Intelligent Travel Radio: A Dozen Distinctive Destinations

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The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced its annual Dozen Distinctive Destinations today, places that “offer cultural and recreational experiences different from those found at the typical vacation destination.” The destinations range from the wilderness of Sitka, Alaska, to the antebellum charm of Huntsville, Alabama, to Fort Collins, Colorado’s quintessential Main Street (so perfect, in fact, that Disneyland copied it for its “Main Street U.S.A.”). This year’s sites were selected in part for their commitment to melding historic preservation with a green ethic to promote environmental sustainability, said David Brown, executive vice president of the Trust. And new this year is the Fan Favorite program that will allow the public to vote for their top spot from among the dozen (with a chance to win a two-night stay at one of the Historic Hotels of America).

“The whole reason for the Dozen Distinctive Destinations program is that we think that Americans are really looking for authenticity and authentic places,” Brown said. “We are showcasing those towns and cities that offer a dynamic visitor experience. They might do it through having a dynamic downtown or a distinctive architecture. And we’re always looking for cultural diversity showing the range of the American experience.”

I spoke with Brown about how they came to decide on their picks this year, and about some of his favorite places, for our Intelligent Travel Radio podcast. You can listen to the interview here, and download all of our podcasts from Stitcher.com. For a complete list of the destinations click through the jump, and to vote for your favorite, click here.

From the 2010 list of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations:

Cedar Falls, Iowa – With recreational activities such as bicycling along the Cedar River and shopping on its acclaimed Main Street, Cedar Falls delightfully connects a lively downtown with its natural surroundings.

St. Louis, Mo. – Destination highlights are nestled among the brick buildings that line St. Louis’ cobblestone streets, proving the city lives up to its iconic status as the “Gateway to the West.”

Marquette, Mich. – Named one of the 100 Best Art Towns in America, cosmopolitan Marquette offers wonderful views of the Lake Superior waterfront and an equally enchanting downtown.

Fort Collins, Colo. – The great Rocky Mountains overlook the thriving businesses of Fort Collins’ Old Town Square – a vibrant area that so epitomizes the ideal of a bustling American main street that it was actually used as a model for “Main Street, USA” at Disneyland.  

Provincetown, Mass. – This New England seaport town, site of the 1620 signing of the Mayflower Compact, positions fabulous galleries and restaurants next to National Seashore dunes and beaches.

Simsbury, Conn. – This quintessential small town appeals to the heritage traveler with its top-rated restaurants, historic sites and parks and real working farms that produce everything from wine to sweet corn to homemade ice cream.

Rockland, Maine – With great pride in its maritime past and present, Rockland blends tradition with an innovative spirit and delivers delicious dining opportunities as well as historic lighthouses and museums.

Chestnut Hill, Pa. – Enjoying a unique combination of colonial and modern history, Chestnut Hill features historic homes ranging from Federal to Modernist, a boutique shopping district, and recreational opportunities at nearby Wissahickon Valley Park.

Huntsville, Ala. – Still preserving the largest collection of antebellum homes in Alabama, Huntsville has grown from its Deep Southern roots to become “America’s Space Capital.”

The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail, Va. –

The Crooked Road celebrates the region’s rich Appalachian heritage, weaving together quaint historic districts that share a past steeped in a uniquely American music culture.

Bastrop, Tex. – Only 30 minutes from downtown Austin, Bastrop takes visitors back in time with traditional Texas charm and historic buildings set along the banks of the Colorado River.

Sitka, Alaska – Sitka prides itself on its diverse cultural heritage and offers a glimpse of a unique chapter of American history, while the extraordinary wilderness in its backyard beckons visitors to explore the largest temperate rainforest in the world.

Photo: Fort Collins, Colorado, courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation