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feb 22

Meet America's Coolest Small Town!

Lititz, PA, founded in 1756, wears its colonial-era history on its sleeve, but also embraces indulgences like craft beer, world-class chocolates, and a pretzel factory the kids will never forget.

(Courtesy Smallbones/Wikimedia Commons)

How would you feel if your town was named Coolest in America? I recently spoke with Kelly Withum of Lititz, PA, winner of Budget Travel's 2013 Coolest Small Town in America, and couldn't help asking that very question.

"Fantastic," says Withum, the executive director of the Lititz Farmers Market and Venture Lititz. "It's wonderful to be recognized. So many of the organizations within the Lititz community work very hard to make this a special place to live."

So, what's so cool about Lititz? After all, we had thousands of nominations to consider, then after we chose 15 finalists the real action began—with thousands more readers casting the votes that led to this inviting Pennsylvania hamlet of more than 9,000, founded as a Moravian community in the 18th century, being named the coolest of the cool. What makes Lititz a standout among standouts?

First off, its location, in rural Lancaster County, is the kind of setting a film scout might choose—and one actually did. Rolling farmland and the traditional Amish communities made famous by the Harrison Ford thriller Witness have turned this corner of Pennsylvania into one of America's favorite long-weekend destinations. Lititz wears its colonial-era heritage on its sleeve, but that doesn't mean it forgoes contemporary pleasures. Next time you're in the area (Lititz is a 90-minute drive west of Philadelphia), these are some of the delights you'll find in America's Coolest Small Town:

Julius Sturgis Pretzel Bakery was the first commercial pretzel bakery in the U.S., founded in 1861. Take a bakery tour, including learning hands-on pretzel-making, and visit the bakery shop to take home treats with a twist.

Wilbur Chocolate Company runs an old-fashioned candy store on the ground floor of its factory. Watch them make their own fudge, and pick up a package of distinctive Wilbur Buds, little chocolates sold by the pound.

Historical sites abound in this town that was founded in 1756 by Moravians from Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic); must-sees include the Lititz Historical Foundation, the Johannes Mueller House (a re-creation of a Moravian home), the Moravian Church, and a historical cemetery known by locals as God's Acre.

Restaurants dominate Lititz's downtown, and while some burghs may seek "revitalization," Lititz has instead campaigned for downtown "vibrancy," and it shows. Eating establishments and watering holes are too numerous to list here, but favorites include Tomato Pie Café, Café Chocolate, Bulls Head Public House, Appalachian Brewing Company, Savory Gourmet, Olio, and Zest.

General Sutter Inn is a comfy B&B with a decidedly un-quaint angle: Six of its rooms have been decorated with rock-n-roll stage equipment courtesy of a Lititz entertainment cluster that is responsible for the staging, lighting, and sound for major rock acts.

Lititz Springs Park, in the middle of downtown, is ideal for the little ones, who will have a chance to feed the ducks and maybe even see a family of quackers cross busy Route 501, as in the classic picture book Make Way for Ducklings.

We're psyched to have Lititz join the ranks of Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns, and Withum suggests that just participating in the competition—let alone winning it—has been good for the town. "This contest has been a remarkable community builder," she says. "Our online campaign went viral, and we had people who had visited Lititz from all over the world voting. Our sign company put up a banner on Route 501! We thank Budget Travel for this great honor."

Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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