Smaller towns and cities are transforming into amazing hubs with big initiatives that further the arts, culture, science and education. From Maine to New York and all the way down to Costa Rica, these smaller destinations are bustling with new attractions that will leave travelers in awe.
The central Maine town of Waterville (with a population of only ~16,000) is undergoing a massive, multi-million-dollar revitalization effort right now that includes the town’s college, city leaders and local businesses to make it an even more vibrant arts and culture destination. A $200 million revitalization initiative (led by Colby College and involving city leaders, local businesses, and community organizations) is transforming the smaller city’s Main Street into an incredible hotspot full of artistic energy. Already home to the highly revered Colby College Museum of Art, Waterville recently welcomed the Paul J. Schupf Art Center along its reimagined Main Street in December 2022. Schupf Arts is the area’s coveted cultural hub, bringing new art galleries, studios, rehearsal space and screening rooms to the city. Schupf Arts joined Lockwood Hotel, the first boutique hotel to open in the city in over a century, and Front & Main, central Maine’s premier downtown restaurant (inside Lockwood Hotel) that is bringing a completely new concept to the local food scene. Across from Lockwood Hotel is Greene Block + Studios, an arts collaborative that hosts a rotating program of performances and exhibits.
Aurora, New York
Founded in 1789 and designated as a National Historic District, Aurora nestled alongside Cayuga Lake is home to 700 year-round residents, Wells College, and Inns of Aurora Resort & Spa – the town’s luxury boutique resort and main accommodations. The resort’s collection of impeccably designed shops, restaurants, and homes was restored by Wells College alum (and founder of the American Girl Doll empire) Pleasant Rowland – and the historic Village was saved from developers who could tear the buildings down. Now, almost twenty years, $150 million dollars, and 150 year-round jobs later, Aurora offers visitors an all-encompassing wellness getaway – also inclusive of an expansive new spa facility, curated outdoor adventures through the untouched nature trail, and guided history tours along Main Street.
Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica
According to National Geographic, Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula is “the most biologically intense place on Earth,” and is a remote destination rich with wildlife throughout the national parks and forest reserves, protected beaches along the Pacific Ocean and thick jungles. The Osa’s newest hotel offering, Botánika Osa Peninsula, has become a recent hotspot for educational travel experiences, as the resort features the Botanika Science and Nature Center. The center hosts visiting scientists from major universities around the world, who teach guests about the local wild and sea life and lead excursions to tag fish, dolphins and sharks. Botánika Osa Peninsula has also partnered with the non-profit foundation BioSur to host the largest insect museum in southern Costa Rica, with over 6,000 species of butterflies, beetles and moths, many of which are endemic to the area.
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