Best small towns to live in
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Fun fact: Cooperstown was a popular summer retreat for the 19th-century New England elite.
55 Beautiful Small Towns in America | Architectural Digest – Where small town charm meets the perks of urban life.
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With sidewalks to meander, smiling faces to greet, and local shops to browse, it’s obvious what gives these cozy communities their appeal—and keeps people visiting year after year. Although the South’s best small towns may seem quaint at first glance or too quiet to keep you entertained for a whole weekend , you needn’t be worried about filling the hours. These places are reinventing themselves all the time while still preserving what makes them unique.
In our favorite storybook towns, you can choose your own adventure: Relax and recharge or get out and explore. They’re filled with vibrant neighborhoods, dynamic businesses, and long-standing traditions that combine the creative and charming to irresistible effect.
Whether you’re looking for a relaxed location for a weekend getaway or an inviting spot to put down roots, these small towns deserve a place on your must-see list. Regardless of why you’re there, you’re sure to receive a warm welcome. This artsy community has a red-brick downtown that’ll tempt you to stop and stare, but trust us, you’ll want to explore, too. On your self-guided historic walking tour, make sure to stop into the museums, studios, and galleries like Lee Street Studios, Cooper Gallery, and Harmony Ridge along the way.
When you’re ready to relax, catch a show at Lewisburg’s Carnegie Hall , one of only four in the world, or venture into the lush landscape of the Greenbrier Valley with a scenic drive along the Lower Greenbrier River Byway. If you stop for a picnic by the water, you may be rewarded with a dramatic sunset.
Located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, this picturesque small town charms with its brick sidewalks and historic downtown. It’s packed with restaurants where you can enjoy fresh Chesapeake catches, art galleries for admiring local work, and shops for browsing fine clothing and jewelry. Visitor center: 11 S. Harrison Street, Easton, MD , eastonmd. Pawhuska is a place with deep history, some of which you can see at first glance.
Many of the downtown buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the town is the headquarters of the Osage Nation, a Native American tribe of the Great Plains.
You’ll want to explore the tribally-owned Osage Nation Museum, as well as natural wonders like the Joseph H. Williams Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, the largest protected tallgrass prairie on the continent.
Don’t forget to stop into The Pioneer Woman Mercantile when you’re in town. Covington is a small-town hub tucked between three rivers and located on the north side of Lake Pontchartrain. All that water means lots of spots to launch a kayak; there’s also plenty to do in the registered historic downtown with its boutiques, restaurants, and gathering spots.
We’re partial to Abita Roasting Co. Visitor center: N. Lewes prides itself on being a walkable town, so be sure to wear your most comfortable shoes when you visit. Packed into only a half-square-mile are museums, inns, restaurants, and a historic district filled with architecture made for marveling.
This quaint stop is located on the Delaware Bay, Cape Henlopen, and the Atlantic, which makes for abundant natural wonders, including beaches and bird sanctuaries.
Plan outings to Cape Henlopen State Park to see its famous «walking» dunes, the mile-long boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, and the Zwaanendael Museum for a glimpse into local history. Put your finger on the middle of a map of Alabama, and you’re likely to land on Wetumpka.
Just north of Montgomery, this town is known as the «The City of Natural Beauty,» and it’s easy to see why: Visitors love canoeing and kayaking on the nearby Coosa River and enjoying the green spaces on walks and picnics. Don’t miss Swayback Bridge Trail for hiking , Corn Creek Park for birding, fishing, and waterfall watching , and William Bartram Arboretum to see local flora and fauna. No welcome center, wetumpkaal. Suspend everything you think you know about small towns before you visit LaGrange.
This western Georgia destination can hardly be called dull with its great music, ballets, museum exhibitions, sporting events, and wineries. Nearby Callaway Gardens offers golfing, biking, and educational programs. We suggest their course on birds of prey, which lets you witness several of them flying overhead.
A breezy small town located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Travelers Rest served long ago as a stopover for weary travelers, but we’re guessing you’ll want to do more than relax there though that’s highly recommended.
From biking the mile Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail to hiking the hills in search of views, there’s never a dull moment in the Palmetto State outdoors. Fun boutiques for browsing and several great restaurants including some right on the Swamp Rabbit Trail round out the downtown offerings.
This Kentucky town lies at the intersection of the Tennessee and Ohio rivers. With this prestigious designation, it’s no surprise that Paducah is noted for its galleries, festivals, arts centers, and museums including the engaging National Quilt Museum. Take in public art with a stroll past the Paducah Floodwall Murals, a series of paintings depicting local history, with the floodwalls as their canvas. The equestrian town of Aiken could pass for a postcard. Home to the Aiken Horse Show, which has been running for over a century, this South Carolina spot is made for saddling up and going for a trail ride, cozying up in gracious inns and bed-and-breakfasts, and enjoying the splendor of lush parks.
Hop aboard an electric bike rental, or take your seat on an Aiken trolley tour for an introduction to the town. Welcoming, walkable Decatur’s downtown is packed with restaurants that will entice you to extend your visit a while longer. Any time of day, take a leisurely jaunt through the shops and parks peppered around town, particularly in the block central square.
Look up and around while you stroll: A public-art initiative has decorated light poles and traffic signal boxes, while the Decatur Artway features a rotating collection of sculptures. Planted along the Mississippi River, Natchez makes the most of the rambling waters that border it.
Take a walk along the Natchez Trail for nature views, or launch into a waterway to see the sights up close. As one of the best paddling towns in the state, Natchez offers several guided tours that will escort you through the area’s picturesque swamps, creeks, and lakes.
Visit the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture to learn about African Americans’ role in Natchez’s past, or tour one of the many historic homes for a peek into how life here used to be lived. Francisville is a don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it stop. It’s sometimes called «the town two miles wide and two yards long. Here, you’ll find a number of sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the downtown, as well as easy access to nature.
Visitor center: Ferdinand Street, St. Francisville, LA , stfrancisville. Downtown you’ll discover great restaurants as well as spots for browsing antiques and sipping wine. Drive the lushly beautiful Natchez Trace, then settle in for the night at Millville, a rental property that began as a creative space for Justin Timberlake’s brand, William Rast.
Florida’s Atlantic Coast has lots to recommend it, including relaxed beach towns with rich histories. Lucie River and is known for one of its downtown institutions, The House of Refuge at Gilbert’s Bar, a turn-of-the-century haunt for shipwrecked sailors. Don’t miss the town’s heritage museum to learn about local history, and make sure you soak in the outdoors, either on the beach or at parks.
Lucie Inlet Preserve State Park. Along the southern end of North Carolina’s coast—on a stretch known as the Crystal Coast—is a walkable and bikeable small town that invites you to relax and stay awhile.
The fishing village of Beaufort is filled with cute cottages, a winning boardwalk, lovely shops, and a bevy of nautical scenes, including Atlantic sunrises and boat masts bobbling along the water.
Grab a drink at a biergarten including Altdorf Biergarten and The Auslander or one of the local wineries more than and counting!
If you’re up for a challenge, hike to the top of Enchanted Rock, a pink granite mountain less than 20 miles from town. One of the most charming small towns in the state of Alabama, Fairhope is perched atop bluffs overlooking Mobile Bay. Within minutes of arriving, we’re guessing you’ll be breathing a little deeper. Explore the piers and meander the parks and beaches—if you’re lucky, you’ll witness the summer jubilee, when sea creatures wash up on the beaches by the bucketful.
No visit here is complete without spending time at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum where you can peek into the America of centuries past. But what’s happening in contemporary Williamsburg is just as interesting. It’s an active community with a respectable roster of things to do and places to explore. No, we’re not repeating ourselves. This lowcountry gem is studded with moss-hung oaks and overflows with coastal charm and history, thanks to spots like the Penn Center an African-American cultural institution , the Pat Conroy Literary Center a writer’s paradise , and Henry C.
Chambers Waterfront Park. Go kayaking, paddling, boating, and fishing along local waterways, or if you prefer to bike, walk, or skate, hit the Spanish Moss Trail. This mile paved path runs along the Whale Branch River, connecting Beaufort and Port Royal; feel free to bring your pet along for the journey. When you visit the site, Dotdash Meredith and its partners may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies.
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Best small towns to live in.Best U.S. Towns With Fewer Than 10,000 Residents
Plan outings to Cape Henlopen State Park to see its famous «walking» dunes, the mile-long посмотреть еще at Rehoboth Beach, and the Best small towns to live in Museum for a glimpse into local history. Visitor center: Ferdinand Street, St. By Laura May Todd. Visitors spend their days water skiing, kayaking and sailing, and then ot themselves to the fresh catch of the day. Its streets are decorated with beautiful brick узнать больше здесь and well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including a working farmhouse from the s. The little village is listed as a National Historic Site, filled with toans to liven up the scenery when long winters cover the town in snow.
– Best small towns to live in
Our goal is for every community to become better. Stacey Freed is a contributing writer who covers remodeling, construction, lifestyle issues, education and pets. Her book Hiking in the Catskills will be available in July.
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Share using email. Engagement makes a town more livable Small towns rate high in some categories where large cities may not excel, Guzman says. Housing prices can be high The very things that make communities livable and desirable are also the things that make them in high demand and more expensive.
Leaving AARP. Got it! Please don’t show me this again for 90 days. Cancel Continue. Thank You. Your email address is now confirmed. Continue to AARP. Of course, spending a day at the shore of the lake with a picnic and a book is a must-do when the weather allows for it.
Fun fact: Whitefish used to have a far more unfortunate name — Stumptown, because of how many tree stumps were left behind when trees were felled to make way for the city. Pro tip: Visit in July when the city hosts its spirited Nordic Fest. Its mountain location almost makes the city seem as if it rises out of the forest. The town is also home to Luther College, which ensures a large population of young students to enliven the cultural offerings.
With its location along the Mississippi Central Railroad, the town suffered great damage during the Civil War, yet was proudly rebuilt. Still, original churches and plantation remain intact, after years. Sanibel Island is the definition of relaxed, but it still takes wildlife conservation seriously: There are several refuges in town, with the J. Although the town had an affair with counter-culture back in the day, it now draws in those seeking pampering in the form of sophisticated cuisine and luxe lodging.
Fun fact: Hunter S. In Skaneateles, you’ll find both, as well as a nice downtown with restaurants, places to stay and quaint shops. In fact, it was named after the famed Battle of Lexington and Concord. Today, the area touts several wineries and a collection of surrounding waterfalls that nature-enthusiasts love. For those interested in its former life, the Dahlonega Gold Museum offers interesting exhibitions on the history of the town, and you can even visit the Consolidated Gold Mine, which is located underground.
The area was once home to many Cherokee Native Americans. Located north of Boston, visitors can explore Cape Ann’s maritime history and enjoy whale watching cruises off the coast. Visit the Connecticut River Museum, which is located on a 19th-century steamboat warehouse — a type of structure that is basically extinct.
Fun fact: The town’s Griswold Inn opened in , making it one of the country’s oldest inns. But while other towns have succumbed to the cliche of catering to tourists, Meredith has maintained its quiet and unassuming charm. Fun fact: The illustrator of the popular Archie comics, Bob Montana, made Meredith his home until his untimely death in The high-end stores lining its «downtown» are mere steps from the ocean, where on any given day you will see the herd of seals that call this area home.
Unfortunately, they also bring Great White sharks! Two beautiful resorts with water views and fine dining cater to the area. Its geographic location makes it the perfect spot for the oldest ski shop in the country.
Come here for an unassuming yet superb ski getaway. Fun fact: Local shop Chutters has the longest candy counter in the world. In this small town, which looks like it may have generations ago, locals celebrate its history with the Fur Trade Days festival held every year.
The festival features a full fur traders’ market where you may find some unusual trinkets. Fun facts: The town is named for fur trapper Louis Charton, who opened the Bordeaux Creek trading post in Why it’s a great small town: Moab itself is charming, featuring laid-back shops, hotels and dining establishments in a desert setting. But what really makes it sing is its proximity to Arches National Park, marked by sandstone rocks shaped like arches hence the name scattered across a vast desert landscape.
Why it’s a great small town: Mountains, harbors and sheer seaside cliffs make Bar Harbor a place where bringing the camera is mandatory. Colorful houses line the shore and boats dot the pier to create the quintessential picture of seaside Americana. Even better, the town is an entry point to Acadia National Park, where hikers come to conquer rocky trails that lead to views of neighboring islands.
Bar Harbor is a town for any season, with mild summer for swimming and boating, spring and fall for hiking, and winter for skiing. Fun fact: Until , the town was named Eden, an apt moniker considering the idyllic setting. Art galleries and homemade craft shops abound. The harbor commands attention, as people head out to enjoy days in the water or simply delight in the views from land. To nourish your mind and soul, catch a show at the Camden Opera House.
Why it’s a great small town: If someone were to tell you to visit a former coal-mining town, you might imagine a drab block of houses in the middle of nowhere.
The town is colorful and quaint, with locals who treat visitors like family. Its location in the Lehigh Gorge State Park guarantees unbelievable views of mountains that change colors throughout the seasons, and Victorian houses are complemented by old trains that still operate for tourists, a thoroughly charming throwback touch. Walk downtown to see typical Midwestern architecture, or stop at a cafe to admire the majestic Bighorn Mountains that adorn the town.
Hiking, whale watching and visiting museums are favorite local pastimes — and you can do them all while being surrounded by the best of Alaskan nature. This valley town is flanked by mountains including the largest in Vermont, Mount Mansfield. Not surprisingly, outdoorsy activities, from hiking and skiing to rock-climbing and even zip-lining, fill many tourist itineraries.
Looking to explore the town instead? Stowe has a variety of local breweries and numerous family-owned shops to pop into. Stowe is perhaps best known, though, for serving as refuge for the Von Trapp family. Fun fact: Randomly and delightfully, Stowe plays host each fall to the British Invasion, a British car show and culture fest. Why it’s a great small town: As the name suggests, Sainte Genevieve was originally a French Canadian town, and history is its major draw.
As the oldest town in all of Missouri, it touts an interesting historical museum and houses dating back years. Catch a show at the Columbian Theater , learn about state history at the Wamego Historical Museum, or enjoy urban nature at the City Park.
Lined with waterfront houses, the town boasts miles of beaches, numerous scenic bike paths and wooden piers just waiting to be Instagrammed. There are also abundant recreational activities, sports centers, and places to shop and dine. What more could you want? Fun fact: According to legend, the island contains hidden pirate treasures. Yes, there really is a pizza place that provided the backdrop to the New England story that blended its hardworking maritime workers with the preppy, upperclass, just like much of Connecticut’s Long Island Sound communities.
Here, waterfront living is key, with boating and fishing being popular pastimes. On land, moss-draped trees keep residents shaded from the heat until the sun sets and families enjoy waterfront dining along the town’s boardwalk. Fun fact: The famous pirate, Blackbeard, crashed here and was caught in nearby waters. Not too into huffing your way through the mountains? The surfing capital of the world offers giant waves and a culture of wave riding that is deeply rooted in native Hawaii.
Why it’s a great small town: Almost impossibly charming, Carmel-by-the-Sea features cottages that look like they were plucked from a Brothers Grimm tale, tree-lined streets, urban wineries, seafood restaurants and art galleries, all set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean. Fun fact: Clint Eastwood loves this town so much, he spent two years as its mayor. Ranches dot the expansive prairies, intertwining with vineyards and creating a Texas that rarely gets publicity.
Pro tip: Visit in the fall for amazing foliage without the crowds. Besides its activist past, the town is brimming with natural beauty, scenic trails and cultural events. On the contrary, its Victorian houses are just as glamorous as when they were built, while its more modern offerings include pedestrian-friendly shops and restaurants, as well as annual jazz and film festivals.
Fun fact: Because of its impressive number of maintained Victorian buildings, the entire town is a National Historic Landmark. Antiques, coffee shops and craft brewers abound as well as art centers, public murals and as many small-town festivals as your heart could ever desire.
You’ll find restaurants with Swedish food, shops selling Swedish kitsch and even a Swedish festival, Svensk Hyllningsfest. But Galena is not just a blast from the past; it also has art galleries, local breweries and great skiing in the winter.
From spring to fall, you can go up the funicular to get views of Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. Fun fact: You can still visit the home that town residents gifted to Ulysses S. Grant, Union General and former President. The great outdoors always beacons with its varying and exciting landscapes. Why it’s a great small town: Manatee lovers, rejoice! And come congregate in this Floridian town where these gentle animals abound.
You can walk around boardwalks to see them from a distance or get in the water in a kayak or a boat to encounter them along your journey. Several animal refuges and state parks surround the town, making it one of the top destinations for Miamians and Orlandeans who want to get away from the city and enjoy the natural beauty Florida offers.
Provincetown, located on the northern tip of Cape Cod, is none of these things. Since the s, P-Town has made a name for itself as a hub for artists, misfits and eccentrics. Fun fact: Anthony Bourdain decided to dedicate his life to cooking while working in seafood restaurants in Provincetown.
The town center has pedestrian streets and ample shopping locations as well. Its streets are decorated with beautiful brick homes and well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century buildings, including a working farmhouse from the s. Why it’s a great small town: Ketchum is one of just a few places in the U.
When the wind chills and mountains become cloaked in snow, the town shines. After skiing or hiking, soak in the natural hot springs and feel your worries melt away. In the warmer months, fly fishing and rafting are popular activities. Fun fact: This is where the famously well-traveled Ernest Hemingway chose to spend the last years of his life. Why it’s a great small town: Hanapepe preserves the spirit of Aloha, with no tall buildings or traffic congestion to be found.
One of the best things to do is to stuff yourself with the local food, which includes Native Hawaiian staples and dishes inspired by the numerous immigrant communities that call the area home. A mining town, stone buildings still stand and provide a glimpse at the town’s early s beginning. Preserved since the s, you’ll step back in time but experience all of today’s modern comforts. Why it’s a great small town: Aspen and Boulder usually get all the attention in Colorado, but Telluride — more quaint, less pricey — deserves love too.
The historic district is dotted with red brick buildings, set against the backdrop of the sweeping San Juan Mountains. In the summer, when the days are long and pleasant, tourists enjoy immersing themselves into the local culture at the Telluride Historical Museum and the Sheridan Opera House.
Fun fact: The town was the first in the world to boast electric streetlights. This town has dedicated its entire existence to celebrating the holiday, with stores, candy shops and even the post office being Christmas-themed. Fun fact: Celebrate a watery Christmas at Holiday World , a themed amusement park. Here, shrimp boats drag the brackish waters that meet with the Chattahoochee River. Life is sleepy in town, which features romantic bed and breakfasts.
Be sure to visit during the Florida Seafood Festival if you want to see the town come alive for its visitors.