If you’re looking to escape into nature, Darrington, Washington, is the retreat you need. The 1,347-person town is surrounded by three rivers and three wilderness areas, including Glacier Peak Wilderness. Head over in August and you’ll join international visitors from as far as New Zealand and South Africa who are there to compete in an archery event. Summer is also time for the town’s annual bluegrass festival, which is the oldest of its kind in the Pacific Northwest and one of the largest in the country. Don’t miss this story about how Darrington pulled through a natural disaster.
Southport, North Carolina
Add this to your list of America’s best beaches. This quaint beach community sits where the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway spill into the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re looking to escape winter weather (or just soak up some summer sun), Southport, North Carolina, is the place to be. No matter what you’re looking for, this little town has it: boutiques, art galleries, pubs, museums, and more. Or you can just take a seat on a public porch swing by the water to feel utter relaxation. Use these five-second stress-busters to relax even more.
Sullivan, Illinois, doesn’t just have great facilities—those areas came from the generosity of residents. For instance, a philanthropic farmer gave away land to develop Wyman Park, a beautiful area with space for fishing, skateboarding, and horsing around on a playground. You can also take a hike at Tabor Park, where a creek-side path passes through trees and prairie. Looking for a souvenir? You can find beautiful American flags local artist Geoffrey Auden makes from salvaged wood at raffles, and the proceeds to go charity. Don’t miss this other artist who turns old barns into flags.
If you want to regain hope in humanity, head to Pittsfield, Maine, which is all about good deeds. (Or just read these ideas for random acts of kindness for inspiration.) In fact, the town formally declared April 30 to be Pay It Forward Day to encourage acts of kindness.Not that the residents need the excuse—they pay it forward naturally. One resident remembers a time he left his wallet in his car when buying lunch, only to find out a young man had paid his tab while he was gone. It starts even younger than that, too; during an Easter egg hunt, one eight-year-old boy was spotted giving an egg to another kid whose basket was empty. Check out these other sweet acts of kindness from kids.
Outdoorsy travelers should consider Reliance, Tennessee, for their next camping trip. (Not a camping fan? You might change your mind when you find out why camping helps you sleep.) The historic town feels frozen in time and hasn’t changed in 35 years, says former resident Laura Curbow. You can stop into the Webb Bros general store, which opened in 1936, or take a tour of the Watchman’s House and Hiwassee Meeting Hall, which have been around since the 1890s. Once you’re ready to get back to modern life, you can enjoy white water rafting, hiking, and more. Check out these other amazing campsites to add to your bucket list.
After the manufacturing crash killed the lumber business in Cheboygan, Michigan, the city became something of a ghost town. But a community effort is revitalizing the city. Trails in Cheboygan State Park wind around Lake Huron and rare wildflowers, and is the perfect spot for cross country skiing, camping, mountain biking, and more. In town, restaurants, cafes, health food stores, and clothes shops are cropping up. Be sure to pick up a loaf of bread from The Brick Oven, which found its claim to fame when Michigan TV show Under the Radar featured the bakery.
Even though the town has only 304 residents, you’ll always find something to do in Martinsburg, Missouri. Every summer, the town puts on an annual picnic with fun events like frog races. Prefer a fall visit? The Oktoberfest celebration includes a Wiffle ball tournament, car show, and of course tons of food. But in such a small town, you’ll still feel welcomed. “Martinsburg is the sort of place it’s always wonderful to come home to—whether you grew up there or are a visitor,” one resident writes. (Check out these other signs of a nice town.) Easy to believe; one former resident says she hadn’t lived there in 16 years, but when locals found out she had a rare autoimmune disorder, they held a fundraiser to help her with medical costs. Find out why autoimmune diseases are on the rise—and what to do about it.