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Smithsonian Mag Names Mill Valley One of the 20 Best Small Towns in America

Saying there's "something encouraging about finding culture in small-town America," magazine puts our town among the best in America with fewer than 25,000 people.

From at the new and at to at the and the array of talent at the , we don't need to be told how vital culture is to Mill Valley.

But it's still nice to know that others are paying attention, right?

Smithsonian magazine just released its list of the 20 Best Small Towns in America, and "our little paradise," as many residents call it, made the list at No. 4. In doing so, Mill Valley was joined by the likes of Red Bank, N.J., Durango, Colo., Gig Harbor, Wash., and Oxford, Mississippi, among others.

The magazine's focus on Mill Valley is anchored by a photo of Mill Valley Music owner Gary Scheuenstuhl helping customer Alex Anderson amidst his mountain of inventory. The writeup highlights several local institutions like the Sweetwater and the Throckmorton, as well as the our gorgeous surroundings and, well, colorful history. "The setting and proximity to San Francisco attracted sawmills, dairy farms and resort operators, then Beat poets and hippies who scandalized locals by skinny-dipping and smoking weed," they wrote.

In compiling the list, the magazine asked "the geographic information systems company Esri to search its data bases for high concentrations of museums, historic sites, botanic gardens, resident orchestras, art galleries and other cultural assets common to big cities," focusing on towns with fewer than 25,000 people "so travelers could experience what might be called enlightened good times in an unhurried, charming setting."

"...Big cities and grand institutions per se don’t produce creative works; individuals do," the mag state. "And being reminded of that is fun."

Click here for the full look at Mill Valley and here for the whole list.

Jane Ferguson April 18, 2012 at 03:04 PM
fewer than 25,000 people (not less)
RJ April 18, 2012 at 03:12 PM
It's so easy to take for granted what an amazing place we live in and always good to have a little reality check:-)
Bob Silvestri April 18, 2012 at 04:50 PM
It's gratifying to see others appreciate what makes Mill Valley... well, Mill Valley. For more than a decade Mill Valley city officials have tried to banish the phrase "small town character" from planning documents and guidelines, substituting more vague wording like "unique character" and such. And throughout that time many of us have fought, successfully so far, to keep that cherished vision intact. With the new General Plan consideration on the horizon, I hope our City Council and Planning officials will finally recognize that "small town character" is our most important asset.
Bob Reddick April 18, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Obviously, the people who wrote the article don't live here. The wonderful "small town character" that attracted me to this place 26 years ago is quickly losing its character and charm. With the continuing efforts of the city council to allow any and all developers to build on every open space in this town, Mill Valley has become a moving parking lot. The traffic , particularly on Blithedale Ave., Is ridiculous. How many more people are they going to cram into this town. We live in a valley. There is no room to spread out. Providing more housing might be the feel good politically correct thing to do, but there is no more room at this inn. As to the character of the town, it offers more than enough coffee shops, nail and hair salons, and "must be seen at" restaurants than it needs. Thanks to greedy commercial landlords and no rent control we lost The General Store, which offered a wonderful array of items you can't find anywhere else in town, and General Hardware, which provided much needed items for home repair and maintenance. Both of these were within walking distance for Mill Valley residents.
Dave LaDuke April 18, 2012 at 05:55 PM
You're absolutely right. Mill Valley's small-town character should be nurtured, not undermined, by City Council & planning staff. "Small-town character" should be explicitly referenced as a key community value in the revised General Plan.
trubee schock April 18, 2012 at 06:30 PM
The Smithsonian article focuses on Mill Valley as a cultural oasis for so many years. This is the reason for and purpose of The Milley Awards. Mill Valley is the only city in Marin (and perhaps one of the few in Califorina) that honors the creative talents of its resident. The Milley Awards is the City's official tribute to the achievements of its literary, musical, performing and visual artists and the contributions of the people who make it all happen. We are now working on our 18th Annual Milley Awards to be presented Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012, at the Community Center.
David Ryan April 19, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Let me throw some sour grapes at the Smithsonian for not picking my town...There. That stain will be hard to get out in the wash! My revenge is complete.
Peg Atherton April 19, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Does OSH fit this description? I do not think so. We are in paradise. Please, may we all work to keep it. I swear that I must have done something wonderful in a previous life to earn a Mill Valley home. Oh and thank you for the "fewer (not less)".
Jim Welte April 19, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Hi Jane - thanks for pointing that out. I've made that change.

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