The 15 Best Small Towns in America to Visit in 2019
What Are the Best Small Towns in the U.S.A?
There are thousands of small towns in America, but what are the best ones to visit? Each town offers their own special appeal, whether you are into the outdoors and hiking, or you prefer a relaxing day of shopping in small strips.
Whatever the case, there are plenty of small towns in America that have just what you need. Remember, these are in no specific order, so if you see your town on here and aren’t happy with its position, just know that I’m sure it would be ranked number one if there was any actual order.
1. Midway, Utah - Population: 5,093
Midway is a beautiful little town situated near the Wasatch Mountains. With about an hour drive from Salt Lake City, you get that nice seclusion from the hustle and bustle of city life, but you’re not so far away that you can’t make visit up there if you please.
Many people know Midway for its beautiful views of Mount Timpanogos, a mountain in the Wasatch mountain range, but Midway offers a vast selection of activities that you are unlikely to find anywhere else.
Homestead Crater. The Crater is a part of a 55 foot tall, limestone rock that nature has hollowed out over many, many years. It is filled with water that is geothermally heated to a perfect 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit, according to Homestead Report. That makes it perfect for a nice relaxing soak, or you could even go snorkeling and scuba diving!
I’d take advantage of that, as the Crater is the “only warm scuba diving destination in the continental US.” You can find more information, and even reserve your spot today at the Homestead Report page.
Ice Castles. The Ice Castles are man-made structures, with each icicle expertly placed by top artists. There is so much to do in these Castles, such as viewing the huge LED sculptures, sitting on frozen thrones, exploring carved tunnels, and much more.
Considering that these rely on the cold, your best bet for experiencing this is during the winter months. They close during warm weather seasons.
Soldier Hollow. Soldier Hollow is a ski venue located in Wasatch Mountain State Park. It is the home of the 2002 Olympic cross-country skiing event, but to this day offers plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy, year-round. Soldier Hollow offers the best facilities for tubing, and attracts people from all over to experience the fun.
2. Fredericksburg, Texas - Population: 11,369
Fredericksburg is a small, German town 70 miles north of San Antonio. Located in Hill Country, Fredericksburg offers a perfect getaway from the fast-paced city life, while providing you with a myriad of local wineries to choose from, as well as a good choice for shopping.
If you love history, you’ll love Fredericksburg. Established in 1846 by German settlers, Fredericksburg was named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. It is also the home of “Texas German” a specific dialect created by the original settlers who refused to learn English.
So what can you find in Fredericksburg?
Wine Tour. Take a trip along Fredericksburg Wine Road 290, a 45 mile stretch that houses 19 local wineries. There are many opportunities to book a tour on TripAdvisor, and it’s something I recommend even if you don’t like wine. The scenery and atmosphere of the small towns in Texas are well worth it.
The National Museum of the Pacific War. Going along with the theme of history, Fredericksburg is home to the National Museum of the Pacific War. It honors the millions of Americans who signed up to defend the nation against threats to the freedom of the USA. According to their official website, the museum is spread across more than six acres, and over 50,000 square feet of exhibit space. This is a must do for anyone visiting the small town of Fredericksburg.
Enchanted Rock. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, you can make the 17-mile journey north to Enchanted Rock. This pink granite dome that offers over 11 miles of hiking trails, and offers some of the best views in Texas. After a few exhausting days of drinking wine and antique shopping, take a load off by hiking Enchanted Rock. Remember to hydrate, with WATER!
3. French Lick, Indiana - Population: 1,781
Who wouldn’t want to visit the hometown of Larry Bird? French Lick is a very small town in Indiana, about an hour from Louisville, Kentucky. If you love casinos and small towns, you’ll love French Lick. The state of Indiana opened their 10th casino right in French Lick, providing you with a great opportunity for a fun night out.
As with many small towns, French Lick has a rich history dating back to 1811, however, it was officially a town in 1857.
French Lick has plenty for you to do over the course of a few days, you just have to know where to look.
French Lick Casino. Inside here, you’ll find 51,000 square feet of pure, unadulterated, fun. If you think you have what it takes to win big on either the slot machines, or the table games, then you’re bound to enjoy yourself at the French Lick Casino.
French Lick Scenic Railway. If you are looking for a relaxing train ride, then this is for you. It is a two hour long ride around the surrounding areas, and offers some great views. You’ll also have a narrator sharing stories about the town to fulfill your craving for history.
French Lick West Baden Museum. The museum is home to the “World’s Largest Circus Diorama,” according to the museums website. It is dedicated to bringing the town’s history to light, and ensuring it never goes away. After the scenic train ride, this is a great place to stop to get a more up close and personal experience with the town.
4. Sitka, Alaska - Population: 8,647
Ranked as one of the best small towns in America by Smithsonian magazine in 2013, and rightfully so. Sharing cultures between three different groups- Americans, Russians, and Tlingit- Sitka is bursting with art, history, and excitement. According to VisitSitka.org, they even toted the nickname “Paris of the Pacific” back in the 19th century.
Considering the Tlingit people first settled here 10,000 years ago, you could understand how this place would be awesome to visit.
So, what does Sitka offer in terms of things to do?
Alaska Raptor Center. If you want to get up-close-and-personal with bald eagles, then this is your spot. The Alaska Raptor Center is a volunteer run organization that treats, rehabilitates, and releases bald eagles and other injured birds. The birds that are too injured to re-enter the wild are kept in the sanctuary and used to educate and entertain 10’s of thousands of visitors per year.
Sitka National Historic Park. Sitka National Historic Park is a small park, with only being 113 acres, however you will not be bored for a second. With countless hiking trails, demonstrations, and cultural displays, the National Park is a great place for people of all ages. Have fun exploring the rainforest and discovering the 20 totem poles this park offers!
Fortress of the Bear. This one sounds intimidating, but in reality is a very eye-opening experience. Much like the Alaska Raptor Center, the Fortress of the Bear is a bear conservation and rehabilitation center. The Fortress allows you to get within 25-feet of the brown bear’s that live here.
5. Hendersonville, North Carolina - Population: 13,137
Hendersonville, North Carolina is a tranquil little town in western North Carolina. Often regarded as the second best downtown in western NC, there is plenty to see and do here. On top of a great downtown environment, Hendersonville is perfect if you are seeking some outdoor adventure.
It is nestled in between the Blue Ridge and the Great Smoky Mountains. This makes for a perfect getaway from the busy city life. Hendersonville is great for people of all ages, with plenty for the kids to do, as well as the adults.
Elijah Mountain Gem Mine. As someone who very much enjoyed Earth Science in high-school, this one really peaked my interest. This allows you to mine for real gemstones, and not only that, you also get to keep them! There is also the opportunity to visit the creek, where they have picnic tables perfect for a quiet lunch outside. All the pictures show just kids doing the mining, but I would be more than happy doing some mining myself!
Henderson Heritage Museum. For all of my fellow history junkies out there, this one’s for you! This museum prides itself on giving very accurate depictions of how life was during the Civil War era. Want to know something crazy? It is completely FREE! So, rain or shine, money or not, you can spend a very educational afternoon indulging in Hendersonville’s history.
Burntshirt Vineyards. In the mood to try some award-winning wine? Stop by Burntshirt Vineyards! It is one of North Carolina’s newest vineyards, with over 20 acres of grapes and some apple orchards boot; you are guaranteed to relax here. If you are feeling up to it, you can pack a lunch to eat at one of their many picnic tables!
6. Crystal River, Florida - Population: 3,118
If you are looking for a beautiful, small town in America, then this is your place. Just shy of an hour and a half north of Tampa, Crystal River is nestled up by Kings Bay. Kings Bay is spring fed, so the temperature of 72 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
The perfect, clear water houses many Manatee throughout the year, and that is why, in 1903 when the town was established, they proclaimed themselves as “Home of the Manatee.” So if you love wildlife and the outdoors, Crystal River, Florida is the place for you.
Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is a safe haven for manatees during the winter months. Considering Kings Bay stays a constant 72 degrees, manatees flock here every winter to escape the cold waters. During the months of November through March, the area is designated as a Manatee Sanctuary, and is closed off to humans. However, you can still view the manatees from a safe distance. Outside of those months, there are plenty of rental companies in Crystal River that rent out snorkel gear, kayaks, and much more!
Crystal River Archaeological State Park. If you are into Native American history, then this is a must visit destination. Even if you aren’t big into history, I’d still recommend stopping by. The State Park is a 61-acre landmark that houses Native American burial mounds, temple mounds, and more. It was very popular in its heyday, attracting an estimated 7,500 Native Americans per year to conduct trade and ceremonious burials, according to Florida State Parks.
Franklin Anderson Gallery. Want to appreciate and support local artists? Stop by the Franklin Anderson Gallery. With many amazing reviews on TripAdvisor, it’s hard to believe that this is a hidden gem in the city. Considering they support local artists, they have a wide range of art to be purchased, and there will be something for everyone!
7. Morro Bay, California - Population: 10,635
A little fishing village on California’s central coast, Morro Bay offers some of the most natural landmarks you can find in California. Sitting halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Morro Bay is the perfect getaway from the bustling city life.
They offer year-round activities that everyone can enjoy, from museums to hikes.
Morro Rock. The flagship icon of Morro Bay is of course, Morro Rock. It is 576 feet tall, and is the nesting area for Peregrine Falcons; the fastest animals in the world. Morro Rock is a volcanic plug, and the last in a chain of extinct volcanoes, known as the Nine Sisters, according to MorroBay.org.
Morro Bay State Park. If you are feeling a bit adventurous, swing by this State Park. You have a little bit of everything here, with access to sailing, fishing, hiking and more. If you want to relax a bit, check out their golf course, or even their museum dedicated to the natural and cultural features of the area.
Morro Bay Skateboard Museum. Want to let your radical side out? Then buy a skateboard. Want to view the history of other people’s radical side? Then stop by this museum. It features memorabilia from the 1930’s to present day, as well as skateboards from many famous skaters over the years. Even if you aren’t big into skateboarding, the history packed in here is well worth the visit.
8. Pendleton, Indiana - Population: 4,287
Now, if you are looking for the most authentic small town American feel, consider visiting Pendleton. With a humble, but rich history, Pendleton is THE destination of choice to completely relax.
According to Pendleton’s website, the town’s history goes back to 1818 when a man named John Rogers built a home near the falls. A few years later, Thomas Pendleton laid out the towns plat and the rest is history.
So, what can you find in Pendleton?
Historic Marker Walking Tour. Take a day to walk the guided tour around the town. It is an excellent way to not only get acquainted with the town, but also learn a lot about the history of the area. With 14 historically significant sights, it’s a perfect way to spend a relaxing day outside.
Pendleton Historical Museum. Make some time for the official museum as well. Located in Falls Park, and housed in the old Falls Park bathhouse, the museum is dedicated to “preserving the history of the South Madison Area.” Admission is free, and it’s open on the weekends from May through October.
Pendleton Falls Park. The crown jewel of Pendleton, Falls Park offers many walking trails, picnic tables, and more so that the whole family can enjoy a quiet day out and about. You’ll never be bored here, considering they have swimming pools, sports complexes, and rental facilities.
9. Manitou Springs, Colorado - Population: 5,322
A small mountain community at the base of Pikes Peak, Manitou is the perfect mountain getaway. Not only do you have the stunning mountains surrounding you, you are close to some major United States landmarks such as Garden of the Gods and Cave of the Winds.
Priding itself on its bursting artisan community, Manitou Springs is home to fine art, music, and sculptures around every corner. On the side of history, Manitou Springs was considered a sacred healing ground for many Native Americans, according to their official website.
Cave of the Winds. Being hundreds of thousands of years old, Cave of the Winds offers a very unique experience hard to find anywhere else. You’ll have a great time navigating around the caverns, or submerging yourself into the total darkness the cave provides.
Miramont Castle Museum. Divulge in some classic castle history. The Miramont Castle Museum displays old school china and dinnerware, as well as housing a multi-course Teasa in the Queen’s Parlour Tea Room. Once a private residence, the castle was then repurposed into various services over time before finally becoming a museum.
Manitou Cliff Dwellings. Want to get a real up close and personal experience with history? Check out the Manitou Cliff Dwellings. The Anasazi used these dwellings as homes long before the town was established, and the structures still stand to this day. You can go inside the dwellings, touch them, and really take in what it was like for them all those years ago.
10. Sedona, Arizona - Population: 10,336
A small town that packs a punch. Sedona has about everything you could need for a relaxing getaway vacation. From their beautiful sandstone formations that shine bright against the sunrises and sunsets, to their rich Native American history; you’ll have plenty to do in Sedona.
Even though it’s not the biggest town in the world, Sedona has over 300 miles of trails you can hike. Not only that, you can wind down after a long day of hiking with a glass of wine from Verde Valley.
Chapel of the Holy Cross. Built into the sandstone formations of Sedona, this Roman Catholic chapel serves some of the best views in town. Completed in 1956, the chapel was inspired by local rancher Marguerite Brunswig Staude. Originally wanting to build it in Budapest, World War II cancelled those plans which brought her back to Sedona.
Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village. This mouthful of a shopping village boasts internationally renowned experiences for everyone to enjoy. With Tlaquepaque meaning “best of everything,” you can understand why this would be ranked as one of the best things to do in Sedona.
Airport Mesa. If you want to go on a bit of an adventure, then head over to the hiking loop that goes around Table Top Mountain. You will have access to panoramic views of the breath-taking red sandstone formations as far as the eye can see!
11. Ketchikan, Alaska - Population: 8,272
In this bustling little town and Alaska’s southernmost major settlement, you will find Native American totem poles on display throughout, as well as an unreal view Deer Mountain which stands over 3,000 feet above everything.
A hub for many kinds of animals, the glacier-carved wilderness is home to mountains, waterfalls, and streams. All for you to enjoy and explore!
Rainforest Sanctuary. Located in the Tongass National Forest, Ketchikan is home to many different kinds of wildlife. This sanctuary offers a tour that allows you to get up-close-and-personal with many species such as eagles and bears! On top of that, you have access to totem carving.
Misty Fjords National Monument. The definition of Alaska is Misty Fjords National Monument. You have bright blue lakes, snowy mountains, valleys, and waterfalls. You have two options of viewing it: floatplane and a cruise tour. You can’t go wrong with either!
Creek Street. If you are looking to take a relaxing stroll through town, then Creek Street is your go-to destination. Lined with great restaurants, unique stores, and even some museums; Creek Street is the definition of small town shopping strip.
12. New Hope, Pennsylvania - Population: 2,517
One of PA’s finest, New Hope is known as a town with roots in theater, arts, and antiques. With many unique shopping options, dining places on the river, and old-school theater; New Hope earned its rank as one of “America’s Favorite Towns” by Travel and Leisure.
Combining cultures from all over the world, New Hope is your go to place if you want to try a wide array of cuisine. Who doesn’t love cuisine? Enjoy views of the Delaware River as well, while you’re enjoying your meal.
Bucks County Playhouse. You can’t visit New Hope and not catch a live play! Bucks County Playhouse has seen the likes of many famous actors, and always shows off great new actors as well. Built back in 1790, originally it was a mill, but has since turned into a theater. It’s the perfect combination of history and entertainment!
Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve. Located in Pidcock Creek Valley, the Preserve contains about 4.5 miles of trails that allow you to explore the over 700 native plant species currently residing there. You’ll find yourself walking through meadows, forests, and along streams as you take in the beautiful display of nature.
Delaware Canal. Following the success of the Erie Canal, Pennsylvania decided to build its own network of canals, starting in the early 1800s. The Delaware Canal is a 60-mile portion of this major network, and was finished in 1832. To this day, it is the last remaining towpath in America that is capable of being restored.
13. Cloudcroft, New Mexico - Population: 688
The smallest town on this list, and one of the smaller towns in America, Cloudcroft is still more than capable of entertaining you. A nice, quiet town; Cloudcroft sits way up in the air, at around 8,600 feet. This makes it one of the highest towns in the United States.
Being that it is so high up, it maintains a mild summer, which makes it a popular tourist destination. Actually, in 2002, Fodor ranked it at number three on their “Most Overlooked and Underrated Destination Spots.”
Osha Trail. Not OSHA, but Osha. This trail is plenty safe, and a great way to take in all that Cloudcroft has to offer. About 2.5 miles, this hike is perfect for all ages to enjoy. Hiking through the fir forest, you will come across amazing wild flowers and a great look at the white sands to the west.
Rails-to-Trails Hike. Going along with the theme of Cloudcroft, this hike takes you along abandoned railroad tracks that have been converted into a hiking trail. The Rails-to-Trails organization is dedicated to repurposing these old railways into beautiful hikes. And that is just what you’ll get with this perfect 3 mile hike.
Off the Beaten Path. Time to get your shop on! This store in Cloudcroft offers the best, most unique gifts and trinkets you can find in the area. It’s the perfect place to stop by if you are looking to snag some goodies before you leave.
14. Grand Marais, Minnesota - Population: 1,359
Another very small town, Grand Marais has been widely accepted as one of the best small towns you can visit. Receiving accolades from big name magazines like Budget Travel, Outside, and National Geographic Adventure; you can imagine that this place is the place to be.
Priding themselves on their hospitality and creativity, Grand Marais welcomes people from everywhere with open arms. You’ll be more than happy exploring their impressive displays of arts, and even relaxing on the beach of Lake Superior!
Judge C.R. Magney State Park. Similar to Manitou Park, Judge Magney will provide a great experience to hikers and campers alike! Famous for its Devil’s Kettle, which is rumored to be a bottomless whole that collects all of the rushing water, this park also hosts over 9 miles worth of trails for your enjoyment!
Honeymoon Bluff. Get your romance on. And your hiking boots, because in order to take in the best of the best views, you have to hike up about half a mile. Many people recommend visiting the top around sunset as the lake shimmers with the glow of the setting sun. You can understand why it’s called Honeymoon Bluff, right?
Grand Marais Lighthouse. A gorgeous, old lighthouse that stands far out into Lake Superior boasts a powerful history. Built in 1885, the lighthouse helped illuminate the lake with the help of a light keeper. However, in 1937 the light became autonomous, so the light keeper was no longer needed. Today, the lighthouse still proudly stands, and the old keeper’s dwelling is being operated as a museum that you should absolutely check out!
15. Galena, Illinois - Population: 3,225
Galena, named after the mineral, is a very popular destination for tourists due to its rich history, preserved architecture, and resorts. Native Americans would mine galena for thousands of years leading up to the town being established. Galena at its peak hit a population of 10,000. Even though it was moderately sized, Galena was the home of nine Civil War generals.
Over its history, Galena has been the hub for many things, including steamboats and the first major mineral rush.
Blaum Bros. Distilling Company. Located in the heart of Galena, Blaum Bros. produces fine whiskey, vodka, and gin. A family owned and operated business, Blaum Bros. is widely regarded as the best place to visit when in Galena.
Ulysses S. Grant Home. Remember that part where I said that nine Civil War generals called Galena home? Well one of them was none other than Ulysses S. Grant himself. Helping Abraham Lincoln to a major victory over the Confederacy, Grant would later become the 18th president of the United States. His home is now a museum for you to appreciate.
Horseshoe Mound Preserve. Providing some of the best views Galena has to offer, this hike is perfect for everyone! With picnic tables along the way, it’s the perfect destination for a nice, peaceful lunch with a view.
Some of the best experiences you can find in the United States are in the small towns that you would have never thought of. From experiencing the natural beauty of the vast landscapes that America offers, or even just taking a stroll down old and preserved city centers; the small towns in America will offer a great, relaxing vacation.
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