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Best Small Town Cultural Scene (2021)

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Bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to these small towns, each with a population of fewer than 25,000 people. What each lacks in size it makes up for with a big cultural punch – museums, art galleries, performing arts, and busy event calendars. 

  • El Dorado

    El Dorado
    Arkansas

    This small town in South Arkansas is rich in both Southern Charm and cultural appeal. El Dorado hosts a full calendar of cultural festivals each year, including the Southern Food & Wine Festival, MusicFest and the Mayhaw Festival. The town is also home to the South Arkansas Symphony, one of the first orchestras established in the state. Visit Oil Heritage Park to learn more about the city’s boom town history.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / dlewis33

  • Ste. Geneviéve

    Ste. Geneviéve
    Missouri

    Settled by French Canadiens around 1740, this town is Missouri’s oldest permanent European settlement. The Centre for French Colonial Life preserves French-era buildings and tells their significance in American history. Ste. Genevieve’s love affair with the arts began long before the beginnings of its renowned 1930’s Art Colony. Today the town is filled with art displays of all types: paintings, poured pewter, thrown pottery, and even hi-tech computer art.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / BOB WESTON

  • Haddonfield

    Haddonfield
    New Jersey

    One of the best small towns in the Delaware Valley, particularly for shopping and dining, Haddonfield is one of the oldest communities in the region, occupied by European settlers since the late 1600s. The downtown area features more than 200 shops and art galleries, as well as restaurants ranging from casual fish and chips shops to candlelit dining rooms. The Haddonfield Plays & Players put on dramatic productions, while the Markeim Arts Center hosts classes, art camps and exhibitions throughout the year.
    Photo courtesy of Haddonfield

  • Sedona

    Sedona
    Arizona

    The small town of Sedona has a long and colorful history with the world of art. In 1965, over beers in a local saloon, The Cowboy Artists of America was created in this Arizona community. The Sedona Arts Center showcases local artists’ work and special exhibitions, live and online classes and workshops, and an online gallery. Several of Sedona’s prominent art galleries participate in 1st Friday Evenings in the Galleries, where visitors can enjoy an evening of openings, demonstrations, and receptions. Artistic mediums on display range from Western bronzes, contemporary jewelry, Native American weavings, stained glass, woodcarvings, and much more.
    Photo courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

  • Staunton

    Staunton
    Virginia

    Located in the stunning Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Staunton is the hometown of President Woodrow Wilson and the location of Beverley Street, a celebrated historic main street. Staunton is also home to the Heifetz International Music Institute, Staunton Music Festival, Red Wing Roots Festival, and the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. A highlight is the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse, a recreation of Shakespeare's theater in London.
    Photo courtesy of Staunton Convention and Visitor's Bureau

  • Cedar Key

    Cedar Key
    Florida

    “Galleries, a couple of museums and weekend art shows reflect the small town's artful genes and proximity to the University of Florida,” explains 10Best Local Expert Chelle Koster Walton. The single block commercial district, known as the Dock, features a series of charming shops and restaurants selling art, knickknacks and seafood.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / William Dummitt

  • Eureka Springs

    Eureka Springs
    Arkansas

    The entire town of Eureka Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and South Main Street running through downtown is lined with beautiful Victorian architecture. While curative hot springs were once the main draw, modern-day visitors come for the live music, art scene and romantic Queen Anne-style B&Bs scattered throughout the town. The town is home to hundreds of working artists and galleries.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / JTGrafix

  • Saratoga Springs

    Saratoga Springs
    New York

    The cultural offerings in small Saratoga Springs rival those of much larger cities. The town is particularly strong in the performing arts, with one of the nation’s top outdoor music venues (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) serving as the summer home of the New York City Ballet, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. “Get your toes tapping at the National Museum of Dance. Saratoga is the New York City Ballet’s summer home so it’s a fitting location for the country’s first museum dedicated to this art form,” suggests 10Best contributor Allison Tibaldi.
    Photo courtesy of Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea

    Carmel-by-the-Sea
    California

    Carmel is a magical place nestled between the endless Pacific Ocean and forested mountains. 10Best Contributor Allison Tibaldi remarked: “The natural beauty of the seascape has inspired artists for over a century.” Take a self-guided audio walking tour of downtown wine rooms and art galleries. The eclectic community is home to several theatres, including the outdoor PacRep at the Forest, operating since 1910.
    Photo courtesy of Carmel-by-the-Sea

  • Ocean Springs

    Ocean Springs
    Mississippi

    First settled on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast by the French in 1699, Ocean Springs today is known for its arts culture as much as its fresh seafood. The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art showcase traveling exhibits and local works, and public art installations accent the city. Visitors can find many public art installations throughout the downtown area, including a mosaic depicting “a day on the water” on the end of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi bridge.
    Photo courtesy of ArtistheJourney // Getty Images

The top 10 winners in the category Best Small Town Cultural Scene are as follows: 
  1. El Dorado - Arkansas
  2. Ste. Geneviève - Missouri
  3. Haddonfield - New Jersey
  4. Sedona - Arizona
  5. Staunton - Virginia
  6. Cedar Key - Florida
  7. Eureka Springs - Arkansas
  8. Saratoga Springs - New York
  9. Carmel-by-the-Sea - California
  10. Ocean Springs - Mississippi
Congratulations to all these winning towns!
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AlertThe Experts

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

Allison Tibaldi

Allison Tibaldi

Allison Tibaldi

Amber Gibson

Amber Gibson

Amber Gibson

Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith

Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman

Gerrish Lopez

Gerrish Lopez

Gerrish Lopez

Jacky Runice

Jacky Runice

Jacky Runice

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell
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