Quick! Picture the best small town that could ever exist. What does it have? Are there little houses that are multi-colored, or is there a small river that cuts right through the middle? The answer to that question depends on the person and what they enjoy. Some people will imagine a town that has tons of hiking opportunities while another may want a little place with the best bakeries in America.
Buffalo was once the hiding grounds for famous outlaws like Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, and the Sundance Kid. Now, those people are long gone, but the town still has a lot to offer. There is a hotel that’s over 130 years old, where Teddy Roosevelt once stayed. Along with other fascinating museums, Buffalo is also a great place for bluegrass music (and the occasional fiddle contest).
Montpelier is everything you can think of when you think “New England town.” It has the best architecture that embodies everything you could picture in your head. It’s also home to the New England Culinary Institute, so visitors often flock to Montpelier for its diverse cuisine. During the winter, Montpelier also has snowshoeing, ice fishing, ice climb, skiing, and so much more.
Sitka was formerly the capital of Russian Alaska, already giving it a little charm that other cities lack. While looking at the town from the coastline, you can see a smattering of multi-colored buildings that’s almost reminiscent of Cinque Terra in Italy. Because Sitka the ancestral home of the Tlingit peoples, captured by Russians, and sold to Americans, the town carries a legacy of each culture, making it an incredibly unique experience for visitors.
Garrison, North Dakota
Garrison is the best location to relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s called the “Walleye Capital of the World” because the city has great fishing locations. During the winter, the town turns into a Victorian village during the annual Dickens Village Festival. All of Garrison looks like it’s straight out of Dickens’ works.
Deadwood, South Dakota
Many people flock to Deadwood because of the casino gambling opportunities, but this small town is so much more. The town is surrounded by secluded forests that turn into snowmobile tracks during the winter. It also just started up a festival called Deadweird, a Halloween event that embraces all things odd and spooky.
New Castle, Delaware
Delaware is pretty small, so it’s hard to imagine an even smaller town in the state. Clearly, you haven’t seen New Castle. This charming little town is where William Penn landed when he came to the Americas. It was originally settled in 1651, and those who live there painstakingly take care of the old architecture to ensure it’ll be around for generations to come.
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
New Shoreham is the smallest town in Rhode Island (an already tiny state), but the population explodes during the summer as tourists flock to its many beaches. There are 17 total miles of beaches and even more freshwater ponds for water-lovers. Downtown, there’s delicious food and laid-back bars. The art scene is also pretty spectacular, especially North Light Fibers for alpaca, camel, and yak-wool knitted clothing.
Whitefish was named one of the “Top 25 Ski Towns in the World” by National Geographic, so we’re already off to a good start. The resort town is nestled in the Rocky Mountains and is remarkably beautiful. Visitors can ski there, but there’s also Glacier National Park and sandy City Beach, which have plenty of picnic areas. Downtown features excellent shops and eateries, as well.
Kennebunkport is a popular summer retreat, but it’s also a very charming small town. The beaches are relaxing, but the Dock Square is where it’s it. This area has tons of souvenir shops that are one-of-a-kind and the seafood? Words can’t even describe how good it tastes.
Littleton, New Hampshire
Littleton is beautiful, sure, but that’s not why many people visit the town. The real reason is because of Chutters. The shop title may not seem appetizing, but it’s home to the world’s longest candy counter. There’s 112 feet of candies and treats for visitors to purchase. Littleton also has one of America’s oldest ski shops and historic lodgings that are a must-see.
Hilo is a small town, but it has a big reputation. It’s home to the famous Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, where the sand was created when lava flowed toward the ocean and cooled. Downtown has even more to offer from wooden storefronts and mouth-watering restaurants. Many people also visit Hilo for the Wailuku Rivero State Park, where Rainbow Falls creates an array of colorful mist you won’t see anywhere else.
Thomas, West Virginia
Saying that Thomas has history doesn’t even touch how much history is scattered throughout. Walking around the sidewalks, you’ll be able to visit more than 50 homes and sites that are on the National Historic Register. Even though the town only has around 550 people, downtown is still pretty busy, with great antique shops and delicious food.
Sun Valley, Idaho
Sun Valley has to be an amazing place to visit as it’s attracted artists from all over the world, including famous author Ernest Hemingway. This mountain town has one of the best ski resorts in the country, but there’s more than just that. It’s home to delicious food, great breweries, and incredible art galleries.
If you’re a Wild West fan, you have to visit Ogallala, Nebraska. This town transport you back to the olden days when saloons were the place to be and railroads reigned supreme. If you aren’t a fan of the historical west, Lake Ogallala has plenty of birdwatching spots, a nesting site for Canadian Geese, and Clear Creek. That being said, visitors have to stop at Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge for a bite to eat.
Taos, New Mexico
Taos is a definite hidden gem, located at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The small town has been inhabited for over a thousand years, and much of the historic adobe architecture still stands. Because of its location, it has tons of culture, both Hispanic and Native American. The many museums and art galleries feature region artwork that you can’t see elsewhere.
Lindsborg, aka “Little Sweden USA,” should be on everyone’s radar. Throughout the city, there are colorful dala, or Swedish horse figurines, which turns into a little scavenger hunt if you pick up a flag at the Lindsborg Convention and Visitors Bureau. Lindsborg also has several Swedish heritage festivals, including the Messiah Festival of the Arts, Midsummer’s Festival, and the Svensk Hyllningsfest.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Ocean Springs stood out to us because of the art and culinary scene. While strolling the streets, visitors can admire the classic, historical cottages and various galleries. There’s also the delicious food with a blossoming foodie scene. Ocean Springs is more than shopping, too. There’s also birdwatching, fishing, and hiking – there’s something for everyone!
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Eureka Springs is a small town that attracts tourists from all over. It’s a Victorian village with unique shops and a 500-acre wildlife refuge, but a huge attraction is the Crescent Hotel. The hotel has gained the reputation of being the “most haunted hotel in America.” Driving through its winding streets feels like you’ve been transported to another time.
Virginia City, Nevada
Don’t be fooled by the name – this town isn’t in Virginia. Virginia City was once a major mining town, but that was a long time ago. Now, it’s known as being one of the most haunted spots in the nation. Three of the most popular stops include the Washoe Club, Silver Queen Hotel, and Silver Terrace Cemetery. Virginia City is also home to the Rocky Mountain Oyster Fry festival, so that’s a…bonus?
While Iowa’s “Little Switzerland” often gets all the love, we think Decorah beats all those small towns. Decorah is home to an annual Nordic Fest, which celebrates the customs and cultures of Scandinavian countries over the whole weekend. Decorah also has the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum and the famous Seed Savers Exchange. This small town definitely wins.
Kanab has a lot to offer anyone willing to visit, and who wouldn’t want to? It’s gained the reputation of “Little Hollywood” because so many westerns have been filmed in the small town. It also has the largest animal sanctuary in the United States. Finally, it’s close to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park, Lake Powell, and Zion National Park.
When you think of a sweet small town, you’re probably thinking of something like Essex, complete with big hydrangeas and white picket fences. Since it’s Connecticut, it naturally has all the seafood you can eat, along with plenty of fishing opportunities. When visiting, you can always stay at Griswold Inn, which is one of the oldest inns in America.
Medicine Park, Oklahoma
Medicine Park is nearly hidden from the world, so it’s easy to miss. The town is located in the Wichita Mountains and was founded in 1908. The land was quickly turned into a resort with a swimming hole and cobblestone walkways. Medicine Park is also close to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, so visiting here is like a two-in-one.
Jacksonville is an overwhelmingly popular small town. Not only is it historic, but the town also pays homage to local artists with the Britt Music & Arts Festival. It’s also a gateway to the Applegate Valley Wine Trail, so getting a good glass of red or white is easy. It’s no surprise Jacksonville has been referred to as one of America’s “coolest small towns.”
Paducah is really remarkable for a big reason: it’s a UNESCO Creative City of Crafts and Folk Art. This is an honor that’s only been given to nine places in the United States, so we can say without a doubt that this is one of the most creative places in America. It also has a booming foodie scene, which often repurposes old, historic buildings for a little history with a good meal.
St. Francisville, Louisiana
St. Francisville has serious history. One of the town’s biggest attractions is The Myrtles Plantation, which dates back to the 18th century, and is home to home of the most haunted houses in America. Thankfully (for those of you who hate ghosts), that isn’t all the town has to offer. The Afton Villa Gardens also attracts a lot of visitors, especially the daffodil-studded hedges.
Magnolia Springs, Alabama
Magnolia Springs is a beautiful little town with a river the cuts right through the middle of it. It’s also like Alabama’s own little Venice since mail is delivered by motorboat. It gets its name from the magnolia trees, which creates a canopy along the river. The town also has a town meeting that’s been around for over 100 years, and it still meets once a month.
Newberry, South Carolina
Newberry the epitome of southern friendliness and has been called the “City of Friendly Folks.” Other than nice townies, Newberry has a winery where rocking chairs replaced regular ones and world-class dining experiences. It also has a historic Opera House and architecture that will fill up your camera in no time.
Biwabik isn’t easy to say, but it’s easily the best small town in Minnesota. Biwabik is a peaceful place to get a little R&R. It even inspired the children’s book Honk, the Moose! Many people embrace nature when in the sleepy town, while others prefer to tour the architecture, which was inspired by Bavarian and Scandinavian designs.
Telluride has been voted the best small town to visit by several sources, including US News & World Report. It’s easy to see why. Once an old west mining town, Telluride hasn’t changed much at all. It’s surrounded by mountains and has a huge waterfall that’s visible from the town. Many people visit to ski, but the warmer months have tons of other outdoor activities. Anyone in Telluride should also visit the historical museum, which was an old hospital that dates back to 1896.
Mineral Point, Wisconsin
Mineral Point is one of the oldest cities in the state. Those who visit are shocked by how well-preserved the buildings are – it’s almost like they have no concept of time. The antique shops are great, but the restaurants are another huge draw. They pay homage to the Cornish founders and offer plenty of strange (but delicious) pastries and figgyhobbin.
No, not Berlin, Germany, but Berlin, Maryland. Once deemed the “Coolest Small Town in America” by Budget Travel, this little town looks sleepy, but it’s far from it. There are plenty of shopping opportunities, restaurants, and it’s less than 10 miles from Ocean City. It gives you a small-town vibe while being minutes from the big city.
Hannibal is famous for a big reason: Mark Twain. Twain, real name Samuel Clemens, lived in Hannibal as a boy, and the little town really embraced it with a memorial and landmarks scattered throughout. There’s also the annual Tom Sawyer Days Festival, which occurs at the beginning of July.
New Harmony, Indiana
New Harmony was an attempt to create a utopia in Indiana. While it didn’t turn out how the founders wanted, New Harmony still became a very nice small town. It’s known for its Roofless Church and the Cathedral Labyrinth, where visitors must make it through a hedge maze before they can see the cathedral in the center.
No, not Paris, France, although it would be easy to be confused! In Paris, Tennessee, there’s a 70-foot replica of the famous Eiffel Tower. Of course, this is a huge draw, but this town offers so much more. Paris has delicious wines and hosts the World’s Biggest Fish Fry – a southern tradition everyone should try at least once.
Nantucket is one of the larger towns on the list, but we had to mention it. The seaport of Nantucket lies 26 miles south of Cape Cod, so it’s a popular spot for tourists. Why? The cobblestone streets, fascinating architecture, great shops, and so much more. The island was referred to as the “Little Grey Lady of the Sea” by sailors, and National Geographic ranked it as one of the world’s best islands.
Bisbee may be easy to miss, but it’s worth stopping by. It was built in the 1800s for copper miners, but now it’s so much more. The town embraced arts, so local artisans are happy to display their works in many of Bisbee’s galleries. The eccentric murals and towering red mountains make the town look as though it’s straight out of a painting.
La Conner, Washington
Love flowers? Check out La Conner. It hosts the popular Daffodil Festival, mostly because it’s the largest producer of tulips, iris, and daffodil bulbs in the United States. Every spring, thousands of flowers bloom all over the county, which looks astonishing with Mt. Backer as the backdrop. La Conner is also pretty famous for needlecraft and quilt stores.
Technically, Bristol sits smack-dab in the middle of Virginia and Tennessee, but we’re counting it as Virginia. This town has tons to offer any art-lover. It’s home to the Smithsonian-affiliated Birthplace of Country Music Museum, and local bands are known to play music all night long. Bristol also has tons of art galleries and theatrical performances, so it’s no surprise it’s been designated an Arts & Entertainment District.
Cape May, New Jersey
Beach towns follow the same sort of mold, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Cape May, however, does not (in a good way). This small town feels unique and elegant, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t tons of things to do. Visitors get to enjoy touring vineyards, fine dining, and strolling to admire the Victorian architecture.
Saugatuck used to be a big lumber town and port, but that was ages ago. Now, it’s one of the most charming places in Michigan. Many tourists flock to Saugatuck because of Oval Beach, but there’s so much more the town can offer. From art galleries to historic tours, this town seemingly has it all.
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Ocracoke Island is another great place for those that crave something scary. The Ocracoke Island Ghost & History Tour goes over everything you need to know about the Island from Blackbeard to the Green Ghost on Howard Street. For those that aren’t a fan of ghosts, Cape Hatteras National Seashore may seem like a better attraction as you can often spot a few wild ponies roaming the area!
We had to choose Helen for a few reasons. Visiting this small town makes you feel as though you’re suddenly in Europe (without ever needing a passport). Helen has cobblestone streets, Bavarian architecture, and German-inspired restaurants. Not to mention, this town also has huge events like Oktoberfest and Christkindlmarkt.
Marietta is already well-known in one community: the riverboat community. Every year, Marietta celebrates the invention with the Sternwheel Festival. Naturally, the town has plenty of historic museums to learn all about the boats, but it also has lively music halls, shops, and art galleries.
Illinois has a few good options, but we chose Alton. It was Miles Davis’s hometown and is known for its limestone bluffs. Located on the river, the town is a great place to see eagles. In fact, it’s one of the best places in the United States to see the national bird. Alton is also one of the most haunted small towns in America – spooky!
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Few locations in America take Halloween as seriously as Jim Thorpe – the town, anyway. This charming small town is located in the Pocono Mountains and goes full throttle during the spooky holiday, just as leaves are blanketing the roads. Jim Thorpe is also home to some of the most diverse architecture in the United States – from Queen Anne to Greek Revival.
Skaneateles, New York
From celebrities to former presidents, everyone loves Skaneateles. This small town has tons of live performances and delicious farm-to-table restaurants that will make you want to live there. There are also tour boat cruises, a racetrack, and beautiful waterfalls to soothe your soul. Finally, Skaneateles hosts tons of festivals and art shows, so check them out if you visit!
Florida is a huge tourist destination, but there are tons of small towns that haven’t been touched if you look hard enough. Matlacha is one of those. Locals refer to it as “Old Florida,” basically what the state was like before Disney landed. It’s hard not to be inspired in Matlacha due to the numerous art galleries, Floridian cottages, and delicious food.
Fredericksburg is a wine-lovers haven. The town is in the middle of Texas wine country, and you’ll pass 40 wineries with tasting rooms as you drive from Fredericksburg to Johnson City (about a 30-minute drive). Other than that, this small town also has blooming periwinkle and magenta wildflowers that go beyond being “Instagramable.” Couple that with Texas BBQ, and we think we found heaven.
California is huge with plenty of quaint towns, but one stands out – Carmel. It’s officially known as Carmel-by-the-Sea, which fits its fairytale-like vibe. It literally has cottages with moss-covered roofs! Since it’s California, it naturally has wineries, but it also has tons of art and shopping opportunities as well as one of the best beaches in America.