Our friends Tom and Kristi at SmallTownPlusSize recently reached out and asked us “From your experience, what do travelers expect to gain from visiting a small town? What do they want, look for, etc.? Why do they choose a small town over larger destinations?”
Let’s expand that a bit to include “Why do people choose to move to small towns?”
So many people want the small town ‘treatment’. Whether it’s to live there permanently, or a place to vacation, small towns just do things better.
Hi! This is Shirley from XYZ telephone in Katyville. Your neighbors heard you are up in ‘town’ for a few days and asked for your cell number so you can pick them up some things. I wouldn’t give out your number so I have their list.. Got a pencil?
True story! Just happened a couple of weeks ago.
You try doing that with ATT or any of the big companies and see what it gets you!
We think most people visiting or moving to small towns want an experience that is not “cookie cutter”. The ones that seek out small towns already know what they’re going to get when they visit a large city- the usual round of shopping (with all the stores selling the same trendy stuff), museums, upscale restaurants ( where the food is good, but no one TALKS to each other) and high end but sterile hotels. It is a known. When we visit small towns it’s an experience. People actually smile and say Hi and make chit chat at the local restaurant or right on the sidewalks. (24 lobby of the post-office when the weather is bad…)
Did we mention that locals even make chit chat with Strangers??? Gasp!! The novelty!!
Simply for the asking, locals will always tell you the best places to see and things to do.
Locals will rarely give bad advice because it’s their reputation on the line. Shopping in a small town is akin to a scavenger hunt. You never know what each store will really have. Like the biz supply store in Wray CO– they have everything you need for the office, but also books, clothing (you can even rent a tuxedo there!), and local gifts.
At the small town hotels, it is a bit like staying at grandma’s house. Cozy, and the proprietors are far more likely to bend over backwards for you and will even knock on your door to ask you personally if there’s anything they can do for you. They make you feel welcome. And always invite you back. At the little Sunset Motel in Belle Fourche SD, the proprietors will offer you to join them on the lawn and burn you a steak on the BBQ.(not to mention the quaint little coffee bar they have!)
There is also no better place to get a history lesson than a small town- every local knows something you’ll never get from the guide book. The way one old timer knew about the Washburn Caves on the river at Washburn ND and told us stories about working for the old Civil War Veteran who lived in them- To this day I have only ever heard of the cave existence once in an old history book. Or the time Bonnie and Clyde purportedly briefly hid out in the Cope Grove in Cope CO.
Yes- small towns get IT right.
** This article has since been edited and appeared in our AgWeek Magazine column. ***Katy is passionate about small towns and small business. She and Annette are always happy to share tips and resources for both to grow and thrive.