While popular opinion rests with the urban giants of our nation, small towns will always have a soft spot in our hearts. Charming red brick shops, quaint cobblestone streets, plantation homes, and centuries of history make these small towns some of the best in the country. Take a road trip and visit them all or pick out one nearest you and have a pleasant, relaxing weekend getaway!
- Carmel-by-the-Sea, CAPopulation: 3,842
Along the Pacific Coast Highway, your group will twist and turn on the rugged coast of Central California. As you round that final turn, your eyes will fall on the most lovely little village you've ever beheld. Storybook cottages with sloping roofs, seaside B&Bs, and state parks literally filled with meadows of bright pink flowers enchant the mind and soul. Voted second best city in the U.S. by Conde Nast Traveler and "One of America's Best Beach Towns" by National Geographic, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a peaceful haven for shoppers, diners, and nature enthusiasts. Plus, Clint Eastwood was once the mayor and owned a restaurant, the Hog's Breath Inn, which is a popular stop though under new management.
- Beaufort, SC
The second oldest city in South Carolina, Beaufort has held up well over the years, boasting beautiful streets lined with amazingly well-preserved antebellum homes and plantations. Many of the sites you'll find in Beaufort played witness to the Civil War and have survived to tell the tales. Featured as a top small town by Fodor's and Coastal Living Magazine among others, you'll recognize Beaufort's potential almost immediately. Learn about Lowcountry culture, the Gullah people of the Deep South, take part in a historic sightseeing tour, or relax with a game of golf or some fishing!
- Galena, IL
A good portion of the city of Galena has been registered as a National Historic Place, and it certainly deserves it. This small yet charming town was mined for over a thousand years by Native Americans for the mineral galena, hence the name, but the history doesn't stop there. Galena became the largest steamboat hub on the Mississippi north of St. Louis and churned out nine Civil War generals, including the incomparable Ulysses S. Grant. Today the city draws in over a million tourists a year for the impeccable historic district, family-friendly activities, performance theaters, reenactments, museums, and so much more!
- Leavenworth, WA
Once a prosperous railroad town in the early 20th century, Leavenworth faltered after the railroad headquarters were moved to Wenatchee. The townspeople decided they needed to revamp their town to draw in tourism and re-earn their spot on the map. Et Voila! Leavenworth, Washington, is now a major tourist hub along the Cascade Loop, a scenic trail through the most beautiful spots in Washington state. The entire city is fashioned after a Bavarian hamlet, complete with German-style buildings, shops serving Bavarian treats and dishes, souvenirs, and hosts a massive Oktoberfest celebration every year. People come from miles around to enjoy the authentic-looking town, the Nutcracker Museum featuring more than 5,000 nutcrackers, many of which are from prehistoric times, and all the outdoor fun you can imagine.
- Narragansett, RI
A stunning seaside town, Narragansett has been a stop on many a traveler's scenic routes for decades. Notable for the indomitable Towers which overlook the Atlantic Ocean, Narragansett is also remembered for its famous beaches and state parks including Scarborough State Beach, Fisherman's Memorial State Park, and more. In the summer months, the population nearly doubles though you'll find small-town enjoyment in the incredible seafood restaurants and shacks, scenic ferry rides and museum tours, shopping centers, and plenty of relaxing activities for visitors of all ages.
- Abingdon, VA
Located near the Appalachian Trail and full of American history from pre-colonial times through the Civil War, Abingdon continues to bring in fascinated tourists every year. They're not all interested in the history, however, as the stunning natural landscapes capture the senses and hold everyone who visits enthralled. The Historic District, home to the Martha Washington Inn and Spa as well as the Fields-Penn House, plus the Barter Theatre, one of the longest-running theatres in the country, and the Virginia Creeper Trail are among the city's top attractions. Surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, nestled in history and culture, Abingdon is always optimistic and always charmingly welcoming.
- Jim Thorpe, PAPopulation: 4,781
Called the "Switzerland of America," Jim Thorpe is recognizable for its Poconos location, beautiful architecture, and historic attractions. Originally founded as Mauch Chunk, a Munsee-Lenape name possibly referring to Bear Mountain, Jim Thorpe was renamed after the Olympic medal winner after his death in 1953. The Victorian architecture, steaming locomotives still in use, and undulating forested hills cradle Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, in a cocoon of welcome. Find historical and cultural tours, wineries and galleries, Native American historic sites, and close proximity to both New York and Philadelphia.
- Cooperstown, NYPopulation: 1,834
Home to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown is wonderfully fascinating for sports and non-sports fans alike. The Cooperstown Historic District preserves pre-1900 city history, the oldest of which dates back to 1785 when William Cooper established the village on beautiful Ostego Lake. His famous son, James Fenimore Cooper, went on to write award-winning books such as Last of the Mohicans, influenced by his childhood in the frontier town. Today, though the city may remember the past, Cooperstown holds plenty of modern amenities to keep you interested. Try the Glimmerglass Opera for a night on the town, the Fenimore Art Museum, and popular Brewery Ommegang for a spectacular getaway!
- Virginia City, NV
The smallest city on our list, Virginia City is neither green nor colonial. It does, however, have its roots in the dangerous Wild West. Originally founded in 1859 after the discovery of the first major silver deposit, the Comstock Lode, Virginia City sprang up around mining camps. After 1878, the mines were depleted and the city's boom had met its end. However, many people find interest in the history and adventure of old Virginia City, Nevada, and come to relive the Wild West through the town's historic district and attractions. Learn about Mark Twain's early days as a reporter for the Territorial Enterprise newspaper, visit the historic Silver Dollar Hotel and Brass Rail Saloon, vestiges from yesteryear.
- Edgartown, MA
Finally, we come to the last beautiful small town on our list, Edgartown, Massachusetts. You can't get any more New England than this charming little village with its prime location on Martha's Vineyard. In years past, Edgartown gained a reputation as a whaling port though now most of its revenue comes from tourism. This is evident in the pristine conditions of the gorgeous quintessential New England streets, lined with shaker-shingle shops, quaint signs, and the aroma of baked goods and seafood wafting through the air. Recreational activities like biking, swimming, and exploring the area's lighthouses are always popular though you might want to check out the Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge.