Introducing the artists, foragers, pirates and shrine-builders who populate quirky small towns across the U.S.
No. 1 Asheville, NC
America's Quirkiest Towns
No. 1 Asheville, NC
Is it the thinner mountain air or that the locals are standing too close to a vortex? Either way, these North Carolinians are tops for eccentricity thanks to both old and new charms: the vortex-laden terrain, which purports to send off good energy; the Friday night drum circle in downtown’s Pritchard Park; and the seemingly bottomless love of local beer. To tap into their vibes, try the beer-and-moonshine “hoptails” at Grove Park Inn’s Great Hall Bar, the BRÖÖ shampoo at the Earth Fare shop, or the port cake at Short Street Cakes. Asheville also ranked in the top 10 for great bakeries; Vortex Doughnuts offers a local beer-of-the-day donut.
Paul Stone loves the colorful locals he sees on Boulder, CO’s downtown plaza, the no-cars-allowed Pearl Street Mall. “There’s even one very flexible man,” says the real estate agent, “who is about six feet tall, but can fold himself into a little box.”
Home to street performers, students, and spandex-clad athletes, “Boulder attracts a wide variety of people who live together in harmony,” says Stone. That double-jointed blend is probably why the Colorado mountain town also made the top 20 for quirky locals, according to Travel + Leisure readers.
They ranked hundreds of towns for such magnetic qualities as vibrant main streets, coffee bars, and an eco-friendly vibe. And while plenty of those features may contribute to a town’s unique personality, the top 20 winners in the quirky category take it a step further. One highly ranked town is an unlikely hotbed for Tibetan monks, while another largely forgoes Valentine’s Day to celebrate Charles Darwin instead.
Asheville, NC, for instance, ranked highly for its booming craft beer industry and diverse dining scene—but here, “diverse” goes well beyond a few good places to eat pho. On his No Taste Like Home tour, Ashevillian Alan Muskat lets visitors forage in the woods for—and then sample—wild local delicacies like “fairy potatoes,” which grow on vines, and reishi, known as the Mushroom of Immortality.
“Asheville sits smack in the middle of the most biodiverse temperate bioregion on the planet,” Muskat boasts. “So even our plants are freaky.”