The 39 Best Small Towns in America to Visit in 2016

If you’ve had the chance to visit some of the large cities in the United States, like New York City, Los Angeles, Miami or Atlanta, you know how busy and exciting these cities can be, but with millions of people, there is congestion and traffic to deal with, long wait lines, and expensive parking.  In addition, there are so many things to do in a big city, that if you’re there for a weekend, it can be overwhelming to select just a few activities to do.

There is a whole other side of America to explore and they are the small towns that are interspersed throughout the country.  They range from a few hundred to several thousand in population. They are located in the foothills of the mountains, in the dessert, near the coastline, and exist all the way from the eastern to the western coast.

Every small town has their own unique characteristics, their own individuality, culture and cuisine.  If you need a break from the hustle and bustle of where you live or you are just looking for a little adventure, a small town can give you the freedom to explore at your own pace, relax and enjoy different surroundings.

Some small towns have become well known across the country for their cuisine, wine or brewing distilleries.  You’ll find wonderful and tantalizing food creations, created by accomplished and creative chefs. For example, Rockland, ME is considered the birthplace of where the farm- to-table movement started.  Or, If you have never foraged for food in the forest looking for edible food items, then visit Weaverville, NC where you can have the food you just picked, cooked by one of the restaurants in town.

In small town America, we are reminded of the times when mom and pop stores were scattered throughout town and a Cola costed a dime.  We remember that there are some things from the past that are still worth learning about and understanding.  In some ways, we have the chance to briefly experience a simpler way of living.

Here’s a curated list of the best small towns in American, selected from submissions from our audience.

Border
The Midwest Region extends north and west from the Ohio River to west of the Mississippi River.  It includes the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.  The region’s fertile soil makes it possible for farmers to produce abundant harvests of crops such as corn, wheat, soybeans, oats and barley.  The region has become known as the nation’s “breadbasket.” (Source:  U.S. Department of State)

Border

Excelsior, MN

What makes your town Unique:  This lovely town is only twenty miles from Downtown Minneapolis.  Water Street in downtown Excelsior have restaurants and quaint shops that sell everything from antiques to art supplies.  True to its name, Water Street also leads to the Excelsior Bay on Lake Minnetonka, where visitors can rent kayaks or paddle boards, have ice cream from Tommy’s Trolley or charter the majestic Queen of Excelsior to cruise Lake Minnetonka.

The village of Excelsior makes an effort to maintain its historical identity and many of the buildings on Water Street date back to the 19th century.  In fact, Water Street was voted as one of the “16 Best Main Streets in America” by Parade Magazine in 2014.  Excelsior is also the home to two operating streetcars that were in service from 1954-1998,

Angela Doyle, Founder of Free Generation Naturals
Free Generation Naturals

Border

Menomonie, WI


What makes your town Unique:  Menomonie is a lazy but beautiful tree town with plenty of things to do outdoors.  This close knit community is active, especially during the summer, which is busy with community-based activities (such as Music in the Park, Summer Daze, the Farmer’s Market, the bike races, and more). The University of Wisconsin-Stout is a nationally-celebrated art school and there is a thriving art community in town. The downtown area is historic and well-maintained and the crime rate is practically undetectable.

“I am constantly in awe of how gorgeous the landscape is around Menomonie.”

Menomonie is located in the Driftless region.  This is an area that dates back to the last ice age when the ice sheets carved out the landscape and deposited minerals, rocks, and seeds; one of the reasons that the wildlife in Menomonie is so diverse and beautiful.

Chelsea
Casual Panache, Inc.

Border

Chesterton, IN

What makes your town Unique: Chesterton is a beautiful small town with a historic downtown full of wonderful shops as well as restaurants like Octave Grill, which is famous for its gourmet grass-fed burgers, and Lucrezia, a renowned Italian restaurant.

The Westchester Township History Museum (the Brown Mansion) in Chesterton offers visitors a chance to learn about the history of the town.  You may want to take a walking tour of the town and then head to downtown Chesterton where there is a park and gazebo. Enjoy a picnic lunch, attend regular events and on Saturdays from May to October; browse Chesterton’s European Market for fresh produce, baked goods and artisan products.

Ken Kosky, Promotions Director
Indiana Dunes Tourism

Border

Valparaiso, IN

What makes your town Unique:   Valparaiso is located in northwest Indiana.  Just like any small town, downtown Valparaiso has plenty of small town charm.  Enjoy a park that hosts concerts, events and an open-air market with food trucks, fresh produce and artisan goods each Tuesday and Saturday in the summer. There are eight walking tours in Valparaiso and people can visit the city’s website to print the tours and see the wonderful architecture, art and greenery of the city.

In addition, Valparaiso’s thriving restaurant scene includes the famous Don Quijote Restaurant, where people come from all around for authentic Spanish food, as well as the farm-to-fork Valley Kitchen & Bar.  Other locations to visit are the Indiana Sand Dunes and the Kankakee River or watch a movie at the 49’er Drive-in Theater or try Indiana’s famous, Valpo Velvet Ice Cream.

Ken Kosky, Promotions Director
Indiana Dunes Tourism

Border

Put-in-Bay, OH

What makes your town Unique:  This island’s unique location is in the western basin of Lake Erie where its limestone foundation was carved from glaciers made thousands of years ago.  Plan a visit to Put-in-Bay just to observe the beauty of the Great Lakes scenery.  It’s worth it!  The easiest and most affordable way to get to the island is by taking the Miller Ferry.

Put-in-Bay lays claim to one of best foodie scenes in the Midwest!  Packed with waterfront restaurants, taverns and brewpubs serving local Lake Erie flavor, there are plenty of spots for visitors to stake their claim.  Many visitors visit The Boardwalk, where you’ll find a variety of food places to tease every appetite, listen to music, and enjoy the views of the harbor while dining on the upper deck.

Located in the downtown area of Put-in-Bay, a casual and fun place to visit (for those over 21) is the tiki bar called Mojito Bay. They’re well-known for their specialty drink, the Mojito.  The Roundhouse Bar is another island staple that has been serving libations since 1888.  Although located in Ohio, you’ll notice that the town has a really mellow, almost Caribbean style vibe that’s very unique to the region.

For the outdoorsy types, there’s kayaking through limestone cliffs, gorgeous swimming beaches, stand up paddle boarding, parasailing, guided fishing trips, camping and tons of other nature related activities.

Chad Whaley, Communications Director
Green Door Mediaworks

Border

 

The West South Central Region includes the states of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.  The climate in this region ranges from hot and humid to dry and arid.  The climate in Louisiana can feel semi-tropical, compared to east Texas with the rolling, green hills and the Great Plains to the west.  The magnificent Ozark Mountains near the border of northern Arkansas and Oklahoma are slightly cooler than the rest of the region, but the driest area is along the Rio Grande.

 

Border

Fredericksburg, TX

What makes your town Unique:  When visiting Fredericksburg, TX, you’ll find a wonderful blend of Texas hospitality and German tradition.  German pioneers brought their unique customs and traditions when they settled in Fredericksburg 160 years ago and the town proudly honors both cultures.  Located approximately 1 ½ hours from San Antonio and Austin’s airports, this small town will charm you as soon as you arrive.  With slightly less than 11,000 residents, Fredericksburg has many of the attractions of larger cities.  Enjoy shopping, dining, picking peaches, or check out a real wildflower farm at Wildseed Farms. Take a walk on a beautiful walking trail or create your own custom wildflower bouquets. However you spend the day, you’re guaranteed to be impressed by more than 1,000 acres of beautiful wildflower blooms.

The Enchanted Rock State Area is a great place to walk, hike or camp.  What makes Enchanted Rock so unusual is that it is a large volcanic rock that is in the middle of “Hill Country.” It’s called “Enchanted Rock” because it sounds like it moans and groans during the summer nights (the heat during the day causes it to expand and the coolness at night causes it to contract).  It’s also a great place to see beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Visit one of the many wineries in Fredericksburg.  You’ll love browsing and taste testing wine in the spacious Fredericksburg Winery, which was named by USA Today as one of the “Top Three Wineries in Texas.”

Border

Jefferson, TX

What makes your town Unique:   With its brick streets, horse drawn carriages, wrought iron railings, and abundance of Greek revival architecture, a visit to Jefferson, Texas can make you feel like you’ve stepped onto a New Orleans movie set in the late 1800’s.

The town’s resemblance to the “Big Easy” is not a figment of your imagination, but a true part of its heritage. In fact, Jefferson has so much in common with New Orleans that it’s often called the “Little Easy.” The city has been celebrating Mardi Gras for over 100 years!

Jefferson hosts several festivals throughout the year, however there is plenty to see and do in this cute little town.  If you’re strolling through the downtown historic district, don’t forget to pop into the Jefferson General Store where a good cup of coffee costs a mere nickel!

Tui Snider, Author/Speaker
Unexpected Texas

Border

Marfa, TX

What makes your town UniqueMarfa developed into an art-mecca in the 1970’s when famous New York minimalist artist, Donald Judd, moved to the town and started installing his art.  The town has grown to accommodate other artists, creating one of the most unique, culturally beautiful towns in the South.  For example, take a look at the unique Prada Art installation.  Although the art structure has changed over the years, it’s been very popular and in recent years has taken social media by storm.

Marfa is about an hour from the stunningly beautifully Big Bend National Park which offers day hikes, scenic drives and river trips.  For photographers, there are several perfect locations to photograph the vast, desert landscape for striking photos, especially around sunset.

Megan Wells
Praetorian Digital
https://twitter.com/MegaPixels22

Border

The South Atlantic Region consists of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.  The mild temperatures in this region make it a popular destination for retirees.  For those who enjoy walking along the beach, you’ll have plenty of beautiful coastlines to choose from.  This region receives a healthy dose of rain and without any frost to worry about; tropical crops can be grown easily in this region.

 

Border

Asheville, NC

What makes your town Unique:   Asheville is the hub of art and culture nestled within the natural beauty of the Appalachian Mountains which is a major draw of this beautiful town.  The French Broad River runs through Asheville.  Many people come here to find adventure or relaxation on the river.  The best part is that you’re never far from being able to view the amazing vistas.

Asheville has a long and storied history of tourists who originally came to Asheville for the restorative qualities of the air and the healing waters of the Sulphur Springs discovered just west of town.  Today, people also flock here for the vibrant arts community.

There are endless galleries in both downtown and in the newly revitalized River Arts District.  There are also street musicians and free community concerts to hear along as you stroll through town. The foodie culture and craft beer and cocktail scene are part of the local art as well!

Stephanie Sharp
Mosaic Community Lifestyle Realty

Border

Athens, GA

What makes your town Unique:  It’s been over two decades since Athens, GA burst onto the music scene with the legendary B-52’s, R.E.M. and Widespread Panic and the vibe is still as energetic as ever.  There are literally hundreds of bands that currently call Athens home, playing jazz, classical, blues, country, hip hop, rock and every kind of alternative genre.

The creative energy that these artists bring through Athens makes it a place where individuals can freely express themselves through beautiful melodies and lyrics; and this is what makes Athens such a beautiful place to visit.

Khyra Walker, PR Coordinator
Athens Convention & Visitors Bureau
Border

Weaverville, NC

What makes your town Unique:  Weaverville has a population of 10k and is 15-25 minutes from Asheville.  This region located in the Blue Ridge Mountains has the greatest diversity of ecosystems in the temperate world.   While Weaverville moves at a slightly slower pace than Asheville, you’ll find unique shops and restaurants specific to Weaverville.

Weaverville’s amazing landscape and beauty is easily seen as you travel along on the Blue Ridge Parkway, also known as “America’s Favorite Drive”.  Along with the close proximity of Asheville’s urban attractions, you’ll find why Weaverville makes the perfect small town.

If you like food and are looking for a truly unique food experience, then try this wild food tour company, No Taste Like Home.  Internationally known, they specialize in “u-pick, forage-to-table” adventures.  On your “woodland shopping spree, you’ll gather edible wild plants, mushrooms and other cuisine.”  After your group has filled their baskets with wild food from the woods and meadows, your basket of goodies will then be prepared by one of six Asheville restaurants who the company partners with.

Alan Muskat, CEO- Chief Edutainment Officer
No Taste Like Home

Border

Duck, NC

What makes your town Unique: Hunters and gatherers have been flocking to this area since the 1800’s for its abundant waterfowl; thus, why the town is called Duck. This family beach destination is located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, a 130-mile stretch of four barrier islands, shaped by wind and water, and connected by the elements.

This resort town has an impressive reputation for great beaches, water sports, outdoor adventures, first-class events including a nationally-known Jazz Festival, summer-long music series, fine dining, and eclectic shopping.  Bounded by the Currituck Sound to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, visitors delight in great kayaking, jet skiing, fishing, and much more.

Many of the local beaches are considered some of the best in the nation.  They are usually private, but there are great shell collecting opportunities, especially in the off-season when the pickings are flush. Some local restaurants offer open air dining and most of the town’s shops and restaurants are connected by the Duck Trail that runs the entire length of the town parallel to Highway 12 or by the Soundside Boardwalk which offers premium views of Currituck Sound.

Despite phenomenal growth over the past few years, Duck still feels like a charming resort town. The 500 permanent residents are tucked in among some of the Outer Banks most gorgeous and extravagant vacation homes. Regardless of where you’re staying in Duck, be sure to spend some time exploring the Duck Town Park and its many amenities including the boardwalk, walking trails, and fun rentals. With this many things to do, you won’t be disappointed.

Martin Armes
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau

Border

Sanford, FL

What makes your town Unique:  What makes Sanford, Florida unique and different from other Florida towns, besides its green foliage, stunning architecture and charming atmosphere, are the businesses and recreational activities that make up Sanford.

Lined along the streets in Sanford are live Oak trees with hanging Spanish moss.  As you’re walking along the Oak trees, you’ll see St.John’s River meandering through town, along with Lake Monroe.  There’s a popular Riverwalk along the waterfront, cobblestone streets and brick sidewalks, family owned restaurants, small boutiques, and big old Victorian-style homes.

Take a visit to The Imperial Wine Bar and Beer Garden. By day it is known as a furniture store (Washburn Imports), but at night, it transforms into an eclectic bar from Tues-Sat starting at 5:00 p.m.

Central Florida’s emerging craft beer scene is evidenced by its robust growth in the Downtown Sanford area. The location is home to a variety of breweries, including the Hourglass Brewery, Wop’s Brewing Company, Celery City Craft and Sanford Brewing Company.

Visitors can enjoy each of these venues at their own pace, or take part in a pub crawl-aboard the 15-person LimoCycle, a tandem bicycle that is perfect for large groups or anyone that is looking for an extra thrill in their night out. The peddle-propelled LimoCycle tour features “Pub Crawls” through Sanford’s historic district.  The tours wheel through the Riverwalk and Downtown Marina area and best of all; beer and wine are allowed on board!

For dinner, Sanford is home to a variety of international restaurants. People can enjoy authentic Gemuetlichkeit, the German expression that means well-being and happiness associated with enjoying good company while savoring food and drink at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café in Sanford.  Dine and cruise on the St. Johns Rivership aboard the Barbara-Lee, an authentic paddlewheel ship that hosts lunch, dinner and specialty cruises on Lake Monroe and up the St. Johns River.

 Mary Jane Kolassa, Public Relations Account Director
Paradise- A Strategic Creative Advertising, Digital & Entertainment Company

Border

Gulfport, FL

What makes your town Unique:  Known as a funky, eclectic, artsy town, Gulfport can be described as a sleepy beach town where great people live, great shopping exists and great food is easily attainable.  “Make yourself at home,” is how Gulfport wants you to feel when you arrive in town.

While Gulfport is a small, beach town, they have quite a few things to do while in town. The stores along the waterfront village are independently owned and operated which adds to the “Old Florida” charm you experience while visiting here.  Ride a trolley bus through town for free.  Once you get to the intersection of Beach and Shore Boulevards, known as the “heart of historic downtown,” you’ll have easy access to viewing the beautiful Boca Ciega Bay.

Looking for overnight accommodations?  Then check out one of the bed and breakfasts in this quiet, little town, where you’ll be greeted with “Gulfport-style hospitality.”  Ride a trolley bus through town for free.

Ana Rojas, Comfy Commuter
VisitGulfPortFlorida.com

Border

Charlottesville, VA

What makes your town Unique:  In addition to our historical attractions such as Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Highland, James Madison’s Montpelier as well as Mr. Jefferson’s University of Virginia, the Charlottesville area features a vibrant downtown, a gorgeous pedestrian mall lined with small shops, wide array of restaurants, an art gallery, and even an indoor ice park.

It’s also renowned for its splendid culinary scene.  Foodies can indulge at our 30+ wineries, artisanal cideries, craft breweries and distilleries, not to mention the many formidable restaurants featuring local products. Outdoor enthusiasts will rejoice when exploring our miles and miles of trails, enjoying water sports, golf, and so much more.

Brigitte Bélanger-Warner, Director of Sales & Marketing
CACVB (Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Border

Manassas, VA

What makes your town Unique:  Explore the historic train depot and climb aboard an old caboose and take a picture in front of our infamous LOVE sign. Start your tour of this quaint historical town by stopping by the Manassas Museum to learn more about the pivotal role Manassas played during the Civil War. Grab a pint of craft beer at Heritage Brewing Company or Bad-Wolf Brewing Company. Want something with a little more punch? Get your spirits up with a whiskey and gin tasting at KO Distilling.

We think that the best way to experience Historic Downtown Manassas is to grab a cup of coffee from Jirani Coffeehouse, across from the historic train depot, and walk around to take in the charming aesthetic. Shop at a variety of boutiques and shops like Allyssa Bryn, a high-end women’s accessories and clothing store or the Manassas Olive Oil Company.  For a bite to eat, choose from a selection of independent restaurants like Okra’s Louisiana Bistro or CJ Finz Raw Bar and Grille.  Historic Downtown Manassas contains an eclectic blend of history and culture making it the perfect small town for visitors in search of a unique travel destination.

Nicole Warner, Marketing & Communications Specialist
Discover Prince William & Manassas
Border

Occoquan, VA

What makes your town Unique:  The true beauty of this town is its thriving shopping district of local shops that attract thousands of visitors each year. Historic Occoquan which used to be a former mill town, has over 60 vibrant shops and restaurants.  Walk through the streets exploring the art galleries, jewelry stores, and gourmet treats, along the Occoquan River that meanders right outside the shops and restaurants.

Start your visit off at the Mill House Museum, the only remaining part of Merchant’s Mill that was destroyed in the fire of 1924.  Then indulge in a free wine tasting at Tastefully Yours, which is in the oldest home in Occoquan dating back to 1750!  Interested in freshening up with a mani/pedi/facial, then try the Dansk Day Spa where you’ll experience a true, unique Scandinavian experience.  For dinner head on over to the Secret Garden Café or feast on seafood at Madigan’s Waterfront. Travel back to a European village at Cock & Bowl where you can taste over 60 Belgian brews in a homey, country-style bistro.

For those that like being in the outdoors, the Occoquan River also has some great fishing hot spots and visitors can also participate in guided kayak tours at Penguin Paddling.  If you’re staying the evening in Occoquan, get frightened by taking part in the nightly ghost walk.  With so many options to choose from, you’ll find that Historic Occoquan is a small town where larger than life memories are made!

Nicole Warner, Marketing & Communications Specialist
Discover Prince William & Manassas
Border

Woodstock, VA         

What makes your town Unique:  This small town is home to approximately 5,000 people, but it has a wealth of community pride.  This is evident by the turn out at the towns many local festivals including free concerts, like the Vintage Woodstock Festival, which is a street dance featuring local wine, beer and activities for the entire family.  There are chili cook offs, Autumnfest, the holiday parade and several other events. The hospitality of the local shops, restaurants and local residents is apparent with a simple walk or drive down main-street where everyone waves to one another; whether you’re a longtime friend or a complete stranger.

The views of the Blue Ridge and Alleghany Mountains on either side of town are magnificent and there’s nothing quite like an evening in Woodstock on a clear night.  The view of the stars is spectacular since it isn’t obstructed by city lights.

Main Street and many of the rural back roads are graced with historic buildings, homes and barns that pre-date the Civil War and add to the historic charm of this community. The rural, mountain beauty of Woodstock makes it a wonderful place for people to live and a fantastic place for a getaway for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

Jenna French, Director of Tourism & Marketing
Shenandoah County Tourism

Border

The Mid-Atlantic Region includes the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington D.C.  Visit Delaware’s famous boardwalk.  Enjoy the famous crab feasts in Baltimore, MD at the Chesapeake Bay.  Watch the activity on Wall Street in NY. New Jersey has over 50 resort cities to visit. There are hundreds of miles of beautiful, sandy beaches within the state of Pennsylvania and thousands of rural acres and historical sites to explore . (Source: wikitravel.org)

Border

Coudersport, PA

What makes your town Unique:  Coudersport is home to Cherry Springs State Park and is known for its stargazing because of its dark skies above.  This small USA town also has the distinction of being located in a region that when viewed on satellite images, appears as a “dark” area in Pennsylvania. Its beauty lies in the night sky and unlike any other small town on the East Coast, it is only one of a handful of “Dark Sky Park” designations.

After viewing the gorgeous sunset at the Cherry Springs State Park, the sky comes alive with millions of stars. You can see the Big Dipper, the Northern Light, the Milky Way and the space station as it orbits Earth.  Use one of the park’s telescopes and you’ll be fascinated as park guides help you locate Jupiter and it moons, Saturn’s ring, and Mars to name a few.

“Coudersport has an absolutely stunning sunset that is not to be missed.”

Tracy
Blue Zaria

Border

Bucks County, PA

What makes your town Unique:  Bucks County is home to many local vineyards.  They have the Bucks County Wine Trail, which features nine unique wineries within driving distance. Bucks County is also known for its Covered Bridges. The architecture of the 12 remaining bridges from Revolutionary times are still standing after many years! Tourists can take a driving tour to see them and marvel at how long they have been standing.

With the Delaware River and Canal running adjacent to the county and vast, open farms running throughout, the landscape is Bucks County is gorgeous.  Located in Philadelphia’s Countryside, about 25 miles from Philadelphia and 75 miles from New York City, you will find picturesque towns; historical treasures and enchanting accommodations nestled within the county.  In the summertime, you’ll see locals and out-of-towners as they kayak, jog, tube, hike and walk their dogs by the river and canal.

Bucks County is also the location of several marvelous castle structures built and designed by archaeologist Henry Mercer.  Two incredible castles, the Fonthill Castle and the Mercer Museum, illustrate the architectural detail from the 15th century, as does the Moravian Tile Works, a National Historic Landmark that reminds tourists of medieval times.

Alexa Johnson, Public Relations Manager
Visit Bucks County

Border

Indiana County, PA

Every year millions of people all over the world recheck their human side by watching the classic movie “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  The movie warms our heart and reminds us how important family and community are for our survival.  It is ironic that the small town of Indiana, Pennsylvania and hometown to Jimmy Stewart resembles the movie town of Bedford Falls.  Stewart’s endearing qualities in the movie was no act.  He built his life based on those qualities and his hometown carries on those traits to this day.

The community embraces the qualities that we all look for to survive by preserving the atmosphere of the small town life.  Our downtown shops prosper despite a looming mega-store nearby.  Jimmy’s boyhood home, church and school are still part of the daily life of locals. The small university setting wraps itself around the neighborhoods breathing life and culture into the families raising children. The “It’s A Wonderful Life” parade and festival, growing strong for 22 years has just expanded to a six-week celebration.  Thousands flock to this annual event to envelop themselves with the old-time feeling of security we miss in this fast-paced life we lead.

Why is this town so beautiful?  Because the people have not forgotten where they came from, what values are important in life, and they know how to step back in time and grasp the essentials from the past to deal with the issues of today.  Our buildings, our small mom and pop restaurants, our college town night life, our farms, coal mines and beautiful natural resources remind us daily of the beauty we must savor and preserve.

This is why our small town is so beautiful!

Maria  Jack, Group Tour/Conference Associate
Indiana County Tourist Bureau

Border

Ellicott City, MD

**At the time that this article was posted, Ellicott City suffered from a flash flood disaster.  They are in the process of recovering, but our thoughts are with everyone that has been effected.**

Originally, Elliot City was once a center of commerce for grain.  As you stroll down Main Street in this endearing little town, you’ll find vintage antiques, trendy clothing stores and specially crafted furniture store with a variety of restaurants.

What makes your town Unique: The town has a rich history which includes the beginnings of the National Road and the B&O Railroad.  Downtown Ellicott City is a street of old granite homes and businesses which was built over a stream and alongside a hill.  Restaurants and bars, from genuine French cuisine to fudge shops to bars featuring hundreds of beers, offer plenty of rooftop patios that offer a unique dining experience.

Take a visit to Clark’s Elioak Farm, a seventh generation family farm that believes in growing their vegetables and animals in a sustainable manner that benefits the animals, the consumer and the land is a must see.  Clark’s Elioak Farm has worked at restoring the Enchanted Forest since 2004 after it moved its fictional characters to the farm.  This magical play land originally built in 1955 has now been given a second life for new generations to explore.

Other unique places to visit are the B&O Railroad Museum and the Firehouse Museum where you can get a glimpse of early America culture.

Anthony Cordo
Executive Director
Howard County Tourism and Promotion

Border

The New England Region is located in the northeast corner of the United States and includes the states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.  New England was considered one of the earliest English settlements in the “New World” after the pilgrims arrived.  It’s where one of our country’s first demonstrations of independence took place; the Boston Tea Party of 1773.  This region is also known for its many rivers, lakes, farmlands and rocky coastline.

Border

New Canaan, CT

New Canaan is a small town with the classic New England charm.  Main Street America exists throughout New Canaan, with white picket fences, American flags, and unique shops and galleries.  You will find pretty churches clustered around a quaint and charming downtown, complete with a train station à la nineteenth century.  If you’re planning on staying for a week or weekend, try the Stamord Crowne Plaza, which is a good starting point to explore all that New Canaan has to offer.

New Canaan also has some major draws for art enthusiasts.  It is home to Silvermine, a preeminent visual arts center in Fairfield County and one of the oldest artist communities in the United States. It is also a major town for modern architecture including incredible Mid-century modern homes built by a group of nonconforming architects in the 1940s and ’50s.  They gathered in New Canaan to build residential structures that promoted simplicity with a reverence for the surrounding nature.

Come check out some noteworthy buildings in town, including the Philip Johnson Glass House.  New Canaan is one town definitely worth a visit.  Don’t forget to come to New Canaan for the Fall Fair or HarvestFest!

Josh Asturo
Stamford Crowne Plaza Hotel

Border

 North Conway, NH

What makes your town Unique:  North Conway was named one of the top 25 worldwide ski towns by National Geographic.  Cranmore Mountain Resort, a year around ski resort and Adventure Park, are filled with ski history and are flanked by beautiful homes, independently owned shops and historic general stores along with a historic yellow train station in the middle of this gorgeous town.

North Conway is definitely worth a visit if you’ll be in the New England area.  Beautiful scenery abounds making this charming town the perfect place to experience all four seasons.

Year round, you’ll find tax-free shopping at boutiques and shops and family fun on the Conway Scenic Railroad.  Dine at independently-owned restaurants that offer farm-fresh fare and stay at one of the historic hotels or B&Bs.  North Conway is also home to the Weather Discovery Center; the only museum in the country that is totally dedicated to  the weather.  Look just beyond North Conway and you’ll find a gorgeous region surrounded by 660,000 acres of White Mountain National Forest with seemingly endless opportunities for hiking, biking, waterfall tours, and of course, living history.

Marti Mayne, PR Manager
Mt Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce

Border

Portsmouth, NH

What makes your town Unique:  Portsmouth is the third oldest city in America.  Before the name Portsmouth was given to this city, the earliest native inhabitants, who called themselves “the people of the first light”, named the town “Strawberry Banke” for the wild strawberries that grew on the banks of the Piscataqua River, which means “where the rivers separate/come together.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire is the most beautiful town in the US because its 22,000 citizens are as delightfully surprising as the oceanfront scenery, the 21,000 restaurant seats, the 300+ years of history, the imaginative arts scene and the variety of cultural experiences found here.

Residents and visitors can start the day at dawn by watching the sun come up at the Strawberry Banke Museum; a 10-acre waterfront living history museum depicting life in town from 1695 to 1954.  You’ll find thirty-two historic buildings, actors and participatory traditional crafts that are only a few block away from the central Market Square which is surrounded by outdoor cafes and tax-free galleries and boutiques.  For a sense of this authentic place. visit www.GoPortsmouthNH.com.

Stephanie Seacord
Leading Edge

Border

 

Rockland, ME

What makes your town Unique: This seaside town is the self-proclaimed Lobster Capital of the Universe.  With a harbor filled with lobster boats and buoys, not to mention the annual Lobster Festival, there are plenty of seaside lobster restaurants – from fancy to fun – to choose from.

Yet, there are so many more reasons why Rockland is a beautiful and interesting place to visit.  To start off with, Rockland is the perfect example of what a classic Maine coastal town looks like.  You’ll find boat tours, historic sites, lighthouses and beaches located throughout.

Rockland, known as the birthplace of the “farm to table” movement, has become the foodie Mecca of Mid-Coast Main.  The farm to table movement can be interpreted many different ways, but essentially it means that food is grown by local farms, instead of being bought at stores or distributors.

This movement led by Melissa Kelly, who is the winner of multiple James Beard Awards and is the owner of the renowned Primo Restaurant, makes Rockland a great destination to visit for those that enjoy love great food.

Enjoy a tasting tour of the town including such favorites as Fiore Artisan Olive Oil & Balsamics to Main Street Market, known for its fresh fare.  The Historic Inns of Rockland is a group of three beautiful resort inns in the Historic District of Rockland that offer up fabulous accommodations with an emphasis on serving delicious breakfasts.  From lobsters to lighthouses (there are 40 of them in Knox County alone), including the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse that you can walk to via a one-mile long rock jetty; this is Maine at its best!

Marti Mayne, PR Manager
Maynely Marketing

Border
Stockbridge, MA

What makes your town Unique:  You won’t find many towns that have that quintessential small town charm.  The famous painter, Norman Rockwell, who was well known for depicting small towns charm on the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, lived here in Stockbridge for 25 years.

As you look around, you’ll find that most of the buildings have stayed preserved and look very similar to how they looked 100 years ago.  Explore the rest of Stockbridge by taking a drive in the country or grab your bike and ride the rolling hills.  Whatever season you choose to visit, you’ll enjoy amazing scenic vistas.

Other activities include stopping by the one and only Normal Rockwell Museum, taking a hike in the October Mountain State Forest which includes the Appalachian Trail, or relaxing as you stroll through the Berkshire Botanical Gardens.

Avichai, Publisher & Editor
X Days In Y, Inspirational Travel Itineraries

Border

Burlington, VT

What makes your town UniqueBurlington is Vermont’s largest city with 42,000 residents.  You can find plenty to do here for all four seasons.  It is located along the eastern shore of the beautiful Lake Champlain where you can enjoy the lake by swimming, sailing or going on a ferry or excursion boat.  During the summer, take a ferry over to the Lake Champlain Islands to walk or ride 12 ½ miles of paths.  There are plenty of spots to rent kayaks, sailboats, bikes or rollerblades.

Located in downtown Burlington is the Church Street Marketplace.  It is a one of a kind open air mall that draws people near and far to enjoy the year-around festivals, museums, shopping and dining.  Try a taste at one of the five nearby Vermont breweries, enjoy listening to live music at the mall or visit ECHO Lake Aquarium.

Not too far away is the Ben and Jerry’s Factory.  Both kids and adults will enjoy a tour of the factory that shows how ice cream is made, and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to try a new ice cream flavor!  Afterwards, visit the “Flavor Graveyward” to see where all the “de-pinted, retired flavors” rest in peace.

Dana Freeman
FindandGoSeek

Border

The Mountain Region consists of the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.  These combined states have the highest mean elevations in the United States and can experience extremely cold temperatures, while in the southern mountain states; temperatures can be in the triple digits. The famous Rocky Mountains run through all the mountain states but other famous areas in this region are Yellowstone Park, the Grand Canyon, and the Mojave Desert.

Border

Coeur d’ Alene, ID

 What Makes it Unique: Coeur d’Alene, pronounced “core-da-lane,” is nestled on a peaceful, picturesque lake in the mountains of northern Idaho.  Considered a best kept secret in America, it is the largest city in Idaho with 46,000 residents and is easily accessible visit as it’s just a 30 minute drive from the Spokane International Airport.

When arriving in Coeur d’Alene, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of things to do here.  There are over 55 lakes within driving distance of Coeur d’Alene and there are many opportunities for fishing, water skiing or recreational boating, but the heart of the town is centered around the sparkling Coeur d’Alene Lake.

Whether you’re interested in thrilling white water rafting trips, fly fishing excursions or enjoying a leisurely Gondola ride up to the top of Silver Mountain, you won’t be bored.  You’ll find many just as many activities to do in the wintertime as well.  Don’t forget to stop and see the famous floating golf green on the 14th hole.  Also enjoy a walk or bike ride on the world’s longest floating boardwalk located at the Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Jennie
Living for A Healthy Heart, LLC

Border

Riggins, ID

What Makes it Unique:   Riggins is a small, popular fishing town located just outside the larger town of of McCall, Idaho. Similar sparsely populated towns in Idaho all are chalked-full of dramatic views from atop mountains and canyons overlooking lakes, alpine valleys and rivers. Riggins maintains a rustic, naturally beautiful backdrop that encourages visitors to take advantage of the scenic activities that exist in this stunning area.

A river that runs through Riggins is nestled deep within a canyon and bends frequently enough to leave tons of isolated beaches for visitors to enjoy.  It’s perfect for a private swim on a hot summer day with friends and family.

Riggins also has a beautiful hot springs that is located along the river that is a bit further into the mountains.  This hidden gem is called Burgdorf Hot Springs.

Meghan Wells
https://twitter.com/MegaPixels22
Praetorian Digital

Border

Fort Collins, CO 

 What Makes it Unique:  Nestled up to the Rocky Mountains with a massive reservoir and outdoor escapes within 15 minutes of Ft. Collins.  It also has the perfect mix of culture, music and good food, yet it’s still quiet enough and not as well-known as other tourist destinations, that it hasn’t seen too much combustion or tourists.

Located 60 miles north of Denver and home to Colorado State University, Ft. Collins enjoys a moderate climate, with on average, 300+ days of sunshine.  The town boasts more than 600 acres of parks.  Enjoy popular river rafting trips or explore the nearby mountains by hiking or biking or consider enjoying a ride on the only original trolley car west of the Mississippi!

Interestingly enough, Fort Collins has a section of town called, Old Town, which is “designated as both a national and local-historic district with 28 historical buildings.”  If you’ve ever noticed that Old Town looks strangely familiar, it’s probably because Disneyland’s Main Street USA was modeled after downtown Fort Collins!

AJ, Co-owner, Dr. Squatch Soap Co.
“Keep Squatchin”
Dr. Squatch Soap Co.

Border

The West Coast Region located west of the Great Plains includes the states of  California, Oregon and Washington.  The western region has a variety of ecosystems, such as rainforests, plains, mountains, coastal areas, and prairies.  You find find unparalleled beauty in this region and there are many outdoor activities to choose from.  A small sampling of outdoor recreation is surfing, hiking, camping, boating, skiing.  The west has been known as the place to live to get a fresh start to life.

Border

Alameda, CA

What Makes it Unique:  Spend a few minutes researching Alameda and you’ll see why Alameda, CA is one of the more beautiful towns in the US.  Check out the Charm Index score of Alameda with this nifty tool built by rentlingo.com.  The Charm Index measures the charm level for other small towns across America, too.  If shopping is your thing, then you’ll love Alameda as there are many unique local businesses and boutiques to visit.

Alameda makes a popular day trip destination from San Francisco.  The charming little town has many lovely parks and restaurants to visit and you’ll have plenty of things to do and see. Check out the Pacific Pinball Museum, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting one of America’s great pastimes.  You’ll find over 90 pinball machines to play, with some machines going back as far to the 30’s and 40’s.

Also located in Alameda is the USS Hornett aircraft carrier that is now a museum.  It is famous for many reasons, but most notably, it served as a recovery platform for the Apollo 11 and 12 missions.  Some other fun facts about Alameda are:

  • The commute to San Francisco is 22 minutes long, which is pretty good, considering the normal traffic patterns.
  • If you remember the famous comedienne, Phyllis Diller; this is where she got her start, by performing at local nightclubs.
  • Peanut Butter was invented here and so were popsicles.

Dan, Co-founder of RentLingo.com
Border

Carmel, CA 

What Makes it Unique:  Known as “Carmel-by-the-Sea”, Carmel was voted the #2 Best Small Town by Conde Naste.  The quaint, storybook town offers first class shopping, world-renown restaurants and spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.  Also unique to Carmel (and worth a visit) are the Hansel & Gretel homes, where you’ll feel like you walked straight into a beloved storybook fairy tale.

When visiting Carmel, which was also rated as “One of America’s Top Beach Towns,” stop at Carmel Beach, known as one of the “most iconic spots on California’s Central Coast” and relax on the soft, sandy beach, swim, surf, hike or take a walk along the scenic path through landscaped gardens with glimpses of Pebble Beach.  The natural, rugged beauty of Carmel’s Pacific coastline will leave you in awe!

Avichai, Publisher & Editor
X Days In Y, Inspirational Travel Itineraries

Border

Exeter, CA 

What Makes it Unique:  Known for growing the sweetest oranges in the world, Exeter is known as the “Citrus Capital of the World.”  Located at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, it is only 30 miles from the entrance of the Sequoia National Park.

One popular attraction located downtown is viewing the 26 murals on the side of the downtown buildings that relate the history and culture of the city of Exeter.  They can be seen on a walking tour or can be viewed online at the Mural Gallery.

If you’re looking for a sweet treat, look no further than Svenhard’s Swedish Bakery.  This popular bakery makes several types of pastries that are sold in all 50 states.  You might have seen their bear claws, raisin snails and cinnamon rolls at stores across the U.S.  It’s the largest private employer in Exeter, which is impressive for a town of this size.

Andrew Reeves, Founder & CEO of Lux Translation Services
Lux Translation Services

Border

Healdsburg, CA 

What Makes it Unique:  Healdsburg, located in Northern Caifornia in Sonomo wine country, is known for its amazing food and selection of wines.  Beautiful weather, amazing landscapes, great outdoor activities, and an enchanting town plaza lined with shops, galleries and of course, some of the best restaurants in all of California, are what makes Healdsburg, CA a town to visit.

You’ll find plenty of outdoor activities along the Russian River like swimming, canoeing and kayaking.  Travel a leisurely 100 miles down the river until it spills out to the Pacific Ocean.  If you’d like a modern way of enjoying the outdoors, try glamping, the fancy way of staying in a tent, but with all the modern conveniences offered in a hotel.

Known as a “Small Town for All Seasons,” Healdsburg is surrounded by some of the best wineries in California and is centrally located to the best that Sonomo County has to offer.  Known as a “wine and culinary epicenter,” you’ll find plenty of wine tasting opportunities to sample from some of the best wine growing regions.

If you’re interested in experiencing an epicurean adventure to engage with world-class chefs, winemakers and local artisans, while learning about what has put Healdsburg on the map, then take a tour with Savor Healdsburg Food Tours.  Their gourmet food and wine tours are the best of the epic food and wine scene in this top foodie destination.

Tammy Gass, Owner
Savor Healdsburg Food Tours

Border

Laguna Beach, CA 

What Makes it Unique:   The mountain and ocean views are unparalleled in Laguna Beach. When the sun hits the water, multiple colors of blue and turquoise are adorned with the sparkling reflections of light that’s just breathtaking.  The landscaping in the area adds to the enchantment with the magenta of bougainvillea, the browns and greens of palm trees and the purples of lavender.

Laguna Beach is known for its public display of art all over town. Any commercial building doing an upgrade is required to budget for some type of art whether it is a wall mural, a mosaic, a statue, sculpture, designer bench or a fountain which makes exploring this town a wonderful opportunity to explore different types of art.

Nedalee Thomas, CEO of ChansonWater
Creator/Author of PrincessPower.com
Chanson Water USA

Border

La Jolla, CA

La Jolla, California – the “Jewel” of San Diego  is an idyllic seaside town that’s as pretty as a postcard with its white sand beaches, turquoise waters and charming main street (Prospect Street) linking the downtown village area. It’s certainly one of the most beautiful towns on the California coast, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and scenic bluffs.

La Jolla is home to a vast underwater park (the first on the West Coast.), featuring a “Finding Nemo” wonderland of marine life – from seals and sea lions to bright orange garibaldi fish (California’s state fish) and lobsters scurrying across the ocean floor – that welcomes snorkelers and kayakers, especially during the summer months. Visitor tip: Snorkeling is best in late August/early Sept. when the water is warmest.

La Jolla also has a phenomenal dining scene, from signature Cali-Baja creations at Galaxy Taco and California modern cuisine at George’s at the Cove – famous for its rooftop patio overlooking the Pacific – to the landmark Marine Room where diners can enjoy beachfront dining at its finest.

Art lovers and theatergoers can discover the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego and spectacular Murals of La Jolla, both located in the heart of La Jolla Village, the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse where several popular shows have gone on to Broadway in New York, and the Salk Institute, the Acropolis of Modernism (public architecture tours available) with its stunning oceanfront setting. La Jolla is also home to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the world-famous Torrey Pines Golf Course (on every golfer’s bucket list) and the pristine Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Robert Arends, PR Manager
San Diego Tourism Authority

Border

Leavenworth, WA

What Makes it Unique:  Leavenworth is a town that is simply stunning!  There is nothing that quite matches the majestic mountains against the backdrop of this cheery, charming Bavarian getaway that is famous for hosting these popular, yearly festivals:  Christmas Lighting Festival, Leavenworth Oktoberfest, Mai-Fest, Leavenworth AlefestAutumn Leaf Festival.

With plenty of activities available during all four seasons, you can choose from such activities as river rafting, wine-tasting, hiking, biking, and shopping. Take advantage of fishing in the winding rivers throughout the area where you can catch a variety of fish from bass, yellow perch to several types of trout.  This area also boasts having the state’s best spring fly fishing.

Hans
Obertal Inn

Border

Yakima Valley, WA

What Makes it Unique:   With more than 80 award-winning wineries and more than 12,000 acres of vineyards, visitors have plenty of wineries & craft breweries to choose from in the downtown and surrounding areas of the Yakima Valley.  Rich and unique flavors of the wide selection of wines originate from the volcanic soil and sunny, arid climate.

Those who enjoy the Farmer’s Markets and U-Pick Farms can spend the day picking their own fruits & vegetables, enjoy a hayride, and the 40+ various crops which provide all the right ingredients for the next homemade pie or salsa.  For those who prefer outdoor recreation, White Pass and Chinook Pass are just 40-minutes away from Yakima and offer various hiking trails for all levels of experience, such as discovering a new view along the backside of Mount Rainier.  Other outdoor opportunities include White Water River Rafting on the Tieton River, fly fishing tubing on the Yakima River, bike rides along various trails, skiing on White Pass , and wildlife viewing.

Yakima Valley is conveniently located three hours away from Seattle and only two and a half hours from Portland, providing easy access to metropolitan cities.

Heather Decker, Travel Media & Trade Relations Manager
Yakima Valley Tourism

Website Resources:
Yakima Valley: http://www.visityakima.com/
Wine Country: http://yakimavalleywinecountry.com/
Farm Fresh Fun: http://visitfarmfreshfun.com/

Border

We hope you’ve enjoyed the compilation of America’s Best Small Towns and Cities to Visit. Are there any towns that you have been to that you would like to suggest and share with us?  Is so, please leave your feedback in the Comments section.  We look forward to hearing from you!

 

 

kg- 8/2016

20 thoughts on “The 39 Best Small Towns in America to Visit in 2016

  1. Must be a pretty high threshold to not be a “small town.” With a population of over 150,000 and rapidly growing, Ft. Collins could hardly be called a “small town.” Great, unique and picturesque small towns in Colorado include the likes of Durango, Aspen, Crested Butte, Telluride, Breckenridge, Estes Park, Creede, Silverton, Ouray and Pagosa Springs, all of which combined don’t have the population of Ft Collins.

    Like

    1. I completely agree with you John Fisch! There are soooooo many other amazing small towns tucked away in the mountains, I would think the list would be quite long just in Colorado alone, not to mention Montana and Wyoming ~ and this article only listed just 3??! That just doesn’t seem right 😦

      Like

      1. Momcat- trust us, we kept finding other small towns that we wanted to include, but we couldn’t do that or the list would have been REALLY, REALLY long! We might have to consider adding another small town article!

        Like

    2. John, thanks for your comment. You bring up a good point. When we received the nomination for Fort Collins, we realized it’s wasn’t a small town, but we still felt that it had a small town feel. By the way, we love your other small town suggestions!

      Like

  2. Perfect list, would love to follow every inch of it. I´m a wanderer myself and I could put quite a few check marks to some from these list and still willing t see more and more. So happy travelling to all of us!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s