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Montpelier, Vermont

The churches and homes of downtown Montpelier add intimacy to America's most livable capital city.

It may be the smallest capital city in the United States—one local official affectionately refers to the intersection of Main Street, home to City Hall, and State Street, with the capitol, as "the corner of 'Walk' and 'Don't Walk' "—but there's plenty to do in Montpelier. First, there's politics, the local sport, as residents keep track of what's going on in the legislature. (Insiders say Democrats tend to get their coffee at Capitol Grounds Café, while Republicans favor the Coffee Corner.)
Then there's the city's active arts scene (locals say the town's relaxed pace and eclectic crowd fuel creativity). And music festivals abound. "On any given weekend I can listen to great local music—jazz, folk, Celtic fiddling—or I can see a play or go to a yard sale," says resident Roberta Harold, 56. "There's so much to do here, and the people are great. They're the kind of people who will come plow you out of a storm, no matter what."

  • Vibe: Norman Rockwell, with a twist of politics
  • Population: 7,800
  • Median housing price: $159,060
  • Average commute: 22 minutes
  • Average number of sunny days: 157 per year
  • Most relaxing way to spend an afternoon: World-class skiing less than an hour away, at Stowe Simple fun for less than $10: Sampling a pastry at La Brioche Bakery & Café
  • Who knew?: Montpelier is the only state capital without a McDonald's restaurant

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