People planning spring and summer getaways might try one of 12 unusual places such as Ste. Genevieve, Mo., which "has the most significant collection of French colonial architecture in the U.S," according to a preservation group.
Each year starting in 2000, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has named a "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" appealing to tourists' taste for historic places. The National Trust said it recognizes American cities and towns that are committed to historic preservation and community revitalization.
Ste. Genevieve was settled by the French in the early 1700s, making it one of Missouri's oldest settlements and the only French colonial village left in the U.S. The town of 4,400 people on the Mississippi River is 64 miles south of St. Louis.
Ownership of the territory was alternately French, Spanish and American, but the French traditions and architecture persisted no matter who was in charge.
Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, recalled the heroic efforts to save the French colonial structures during the Great Flood of 1993.
They're "just outstanding," he said of the buildings. "I'll never forget the vertical log structures that you don't see anywhere else. It's really a memorable experience to go there.
"It's a little bit off the track. That's why we want to draw attention to it."
The town boasts more than 150 structures built before 1825, including the 1785 Bolduc House, the 1792 Amoureaux House, the 1818 Felix VallDe State Historic Site and the 1806 Guibourd-Valle House, with its Norman style trusses. Visitors can also tour the historic Memorial Cemetery, where many of Ste. Genevieve's distinguished early inhabitants are buried.
Ste. Genevieve is surrounded by a state park, wildlife refuge and national forest. Throughout the year, the town celebrates French heritage balls and festivals.
Other suggestions from the National Trust:
--Aiken, S.C., which boasts 19th-century heritage with cosmopolitan flair.
--Apalachicola, Fla., a charming coastal town known for its seafood, waterfront, eclectic shops and historic buildings.
--Columbus, Miss., the birthplace of playwright Tennessee Williams, it mixes Southern history, natural beauty and culture with antebellum homes spared during the Civil War.
--Crested Butte, Colo., a former coal mining village in the Rockies that mixes rugged beauty, history and adventure.
--Fort Davis, Texas, a 19th-century western frontier town that offers majestic scenery and wildlife but no traffic lights or chain stores.
--Friday Harbor, Wash., a small, well-preserved community in the San Juan Island chain that is ideal for outdoor adventurers, wildlife enthusiasts and history buffs.
--Portland, Ore., mixes a small town feel and urban vitality with natural beauty.
--Portsmouth, N.H., an elegant seaport and the nation's third-oldest city, it offers culture, coastal beauty, and historic buildings.
--Red Wing, Minn., one hour south of the Twin Cities, this historic town features architectural gems and a natural environment.
--San Juan Bautista, Calif., dubbed the "City of History" for its Spanish colonial architecture.
--Wilmington, N.C., has a charm and style dating back nearly three centuries. It has riverboats, battleships, grand old mansions, gardens, Civil War sites and historic museums.
On the Net:
National Trust for Historic Preservation: http://www.nationaltrust.org/