Travel writers and websites continue to discover what North Coast dwellers have known since the 19th century: Healdsburg is a cool little town.
The village that lives somewhere on the sweet spot between upscale and down home, is showing up on multiple lists usually preceeded by a superlative like "best" or "most."
The lastest "Best" list to include Healdsburg comes from Smithsonian Magazine, which named it one of the "20 Best Small Towns to Visit in 2014."
Healdsburg was ranked No. 2, bested only by Chautauqua, N.Y., a shady magnet each summer for travelers in seach of culture.
The former "buckle of the prune belt," positioned at the confluence of the Russian, Alexander and Dry Creek grape-growing valleys, was singled out as "farm-to-table via Nirvana. Last year the magazine picked the Civil War shrine Gettysburg, Pa., as No.1, followed by the Mississippi Delta town of Cleveland.
So if you were putting together a "Best Small Towns" list for the North Coast, which villages would you choose? Most towns in the region are small, and each boasts it's own singular and often quirky character. A few of my favorites include Ferndale, a Victorian throwback in Humboldt County, Guerneville for its no-airs appeal on a hot summer day and Calistoga, which still wears its Old West spurs beneath a shiny veneer of Wine Country polish.