I have been impressed with the Canon SD630 (about $249 nowadays). So impressed in fact, that I am thinking about getting the new SD750 when it comes out next month. ($350) The SD1000 is under $300 and is essentially the same camera except that it has a smaller LCD display.
These so-called digital compacts are great for portability and ease of use.
Cruise over to Popular Photography to do research on cameras you are interested in. http://www.popphoto.com/testsreviews/
There are other great sites for researching as well.