A lot of tourists pass through, but I’m not sure I’d call Barstow a “touristy” place. If you were so inclined, you could hit all of the attractions(?) in half a day, tops. There’s nothing to stick around for once you’ve gotten gas or something to eat.
Are you looking for the town itself to be the tourist attraction, in a quaint small-town way, or just for it to be convenient to other tourist attractions? If the latter, then West Yellowstone or Gardner, MT would be candidates, situated at two of the main entrances to Yellowstone National Park. For that matter, Bozeman is within day-trip range of the park, also, and is also close to ski slopes, hiking trails, and other outdoorsy activities, plus has a fair amount of culture in the town itself.
Roswell sucks (and, at >30,000 is bigger than the OP specified) except for the plywood cutout aliens and cheesy alien museums downtown. :rolleyes: <<close as I could come to “little green man” smiley.
However, about 50 miles up the road is Ruidoso, NM. A nice little mountain (skiing) town with cool shops, dining, horse racing in summer and a couple casinos. Last I heard it had a permanent population of about 8-9,000.
Also, if you want to see a somewhat better part of the state (;)), Polson is close to Flathead Lake and reasonably near to Glacier National Park in addition to a lot of skiing and hiking and such in the Rockies, depending on when you come. It’s also within day-trip range of Missoula, which is bigger than what you specified but has most of the culture in the state including many fine restaurants.
Lincoln, Montana is good if and only if you want to do seriously outdoorsy stuff in that part of the Rockies. It’s a fairly small town (1,100) and really has nothing else going for it, but if that’s what you want it’s certainly worth a trip out there.