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Chautauqua, N.Y. named Best Small Town Cultural Scene

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The Chautauqua Institution brings a range of arts programing to this small town

Note from 10Best: Someday, we'll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we'll keep supporting the places that inspire us.

  • Chautauqua

    Chautauqua
    New York

    Chautauqua is a double threat – stunning scenery and a thriving cultural scene, thanks in large part to the celebrated Chautauqua Institution, a summer center for the arts, spiritual growth and recreation. The institution hosts more than 2,000 events during its annual summer season, including concerts, lectures and educational demos.
    Photo courtesy of Chautauqua Institution

  • 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

  • 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

  • Sheridan

    Sheridan
    Wyoming

    Historic Sheridan is the quintessential American West town, where legendary cowboys and outlaws once walked the streets, still to this day surrounding by the wild Bighorn Mountains. See the work of international artists at the Brinton Museum or UCross Gallery, or browse cowboy memorabilia at the King’s Museum. Two theaters, the Carriage House and the WYO, host live entertainment and cultural enrichment programs.
    Photo courtesy of Sheridan Travel & Tourism / Shawn Parker

  • 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

  • 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

  • Perham

    Perham
    Minnesota

    In Perham, antique shops, cafes and craft breweries are complemented by public art and a sizable collection of small town cultural festivals and events, like the popular International Turtle Races in summer. The Perham Center for the Arts, housed in a century-old catholic church, hosts a variety of concerts, art markets and other live events.
    Photo courtesy of Explore Minnesota

  • Point Pleasant

    Point Pleasant
    West Virginia

    Located where the Kanawha and Ohio Rivers meet, the town of Point Pleasant is home of the Mothman – an urban legend – as well as a host of excellent festivals, including Bikes, BBQ & Bluegrass; the Country Fall Festival; Battle Days and of course, the world's only Mothman Festival. This quaint small town also has a vibrant arts community that is the cornerstone of showcasing the area's history – Fort Randolph, the Mansion House Museum and the West Virginia State Farm Museum. 
    Photo courtesy of Mason County Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Nashville

    Nashville
    Indiana

    Art galleries, historic homes and a calendar full of festivals (nearly 40 spread throughout the year) make Nashville, Indiana a favorite small town getaway in the Midwest. In this former artists community, visitors will find everything from paintings to hand-thrown ceramics, as well as live theater, musicals and ample opportunity for outdoor adventure in surrounding Brown County.
    Photo courtesy of Brown County

  • Occidental

    Occidental
    California

    “Occidental is tucked into the woods of the scenic Bohemian Highway in Sonoma County,” explains 10Best Local Expert Christina Nellemann. This tiny community packs a lot into its two block downtown, including several galleries. Browse the collection at the Occidental Center for the Arts, attend a chamber music series event by the Redwood Arts Council or listen to the Occidental Community Choir.
    Photo courtesy of Sonoma County Tourism

  • Chautauqua
  • Haddonfield
  • El Dorado
  • Sheridan
  • Saratoga Springs
  • Staunton
  • Perham
  • Point Pleasant
  • Nashville
  • Occidental

Bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to these 10 small towns, each with a population of fewer than 30,000 people (as of the last census). What each lacks in size it makes up for with a big cultural punch – museums, art galleries, performing arts and busy event calendars. 

The top 10 winners in the category Best Small Town Cultural Scene are as follows:

  1. Chautauqua - New York
  2. Haddonfield - New Jersey
  3. El Dorado - Arkansas
  4. Sheridan - Wyoming
  5. Saratoga Springs - New York
  6. Staunton - Virginia
  7. Perham - Minnesota
  8. Point Pleasant - West Virginia
  9. Nashville - Indiana
  10. Occidental - California

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning small towns!

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AlertThe Experts

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Amber Gibson

Amber Gibson

Amber Gibson

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman

Gerrish Lopez

Gerrish Lopez

Gerrish Lopez

Christina Nellemann

Christina Nellemann

Christina Nellemann

Jacky Runice

Jacky Runice

Jacky Runice

Allison Tibaldi

Allison Tibaldi

Allison Tibaldi

Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton

Chelle Koster Walton
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