12 Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of

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Ithaca’s renowned farmers market.
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Summer fun at a waterfall in Ithaca, N.Y.
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We've done the legwork and found great places all over the country to live or visit.
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Ithaca Hours, the famous local currency.
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Blue Hill, Maine has many historic buildings and locally owned shops that sell homemade crafts.
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There's a calm beauty in the rolling, forested hills of Athens, Ohio.
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The Olde Towne Plaza in Wimberley, Texas features several eclectic shops.
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If you're ever in Grand Junction, Colo., check out the Main Street Dinosaur Valley Museum.
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Visit downtown Northfield, Minnesota. in the summer and you can enjoy fresh popcorn beside a bubbling fountain.
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While St. George, Utah is a growing town, locals are working to preserve its scenic beauty.
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The DeKalb County farmers market in Decatur, Georgia offers more than 100,000 square feet of fresh food.
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Art is a local passion in Fairfield, Iowa.
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La Grande, Oregon sits in a valley between the Blue Mountains and the Wallowa Mountains.
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The Rogue River near Grants Pass, Oregon offers exhilarating outdoor recreation.
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Boats fill the tranquil harbor of Sitka, Alaska.

If you could live anywhere in the United States, where would it be? Chances are your ideal place would have beautiful scenery and recreational opportunities; civic pride and a healthy economy; and a community of people who care about the environment, sustainability, alternative energy and fresh, wholesome food.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS went looking for such places and quickly came up with dozens of them: Portland, Ore., for its environmental awareness; Madison, Wis., for its great farmers markets; Boulder, Colo., for its fantastic recreation. But we wanted to find great places that you may not have heard of — towns that are smaller and less expensive, yet still as interesting as those that frequently make lists of great places to live.

We didn’t choose these towns based on a statistical analysis or scientific survey. Instead, we brainstormed standout towns we’ve visited, lived in or heard about from readers. They had to be places where people interested in sustainable living would find kindred souls. We eventually narrowed our lengthy list to 12 communities from all across the country. Then we read up on each town, talked to residents and studied the population and climate data. We also researched how much it costs to live in these towns — the index we used accounts for everything from housing to food to transportation to entertainment. The U.S. average is 100, so a number less than 100 indicates the town is less expensive than the average, and vice versa.

Even if you’re not thinking about moving, we encourage you to visit these unique towns. Also think about what makes them great; they may provide ideas to help make your community a better place to live.

Here, then, is Mother’s first list of “Great Places You’ve Never Heard Of.” We know there are many more unique and little-known places out there, so to nominate towns we should spotlight in the future, write to us or post comments at the bottom of this page.

12 Great Places: Athens, Ohio
12 Great Places: Blue Hill, Maine
12 Great Places: Decatur, Georgia
12 Great Places: Fairfield, Iowa
12 Great Places: Grand Junction, Colorado
12 Great Places: Grants Pass, Oregon
12 Great Places: Ithaca, New York
12 Great Places: La Grande, Oregon
12 Great Places: Northfield, Minnesota
12 Great Places: Sitka Alaska
12 Great Places: St. George, Utah
12 Great Places: Wimberley, Texas

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