Being a college town really makes a difference. My selections are definitely skewered by the stretch of the country I’ve lived in.
- Dover, New Hampshire (population 32,191): Yes, my provenance for two decades and the source for much of the material here at the Red Barn.
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire (21,927): Just a dozen or so miles down the road from us, the Port City is wealthier and more tourist oriented, especially around the photogenic harbor. With a strong Colonial flavor, thanks to its array of mansions, it’s a prime example of a New England seaport, a category that could easily lead to its own Tendrils entry.
- Portland, Maine (66,215/metro area of a half million): A hour up the Interstate from Dover, the Forest City is the center of a third of the state’s population, as counted in the metro area. The Old Port District is especially charming and pedestrian friendly.
- Brunswick, Maine (20,278): A bit further on is the home of Bowdoin College and a fun-to-explore downtown. I love its Vietnamese restaurant.
- Eastport, Maine (1,331): And much further up the coast is this much shrunken city that’s fighting for survival. No college, though. No Laundromat, either, or pizza parlor. Its saving grace is an spunky arts scene and the ocean, including a really deep-water port. As you’re seeing, it’s won our hearts … enough to lure us from Dover.
- Port Townsend, Washington (9,704): Jumping to the other side of the continent, this artsy community on the Olympic Peninsula relies on ferry service across Puget Sound for access to about everything other than the mountains and forests at its back. It’s also home to a state park dedicated to the arts.
- Ellensburg, Washington (21,111): Situated in the desert east of Seattle, this small college town blends Wild West atmosphere with outdoors opportunities, including the Yakima Canyon. You may have seen it in the TV series “Northern Exposure.”
- Yellow Springs, Ohio (3,487): Returning back across the heartland, I thought about adding Iowa City or Madison, Wisconsin, but don’t know enough about either to speak fluently. Yellow Springs, long the home of bohemian Antioch College, fills the bill for me with its small-town New England touches and the Glen Helen Nature Preserve.
- Bloomington, Indiana (85,000): Set in a wooded, rolling landscape, it’s the home of Big Ten Indiana University and its plethora of cultural opportunities. It also bears a passing resemblance to Daffodil in a few of my novels.
- Burlington, Vermont (42,417): Look, it’s the biggest city in the Green Mountain State and has Lake Champlain at its foot and great views of the Adirondacks beyond. It’s also about as hippie crunchy as you can get, though it helps if your grandparents set you up with a trust fund or two. You might consider Middlebury as an alternative.
I can think of some suburban Boston communities, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?
Your turn to weigh in with worthy nominations!