Lyn Mettler lives in Indianapolis, but she’s partial to Aspen, CO. “It’s a hippy-chic town with some of the most breathtaking mountain scenery in the Rockies,” says the travel blogger, who visits regularly. “I love to stroll through Aspen, have dinner, and stop by the park, where you’re just as likely to see a struggling musician honing his skills for cash as you are to see a member of the rich and famous hiding behind sunglasses.”
That mix of glam appeal and down-to-earth authenticity helped Aspen place in the top 10 of towns among Travel + Leisure readers. In the latest America’s Favorite Places survey, readers ranked hundreds of cities and towns in categories including live music scene, bookstores, brunch spots, and even the enthusiasm of local sports fans.
When we analyzed the 25 top-ranking small towns—those with fewer than 50,000 residents—we found a fascinating mix of ski resorts, beach communities, and college towns with history and quirky charm. Tellingly, some of the towns with the overall top scores, including one with a pirate past and another with a long line of Francophiles, specifically ranked well for feeling relaxed.
Myrtle Beach, SC, for example, swells in size during its peak season, drawing loyal fans for its simple pleasures. Dawn Norrod is a small-business owner from Columbus, OH, who makes an annual visit: “Myrtle Beach has a ton of hotels, right on the strip, for just about any price or luxury you want.” Beyond that, she says, “there is always one lasting memory that continues with each trip. It's me, sitting in my chair around 5 p.m. until dusk, just watching the sand snails come in and out of the sand. That, and the sound of the waves.”
Find out which 25 towns won over the T+L community—starting with No. 1 in North Carolina. Have a favorite town that isn’t represented? Vote for it now in the America’s Favorite Places survey.