As with my top 10 National Park list, this list is just from my journey across the USA and completely depends on the moment I was there, what I did and the overall feeling I had of the area. Even though my favorite moments were in nature and around the parks, I did happen to enjoy some towns along the way. The name "town" is used loosely since the population could exceed the definition of a town. We will pretend that they are favorite "places."
These places had a lot to offer and they are on the list because of a favorite feature of the town.
1.) Best town to be yourself: Proviencetown, Massachusetts
I spent some time in this little town in Cape Cod in 2008 and 2009. Depending on when you go, it could be true that everyone in the town was either gay, Canadian or lost. I fell in love with this place. It has it all (except warm weather in the winter). Beautiful beaches, art community, great restaurants and the most amazing sunsets. The best part is that you can be whoever you want to be in this town. Anything goes, as it should...in my opinion. I know I will be back.
2.) Best place to people watch: New Orleans
Take a seat in the downtown square and soak it up. This is exactly what I did when I was here. Looking for free entertainment? You have it. Local musicians playing in the streets, artists demonstrating their work, weddings, the aroma of gourmet food and the most interesting people from all over walking around in a daze. The choice is yours when you are in New Orleans.
3.) Best Port Town: Portland, Maine
I didn't stop in Portland on my first trip to Maine in August, but was able to tour this little city in October. The weather was cold, but beautiful. The streets are lined with cute shops and if you take a walk towards the water, you can look out for miles into the beautiful harbor. You can take a train tour on the edge of the harbor or take a walking tour, which I decided to do. People relaxing...soaking up the sun, walking their dog, enjoying the day.
4.) Best place to see millions of bats: Austin, Texas
Yes, there are many more reasons to visit Austin. I love this place. If you are looking for a funky stretch of shops and restaurants, Congress street is the answer. Wonderful local artists, amazing restaurants, street vendors and a block of trailer food. What more could you ask for? Austin also has great music venues, a very clean downtown, plenty of parks to get lost in and an overall layed back vibe. My kind of place.
5.) Best place to shop for yourself and your dog: Asheville, North Carolina
I was impressed with the variety of local artist and choice of restaurants but most of all, there were plenty of stores for your pooch and your knitting habit. Asheville is surrounded by beauty with the blue ridge parkway nearby that stretches for miles. The downtown area is great for soaking up the talent of the area. Local artists showcase their work in a two story co-op building and along the shops in this cute downtown that you can tour in an afternoon walk.
6.) Best place to watch the moon rise and the sun fall: Albuquerque, New Mexico
I had some of the most amazing sunsets in this town. Simply stunning. As the sun sets, the entire city changes color. You can drive up the the Sandia peak to see the sun set on the city or ride the world's longest tramway. I chose to watch the sunset from the peak. They have a cute old town, great dog park and most of what you are asking for in a city.
7.) Best college town: Madison, Wisconsin
There are hundreds of great college towns in the USA and Madison should be on the list. I took a stroll down the main street that ends up at the college and it was full of students getting ready to go back to school. The campus is near the water which was nice. Kids reading, playing with their dog, saying goodbye to parents. It was very nostalgic for me to witness.
8.) Best gateway to a beautiful place: Cody, Wyoming
This town is 50 miles to the East entrance of Yellowstone and is certainly a western town. Everywhere you see is stamped "cowboy." The shops, streets, people and licence plates. You can purchase anything that is western themed, eat like a cowboy and learn about the old west in museums. If you end up in Cody, you are in for a beautiful ride.
9.) Best city on the Gulf: Mobile, Alabama
There are several small sleepy towns on the gulf and Katrina still shows her scars in these towns. I found Mobile to be a charming town with lots of areas to get lost and see wildlife. There are several places you can find to look out into the gulf and watch birds and boats travel across the shore. I have a soft spot for this town since my grandparents used to live here. I spent a few days getting lost on the shores of the area. Beautiful swamp lands. If you want to get dirty, be sure to pack your mud boots.
10.) Best town to be in after being on the road for months: Home
I told you the list was biased. My home is in Southern California and although there are good and bad points about the city, it is where I call home...at the moment. I love to travel and find new places to tour but after being away for so long, there is something about sleeping in your own bed.
I enjoyed the 2009 summer/fall journey across the USA in a tent with my dog, Max. We continue to travel so I will keep you posted on more adventures to come.