special, and we have lots of fun sharing it with the world. What other town can claim they offer visitors two world-class museums – and two fun ones at that? We’ve got the “Best of the West in the East” with the Rockwell Museum of Western Art. Both locals and visitors love exploring the amazing collection, then heading up to the rooftop deck for Music, Margaritas, and Sunsets on the Terrace. We’ve also got the largest glass museum in the world, The Corning Museum of Glass. Anyone who’s experienced glassmaking in Corning knows they’ve done something they’ll always remember. They came with no experience, and left an hour later having just made something exquisite. And had a blast in the process!

I can’t tell you how many times people have told me they were “surprised” by Corning, or that it “exceeded their expectations.” People think it’s somewhere you stop for an hour to visit the glass museum and then head on your way. Visitors are shocked to discover you can easily lose track of an afternoon while having a blast there – and that leaves you wanting more. You head over to our downtown and become entranced with the vibrant scene you encounter. You spend the next couple of days exploring, soaking in the fun you find every step of the way. And then you’re hooked.

It says something about a town that’s visitors make it a point to come back year after year. It says even more when those visitors have so much fun on their first trip that they simply never leave. They realize there’s so much to love about the area. With so many exciting, unique experiences, combined with the region’s natural beauty, it’s no wonder why people stop in Corning and think, “Wow, this is it. I’ve found the Best of the Road.” And if they do for some reason continue their journey, it’ll soon become crystal clear that they’ll be hard pressed to find another town that can quite compare with what they’ve just experienced. They’ve had the time of their lives in Corning, and they know they’ve found the “Most Fun” Small Town in America.

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Enterprise, Alabama

In 1952, statesman Adlai Stevenson defined patriotism as “the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Nowhere does that definition characterize a community better than Enterprise, Alabama.

In this city of 27,000, the proud next-door neighbor of Fort Rucker and the Home of Army Aviation, patriotism is more than a word or opinion. It’s more than a day off or a reason to shoot fireworks.

Patriotism is a way of life. We see it in Enterprise every day, everywhere.

It’s the blonde-haired 21-year-old, handsome in his brown camo battle fatigues, eating fried chicken at the table next to you in Cutts Restaurant. You wonder what challenges he will soon face.

You’ll never know that behind the blue eyes and the youthful smile is the ambition of a son learning to fly Apache helicopters, in the footsteps of his father. You don’t know that he’ll serve two tours in Afghanistan. He’ll help arrange transportation to a well-equipped Alabama hospital where modern heart surgery will save a critically ill Afghan child.

It’s the father on the church pew across the aisle, whose sorrowful gaze tells you he’s thinking of the son who once sat next to him on Sunday mornings. You remember the robust young man with wavy thick hair and sparkling dark eyes, and you feel a twinge of grief.

It’s the retired lieutenant colonel in your Lions Club, who quietly performs civic service with never a word about how he dodged bullets and bombs fired on Pearl Harbor that infamous December day in 1941.

It’s the thirty-something mom you chit-chat with in the checkout line at Winn-Dixie. You listen with empathy and admiration when you learn she’s keeping the home fires burning, and caring for three small children while her husband is on his third tour of overseas duty.

It’s the 17-year-old high school football player who looks into the bleachers, wishing his father could be at Wildcat Stadium watching him, but lovingly accepting that his dad was where his country needed him to be.

It’s the wife sending her husband out the door each morning with a kiss and a cup of coffee. She prays for safety while he teaches young men and women how to keep a helicopter in the sky.

It’s the farmer who points to a table of uniformed soldiers at Zach’s Restaurant and generously chooses to take care of their dinner tickets – just because.

In Enterprise, we experience patriotism in our community in the Army’s training helicopters in the skies overhead; in the flags adorning the Boll Weevil monument; and every time a Flatiron medevac helicopter lands at a horrific wreck or disaster scene.

We feel patriotism when we stand at the Wall of Honor at Henderson Park; when we pay tribute to our heroes in the annual Veterans Day Parade; and when we drive by Fort Rucker Appreciation Park.

We benefit from patriotism when soldier volunteers and military-related residents share their variety of talents and knowledge in every aspect of community life.

For all of these reasons, Enterprise understands patriotism. Though veterans make up about 13 percent of the city’s population, the number of active military, civilian Department of Defense workers and contract employees whose lives are touched by Fort Rucker and the military drive the percentage significantly higher.

Military-related residents eat at Enterprise restaurants, send their children to its schools, shop in its stores, attend its churches and serve in its community organizations. They are our neighbors and friends, and that’s just the way we like it.

In southeast Alabama’s “City of Progress,” being patriotic is the way we live – every day.

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Fairborn, Ohio

There is only one Fairborn in the world, and it can be found in the heartland of America.

Known for its tradition and innovation, it was in Fairborn that the Wright Brothers dreams of flying were made a reality. Their innovation changed the world, and because of this, Fairborn serves as home to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, one of the largest air force bases in the world.

While Fairborn boasts of patriotism, it also shows its Midwest friendliness, having small town hospitality with a metropolitan flair. In the center of downtown, Fairborn proudly flies the American flag at its Veteran’s Memorial, where Main Street meets Central Avenue. It is in this area that the specialty, locally owned, downtown businesses support the community through a number of parades, festivals and major events such as the annual Fairborn Downtown Car Show & Cruise-In where all proceeds benefit Dayton Children’s Medical Center.

Having close ties with Wright-Patt, joining them on endeavors such as the USAF Military Tattoo - an event featuring musical performances by the U.S. Air Force Band of Flight, military aircraft flyovers, displays, and fireworks, and the AF Marathon, which runs through downtown Fairborn; the Air Force Base has dedicated two military planes to Fairborn: a C-5 in 2007, and a C-17 in 2013, each marked with a special designation honoring the City of Fairborn.

And Fairborn honors its veterans, and active duty military. Whether it is for a special homecoming with residents lining the streets of Fairborn to welcome home one of their own, or with an organization like Operation Fairborn Cares hosting a ‘Heels for Heroes’ fundraiser race where men wear heals and women wear combat boots to raise funds that benefit 9/11 veterans. The citizens of Fairborn honor those who serve to protect the freedoms every American enjoys.

Citizens are able to show their American patriotism and dignity at many annual events including the July 3rd Block Party, the 4th of July Parade, Heritage Day, 9/11 Memorial Ceremony, the Air Force Marathon, and Veteran’s Day Ceremony. Activities are enjoyed and respected by all ages in our community. Even 4th and 5th grade students at the Fairborn Intermediate School hold a fundraiser and host a ceremony for Veteran’s Day. The fundraiser, known as the Artimus Brassfield Scholarship, is given to a graduating Fairborn senior, who is entering the military.

It is through a partnership with the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce and Wright State University that Fairborn obtained a piece of steel artifact from one of the World Trade Center towers and created a memorial for people to reflect upon the events of 9/11. This monument is located in front of the National Center for Medical Readiness, or Calamityville, the single largest trainer of military and civilian emergency response personnel in the world. This training facility, a part of Wright State University, came to fruition largely due to the attacks on 9/11/2001.

Citizens often comment that Fairborn is a great place to raise a family with an outstanding school system, numerous higher education opportunities, an entertainment venue, and 20 parks and recreational areas. There are so many opportunities in Fairborn and many who have been stationed here return as veterans to call Fairborn their home.

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Galesburg, Illinois

Since the first days of the Iron Horse, a railroad has always opened a door to the world for the communities along the line. Galesburg, Illinois has enjoyed the wide variety of things that have come through its door for more than 159 years.

It was said that in the 1940’s the most sophisticated place in town was the Seminary Street station for the ten minutes that the California Zephyr stopped there. Nowadays there’s plenty of sophistication just up the street even after the train pulls out.

Galesburg has long been noted for the historic shops of Seminary Street and a number of interesting and unique restaurants.

Bill and Brenda Egenlauf are the owners and C.I.A.-trained chef at Chez Willy’s, an American bistro that always has something new and exciting chalked up on the board. Tonight, the random special is lobster and crab on grilled corn risotto and sherry butter sauce or veal Oscar with crabmeat, asparagus and béarnaise.

Across the street is the nineteenth century door to The Landmark Café where owner Phil Dickenson and his staff offer different takes on café offerings. Crepes and sandwiches at lunch give way to adventurous fish and beef dishes at night. Their recent offerings included grilled red snapper tacos marinated in fresh garlic, ancho chiles and cilantro and served on fresh corn tortillas with chipotle crema. Everyone reorders the spinach bisque.

Up Seminary another block is Innkeepers Coffee. In a world of cookie-cutter coffee shops, Mike Bond and Johann Ewalt have created a unique take on the java joint. Pastries and candies made on-site and coffees roasted in their shop create an atmosphere that invites lingering.

If it’s tradition you’re after, Coney Island is Galesburg’s oldest restaurant, beginning in 1921. In addition to their own secret formula for Coney sauce, you can have veggie dogs, Made Wrongs and a bag of Kitchen Cooked potato chips, another well-kept Galesburg-area secret.

At the opposite end from traditional are two delightfully off beat diners. Q’s Café on Main Street offers only lunch but what a lunch! Chef Walt McAllister bakes his own bread and his wife Annette (Q) handles the counter full of freshly made barbecue, a BLT with amazing bacon, as well as specials every day. One of Walt’s specialties is challah. Follow the aroma three miles west on Main Street in the Sustainable Business Center where En Season Café is making it into French toast with fresh strawberry syrup. As its name suggests, every offering at En Season is based on local products, including its famous buffalo burger. In the same building is Sikta Salmon Shares which buys salmon from small local Alaskan fishers and sells packages to individuals and local restaurants. Their late season salmon bake is coming to Lake Storey soon.

A reliable Galesburg stand-by has recently received an update. Across from the depot where eight passenger trains come and go every day is The Packinghouse Dining Company. Located in a one hundred year old former Swift packing plant, diners eat among industrial memorabilia from a by-gone era. The menu contains favorites in steak and seafood and their famous cinnamon rolls always merit a mention.

When Cary Grant and Marlene Dietrich were travelling cross-country on The Super Chief perhaps their dining car was a little fancier than the restaurants they saw in Galesburg through the windows of the train. Today rail passengers might want to consider getting off the train for a day to enjoy the interesting and exciting varieties of cuisine that Galesburg has to offer.

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Gallup, New Mexico

John Wayne frequented it while filming numerous movies. Bob Dylan once claimed he was from here. Nat King Cole and John Mayer have sung about it in “Route 66.” Gallup, New Mexico is a unique hub of culture. Often called the “Indian Capital of the United States” it draws from these cultures, making our community a stronger and a more interesting place to live.

Gallup is steeped in history and traditions and “Gallupians” (as we proudly call ourselves) stand together to protect what’s right. Never was this more evident than during WWII as many American citizens of Japanese Ancestry were being transported from communities across the United States to war relocation camps. However, Gallup stood strong and said “NO” to this order. We protected our citizens and our community. This is commonly referred to as being “Gallup Strong.”

From the Spanish American War to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Gallupians” have answered the “call to duty” and have served in all five branches of the armed forces protecting our families, our community, and our way of life. Gallup has been shaped by its praiseworthy and historic veterans, including the Navajo Code Talkers and Medal of Honor Recipient, Mr. Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura.

During WWII, the United States created communication codes for battle, but these codes were continuously broken, until the Navajo Code Talkers used their language to create an unbreakable code. Their code helped bring an end to the bloody battles in the Pacific saving thousands of lives on both sides. Gallup’s population is primarily Native Americans many of which are direct decedents of the Code Talkers. This direct blood line and our deep patriotic spirit explain why so many young men and women join the military straight out of high school. Another fine example of being “Gallup Strong.”

In Korea on April 24 - 25, 1951 Hershey held off wave after wave of enemy soldiers while protecting the lives of hundreds of American’s without regard to his own. Hershey is “Gallup Strong.” These actions earned Hershey the Medal of Honor, but Hershey still endured more than two and a half years in a POW Camp. Hershey credited his faith, love of country and obligation to his community for his survival. Gallup has recognized his heroic acts and significant contributions to the community by honoring him as the namesake of one of the local high schools, an overpass and a park.

Another great example of being “Gallup Strong” is the Veterans Helping Veterans organization. This group was formed by veterans to assist other veterans and our community. Whether it’s raising money for a veterans by “passing the hat” at meetings to help with a utility bill or rent, to hosting large “Stand Downs” which are 1 to 3 days events providing assistance to homeless veterans.

Gallup’s patriotism can be seen everywhere. In our Veterans Memorial Plaza stand 12 pillars with the names of those who have selflessly served and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Our patriotism can be seen in the WWII veteran struggling to come to attention as a flag passes to our children who respectfully refer to the American Flag as “Ten Hut.” It’s in our blood, it’s our heritage, and it’s who we are: it’s being “Gallup Strong.”

“Gallupians” young and old rejoice in knowing the best way to honor and respect those who have fought for our freedoms is to enjoy every day to its fullest and to never take these freedoms for granted. This is what patriotism is all about: that is being “Gallup Strong.”

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Geneva-on-the-Lake
Ohio’s First Resort

The sleepy little village of Geneva-on-the-Lake springs to life every Mother's Day, ready for another season of fun on The Strip! Here, the warm Lake Erie breezes blend with the smells of pizza, French fries, and warm homemade donuts. Live music fills the air as families flock back to the cottages, motels, Bed and Breakfasts, the State Park Lodge, and the campgrounds to soak in the Lake Erie air and sunshine.

Our tourists return year after year to relive the family memories and to create some new ones. With three public parks, a scenic bike trail, and a first-rate marina, our great outdoors makes catching the biggest fish, building the tallest sand castle, or jumping the waves and skipping stones an adventure to remember.

After a day at the beach, waterslides, or on the golf course, we are called out to enjoy the evening by the arcades, Mini Golf, Bumper Boats, go-carts, and nightlife on Geneva-on-the-Lake’s mile-long entertainment strip. Taste the foods - from the casual pizza and hot dogs to fine dining. Eat Lake Erie perch and walleye, sip the local wine, listen to the live music, and watch the breathtaking Lake Erie sunsets.

Our weekend events remind us of our proud regional heritage, such as the Fireman’s Rally and the Celtic Fest. We look to the future with our Lake Erie Wine Festival and “Thunder on the Strip,” when thousands of motorcycle enthusiasts descend upon our little town.

But Geneva-on-the-Lake isn't just for summer anymore. Fall is a great time to visit the twenty-three wineries in our area, earn the “Fall Crawl T-Shirt,” enjoy the Adult Hay Rides, and laugh at the dinner theater shows. Here in northeast Ohio we have spectacular Fall foliage and eighteen covered bridges in our county.

People come from miles around to have fun at Geneva-on-the-Lake, sometimes continuing a family tradition, generation after generation. Everyone here is on vacation and out to have a good time. Fun is what we are all about, so it is easy to see why we are "THE MOST FUN TOWN IN AMERICA"!

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Helena Montana
Best of the Road, Best for Geocaching

Helena, Montana is no novice when it comes to treasure hunts. In July of 1864, four miners, down on their luck, gave it one “Last Chance” and struck it rich in Helena. The region, named Last Chance Gulch, grew almost ovemight, producing an estimated (in today’s dollars) $3.6 billion in gold over a twenty-year period.

Nearly one hundred and fifty years later, Helena’s main street is still called Last Chance Gulch, but GPS units have replaced sluice boxes. In lieu of a gold vein, caches are hidden. Helena is booming with modern-day prospectors, geocachers.

Located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, half-way between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier Na- tional Park, Montana’s capital city of 30,000 residents has evolved into the region’s geocaching leader. The core of this reputation is the GeoTour, part of Groundspeak’s GeoTour program and created through a col- laborative partnership between the Helena Tourism Alliance and the Capital City Cachers.

Highlighting the best of Helena, the GeoTour brings cachers to thirty-eight destinations including Two Camps Vista, where both Lewis & Clark camped along the Missouri River during different parts of their journey West. Others bring cachers to places like the historic and charming Last Chance Gulch Walking Mall, scenic Mount Helena and the Elkhom Ghost Town.

Helena’s creative geocaches keep cachers engaged as evidenced by their comments:

GC4AJDT Gold in the Hills
Great cache container should last for years to come. I loved the guardian of the cache! (which is a very stra- tegically placed plastic snake)
-kristen-n-wayne

GC2CXWT In The Shadow of the Spires
So beautiful! Quick but ftm find. It has been neat that everywhere we visit in Helena, there is a GeoTour cache nearby. We feel that’s a good sign that we are picking good spots to visit on our trip. Thanks!
-khartz

GC25H2l Relaxing at the Tower
This has to be the most beautiful view of the city. I wish I had known about this awesome park a long time ago! This is my new favorite spot!
-TheKougls

GC32CMG 40 oz to Freedom
Very Super Clever! And, I absolutely love the name of this cache! Thanks for the awesome cache!
-ourfamily410

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Jefferson City, Missouri

Nearly 200 years ago the sleepy village of Lohman’s Landing was chosen as the new state capital of Missouri and came to be known as Jefferson City. Just a trading post at the time, the site was valued for its proximity to the Missouri River, its picturesque rolling hills and its bluff to bluff beauty.

Today, visitors streaming into Jefferson City via plane, train, car, bike or foot are still captivated by the majestic Missouri River and tree lined bluffs. Jefferson City’s beauty shines not only through its natural landscape, but also through the many historic buildings and special landmarks. The Missouri State Capitol, Supreme Court Building, Governor’s Mansion and charming Downtown are just a few of the architectural treasures that anchor this unique community, a real gem tucked away in the heart of the nation.

The friendly, reinvigorated Downtown is Jefferson City’s soul. The same pioneering spirit embedded in the designs of our downtown historic buildings is alive in the urban entrepreneurism that has emerged in recent years. You can feel the energy and optimism in the patterned sidewalks lined with trees, hanging baskets overflowing with flowers and coordinated lighting and benches. Numerous sidewalk dining venues and coffee shops allow shoppers and workers to linger to enjoy conversation with friends while basking in the sunshine and breeze coming from the Missouri river.

Jefferson City’s allure is not limited to its Downtown. Neighborhoods in every direction hold sturdy brick homes and storefronts from the last century – now preserved and kept in use. The Ash Street entertainment district to the east holds our first microbrewery and hosts a bocce league where friends “compete” nightly. The Old Munichburg district to the south maintains its German heritage with renovated buildings and events. An extensive system of walking and biking trails link these neighborhoods through natural settings. The recent addition of a pedestrian/bike bridge connects the city to Missouri’s most popular outdoor tourist attraction, the Katy Trail.

The beauty of this capital city goes beyond the natural landscape and brick and mortar. The citizens who reside here are warm, welcoming and embrace the proud history of Jefferson City making visitors feel at home. They collaborate to find ways to enhance our community and make it an even better place. Jefferson City has evolved from a political town in the last century to a vibrant city with its own identity, replete with culture, personality and fun events.

Two hundred years ago they were impressed by this river city’s potential. Come today and you’ll be impressed by its growth and historical charm. Come five years from now, and who knows what incredible things you’ll see. We guarantee this: Jefferson City’s captivating beauty and charm will capture a permanent place in your heart!

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Jim Thorpe, Four Seasons of Fun for All Ages

Throughout the year, thousands of people of all ages travel to Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania to enjoy our four seasons of fun. From singles and couples to families and groups of friends looking for the many adventures and/or opportunities for the excitement and relaxation that Jim Thorpe offers, it is true that no matter whom you are or where you go, you will discover your own definition of fun in Jim Thorpe.

Situated between the Lehigh Valley and the Pocono Mountains, Jim Thorpe is a unique town that boasts a recreation destination, charming small town and historic landmark all in one and welcomes visitors 365 days a year. It is a place that has something for everyone and has a natural topography and climate that is conducive to seasonal sports and recreational hobbies.

When fall comes to Jim Thorpe, visitors from all over come to take in the picturesque views of the mountain landscape painted in vibrant colors during Fall Foliage, which serves as a perfect backdrop for outdoor activities, such as: sightseeing, hiking and biking our many trails like the D&L Trail, camping, fishing and hunting.

As Old Man Winter takes residence in Jim Thorpe, our mountains are full of groups of snow enthusiasts all season, who are ready for skiing, tubing and snowshoeing.

When the ground thaws and the flowers emerge, spring and then summer bring more chances to have fun in Jim Thorpe...children can experience wonder at our Bear Mountain Butterfly Sanctuary and take advantage of our Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway that runs excursions from the Old Mauch Chunk Train Station. Families and friends can enjoy camping, hiking, biking, boating, whitewater rafting, skirmish, and spending time relaxing at our beaches and lakes as well as visiting our many parks with breathtaking views like atop Flagstaff Mountain.

However when it comes to fun in Jim Thorpe, we have only touched the surface of everything we have to offer. All year long, visitors can learn about our history and culture at our art galleries and landmarks, such as Jim Thorpe’s Memorial, Harry Packer and Asa Packer Mansions, and tour our museums like the Old Jail Museum and Mauch Chunk Museum. They can attend a show at our Mauch Chunk Opera House or Penn’s Peak, take walking tours or carriage rides in downtown Jim Thorpe and shop our one-of-a-kind stores in our business district. For those who love food and scrumptious cuisine from gourmet pizza to six-course meals, our many restaurants will placate the most discernible palettes and provide a variety of different atmospheres for any mood. And, if socializing is your ideal of fun, our bars are comfortable, lively and full of friendly people. But, if relaxation is the fun you desire, just take a walk in our town and breathe in its Victorian splendor, spend a weekend at one of our many quaint bed and breakfasts or participate in our Murder Mystery Weekends at the Harry Packer Mansion.

Aside from all that there is to do and see in Jim Thorpe, fun is also a huge part of our festivals and seasonal community celebrations, such as: Fall Foliage, Jim Thorpe’s Birthday, St. Patrick’s Day Parade, our Halloween Parade and Olde Time Christmas.

For a small town, Jim Thorpe offers everyone endless opportunities for our inner child, who just wants a retreat from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and just have fun. No matter what season, no matter what your age or whether you come alone or with your family and friends, you’ll find what you define as your ideal fun here in Jim Thorpe.

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Jonesborough, Tennessee
Your Most Patriotic Town

Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee, was founded during the same time as the birth of this nation, by the same people who fought to preserve the ideas of what the United States would and could become. Home to the Over-Mountain Men, the original Volunteers in the Volunteer State, who drove the British back over the Appalachians in a turning point campaign during the Revolutionary War, this town has proudly flown the flag of Freedom since the days of the thirteen colonies, when it sat on the edge of the western frontier.

The courthouse was the town’s first building, preserving the newly written constitution, while the rest of the town grew up around it. Patriotic Icons from the Eighteenth Century such as David Crocket, Daniel Boone, John Sevier, walked the same streets as the Nineteenth Century Icons, including Buffalo Soldier Alfred Martin Rhea, a former slave who joined the U. S. Army after emancipation, fighting in the Spanish-American War and was one of the men who planted Old Glory on San Juan Hill.

Moving into the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century, Jonesborough’s Patriotic Spirit continues. Flags adorn both sides all along Main Street as a symbol of Jonesborough’s important place in the founding of the United States. And honoring the accomplishments and heroic acts of our men and women serving in uniform, the town established early on a Veteran’s Memorial. The town also uses its talents as the Storytelling Capital to continue to tell these patriotic and heroic stories. From the Jonesborough Days celebration during fourth of July Weekend, which begins with a parade, bringing together thousands of our citizens to appreciate and honor our Veterans, to an annual “USO Show”, a main stage production by the Jonesborough Repertory Theater, with music and stories from the World War II Era, and a musical celebration of all branches of the military in which Veterans are asked to stand and are given flags, to Veterans Day and Memorial Day annual tributes.

The town also boasts an original play, based on the stories of well-known and lesser-known Patriots of Freedom from Jonesborough, who stood for the rights of the people, from the Revolutionary War Days, to the Civil War Days, to the Civil Rights Days. We have an outreach program that brings stories and music to the nearby Mountain Home VA Home, bringing entertainment to our most deserving citizens who can’t make it into town anymore.

Freedom Rings in Jonesborough every hour, from the iconic clock tower which sits atop the Courthouse at the center of town. It rings in the stories of our heroes, still told and remembered beyond the theater, and in places like the hardware stores, the Farmer’s Co-Op and the Shubert Club. Freedom rings from our volunteers with Jonesborough’s Flag Committee and Veteran’s Committee. From our songs, stories and celebrations, to our daily outward display of pride in our Nation’s Flag, hanging from every street corner downtown, Jonesborough’s Patriotism rings from our home nestled in the purple mountain majesty of East Tennessee, since our founding in 1779 until today, and until every tomorrow.

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Friendliest Town by a Dam Site

In June, Keokuk welcomed 25,000 friends, old and new, to celebrate the Centennial of the construction of Lock and Dam #19, one of the largest on the Mississippi River. Former residents were welcomed home again. Railroad and history buffs were welcomed to marvel at its construction. Families were welcomed to enjoy balmy weather and the history of the Lock and Dam. Four thousand trolley rides were taken. Utility executives heaped praise and admiration on Keokuk, for making the lock and dam and its employees welcome for many years.

That celebration is just one example of annual events and everyday encounters which define friendliness in Keokuk. From the breathtaking views of the bend in the Mississippi River to the shady welcome of Rand Park, Keokuk extends a friendly smile to citizens and visitors.

We pride ourselves on being place of welcome for long-time friends and frequent visitors. Many reports of people going out of their way to solve problems for travelers and volunteers helping with projects for our many non-profits are recorded in the community consciousness. Overnight accommodations for artists on the road, performing at our restored opera house, are easy to find and remembered in thank you notes.

The charm of the community and the easy, warm welcome of our people are calling former residents back to their home town and stretching to Texas, California and Massachusetts to draw permanent residents ready to escape the noise and hustle of large cities and enjoy the safety, educational quality and low housing costs Keokuk offers.

Keokuk enjoys a beautiful slice of the Mississippi and the Des Moines rivers in extreme southeast Iowa. 10,780 citizens find comfort, safety and friendliness in everyday life. Sometimes taken for granted, reminders of how unique that feeling is are provided by the many visitors we receive for Rollin’ on the River, our annual Blues Festival held at riverside, or the annual Civil War Reenactment, now in its 27th year.

Our strong volunteer community is friendliness in action. Keokuk Connections, a volunteer program in Keokuk High School, sees students offering volunteer hours, exertion and emotion to those less fortunate. A central Volunteer Connection organization has been established, matching those needing volunteer help with those wanting to provide volunteer service.

Signs of friendliness are as subtle as waves and smiles, nods and gestures, holding doors open and remembering birthdays and anniversaries. Shining signs are such things as building 24 Habitat for Humanity Houses, sponsoring “scholarships” to the Hoerner YMCA for youth whose families are unable to afford them, and establishing Common Grounds, a Center for Youth providing a safe environment for middle-schoolers to spend evenings with games, homework and volunteer projects.

The other side of friendliness is the welcome extended to visitors to Keokuk. Renovation of our railroad depot attracted interest and visits from Dwell magazine writers and editors. Stately homes on the bluff overlooking the river call former Keokuk residents home and attract new friends to live and work in Keokuk after spending former lives in large cities and other countries. Whoever they are, their reaction to the people and community of Keokuk is the same. “This is the friendliest place and the friendliest people I have ever known.”

If friendliness is measured in emotional energy invested in others and physical energy invested in others’ needs, then Keokuk is surely the Friendliest Small Town in America.

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Kewanee, Illinois

Kewanee, Illinois, is a small town with a big heart. We are a factory and agriculture town of about 13,000 people. We have an interesting history, starting out as two towns, then combining into one, and that sparks something of a cross-town rivalry at times. We take a lot of pride in our town, both separately and collectively, and we won’t let anything ever get us down.

Kewanee has seen better times, and Kewanee has seen worse times, but, throughout it all, we stick together. We look out for each other. Besides town support in our endeavors, we’ve been known to go it alone, lend our neighbors a hand, to pull them up the mountain of hard times, along with ourselves. Our churches and charities readily help those struck with sudden hardship, and the outpouring of support can almost feel overwhelming to the victims, as they suddenly realize how not alone they really are.

And then we come together for the good times. We annually have our Hog Days festival, around Labor Day. It’s a time for family and friends to come home to Kewanee, to get together, have a pork chop and a beer and reminisce and plan ahead. It is a staple of our community togetherness, and an anticipated tradition. We’ve made plenty of new Kewaneeans out of visitors each year, new friends who pledge to return…and do!

This year has been monumental for Kewanee. We were host to the 20th annual Walldogs meet, where over 250 sign and mural painters from all around the country and globe came to Kewanee, and left us 15 beautiful murals. The Packee family was instrumental in getting their attention, inviting them here, and making sure their stay was comfortable and fun. Some Walldogs camped out in their RV’s but many even stayed in the homes of townspeople! Their meals were prepared by several of our churches, restaurants, and non-profit organizations and our locals helped with everything from water, to transportation, and entertainment. Many of us pitched in to paint, too!

We regularly hold fundraisers, such as motorcycle rides by Reiman’s Harley-Davidson and spontaneous charity art sales to benefit our no-kill animal shelter, or, recently, a large concert by the band Halestorm, to benefit St. Jude. Even if it’s just a can on the countertop to help raise money for a child’s chemo treatment, Kewanee has your back.

Even our local celebrity, Mary Good, is known around the state for her smile in welcoming visitors to Kewanee and customers to Good’s Furniture. They’ve built a lasting home décor legacy (since 1898) on a foundation of quality customer service and friendliness, an example followed by other merchants and shops in town. It’s no wonder that, when you mention Kewanee to people from Iowa, to Indiana, and throughout the Great State of Illinois, you will hear “The GOOOOD Life!” sang back to you in recognition!

This contest has even brought Kewaneeans together in the online world: Imploring our friends, via social media, to vote for our town and participate. We rode a fun wave this summer, right into this contest, and people have had a blast drumming up votes through our unofficial town page (www.facebook.com/kewaneewalldogs), even using it to share our happiest moments in photo form. Whether we win or not, we have a 21st Century community platform that will now help us help each other, entertain each other, and memorialize each other, for years to come.

Thank you for considering Kewanee as a finalist for the “Friendliest” small town in America. We don’t have much money, but our friendship is PRICELESS!

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Lombard, Illinois: “Most Fun” town in America!

In Lombard, Illinois, fun is the No. 1 priority – and that’s no exaggeration. But in the Midwest, fun is not always as simple as those lucky enough to have majestic mountains, beautiful seas or sprawling canyons in their backyard. So Lombard finds fun in all forms to create a destination town for travelers. From gorgeous parks and facilities to annual events to fun-focused institutions, “The Lilac Village” welcomes all with exciting things to do and see.

Most importantly, however, is the Lombardian attitude. Every day, every month, every year, we’re living life the fullest and finding the fun in everything from the simple to the exquisite. Whether travelers are looking for a few hours or a whole weekend of fun, Lombard offers a diverse variety of activities to engage the whole family. Located 20 miles west of downtown Chicago, Lombard and its nearly 44,000 residents celebrate year-round.

May is known as Lilac Time in Lombard. The annual event includes the famed Lilac Ball and special events throughout the community. The celebration culminates with the annual Lilac Parade down Main Street. Since 1930, spectators line the parade route to view and cheer. The Arts & Crafts Fair in May and the October Spooktacular are street festivals that generate thousands of visitors to the historic downtown. On Saturday nights in the summer, Cruise Nights combines vintage cars and rock and roll bands to become a weekend staple.The Taste of Lombard is an Independence Day tradition with one of the most popular fireworks displays in the Chicago area.

Enchanted Castle Entertainment Complex is host to 60,000 square feet of kid fun. Activities include indoor go-karts, laser tag, bumper cars, games, mini golf and a restaurant with karaoke. WhirlyBall provides an exciting game that combines basketball, hockey and bumper cars. Lucky Strike is a premier bowling lounge with a cozy atmosphere, 18 lanes of state-of-the-art bowling and enjoyable cuisine. AMC Theatres at Yorktown is an 18 screen complex to check out the latest blockbuster hits.

Lombardians and visitors can also enjoy 17 parks and facilities totaling 450 acres of endless recreational activities. Paradise Bay Water Park is the Park District's newest award-winning aquatic facility that includes a 140,000-gallon leisure pool, bowl slide, zero-depth pool, bubble bench, drop slide and more. Churchill Woods Forest Preserve provides for trail hiking, fishing and other leisure activities.

Lombard’s historical sites include the Victorian Cottage Museum, furnished with artifacts exemplifying the lifestyle of the emerging middle-class during the 1870s.The Carriage House addition provides for larger group to see a unique collection of artifacts. The Sheldon Peck Homestead is the home of nationally-known folk art painter Sheldon Peck. This 1839 house is listed on the National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Lilacia Park, once home to Colonel William R. Plum's lilac garden, is a source of pleasure for Lombardians and visitors from all over the world.

Lombard is known for its shopping and dining. In addition to the traditional downtown shops, Lombard has a strong retail base anchored by Yorktown Shopping Center. Located on 120 acres, Yorktown is home to major department stores and more than 180 stores and restaurants. The Shops on Butterfield is an upscale lifestyle center with over 200,000 square feet of unique shopping fun.

Lombard is a fun and friendly town located just a half-hour drive from a major city. Lombard is home to nearly a dozen major hotels – and welcomes any and all to come join in the fun!

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Macon, GA: Friendliest Town in America

Good morning! Hi y’all! Handshakes, hugs and warm smiles. This can been seen and heard in a short walk down almost any street in Macon. The historic architecture and musical legends add special electricity to the air. You feel it when grasped in a tight hug from someone you may have only met moments ago. We form big crazy families out of newcomers and families that have lived here for generations. We break bread together, laugh together and support each other through our trials.

Thousands of people come through Macon every day to shop, to eat, to visit, and to take tours. Thousands more join us regularly for a multitude of festivals and events celebrating our heritage, history, and culture, and we welcome them with open arms, directing them to their next best visit or restaurant.

Our porches – and our town – are open.

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Mandan, North Dakota

With a population of around 20,000 people, Mandan is a growing and vibrant community. Mandan is located at the confluence of the Heart and Missouri Rivers. The rivers have historical significance in our area as they were a means of travel and exploration before and during the westward expansion of the United States.

Mandan prides itself in honoring those who have served this great country as well as appreciating the fact that we are living in the greatest country on earth. Our residents serve this country at a rate of four times that of the national average.

Initiated and completed by the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation, the rebuilding of the On-A-Slant Indian Village pays tribute to those that were on this land before. The Mandan's, which our town is named after, were a peaceful people who loved the land and the area they lived in.

The same organization also rebuilt Fort Abraham Lincoln, home to the 7th Cavalry and Gen. George Custer. A person can visit the fort and relive history.

The Veterans Cemetery is a place of solace and to honor those that have served this great country. The Memorial Day service is always special as thousands of people attend to pay tribute.

The recently completed Richard M. Longfellow Medal of Honor park is located on the shores of the Missouri River. The park pays tribute to Mandan's own Medal of Honor recipient as well as all those who served.

The “Pillars” marker is an awe-inspiring site that flies the American Flag and the POW flag. This reminds us of those who are prisoners of war.

Many other monuments and markers are scattered throughout the area. The Veterans Memorial Bridge, Teddy Roosevelt Statue and markers for many of our major conflicts are just a few of them.

Mandan hosts many patriotic-themed events during the year. Military appreciation night is held annually just after our Independence Day Celebration. Kaleidoscope is a patriotic-themed musical. Rodeo Days is held every Independence Day and includes a patriot night. The Independence Day Parade and Street Festival is the largest event of the year attracting tens of thousands of people to our community.

Mandan is always looking at ways it can honor those who have served our country. The town is currently raising funds to build a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Construction of the project is expected to start in 2014.

Mandan is proud of our country and goes above and beyond to showcase that pride every day.

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Manhattan, Kansas

What precisely, does a geocacher look for? What makes some place enticing enough to plan a geocaching adventure? Well read on about The Little Apple® and just what exactly it is that draws geocache fanatics into our part of the world.

Manhattan, KS, a town of more than 50,000, sits among the flint hills of Kansas. A stunning 9 miles off of Interstate 70 leads visitors to a community that is home to Kansas State University, and neighbor to Fort Riley, the 1st Infantry Division and the Big Red One.

Aside from the entertaining shopping, incredible dining, great lodging and general Midwest hospitality- Manhattan boasts stunning outdoors and outdoor recreation. Geocaching sites in Manhattan will take visitors into local businesses, through our one-of-a-kind ecosystem, and allow total immersion into our beautiful community. Serenity is a way of life around here.

A weekend in Manhattan can take a visitor through a Big 12 sporting event, nationally-recognized dining experiences, relaxing overnight stays, enlightening attractions like the Flint Hills Discovery Center or Sunset Zoo and so much more. We provide a geocaching experience that is completely rounded out by exciting activities, and a welcoming community.

In addition to Manhattan’s vast amount of cache sites, we boast an avid community of local geocachers. Booths can often be found at local events to help promote this unique hobby, and help is never more than an email away.

According to Census Bureau numbers, Manhattan has the highest percentage of young adults in the nation. That means there are plenty of people who are passionate about technology and new ways to use it. Explore Manhattan. Learn about this community that was established when a steamboat ran aground on the Kansas River. Talk to people who have started businesses here, raised families here, or retired here. Take on the last remaining stand of tallgrass prairie in the world. Geocache with the best of them. Do something you’ll remember forever.

We welcome you to Manhattan!

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Geocaching on
Florida’s Space Coast Merritt Island

Merritt Island on Florida’s Space Coast offers diversity in Geocaching that is unmatched. Located between the Indian River Lagoon, a unique, highly diverse, shallow-water estuary of national significance stretching along 40 percent of Florida’s east coast, and the Atlantic ocean, Merritt Island is home to seven distinct types of habitat, more than 500 species of wildlife and 15 threatened and endangered species plus birds that soar into space.

Port Canaveral, the world’s second largest cruise port, hosts mega ships from Carnival, Disney, NCL and Royal Caribbean each week offering the opportunity to watch their comings and goings from the beach or while sipping a beverage at one of the Port Canaveral Cove restaurants. Adjacent to the Port entrance is Jetty Park where you can camp and enjoy a beautiful beach while watching ships and boats come and go.

Just up the road from the Port is the Air Force Space and Missile Museum. Since opening to the public in 1966, the museum has introduced millions of visitors to the history of rocketry and space flight. The museum grounds encompass two adjoining launch complexes, Launch Complex 26 and Launch Complex 5/6.

Launch Complex 26 is the site of the first successful launch of an American satellite, Explorer I, in 1958 by the U.S. Army. Beginning with early Redstone, Jupiter and Juno flights in 1957, Launch Complex 26 hosted 36 launches until 1963.

Launch Complex 5/6 is the launch site for the earliest Project Mercury missions. It was from Pad 5 that the first two American astronauts, Alan Shepard and Gus Grissom, were launched into space during 1961.

Nearby, on Canaveral Air Force Base, is the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. The Cape Canaveral Lighthouse has stood on the cape for over 150 years. Today’s lighthouse was originally built about 80 to 90 feet from the first brick tower but was moved inland in the late 1800′s due to the encroaching sea. Tours were offered but have been canceled recently because of Government budget cuts. It is expected that they will resume at sometime in the future.

The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex tells the story of America’s exploration of space. The new $100,000,000 home for the Shuttle Orbiter Atlantis opened in July 2013. It offers an inspiring close-up visit with Atlantis. Other interesting tours include a tour of Kennedy Space Center ending at the Saturn V Center home of a reproduction of the giant rocket that took Americans to the moon, plus tours of the Vehicle Assembly Building, Mission Control Center and a historic visit to the launch pads where Americans have flown into space.

Next is the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, spanning 140,000 acres, is home to hundreds of species of wildlife and more than 1,000 species of plants and is gateway to the east section of the Great Florida Birding Trail. The world-renowned Black Point Wildlife Drive is one of the most popular areas of the refuge because it provides visitors an opportunity to observe birds and wildlife without leaving their vehicles.

In addition to birds, the refuge supports more threatened and endangered animals than any other refuge in the continental U.S.. The refuge Nature Center is a good spot to start a tour.

Next to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is the Canaveral National Seashore offering 24 miles of undisturbed, natural beaches. There are no high-rise hotels or condominiums here, just pristine beaches to enjoy surfing, swimming, sunbathing or surf fishing. You will find restrooms, but little else as far as facilities.

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Murray, Kentucky
Friendliest Small Town in America

There’s a place on the map where small town charm, southern hospitality, a progressive university attitude and a laid back approach intersect. That place is a community in western Kentucky called Murray. Home to Murray State University, the town is a mixture of college town and retirement community.

Murray is in Calloway County, which is home to Kentucky Lake, and only a short drive from Land Between the Lakes, one of Kentucky’s top tourist destinations. The real magic of Murray though lies within its people. Over the past few years, Murray has adopted the slogan “feels like home,” and everyone from visitors to college students to lifelong residents will attest to its truth.

When thinking of a friendly place, the first things that come to mind are smiling and waving at strangers, holding the door open for someone or letting a shopper get in line in front of you at the store. Sure, we do all of those things here. But in Murray, it goes a little deeper than that. Residents truly care for one another. They get to know each other’s stories. The locals welcome visitors just as they would a friend or neighbor. There is a sense of community that brings all together in times of happiness and in times of need.

The Murray community is always willing to give back. When Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast in October 2012, the local Rotary Club turned to the town to help the victims. Local company Paschall Truck Lines gave Rotary a tractor-trailer to transport relief items to New Jersey. After just three days of collecting supplies, the driver left Murray with a stuffed truck and $2,000 in aid.

A few months later when a devastating tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, Rotary was at it again. A short 96 hours after the disaster, two large buses pulled up to the Oklahoma town packed with relief items and $2,500 for the victims. Rotary Club members had volunteered in two hour shifts to collect the items and load them on the buses.

Another way the community gives back is through a unique program called the Angel’s Clinic.

Providing health care to the working uninsured, Angel’s Clinic is funded by a local thrift shop called Angel’s Attic. The store provides clothing, furniture, appliances, books and toys to the population at a vastly reduced rate. Since 2011, the shop has given Angel’s Clinic $1.3 million to operate. Angel’s Attic employs 17 workers and 35 regular volunteers.

Not only do Murray residents give back to one another, they also treat visitors like friends. Any time an event or group comes to town, local businesses go out of their way to welcome them, changing their outdoor signs to honor the groups’ arrival.

Friendliness isn’t something new to this town, it’s a long-standing tradition. The 1947 Murray Chamber of Commerce View Book stated, “Murray is a friendly town: For generations the people of Murray have been noted for their gracious hospitality and the sincere welcome extended to visitors temporarily in the community and to new citizens who have come to make their homes. In this town, people take time to enjoy life and one is never too busy to wave a cheery greeting as he goes down the street.” Sixty-six years have passed since these words were written, yet they are just as applicable to the community now as they were then.

We invite you to come to Murray to see what a friendly place it is. We guarantee you will see it truly does feel like home.

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Nocona, Texas

Howdy, y’all!

Here in the small north Texas community of Nocona, we consider our town to be the most fun place in the country. And we believe, if you’ll give us just a minute of your time, that you’ll be convinced as well.

For natives, transplants, and visitors alike, what makes Nocona so fun is that we’ve got something for everyone. Is it recreation and leisure that “float your boat?” You’ll find all the fun you can handle at Lake Nocona, sailing, fishing, skiing, and swimming. Are you a sportsman? Two golf courses and plenty of places to hunt wild game should keep you busy. Gearhead? Our annual Vicari Car Show & Auction allows you the chance to see, admire, and even bid on rare, classic, and refurnished automobiles; the Horton Classic Car Museum will transport you back in time to the days of driving “the strip;” and Nocona is set in the perfect place for a stop on a motorcycle tour. What about family events? Between our Mardi Gras celebration (laissez les bon temps rouler, pardner), our annual homecoming festivities, and December’s “Christmas in Nocona,” we’ve got parades, shopping, dancing, vendors, and a carnival-like atmosphere for the kiddos. Are sports more to your liking? If so, our local schools offer the near-nightly opportunity to watch competitive volleyball, basketball, baseball, and of course, Friday night Texas football. Or maybe you prefer contests involving spurs and competitors of a four-legged variety. Head out to the Rodeo Grounds and check out some bull-ridin’, some barrel-racin’, and some mutton-bustin’ (nothing quite as fun as watching a kid in a flak jacket trying to hang on to a sprinting sheep). And don’t worry; we haven’t forgotten about you cultured types. Our downtown art gallery highlights many of our local painters and sculptors, and numerous venues around town host some of the best musical talent in the state, and even the nation. For you history buffs, we’re also proud of our Tales N Trails Museum that combines fun with learning about our rich and treasured heritage. You like good food? Whether it’s steak, catfish, burgers, BBQ, or Mexican dishes, we promise we’ll tantalize your tastebuds and send you out satisfied. Even our local industry is flavored with fun. The Montague Boot Company will set you up with some boots for scootin’, and Nocona Athletic Goods can outfit you with an American-made Nokona baseball glove.

But the truth is that all of it, from boots to baseball, from sports to shopping, from restaurants to recreation, from cars to culture, is simply a reflection of our people. Nocona is home to the friendliest, happiest, most helpful and hospitable folks you’ll find anywhere.

So come see us. We promise that if you come looking for fun, you’ll leave with a smile on your face. Or maybe you’ll just decide to stay.

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Mission: Geocaching

Peachtree City is a master-planned city of 35,000 just south of Atlanta that features great schools, safe neighborhoods, and a wide range of recreation. Surprisingly, the original plan didn’t include its hallmark feature, a 90-mile network of paths connecting neighborhoods, schools, parks, shopping, and businesses. However, those paths nestle perfectly into the natural greenspaces that comprise 30% of the community’s 24-square miles and are enjoyed by residents on foot, bicycle, and the community’s 10,000 golf carts.

Similarly, Peachtree City’s focus on public recreation didn’t initially include Geocaching; but local enthusiasts have embraced this pastime and brought it official recognition. These volunteers have now made it their mission to share their love of geocaching and Peachtree City with the world.

Geocaching and Peachtree City

Over the past few years, I’ve discovered the fun of Geocaching, and I’m lucky to live in one of the best places in the country for this intriguing game. Peachtree City is known for its 90 miles of golf cart paths and having one of the highest numbers of golf carts per capita in the world. Within a 10-mile radius, there are more than 600 geocaches, ranking from one to five in difficulty. Some are close by on a path; others are deep in the adjacent woods.

My first find was within walking distance of my job. It started an obsession that has consumed my every extra minute. Within the first month, I found several dozen nearby caches and began spreading the word of this world-wide game. Several friends at work were amazed that there are so many caches nearby, and we began trading stories each morning from our hunts the day before.

Often, while looking for caches on my lunch break, I have mistakenly veered off course and found myself knee-deep in black ooze, in my work clothes, and returned to my cube only to listen to my shoes squishing on the tile floor beneath me. My wife finally bought me a pair of boots to keep in my car for these mid-day hunts. I have filled my cell phone with photos of my adventures like a new parent would take pictures of their children! The obsession is indescribable at times.

The best part of Geocaching for me is hunting a local cache in an area I didn’t know existed. Along with caches, I have found hidden waterfalls, secret caves, open fields, and dark, fern- covered forests in my community.

The geocaching enthusiasts in the Peachtree City area share my passion. We keep our smart phones close by, anticipating a new release at any moment. The adrenalin builds once the text alert comes in, and we compete to earn “First To Find” honors in the log and on the website. I’ve jumped out of bed on cold, dark mornings and even dragged myself from important meetings to attempt the FTF, sometimes succeeding, other times only to pass another cacher coming out of the woods as I arrive a minute too late.

I’ve met most of the locals along Peachtree City’s trails, and others at Ground Zero as we sign a cache log book. I’m also seeing more geocachers discover our community through this competition and as geocaching continues to grow in popularity.

Peachtree City recently released a proclamation encouraging geocaching in the area and welcoming new cachers to visit this wonderful place. Just a short trip from Atlanta you can find yourself in the Best Place to Geocache: Peachtree City, Georgia.

Mission: Cache on!

ferriswheel
Local Geocacher

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All Roads Lead to Beautiful Punta Gorda

From the north, the road to Punta Gorda brings visitors across towering bridges that soar with the seagulls over the rich waters of the Peace River. From the east, the road transports visitors from the rural center of the state into the city's trendy downtown business district. From the south, approaching travelers emerge from an Old Florida landscape of moss-draped oaks and ecologically important wetlands.

No matter which road they take to reach this waterfront city of approximately 17,000 residents, visitors to Punta Gorda discover a vibrant downtown ringed with well-kept neighborhoods, parks, bicycle trails, unique shopping, and cultural centers. In Punta Gorda's neat-as-a-pin urban core – where two dozen buildings sport historic murals telling the city's story – visitors and locals stroll among the shops, sidewalk cafes, and sandwich and ice cream shops that cluster around a historically significant courthouse and a modern civic and arts center.

More attractions ring the city center. Waterfront parks, rustic nature trails, and a fish and wildlife filled estuary are all found within minutes of downtown. Visitors can walk, drive or bicycle -- no need to bring your own because the city has a free loaner-bicycle program -- over red-bricked streets that wind through neighborhoods of charming Old Florida homes, complete with cool verandas and gardens bursting with blossoms of every size and hue. Laishley Park, which sits adjacent to the city’s municipal marina, hosts a steady stream of concerts, fishing tournaments, and themed events. Gilchrist Park stretches for nearly a mile along Charlotte Harbor and includes a fishing pier and a waterfront gazebo that has hosted countless waterfront weddings. A few blocks further down the shore, visitors will discover Punta Gorda’s most popular destination: Fishermen's Village, a waterfront retail complex that combines 30 unique shops, several waterfront restaurants, a resort, and a full-service marina, offering boat rentals, fishing charters and tour boats.

Punta Gorda's festival season – nearly year round – invites visitors and residents alike to an award winning Wine and Jazz Festival, a long-running signature Hibiscus Festival, and a full calendar of concerts, art shows, and other family events. Informal Thursday night sunset jam sessions at Gilchrist Park, hosted by the locally-nicknamed “Guitar Army,” often attract hundreds of listeners at sunset.

Much of what makes Punta Gorda a truly beautiful city are the things that lie behind its scenic charm, and the main asset of the city is its people. Punta Gorda is filled with friendly, welcoming citizens, many of whom are active in the amazing number of volunteer and charity organizations found here. Punta Gorda's low crime rate ranks it as the second safest city of its size in the state. The city's commitment to top-quality infrastructure is evident in its spotless streets, extensive park and trail system and proud historical district. Top-notch medical care is available at the city’s regional medical center.

This gem on the Gulf of Mexico's eastern shore has evolved from its fishing-village roots to a model of small-city charm. Today, it marries heritage with sound, modern design that preserves and sustains the region's unique natural setting. Both natural and human resources combine to create one of the country's best places to live -- or if you're not that lucky, at least to visit for a while.

Whether the road to Punta Gorda brings you from the north, south, east, or west, this destination is truly one of the nation's "Most Beautiful Small Cities" for anyone who wants to discover "The Best of the Road."

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Quincy, Illinois

Quincy Illinois has been known as the Gem City for so many years that no one is quite sure why. It is often attributed to the fact that it shines like a gem when one approaches it from the Missouri bottom lands across the Mississippi River. To this day it still continues to shine like a beautiful sparkling gem sitting on the bluffs above the river.

Quincy is full of beautiful parks lining the bluffs above the Mississippi which allows everyone in the city to enjoy the view any given day of the year. The central riverfront and Quincy Bay area have recently been transformed into parks. Where there was once stockyards and industry are now fountains, plantings and room to relax and watch the river flow by.

Maine Street is a living architectural museum showing the history of the community in the prevailing styles of architecture as the city spread to the east. The beautiful architecture surrounding the square is often the back drop for art and music festival s and is being renewed with upscale loft apartments.

Further east, the city’s residential area is on the National Registry as the East End Historic District and features homes and churches of a bygone era along mature tree lined streets. One of these grand mansions is now the Quincy Museum and has been beautifully restored and features the main floor as it was during the owners era.

The Quincy Airport is a very interesting space in a modernist building designed by local architect, John Benya. The open lobby features stone and blue skylights that is intended to give those waiting for their flight the feeling of the ocean and faraway places.

Quincy University is a wonderful educational facility offering a four year program. The beautiful campus is a blend of old and new with the original college hall, built by the Franciscans in the 1800’s to the new Gym and Fitness facility.

Quincy’s manufacturing facilities also contribute greatly to the beauty of the city. Knapheide Manufacturing has a group of American flags and a stone edifice saying “In God We Trust” at one of the major intersections in Quincy. Hollister-Whitney Company has a beautiful water garden as you enter their front door.

The Illinois Veteran’s Home is another beautiful spot in Quincy that has sprawling grounds and historic buildings. The main entrance off of Locust Street features a winding drive to the buildings while a secondary entrance from 12th street features a boulevard lined with trees and plantings leading up to the beautiful fountain in front of the stone administration building.

Quincy’s modern Civic Center, located adjacent to the Historic Quincy Business District, hosts a wide variety of events from bull riding to the annual debutant ball at Christmas time. The building is also home to the Quincy Community Theatre where live theatre is performed on a regular basis with plays ranging from comedy to dramas, musicals and more. Nearby, is the Quincy Visitor’s and Convention Bureau located in the romantic Villa Kathrine. There visitors can learn about the city and also enjoy the vista view of the Mississippi River and Lock and Dam 21.

Woodland Cemetery is a beautiful Victorian Era Cemetery that overlooks the Mississippi River. The large stones tell the history of a bygone era.

Quincy has a large marina full of beautiful boats having fun on the river. This is one of the largest natural bays on the Mississippi and was the wintering grounds for many paddle wheel boats in the 1800’s and also the site of ice harvests because of the pure spring fed water.

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Roseville, Minnesota

Roseville, Minnesota, population 33,660, is perfectly positioned between the metropolis of Minneapolis and the capitol city of Saint Paul. Just ten minutes from each downtown, Roseville is home to Rosedale Center, the third largest shopping center in Minnesota, 30 parks with miles of walking and biking paths and the Guidant John Rose Minnesota OVAL, one of only four Olympic-sized speed skating facilities in the country, where six-time Olympian, Bonnie Blair has skated. Roseville is a “Living Smarter” community where residents believe Roseville is not just a place to live where everything is close, but a community that boasts a sustainable lifestyle.

Roseville is also hospitable! Nine hotels in Roseville offer a price point for any traveler. Our location is “perfectly positioned” which allows visitors to enjoy big city adventures during the day and a relaxing, quiet small town atmosphere at night.

Minnesota is known for being an agricultural state and food mecca. Hormel, Green Giant, General Mills, Pillsbury, Buffalo Wild Wings and Tastefully Simple headquarters are located in Minnesota. With nearly 100 full-service and fast food restaurants, Roseville is home to several uniquely Minnesota restaurants including Key’s Café & Bakery, Mavericks, Chianti Grill, Granite City, Grumpy’s, Joe Senser’s, La Casita, D’Amico & Sons, Davanni’s, Good Earth, Leeann Chin and India Palace.

The selection of food in Roseville ranges from homemade to fusion, Italian to comfort, seafood to exotic. Minnesota is a growing hub for craft beer and restaurants in the area reflect the popular trend. Granite City Food & Brewery derived its name from a hometown nickname in the 1800s. St. Cloud, Minnesota, northwest of Roseville, was one of the great granite capitals of the world. Their fresh, made-from-scratch food is paired with their patented “Fermentus Interruptus™,” a unique brewing method, making this restaurant a must.

Barbara Hunn opened the first Key’s Café & Bakery in 1973. Today, with her entire family in the business, she owns nine locations. Recognized and awarded both locally and nationally for their fine food, Key’s Café credits their simple philosophy: “memorable service and absolutely the best food…breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts created from scratch recipes ‘you grew up with’.”

Axel’s, born of a vision a Twin Cities couple had of building a traditional, casual, Midwest supper club style steak house, serves meals that sends patrons home stuffed! Former Minnesota Viking Football star Joe Senser created Joe Senser’s Sports Theatre, a restaurant concept consistently rated by Sports Illustrated and ESPN as one of the “premier sports bars in the country.” Sports are on the menu 24/7 along with fantastic burgers, fries and warm pretzels with hot Vermont White Cheddar Cheese dip. For the not-so-faint-of-heart, Senser’s has the “Beast Burger.” The 2.5 pounds of ground beef on a 10 inch bun is piled with eight slices of cheese, eight slices of bacon and a pound-and-a-half of French fries. “The Beast” is free for those who can devour in 30 minutes or less, but $48.95 if you fail!

India Palace offers one of the largest varieties of Indian food in the Twin Cities. Every entrée is spiced perfectly to enhance the aroma and flavor. Also, the hospitality of Indian culture is legendary. In Sanskrit literature, the three famous words “Athithi Devo Bhava” or “the guest is truly your god” are a dictum of hospitality. India Palace strives to honor these words with each dish.

The unique variety of food in Roseville cannot be beat. We hope our video and essay has made you hungry to award Roseville, Minnesota the winner for Best Food!

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San Mateo, California

Introduction

San Mateo is a creativity hub. The birthplace of pioneering companies like YouTube, AdMob, Epocrates and high-tech Draper University, this small town continues to make its mark on the northern tip of Silicon Valley. In addition to its diverse and thriving business community, San Mateo is quickly becoming renowned for another innovative element: its food!

This town of 97,207 people is situated in between San Francisco and San Jose, and in addition to its amazing cuisine, San Mateo has a lot to offer—fabulous weather (think sunny and mild most of the time), the San Francisco Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, historic neighborhoods, an award-winning Central Park, and the Hillsdale Shopping Center featuring quality stores as Nordstrom’s, Macy’s and H&M.

Food & Community

Food is embedded in the DNA of San Mateo. The town was founded in 1894 and developed to be an agricultural community, feeding its rapidly growing neighbor to the north, San Francisco. Continuing this food legacy, San Mateo boasts an amazing 350 food establishments, featuring Asian, Middle Eastern, Latin, European, Classic American and dynamic fusion cuisines.

Fittingly, its Downtown merchant association chose the brand “All the Ingredients” in 2008 to describe its bustling restaurant and grocery community. The local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau also reflects San Mateo’s nature in its “As Fresh as it Gets” program. California’s cultivates more than 200 different crops of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains, and San Mateo takes full advantage of it.

Upcoming Food Events

In addition to the fantastic restaurants and international food markets, there’s always something going on revolving around food. Just in the next couple of months, we have several special events attracting both local and statewide visitors:

Impressive Numbers

Social Media

Industry Leader Reviews

Community Excitement

Our community has come alive for this competition. Residents, workers and visitors of San Mateo know how great our food culture is, and everyone became so excited with the thought of sharing this huge asset with the rest of the nation. In just one month, our community rose to the challenge and won the #1 amount of votes (1,363). They also rallied to share photos, write expressive reviews, open up their kitchens to the videographer, and participate in our BOTR progressive dinner (50 attendees). Our community is buzzing, and so excited to share with the nation what we truly believe!

We welcome the judges and Rand McNally travelers to visit our clean, safe and wonderful small town. Just minutes from the San Francisco International Airport, with three Caltrain stations and easily accessible by three major freeways, San Mateo is the perfect place to experience the best of California’s quality, diversity and freshness.

San Mateo... Best of the Road for Food! ☺

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Walla Walla, Washington

When a French soldier named Peter Pieri found a few sweet onion seeds on the island of Corsica and brought them with him to the Walla Walla Valley around 1900, he had no idea these seeds would one day sow the famous Walla Walla Sweet Onion—the official vegetable of Washington State.

Pieri’s story is just one highlight of an agricultural and culinary tapestry that has been woven beginning with the area’s earliest inhabitants, continuing today at more than 100 restaurants and 120 wineries throughout the Walla Walla Valley. But Walla Walla's quest to become America's Best Small Town For Food doesn't begin—or end—in one of the town's many outstanding restaurants or wineries.

Today, the Walla Walla culinary adventure still originates in the fields and pastures of more than two dozen farms like Castoldi’s Family Farm, Klicker’s Strawberry Acres, Monteillet Fromagerie, Blue Valley Meats, and Locati Farms. It is here that people like Michael Locati have the privilege and responsibility of being second-, third-, and even fourth-generation farmers tending to the lands of one of the country’s most fertile agricultural regions.

It’s also evident at the Downtown Farmers Market, where these farmers pull their trucks up alongside more than 70 vendors sell fresh meats, produce, and other specialty items to residents, chefs, and visitors every Saturday and Sunday from May through October.

But Walla Walla’s historic relationship with food goes beyond the traditional cycle of planting, growing, harvesting, selling, and consumption. Here, food is celebrated daily and at annual events such as the Walla Walla County Fair & Frontier Days, Sweet Onion Festival, Feast Walla Walla, February For Foodies, Celebrate Walla Walla, the Walla Walla Sausage Festival, and the monthly Summer Food Truck Night. Even the local West Coast League baseball team, appropriately named the Walla Walla Sweets, has an onion named Sweet Lou as a mascot.

Education is also a vital partner in the food culture of the Walla Walla Valley, where future generations of farmers, winemakers and chefs are learning the tools of the trade from those who came before them. Formal programs at the Wine Country Culinary Institute and the Institute for Enology and Viticulture emphasize the importance of thriving agriculture and its positive impact on the culinary economy.

A historically agricultural community, Walla Walla’s unique food experience extends to the plate through the culinary prowess of several distinguished chefs. Walla Walla is home to five-time James Beard nominee Chris Ainsworth from Saffron Mediterranean Kitchen, gourmet food truck innovator Andrae Bopp from Andrae’s Kitchen, the visionary Jamie Guerin of Whitehouse- Crawford, the understated Hannah MacDonald of Brasserie Four, and The Marc’s Antonio Campolio, who recently prepared a completely local meal for a sold out crowd at the James Beard House in New York. Even local taco stand, Dora’s Deli, was recently ranked #11 by The Daily Meal in their list of the 35 Best Tacos in America.

While these and other local chefs and restaurants are responsible for presenting the “finished product” when it comes to food in Walla Walla, in many ways they only represent the tip of Walla Walla’s culinary iceberg— meaning there is so much more beneath the surface waiting to be seen and discovered by visitors to the Valley.

Some might call it luck. Others might call it fate. But either way, Peter Pieri’s decision to stuff a few onion seeds into his pocket germinated a way of life that idolizes food in all its forms, and qualifies Walla Walla as an ideal candidate for America’s Best Small Town For Food.

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West Bend, Wisconsin

West Bend is a charming community of 31,000, resting on 15 rolling square miles just south of the northern unit of Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest. Just 45 minutes from Milwaukee, this nearly 130-year-old city was named for its scenic location along a westward bend of the Milwaukee River.

Home to the new Museum of Wisconsin Art, three unique historical museums, a riverside sculpture walk and a vast array of scenic hiking and biking trails, West Bend has something for everyone. But, what the city is best known for is its geocaching, enjoyed year-round by thousands.

Aptly branded the “Geocaching Capital of the Midwest TM,” West Bend boasts 1,260 caches in a 10-mile area. When stretched to 15 miles, that number swells to more than 1,800. The caches range in variety and difficulty, from simple park-and-grabs to complex puzzle caches. The terrain varies greatly too, offering everything from handicapped-accessible ADA-compliant caches to those meant to push geocachers’ physical capabilities to the extreme.

“We have evil monkey hides, where you have to climb a tree. We have some where you need to canoe down a river and dive in a lake” explained Tami Mauland, a 10-year geocaching veteran with more than 37,000 finds. “We have it all in West Bend.”

Geocachers in the area will experience the best the city has to offer thanks to caches stashed along local trails like the Ice Age and Eisenbahn, squirreled away in the sculpture walk, cozied up next to the art and courthouse museums, and going incognito in Riverside and Regner parks. West Bend even offers several EarthCaches leading curious cachers to unique spots like artesian wells, kettles, eskers and drumlins.

Also boosting the city head and shoulders above its competition is West Bend’s signature annual geocaching mega event (Wisconsin’s only and one of only a few held in the same location each year), the West Bend $1,000 Cache Ba$h. From its humble beginnings more than six years ago, the 2013 Ba$h brought 925 teams and more than 1,700 people from 33 states and three countries to West Bend for a full weekend of geocaching. Each year, more than 60 new and permanent caches are added ahead of the event, and hundreds of teams are already registered for 2014.

Jeff Caulfield attends the Cache Ba$h as part of his work as a product trainer for GPS giant Magellan. He says he’s visited geocaching communities across the country, but none hold a candle to West Bend. “The diversity of types, the terrain and difficulty ratings are the best I’ve found in the United States,” Caulfield says. “I’ve been to a lot of cities, a lot of events. West Bend is by far the most geocaching- friendly city I’ve found yet.”

That welcoming attitude is something the city has worked hard to foster over the years. Local officials and citizens are well-educated about geocaching, so they can quickly spot the difference between a cacher and a suspicious person. Local businesses across the city, including the police station, post welcome signs, and many shops and restaurants offer special discounts to the high-tech treasure hunters. The city encourages geocachers to participate in the environmental clean-up program, “Cache In, Trash Out,” by handing out garbage bags. Geocaching is even taught in the local schools as part of the physical education program.

“We love having geocachers here,” says Craig Farrell, Executive Director of the West Bend Area Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve worked very hard to make sure they feel welcome and appreciated in our city, and no other community has done what we have to promote the growth of geocaching.”

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