There's a youthful energy flowing through our 4th best small town, Hood River, Ore. You'll find it on the Columbia River, where strong winds and waves help launch kiteboarders and windsurfers into the air. It's scattered along the Fruit Loop, a 35-mile scenic drive, which leads to vineyards, fruit farms and hiking destinations. It pulsates through downtown, an area filled with restaurants, pubs, shops and art.
Hood River attracts young professionals with its diverse array of outdoor activities, highly ranked schools, low crime, thriving economy and great health care. Approximately 60 percent of the population is under the age of 44. Residents breath easy as Hood River has the lowest air pollution of any city on this list.
Those who live in Hood River enjoy a highly active lifestyle and engage in sports like fishing, kayaking, hiking, mountain biking and snow skiing. The Port of Hood River Waterfront provides opportunities to sail, kayak, fish, play on a sand beach or walk along the shore. While tourism and agriculture play major roles in Hood River's economy, the city's high-tech and manufacturing industries have recently grown. Officials at Insitu, a developer of unmanned aircraft, brag that being located in Hood River comes with the “unquantifiable benefits” of gorgeous views, fresh air and minimal traffic. Views of Mount Hood, the Columbia River, Hood River and evergreen covered hills provide impressive scenery from just about anywhere in town. The city's ample assortment of craft breweries, neighborhood pubs and coffee houses also appeal to newcomers. Utilizing hops grown in the Yakima Valley, Double Mountain Brewery creates sought-after beers.
For a small town, Hood River has a large offering of restaurants, including more than 10 in the fine dining column. Brew pubs tend to be popular and can quickly fill up on weekends when people raise their glasses to the sunset as they admire the scenery. The valley holds a collection of wineries that make for romantic interludes and delightful family outings. Festivals, concerts and special events occur nearly each week in and around Hood River, including windsurfing competitions, swims across the river, parties at art museums and open-air markets. During the annual Hood River Valley Harvest Fest, perhaps the quintessential small-town event, locals compete in pie eating contests, children sample fresh-picked apples and pears, and artists carve giant pumpkins.