While many tourists visit the United States for its iconic cities and amazing national parks, there are also countless wonderful places to stop. So I decided to put together my top 10 American small towns you should visit.
Sure, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles are superb destinations. And of course you should try to visit places like Yellowstone, the Great Smoky Mountains and the Grand Canyon. But the “real” America is found in its small towns. From university towns to mountain towns, these are the places where many Americans live, where its varied cultures shine through and are best experienced.
So, definitely make sure to visit one of the big cities and a national park or two, but also leave some room in your itinerary to take in one or more of the following great top 10 American small towns to visit.
Top 10 American Small Towns
10. Heber City, Utah
Situated in the Heber Valley, a relatively less-known area in Utah, Heber City is a great destination if you’re looking for a quiet, outdoorsy getaway. Utah’s mountains lie a quick drive away—and are always visible from my first top 10 American small towns — that offers a wide variety of activities. In winter, abundant snowfall makes the area a superb winter sports resort. It’s nicknamed “Utah’s Little Switzerland” for a reason. Summer recreation ranges from horseback riding and rock climbing to hiking, fishing and canoeing.
9. Breckenridge, Colorado
The small town of Breckenridge, Colorado, is most well-known for its hugely popular ski resort. Its location at the foot of the Tenmile Range makes it a fantastic destination for an adventurous holiday. Winter sports are, of course, its main attraction. In January, Breckenridge also hosts the Breckenridge Festival of Film. Come summer, the area offers a plethora of great activities as well, from hiking and camping to wildflower excursions and wildlife watching to fly-fishing and mountain biking.
8. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine, is the gateway to Acadia National Park, the only national park in New England. Set on the shore of Mount Desert Island, the town features a rock-strewn coast, a charming downtown and a wealth of activities. It’s been a popular holiday destination for more than a century. Bar Harbor is where tycoons like the Rockefellers came to holiday and eventually established Acadia National Park.
7. Berlin, Maryland
Voted one of the coolest American small towns, Berlin, Maryland, has a fantastic Main Street. This thriving and diverse town features dozens of restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries, and has fine galleries exhibiting arts and crafts. No fewer than 47 buildings in the historic town center are on the National Historic Register. This pleasant town lies seven miles from Ocean City, so the beach isn’t too far away, either.
6. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
A historic town located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and on the border of three states—West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland—Harpers Ferry is small, but fascinating. Its sheer historic significance is shown in the fact that part of it lies in the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and another part in the Harpers Ferry Historic District. If history doesn’t tickle your fancy, you’ll find plenty of joy in the woods and mountains in the area.
5. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson, Wyoming, in the Jackson Hole valley is one of the absolute best of the top 10 American small towns to visit for outdoor enthusiasts. This is the gateway to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, two of America’s most spectacular parks. From hiking to wildlife watching, photography and even skiing, Jackson offers all that and more.
4. Burlington, Vermont
Burlington is the largest town in Vermont, yet is home to only about 42,000 people. It has plenty of things to offer in a variety of categories—it’s a prime example of an “all-round town.” Burlington is the headquarters of Ben & Jerry’s, but also has its fair share of craft breweries. There’s the award-winning Church Street Marketplace, a multi-block pedestrian shopping street, and there’s the gorgeous Lake Champlain waterfront. Nearby, you’ll find everything from charming covered bridges to challenging hiking trails in the Green Mountains.
3. Hood River, Oregon
Not the most well-known town in Oregon, Hood River is one of those places that ooze charm and make every visitor fall in love with it. It’s located at the confluence of the Columbia and Hood Rivers and about 30 miles from Mount Hood, the tallest and most iconic mountain in Oregon. This laid back town is a great base from which to explore this beautiful state. Even the New York Times, National Geographic and Smithsonian agree with this!
2. Taos, New Mexico
Arguably the most famous town in New Mexico, Taos belongs on any itinerary in the Southwest of the United States. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains surround this town located in the high desert of New Mexico. It’s renowned for its collection of historic adobe buildings. Its main attraction is Taos Pueblo, a complex of multistory buildings that were inhabited by Native Americans for many hundreds of years.
1. Charlottesville, Virginia
The former home of no fewer than three US Presidents—Jefferson, Madison and Monroe—Charlottesville and its surroundings are chock-full with attractions. The town itself is where you’ll find the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, both listed as UNESCO World Heritage, and the iconic Downtown Mall. There are literally hundreds of restaurants in Charlottesville—there are more than 70 Mexican ones alone—while historic wineries and modern craft breweries dot the countryside. Less than half an hour by car away, there’s Shenandoah National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is unquestionably one of the top 10 American small towns.