2009 Dozen Distinctive Destinations

Where To Travel This Year

?(Clockwise from top left) Santa Barbara, Calif.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich.; Santa Fe, N.M.; Athens, Ga.; Virginia City, Nev.

Credit: National Trust for Historic Preservation

Planning your summer travel but tired of typical tourist traps? The National Trust for Historic Preservation's annual list of Dozen Distinctive Destinations is an ideal starting point. Every year, the list features places that showcase and preserve their unique histories while offering an enriching—and fun—visitor experience. This year's roster includes a New England village founded in the 17th century, a historic western mining town, and a vibrant Main Street community—plus other locations that "represent the vast richness and diversity of America's cultural heritage," according to National Trust President Richard Moe.

Santa Barbara, Calif.
Known for its Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and extraordinary coastal setting, Santa Barbara is often called the American Riviera. With more than 70 designated historic landmarks and a deep commitment to ecotourism (the local transit district operates more electric vehicles than any other place in North America), this town shows visitors a blend of progress and preservation.

For the past decade, locals have made historic preservation a priority. Their hard work has paid off in the form of numerous restored structures, many of which can be seen on one of the city's 500 annual walking tours. With parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and architectural landmarks by Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan, among others, Buffalo is a must-see city. The National Preservation Conference convenes in Buffalo in October 2011.

Saugatuck-Douglas, Mich. 
These century-old harbor towns have long offered a bucolic retreat for artists—and with a combined population of less than 3,000, they remain the perfect places for anyone fleeing urban pressures. Lush orchards to the east and dunes to the west provide a stunning backdrop for noted galleries, arts centers, and Great Lakes heritage attractions (including the area's last Victorian hand-cranked chain ferry).

Santa Fe, N.M.
Distinguished by its adobe architecture and surrounded by 1.6 million acres of national forest, Santa Fe is one of the Southwest's most admired destinations. Locals have preserved and honored each of Santa Fe's iterations: Pueblo Indian community, Spanish colonial capital, and cosmopolitan city.

Athens, Ga. 
With 15 National Register-listed historic districts, stunning Neoclassical architecture, and a collection of African American heritage sites, Athens is a perfect destination for travelers interested in Southern history. But Athens is also home to the University of Georgia and a thriving music scene, making the Classic City a surprising avatar of the New South.

Virginia City, Nev.
Founded during the gold rush in the late 1850s, this town outside Reno was once the most important settlement between Denver and San Francisco. Today, visitors can tour historic mines, listen to jazz in the city's saloons, and explore restored mansions built by pioneers-turned-millionaires.

Bristol, R.I.
Residents have fought tirelessly to preserve this idyllic New England port town's historic features, including the National Register-listed town center. Bristol's maritime heritage is also cherished; the town was home to the famed Herreshoff Manufacturing Co., which produced many of the nation's finest yachts. Today, Bristol's Herreshoff Marine Museum displays a superb collection of restored vessels.

Fort Worth, Tex.
Calling itself the City of Cowboys and Culture, Fort Worth carefully balances its rugged history with renowned cultural attractions. Visitors can start their day at the Fort Worth Stockyards and end it by exploring the Amon Carter Museum, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, or the neighboring Kimbell Art Museum.

Lititz, Pa. 
Old stone mills, log homes, wooden covered bridges—Lititz is the place for anyone looking to rediscover a simpler kind of life. Rooted in Moravian heritage from the 18th century, many of the town's original buildings still stand, along with 19th-century structures. This quintessential American town also claims one of the oldest continuous Fourth of July celebrations in the country.

Hot Springs, S.D.
Once, mammoths roamed the Black Hills that surround this South Dakota town, and Native Americans carved petroglyphs in the area's rugged canyons. Now, Hot Springs, with its numerous archaeological attractions (including a paleontology research site with preserved prehistoric species), is a mecca for visitors exploring the American West.

Lake Geneva, Wis.Hugging the shores of Lake Geneva and less than two hours from Chicago and Milwaukee, this tiny town boasts natural beauty as well as a broad mix of architectural styles. Noted buildings range from Gothic Revival cottages to Queen Anne mansions to a 1954 library building designed by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright.

Franklin, Tenn.
Just a stone's throw from Nashville (site of this year's National Preservation Conference), Franklin's historic downtown boasts an eclectic mix of centuries-old buildings that house boutiques, antiques shops, and restaurants. Civil War buffs can also visit the largest privately owned Confederate cemetery in the nation, antebellum plantations, and nearby landmark battlegrounds.  

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