Until February 11, Budget Travel Magazine is taking votes on which of twenty small American towns is the coolest. In the running: artsy, funky Phoenicia.
Two and a half hours north of New York City, this tiny town in the Catskill Mountains is a smaller version of nearby Woodstock: quiet and rural, with a hippie vibe and an artsy edge. Phoenicia's main drag is humbled by panoramic views of the magnificent 286,000-acre Catskill Forest Preserve, but surprisingly trendy stores line the street, like Mystery Spot Antiques—packed with vintage clothing, out-of-print books, and quirky housewares—and the Arts Upstairs, a seven-room gallery of original works, often by local artists.
As of a few minutes ago, Phoenicia was lingering in thirteenth place, with 349 votes, while front-runner Lewisburg, West Virginia blazed past with 10,237. Get out there and vote, Ulster County.
Last year's winner: Ely, Minnesota (pop. 3,470). It helped that the town's North American Bear Center had a bear give birth live on the internet via webcam just before the voting got underway.
Budget Travel has a few criteria for coolness:
The town must have a population under 10,000—we're talking small towns, not big cities. It's also got to be on the upswing, a place that's beginning to draw attention—and new residents—because of the quality of life, arts and restaurant scene, or proximity to nature. And cool doesn't mean quaint. We want towns with an edge, so think avant-garde galleries, not country stores.