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13 Small Towns in the United States that Were Ranked Among US Favorites

by Staff

The United States of America is a powerhouse of a country, home to everything from scenic landscapes to bustling metropolises. People from all over the world are drawn to the nation by iconic sights like the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, and the Rocky Mountains. Moreover, cities like New York City, Las Vegas, and Miami showcase a vibrance rarely seen elsewhere. However, many people overlook the beauty hidden beneath these cities, in the form of stunning small towns.

These towns are free of the hustle and bustle, showcasing an undiluted insight into the United States’s charm. It can be through rich heritage and historic monuments such as Gettysburg. Or it can be through friendly wildlife and outdoor formations like in Chincoteague. The possibilities are endless, with each town offering a unique array of sights.

Telluride, Colorado

The gorgeous town of Telluride, Colorado.

Telluride, the county seat of San Miguel County, is a former mining camp turned tourist resort. Named after the word “tellurium,” a metalloid element found nearby, the town was a hub for gold, silver, and copper mining in the 1800s. As of today, visitors can revisit the past with a trip to the Telluride Historic District. Lined with rustic establishments like the City Jail, gambling saloons, and Lone Tree Cemetery, it is a history lover’s dream. For an in-depth journey, the Telluride Historical Museum is a wonderful reprieve of information. The museum boasts various exhibits retelling tales of mining, Native Americans, and the town’s geological past. Hand in hand with the past, the town still has a prominent culture, visible through the summer festival season. Events like the Hot Air Balloon Festival bring the town together, for a load of delicious dishes, thrilling activities, and joyous conversations.

While the town’s history is interesting, it is not the prime attraction in Telluride. Instead, tourists flock to this Colorado town for its amazing outdoor activities, particularly skiing. Taking advantage of its location in Box Canyon, the surrounding mountains and cliffs create an array of slopes perfect to cut through. The Telluride Ski Resort is a great place to have fun, boasting 127 trails and 2,000 acres of skiable area. The possibilities are endless, whether you want to try out a beginner slope or race through the 4.6-mile (7.4 km) Galloping Goose run. If not skiing, hiking is another great way to take in the stunning environment all around. Visitors can enter a world of outdoor scenery by hiking to Bridal Veil Falls, Bear Creek, and Alta Lakes. Moreover, old mining facilities dot the landscape, adding a mysterious air to the endeavor.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Traditional New England buildings and stores on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts
Traditional New England buildings and stores on Nantucket Island in Massachusetts, via EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Nantucket is a coastal jewel 30 miles south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The idyllic town is a slice of maritime charm, accessible only by boat, ferry, or airplane. Upon arrival, Surfside Beach welcomes water enthusiasts with its vibrant atmosphere. This beach is full of life, and there are always tourists sunbathing, surfing, or enjoying a bite at one of the food kiosks. If you are looking for a quieter environment, Jetties Beach along the southern coast is a better option. During the off-season, this beach is a silent abode of calm waves and delicious food, perfect for a day of relaxation. Speaking of food, Nantucket’s reputation as a fishing and scalloping hub ensures that seafood lovers are in for a treat. Spots like Dune and Oran Mor boast great food, ambiance, and service for the perfect meal.

No trip to Nantucket is complete without a visit to the famous Brant Point Light lighthouse. Claiming to be the country’s second oldest lighthouse, dating back to 1746, it has tons of sailing stories to share. Visitors can take a tour of the building, which offers panoramic views of the coast. Similarly, the Whaling Museum is another blast to the past showcasing the town’s history as a worldwide whaling hub. Highlights include a 46-foot-long sperm whale skeleton and captivating art pieces crafted by 19th-century whalers. With these and tons of other iconic destinations, Nantucket is a wonderful place to get away and enjoy the waves.

South Lake Tahoe, California

Aerial view of the gorgeous lake town of South Lake Tahoe, California.
Aerial view of the gorgeous lake town of South Lake Tahoe, California.

Continue the waterside experiences from Nantucket with a trip to South Lake Tahoe, California. This picturesque town rests along the southern edge of Lake Tahoe, providing tourists with a stunning environment. Those who wish to spend their time outdoors have a range of options, such as Emerald Bay State Park. A short drive away, this park seems straight out of a fantasy novel, with encompassing natural beauty. Hiking is a great way to take in the sights, and various trails are on offer. Beginners can try their hand at the 1.9-mile Eagle Lake Trail, a calm route full of pretty flora and fauna. Meanwhile, advanced hikers can challenge themselves to the 5-mile (8.2km) Emerald Point Trail with its encompassing lakeside views and lush greenery. On the other hand, spots like El Dorado Beach and Baldwin Beach are ideal for a day of relaxation and swimming.

While summers are wonderful, the area transforms during winter, opening up a new set of activities. As snow begins to pile up, skiing resorts such as Palisades Tahoe and Heavenly Mountain Resort come to life with iconic routes. For example, Heavenly Mountain Resort boasts 4,800 acres of skiable area and over 90 trails. Whether you want to learn the ropes or cut through the snow at high speeds, there are plenty of options. If not skiing, the resort is also home to The Gondola at Heavenly, which takes visitors 2.4 miles up the mountain for a panoramic view of Lake Tahoe’s allure.

With so much to do outside the town center, many people overlook South Lake Tahoe’s charming streets. Home to 21,000 people, the town is always alive with both tourists and locals. To this end, activities are abundant, no matter what one is interested in. History enthusiasts enter the past at Tallac Historic Site, which features three antique estates. Meanwhile, foodies choose between various eateries, from a lakeside meal at Riva Grill on the Lake to drinks at the Cold Water Brewery and Grill.

Taos, New Mexico

Downtown McCarthy's plaza square with the Hotel La Fonda in Taos, New Mexico
Downtown McCarthy’s plaza square with the Hotel La Fonda in Taos, New Mexico, via Andriy Blokhin / Shutterstock.com

Taos is more than just a town; it’s a slice of heritage hidden within New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Taos is famed as the site of Taos Pueblo, one of the most important Native American heritage sites. Visitors can explore the ancient Pueblo, which a Native American tribe of Puebloan people built between 1000 and 1450. The site consists of hundreds of ceremonial buildings and multi-story houses that showcase the tribe’s culture and lifestyle. As you roam through the fascinating structures, it feels like you have traveled to a bygone era.

Cultural enthusiasts interested in Taos Pueblo will also love the vibrant destination riddled throughout the town. For example, take a look at 7,000 outstanding artifacts and art pieces at the Millicent Rogers Museum, a lovely showcase of Native American art. Or, stroll through Taos Plaza, which surrounds visitors with Spanish Colonial-style and Mission Revival architecture, from the town’s early days. The iconic architecture hides tons of stores, events, and eateries, making it a fun location to spend the day.

While exploring the town, visitors will inevitably catch a glimpse of the majestic mountain backdrop encompassing the town. Take a closer look along the High Road, a scenic highway that cuts through the region’s mountains. Stretching for over 56 miles (90 km), there is no end to the majestic peaks, barren deserts, and rustic buildings on the route. Continue driving northwest from Taos for another breathtaking sight, the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Centered within lush landscapes, it is a massive 1280-foot (390 m) bridge spanning the Rio Grande River.

St. Augustine, Florida

Waterfront view in St. Augustine, Florida
Waterfront view in St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is another showcase of immense history, but instead of Native American heritage, the town is famed for its European past. Founded by a Spanish conquistador in 1565, it is the oldest continuously inhabited European-established settlement in the contiguous United States. To this end, each street echoes tales of a bygone era. St. George Street stands out, with an array of historic attractions evident through its rustic architecture.

For example, the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument beckons travelers with its immense status. Built in the late 1600s, this Spanish fort is the United States’s oldest masonry fortification and has seen many battles throughout the years. Another monumental destination is the Colonial Quarter Living Museum, where visitors can experience the past, from life in the 16th Century Spanish First City to construction techniques of the 18th Century British Colony. Add on the Lightner Museum and St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum for an endless day of cultural charm.

Hand in hand with the historic destinations, the town is also full of vibrance, exemplified in the tourist hotspots. Adventurous travelers can spend the day at Anastasia State Park for a thrilling experience. Featuring 1,600 acres of white sand beaches along the Atlantic coast, it is the perfect spot for kayaking, hiking, and swimming. Similarly, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park displays a different type of nature, in the form of wildlife. This 1839 zoo boasts residents such as alligators, crocodiles, and snakes forming a reptilian wonderland. Kids love watching the interactive wildlife shows and feedings.

Hood River, Oregon

Hood River, Oregon Lavender Farms.
Hood River, Oregon Lavender Farms. Image credit Victoria Ditkovsky via Shutterstock

Hood River is a picturesque abode that welcomes passionate travelers with a slice of Oregon’s landscapes. The town perches along the beautiful Columbia River Gorge, featuring spectacular waterfalls, basalt cliffs, and lush forests. Discover the views with a trip to Mount Hood, which is a short drive away. This snowcapped peak cuts through the clouds, with a grandeur like no other. Opportunities like hiking, biking, and skiing along the slopes, make it a fun environment for adventurous visitors. On the other side of town, Columbia River showcases a different type of outing, in the form of kiteboarding, windsurfing, and jet skiing. From gliding along the waves to following a strong gust of wind, they are great activities to enjoy the environment.

In addition to the adrenaline-filled pursuits, Hood River also has an array of attractions on a more calm front. For example, waterfall lovers can drive along the highway to reach Multnomah or Horsetail Falls, two stunning formations. Cascading within thick foliage and jagged rocks, these falls exude a mystical aura that anyone will adore.

Alternatively, those keen on learning local history can embark on the Historic Columbia River Highway Scenic Byway, which stretches 70 miles from Troutdale to the Dalles. Opened in 1916, this historic trail covers various sights rich with heritage, such as the 1918 Vista House on Crow Point. Moreover, plenty of waterfalls, hiking trails, and greenery create a soothing environment that never gets boring.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Historic downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Image credit Rachael Martin via Shutterstock.com

Arkansas’s jewel, Eureka Springs, is a lovely tourist hotspot in the Ozark Mountains famed for its great healing springs. Incorporated in 1880, the town quickly became a Victorian resort as people from all over would come to experience the spring’s healing powers. Even today, the vibe is still the same, beckoning visitors with a soothing aroma. In total, the town has 66 cold mineral springs engulfed in lush greenery, creating an environment of true peace. Most people can be seen relaxing for hours, as they forget the woes of their mental and bodily woes. Even if you’re not one for an open spring, the local Palace Hotel & Bath House is a historic property with amazing spas, massages, and treatments to ease off.

After visitors have cleared their mind and body, it’s time to enter the vibrant streets of Eureka Springs. Ode to its history, the town has an amazing historic downtown area, full of both cultural establishments. Those interested in the past adore the surrounding Victorian architecture and are drawn in by the galleries, boutiques, and cafes all around. For example, Intrigue Theater features iconic art shows, while Rogue’s Manor is the place to be for a luxury meal. Head further out and a few hotspots shine, such as the artistic Thorncrown Chapel and haunted Crescent Hotel. From showcasing unique designs to providing haunted tours of the unknown, the possibilities are endless in Eureka Springs.

Chincoteague, Virginia

Wild ponies swim to Chincoteague Island from Assateague Island, Chincoteague, Virginia.
Wild ponies swim to Chincoteague Island from Assateague Island, Chincoteague, Virginia.

From the mountainous charm of Eureka Springs, continue the outdoor journey at Chincoteague, Virginia. This idyllic town encompasses the whole of Chincoteague Island, offering stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean on all sides. To this end, water is imbued in the town’s activities, whether it is a historic lighthouse trip or sunbathing along the beach. For history enthusiasts, head over to the Assateague Lighthouse or the Museum of Chincoteague Island, where one can indulge in tours and exhibits of the region’s past. Meanwhile, people here for a fun time should rush straight to one of the town’s beaches to enjoy the coast. Set up a towel, umbrella, and some drinks for a day of relaxing sunbathing accompanied by the sound of crashing Atlantic waters.

Hand in hand with the waterside opportunities, Chincoteague is also home to a flourishing ecosystem, especially in terms of wildlife. In fact, the town boasts the Virginia herd of Chincoteague Ponies, a species of wild ponies made famous in the novel and movie, “Misty of Chincoteague.” Visitors can witness and interact with these lovely creatures at sites like the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Encompassing 14,000 acres of land, the refuge protects rare and endemic species such as the Atlantic horseshoe crab, red fox, and piping plover, among others. Marine life is also abundant around the island, and fishermen can cast a line along the Assateague Island National Seashore. Although, make sure you have a valid fishing license beforehand. After a day of fun, end it off with a seafood meal at Sea Star Cafe for an amazing trip to this U.S. favorite town.

Deadwood, South Dakota

Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota.
Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota.

Upon arrival, this South Dakota town transports visitors to the Wild West era, filled with cowboys and gunslinging. Getting its name from the dead trees found in its gulch, Deadwood feels straight out of an Old West story. This is because the town was a hit during the late 1800s Gold Rush, attracting famous gunslingers such as Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok. Take a look into the past at the Historic Old Town, which preserves many of the pubs, saloons, and gambling joints from the 1800s.  Even today, gambling remains popular, with casinos like the Gold Dust Casino and Midnight Star and Lil’s offering riveting table games. 

History enthusiasts can delve deeper into Deadwood’s wild past at attractions like the Adams Museum, Mount Moriah Cemetery, and the Broken Boot Gold Mine. Mount Moriah Cemetary is small at first glance, but features the graves of iconic Wild West figures such as Calamity Jane. Similarly, Broken Boot Gold Mine is located in an underground former gold mine, offering guided tours of the dark tunnels that once held precious metals. Apart from these establishments, the town is a great place to make new friends, thanks to its friendly community of 1,150 people. From tales of haunted miners to the tragic death of Wild Bill Hickok, conversations flow effortlessly in this wild town.

Mooresville, North Carolina

Lake Norman, at McCrary Access Area, in Mooresville.
Lake Norman, at McCrary Access Area, in Mooresville. Image credit jonbilous via Adobe Stock.

Mooresville is a racing fan’s dream, known for its immense history in the sport. This North Carolina town is nicknamed “Race City USA” as it is the home of various NASCAR racing teams and drivers, as well as an IndyCar team. Take a peak into the fast-paced sport at the Penske Racing South Facility, a state-of-the-art 105-acre complex for racing teams. Here, one can tour the facility, take pictures from the fan walk, or buy souvenirs from the gift shop. If you’re lucky, you might meet a driver or team principal, as they are often in the facility.

Similarly, JR Motorsports and Kyle Busch Motorsports are two other locations, offering tons of fun activities and items. For example, they showcase multiple racing trophies, which attract people from all over. After all the racing fun, why not hit the track for yourself? Book a slot at the Pit Indoor Kart Racing where the 70,000-foot track challenges even the best riders with 20 tough turns.

Outside the tracks, Mooresville is a laid-back destination, with plenty of friendly locals all around. Tourists interested in the culture love spots like the NC Auto Racing Hall of Fame and Welcome Home Veterans Living Military Museum. From antique cars to army memorabilia, they are a culmination of intriguing exhibits. Or, for family travelers, the Lazy 5 Ranch is a fun place to spend the day. It houses over 750 lovely animals, such as giraffes, camels, and lemurs that offer kids a wonderful experience.

Brevard, North Carolina

Little shops and boutiques in downtown Brevard, North Carolina.
CLittle shops and boutiques in downtown Brevard, North Carolina. Image credit Dee Browning via Shutterstock.

Take a step back from the hustle and bustle of Mooresville with a trip to Brevard. The county seat of Transylvania County, this laid-back destination is the perfect example of a small town. As you walk through town, small stores, cultural attractions, and quaint eateries invite curious souls with friendly faces. Families can head down to the Crystal Mountain Gem Mine for a fun day of history, panning for gold, and learning about mining. On the other hand, adults opt for places like Oskar Blue Brewery to grab a drink with the locals. The best part is that Brevard is home to Brevard College, giving it all the quirks of a college town.

While the town is a great place to relax, there is more to Brevard than its charming streets. Situated within North Carolina’s stunning outdoors, nature is intertwined in every trip to town. Most tourists head straight to the DuPont State Forest, a 12,500-acre expense of mother nature’s charm. As the lush forests open up to serene waterfalls and steep hills, the forest offers a blend of tranquility and adventure. One can journey through the magnificent scenery by hiking, biking, swimming, and kayaking. If this isn’t enough, nearby areas such as the Gorges State Park and Pisgah Forest offer tons of opportunities for a wonderland of fun.

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Overlooking Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.
Overlooking Gettysburg in Pennsylvania.

Gettysburg is a name many of you may have heard of with a notable involvement in American history. The county seat of Adams County, Pennsylvania, the town is revered for its ties to the Civil War and was the site of the infamous 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. Enthusiasts can experience the past at Gettysburg National Military Park, a 6,000-acre park where the battle took place. Showcasing the immense sacrifice of Union soldiers for three days of constant battle, the park’s tours are second to none in Civil War history.

Hand in hand with the battle, Gettysburg is intertwined with historic events, palpable through sites like the Eisenhower National Historic Site, the Gettysburg Museum of History, and Jennie Wade House. The Eisenhower National Historic Site once belonged to Former U.S. President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and is a testament to his life. On the other hand, the Gettysburg Museum of History opens up a different side of the past, with over 4,000 artifacts on ancient civilizations, world events, and local history.

Culture continues to flow through the rest of the town as well, with colorful shops, inns, and restaurants creating an air of comfort. Take in the rustic charm by booking a room at the Swope Manor or enjoy a fun night of drinking at The Pub & Restaurant.

Monterey, California

Streets of downtown Monterey in winter
Streets of downtown Monterey in winter

This stunning town perched along California’s Central Coast is a wonderland of seaside attractions. Home to 30,000 residents and always full of tourists, Monterey bustles with life, no matter where you are. Nature lovers rush to the scenic views of Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, which is a world of beauty. Covering a total of 1,300 acres both on and offshore, it is an ecological wellspring, with hundreds of marine species thriving in the waters. Hiking, wildlife watching, and diving are a few ways visitors can experience the lovely vibe. Speaking of marine life, Monterey is home to the famed Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the region’s best aquatic exhibits. Sea turtles, jellyfish, sharks, and octopuses fill the massive tanks, creating a fun time for kids and adults alike. Moreover, the aquarium has plenty of tours, some of which allow visitors to interact with and feed the sea life for a memorable time in California.

While marine life is the prime attraction, tourists can still enjoy the sights without the animals. If this sounds like something you are interested in, head out on the breathtaking 17-Mile Drive. As the name suggests, it spans 17 miles (27 km) along the rugged Pacific coastline, showcasing everything from jagged rocks to luxurious mansions. After the drive, head into town to end the day with a bang. With tons of tourists roaming around, anything is fun in Monterey. No matter what you do, be sure to try out the succulent salmon at Old Fisherman’s Grotto before leaving!

These lovely towns in the United States boast astonishing features that rank them among the country’s favorites. Whether it is the Native American pueblos at Taos or the Wild West saloons in Deadwood, there are unique attractions to explore in each town. Moreover, with access to tons of natural wonderlands and tasty eateries, the fun never ends. All you need to do is find the right town for you and head out for an amazing vacation in the United States.

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