Chattanooga or Port Angeles? Which will emerge as the 'Best Town Ever'?

Aerial of downtown Chattanooga
photo Aerial of downtown Chattanooga

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Only a tiny northwest city stands between Chattanooga reclaiming the top spot it held three years ago in Outside magazine's Best Town contest.

The Scenic City handily defeated its most recent rival, Eau Claire, Wis., in the semifinal round just before midnight Thursday. Outside early this month started its annual competition with 64 cities.

The winner will be named June 5, after a tally of online votes from today until then.

Chattanooga will face off against Port Angeles, Wash., a waterfront city of about 20,000 that closed the semifinals with far fewer votes that the Scenic City. By comparison, Chattanooga has about 170,000 residents - and mighty support from the likes of Rock/Creek, Lamp Post Group and the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau, which since the initial round have encouraged voting.

Chattanooga beat Roanoke, Va., Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Beaufort, S.C. and Boone, N.C., to make the finals in a competition to name the nation's best town.

What makes a "best town"? According to Outside's editorial minds: "places with great access to trails and public lands, thriving restaurants and neighborhoods, and, of course, a good beer scene."

In 2011, Chattanooga won the online voting component of the national magazine's competition with one third of clicks, 7,434 votes - a fraction of what it had Thursday to win the semifinals. Outside's editors then named the Scenic City best town in the October issue that year, after considering factors in addition to digital votes.

Back then, the online contest lasted just three weeks and featured 10 finalist cities from around the United States chosen by the magazine's editors.

Chattanooga had to sit out the contest after that win, for three years, a rule Outside's editors set "to make room for hidden gems, underdogs, and towns on the rise."

Contact staff writer Mitra Malek at or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter @MitraMalek.