North America is home to some of the world’s biggest and most impressive cities. But there’s another aspect of the United States that’s just as appealing — the country’s smaller towns.
You can view some of the most picturesque scenes nature has to offer and meet the friendliest people when you visit the small towns that others might overlook. Next time you plan a trip, keep some of these hidden gems in mind.
Honestly, what isn’t charming about the tiny town of Whitefish, Montana? It’s surrounded by the Rocky Mountains and is home to the expansive Whitefish Lake, so there is no lack of outdoor activities. If you’re on your way to Glacier National Park, stop by this gateway town and check out all that it has to offer.
Just outside of town is Whitefish Mountain Resort, the perfect place for skiing enthusiasts, and, during the spring and summer, it has great mountain biking trails. Or you can go to Whitefish Lake, where there are boat launches and picnic areas.
Isle of Palms, South Carolina
If you’re looking for a relaxing beach vacation, then look no farther than Isle of Palms, South Carolina, population 4,363. This quiet town is a barrier island, lined with waterfront houses and boasting miles upon miles of sandy beaches. So grab a beach chair, a book, a huge jug of water, and make your way to the Isle!
Also, according to legend, Isle of Palms contains hidden pirate treasure. So, if you think it’s time to relocate and start a new hobby, why not try metal detecting on the beaches of South Carolina!
Decorah, Iowa, has unique cultural roots dating back to the 1850s, a decade after the native Ho-Chunk settlers had been forced from their land. The town received a large number of Norwegian immigrants, all of whom were looking for work and opportunities in America. Decorah’s Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum is the largest Norwegian immigrant museum in the US.
In early July, Decorah is home to the Nordic Fest, a celebration of Norwegian culture. So, if you would like to learn a little history while eating delicious food, make sure you book a trip to Iowa!
Considering how famous this town is you’d think that the population would be more than 7,354 people! Aspen, Colorado, is a small town with a big reputation. The ski slopes are one of the main selling points of the town, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t flock here during the other months!
The town is surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, guaranteeing year-round trails that allow for hiking and mountain biking. Although people mainly come here for the outdoor activities, there is something to be said about the luxury of the charming Colorado town.
Dahlonega, Georgia’s slogan claims that the town of 7,007 people is “pure gold,” referring to the fact that it was the site of the country’s first major Gold Rush in 1828. The Dahlonega Gold Museum, which offers interesting exhibits, stands in the middle of the town square, for anyone interested in learning more of the history.
In recent years, the town has become more modern, even being recognized as “the heart of the North Georgia Wine Country.” The county is home to multiple vineyards and five licensed wineries.
Cape May, New Jersey
While Cape May, New Jersey, is considered, to some, as more of a summer getaway, there are 3,480 locals who call the charming seaside town their home. The town is proud of its status as “America’s Oldest seaside resort,” and for good reason!
The village streets are lined with Victorian houses that are just as glamorous now as they were when they were first built. You’re even welcome to tour some of the older, historic mansions, such as the Emlen Physick Estate. Or, if you feel like being closer to the water, walk up the Cape May Lighthouse for views of the Deleware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most-visited park in the United States and is a huge draw for tourists. This tiny town has a population of 4,163 people and activity happens around the park’s wilderness areas. But Gatlinburg also has plenty of hotels, shops, and restaurants serving up local favorites!
One adventurer said, “this is the most amazing and beautiful place to visit. We spent a few days, taking our time driving and hiking the trails here. Every turn brought beautiful scenery and views. The roads offer plenty of great places to pull off and enjoy the mountains along the way.”
Sedona, Arizona, population 10,000, has as much to offer as many large cities in terms of arts and activities! Settle in the gorgeous Arizona desert, the area draws people who want to see the beauty of Red Rock State Park.
The unique red rocks have their appearance due to a thin layer of red-to-orange colored sandstone. If you’re into natural scenery, you definitely want to wake up early to see the sun rising over these brilliant formations.
What really sets Moab, population 5,523, apart from everywhere else in Utah, is its close proximity to Arches National Park. This is a stretch of desert that is marked by sandstone rocks shaped like arches. Visitors can also head to Canyonlands National Park, where you can view Native American rock art and dinosaur tracks.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, then this charming base-camp town should definitely be on your list of must-see places in the United States.
Hanapepe’s 2,638 residents agree that the area is quintessential Hawaii. One of the most popular activities to do in this town is taking in the island’s gorgeous natural landscapes, one of which has been featured in multiple movies such as Jurassic Park and even inspired the animated movie Lilo & Stitch.
If you’re an adventurer, look no further than a helicopter ride to take you around the area. This way you’ll be able to take in the beauty of the Mana Waiapuna Falls and see the red ravines of Olokele and Waimea Canyons to their fullest extent.
Meredith, New Hampshire
The town of Meredith, New Hampshire, is not like other lakefront areas in the state. Although it’s situated on Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire’s largest lake, Meredith doesn’t feel like a tourist trap and is a peaceful, easygoing place to visit.
In the summer, there are fishing derbies, concerts in the park, county fairs, and nature tours. Not to mention all of the other water sports you can find people doing in and around the massive lake. Anyone feel like renting a sailboat for the day?
Bar Harbor, Maine
Until 1913, the town of Bar Harbor, Maine was called Eden. The old name makes sense though, with the surrounding mountains, harbors, and sheer seaside cliffs making this town way more photogenic than most. Colorful shorefront houses greet visitors and there are always plenty of boats docked at the pier in a postcard-pretty scene.
Bal Harbor is also the entry point to Acadia National Park, where adventurers hike through a rocky terrain that will eventually lead them to stunning seaside views. As you might have guessed, Bar Harbor is a town for any season!
Jim Thrope, Pennsylvania
When asked to picture an old mining town, you might imagine something like District 12 from The Hunger Games, complete with drab blocks of houses in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, in the town of Jim Thorpe, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
The town is tiny and friendly, with a population of just 4,633 people. This is a very welcoming destination for anyone who wants to experience the surrounding mountains changing color with the seasons.
Sitka, Alaska, population 8,689, is a terrific choice when you just want to get away from the rest of the world. It’s only accessible via a 95-mile plane or ferry trip away from Juneau, making it feel like you’re at the edges of the earth.
If you’re a fan of fresh seafood, Sitka is definitely the place to be, with the sixth-largest port by value of seafood in the United States.
The valley town of Stowe, Vermont, population 4,472, is one of the state’s most delightful places to visit. The town is flanked by mountains, including the largest in the state, Mount Mansfield. Tourists flock here because of the numerous outdoor activities Stowe has to offer, including rock-climbing, skiing, and hiking.
If you feel like staying warm and not venturing up the mountain, feel free to check out the Vermont Ski and Snowboard Museum. The exhibits show old ski gear and various artifacts.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid, New York, population 2,269, is a tiny town that is most famous for hosting the Winter Olympic Games in 1980. It’s still a favorite destination for those who love to ski and play hockey. And don’t forget to explore the tiny town with its numerous shops and museums dedicated to the 1980 games.
If you’re not a fan of snow, don’t worry! In the warmer months, Mirror Lake in the center of town is perfect for an afternoon swim. And various family-friendly activities take place in the park, such as live music.
Sainte Genevieve, Missouri
History buffs are drawn to the former French Canadian town of Sainte Genevieve, Missouri, (population 4,440) for its unique 200-year old historical museum. But if you’re not into touring old towns with abandoned buildings, there are other fun activities to do!
The Cave Vineyard is one of Sainte Genevieve’s biggest tourist attractions. One reviewer said, “We tasted some wine, picked a bottle, got some cheese and crackers and had a beautiful walk down to the cave where we relaxed and enjoyed each other’s company. We loved it.”
Carmel-by-the-Sea, California is the epitome of a small town, with a population of 3,897 people. The village is almost too cute to be real, with adorable little cottages lining the winding streets. But a big highlight of this town is the food! Be sure to book a small-group food and wine walking tour to be sure you hit all of the good spots.
One tour guide said, “The food was delicious and intriguing (balsamic vinegar over ice cream). The drinks were just perfect.” We’re not sure about that combination, but willing to give it a try if it means we can stay for a few days!
Yellow Springs, Ohio
Many historic events took place in the small town of Yellow Springs, such as major Civil Rights Movement activities and anti-war efforts. The town, population 3,487, also holds the title of being the smallest government to pass an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. This ordinance resulted in Yellow Springs becoming the largest LGBTQIA population in all of Ohio.
Aside from its history, the town has many natural wonders to behold, including nearby natural springs and many hiking paths through the surrounding forests.
The small town of Galena, Illinois, population 3,225, is located on the Mississippi River, meaning there is more than one adventure to be had here. Take a trip down the historic river, or take the funicular up Horseshoe Mound and get views of Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. You can even take a ride in a hot air balloon for an ariel view!
Galena is also home to many delicious restaurants. So, tap into your inner foodie and don’t miss out on any of the delicious cuisines this Illinois town has to offer.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
With a population of 1,728, Cannon Beach, Oregon, is a small town with huge offerings for visitors. The gorgeous shoreline that borders one side of the town provides beautiful sunsets and breathtaking vistas. If you’re feeling outdoorsy, Ecola State Park has multiple hiking trails that will lead you to views of the ocean. Or, visit the tide pools at Arcadia Beach to see some wildlife.
Haystack Rock is a must-see for anyone visiting the area. Rising 235 feet out of the ocean, it’s home to a colony of puffins from early spring to mid-summer. You might even recognize the famous rock from the ’80s film The Goonies.
Provincetown, Massachusetts, is not your typical low-key beach town. Situated on the northern tip of Cape Code, this town with a population of just 3,000, has been making a name for itself since the Mayflower’s landing in 1620.
Provincetown has long been known as a welcoming haven for artistic types. If you want to take in the local culture, look no further than Commercial Street where restaurants, shops, and cabarets line the road.
Even the well-traveled author Ernest Hemingway saw the charm in the small town of Ketchum, Idaho, opting to reside there for the last few years of his life. The tiny town, population 2,763, is rare in that winter is the best time to visit!
The town’s beauty after a heavy snowfall is something out of a dream. And after a long day of skiing, there is nothing better to do than snuggle up next to a fire with some hot chocolate just watching it fall.
Tennessee is a state surrounded by natural beauty, the love of music, and a tight sense of community. All of these traits mesh together in the tiny town of Sewanee, population 2,311. It’s almost as if the charming town is continuously ready to have an impromptu bluegrass session on a hot summer night on someone’s porch.
The town is also home to the University of the South, a tiny college of about 1,714 students. Even though there aren’t a lot of undergraduates enrolled, the “college” town feel is definitely noticed with the outdoor concerts and food vendors that occupy the parks and streets of Sewanee.
Big Sky, Montana
With a population of 2,308, Big Sky, Montana is considered to be a small town with some big opportunities. The people of Big Sky are very conscious of light pollution, and because of it, there are some incredible opportunities for stargazing. The town is also a huge hub for skiing, with nordic trails as well as downhill options at Big Sky Resort.
If you’re not into skiing, head over to Yellowstone National Park to look at geysers and other natural wonders. You can also visit Gallatin Canyon where you can fish in the lake or picnic on the side of the bank.
New Castle, Delaware
New Castle, Delaware, is located on the Delaware River and has a population of 5,285. If you enjoy going on tours, this quaint town has a tradition dating back to 1927 of giving tours of historic homes, churches, and gardens. These tours, called “A Day in Olde New Castle,” are typically held on the third Saturday of May. The best part about the tour is how in-character everyone gets, with owners dressing in colonial costumes.
If you’re a history buff we definitely recommend it. The admittance fees even go to the town to help with the maintenance of all of the historic buildings.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The historic town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, has a population of 2,114. Although there’s plenty for history buffs to enjoy here, it’s also one of the best spots in the country to watch the fall leaves change color. And, as its name suggests, there are multiple natural springs that you are able to hike to.
Aside from the natural beauty surrounding the charming town, Eureka Springs is known for its well preserved Victorian buildings in its Historic District, as well as the many festivals that they host each year.
Telluride, Colorado, population 2,426 is an amazing place to visit! In the summer, tourists come to enjoy the local culture at the Telluride Historical Museum and the Sheridan Opera House. Or, they come to take advantage of the abundant trout fishing the town has to offer.
But it’s the winter months that the town really sees an increase in visitors. They all come to hit the slopes and enjoy fine wine by the fireplace!
Within Washington’s Cascade Mountains, the Bavarian-feeling town of Leavenworth has much to offer visitors. You’ll actually feel like you’re in Germany here, with the town’s unique architecture and beer culture.
In addition, Leavenworth’s mountain location makes for beautiful hiking and other outdoor activities, with great skiing in the winter. Speaking of winter, if you plan on visiting, be sure to do it while snow is on the ground. You’ll feel like you’re inside a snow globe on a Hallmark movie.
Crystal River, Florida
Crystal River, Florida is known as the place “Where Man and Manatee Play.” It’s even the town’s official motto! With a population of 3,118, Crystal River is home to many manatees, which tourists can see from the boardwalks at Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge. Or, if you’re lucky, you might see some during a kayak or boating excursion.
We recommend a trip down the Chassahowitzka River if you want to see the sea cows and other wildlife up close and personal! The five-mile-long river is spring-fed and is sure to be an experience to remember.