The Most Charming Small Town in Every State
You'll find the heart of America in these small-town gems that seem lost in time. Add them to your must-visit list now.
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Sure, cities like New York and Chicago are big tourist attractions, but there’s nothing like the charm of a small town when you want to book a relaxing weekend getaway, find the best pumpkin patch or make a pit stop on a road trip while checking out one (or more!) of the best RV parks in every state. You’ll definitely want to add a few of these gems to your bucket list!
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Alabama: Orange Beach
A small beach community on the Gulf of Mexico, Orange Beach offers plentiful opportunities to view wildlife, from seabirds and songbirds on their migratory routes to dolphins in the Gulf and sea turtles hatching on the shore. As far as family-friendly beaches go, it doesn’t get much better than this lovely little stretch of coast named after everyone’s favorite citrus fruit.
Don’t miss: Lunch or dinner at Fisher’s, where the chef has been a James Beard Award semifinalist five years running.
Where to stay: Turquoise Place, an oceanfront resort with large, multi-bedroom condos, indoor and outdoor pools, and a lazy river where you can take a float.
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Located in Alaska’s Inside Passage region, Skagway dates back to the Klondike gold rush of the late 1800s and is known for its wooden sidewalks with false-front shops and restaurants, many of which are historic structures. The tiny city’s extensive trail system begins just a few minutes from downtown and takes hikers to alpine lakes and some of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the state.
Don’t miss: The view from a trip on the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad, arguably one of the best little train rides in America.
Where to stay: The Historic Skagway Inn, a B&B built in 1897 during the Klondike gold rush, walking distance to restaurants and attractions like the Red Onion Saloon—known for its pizza and the brothel museum upstairs.
Arkansas: Eureka Springs
Eureka Springs is a one-of-a-kind small town with Victorian homes hugging cliff sides and an entire downtown on the National Register of Historic Places—making it one of the most historic landmarks in the state. Eureka Springs plays host to all sorts of festivals and events ranging from blues, jazz and opera to UFOs, antiques and the arts. Stroll through block after block of unique shops, boutiques, fine art galleries, craft emporiums, spas, museums, parks and restaurants.
Don’t miss: A ghost tour at America’s most-haunted hotel, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa.
Where to stay: Brave (or just skeptical) travelers should stay at the aforementioned 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa. In addition to being “haunted,” the Crescent is a grand, quirky lodge that sits on 15 acres with walking, hiking and biking trails.
You’ll find the small town of Bisbee right in the middle of the Mule Mountains, about 90 miles southeast of Tucson. Built in 1888 for the area’s miners of copper and precious metals, Bisbee’s downtown is now preserved with 19th-century architecture and is set against the backdrop of a desert landscape that looks like a painting, making for a striking scene.
Don’t miss: A tour of the Copper Queen Mine.
Where to stay: Book a one- or two-bedroom suite at the Eldorado Suites Hotel, originally built to house miners and madams.
It doesn’t get much more charming than the seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, just over 100 miles south of San Francisco. Filled with homes straight out of a fairy tale, bike-friendly Carmel is truly one of the most beautiful seaside towns in America.
Don’t miss: Tor House, the former home of poet Robinson Jeffers, featuring a hand-built stone tower with 360-degree ocean and village views.
Located in the midst of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, Telluride is an Old West small town built during the state’s gold rush. It’s set in a canyon surrounded by nearly 360 degrees of mountains, with the state’s largest free-falling waterfall in view. The town is perhaps best known as a world-class ski resort, but Telluride offers a variety of outdoor activity in the warmer months as well, with many hiking trails leading right from town.
Don’t miss: The Telluride Mountain Village Gondola, an aerial tram that offers out-of-this-world views.
Where to stay: The Hotel Telluride is a convenient spot close to town for an overnight stay, and it offers a free shuttle through Telluride.
A quintessential New England town, Woodbury is located at the base of the Litchfield Hills and features mature trees and 18th- and 19th-century buildings lining its Main Street. Right in the heart of the Connecticut Antiques Trail, it’s known as the Antiques Capital of Connecticut, and antiquers will surely find plenty of treasures, from vintage cast iron to midcentury-modern knickknacks at the more than two dozen shops.
Where to stay: Three short miles away at the highly rated Heritage Hotel, Golf, Spa and Conference Center in Southbury.
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Nestled at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, Lewes is one of the quietest and least-populated spots on the Delaware shore. Beach bums and history buffs alike will be in heaven here, thanks to the myriad museums where visitors can soak up local lore. Favorites include the Zwaanendael Museum, built to commemorate Delaware’s first Dutch colony; Lightship Overfalls, the last lightship ever built for the US Lighthouse Service and now preserved as a floating museum; and the Lewes Maritime Museum at the Cannonball House, a building erected in 1765.
Don’t miss: Soaking in some sun at Cape Henlopen State Park, a blissfully deserted paid-entry beach a short bike ride away.
Where to stay: Hotel Blue, a boutique canal-front hotel where you can soak in panoramic views of Lewes Beach from the rooftop pool.
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Florida is known for its fantastic beaches. But the quiet island community of Sanibel in the Gulf of Mexico is also known for fabulous seashell finds. The whole island was once a nature preserve, so when you’re done relaxing on the sand, you can venture a bit farther inland to the SCCF Nature Center, where you can peek at wildlife while walking through wetlands on four miles of raised boardwalks.
Don’t miss: The Sanibel Historical Museum, made up of nine beautifully restored buildings—including a post office and a school—built between the 1880s and the 1920s, which are now packed with fascinating artifacts from the Calusa Native Americans, Spanish and other pioneers who lived there.
Where to stay: Island Inn, a Gulf-front hotel with 550 feet of beach and a range of different room types—from cottages to studios—for all kinds of travelers.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a European Alpine village when you set foot in Helen, located in north Georgia’s Blue Ridge mountains. Wander through its cobblestone streets, taking in the Bavarian architecture with colorful buildings outlined in gingerbread trim, while enjoying German-inspired cuisine and plentiful shops and boutiques. The small town celebrates Oktoberfest in grand style each year and also has an annual Christkindlmarkt each holiday season. Helen, like other American towns with a European vibe, will have you feeling like you hopped the pond.
Don’t miss: Taking a turn on the Georgia Mountain Coaster, an authentic alpine coaster that sends riders zooming through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Where to stay: The Valhalla Resort Hotel is an all-luxury suite hotel with breathtaking mountain views, just a few minutes from Helen.
You may have heard of the Road to Hana in Hawaii, a famously scenic two- to four-hour drive of hairpin twists and turns that leads to the charming small town of Hana. Hana has a long history among the Hawaiian people and offers a look at the unspoiled, natural side of Hawaii.
Don’t miss: Taking a swim at Hana Beach County Park, where humpback whales are sometimes visible in spring and winter.
Where to stay: Hana-Maui Resort, situated on 66 acres at the end of the Road to Hana. If you don’t want to take the twisty drive, the resort can fly you in on its Cessna or helicopter from Kahului Airport.
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A former mining town in northern Idaho, Wallace is surrounded by mountains, making it a great base for outdoor adventures. In summer, the Rail Trail Hall of Fame Route of the Hiawatha bike path is nearby enough to make a day trip of it. When snow is on the ground, visitors enjoy the town’s central location between the Silver Mountain and Lookout Pass ski resorts. The town celebrates music, western history, winter fun and Idaho’s favorite fruit, the huckleberry, with year-round events—and craft breweries, relaxed restaurants, comfy hotels and B&Bs line the town’s streets.
Don’t miss: A 30-minute tour of the Oasis Bordello Museum, one of many bordellos that formerly operated in the mining town. The Oasis was in business until 1988 and now is perfectly—and tastefully—preserved.
Where to stay: The Brooks Hotel, which has a historic facade but updated interiors, plus its own restaurant and lounge.
When you think of small-town America, Galena is surely the prototype. Set along the Mississippi, Galena—which President Ulysses S. Grant once called home—is filled with art galleries, antique stores and eclectic boutiques, many within restored 19th-century structures. The area is also home to the U.S. Grant Museum and some of the best wineries in the country.
Don’t miss: The Belvedere Mansion, open from late May to November. Free guided tours of this 1857 Italianate mansion start every 15 minutes during the high season. You’ll learn some early American history, see period furnishings and get a glimpse of glitzier items, such as the real green velvet drapes that Gone With the Wind character Scarlett O’Hara pulled down to make into a dress.
Where to stay: Abe’s Spring Street Guest House, a unique B&B built in 1876 that now hosts two spacious suites, a hot tub and a sauna.
Just 20 minutes northwest of Indianapolis, Zionsville features a quaint village with brick streets, boutique shops and locally owned restaurants. Rare in the typically flat landscape of central or northern Indiana, Zionsville features rolling hills, horse farms and foliage that turns a bright gold, orange and red come fall. Families enjoy spending time at Lions Park, with its baseball fields and playgrounds. Local favorite restaurants and shops include the Friendly Tavern for an Indiana breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, and Five Thirty Home for home decor.
Don’t miss: Traders Point Creamery, where the cows are grass-fed, the barns are historic and the menu is award-winning.
Where to stay: The Brick Street Inn, one of the only overnight accommodations in Zionsville proper. It also happens to be an extremely charming mid-1800s home renovated into an eight-suite inn with a bar and restaurant, right in the middle of downtown. If there’s no room at the inn, several chain hotels are located just a couple miles outside of town—and of course, there are myriad places to rest your head in nearby Indianapolis.
Located in the northeastern part of the state, Decorah has a strong Norwegian heritage and hosts an annual Nordic Fest each summer. Among the beautiful outdoor sites, visitors can take advantage of Decorah’s 11-mile bike trail that loops the community, see the town’s 200-foot waterfall and fish in the area’s trout streams. Decorah also has a bustling farmers market, the Toppling Goliath Brewery and the Seed Savers Exchange Heritage Farm with its heirloom gardens, historic orchards and heritage livestock breeds.
Where to stay: Hotel Winneshiek, inside a historic building in the heart of town.
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This farming community of less than 400 people is known for some very weird things, especially its outside art, including a public bathroom known as Bowl Plaza, which is decorated inside and out with quirky mosaics. The nearby Grassroots Arts Center has some amazing—and only-in-Lucas—pieces on display, such as a collection of detailed cameos made from used chewing gum and a life-size model of a small car made from old aluminum-can pull tabs.
Don’t miss: The Garden of Eden, a historic cabin built—and festooned—by Civil War veteran and sculptor S.P. Dinsmoor.
Where to stay: Lucas doesn’t have a lot of lodging, although it does offer a few RV parks and some small rentals. Your best bet is to drive 5 to 10 minutes outside of town to the Midland Railroad Hotel, where you can enjoy modern amenities and charming history.
Located in southwestern Kentucky, Paducah’s waterfront downtown, with tree-lined brick streets and 19th-century architecture, is bustling with art galleries, antique stores, performance spaces and locally owned cafes. Home to the National Quilt Museum, featuring a 320-piece collection of contemporary quilts and exhibits celebrating traditional quilt-making methods, Paducah is a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art.
Don’t miss: A scenic cruise on one of the many riverboats that launch from the Paducah Riverfront.
Where to stay: If the five rooms at the Belle Louise Historic Guest House aren’t booked up, grab one! This property has charming decor, four-poster beds and soaking tubs.
Thibodaux, the seat of Lafourche Parish, is known as “Louisiana’s Cajun Bayou.” Its Acadian Cultural Center, which is part of Jean Lafitte National Park, offers walking tours of the historic downtown area, as well as boat tours along Bayou Lafourche, which serves as the area’s main street and is 100 miles long.
Don’t miss: The fresh Cajun seafood at local favorite restaurants Spahr’s and Fremin’s.
Where to stay: There are a few solid chain hotel options, but have you ever stayed the night in a slightly creepy mansion? If that sounds like fun, check out the very highly rated Dansereau House.
The mountains meet the ocean in this small town, making it an outdoor lover’s paradise with ample hiking opportunities and plenty of ways to get out on the water. Head to Camden Hills State Park for views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay from Mt. Battie, or enjoy a quiet stroll down the town’s Main Street, home to top restaurants that have made Camden a culinary destination for New England’s foodies.
Don’t miss: A stroll through the High Street historic district, added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1989.
Where to stay: It’s a splurge, but if sailboat views from a king-size bed are in your budget, book a room with a soaking tub at the Grand Harbor Inn.
Located along Maryland’s eastern shore, about 90 minutes from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Easton is known for its historic architecture, performing arts and culinary scene. The town hosts many popular events and festivals, including the Chesapeake Film Festival, Waterfowl Festival and First Friday Gallery Walks. In addition to visiting attractions like the Academy Art Museum, Avalon Theatre and Third Haven Meeting House, stop by the newest park located on the Tuckahoe River, dedicated to abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born in the town 200 years ago.
Don’t miss: The Tuckahoe Steam and Gas Association‘s annual show held each July, featuring vintage agricultural and industrial machinery, tractor pulls and more down-home fun.
Where to stay: Easton has a handful of solid chain hotels, but if you want something a little more atmospheric, try the waterfront Robert Morris Inn a few miles away in Oxford.
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Massachusetts: Shelburne Falls
Comprising the towns of Shelburne and Buckland, the village of Shelburne Falls in western Massachusetts, sitting between picturesque New England farms and small-town main streets, lends a hint of quieter days gone by. The sleepy village has also made its way to the big screen, serving as a backdrop for Labor Day and The Judge.
Don’t miss: Shelburne Falls’s Bridge of Flowers, a must-see footbridge covered with bulbs and buds from more than 120 species of flowers and trees, is open between April and October.
Where to stay: Get all the basic comforts you need at the Hampton Inn and Suites, plus free breakfast!
With deep German roots, Frankenmuth, known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” is styled after a Bavarian village with lots of German and alpine architecture. The town is home to the world’s largest Christmas store at Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland, a German-style shopping village, and an indoor water park for family fun. You might even go home with an authentic German cuckoo clock.
Don’t miss: Grandpa Tiny’s Farm, a Bavarian heritage farm with animals and special seasonal events in spring, summer, fall and winter.
Where to stay: The Bavarian Inn Lodge is a full-blown resort with a water park, mini-golf and a family fun center. Plus, its German architecture is authentic and adorable.
Picturesque Stillwater—known as the birthplace of Minnesota—sits on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, on the shores of the St. Croix River. Historic mansions on Main Street meet fantastic shopping at tons of boutiques, plus great options for foodies.
Don’t miss: If you visit in the winter, you can’t leave Minnesota without seeing the Ice Castles, a wonderland of sculptures, tunnels, slides and scenery hand-built with icicles.
Where to stay: Built inside an 1886 brewery, Lora is modern, antique, rustic and fancy all at the same time.
Perched high above the Mississippi River, Natchez has 30-mile views to both the north and south. It’s the image of a true Southern town, complete with hospitality, historic homes with lovely gardens and moss-covered oaks, and of course, delectable Southern cooking. Natchez is named for the Native American people who called this area of Mississippi home, and it offers much history about its original residents and the Europeans who later settled there.
Don’t miss: Beautiful architecture is all around you in Natchez, but be sure you set your eyes on Longwood, an unfinished octagonal Civil War–era mansion and National Historic Landmark.
Where to stay: Visitors rave about Choctaw Hall, a B&B with sweeping staircases, four-poster beds and walkways paved with brick.
Located right on historic Route 66, Carthage is a fun stop if you’re taking this classic American journey west. Burned to the ground during the Civil War, the town was rebuilt in the late 1800s and features many architectural masterpieces in four districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Don’t miss: Grabbing a bag of burgers at the Original Whisler’s drive-up.
Where to stay: Carthage is truly a small town, so your best bet for a comfy overnight stay is a solid chain like Quality Inn & Suites.
Set in view of the Cabinet Mountain Range and yet another part of Montana’s fantastic outdoors, Libby is surrounded by lakes, fishing, hiking trails, camping and endless scenic drives. For a local’s experience, get a taste of Montana on tap at Cabinet Mountain Brewing Company and enjoy a meal at The Black Board Bistro, with a locally sourced seasonal menu.
Don’t miss: The swinging bridge over the Kootenai River for an easy hike, exhilarating bridge walk and amazing views.
Where to stay: The family-friendly Venture Inn has a pool, hot tub and on-site restaurant.
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Pioneers once traversed this small town as part of their journey along the Oregon Trail. Be sure to stop by Scotts Bluff National Monument and Chimney Rock National Historic Site, a major landmark along the Oregon Trail. Scotts Bluff, which was also on the Pony Express route, has plentiful ancient fossils from prehistoric animals along what is called the “Fossil Freeway,” which runs between Nebraska’s Panhandle and The Black Hills of South Dakota.
Don’t miss: Tapas and cocktails at the Tangled Tumbleweed, a foodie gem in this small town.
Where to stay: Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott is a family-friendly, comfortable home away from home.
Nevada: Boulder City
Need a break from the bright lights of Las Vegas? Head just 30 minutes east of Sin City for a quiet respite in this Art Deco-style town, which emerged in the 1930s for workers building the Hoover Dam. Other key sites to check out around Boulder City include the Nevada Southern Railway (with rides offered on weekends), 36 miles of bike trails at Bootleg Canyon mountain bike park and the River Mountains Loop Trail, which connects Boulder City with the Lake Mead National Recreation Area.
Don’t miss: The Hoover Dam. It’s only seven miles down the highway, and a sight to be seen.
Where to stay: The Best Western Hoover Dam Hotel, a clean, comfy spot with two hot tubs and an indoor pool.
New Hampshire: Meredith
Set alongside the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee, Meredith is a small New England town in the state’s Lakes Region. Antiquers will love the tax-free shopping at the town’s many antiques and collectibles stores, while outdoor adventurers can get their fill of hiking and boating in summer or ice sailing and snowshoeing in winter.
Don’t miss: A trip on the 1849 Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad for a two-hour picturesque journey.
Where to stay: Mill Falls at the Lake is a collection of four inns, including a luxury lakefront lodge, a pet-friendly spot with an indoor pool and more.
New Jersey: Haddonfield
A short drive from Delaware, Pennsylvania and New York, Haddonfield dates back to 1682 and offers more than 200 shops and galleries, many within Colonial buildings. Enjoy window shopping down Kings Highway and dine outdoors at one of its many sidewalk cafes.
Don’t miss: Taking a selfie with Haddy, a sculpture of New Jersey’s official state dinosaur, downtown. The Hadrosaurus foulkii is a duck-billed dino that once lived in the swamps and forests of the New Jersey coast.
Where to stay: The Haddonfield Inn, an adorable, lusciously decorated B&B in a restored Victorian home.
New Mexico: Madrid
Madrid is a very small artist community along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, a 50-mile drive that links Albuquerque and Santa Fe. The galleries and local restaurants are all within walking distance in Madrid.
Don’t miss: Grabbing dinner with a side of history at the Mineshaft Tavern and Coal Mine Museum. It’s currently under construction but plans to reopen in fall 2022.
Where to stay: As we said, Madrid is tiny, so your best bet is to book a stay 15 miles down the road in Santa Fe. Try the highly rated Inn at Santa Fe by Best Western, with an indoor pool and free breakfast.
New York: Skaneateles
It’s like stepping into a storybook when you visit this quaint town located along the edge of Skaneateles Lake in central New York. Home to many restored buildings dating back to 1796, it has long been a vacation getaway for important political figures, including President Teddy Roosevelt, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. Many have stayed at celeb-favorite Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Grab a lobster roll at Doug’s Fish Fry, and enjoy live music at the gazebo by the lake in summer.
Don’t miss: A trip to the tasting room, distillery, cafe and, of course, the U-pick orchard at Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard, founded in 1911.
Where to stay: 2W Lake is a light and bright lakefront bed-and-breakfast with views.
North Carolina: New Bern
New Bern, the adopted hometown of famed romance author Nicholas Sparks, was settled by a Swiss baron three centuries ago. The town’s history is on display throughout its walkable downtown filled with tree-shaded homes, centuries-old churches and historic cemeteries.
Don’t miss: A tour of Tryon Palace, a historic site surrounded by gardens.
Where to stay: Hanna House Bed & Breakfast is well loved by visitors for its rich decor—and homemade breakfasts.
North Dakota: Watford City
In North Dakota’s Badlands sits Watford City with its small-town Main Street, eclectic shops and local restaurants. It lays claim to the largest petrified tree stump (weighing in at 17,000 pounds!), which you can see at the Long X Trading Post Visitor’s Center.
Don’t miss: Playing a round of golf at Fox Hills along the Lewis and Clark Golf Trail.
Where to stay: The Watford Hotel, an affordable, sleek spot to get a good night’s sleep before exploring.
You’ll swear you stepped back in time in Lebanon, a southwest Ohio town known for its tree-lined downtown streets dotted with antiques shops. The LM&M Railroad runs right through downtown, taking passengers on nostalgic countryside rides.
Don’t miss: Picking up a sweet treat at the Village Ice Cream Parlor and Golden Turtle Chocolate Factory.
Where to stay: Hands down, the Golden Lamb. It’s the state’s oldest continuously operating business, offering a restaurant on the ground floor and historic hotel rooms on the upper three floors named for famous visitors, including Charles Dickens.
Due to ongoing restoration, Guthrie is the largest Historic Preservation District in the nation. Hop a trolley or take a horse-drawn carriage to tour the renovations in its historic downtown, which is filled with unique boutiques and Victorian-era architecture. Guthrie is also home to the country’s smallest national park, an area of just 100 square feet!
Don’t miss: A fun taste of the Old West when the town hosts gunfight reenactments June through September.
Where to stay: Find a comfy bed, free breakfast and a pool at the Hampton Inn & Suites.
You’ll find pretty little Joseph at the base of one of the Seven Wonders of Oregon, the Wallowa Mountains. Discover monumental, larger-than-life bronze sculptures of American cowboys and their horses, created by a native artist, as well as locally made artisan chocolates and handcrafted whiskey from Stein Distillery, which all pay tribute to the Old West in Joseph’s historic downtown.
Don’t miss: A trip on the Wallowa Lake Tramway for a scenic trip through the sky.
Where to stay: The eclectic and modern Kokanee Inn has multiple decks for outdoor relaxing and bikes available to borrow.
Pennsylvania: Jim Thorpe
The tiny town of Jim Thorpe offers fabulous views of surrounding mountain peaks amid its Victorian architecture. Enjoy a picturesque ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which takes passengers along the nearby Lehigh River and Lehigh Gorge State Park.
Don’t miss: A fun stop at the Old Jail Museum, a truly creepy 1870s jail that’s rumored to be haunted.
Where to stay: The Inn at Jim Thorpe, in an 1849 building on the National Register of Historic Places, offers suites with fireplaces, soaking tubs and spa services.
Rhode Island: Warren
This coastal town in Rhode Island is rich in history, with properties dating to the 1700s, including Maxwell House, the earliest surviving brick home. It is known for its brickwork pattern, fieldstone foundation and large central chimney.
Don’t miss: Sipping on a “coffee cabinet,” a coffee-flavored milkshake that is the official drink of Rhode Island, at Delekta Pharmacy.
Where to stay: Overnight spots aren’t easy to find in the tiny town of Warren, but the Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites in Swansea is less than three miles away.
South Carolina: Beaufort
If you’ve been to Charleston, South Carolina, envision Beaufort as a mini-version of that historic American city. Set along the Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort has plenty of moss-draped oaks, Civil War–era homes and that genteel Southern setting of the South Carolina Lowcountry. It is the state’s second-oldest city, founded in 1711.
Don’t miss: Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Overlooking the bay, the peaceful park is surrounded by galleries, restaurants and shops.
Where to stay: A celebrity favorite, the Rhett House Inn offers complimentary champagne on the veranda when you arrive.
South Dakota: Hill City
Described as “the heart of the Black Hills,” Hill City is a quintessential American small town with flower-filled baskets lining Main Street and scenic landscapes surrounding it. Centrally located in the popular Black Hills area, Hill City makes a convenient place to stay while exploring the region. The town is pet-friendly and hosts several festivals, including Sculpture in the Hills and Hill City Wine, Brew & BBQ.
Don’t miss: Seeing the dinosaurs at the world-renowned Museum at Black Hills Institute.
Where to stay: The simple Spring Creek Inn offers cabin-like cottage rooms with kitchenettes.
Right at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a mountain getaway with a downtown perfect for those who like to stay busy. There are so many shops and restaurants, as well as attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and the Sky Lift to take you high up for maximum views. Plus, you’ve got nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, home of Dolly Parton, with even more activities to fill your day.
Don’t miss: A twisty trip down the family-friendly Gatlinburg mountain coaster.
Where to stay: Baymont by Wyndham Gatlinburg on the River, with free breakfast, a sparkling pool and balconies overlooking the river.
If you love wine, don’t miss this small town right in the middle of Texas Wine Country. Nearby are dozens of vineyards and the beautiful Texas Hill Country, including the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, which is an International Dark Sky Park ideal for nighttime star viewing. In town, you’ll find more than 150 shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants and wine tasting rooms, along with three museums.
Don’t miss: Grape Creek Vineyards, a 25-acre Tuscan-style vineyard with patios, tasting rooms and 360-degree ambiance.
Where to stay: The Fredericksburg Inn and Suites is a charming, family-friendly property with an outdoor pool.
If hiking Zion National Park is on your bucket list, the nearby small town of Kanab makes a charming spot to stay overnight between day hikes in the park. For even more outdoor adventure, this town is close to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, as well as the Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Kodachrome Basin State Parks.
Don’t miss: A tour of the grounds at Best Friends, the largest animal sanctuary in the United States, home to 1,600 horses, rabbits, birds, cats, pigs, dogs and other creatures.
Where to stay: If you’re looking for something a little different, stay at the pet-friendly Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile, where animals aren’t just allowed, they’re encouraged.
Whether winter, spring, summer or fall, Manchester, located between Vermont’s Green and Taconic mountains, offers a streetscape with white steeples, covered bridges and New England charm. Choose from skiing and snowshoeing during the cooler months, or leaf-peeping, swimming in secret waterfalls, kayaking and river tubing during the warmer months.
Don’t miss: A visit to Hildene, the historic home of Robert Lincoln, son of President Lincoln and Mary Todd. In addition to touring the house itself, you can explore 12 miles of walking trails, gardens, a restored Pullman railcar and a goat farm.
Where to stay: The family-friendly Kimpton Taconic Hotel offers modern comfort and a sleek outdoor pool.
This small town is set in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and is known for its vibrant music and arts scene. It’s also home to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and has plenty of shopping along its classic Main Street.
Don’t miss: A show at the 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater.
Where to stay: The Blackburn Inn, a boutique hotel in a historic building within walking distance of downtown. Set on 80 acres of manicured grounds, this place is 100% charming.
With a population just shy of 2,500, Leavenworth is truly “small” and a gem within America’s great landscapes. It’s inspired by traditional Bavarian villages, with ample Alpine architecture and a setting that includes the Cascade Mountain Range in the background. The town, known for its quality breweries and wineries, as well as many mountain hiking trails, is the perfect spot to enjoy a cool brew with a pretzel.
Don’t miss: The Leavenworth International Accordion Celebration, chockablock with rousing performances and competitions, usually held in the summer months. If that’s not your thing, visit during one of the town’s other public parties including Maifest, Oktoberfest or the Autumn Leaf Festival.
Where to stay: The Icicle Village Resort is a must, especially for families. It’s charming, with large grounds that include a pool and a mini-golf course.
West Virginia: Harpers Ferry
Hiking the Appalachian Trail? It goes right through this tiny town in West Virginia, best known as the site of the John Brown raid and three Civil War battles. Harpers Ferry, which is bordered by the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers and serves as the eastern gateway to West Virginia, was also the start of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, the site of the first crossing of the Potomac by a railroad, and a retreat center for seven presidents and Mark Twain.
Don’t miss: Rafting, climbing and tubing at the River Riders Family Adventure Resort. Then follow up with a hearty meal at Kelley Farm Kitchen, a vegan gem with well-loved dishes, from ramen to nachos.
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Wisconsin: Lake Geneva
The small town of Lake Geneva is built around a seven-mile-long body of water called, you guessed it, Geneva Lake. Just 80 miles from Chicago, it became a home-away-from-home for wealthy Chicago families in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and many of their mansions still line the shores. In summer, you can cruise, splash, hike the perimeter trail or parasail. In the winter, there is ice skating and snowshoeing, plus downhill skiing at The Mountaintop at Grand Geneva Resort and Spa.
Don’t miss: An ice cream social cruise around the lake to soak up some history and lap up some frozen dairy.
Where to stay: Many families and other groups rent vacation homes for longer stretches in Lake Geneva, but there are plenty of fantastic hotels too, from the baroquely luxurious Baker House Hotel to the affordable, family-friendly Cove of Lake Geneva.
Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody, this small town in Wyoming is a quirky destination. To wit: Rock formations have descriptive names like “Laughing Pig Rock,” and the Cody Trolley Tour tells stories of unsolved murders. It’s also a popular home base for those visiting nearby Yellowstone National Park.
Don’t miss: A visit to Old Trail Town, a group of authentic frontier buildings, including the cabin used by Butch Cassidy’s Hole-in-the-Wall Gang.
Where to stay: The Chamberlin Inn, a turn-of-the-century property with modern amenities in the heart of town.
Additional reporting by Sunny Sea Gold.