Twelve towns and cities around the U.S., from a former New England whaling port to an Old West frontier town in Texas, have been named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2011.
The cities are Alexandria, Va.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Dandridge, Tenn.; Eureka, Calif.; Muskogee, Okla.; New Bedford, Mass.; Paducah, Ky.; San Angelo, Texas; Sonoma, Calif.; Sheridan, Wyo., and St. Paul, Minn.
The Dozen Distinctive Destinations program has for 12 years identified communities around the country that offer culture, recreation and an authentic sense of place beyond the typical vacation experience.
"This year's Dozen Distinctive Destinations include some of America's best places to visit," Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, said in a statement. "They combine historic appeal and modern culture in a way that keeps visitors coming back."
The National Trust described Alexandria as a blend of early Americana and modern chic, with eclectic neighborhoods, historic sites (including a recreation of the townhouse George Washington once lived in) dining and shopping.
Chapel Hill was lauded for its well-preserved historic districts, quiet winding streets and bustling downtown.
Colorado Springs, a historic town at the base of the Rocky Mountains, offers views of Pikes Peak, while Dandridge, a small town set in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, was described by the National Trust as "the quintessential Southern Appalachian town."
Eureka, on the Northern California coast, a preserved Victorian seaport, was noted for its lively Old Town, nearby redwood forests, and the Carson Mansion, a large and well-known Victorian house.
Muskogee made the list for its heritage as an unofficial capital of Indian territory, with well-preserved Native American, African-American and European-American influences, as well as unique festivals, museums and restaurants.
New Bedford, a storied whaling port, offers maritime history, beaches, preserved architecture and a burgeoning arts community.
Paducah, in Kentucky's Four Rivers region, has turn-of-the-century architecture, unique shops and eateries, and an eye on its cultural and artistic heritage.
San Angelo, described by the National Trust as a frontier city with a rich past, has a bustling downtown historic district and cultural offerings.
St. Paul, Minnesota's state capital, is home to some of the state's most important historic buildings, including the Cass Gilbert-designed State Capitol and the home of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Visitors can also check out shops on Grand Avenue, mansions on Summit Avenue and restaurants in the trendy warehouse district.
Sheridan, Wyo., an authentic Western city by the Big Horn Mountains, offers a vibrant Main Street commercial district and recreational opportunities.
Sonoma, Calif., in the heart of California wine country, is famous for award-winning wine and food and scenic country roads.
The National Trust is also holding an online vote through March 15 to pick a 2011 Fan Favorite from this year's list. Details at http://www.PreservationNation.org/ddd.