3. Lebanon, NH
Founded at the confluence of the Connecticut and Mascoma rivers in 1761, best small town Lebanon, N.H., prospered as a town for textile mills, furniture makers and tanneries, but evolved to become a magnet for software companies, technology innovators and digital entrepreneurs. Tele Atlas, a developer of mapping databases; software makers Novell and Microsoft; and Merck, a leading research-driven health-care company, have major facilities here. The city has experienced substantial income growth in recent years and continues to attract those associated with the “creative class.” Its population is predicted to increase as more families discover the excellent schools, wholesome activities, top-notch health care and affordable housing that Lebanon provides.
While its economy is anchored in the virtual world, residents spend much of their time unplugged and outdoors, enjoying a bounty of natural attractions that lure vacationers who come to sail, hike, fish and snow ski. An average of 76 inches of snow covers the region during the winter, creating perfect conditions for cross-country skiing, sledding and downhill skiing at Storrs Hill Ski Area, which is just a mile from the downtown area. More than 15 other ski resorts are located within a short drive of the city. The Northern Rail Trail, a 60-mile path for biking, hiking and snowmobiling, runs from Lebanon to Boscawen. Route 120, which goes through the city, is a popular drive during the fall when many travelers come to admire stunning fall foliage.
Known as the “Crossroads of New England,” Lebanon offers a bucolic escape from the nearby metropolitan confines of Boston, Portland and Hartford. Though the pace of life seems slower in Lebanon, the city and surrounding area offer many things to do. Families gather at Colburn Park, which is literally at the center of town, to watch summer concerts by the Lebanon Community Band, acoustic artists and folk singers, or shop for fresh vegetables, baked goods and crafts at the farmers market. The Lebanon Opera House, a cultural center for the Upper Valley Region since it was built in 1924, hosts a variety of live performances, including world-renowned acts. Area festivals bring in food vendors, crafters and entertainment. Students from nearby Dartmouth College often venture into Lebanon to drink at the Salt Hill Pub, gorge on pizzas at Village Pizza and eat heaping plates of omelets, pancakes, French toast or homemade corned beef hash at The Fort, a 24-hour diner.