10 Tiny Towns with Big Tourism Dreams

Stevenson, Wash.
Stevenson sits on the Columbia River, a popular destination in its own right. © Craig Tuttle/Corbis

Population: 1,470 [source: City Data]

Sure, city-wide free WiFi is all the buzz now, but back in the early 2000s, it was barely a glint in a marketer's eye. And yet, in 2003, a former logging town of fewer than 1,500 people implemented the first such system in the country with the intent of enticing tourists to stick around [source: City of Stevenson].

To put itself on the tourism map, the town of Stevenson took the expensive step of installing fiber-optic lines through its downtown and nearby recreation areas so visitors could easily get all of the information they needed to enjoy (and extend) their stay. Even now, with Internet-connected phones everywhere, the free WiFi lets tourists save their bandwidth. Oh, and find out from the Stevenson WiFi welcoming page exactly where they can spend their vacation dollars.

The WiFi landing page provides location-specific suggestions for dinner or day trips, along with live webcams showing the city's downtown, shoreline and events happening in the community. It is, the city says, a valuable promotional tool and one that makes their small town look big in technology terms. That can only increase its appeal to all the tourists carrying smartphones and tablets and expecting to find all the info they need before they even put their bags down [source: SRDC].

And, of course, it puts a permanent end to the laptop-carrying tourist's eternal question: "Does your café offer free WiFi?" Yes, yes it does. They all do. Beach, too.