Three New Hampshire “towns” have made a list of 150 best small towns across the country to visit in a survey by FamilyDestinationGuide.com.
Portsmouth (77), Meredith (86) and Hanover (123) are included in the “Best Small Towns in America 2023” list. The site, which offers “kid-friendly vacation ideas,” says it surveyed 3,000 families to find the top 150 small towns across the country they’d like to visit.
While many of the sites listed, including Portsmouth, are actually cities, and the criteria for selection wasn’t part of the news release, it’s clear those surveyed prefer warm breezes and exotic or novel locales over the diverse weather and brick-and-steeple history of New England destinations.
The top town was Hōlualoa, Hawaii, which the survey says “has charm by the bucket-load.” Activities in the town, population 2,827, include sledding down the side of the Hualalai volcano on wooden sleds and the annual Hōlualoa Village Coffee and Art Stroll in November, supported by the 600 coffee farms in the region. Many of the farms offer coffee tours, with free coffee samples. So, while the kids may enjoy sledding down the volcano, there’s definitely something to get Mom and Dad’s mojo working as well.
Ely, Nevada, population 4,000, was the second most-desired destination. A former mining town at the base of Great Basin National Park, it was once a stagecoach station on the Pony Express. Ely’s attractions include Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park, which has six giant beehive-shaped ovens that were used to process silver ore and guided tours of Lehman Caves, which are more than 500 million years old. It also houses the Ely Film, Art and Music festival, which is next weekend.
Granite Staters may also want to visit nearby Mount Washington, which is in Great Basin National Park and, at 11,658 feet, is nearly twice the height of New Hampshire’s.
Filling out the top 10, in order, is Anna Maria Island, Florida; Old Koloa Town, Hawaii; West Yellowstone, Montana; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Chincoteague, Virginia; Sitka, Alaska; Sedona, Arizona; Ketchikan, Alaska.
“Visiting small towns has become increasingly popular as travelers seek authentic and personalized experiences that provide a break from the fast-paced, commercialized world,” Rose Ackerman, of FamilyDestinationsGuide.com, said in a news release. “These hidden gems offer a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture, connect with friendly communities, and escape the stress of everyday life.”
The list doesn’t extoll the virtues of the towns and cities after the first 15, but all three New Hampshire destinations have a lot to offer, though many would argue that they’re far from “hidden gems,” but actually pretty well-known gems.
Portsmouth, the star city the seacoast, is a combination of historic charm and modern amenities that include top restaurants, entertainment and fantastic coastal scenery.
Meredith, on Lake Winnipesaukee, is at the heart of the Lakes Region and has been a four-season tourist destination town for more than a century.
Hanover, in the Connecticut River Valley in western New Hampshire, is the home of Dartmouth College and another four-season destination.
The news release didn’t elaborate on what constitutes a small town. For instance, the three New Hampshire “towns” listed include a city – Portsmouth – with a population close to 23,000. Hanover has close to 12,000 residents, and Meredith has a population of 6,700.
Populations in the New England towns and cities on the list range from 350 (Swan’s Island, Maine) to close to 30,000 (Northampton, Massachusetts).
The top New England destination on the list is Narragansett, Rhode Island, a coastal town of 14,532, lauded in travel guides for its beaches and historical charm.
Swan’s Island, Maine, is 30th, a surprising top destination choice, giving the popularity of Maine’s closer southern beach communities with out-of-state tourists. Population 350, Swan’s Island is in Hancock County, Down East, and accessible only by ferry. Guidebooks describe a visit to the town as “taking a trip back in time.” It is not to be confused, but often is, with Swan Island, in the Kennebec River, also accessible only by ferry (or kayak), a once thriving town, now abandoned, and maintained as a nature preserve and historic site by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Other New England towns listed ahead of New Hampshire’s first appearance on the list are Northampton, Massachusetts (50); Westerly, Rhode Island (55); Ellsworth, Maine (58); Chester, Connecticut (74).
New England towns on the list also include Brattleboro, Vermont (81); Manchester, Vermont (91); Concord, Massachusetts (95); Greensboro, Vermont (99); Provincetown, Massachusetts (101); Chaplin, Connecticut (115); Greenville, Maine (125); Tiverton, Rhode Island (135).
Click Culture is an occasional look at the things in the cybersphere that get us clicking.