America’s “Distinctive Destinations”

Every year since 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has added 12 places to its list of “distinctive destinations” in the U.S. These destinations “offer an authentic visitor experience by combining dynamic downtowns, cultural diversity, attractive architecture, cultural landscapes, and a strong commitment to historic preservation and revitalization.”

This year’s destinations include: Aiken, South Carolina (for its varied history, from the first pottery made by Native Americans to being one of the first railroad towns); Apalachicola, Florida; Columbus, Mississippi; Crested Butte, Colorado; Fort Davis, Texas (for having no traffic lights or chain stores); Friday Harbor, Washington (pictured left); Portland, Oregon; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Red Wing, Minnesota; Ste. Genevieve, Missouri (for its French colonial architecture — the most found in the U.S.); San Juan Bautista, California; and Wilmington, North Carolina.

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In total, there are 108 destinations in 42 states. So if you’re planning on making a visit, why not also look for a noteworthy place to stay? Here are a couple of my favorites from Traveler‘s Stay List:

Astoria, Oregon, the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains, made the list in 2004. Many people recognize the town for its Lewis and Clark history (the explorers landed right near Astoria) and for its filming locations (Free Willy and The Goonies were both filmed here). Stay at the Hotel Elliott (with a basement wine bar with local vintages) or the Cannery Pier Hotel, a 19th-century fish cannery converted into a chic hotel.

A bit closer to home, Chestertown, Maryland made the cut last year for its plethora of 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Each October, the town features a four-hour “Tea Time House Tour,” where visitors join a walking tour of the historic homes. If you can’t wait ’til October, stop by the Brampton Bed & Breakfast Inn.

The owners of the three-story, 19th-century plantation house make their own jam from an organic garden and even developed biking tours for their guests.

For a complete list of authentic hotels, check out the April 2008 issue of Traveler.

Photo: Laura Boulton