While major American cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York are no doubt enticing, they can also be exhausting, not to mention extremely expensive. If you're looking to relax and unwind on your next vacation, why not slow things down a bit, and choose an exhilarating American small town instead? Quiet, unhurried, and even tranquil, small towns are the perfect respite from the frenzied pace of the daily grind. Not only do they have that friendly, local community spirit that's so on-trend these days, but they earn major bonus points for being much easier on the wallet.
A tiny taste of New England in the deep South, Prattville got its start as an industrial town and has since transformed itself into a popular destination for golfers. The town's Capitol Hill golf course is one of the stops on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, which hosts the annual Yokohama Tire LPGA Classic.
Situated on the northernmost banks of the Chilkoot Inlet, Skagway is a secret gateway to the bygone Klondike Gold Rush era. Prepare to feel like you've stepped straight onto the movie set of an old Western as soon as you arrive. Wooden sidewalks are lined with faux storefronts, honky-tonk ragtime tunes drift from saloons, and snow-capped mountains provide a dramatic backdrop. While you're in town, take a trip through the historic White Mountain Pass via the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway.
Bisbee is an old desert mining town nestled on its scenic perch at the edge of Tombstone Canyon in the majestic Mule Mountain foothills. But while its abundance of natural beauty is more than enough reason to swing by for a spell, Bisbee has so much more to offer than good looks. The compact and walkable city has been transformed into a hip artist enclave, with thriving downtown art and cultural scenes. Breathe in the boho vibe of “Old Bisbee,” where you'll find a slew of breweries, art studios, eateries and shops, all in repurposed 19th-century miners' houses.
If you want to soak in some Swiss bliss smack dab in the middle of the Ozarks, look no further than Eureka Springs. With mountainous terrain, winding roads, and urbane architecture, many argue that this small secluded city looks and feels a lot like Switzerland. Whether or not you agree, it's hard to deny that it's a peaceful European-style escape from the everyday. Chain stores aren't allowed, so you'll find unique boutiques, taverns, cafes, and eateries of all kinds downtown. If you truly want to get away from it all, Eureka Springs is surrounded by unspoiled beauty on all sides. There are plenty of opportunities to canoe, hike, bike, and camp.
Ojai, pronounced “oh hi,” means nest in the Chumash Indian language, and when you get here, you'll see why. With its seamless blend of Chumash heritage, ranching traditions, and New Age lifestyles, Ojai offers cozy, offbeat small-town charm at its finest. Best of all, it's an easy get from LAX, and just a stone's throw from Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. The downtown area is dotted with art galleries, hippie shops, and eclectic eateries, and you'll also find plenty of opportunities to pamper yourself at one of the small city's several spa retreats. Be sure to explore the Los Padres National Forest nearby for a brush with California's natural splendor.
Although it was originally established as a settlement for gold prospectors, Telluride attracts far more adventure seekers than gold-seekers these days. The town's ski resort offers roughly 2,000 acres of terrain for skiing, miles of trails for hiking, and an 18-hole golf course. But the downtown area still maintains its Old West flavor, with flashbacks to Colorado's gold rush days at every turn.
If there's one thing to be said about Mystic, it's this: don't miss it! The riverside town, nestled halfway between New York and Boston, perfectly encapsulates the New England aesthetic. Drift along the river aboard a sailboat, rowboat, or 100-year-old steamboat, or browse the local boutiques and watch the world go by from one of the town's many cute cafes. Make sure you stop by Mystic Pizza for a slice or two while you're in town - the pizzeria was the inspiration for the 1988 movie of the same name, starring Julia Roberts.
If you're looking for simple summertime pleasures which hearken back to a simpler time, look no further than Rehoboth Beach. Once dubbed the Nation's Summer Capital in the 1920s, Delaware's mini seaside getaway has something for everyone in the family. An amusement park, a mini-golf course, and a water park complement the expansive beach, which also happens to be a popular surf spot. The boardwalk is awash with bars and shops, and the bandstand offers free concerts all summer long.
If you've ever seen the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show, this pastel-hued, pedestrian-friendly resort town in the Florida Panhandle might look just a tad familiar. That's because the movie was filmed here. A tranquil and scenic master-planned beach community, Seaside is undeniably adorable and practically perfect in every way. If being on a real-life movie set starts to feel a little unnatural, don't worry, you're not trapped in a giant bubble like Truman. You can quickly get back to nature at Grayton Beach State Park, which is just a few minutes away.
Hidden in the Appalachian Mountains, a European panache permeates the crisp mountain air of this fairytale town. Bavarian-themed influences abound in its many bakeries, taverns, restaurants, and architecture. If you're in town in October or December, don't say Auf Wiedersehen to Helen until you've experienced the annual Oktoberfest festival or the Christkindlmarkt Christmas market.
While most tourists in Maui head straight for Hana, make like a local and take a detour to Paia instead. In this small seaside slice of paradise, you can enjoy the best of Hawaii's colorful surf culture, clothing boutiques, coffee shops, and culinary fare, without the crowds. End your day at Ho'okipa Beach Park, and crack open a local brew as you watch resident surfers and windsurfers catch big waves as the sun melts below the horizon.
Sheltering in Idaho's stunning Silver Valley is Wallace, a modest mining town which has earned itself the moniker of “Silver Capital of the World.” With 1.2 billion ounces of silver produced in the county since 1884, silver mining is just as important to the local economy as ever. These days, however, the historic town prides itself on mining in complete harmony with its unspoiled mountain setting, which attracts lovers of outdoor recreation worldwide. If you want to delve deep into Wallace's rich history, literally, don't miss the Sierra Silver Mine Tour while you're in town.
Tree-shaded parks kissing the banks of a lazy river. Grandiose 19th-century buildings repurposed into galleries, antique shops, and restaurants downtown. Rich history with a local, friendly flavor. Galena is the very definition of Small Town America, offering a relaxing retreat from the frenetic pace of modern life. Best of all, it's a one-tank trip from many cities in the Midwest.
Located just 20 minutes north of Indianapolis is a quiet village snuggled up against a hilly countryside, which stands out from the flat Indiana landscapes surrounding it. With fabled brick-lined main streets peppered with locally-owned shops and eateries, Zionsville has an irresistibly easygoing atmosphere with just a splash of edgy, artsy sophistication.
Tulip gardens. Gabled houses. Windmills. Man-made canals cutting through the center of town. Holland, right? Try Pella, Iowa. “A Touch of Holland” is this small midwestern town's slogan, and it is knee-deep in Dutch culture. Pella Historical Village has hundreds of Netherlands-inspired buildings to tour and explore, including the tallest windmill in America. There's even an annual tulip festival in May, which showcases the technicolor explosion of 36,000 flowers in full bloom. The distinctly Dutch vibe of this quirky small town was created by homesick Dutch settlers in the mid-1800s, and they would be thrilled to know that it still survives and thrives to this day.
If this legendary Old Western settlement's cowboy history isn't enough to lasso your interest, its old nickname, “The Wickedest Little City in America,” definitely will. First populated by cowboys and gamblers, this town's gunslinging, frontier past is recreated with daily gunfight reenactments and historic buildings, including the Fort Dodge Jail. Fun fact: the saying “Get the hell out of Dodge!” is a reference to Dodge City, which was the cliche setting for 20th-century Western movies.
One thing's for sure: bourbon fans will never be bored in Bardstown. There are seven bourbon distilleries, a bourbon museum, a bourbon-themed bed and breakfast, the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September, and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which passes through 10 distilleries dotted throughout the Kentucky countryside. It's not too much of a shock that this central Kentucky city has rightfully earned itself the title of the Bourbon Capital of the World.
If you want to experience all of what New Orleans has to offer without all the overcrowding, Natchitoches is the place for you. Just like The Big Easy, you'll find deep-rooted French Creole heritage saturating every street corner of its lively downtown scene, with riverfront strolls, and of course, all the gumbo you can eat. Just make sure you pronounce it right: locals call their beloved hometown Nack-a-tish.
A seamless blend of rustic seaside community, Down East spirit, and iconic Maine lobster is what gives Bar Harbor its world-renowned character. This small town has everything you need in an authentic New England coastal village. From award-winning dining to quirky bookstores, to whale watches and shore excursions. Sitting in the shadow of Mount Desert Island, it's also just minutes away from Acadia National Park, the only national park in the state.
Oakland has small-town charm all wrapped up in a pretty package. But this slow-paced Maryland hamlet has just the right amount of bustle downtown to keep things vibrant. There are bountiful boutiques, art shows, parades, live music, and unique dining spots. If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Oakland in Autumn, you can enjoy the annual explosion of fall foliage in a kaleidoscope of colors.
No need to find a pahking spaht for your cah in Hahvahd Yahd when you're in Massachusetts. Skip Boston and head west to the Berkshires. The Stockbridge area has a full line-up of cultural attractions that rival many metropolitan regions: world-famous music, theater and dance summer festivals, leading art museums, galleries, and historic houses and gardens. But natural beauty is what this part of Massachusetts is most famous for. In the fall, enjoy the foliage New England is renowned for. Come here in winter, and you'll feel like you've stepped into a snow globe. Hey, if it's good enough for Norman Rockwell, the guy famous for illustrating ideal scenes of America, it's good enough for any of us. Be sure to check out the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge too.
Saugatuck is one of Michigan's top summer destinations, offering everything from picnics on the banks of Kalamazoo Lake to boat rides and coastal fun on the sweeping shores of Oval Beach. Step away from the water, and you'll find a flourishing art scene, top-notch dining options, and an array of independent clothing stores. Keep your eyes open for the town's historical markers, particularly the former town of Singapore, now buried under the sand.
Get in touch with your outdoorsy side and explore Southeastern Minnesota's magnificent landscape while you're in Lanesboro. Hike, bike, or walk along the 60-mile paved Root River State Trail, which runs over the town's Root River. There are plenty of opportunities to paddle down the river too, with canoes and kayaks available for rent. In Historic Lanesboro, you will notice a distinct lack of food chains, brand-name stores, and traffic lights. And that's just the way the locals like it.
Sitting on its perch overlooking the Mississippi River, Natchez is overloaded with antebellum allure. You'll find more Civil War era mansions here than just about anywhere else. The best way to see them? From a horse-drawn carriage. Don't leave town without sampling a sweet potato biscuit in one of the town's quaint local eateries. Natchez also just happens to be the Biscuit Capital of the World.
You'll want to bring the kids to Branson. The Silver Dollar City offers boundless entertainment for all ages and energy levels. There are roller coasters to ride and lakeside beaches to wade in, tropical-themed attractions and a scenic railway that takes you through the Ozarks. You'll even find a Titanic museum, and a theater endorsed by none other than Dolly Parton herself.
Situated within the Rocky Mountain region of the Cabinet Mountains and the Kootenai National Forest, Libby offers a gateway to Montana's wealth of nature. Just a short drive from downtown are unblemished forests, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. There are picturesque drives all the way to the Canadian border, where endless opportunities to hike, fish and camp await you.
With dramatic Oregon Trail-style landscapes, it's pretty hard to resist outdoor pursuits when you're in Gering. Camp and hike in a peaceful park on the banks of the North Platte River. Then, find even more hiking and panoramic views at Scotts Bluff National Monument, which overlooks this city on the western edge of Nebraska.
The Wild West is still alive and well in Virginia City. Walking down the "ye olde" main street, you almost expect to see a gun-wielding John Wayne stumbling out of a saloon. You couldn't crack a whip here without hitting a cowboy-themed shop or bar. If you are up for getting a fright, there are plenty of ghost tours here too. Rumor has it the town is pretty haunted.
This town on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee and Lake Waukewan is lakeside living at its finest. Meridith is the perfect marriage of quirky New England charm and upmarket lakefront resorts and dining. The result? Shops, restaurants, and lodging set in colorful centuries-old houses. Don't skip a sunset cruise while you're here.
Sure, it's on the Jersey Shore. But Cape May is actually the antithesis of everything you'd expect from its notorious location. You won't find nightclubs or tanning salons here, on the southernmost tip of New Jersey. Instead, you'll find beautiful Victorian houses, a famous lighthouse, and peaceful beaches for days.
It's hard to believe that Madrid was once an abandoned ghost town. Today, it's a thriving artists' colony on the Turquoise Trail, right between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Only about 300 people call it home, but the main street is bustling with a blend of bohemian houses and a few dozen shopfronts and galleries. Look closer, and you'll see that there are still some leftover remnants from the days when the town was first established as a mining village.
Journey up along the Hudson River from New York City, and you'll come across this darling day trip destination. Let your troubles melt away as the hours go by at the town's tranquil riverfront park. Allow yourself to be tempted by the antique shops on the main street. Or, if you're feeling slightly more ambitious, hop on a scenic boat cruise. It's no surprise that harried city dwellers consider Cold Spring their sacred sanctuary.
Beaufort has traditional seaside appeal, but with a pinch of pirate history. In 1708, the English buccaneer, Blackbeard came ashore here and is thought to have stayed in one of the pretty colonial buildings of the town. Make sure you make Arrr-angements to go on a swashbuckling pirate cruise while you're here.
If you're interested in US presidential history and want a taste of America's wild frontier, Medora is pretty much made for you. The tiny speck of a town can be found in the wilderness of the spectacular Badlands region and is a gateway to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Every summer, catch Roosevelt impersonator relating the president's political history and his life as a hunter at the Old Town Hall Theater.
Hudson is an outdoor paradise, with more than a thousand acres of parkland. The 21 parks in the little city offer up endless options for picnicking, pond fishing, hiking, and biking. If you've had your fill of natural beauty for a while, head to the historic shopping district and grab a bite in one of the city's several restaurants. Hudson is only 45 minutes from Cleveland, making it an easily accessible weekend escape from life's endless treadmill.
In the shadows of the sweeping Wichita Mountains, a tranquil lake, swimming holes and wildlife refuge make Medicine Park the perfect little resort town. Head to Medicine Creek for kayaking, swim in the Bath Lake waterhole at the center of town, and hop in a boat and go camping at Lake Lawtonka.
If you've ever seen the classic coming-of-age Stephen King movie Stand by Me, you'll notice that Brownsville is the setting for Castle Rock. If you keep your eyes peeled as you wander around the historic town, you should even start to recognize some filming locations. Head to Pioneer Park when you're looking for a leisurely riverside stroll, and have a picnic amidst timeless natural surroundings. If you really want to feel like you're stepping into the movie, don't miss the town's annual "Stand By Me Day" every July 23rd. They take nostalgia to the next level, with 1950s children's games and blueberry pie.
New Hope, named for the promise of a bright future that emerged from its gritty industrial past, is an adventure for art lovers of all kinds. This town was once the place where Broadway musicals were trialed and worked on to perfection. At Bucks County Playhouse, George C. Scott, Grace Kelly, and many others took to the stage. Today, the New Hope is home to a dynamic artistic community, their talents exhibited throughout hundreds of galleries across town.
This tiny Block Island town, just a quick ferry ride from mainland Rhode Island, is your escape hatch from it all. While there are several secluded beaches to choose from, Crescent Beach is the ultimate getaway. Walk along coastal trails and pathways that run through a wildlife refuge, or head to North Lighthouse to soak in some typical New England scenery. That's if you have the willpower to part with your beach towel in the sand.
While there is a Beaufort in North Carolina too, its southerly sister is all about Civil War-era splendor. Around every corner, you'll come face to face with well-maintained neoclassical mansions, antebellum-era homes, and plantations. It might even look strangely familiar at times. That's because Tom Hanks ran through the town on several occasions during the filming of Forrest Gump.
Home of Mount Moriah Cemetary, Deadwood is pretty legendary for being the final resting place of both Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hicock. Once a thriving gold rush town, the town is far from rooted too much in the past - in fact, there is an active celebration of the town's Wild West past, so don't be surprised if you bump into a mock shootout in any of the salons on Main Street. The town is also surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest, which has fantastic ski lodges and great hiking opportunities.
Close to Gatlinburg, TN, and on the cusp of the Great Smoky Mountains, Townsend is a vibrant former Native American settlement. It is a gateway to the National Park, and in general, is a charming little town with a lot of phenomenal outdoor opportunities. Fantastic if you're a fan of hiking or camping, the town also has an internationally renowned horse show every year.
Tucked between Houston and Austin, Round Top is every antique lover's dream. In fact, this historic little town is home to Moore's Fort - the oldest building in Fayette county. With a thriving coffee shop and restaurant scene, Round Top also plays host to three internationally renowned events every year:
This small mountainside town might not be a bustling metropolis but holds more than its fair share of attractions and delights. Once a mining town, visitors can visit and pay tribute to the old town's industry. Fans of winter sports can enjoy a trip down memory lane to the 2002 Winter Olympics, and compete on the terrain used by some of the best athletes in the world. Oh, and for the film lovers amongst us, it's also home to a little film festival known as Sundance.
The great state of Vermont has a reputation for being liberal and artistic, and towns like Woodstock are exactly why. The town was once the playground of Laurance and Mary French Rockefeller, and you can still visit their home, Billings Farm and Museum. This idyllic little town is picturesque - especially in fall when the New England countryside turns picture perfect. This is a great time to visit the annual Harvest Weekend at the Billings Farm, where you can take part in a barn dance, a husking bee, as well as the full range of 19th-century harvest festival activities.
Perhaps not quite as famous outside of the country music scene, Bristol VA is known as the birthplace of this quintessentially American genre. Take a visit to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum to find out how the whole thing got started, and obviously while there, you should try to catch a show. Music lovers can also stop off in Bristol as part of the Crooked Road music tour. Music isn't where it starts and stops in Bristol, however, and you'll find Bristol is in easy reach of the Appalachian Caverns.
If you're a fan of all things Germanic, then Leavenworth might just be your idea of heaven. The city is a little piece of Bavaria at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains. From the quirky and iconic Leavenworth Nutcracker Museum which is home to, yep you guessed it, a truly staggering amount of nutcrackers, to the bierkellers, Leavenworth is home to many German traditions. To revel in Leavenworth's cultural connection, the city hosts an internationally renowned Oktoberfest where you can get a full feel for German traditions.
On the borders of the Shenandoah River and the Potomac, Harpers Ferry is actually a living museum. Once home to the legendary writer, Mark Twain, the city was also the scene of the first train crossing of the Potomac. Today it's a great place to visit to get an understanding of our country's rich and vibrant history, and how it all fits together today.
Known as Little Switzerland, New Glarus has the most wonderful array of Alpine architecture and characterful little cafes and restaurants. Travel along the Sugar River State Trail, to get a feel for Wisconsin's stunning scenery, before immersing yourself in local Swiss traditions. From chocolate shops to cheesemakers, this city has it all and is deeply proud of its Swiss heritage. Be sure not to miss the chance to stop in at Puempel's Olde Tavern for a swig of beer and a chat with the locals - the tavern has been serving the city for over 100 years.
Connecting to the heart of Yellowstone National Park, via the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, Cody is just about as Cowboy Central as you can get. Buffalo Bill founded the town, and his influence can be seen everywhere you look. The Buffalo Bill Center of the West is case in point and is five museums in one, located in the heart of Cody. The museums that are housed in the center are the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, and the Plains Indian Museum.