Each year, Budget Travel asks its readers to nominate an American small town for the title Coolest Small Town. The choices are then whittled down to the top 10, and those are put to a vote. To our delight, Port Townsend, Washington, has made the 2012 short list for America’s Coolest Small Towns.
There are a few parameters. Each town must have a population under 10,000. It must be “on the upswing,” thanks to a vibrant arts scene, good restaurants, or its proximity to nature. The town must also eschew quaint and embrace edginess.
Given theses parameters, Port Townsend should be a shoe-in.
- It’s hip, with edgy artists and a sizable number of residents who live there precisely because it isn’t like every where else.
- It has astoundingly strong arts and culture for a town of its size, with an impressive list of festivals such as the Film Festival and the Wooden Boat Festival.
- It has Centrum: Centrum is responsible for the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes, a Chamber Music Festival, a Jazz Festival, a Blues Festival, and a host of other artistic programs.
- It has many good restaurants. Grab a hot dog at the seasonal stand or dine at Fins Coastal Cuisine, which has been favorably reviewed in the New York Times Travel Section. Enjoy a drink in the cozy Mezzanine of the Silverwater Cafe or hang with the locals at Sirens Pub. Have a leisurely breakfast Uptown at Sweet Laurette’s, or grab a tasty treat to go at Pane d’Amore Bakery.
- It’s home to the Port Townsend Farmers Market, one of the largest small town markets in the nation.
- It’s home to Fort Worden.
Port Townsend can go neck and neck with just about any town in the country for natural beauty. It sits on the tip of the Quimper Peninsula, which is located on the Olympic Peninsula. Two volcanic peaks stand in the east, Mount Baker to the north and Mount Rainier to the south. The Cascade Mountain Range rises in the distance behind the white cliffs of Whidbey Island to the east, and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains lie to the west. It impossible to remain indifferent to the view. And opportunities for outdoor recreation are abundant.
If you’ve been to Port Townsend, you’ve probably already cast your vote. If you haven’t been there, or if it’s been a while, go take a look. Have a glass of Washington State Wine or Cider made on the Olympic Peninsula. Stay in a Bed and Breakfast or Boutique Hotel. Then cast your vote for Port Townsend as America’s Coolest Small Town. Votes accepted through January 31, 2012.