Are We There Yet? Towns that Beckon the Artisan and Adventurer

One of the best things about summer is the chance to explore small towns with character and personality, complete with diverse shops, restaurants and outdoor options. Discovering communities in transition is exciting, you can feel the energy of the residents who believe they are part of something special. Kingston, NY feels like one of those towns.

When we started the drive down Broadway, off of I87, the scene was initially more transition than intriguing shops. At first, I wondered if I’d completely misread the area. But if you keep going, the road leads to the Rondout area, where local makers and artisans dot the main streets and restaurants overlook the marina. Here you’ll find interesting shops like Clove & Creek, full of outdoor adventure tools, books, candles, ceramics, artist renderings and more. And just down the street is Jay Teske’s hand-crafted leather shop, where we found the brass hiking bell, seen here in our gift boxes.

The community enthusiasm and friendly attitudes are on full display here. The gentleman behind the counter at Clove and Creek gave us a handwritten note of suggested places to shop up the road in the Stockade District. Following his instructions, we landed on Washington Street, another area off the water, but with even more local shop options.

One store owner in the Stockade District shared his excitement over Kingston, telling us that everyone was moving here from the expensive Brooklyn neighborhoods. In his view, the cost of living here was so much less and the quality of life so much more. He and his partner made the move to open their home lifestyle and culinary store, Blue Cashew.

You can have the best of both worlds in this upstate New York region, it’s 90 miles to New York City, or 30 minutes to the Catskills. And the Adirondacks are a bit further north, beyond Albany.

Heading West, tucked in the southwest corner of Colorado, is the town of Durango. It’s a hidden gem in the Animas River Valley, full of outdoor adventure-lovers and creatives. The air exudes creative energy and the scenery calls you to be outside. While Durango is larger and more established than Kingston, it’s still small and unknown to many.  

The locals share regular stories of outdoor-lovers who arrive for a vacation and never leave. Most homes in town are small, yet expensive, and it’s clear the owners are here for the location, spending more on their gear, outdoor vehicles and apparatus, and less concerned about the home itself. It’s no wonder, given the wealth of hiking, biking, and skiing options available, why would you move here to then sit inside? It’s also a terrific base camp for exploring other areas within a 1-2 hour drive. Options like the Pagosa Hot Springs, the town of Silverton, and Mesa Verde National Park, are close, as is the spectacular San Juan Skyway, if you’re up for a ride. The Skyway is a 236 mile loop of breathtaking scenery that includes the Million Dollar Highway, between Silverton and Ouray. The loop runs from Durango north to Telluride and then around to Ouray and back to Durango.  The travel information says allow 7 hours, we say take a least 24 and stay overnight in Telluride to peruse downtown. We also recommend you hike the Jud Weibe trail in the morning and get your blood pumping. One piece of advice, consider the time of year you’re traveling here, snow arrives earlier than you might think.

But I digress, back to downtown Durango. The Studio & Gallery showcases local ceramic artists, including our own, Lorna Meaden pottery (in our gift boxes, here and here). The Silverton North Gauge Railway is still chugging away and the sound of the train whistle announcing its departure is worth the trip. Visit the train museum downtown, and book your excursion. At Christmas, you can train with Santa, in the summer, enjoy the open car views as you travel by rail, or for the really athletic, you can race the train in the annual Iron Horse Bicycle Classic. 

Retail won’t let you down either, one of the best footwear stores I’ve found, is Brown’s Shoe Fit on Main Street, where I have invested multiple times in my favorite Taos and Pinkolino boots. And, it’s conveniently located next door to Urban Market, a festive home and lifestyle store. (We bought so much there we had to ship it back.) 

One easy way to take in the full view of the downtown area, and see across the valley, is to head up the hill and take the short loop around Rim Drive and the campus of Fort Lewis College, “Colorado’s crossroads of education and adventure,” as they like to proclaim. Finally, if you’re looking for a jolt of caffeine after all this fresh air and adventure, head up East College Drive and grab a table at Durango Joe’s Coffee.  

While these two destinations are found on the roads less traveled, they are both worth the time on your summer travel schedule.

From left to right: Three scenes from Kingston’s Rondout and Stockade Districts. The Silverton train in Durango, the San Juan Skyway into Telluride, Mesa Verda National Park.