The Most Charming Small Town in Every State
You’ll find the heart of America in these small-town gems lost in time. Add them to your must-visit list now.
Alabama: Orange Beach
Courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
A small beach community on the Gulf of Mexico, Orange Beach offers plentiful wildlife viewing opportunities from seabirds and songbirds on their migratory route to dolphins in the Gulf and sea turtles hatching in the fall. While in town, make time for a meal at Fisher’s, whose chef is a James Beard Award semi-finalist. Beach bums will want to check out the 10 best beaches in the United States.
Located in Alaska’s Inside Passage region, Skagway dates back to the late 1800s’ Klondike gold rush and is known for its wooden sidewalks with false-front shops and restaurants, many of which are historic structures. It also has an extensive trail system that begins just a few minutes from downtown that takers hikers to alpine lakes and waterfalls. For a great view, take the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad to the top of the mountain pass just north of town. Find out the best train rides to take across America.
Arkansas: Eureka Springs
Courtesy Lyn Mettler
Eureka Springs is one-of-a-kind with Victorian homes hugging cliff sides and an entire downtown on the National Register of Historic Places, and its 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 the famed Crescent Hotel and Spa that dates back to 1886. Don’t miss the most historic hotel in every state.
You’ll find the small town of Bisbee, Arizona right in the middle of the Mule Mountains about 90 miles southeast of Tucson. Built in 1888 for miners of copper and precious metals in the area, Bisbee’s preserved downtown with 19th-century architecture set against the backdrop of Arizona’s red mountains makes for a scene right out of a painting.
It doesn’t get much more charming than the seaside village of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California, just more than 100 miles south of San Francisco. Filled with homes straight out of a fairy tale, the community is ideal for biking. When visiting, lay your head at the former 1905 mansion now La Playa Carmel or the former motel now the hip Hotel Carmel—both just blocks from the ocean. A top stop is Tor House, the former home of poet Robinson Jeffers, which features a hand built stone tower with 360-degree ocean and village views.
Courtesy Visit Telluride
Located in the midst of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, Telluride is an Old West town built during Colorado’s Gold Rush. It’s set in a canyon surrounded nearly 360 degrees by mountains with the state’s largest free-falling waterfall in view. This popular ski resort offers a variety of outdoor activity in the warmer months, as well, with many hiking trails leading right from town. Hotel Telluride is a convenient spot close to town for an overnight stay and offers a free shuttle through Telluride.
LEE SNIDER PHOTO IMAGES/Shutterstock
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 and known as the Antiques Capital of Connecticut, antiquers will surely find plenty of treasures at the more than two dozen shops. Local favorite restaurants include Good News Cafe and Dottie’s Diner. Want to know more about how to antique? Here are secrets from the experts.
Delaware: New Castle
Filled with history, this riverside Delaware town established in 1651 boasts a self-described “Colonial chic” vibe with cobblestone streets, shops, restaurants, and historic homes and gardens. The site where William Penn landed in the New World, it’s also the city where Delaware voted to be independent from Pennsylvania. Top eats include shepherd’s pie at Jessop’s Tavern, Andouille meatloaf at Nora Lee’s French Quarter Bistro, and grown-up PB&Js at Penn’s Place.
Named the “Happiest, Healthiest City” for the third year in a row by a Gallup poll, it seems there’s more to Naples than just its charm. Known as a stylish Florida getaway with an upscale downtown filled with sidewalk cafes and tropical landscaping, white sand beaches, and miles of grand homes, this city along the Gulf of Mexico is also a vibrant arts community with multiple art galleries, a symphony, and cultural attractions.
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 town celebrates Oktoberfest in grand style each year and also has an annual Christkindlmarkt each holiday season. Helen is one of the small towns in the United States that will have you feeling like you hopped the pond. Find out the other American towns with a European vibe.
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. Make time to swim at Hana Beach Park, stroll through the Hasegawa General Store, and learn about the area’s history at the Hana Cultural Center & Museum. Here’s what to know before booking your Hawaiian vacation.
Courtesy Idaho Tourism
A former mining town, Wallace is located in northern Idaho and is surrounded by mountains, making it a great base for outdoor adventures. The Rail Trail Hall of Fame Route of the Hiawatha bike path and two ski areas are just a few miles away. 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 streets.
Courtesy Illinois Tourism
When you think of small town America, Galena is surely the prototype. Set along the Mississippi, Galena, where President Ulysses S. Grant once called home, is filled art galleries, antiques stores, and eclectic boutiques many within restored 19th-century structures. The area is also home to the U.S. Grant Museum, has top vineyards, and hosts Civil War re-enactments at nearby Apple River Fort State Historic Site each year. Here are even more amazing military battle re-enactments around the country.
Courtesy Town of Zionsville
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 baseball fields, playgrounds, and Eagle Creek, and local favorite restaurants and shops include Rosie’s Place for brunch, the Friendly Tavern for an Indiana breaded pork tenderloin sandwich, and Five Thirty Home for home decor.
Courtesy Iowa Tourism Office
Located in the northeastern part of the state, Decorah has a strong Norwegian heritage and hosts an annual Nordic Fest each summer. With beautiful outdoors, visitors can take advantage of its 11-mile bike trail that loops the community, see its 200-foot-tall waterfall, and fish in area trout streams. Decorah also has a bustling farmers’ market, Toppling Goliath Brewery and Seed Savers Exchange with heirloom gardens, historic orchards, and heritage livestock breeds.
Courtesy Kansas Tourism
The first home station on the Pony Express west of St. Joseph, Missouri, Marysville has a historic background. Visitors can still visit the station today. One of its most quirky features are the town’s black squirrels, which are best found at the city park. Other top attractions include Life Tile Murals, the Marshall County Historic Courthouse Museum, the Blue River Trail, and Alcove Spring.
Located in southwestern Kentucky, Paducah’s waterfront downtown with tree-lined brick streets and 19th-century architecture is bustling with life and culture with its art galleries, antique stores, performances spaces, and locally-owned cafés. Home to the National Quilt Museum, featuring a 320-piece collection of contemporary quilts with exhibits celebrating traditional quilt-making methods, Paducah is a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts & Folk Art.
Courtesy Louisiana Office of Tourism
The parish 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 of Thibodaux and boat tours along Bayou Lafourche, which serves as the area’s “Main Street” and is 100 miles long. Grab some fresh Cajun seafood at local favorite restaurants Spahr’s and Fremin’s.
Camden, Maine, is where the mountains meet the ocean, 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 these mountain towns that turn into storybook paradises in winter.
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 attractions like the Academy Art Museum, Avalon Theatre, and Third Haven Meeting House, stop by the newest park located on the Tuckahoe River, which was dedicated to abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who was born in the town 200 years ago. Find out more east coast towns locals want to keep secret.
Massachusetts: Shelburne Falls
Courtesy Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism
An area of ten rural towns in the western portion of Massachusetts, Shelburne Falls sits between picturesque New England farms and small-town Main Streets and lends a hint of quieter days gone by. Sherburne Falls’ Bridge of Flowers is a must-see covered with bulbs and buds from more than 120 species of flowers and trees. The sleepy town has also made its way to the big screen, serving as a backdrop for Labor Day and The Judge. Here are some more of the nicest small towns to visit in America.
Courtesy Pure Michigan
With vast German roots, Frankenmuth, known as “Michigan’s Little Bavaria,” is styled after a Bavarian village with lots of German and alpine architecture. The town has plenty of charming hotels and inns for visitors, the world’s largest Christmas store at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, a German-style shopping village, and even its own indoor water park for family fun. You might even come home with an authentic German cuckoo clock! These are the coolest indoor water parks across the country.
Courtesy Nisswa Chamber of Commerce
A popular summer vacation spot, Nisswa is located in the Brainerd Lakes area with many golf courses, resorts, restaurants, and a quaint downtown district with more than 50 shops and restaurants. When visiting, consider bunking up at Grand View Lodge. Spread over hundreds of acres, the iconic property offers a variety of private, luxury lodging options with cabins and villas dotting the shores of Gull Lake. A fun, not-to-miss event for all ages are the turtle races the hotel holds every Wednesday afternoon throughout the summer.
Courtesy Naples, Marco Island, Everglades CVB
Perched high above the Mississippi River with 30-mile views to both the north and south, Natchez is 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. The site of more antebellum homes than anywhere else in the United States and known as the “Biscuit Capital of the World,” Natchez, so named for its original Natchez Indian residents, was settled in 1716 and offers much history, including old churches, Jefferson College founded in 1802, and a cemetery dating to 1866.
Located right on 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. Check out the Carthage Civil War Museum, take the historic homes driving tour, and then grab a bag of burgers at Whistler’s Drive Up. Road tripping? Don’t miss the strangest roadside attraction in every state.
Set in view of the Cabinet Mountain Range and yet another part of Montana’s fantastic outdoors, Libby, which is located on the northwest side of the state, 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.
Nebraska: Scotts Bluff
Pioneers once traversed this small town as part of their journey along the Oregon Trail. Be sure to stop by Scott’s Bluff National Monument and Chimney Rock National Historic Site, a major landmark along the Oregon Trail, while you’re visiting. Scott’s Bluff, which was also on the Pony Express route, has plentiful ancient fossils of prehistoric animals along what is called the “Fossil Freeway” that runs between Nebraska’s Panhandle and The Black Hills of South Dakota.
Nevada: Boulder City
Courtesy Sydney Martinez/TravelNevada
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.
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 its 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 scenic journey, and try a bottle of Hermit Woods Winery’s Petit Blue, each bottle including an entire pound of wild blueberries.
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, dine outdoors at one of its many sidewalk cafes, and book an overnight stay at the Haddonfield Inn in a restored Victorian home. Love charming inns? Don’t miss the best bed and breakfast in every state.
New Mexico: Madrid
Bas van den Heuvel/Shutterstock
Madrid is a very small town along the scenic route called the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway, a 50-mile drive that links Albuquerque and Santa Fe. An artists’ community with galleries and local restaurants, everything is within walking distance in Madrid. Get a sense of the town’s mining history with a stop at the Mineshaft Tavern and the Coal Mine Museum.
New York: Skaneateles
Courtesy Wainwright Photography
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 been a vacation getaway for important political figures including President Teddy Roosevelt, President Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden for years with many staying at celeb-favorite Mirbeau Inn & Spa. Check out Doug’s Fish Fry, Lake House Pub, and Beak & Skiff Apple Orchard, and enjoy live music at the gazebo by the lake each summer.
North Carolina: New Bern
Courtesy Visit NC
New Bern, the adopted hometown of famed romance author, Nicholas Sparks, was settled by a Swiss baron three centuries ago. The town is full of history throughout its walkable downtown full of tree-shaded homes, centuries-old churches, and historic cemeteries. Make time for a visit to Tryon Palace, a historic site surrounded by gardens, and embark on a cruise of the Neuse and Trent rivers. Don’t miss the most iconic book set in every state.
North Dakota: Watford City
Courtesy © Chad Ziemendorf, ziemendorf.com
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. Another favorite activity is playing a round of golf at Fox Hills along the Lewis & Clark Golf Trail. Find out the craziest world record set in every state.
Courtesy Warren County Convention & Visitors Bureau and TourismOhio/Ohio.org
You’ll swear you stepped back in time in Lebanon, a southwest Ohio town known for its tree-lined downtown streets dotted with antique shops. The Golden Lamb, the state’s oldest continuously operating business, is a must-visit, offering a restaurant on the ground floor and historic rooms on the upper three floors named for famous visitors including Charles Dickens. The LM&M Railroad runs right through downtown, taking passengers on nostalgic countryside rides, and don’t miss The Village Ice Cream Parlor and Golden Turtle Chocolate Factory for a sweet treat.
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 at just 100 square feet! For a taste of the Old West, the town hosts gunfight re-enactments June through September.
Courtesy Holley McFee
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 the American cowboys and their horses by a native artist, as well as locally-made artisan chocolates, hand-crafted whiskey from Stein Distillery, and dining options like The Old Town Café that pay tribute to the Old West in Joseph’s historic downtown.
Pennsylvania: Jim Thorpe
The tiny town of Jim Thorpe offers fabulous views of surrounding mountain peaks within its Victorian architecture. Enjoy a scenic ride on the Lehigh Gorge Scenic Railway, which takes passengers along the nearby Lehigh River and Lehigh Gorge State Park. A fun stop for all ages is the Old Jail Museum, an 1870s jail that is rumored to be haunted. Ghost lovers will want to read on for the most haunted spots in America.
Rhode Island: Warren
courtesy Rhode Island Commerce Corporation
This coastal town in Rhode Island is rich in history with properties dating to the 1700s, including the Maxwell House, the earliest surviving brick home. It is known for its brickwork pattern, fieldstone foundation, and large central chimney. Be sure to try a coffee cabinet, the official drink of Rhode Island, at Delekta Pharmacy. This old-school soda shoppe, around since 1858, serves a popular version of the coffee-flavored milkshake.
South Carolina: Beaufort
If you’ve been to Charleston, South Carolina, envision Beaufort as a mini-version of this historic American city. Set along the Atlantic Ocean, Beaufort has its own Waterfront Park and plenty of moss-draped oaks, Civil War-era homes, and plantations and that genteel Southern setting of the South Carolina Lowcountry. It is the state’s second oldest city, founded in 1711, and is also the location of the only lighthouse in the state that visitors can still climb. Here are more small-town weekend getaways around the United States.
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 of South Dakota, it 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. Plus, nowhere else in the state can you take a ride on an 1880 Train or walk under real dinosaurs at the world-renowned The Museum at Black Hills Institute. Don’t miss these 11 best small-town festivals in America.
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Right at the entrance to America’s most popular national park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg is a mountain getaway with a lovely 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, the Sky Lift to take you high up for maximum views, and the mountain coaster to send you soaring back down. Plus, you’ve got nearby Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, home of Dolly Parton, with even more activities to fill your day.
If you love wine, don’t miss this small town that’s 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 optimal nighttime star viewing. In town, you’ll find more than 150 shops, boutiques, art galleries, restaurants, and wine tasting rooms, along with three museums.
If hiking Zion National Park is on your bucket list, the nearby town of Kanab makes a charming spot to stay overnight in 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. The fastest growing tourism destination in Utah, Kanab is also home to the largest animal sanctuary in the United States. These 10 National Parks are so off-the-beaten-path, they’re practically secret.
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 to leaf-peeping, swimming in secret waterfalls, kayaking, or river tubing during the warmer months. Relax at Kimpton Taconic hotel where guests can request in-room spa treatments, practice yoga, and even turn in their cellphones at check-in to fully disconnect. Find out the best natural swimming pool in every state.
Courtesy Warren Faught
You’ll find the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s indoor theater at the 300-seat Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. The town, which is also home to the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, is set in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and has a mix of opportunities to explore the outdoors with cultural offerings. It’s known for its vibrant music and arts’ scene, as well as a culinary destination and plenty of shopping along its classic Main Street.
Courtesy Washington's Playground
With a population just shy of 2,000, 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 of the Cascade Mountain Range in the background. The town is known for its quality breweries and wineries, as well as many mountain hiking trails, and is the perfect spot to enjoy a cool brew with a pretzel. Like to hike? Check out America’s most stunning hiking trails.
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, but that also holds even more places in U.S. history. 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 served as a retreat center for seven presidents and Mark Twain.
A planned community developed in 1912, the Village of Kohler is named for the Kohler Company based there, which is a manufacturer of kitchen and bath appliances. Also home to the upscale American Club resort, in a 100-year-old building which once served as a residence for immigrants who worked for the company, the village has now become a popular tourist destination for those looking for a relaxing and luxurious getaway.
Courtesy Cody Yellowstone Country
Founded by Buffalo Bill Cody, Cody, Wyoming, is a quirky destination with rock formations with descriptive names like “Laughing Pig Rock” and the Cody Trolley Tour that tells stories of unsolved murders. It’s also a popular home base for those visiting nearby Yellowstone National Park. A must-do is 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, as well as watching the campy nightly gunfighter show. Next, read on for the 50 American small towns known for the weirdest things.