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The Smithsonian just released its annual list of the best small towns in America, and this year's roundup is bound to give you intense wanderlust—unless you're one of the lucky folks who get to live in these charming destinations year round, that is. This year, inspired by the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, the communities are all located near national parks.

Main attractions: Caines Head , Fox Island , or the Aialik Glacier —these outdoor areas are perfect for kayaking and other outdoor activities, and you're pretty much guaranteed to spot wildlife, The Smithsonian says. Try your hand at dog sledding at the nearby Iditarod Trail .

Main attractions: The Buckstaff Bathhouse , which was opened in 1912, gives visitors the chance to soak in the mineral waters that Hot Springs is famous for. While you're there, explore the Hot Springs National Park , which offers scenic hiking trails.

Main attractions: Caines Head , Fox Island , or the Aialik Glacier —these outdoor areas are perfect for kayaking and other outdoor activities, and you're pretty much guaranteed to spot wildlife, The Smithsonian says. Try your hand at dog sledding at the nearby Iditarod Trail .

Main attractions: The Buckstaff Bathhouse , which was opened in 1912, gives visitors the chance to soak in the mineral waters that Hot Springs is famous for. While you're there, explore the Hot Springs National Park , which offers scenic hiking trails.

Main attractions: The small town is located just 40 miles from Yosemite National Park and sits adjacent to mountains with some of the best powder in California. The Mammoth Creek and Convict Lake are also popular spots for visitors looking to fish or relax by the water.

Main attractions: Most visitors check out the Columbine , which is one of Colorado's oldest bars and resembles a traditional saloon, and the Mancos Opera House , built in 1899 and rebuilt in 1910 after a fire. And if you're looking to take in the great outdoors, Mesa Verde National Park is located 10 minutes from town.

Main attractions: Known as the heart of Georgia's "wine country," visitors can experience its best wineries, vineyards, and tasting rooms during Dahlonega's annual Wine Trail Weekend , held every August. You can also take in the town's Gold Rush history by checking out the Crisson Gold Mine .

While many food worshipers look to large-scale cities like New York and San Francisco when they’re searching for their delicious fix, others turn to quaint, small towns that have just as much culinary zeal. Many of these spots are teeming with local restaurant concepts focused on freshness and the highest-quality ingredients. Small towns across the country are now celebrated for their passion for food and their timeless mantra that food brings people together.

For the traveling food lover, finding small-town culinary hot spots has become a calling. Quick road trips to find the best lobster in Maine aren't out of reach, and certainly swinging by Tarrytown, N.Y., for a tour of Blue Hill at Stone Barns’ farm and winery isn’t a bad idea, either. California is flooded with small towns, mostly around wine country, which are overflowing with top-notch restaurants from up-and-coming chefs that boast incredibly inventive cuisine coupled with killer wine lists. San Mateo, Calif., is also now on food lovers' radar after being a 2012 Best for Food finalist in the Rand McNally Best of the Road contest .   America’s Best Small Towns for Food 2013 (Slideshow)

Some lesser-known places like Hilton Head Island in South Carolina may surprise many, but the island has stepped up its game when it comes to its food selections. While it offers traditional island seafood, it also offers a mixture of local Gullah cuisine at restaurants like Roastfish and Cornbread , and for a higher-end dining experience, there's Vine Bistro & Wine Bar . Not to be outdone, towns like Traverse City, Mich., and Galesburg, Ill., each have their own charms.

The Daily Meal is updating its list from last year , and while many of the same small towns made the cut, there are a few new additions that have been making waves in the media over the last year. Towns that were included on the list have a variety of restaurants in the region with a focus on local, fresh, and seasonal ingredients as well as a flair for culinary creativity. They also have a population of fewer than 300,000 residents. 

Small town Americana is alive and well across the entire United States. With thousands of sleepy towns and beautiful villages, a new idea of an American downtown has emerged. Gone are the days of a downtown area with a post office, market and police department. What has taken the place of this outdated notion are unique and eclectic downtown areas full of energy, entertainment and accessibility for Americans of all ages. Small towns have become the central gathering places for residents and visitors of the many small towns and cities across the country. Many of these downtowns have rich history and culture attached to them. In addition to their history, many of these small downtowns are now places to shop, unwind, dine, attend festivals, hear music and so much more.

First on our list is the quaint town of Mathews, Virginia. This is more than a small town; it is the smallest county in Virginia, with just eighty-four square miles . This small town boasts a historic, yet updated, downtown area with shopping, dining and art. The city also houses miles of Chesapeake Bay shoreline, which makes it an ultimate destination for summer beachgoers, bird watchers, bicyclists, fishermen, and boating enthusiasts.

The town of Deadwood is in the heart of the “wild west.” The downtown area is full of gaming, fine dining, and entertainment. You may even encounter an old-fashioned shootout on Main Street. While visiting you can see Broken Boot Mine, a number of historic homes and shops. The city has been named on two of the national lists for best small towns.

The downtown area in Corinth is known as Fillmore Street. This street offers both visitors and locals an eclectic combination of the old and the new. There are historic buildings mixed with modern boutiques and galleries. There are many interesting inns and hotels in the downtown area.

Spearfish, South Dakota is a town with an all-embracing attitude towards both a youthful energy and a downtown arts vibe. There are art galleries, theaters and musical performances. The town is home to Black Hills State University, which creates the feeling of a college town. The university offers entertainment options, such as live performances, art and cultural shows for students, residents and visitors. The downtown area supports coffee shops, pubs, restaurants and shops. The downtown area also hosts a series of Friday night concerts during the summer and a Christmas parade each December.

Rockland, Maine is a picturesque, quaint “New England village.” The old fashioned, New England village vibe is mixed with a trendy art and culture scene, which makes the downtown area unique. The low average home price makes this a wonderful place to both visit and live.

The town of Eureka Springs can be found nestled in the Ozarks and has a place on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown area is full of old-fashioned Victorian charm. The streets twist and turn through the mountainous terrain. There is a charming downtown trolley system that will wind you throughout the downtown area. Visitors and residents enjoy eclectic music, a fabulous arts scene and Queen Ann style Bed and Breakfasts throughout town.

Lanesboro is fondly referred throughout Minnesota as the Bed-and-Breakfast capital of the entire state. The town is situated in a cliff-lined valley of the Root River, approximately 125 miles from Minneapolis-St. Paul. The town is full of beautiful old Victorian homes, many of which have been turned into the B&B’s so beloved by the town. The downtown area has plenty of dining and shopping to keep visitors entertained.

All small towns have their perks -- from the peace and quiet to the lack of tourists (and not to mention, the simple fact you tend to get more square footage for your money), it sure seems like they are the standout winners when compared to urban areas.

But just like big cities, no two tiny towns are created equal. And thanks to map publisher Rand McNally , which just released the results (see below for more details) of this past year's mission to find the best small towns in the country, we've found out which of these stand out as a cut above the rest . Whether, they offer incredible eats or just plain appreciate being American, these are definitely the small towns with big hearts (and big perks).

The places listed above were selected by Rand McNally. Citizens were encouraged to vote for their hometowns (with populations of 150,000 or less), and a panel of judges narrowed the list of nearly 1,200 nominees down to 30 finalists, presented as either winners or runners-up in the slideshow above.

Moving to a small town is a very appealing option for many Baby Boomers as they approach retirement. After battling the traffic and hassles of suburban living during their working days, the attractions of a Norman Rockwell-esque community can seem like a relaxing alternative.

One of the main reasons people like small-town living is the ability to walk downtown for the necessities of life, without having to get in the car. The charming colonial town of Old Saybrook, Conn., has a great example of a walkable downtown. Here, it's easy to find a home or condo here that's just a short walk to the many downtown restaurants and shops. Many neighborhoods' residents can stroll to where the Connecticut River meets the Long Island Sound.

The ease of making social connections is another key attraction of small-town life. Port Townsend, Wash., offers a strong sense of community. Its citizens, many of them artists, share a well-deserved pride in their beautiful Victorian setting.

Some small towns are downright beautiful. A charming environment that's hard to beat is found at Beaufort, S.C., the "Queen of the Carolina Sea Islands" near Hilton Head. Tourists enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides through the extensive historic district canopied with Spanish moss.

While you might not think of culture as a typical small-town draw, many towns offer the rich cultural life desired by Baby Boomers. Mount Dora, Fla.,has i multiple cultural venues, with two theaters, including the Mount Dora Center for the Arts, plus many festivals and events on the Town Square.

This charming old town of about 10,000 residents, founded in 1635, combines New England history, a vital downtown, pristine beaches and a friendly, small-town feel. Located where the Connecticut River flows into the Long Island Sound, Old Saybrook was one of Connecticut's original three English colonies. Strategically important, it has the ruins of a fort built during the French and Indian War. Yale University was established here before moving to New Haven in 1716. Old Saybrook's most celebrated resident was Katherine Hepburn.

The Old South lives on in the quaint seaside charm of Beaufort (pronounced b'yoofurt). This popular retirement community of 11,000 was discovered by the Spanish in 1514 and lies in the Sea Islands or "Low Country" area of South Carolina.

Dora exudes a comfortable Southern charm and hospitality. This central Florida lakefront community is nestled amid gentle hills, orange groves and Live Oak trees. Its elevation of 184 feet makes it Florida's equivalent of a mountain-top town. Laid out around a large square, the downtown has shopping, excellent antiquing and a rich cultural life with many festivals.

Big stories can happen in small places. Our annual Top 10 Small Towns list has been a popular index, but we always wished we could highlight more than 10 communities each year. After all, the reason we produce this list is to shine a light on cities and towns that are often in the shadows of the big metropolises. So, we’re pleased to present our inaugural super-sized Top 100 Best Places to Live, Small Towns edition.

To create this list, we used a modified version of the robust methodology we developed with the Martin Prosperity Institute for our annual Livability 100. We examined more than 40 data points each for more than 12,000 towns with populations between 1,000 and 20,000. These scores were weighted based on an exclusive survey conducted for Livability by the leading global market research firm, Ipsos Public Affairs. These cities and towns allow for the tight-knit communities key to small-town living coupled with the amenities you’d expect in larger cities.

From its rocky coastline to the surrounding Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor offers an authentic New England experience and friendly community. Situated on Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor is home to College of the Atlantic and Jackson Lab. Cruise ships, yachts and lobster boats constantly float past the harbor allowing passengers to admire stunning views of the shoreline. Things to do in Bar Harbor range from seaside adventures to cultural celebrations. Village Green, a park in the center of town, serves as a gathering point for residents throughout the year.

Located southeast of Boulder, Louisville is home to several high-tech companies that specialize in space exploration. Families gather at Steinbaugh Pavilion for summer concerts and to ice skate in the winter. Galleries, studios, restaurants and music venues occupy many of the 100-year old buildings that line streets in the downtown area. The town’s pubs are packed with personality, including Waterloo in Old Town, which offers live music, mixed drinks, beer and burgers.

Livability.com's ranking of the Best Small Towns includes cities and towns with populations of 20,000 or less. Ties are broken by unrounded numbers. Please see the full methodology for data sources and details.

Livability explores what makes small-to-medium sized cities great places to live. Through proprietary research studies, engaging articles and original photography and video, we examine topics related to community amenities, education, sustainability, transportation, housing and the economy. We then leverage that expertise to develop city rankings for a range of topics including small towns , college towns and our annual Top 100 Best Places to Live .

In Bolinas, California, locals have been known to take down road signs to prevent tourists or newcomers. Martha’s Vineyard is surrounded by water on all sides. Marfa, Texas is three hours from the closest airport.

The best small towns stay that way for all kinds of reasons. More common than the reasons above: a lack of job opportunities. But if you could work from anywhere, would you stay in the city? Go ahead, start fantasizing about the big skies, open spaces, quiet, community, and charm of these top-notch tiny towns.

I grew up in beautiful California, but I didn’t surf or live near a beach. I grew up in the crops of Yolo County, near Davis, California. People know about University of California Davis, but they don’t know about the hilly farmland, the crisp rivers, and the golden light nearby.

My parents raised my brother and I to be city kids. They showed us how to ride the buses alone before our baby teeth fell out, took us to work at soup kitchens on Thanksgivings, and had us march through museums and sit through operas. So when they up and left us and the city for Waimea, Hawaii, I thought they would be back in a year. But the beauty of Waimea gives them reasons to be outdoors all the time and the smallness has given them a community they never had here. Now they’re showing us how to slow down and find our own happiness.

Polebridge, Montana has no electricity in town and getting there requires an hour-long drive on a rough dirt road. Most evenings everyone hangs out at the Northern Lights Saloon, where you can have an elk burger for dinner and cross paths with a variety of travellers and locals. Like this little girl, who was dancing barefoot on the front porch of the saloon with her sister, and whose family spends their summers in a cabin there.

Hope, Alaska is about as far into the middle of nowhere as you can get. It’s full of RVs and fisherman, and offers the best salmon and halibut anywhere. The sun didn’t really set while we were there — this photo was taken after dinner at almost midnight, and after this we fished until 2 in the morning.

Old bikes, front porches, dusty cactus, and a big ‘ol piece of art: The ingredients for a typical yard in Marfa. My husband and I spent our fifth anniversary in this west Texas art town. We stayed in a yurt, ate falafel from the town’s only food truck, and wandered aimlessly. We found lots of rusty bikes for riding, Warhol’s “Last Supper,” rock shops filled with locally mined crystals, and Tecates in the can. Marfa is a surreal community with the brightest stars you’ll ever see. It’s a beautiful and nutty place and someday, I want to live there!

I’m a food stylist and also develop recipes for magazines. I’m currently living in Dallas, Texas while my husband attends grad school at SMU . We will hopefully be relocating somewhere near a beach after graduation.

You have to tip your hat to a place that considers its municipal pier the “town square.” That’s the charm of this bayside burg, originally founded as a utopian society in the late 19 th century. Fairhope’s knack for creative thinking is reflected in the many artists and authors who call it home and the galleries that dominate downtown. beautifulfairhope.com

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You'll find them in the bends of rivers and at the bases of mountains, blending into the landscape rather than disrupting the scenery. They offer a respite from the frantic pace that often comes with living in a major metropolitan area. They are filled with unpretentious people who want to preserve what makes their places unique. These are the best small towns in America.

The best small towns provide beautiful locales that inspire both creativity and activity. Their downtowns remain homages to the past, offering unhurried atmospheres where residents savor conversations as much as they savor morsels. Most of our picks draw hundreds, if not thousands, of tourists who come to experience what residents enjoy every day – authentic character and characters, cultural gems and fantastic outdoor settings. What these places have in common is the uncommon ability to change lifestyles, shift points of view and nourish souls with simple pleasures.

Livability explores what makes small-to-medium sized cities great places to live. Through proprietary research studies, engaging articles and original photography and video, we examine topics related to community amenities, education, sustainability, transportation, housing and the economy. We then leverage that expertise to develop city rankings for a range of topics including small towns , college towns and our annual Top 100 Best Places to Live .

Picking the locations in our fifth annual Best Town Ever contest wasn’t easy. We looked for places with great access to trails and public lands, thriving restaurants and neighborhoods, and, of course, a good beer scene—all while excluding the winners and runners-up from the past three years to make room for hidden gems, underdogs, and towns on the rise. Plus, for the first time, we added a wild-card round , letting our Instagram followers nominate their favorite towns—Port Angeles, WA; New York, NY; Saugatuck, MI; and Roanoke, VA came out on top to snag the final spot in each section of our bracket.

Who will advance in the tournament? That’s up to you. Scroll down to the Vote Here section to vote for your favorite towns. The first five rounds of voting will last five days each, starting on May 4, 2015 (12 a.m. EST). You may vote once per round per matchup. The winners will advance until only two towns remain (May 29, 2015). The winner will be the town with the most votes on June 5.

How it works: The first five rounds of voting will last five days each. You may vote once per round for each matchup. The winners will advance until only two towns remain. The winner will be announced on June 5, 2015.

We recently asked our Facebook fans to share their picks for the cutest small towns in America, and more than 1,000 of you chimed in. Here are some of our favorite nominations, all with populations of under 13,000. (We know there are many more charming little towns out there that aren't included on this list—share your favorite small town in the comments below!)

During the village's boom days a century ago, the Middle Tennessee Railroad stopped here. The trains quit running in 1927, and the town seemingly went to sleep—but in recent years, a revitalization has turned the place into the ultimate small-town utopia.

Located in the picturesque Hudson Valley, Rhinebeck is home to America's oldest operating inn . It's also where you'll find the Dutchess County Fairgrounds , which hosts the popular Dutchess Fair, not to mention our own Country Living Fair, being held this year June 5-7 .

Nothing embodies classic Americana quite like small towns. For the second year in a row, we've compiled a list that highlights some of the best places in the country you don't hear about every day. This year, we've focused on destinations with populations under 30,000 that have a vibrancy of their own and year-round appeal. Our list is made up of detour-worthy towns all over the U.S. that have strong cultural offerings or great outdoor adventures, in addition to standout dining and lodging options. For your next small-town getaway, head to any of these 10 remarkable spots.

Nothing embodies classic Americana quite like small towns. Here are destinations with populations under 30,000 that have a vibrancy of their own and year-round appeal. The list is made up of detour-worthy towns all over the country that have strong cultural offerings or great outdoor adventures — in addition to standout dining and lodging options.

Formerly a mining town, Telluride is replete with small-town charm that many other major ski areas lack. Victorian storefronts and frontier-era facades adorn the compact downtown area of this all-season resort, which offers world-class skiing at nearby Mountain Village and every outdoor sport imaginable in the summer, including the annual bluegrass festival in June and film festival in August-September. For a truly Colorado experience, take the gondola to Station St. Sophia for breathtaking views and exquisite food at Allred’s.

Beaufort (pronounced byoo-fort) has everything you would hope for in a small Southern town: antebellum mansions, Spanish-moss-covered trees and a picturesque seaside location on Port Royal Island. What makes Beaufort unique is the local Gullah culture, which traces its roots back to West Africa’s so-called “Rice Coast.” Beaufort also offers access to a plethora of water sports, so set aside some time to enjoy the state’s notoriously warm waters. For the freshest seafood, head to Saltus River Grill for its decadent raw bar, and watch the sunset from the outdoor patio. Be sure to pick up a locally made sweetgrass basket before you leave.

It can be difficult to find remnants of authentic Hawaii behind the state’s multitude of resorts, but this is one of the last holdouts. Located on Maui’s northern coast just off state Highway 36, Paia was founded as a sugarcane enclave, and though the sugar mill closed in 2000, the town is as alive as ever. Boutiques featuring everything from high-end fashion to beachwear line the streets, and with some of the world’s best windsurfing spots in the area, you’re sure to find an opportunity to put your new gear to good use. While in the area, explore Ho’okipa Beach, where you’re sure to see a bevy of windsurfers. Cafe des Amis and Cafe Mambo serve up eclectic Mediterranean dishes, and both offer excellent people-watching along Baldwin Avenue.

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Tucked away at the northeastern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, this Victorian seaport, home to a sophisticated group of writers, artists and musicians, is distinguished by its maritime history, quirky spirit and touch of urban chic. A popular weekend destination for Seattle residents and other Washingtonians, PT (as locals call it) entices visitors with its active arts scene, gallery- and boutique-lined main street, unique festivals, and outdoor activities including whale watching and kayaking in Fort Worden State Park. 

Founded in 1786, this town is filled with stately homes and civic structures — but most know it best as the location of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. But this isn’t just a destination for sports lovers: Cultural attractions include the Cooperstown Chamber Music Festival, the annual Glimmerglass Opera season and the Fenimore Art Museum. Outdoorsy types, meanwhile, can enjoy golfing at Leatherstocking Golf Course, boating on Otsego Lake and hiking in Glimmerglass State Park. Beer lovers shouldn’t pass up a chance to tour the esteemed Brewery Ommegang, which produces Belgian-style brews and hosts a Belgian food-and-drink festival on its grounds every August. For dining, highlights include the waterfront views at Lake Front Restaurant and Bar.

For a stopover in Kentucky bourbon country, it’s hard to beat Bardstown, where it’s easy to be charmed by the Georgian architecture and local hospitality. The downtown area has been recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, and a Civil War Museum, Museum of Whiskey and a packed events calendar round out the town’s offerings. Nearby, you’ll find My Old Kentucky Home State Park; the plantation here is said to have inspired Stephen Foster when he penned the state song of the same name. Although a visit to the several distilleries in the area (including Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark) will likely top your list of things to do, don’t leave town without stopping into Old Talbott Tavern, in continuous operation since the late 1770s.

Virginia’s small towns are treasure troves of great food, warm hospitality, immense history, and Southern charm. Antiquers and outdoor enthusiasts equally will be at home in these 22 destinations promising all of the above and more. Map out a weekend and see what you’re missing.

ABINGDON  is surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, making it the perfect destination for outdoor activities. The Virginia Creeper Trail begins in downtown Abingdon and is great for biking, walking, jogging or horseback riding. The historic downtown district begs for a walk along the cobblestone sidewalks, and delicious finds aren’t far away. Get pampered with a spa treatment at The Martha Hotel & Spa , dine at a tasty restaurant serving locally-grown menu items, catch a play at the famous Barter Theatre , or grab a craft brew and listen to live music at Wolf Hills Brewing Co.

CULPEPER , a National Trust 2012 Great American Main Street, is home to some great wineries and Virginia’s only legal moonshine distillery, Belmont Farm Distillery . Along with great dining options ( It’s About Thyme Markets’ brick oven pizza or Foti’s uniquely inspired farm to fork creations),  shop for one-of-a-kind items (global treasures, earth friendly gifts, antiques, original art, and handcrafted-in-the-USA items). Just a short drive out of town, find Culpeper’s well-preserved Civil War battlefields at Cedar Mountain, Kelly’s Ford and Brandy Station for a self-guided or guided tour.

DAMASCUS  is known as “Trail Town USA” thanks to the seven trails that intersect there, namely the Appalachian Trail and  the Virginia Creeper Trail, which connects to Abingdon. Damascus is a gateway to the 191,000-acre Mount Rogers National Recreation Area and Virginia’s highest peak. The Damascus Old Mill is a historic staple in the center of town. Located on the banks of Laurel Creek, the mill overlooks the grist mill waterfall, while ducks and geese float peacefully on the mill pond. It serves as an inn, restaurant and local watering hole. Damascus is for vacationers who are tired of sitting in traffic, waiting in long lines, and spending lots of money in crowded, hectic conditions.

In FARMVILLE  there are  plenty of family fun activities. High Bridge Trail State Park offers hiking and biking while the Appomattox River offers a historical story and a relaxing float. There are outfitters to assist with your recreational needs. Just a few minutes outside of town is the Adventure Park at Sandy River Retreat , a high ropes course with zip lines, perfect for adventure seekers looking for a challenge. Main Street offers antiques, accessories and furniture shopping at the renowned Green Front Furniture , as well as a Belgium bakery, sweet shop, fabrics, bridal stores and more. When it’s time to eat, head to Charlie’s Waterfont Cafe on the river.

Historic FINCASTLE  boasts southern charm and is deeply rooted in historical significance. Fincastle is a designated Lewis and Clark community, thanks to the significant ties both had to the community prior to and after their great expedition 1,2 . There is a self-guided walking tour that leads visitors to many of the town homes and buildings, some dating back to the late 1700s and early to mid 1800s. Stay in one of the two bed and breakfast’s in the historic district, perfect places to sit back, relax and enjoy the simple comforts of home and southern conversation. Stop in to the Heritage Family Market for fresh deli meats and cheeses, the perfect take-home taste of Fincastle.

KILMARNOCK is a quaint, pedestrian friendly, small town close to the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. Boutique shopping, a variety of restaurants and signature events make it a relaxing, weekend destination and a great jumping off point for enjoying the history of the area, like the Mary Ball Washington Museum & Library , the Steamboat Era Museum or the Kilmarnock Museum . After a day of relaxing or touring, grab an ice cream at Stevie’s – a tiny location but with a large variety of offerings.

LEXINGTON  has an exceptional concentration of museums, historic sites, art galleries, music, theaters, and other cultural and outdoor offerings. With strong connections to Civil War and military history, visitors often enjoy carriage rides through historic downtown. Don’t miss a stop at Lee Chapel where General Robert E. Lee is buried. Steps away, museums and historical sites such as Virginia Military Institute , George C. Marshall Museum , Stonewall Jackson House and Memorial Cemetery—where General “Stonewall” Jackson is buried—chronicle stories of the U.S. military. Lexington also features attractive shops, hotels, businesses and top-rated restaurants.

 

 

 

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