When you’re exploring destinations for an upcoming vacation, consider visiting a small town or two. Every part of the U.S. has small towns that are fun to visit and provide a great alternative to more tourist-heavy spots. The following are some of the best small towns to visit for a memorable vacation.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Bristol is a small New England town located on the eastern side of Narragansett Bay known for having the oldest Fourth of July celebration in the U.S. This waterfront town features coastal views, multiple parks for picnics and outdoor recreation, historic sites, art galleries, and other attractions. Take a trolley tour of the town, go rollerblading or biking on the East Bay Bike Path, or enjoy kayaking in the harbor. Other attractions and activities that are available include the Bristol Art Museum, Mount Hope Farm, Blithewold Mansion, and Coggeshall Farm Museum.
Spearfish, South Dakota
Located in western South Dakota not far from Mount Rushmore and Devil’s Tower, Spearfish is a good destination if you want a small-town atmosphere and access to the great outdoors. The town has a wide range of accommodations, including cabins, bed and breakfasts, hotels and campgrounds. Hike the 76 Trail for spectacular views of Little Spearfish Canyon and Spearfish Canyon, take pics of the downtown clock tower, or take scenic drives around the area. Downtown Spearfish is filled with coffee shops, art galleries, restaurants, antique stores, an opera house, and more.
Whether you’re planning a winter or summer getaway, the town of Seaside on Florida’s Emerald Coast is a beautiful place to visit. Seaside’s biggest claim to fame is being the setting for the film The Truman Show, but it has much more to offer. The town features a picturesque beach with sugar-white sand fronting the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as charming cottages to stay in - the equally famous Seaside vacation rentals - and eclectic shops and casually gourmet restaurants. Local activities include strolling or biking the town, taking a scenic drive on Highway 30A or exploring the numerous pristine state preserves all around.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a village that lies along the coast of California. This beach town offers plenty to do, including sitting around a beach fire, exploring the Scenic Pathway with its stunning ocean views, and surfing the Pacific waves. Carmel-by-the-Sea has luxury hotels to stay in, as well as cozy inns. Activities to enjoy in the heart of town include art galleries, historic walking tours, wine tasting, and live musical and theatrical performances throughout the year. The village also has several dining establishments to choose from, including cafes and high-end restaurants.
Hood River, Oregon
For a small-town vacation with a focus on good food and a rural experience, head to Hood River. This city sits just below the Oregon-Washington border near the Columbia River and offers stunning views of Mount Hood. Go kitesurfing on windy days, take a stroll through the historic downtown area, or hike local trails for views of the Columbia River Gorge and other outdoor areas. Known as the Fruit Loop, the Hood River area is also filled with orchards. Stock up on locally grown produce at fruit stands, enjoy freshly made cider, and take in views of the surrounding flower-filled fields. Hood River has different kinds of places to stay, from campgrounds to hotels.
Valentine in northern Nebraska features an interesting mix of ecosystems for outdoor adventure while also offering small-town charm. Go kayaking on the Niobrara River, go bird watching in the sandhills region, take a prairie tour to see bison, or explore the Cowboy Trail. Valentine also has historical and cultural attractions to enjoy, including Centennial Hall Museum, historic bridges, and Cherry County Historical Society Museum. For places to stay in town, choose from ranches, resorts, inns and motels, or set up camp at one of Valentine’s campgrounds or RV parks.
Telluride is a former mining town located in southwestern Colorado that offers fun festivals throughout the year, as well as skiing and other outdoor activities. Plan on visiting during the Bluegrass Festival in summer or one of the town’s other festivals, catch gorgeous views of Bridal Veil Falls, take art classes in the downtown area, or go mountain biking on Galloping Goose Trail. Stay in a high-end hotel or a comfortable condo, and enjoy the many dining options the town offers, from delis to upscale restaurants.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Located in southwestern New Mexico, this resort town has plenty of nostalgic charm. Named for the popular game show from the 1950s, the town used to be known as Hot Springs due to its on-site mineral springs. Soak in hot springs that give you great views of the Caballo Mountains and Rio Grande River, dine at an old-fashioned drive-in restaurant, and shop for antiques or fine art in the downtown area. For accommodations, Truth or Consequences has small inns and lodges with vintage appeal, as well as more modern hotels and motels.
For a remote small town with breathtaking views, visit Unalaska. It's located in the Aleutian Islands off Alaska’s coast, so you’ll need to make arrangements to fly or take a boat to reach Unalaska. While you’re there you can go whale watching, visit the Aleutian WWII Visitor Center, go fishing for Pacific cod and salmon, or go hiking on Mount Ballyhoo or one of the area’s other scenic trails. Accommodations on the island include a hotel, vacation rentals, and bungalows.