16 of the Best Small Towns in America

From California to New York, these are 16 of the best small towns in America.

Big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles might get all the attention as some of the most popular destinations in the country, but the best small towns in America offer their own set of unique, memorable experiences. From quaint downtown districts to stunning natural scenery, these towns provide something for every type of traveler, and they're ideal for weekend trips and relaxing vacations. We've rounded up some of the best small towns in the United States with under 15,000 residents, so you can plan your next getaway.

Related: 50 Best Places to Travel in 2022

Telluride, Colorado

Telluride, Colorado small town with aerial high angle bird's eye view of city cityscape from free gondola to mountain village in summer
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This former mining town in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is a year-round destination perfect for active travelers and history lovers alike. The core area is a National Historic Landmark District with Victorian-era buildings, and these days, guests can shop at boutiques and galleries or dine at local restaurants. This Colorado small town is also known for incredible skiing at Telluride Ski Resort, but there's plenty to do once winter ends — biking, hiking, fly fishing, golfing, river sports, and more are popular choices when the weather warms up.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Street and walkway on Carmel Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea
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This coastal California destination combines a picturesque downtown area with breathtaking scenery, making it the perfect spot for a romantic getaway or West Coast weekend trip. The quaint village has tons of local restaurants, wine bars, fairytale cottages, and secret passageways and gardens, all contributing to the unique, enchanting feel. After a day of shopping and wine tasting, visitors will want to head down to Carmel Beach to take in the views and watch the sunset.

Sedona, Arizona

The painted sky of Sedona Arizona in the fall as the sun drops below the desert horizon
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This beautiful desert town is located about two hours from Grand Canyon National Park and under an hour from Flagstaff, making it an ideal stop on a southwestern road trip. Sedona is surrounded by incredible red rock formations, so it's a popular destination for outdoorsy travelers looking for scenic hikes and wellness seekers wanting unique experiences. The town is filled with galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and more — check out Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for local, artisanal products and dining.

Hudson, New York

Solid red and striped brick buildings on Warren St in Hudson, New York
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Located just over two hours from New York City by train, Hudson is a perfect small town getaway from the big city. It has everything you could want in a New York small town: a walkable city center, great shopping and dining, and interesting experiences in a relaxed setting. Once a 1700s whaling port, Hudson now features a range of historic architectural styles, plus it has dozens of antique dealers — just head to Warren Street to start shopping.

Beaufort, South Carolina

View of the Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park in Beaufort, South Carolina, USA.
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Hilton Head Island and Charleston might get all the acclaim when it comes to South Carolina Lowcountry destinations, but the state has plenty of small towns also worth visiting. Stroll through downtown Beaufort (with a sweet tea in hand), walk along the beach at nearby Hunting Island State Park, and try some fresh seafood at a local restaurant. Learn about the area's history and Gullah culture with a visit to the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park and the Penn Center.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunk River in Kennebunkport, Maine.
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This southern Maine town — one of the best small towns on the East Coast — calls itself "the place to be all year," offering a range of activities available in all four seasons. Of course, Kennebunkport is most popular during the summer, when you can visit the beaches, go boating, and eat lobster rolls under the sun, but the town also goes all out for the holidays with its annual Christmas Prelude.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais, Minnesota
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This artsy town on Minnesota's North Shore has fewer than 2,000 residents, but visitors love its relaxed, small village feel. Summer is the best time to visit if you hope to hike, bike, canoe, sail, or golf nearby. However, northern lights chasers will want to plan their trip for the winter months to maximize their chances of spotting the phenomenon — Cook County (where Grand Marais is located) is one of the few places in the United States where you may have the opportunity to see the aurora borealis (if conditions are right).

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Marquette Park viewed from Fort Mackinac in Mackinac Island, Michigan
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If you're looking for a change of pace, Mackinac Island in Michigan certainly has you covered. This small island town is best explored by foot, bike, or horse-drawn carriage — there are no cars allowed here (with the exception of emergency vehicles, of course). Tour historic sites, like Fort Mackinac (which was founded during the American Revolution), play a round of golf on one of the island's two unique courses, and try some famous Mackinac Island fudge during your visit.

Whitefish, Montana

Whitefish main street in Montana
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Located in the Montana Rocky Mountains, Whitefish is an outdoor adventurer's paradise. The small town is situated near Glacier National Park, so it's the perfect home base for those wanting to explore the park's glaciers, lakes, meadows, and mountains. Whitefish Mountain Resort offers 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, and summer visitors can hike, bike, zip line, and race down the mountain on an alpine slide.

Stowe, Vermont

The charming village of Stowe in Vermont.
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Located in northern Vermont, Stowe is another mountain town worth visiting year-round. During the spring and summer months, visitors can enjoy outdoor activities like hiking and biking, and come winter, skiing at Stowe Mountain Resort is a popular choice. Autumn is a particularly beautiful time to visit this charming small town, as the leaves turn vivid shades of red, orange, and gold, making it one of the best places to see fall foliage in the United States.

Marathon, Florida

Small Bay in Marathon, Florida Keys, Florida with palm trees and bright blue water
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Florida is packed with vacation-worthy beachfront destinations and charming small towns, and Marathon offers the best of both worlds. Its borders stretch across 13 islands, offering plenty of opportunities to get out on that sparkling blue water (with many home rentals boasting direct beach access).

Dripping Springs, Texas

Pretty welcome sign upon entering this small town in the Texas Hill Country in Hays County in scenic central Texas.
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Everything's bigger in Texas, or so they say, but the state's small towns offer a little bit of everything: history, rolling vineyards, sandy beaches, and more. Dripping Springs, not far from Austin, is home to great distilleries, a historic downtown, and a live music scene, plus it's recognized as an International Dark Sky Community.

Calistoga, California

High quality aerial photos of Calistoga, California, a small rural town in Northern California known for its premier wineries.
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One of the best small towns in California, Calistoga is located in famous Napa Valley. It's the ultimate place to unwind on a romantic getaway or girls trip, with natural hot springs, mud baths, and, of course, plenty of delicious wine to taste.

Port Townsend, Washington

Mount Baker Block (1890). Water Street. Port Townsend. State of Washington. Usa. America
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With outdoor adventures, quaint streets, dramatic coastlines, and more, the West Coast's small towns have lots in store for visitors. Port Townsend, a small town in Washington state, boasts a beautiful waterfront location and plenty of places to hike, bike, and kayak nearby.

Mystic, Connecticut

Sunset along the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut as reflections float above the still water.
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New England is chock-full of lovely small towns, and Mystic, Connecticut, is among the best. The town is ideal for foodies looking for a unique, laid-back getaway, with farm-to-table dining and cheese shops. Explore the historic downtown district, get out on the water, and head to a local brewery for a taste of the region.

Kohler, Wisconsin

A tower clocks architecture rising above the trees in Kohler, Wisconsin.
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Kohler, Wisconsin, is one of the best small towns in the Midwest, with championship golf courses, a spa, and an AAA four-star restaurant. It's also home to The American Club at Destination Kohler, ranked among the best resort hotels in the Midwest by Travel + Leisure readers.

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