As a vacation destination, it isn’t just the big cities that score. Do you know that the small towns in the US from the Hudson River and wine country of California’s best small towns in the US, the Great Lakes, charming small towns of the Arizona desert and to the unique towns that are just waiting for you to discover them? In this article, we will lead you to go and find those nuggets in charming small towns which make very lovable and quality vacations. Let us now discover the top ten of these small towns in the US that are unrivalled in terms of their beauty, cuisines, infrastructure, list of activities, community spirit, traveller experiences and proximity to larger cities. Let’s start!
Table of Contents
Eureka Springs, Arkansas:
Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey:
Among the art kindled and famed charming small towns Carmel in California is ideal for a vacation by the sea where you get an eclectic mix of culture of the small towns in the US, art galleries, historical sites, boutique shops, excellent restaurants and the best of the world's finest scenery. Its origins can be traced to the Mission San Carlos de Borromeo set up by Fr. Junipero Serra in 1771 overlooking the Carmel Bay.
The beach town of Carmel is among the best small towns in the US not just for the intellectuals but also for its many attractions like the Carmel Beach, wet-suit surfing and volleyball at the northern Pebble Beach, southern Point Lobos and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the canine-friendly leash-free canine zone at Ocean Avenue, setting up beach fires at the beaches of charming small towns, hiking through the many trails, playing golf at the best international golf courses, exploring the Scenic Bluff Path, Carmel River Beach and its many event and wedding spaces. Almost all the scenic spots have ample numbers of accommodation close by, restaurants and beach food at the Big Sur River Inn, Nepenthe or the Post Ranch Inn, street-parking, restrooms, safety measures for surfing and transportation.
Also worth a visit are the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium which was once the iconic Sardine Factory, Big Sur and the Bixby Bridge, the Cannery Row for food options, Andrew Molera State Park, the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Luxus hotels and local sardines, the Old Fisherman’s Wharf, the Pacific Grove Lovers Point Beach and Park and the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Ferrari Racing Days, the Monterey Peninsula's Classic Car Week aka the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas:
In Arkansas lies the town of Eureka Springs which is one of the most charming small towns where you can stroll around a downtown filled with the grand Victorian-era buildings. Do you know how this town rated among the best small towns in the US got its name? The all-natural warm springs of Eureka Springs led not just to its name but also its fame for the many spas and body-sculpting outlets that are concentrated here.
You have plenty of other activities too! Swoosh by on the zipline over the Ozark Mountains and its forests or explore the many wonders of the Ozarks like the natural and scenic deep water-cut caverns, a wildlife-filled refuge preserved for posterity, chug with the steam-train rides or enjoy the ancient music and folk culture of Eureka Springs. With over 100 galleries, museums and shops to keep you entertained, you will be well-fed with a variety of cuisines on offer. German-influenced, authentic Indian, spicy Mexican, exotic Thai or traditional Czech cuisines offer plenty of fine eating and wine options. And of course, like all the other small towns in the US, the accommodation scenario has a range of options from modest lodgings to grand hotels like the 1904 European limestone Basin Park Hotel and all choices in between too!
Taos, New Mexico:
Taos in New Mexico is a haven for writers, creative people and artists. Its Sangre de Christo Mountains location makes this one of the small towns in the US that is a sensual feast with snowy mountain peaks, red-rock canyon floors, and its strikingly beautiful architecture. Inspiration is in the air at this UNESCO World Heritage Site where you have a range of paintings to view at the Harwood Museum of Art and nearly eighty more art galleries exhibiting the paintings of Agnes Martin and other local contemporary artists who have localized here.
This artsy gem among the best small towns in the US has something for everyone with hot air ballooning, skiing down the pistes and hiking in the wild of this small town with a population of just 4,500 friendly people. Known to be inhabited by the Tiwa tribe some 1,000 years ago the local charm of a stream flowing through the centre of town and time is perhaps one of the best vacation spots among other charming small towns like the town of Sedona in Arizona.
St. Augustine, Florida:
Have you been to Stuart in Florida? The historical and cobblestoned St. Augustine is one among the charming small towns quite similar to the Floridian Stuart coastal town. The Spanish conquest of the area in 1565 is the earliest known inhabitation of this northern Atlantic coastal town. That’s precisely why you will find old architectural styles and colonial buildings like the Lightner Museum filled with Victorian antiques, the 17th-century fortress of Castillo de San Marco and the 1887 Spanish Renaissance Revival Buildings revived by Henry Flagler the enterprising and philanthropic Rockefeller associate who is a Florida based real estate giant. If you love the sunny days by the coast and want to discover pristine sun-n-sand beaches, there are plenty of them here at St Augustine. Do also discover the natural beauty, fauna, and flora of the maritime forests, wildlife and aquatic wealth reserved in the Anastasia State Park and its four-mile-long beach.
You are far from the madding city crowds in this one of the best small towns in the US as the population here is just 12,975 and it feels like a little bit of France and Spain on the southeast Florida coast. The visual impact of the Spanish and French is ever-present even after 200 years of the small towns in the US being ceded to the US in 1819 in the architecture of the buildings in the Colonial Quarter and the Lyon-like Bridge of Lions.
The Sitka fishing village of distant Alaska is one of the best small towns in the US only accessible by sea or air. Seen the 2009 movie ‘The Proposal’ of Sandra Bullock? The inspiration for the sets which were put up in Massachusetts’ Rockport came from this little port town in Alaska. Though remote Sitka is a charmer and beautifully natural as a vacation spot among the otherwise charming small towns of the US. Here’s what can keep the environmentally informed very busy in Alaska. Hike up the dormant volcano in Sitka or visit the Sitka National Historic Park where you can be part of nature, and the conservation efforts of the tall spruce trees where the bald eagles roam free and totem poles tell you the way and the story of the communities who braved the harsh realities of Alaska to make this town such a beauteous one! You can also be part of the whale spotting team, kayak the streams or hike the icy slopes to discover the best of the small towns in the US.
With a present population of just888, this town was once occupied by the Russians and is a wee bit like Whidbey Island of Washington. The Tinglit community is among the earliest indigenous settlers known for taming the Alaskan Island over 10,000 years ago. Be amazed at the panoramic views of tall icy mountains, peaks in the clouds, vast oceans and the gigantic whales who call this place home.
Marfa is one of the small towns in the US that has fast emerged as an art-mecca in Texas. With a population of just 2,000 then would you rate this small town as one of the best small towns in the US for a gem of a vacation? Discover it yourself as this mid-nineteenth century-old town also served as a military training centre and the headquarters of the railways too till the early 1970s. Artist Donald Judd moved here and spearheaded the art and sculpture revolution with the famed sculptures of concrete seen on the Chinati Foundation sunrise tour, the Dragset’s Prada Marfa installations just off the Highway #90 and the Elmgreen sculptures. This super jewel of Texas and one of its charming small towns is also home to ample activities, typical Texas food and accommodations that range from modest to upscale and all in between to provide you with an artsy glitterati to rub shoulders with the informed glitterati on the art scene.
Stowe is one of Vermont’s charming small towns set between the Worcester Mountain Range on the east, the Green Mountains peaks on the west and the fascinating valley of Mount Mansfield where the Little River flows right through the town. A town full of quaint bridges filled with history beckons the nature-loving, romantic or family-oriented to enjoy its views, scenery and fun-filled adventures. Stowe has plenty of history and simply fun things to do. Remember the picturesque scenery and the Von Trapp Austrian Chalet from the movie ‘The Sound of Music’? Yes, explore these, the East Coast’s culinary delights at the Plate and the ski destinations on the 4393 ft tallest peak of Vermont, Mount Mansfield. Now let’s fill your itinerary with some of the best delights to explore.
Enjoy Waterbury’s Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, the 200 acres of alpine tundra from the Ice Ages on the Mount Mansfield, the Stowe Recreation Path on bike, hike or snowshoe, the Smugglers Notch State Park with its imposing cliffs and the 150 year old Auto Toll Road, the Sterling Falls Gorge, the ghostly historical Emily’s or Gold Brook Covered Wooden Bridge, the sleigh and carriage rides from Gentle Giants, the mountain ski resort atop the Mansfield and 2360 ft Spruce peaks, the sculpture garden and West Branch Gallery, the day tours for kayaking, dog-sled racing etc from Umiak Outdoor Outfitters or the scenic Wiessner Woods which are a gentle reminder of the small towns in the US.
Take back a bite from the Laughing Moon Chocolates, feed the deer at Cady Hill Forest, enjoy exploring the ski and snowboarding museum, the events at the Stowe Theatre Guild, take a swim at the Bingham Falls, taste the cider at Stowe Cider, enjoy your cuppa at the PK Coffee while wolfing down the pizzas and pastas from Piecasso Lounge and Pizzeria, Play a round of golf at the Stowe Golf Park, take mountain biking classes at Four Points, enjoy a food and wine tasting tour by Bonafide tours, spend the afternoon at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Centre or the Stowe Country Club or go on a fishing tour with the Fly Rod Shop. Everything is classically beautiful from the general store, the inns, taverns, hotel accommodations, alpine food and never-to-be missed simple vacation pleasures unique to Stowe and the best small towns in the US.
Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey:
Among the best small towns in the US would you plump for a family town with a quiet picturesque Caribbean-feel boardwalk and crystal-clean beach? The family-friendly Point Pleasant Beach is your next-door vacation at charming small towns close to Philadelphia and New Jersey. Just hang out on the white sands of the beach and enjoy the rides, people and community watching or bike down the Jenkinson’s boardwalk and discover the Aquarium or miniature competitive beach golf.
The star attraction at any of the small towns in the US is the food of course and includes the different from the city classics like rolls with peppers and sausages, lemonade that is hand-shaken or Italian zeppole that has been deep-fried to perfection, popcorn, waffles, cotton candy and ice cream. The beach is a carnival of games with its frog pond, aquarium, various rides and even a vintage carousel that kids and the elders also love. Want to take in some dining and entertainment? Head to Arnold Avenue where you can laugh aloud at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club and dine in Portuguese style at the Europa South restaurant.
Did you know that the downtown area of Point Pleasant Beach is famed as an antique district? Yes, Arnold and Bay Avenues with the Antique Centre at Point Pavillion has close to 50 art and antique dealers at a single complex. Enjoy the scouring and lunch at one of the quiet and friendly restaurants or take in a fine dining experience at the award-winning venues of local food. You have a vast choice of hotels and discounted prices on very modest rates complete with all amenities like an outdoor pool, in-house restaurant or rooftop bars to bargain for.
Durango is one of the small towns in the US in Colorado’s southwestern Alpine region and close to the border with New Mexico. Did you know that Durango one of the best small towns in the US has a high number of per capita outdoor activities? Take your pick of daily activities on offer from skiing, mountain biking, hiking in San Juan National Forest, walking tours of historically important spots and Durango’s downtown, shopping, museums, music, theatre or art galleries, riding the narrow-gauge Silverton and Durango Railroad and more. And like all charming small towns your range of accommodations is superb from luxurious hotels to inns, alpine log cabins, and all options between the two extremes nestling amid the Durango Mountains. Convenient public transportation and great restaurants keep your every want covered. Need more activity with the family why not try fishing, whitewater rafting, snowmobile rides and horseback riding?
For the more adventurous and demanding families Durango offers zip lining at Soaring Tree Top Adventures, tons of activities at the Full Blast Adventure Center, day time food and discovery tours by Horsefly History Tours, horse riding and training at the Colorado Trails Ranch, fishing tours by the Duranglers, historical tours of the Strater Hotel of 1887 and hiking tours by the Majestic Dude Ranch. Also discover the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour, Durango Rivertrippers Adventure Tours and more depending on the season and your choice of activity.
The town of Ephraim is part of Wisconsin's Door County and lies on the Midwest’s cape harbouring charming small towns between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. These are beautiful sights in their own right, and Ephraim is famous for the local cherries, water sports, lakeshore, forests and a Scandinavian descent of locals who are friendly and welcoming. Norwegian Moravians first settled here in the mid-19th century, and it’s over 30 historical sites full of the old-world charm makes for some excellent self-guided discovery tours on foot, hiking or local transport.
Eagle Harbor is just perfect for jet-skiing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, pontoon boat rides or even sailboat cruises at sunrise or sunset. The views of Green Bay, the Peninsula State Park and any of the eleven historic sites on the Historic Places National Register make Ephraim the best of the small towns in the US to spend a vacation in. Whether you want to let your hair down for a week, a day or even a month, you never are short of things to do here.
Discover ‘Scuppers’ the antique sailboat at South Shore Pier, the lounge Craft studio of Clink!, the Nicolet Bay 5K half-marathon and its Lighthouse, the Door County trolley, the wine tasting or food tours, the Skyway drive-in theatre, the museums and exhibitions tied to the Ephraim Historical Foundation, the Yacht Club, Mayberry’s sleigh and carriage rides, the Red Putter mini-golf course, segway tours and the hike in the reserve forests too. The picturesque setting includes century-old barns converted into galleries and shops, vintage homes that play to your soul as accommodations and rustic wood and log cabins that are just perfect for the wooded experiences lying close enough to the most welcoming of modestly priced vacation homes, inns and hotel accommodations. Shop to your heart’s content for antiques, home furnishings, jewellery, garden accessories, hand-crafted items, clothing and fine local art, at Ephraim which is hard to forget as the best small towns in the US.
The 10 small towns in the US we discovered in this article have all that it takes to be on the list of destinations for a memorable vacation. After all, most city dwellers want to get away from the anonymity of the large cities and feel a loneness with nature, doing things you once enjoyed perhaps as a child or relax with the family and spend quality time with them. The best small towns in the US we have spoken about, offer you memories and that’s what makes them special. Of course, in terms of ease of getting there, unique experiences, infrastructure for fun activities, excellent food, accommodation that is more than comfortable and communities that are welcoming all our cities in America are beacons that spell vacations, charm and special memories. So, head to one of the charming small towns above if you want a special time etched into your memories. See you soon! Happy memories to you!