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America’s Best Small Towns: The 2013 Winners

OPENERALTERNATE39140faa1e44cf7ad348ddcc9ae3429c1049485cdAfter several weeks of online voting and posting, Rand McNally asked the 30 finalist towns in our 2013 Best of the Road contest to demonstrate why they should be declared the winner in their respective category of Most Beautiful, Most Fun, Friendliest, Most Patriotic, Best for Food, or Best for Geocaching. The results? Thirty passionately constructed essays and video tours that made each town’s case and told each town’s unique tale.

All the stories were interesting and compelling—as well as humorous, heart-warming, or both. Collectively they showed, once again, why small town America is so wonderful. Individually they made it really, really hard for the judges to choose just one town in each category. Still, after several days of review, discussion, and (at times passionate) debate, we’re honored to announce the six winners.

We congratulate them and thank the 24 other finalists for their efforts and enthusiasm. Every single one of these 30 great American small towns—and our partners Geocaching.com and Good Sam Club—helped to make this year’s Best of the Road contest a huge success.



Judge’s Take: “Jefferson City’s essay used colorful language to bring out the beauty and charm of the town, from its proud historical connections to its lovely capitol and other elegant buildings.”



Judge’s Take: “Corning’s energetic video and essay submissions showcased a community that not only knows how to have a good time, but that also knows how to ensure visitors will enjoy themselves, too.”



Judge’s Take: “After reading Kewanee’s essay and watching its video, I wanted to get in my car and experience the friendliness of this town right away!”



Judge’s Take: “Gallup’s poignant submissions showed us a place that acknowledges the heroic contributions of diverse cultures; that sees patriotism in small, everyday acts as well as in monumental, historic deeds; and that has an overall patriotic philosophy of its very own—Gallup Strong.”



Judge’s Take: “San Mateo won us over with the diversity of its culinary options and with all its online activity, which showed strong community support for the restaurateurs. The town clearly has ‘something for everyone’ and is dedicated to providing its patrons with the best.”



Judge’s Take: “I was convinced by the words taken directly from the geocaching community: Helena is an authentically engaging place to geocache. You can feel the historical connection to the gold treasure hunters of long ago while using today’s satellites and smartphone apps. The gorgeous scenery just adds to the adventure!”


  1. Courtney

    Prosser, WA is a small town!! we have tons to offer as well and should be considered for next year! from our local wines and breweries. To our Great Balloon Rally, which this year will mark the 25th annual balloon rally. We also have many other events that happen all year round but we still keep the small town feel even with more people in town. We love to celebrate our town of Prosser!!!

  2. Steph Curry

    I agree that the “Small Towns” represented, that won, are not truly Small Towns. I encourage people to check out Washington’s Small Town Walla Walla!! Where we ARE TRULY a small town. You can pull our Famous Sweets right out of the ground and drink some of the most Amazing Wine in the World!! You’ll even have “Where ya came from dust” on your boots when you leave!! No high heels in our vineyards or on our Crush Pads!! Cheers :)

  3. Cathy Clark

    Folks in our town of Waterville, WA (pop. 1,080) enjoyed reading about, entering and voting in the contest. The only question that comes to my mind is, if 11,000 – 97,000 population (the towns that were selected) is considered “small,” then what can be done for the truly “Small Towns?” Come to WA state and drive through some of our thriving “Small Towns” with populations under 5,000, and get a real flavor for what it means to be “small.”

  4. Steve Kazan

    You are right on target with San Mateo, CA. The variety and quality of food here are amazing. Stop by for a plate, bowl or cup of your favorite dish!

  5. Linda Carlson

    I heard on the radio that Kewanee, IL was voted the most friendly town in the USA. I totally agree. I have lived next to this community all of my life. The people there are like family and they genuinely care about you. I work there and enjoy those that I work with and the customers are fantastic.

  6. Frank A Kozeliski

    Thanks for selecting Gallup, NM. it is a great town.

  7. KTK

    In the actual voting numbers it appeared Punta Gorda was leading by a wide margin. What a misrepresentation when this input is discounted by a panel of judges. What is the point of the voting? Next year just let your panel decide and forget the voting. It is misleading. Punta Gorda won except with your picked panel.

    • Laura Kidder

      Thanks for your feedback. The voting portion of the contest determines the 30 finalists. If you’ll recall, there were hundreds of towns in the initial stages of the contest, and only the 30 with the most votes were selected to continue on to the next stage. At that point, the judges used a variety of criteria—including the essay and video submitted by each of the finalist communities—to make their decisions. For details on the judging criteria and guidelines, please see the Official Rules.

  8. Rick

    Is there a link to view the video and write-up provided by the winners this year?

    Thank you.

    • Laura Kidder

      If you’re on the homepage showing just the winners and you click the More About [Category] (e.g., More About Most Fun) it will take you to a page showcasing the winners and the finalist where you can then click through to either individual essays or videos (e.g., Watch Their Video or Read Their Essay).

      Hope this helps.

  9. Kathrine

    Great news to hear that Corning made the most fun town. With its historic Market Street to the continuous stream of activities in town and in all the galleries and arts centers and museums, there’s no place like Corning!

  10. James Sweeney

    there are loads of small towns in America, the winners had to be a tough choice in each category!!!!!! Americans are proud of their small towns, and I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Jackie Gammaro

      So proud to see C-town made it. After moving away my fun has dwindled. Always excited to go home and visit!

  11. Kevin

    Wow, good job Helena, Montana—Best Small Town for geocaching. I’ve been caching for several years and am always surprised by the amount of caches around the Helena area. Many of them even provide history lessons about the wonderful history of Helena. (And, by the way, it’s pronounced HELL-ena—emphasis on the first syllable!).