Friday, June 18, 2021


Published January 6, 2021 from matadornetwork.com

2020 HAS BEEN like a giant magnifying glass for our country, our cities, and ourselves. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to reevaluate our priorities and examine what it is about travel that makes us all love it so much — and miss it when that privilege is taken away from us. It’s not the perks of an airport lounge or the Instagram likes you get on a vacation selfie. It’s the people and the places where we can connect with each other — be it with our travel companions or complete strangers.

In most places around the United States, 2020 saw the closure — temporary or otherwise — of those places where we connect: bars, restaurants, festival grounds, bookshops, museums, and other institutions that give a destination its character in the first place. Trying to highlight the “cool” in a decidedly “uncool” year might sound like a fruitless effort, but towns across the country have defied overwhelming odds to prove their resilience.

When we peek through the magnifying glass, it’s that resilience that looms largest. From cash-strapped communities scraping together donations to save a local bookstore to the creative reimagining of outdoor spaces to keep restaurants afloat, our towns are refusing to let a pandemic diminish their character. And that’s pretty cool.

2020 was the year we fell in love with domestic travel again, and we’re carrying that passion for safely exploring our own backyard into the new year. In no particular order, these are the 25 coolest towns in America that you should visit in 2021.

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Over 38,000 rose plants span 14 acres in the city’s Municipal Rose Garden. It stands in full bloom well into November, but the best time of year to go is for the Texas Rose Festival in October. Seemingly the entire city — and much of the state — descends on the rose garden and adjacent museum where handmade dresses, parades, and a queen’s coronation mark Tyler’s signature event.

Tyler delivers far more than roses, though. Tyler State Park has 13 miles of hiking and biking trails and a 64-acre recreational lake, so you can get out and enjoy the East Texas wilderness. Head east to Caddo Lake, where spotting alligators, white-tailed deer, and possibly even Bigfoot aren’t at all unusual. Rent a kayak and paddle under the bald cypress trees, and maybe you’ll see all three. Or hit the Caldwell Zoo, which just welcomed an exceptionally rare Grevy’s zebra.