Extreme Towns

Explore some of the world's most unique towns.
By: Erica Walsh

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Photo by: Andy Sacks

Andy Sacks

Think small towns are all the same? Thing again. Explore some of the world's most unique towns where the residents' zeal makes up for what they lack in numbers.

Hell, Michigan
Thirty miles north of Ann Arbor, MI, lies Hell, a town consisting of 72 residents, 2 streets, 3 buildings and 1 bad-ass name. A town slightly bigger than New York's Central Park, it officially became Hell in 1841. Local farmers would stop in at a popular whiskey bar after work, often landing them in trouble with their wives; when asked where their husbands were, wives would normally respond, "He's gone to hell." And the name stuck. What's the most surprising thing about Hell? The temperatures. Michigan winters can be harsh and Hell's thermometer has dipped to record-breaking temps like 27 below zero.

Cassadaga, Florida
Cassadaga, FL, is the oldest spiritual community in America's Southeast. Two hundred and fifty people live on the 57-acre town that consists of 47 houses and 10 streets. George Colby founded Cassadaga in 1894 as a 35-acre spiritual community and refuge for mediums, aura readers and healers. Each year Cassadaga receives over 36,000 visitors looking to experience the paranormal and most of them stay at The Cassadaga Hotel, the psychic center is supposedly a favorite hangout for restless spirits.

Greater World Community
 Taos, New Mexico
The Greater World Community in Taos, NM, is a town made almost entirely of recycled materials. And we're not talking bamboo or recycled plastics -- the houses, or earthships as they are called, are made mostly of bottles, cans, tires and dirt. Founded in 1994, this eco-conscious community is the largest self-sustaining town in the entire world. It began as only 10 earthships but has now grown to over 80 residencies spanning over 637 acres. What exactly is an earthship? A self-sufficient abode that makes its own solar electricity, harvests its own rainwater, heats and cools itself without any fuel, and contains and treats sewage on site.

Metropolis, Illinois
Sound familiar? Metropolis, IL, is home to Krypton's most famous son and this Illinois town is proud of it. Extremely proud. Unlike the movie set, this small town consists only of 6,800 residents (or should we say superfans?), a post office, a courthouse and about 150 small businesses. Metropolis City was first named in 1839, 99 years before the publication of the first Superman comic. By the 1970s, the man of steel was capturing the hearts of comic fans everywhere and Metropolis asked DC Comics for the use of the Superman trademark -- their wish was granted. The town streets and buildings are named after characters from the beloved comic, and once a year this town buzzes with Superman adoration. The annual summer festival is a week-long celebration of all things Superman; what started as a community event has grown into a festival that welcomes devoted crowds numbering upwards of 25,000.

Maharishi Vedic City, Iowa
In America's heartland, Maharishi Vedic City is an entire town designed to make life stress free. This new community harnesses ancient Indian spirituality in all areas of life; the restaurants, schools, homes and businesses are all aimed at increasing your inner peace. Named for the famed yogi Maharishi, Vedic City is the fastest-growing city in all of Iowa. Since its founding in 2001, the population had grown 10 times its original size with 1,200 residents now calling it home. Each of these individuals must practice Vedic Natural Law, an ancient Indian science focusing on transcendental meditation -- a mental clearing and physical peace practiced for 15 to 20 minutes twice a day. Other laws enforced in this spiritual haven insist that all food served must be organic and all buildings must be constructed facing east.

North Pole, Alaska
If Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of the year, why not experience it 365 days a year? The 226 businesses, 74 streets and 2,300 residents of the North Pole deck the halls year-round; the small 4.1-square-mile city 12 miles outside Fairbanks is Alaska's second-largest city. Of course, it's not the real North Pole located in the Arctic, but when the land was bought in 1953 it was christened due the extremely cold temperatures. It may not surprise you that the most famous building in this spirited town is the post office. It receives letters to Santa from more than 26 different countries and approximately 300 devout residents volunteer to answer as many as they possible can -- usually about 6 percent.

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