Small town charm is one thing that big cities won’t ever be able to replicate, no matter how they try. These scenic communities all feature plenty of great things to do, as well as offering some truly spectacular natural and manmade beauty.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Maine: Rockport
Maine is full of scenic coastal towns, but Rockport delivers something extra special. Located in Knox County, close to Camden, this little town has been called one of the prettiest small towns in America by Forbes Magazine. Rockport actually is the source of most of the limestone used in the construction of the U.S. capitol building. Today, this is a great place to sail, stroll or just sit by the harbor and eat deliciously fresh local seafood.
2. Wyoming: Cody
This small town is often referred to as the "Gateway to Yellowstone." Situated in the shadow dramatic mountain range, and featuring many well-preserved historical buildings, Cody feels straight out of the Old West.
3. Hawaii: Hanalei
This place may be just to the north of Princeville, an area known for its bustling tourist scene, but Hanalei has definitely retained its cozy, small town feel. That may be due in part to the one-lane bridge that leads into Hanalei, and the 0.8-square-mile size footprint of the town. Though it may be small, this place is big on charm.
4. Wisconsin: Sister Bay
Sister Bay is a little corner of Swedish paradise in Door County. There are plenty of quaint shops and traditional Swedish places to grab a meal, but the most interesting may be Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant & Butik. The roof is covered in grass, and goats roam and clamber all over it. Kayaking on Green Bay is also a great way to take in the town's beauty.
5. Minnesota: Red Wing
Located on the banks of the Mississippi River, this small town is filled with historic buildings and charming downtown streets. Visitors should be sure to check out Red Wing Boots, and explore the beautiful Mississippi Bluffs right outside town.
6. New York: Windham
Located in Greene County at the foot of Windham Mountain, this small town has a population of just over 1,700 people. Sometimes called the "Gem of the Catskills," Windham has twice played host to the World Cup Mountain Bike Race and is a popular skiing and wedding destination. Autumn really shows Windham to its best advantage, when the surrounding woodlands erupt with vibrant red, orange and gold foliage.
7. Mississippi: Water Valley
This small town is the kind of place where you know where your vegetables are grown, every other building is a historical treasure and your neighbors definitely know your name. The art scene in Water Valley is also thriving and a bit part of town life.
8. Utah: Midway
Nestled in Wasatch County's Heber Valley, Midway is almost too picturesque to bear. The town itself is spread over a large area of flat land between the Wasatch Mountains, and is home to around 3,845 people. The town's annual Swiss Days celebration draws thousands of visitors to this sleepy valley, and there are year-round scuba diving opportunities at the natural hot caldera at the Homestead Resort.
9. Kentucky: Paducah
Also known as Quilt City, this small town was actually designated as the UNESCO City of Crafts and Folk Art for 2013. Which is a pretty big deal, seeing as cities from around the world were considered for the honor. Paducah offers over 20 blocks of historic houses and buildings, as well as the National Quilt Museum.
10. Oregon: Newport
Home to the fascinating Oregon Coast Aquarium, this little town overlooks a bustling harbor full of sailboats and small fishing craft. Sunrises are also spectacular in the harbor area, as many of the buildings near the water face east.
11. Louisiana: Natchitoches
Natchitoches is the oldest settlement in the state of Louisiana, and the town hasn't lost any of its cozy charm over the years. Known for its spectacular Christmas Festival, the streets of Natchitoches are lined with family businesses, antique shops and quaint restaurants. The wrought-iron fencing and balconies throughout the town are also quite lovely.
12. Virginia: Charlottesville
Though technically considered to be a city, Charlottesville is usually referred to as a town due to its small size and cozy vibe. Charlottesville was actually recently ranked as one of the “12 Cutest Small Towns in America" by Pure Wow, and was the hometown of Thomas Jefferson. The beauty of his historical plantation home at Monticello is definitely a factor in making this town one of the most scenic in the area, but Charlottesville's downtown also offers plenty of historic buildings, museums and lovely side streets.
13. Missouri: Branson
Branson's population of only 11,064 people belies its incredibly lively and bustling atmosphere. The town is home to Silver Dollar City, which is a 19th-century themed amusement and water park. Downtown offers lots of entertainment options that show off the beauty of Branson, such as museum tours, live music and winery tours. Just outside the town limits, visitors will find outdoor opportunities like zip-lining and rock climbing.
14. Arkansas: Norfolk
Located in Baxter County, Norfolk is filled with picturesque views and historic locations. The town of 550 people is home to the Jacob Wolf House (pictured), which was built in 1829 and is one of the oldest buildings in Arkansas.
15. Washington: Leavenworth
This charming town in central Washington feels like a Bavarian village. There's a lot of German ancestry going on in this place, and the town hosts an incredible amount of cultural celebrations throughout the year, including the Christmas Lighting Festival, Autumn Leaf Festival, Bavarian Icefest and one of the largest Oktoberfest celebrations outside of Germany.