The American West offers vast deserts, rugged mountains, lush forests, scenic ocean beaches, and plenty of quirkiness. We look at five towns offering something different for the visitor.
The quirky small towns that dot the American West are filled with unexpected surprises. The West is quite varied, with the region’s laid-back coastal towns and cities offering fantastic multiculturalism. Below are five quirky towns to visit, which in addition to eclectic culture offer fantastic outdoor and recreation opportunities.
Roswell, New Mexico
Best known for the supposed crash of an alien spacecraft in the nearby desert, Roswell has embraced its out-there reputation and turned itself into a bustling tourist town despite its dusty remoteness in southeastern New Mexico.
The surrounding area has long been a stronghold of the country’s armed forces, and the city’s economy retains strong ties to the military, but tourism is undoubtedly its fastest-growing industry. Roswell’s downtown is chockablock with shops that cater to UFO enthusiasts from around the world. Carlsbad Caverns National Park is just two hours away, as is the forested Sierra Blanca Mountains.
Home to the University of Oregon, Eugene is both a classic college town and a historical focal point for the counterculture movement. It’s also renowned for its residents’ love of the outdoors and relentless patronage of the arts, which fosters a rich local culture whose depth and creativity rivals that of nearby Portland.
Proudly showcased in the weekly Eugene Saturday market, the hippy movement and other alternative lifestyles continue to play a big role in the city’s popular culture. Eugene is also near the beautiful Oregon coast.
San Francisco, California
Undoubtedly the largest “quirky” Western city, San Francisco carefully cultivates its bohemian image with liberal social policies, year-round street fairs, and strict building codes that keep many parts of the city looking as they did over a century ago.
If San Francisco is known for nurturing the counterculture movement, Seattle bears responsibility for creating its soundtrack. The city has witnessed the birth or popularization of several successive musical movements, like the bluesy psychedelia of Jimi Hendrix, the punk-influenced grunge of fame-averse rockers like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and the mellow guitar-rock of the indie-alternative revival movement.
Seattle has several bohemian neighborhoods of its own, including Pioneer Square and the University District. Also be sure to check out funky Fremont, eclectic Ballard and the architectural bizarreness of the EMP.
Like Eugene, Boulder is a picturesque college town with more than its fair share of hippies and outdoorsy types. In addition to the main campus of the University of Colorado, whose adjacent “Hill” neighborhood is one of the most eclectic and notorious off-campus districts in the country, Boulder is also home to Buddhist-inspired Naropa University. Downtown, head shops and glass dealers abound on the Pearl Street Mall and adjacent side streets.