The 10 Best Small Towns in the United States
With Labor Day Weekend coming in hot, it’s time to think of a quick getaway from your hometown. While traveling internationally might not be on the list (especially in such a short time frame), there are plenty of small towns that will are awe-inspiring and make for the perfect long weekend getaway.
1. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
If you’ve never been to Eureka Springs, it should go at the top of your ‘must-see’ list. The historic town looks like something out of an old western—with gorgeous Victorian houses along the winding roads and over 100 shops and art galleries in the downtown area. And you won’t find a single chain store anywhere downtown, it’s not allowed. From the extraordinary wilderness where you can hike, camp, kayak, canoe and bike to the incredible places to eat downtown, Eureka Springs is definitely a wonderful place to explore.
2. Waterloo, Illinois
If you’re asking yourself, ‘Waterloo? Really?’ Yes, really. With its extremely small-town vibes—hello car shows and small pony parades—Waterloo is a place to go when you really want to get away from the city and feel like you’re away from it all. Shop for gifts at Philomena and Ruth, go cave exploring at the Illinois Caverns State Natural Area, eat incredible chicken at Gallagher’s, and end the night at RRR for drinks. You won’t regret it.
3. Carmel, California
Want to feel like you’re in an actual real-life fairytale? Of course, you do! Carmel, or Carmel-by-the-Sea as it’s officially known, is a one-square-mile village (!!) known for its fairytale-like cottages as well as its boutiques, art galleries, Basilica and wineries. The small town was also ranked as one of America’s top beach towns, so you know you have to go.
4. Hilo, Hawaii
This small town should be on the top of your travel bucket list. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Hilo is known for its world-famous Panalu’u Black Sand Beach and the Kahuku Unit of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (look these up immediately—you’ll want to book your ticket right away). For those of you who don’t want to spend the day at the beach or exploring volcanoes, Hilo’s downtown area has great shopping, art galleries, restaurants, and museums and a wide range of the storefronts are on the National Register of Historic Places. Pretty epic.
5. Marfa, Texas
Have you ever seen a shot of the deserted Prada store seemingly in the middle of nowhere? You’ll find it in Marfa, Texas. And it’s not a deserted store, it’s a permanent art installation. Marfa became an art-world leader when artist Donald Judd moved there and has been attracting artists from all over the world since (look at Instagram—it’s been attracting visitors from all over too). It is now a place to visit for incredible art galleries, live music, and their total farm-to-table vibe at all their local restaurants. Our number one tip? Bring sunscreen and cash. With only about three ATMs in the whole town, you’ll want to take cash out in advance. You never know when you might need it.
6. Taos, New Mexico
Best known for attracting artists from all over the country because of its iconic pueblo houses, Taos is home to three art museums, more than 80 art galleries (yes, you read that right—80!) and a variety of performing arts spaces. Taos also has the honor of having a UNESCO World Heritage Site and National Historic Landmark—Taos Pueblo, an ancient pueblo belonging to a Taos-speaking Native American tribe of Puebloan people.
7. Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
In case you didn’t know, Ste. Genevieve is Missouri’s oldest town. Founded by French Canadian colonist in the 18th century, visit some of the most historic homes in the United States—some are even over 200 years old and people from all over come to see these homes up close. The history of this sleepy small town is, according to National Geographic, ‘perhaps the last, best surviving window into an era of the American frontier that isn’t widely taught or understood.’ If being part of history isn’t your thing, maybe one of the many wineries in the area will spike your interest. With a handful of wineries in the area, it’s definitely a place to have a nice glass or three and take in the scenery.
8. Whitefish, Montana
If you’re looking for the perfect place to ski, look no further. Whitefish, Montana was named by National Geographic as one of the ‘Top 25 Ski Towns in the World.’ Not into skiing? No problem. Whitefish also offers more to do and see like snowboarding, hiking, boating, biking, live theater, and incredible food.
9. St. Augustine, Florida
If you’re wanting to head to Florida but not the conventional Florida, St. Augustine is where you should head. The small town is full of Spanish colonial history and unspoiled beaches that you won’t find anywhere else in the US. Take a stroll along the Colonial Quarter, check out the St. Augustine Lighthouse and then take a dip in the ocean. All in all, sounds like the perfect weekend away.
10. Bar Harbor, Maine
Maine in general should be on your list of places to see, and Bar Harbor should be the first place to explore. This relaxing East Coast town has world-class history and culinary tours (lobster for days) and is close to Acadia National Park, home to some of the most incredible hikes and kayaking you can do in the US.