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7 is one cool number

Travel mag voters name Fort Myers Beach in their Top 10 of America's coolest small towns

December 29, 2015
By John Morton ( , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Sure, it's unseasonably hot here, but that's not keeping Fort Myers Beach from being named the No. 7 "coolest" small town in America.

The designation comes from Budget Travel magazine's 10th annual online vote, consisting of more than 100,000 responses, and the list now appears on the high-traffic CNN website's "Best of America" category. Communities with a population of 10,000 or less are eligible.

"It's a great honor for our community," said Bud Nocera, president of the Greater Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce. "We learned of the poll in the spring and got the word out to our residents and visitors to vote. And here we are in the Top 10."

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Added Anita Cereceda, the mayor of Fort Myers Beach, "It's just great - now the rest of the world has found out what we already know."

The No. 1 spot went to Grand Marais, Minn., located on the shores of Lake Superior. Previous winners include Berlin, Md; Lititz, Pa.; Hammondsport, N.Y., and Beaufort, N.C. (a tie in 2012); Lewisburg, W.Va.; Ely, Minn.; and Owego, N.Y.

"Budget Travel defines a 'cool' small town as one with an energetic vibe, often blending community spirit with a vibrant arts scene, unique local history and gorgeous scenery," Editor in Chief Robert Firpo-Cappiello said in a statement.

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Cereceda likes the fact the criteria rewards places that boast variety.

"There's something for everyone here," she said. "You want to live in a quiet zone - the kind of neighborhoods you'll find anywhere - we've got it. You want the bustle of Times Square, we've got it. You want to live in a gorgeous, highrise penthouse, we've got that too. Not everywhere can say that."

The magazine describes Fort Myers Beach as follows:

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Top 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2015 (according to Budget Travel magazine readers).

1. Grand Marais, Minnesota (population: 1,351)

2. Chincoteague, Virginia (population: 2,941)

3. Hillsborough, North Carolina (population: 6,087)

4. Allegan, Michigan (population: 4,998)

5. Washington, North Carolina (population: 9,744)

6. Delhi, New York (population: 3,087)

7. Fort Myers Beach, Florida (population: 6,277)

8. Huron, Ohio (population: 7,149)

9. Snohomish, Washington (population: 9,098)

10. Old Orchard Beach, Maine (population: 8,624)

"Here, everybody knows everybody and you're never more than a mile or so from the sparkling waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Think of this as your entry point for exploring this remarkable stretch of coastline, including perfect islands, Everglades National Park, and creatively prepared local seafood at restaurants such as the Beached Whale and Matanzas."

Visitor John Friday wasn't surprised to learn of the ranking.

"That's why we're here," he said as he sat outside Reese's restaurant last week with friends from suburban Detroit. "There's so much to do here and there are great restaurants."

Len Piecuch, who sat beside Friday, has just bought a vacation home here. He said he chose Fort Myers Beach over the Florida Keys.

"I like the way the island is so different from one end to the other," he said. "We're boaters, and there's nothing like the back waterways here. This place is cool - it's a fitting description."

Nocera said the recognition will be featured on the chamber's website, Facebook page and promotional literature.

"Yes, we'll take full advantage of this," he said.



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