One of the best parts of road tripping America is visiting all the small towns in the USA. We’ll never get to see every small town, but we’re lucky enough to have visited some of the best.
Small towns in America offer something special and unique that the big cities can’t compete with; authentic charm, historic homes, a laid-back atmosphere, and warm and welcoming hospitality.
We found that visiting small towns in the United States provided us with a quintessentially American experience. I mean, you can’t find a rural honky tonk bar in New York City, right?
If you’re planning on visiting the USA and not sure which small towns to add to your itinerary, don’t worry, because this guide reveals all the best small towns that are famous for their charm, charisma, and authenticity.
- What is Considered a Small Town USA?
- Best Small Towns in the USA
- 1. Apex, North Carolina
- 2. Gruene, Texas
- 3. Franklin, Tennessee
- 4. Port Townsend, Washington State
- 5. Stowe, Vermont
- 6. Monticello, Florida
- 7. Beaufort, South Carolina
- 8. Stuart, Florida
- 9. Wallace, Idaho
- 10. Jackson, Wyoming
- 11. Ferndale, California
- 12. Leadville, Colorado
- 13. Leavenworth, Washington State
- 14. Sedona, Arizona
- 15. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
- 16. Marfa, Texas
- 17. Sitka, Alaska
- 18. Cannon Beach, Oregon
- 19. Grand Marais, Minnesota
- 20. Bar Harbor, Maine
- 21. Moab, Utah
- 22. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
- 23. Whitefish, Montana
- Final Thoughts on Small Towns USA
What is Considered a Small Town USA?
Think uniqueness, main street charm, historical relevance, close proximity to outdoor adventures, and a respite from big-city life. Those are the characteristics that define a small town in the USA.
In terms of size, we’re mostly looking at towns from one main street to a few city blocks wide with a population of probably no greater than 50,000.
We have not been everywhere, but we’ve been to most of the small towns in this article based on our own experiences of traveling the USA in-depth for years.
It’s important for you to share what you think are the best small towns to visit in the USA in the comments down below.
This will help all the readers coming after you to find cool destinations to visit in the USA – and introduce us to something new to explore and later share.
As always, our community helps to shape our travels, which we LOVE!
Best Small Towns in the USA
Below are small towns we have personally visited and adored in the USA that are perfect for your next weekend trip or getaway.
1. Apex, North Carolina
Only 20-minutes down the road from where we live in Raleigh is a USA small town that has me saying every time we pop in, “Oh, this main street is so cute. It has so much to offer. I have to include it in my best small towns in America post.”
Founded in the 1860s, Apex, North Carolina is considered one of the most intact turn-of-the-century railroad towns in the area. The Downtown Historic District is centered around Salem Street and is recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.
The town got its name from a location at the highest point on the old Chatham Railroad and is the reason for its slogan “the peak of good living.”
Downtown Apex is home to colorfully restored antique shops, specialty stores, and restaurants. On weekends, the sidewalks are abuzz with people enjoying the weekly farmer’s markets and the Salem St scene.
We have a blog post on our Raleigh website sharing our favorite things to do in Downtown Apex (check that out). Apex Lake is good for an afternoon stroll, Peak of the Vines Wine Bar is awesome, as is Scratch with their Southern fusion food, craft drinks, and outside seating area.
Speaking of the Town of Cary, Craig and I debated over whether Cary should be included in this list. It’s also a cute historic small USA town that, over the past few years, has blossomed from a sleepy ghost like town to a main street thriving with restaurants, wine and cocktail bars, and one of the USA’s best breweries.
We live in such a cool place equidistant to both Cary and Apex with Raleigh only 15 minutes away!
2. Gruene, Texas
Are you ready for a little boot-scooting fun in one of the coolest small towns in America? It may only be a three-street town, but Gruene, Texas oozes historic charm.
The center of community life – back when it was a thriving cotton industry town, and now, that it has been lovingly restored – is the Gruene dance hall.
Since 1878, Gruene Hall has been putting on live music and dance gatherings. Legends such as George Strait, Hal Ketchum, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett have played and even current superstars like Maren Morris.
There is nothing fancy about this place, which is what makes it one of the coolest places in the US to visit. Bring your copyboy hat and boots, let your hair down, mingle with the local residents, and have fun.
You can sit down and listen, dance up the back, or even hang outside in the beer garden. Kids will love the space to paly corn-hole or climb some trees.
The streets are filled with boutique and antique stores in old homes, a general store with a soda and ice cream bar, and restaurants.
Watching the colors light up behind the water tower and sunset from your fire pit seat in the Grapevine Winery outdoor garden is something special to enjoy. Even better if there is live music in the background, which in Gruene is a certainty.
3. Franklin, Tennessee
When you visit the USA we highly recommend you visit Nashville, and only a short 30-minute drive from Nashville is the gorgeous Southern town of Franklin, Tennessee.
This small charming Southern town is full of history, good boutique shopping, and a vibrant music lifestyle.
Downtown Franklin is known as America’s favorite street. This 16-block National Register district has more than 70 shops and restaurants in gorgeous Victorian buildings along brick sidewalks.
It’s a quieter version of Nashville with a happening live music scene, and open mics, but without the crowds and crazy party scene.
Many famous musicians live out this way and at nearby Leiper’s Fork; their palatial homes nestled in the rolling green hills surrounding Franklin.
We also visited for an evening of open mic at Puckett’s Groceries – an iconic musical experience in the Nashville region.
Definitely put Franklin on your list of the best small towns in America to visit.
4. Port Townsend, Washington State
I’m not sure what drew me to Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, perhaps it was the cockatoo on a friendly local’s shoulder saying G’day!
Whatever it was, I knew I wanted to come back and explore more. I wish we had longer than just a night or two.
Port Townsend is a pretty and charming historic Victorian seaport bordered by Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca and quite close to the Olympic National Park (one of our favorite USA national parks).
It’s also only a short ferry ride over to Seattle.
Separated by a flight of stairs, Uptown is filled with beautiful Victorian homes, and the historic Downtown area has large, ornate brick buildings which house shops, hotels, restaurants, and museums.
You could visit on a day trip from the Hurricane Ridge area of Olympic National Park or park your RV at the state fairground or the historic Fort Worden State Park has beautiful campsites on the water.
5. Stowe, Vermont
Stowe, VT is a charming village in the northern part of Vermont and is the gateway to Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak.
We spent three nights in Stowe on a New England road trip in the Fall.
Around town, you have 60+ unique shops and 40+ restaurants, and the church steeples and colonial-style houses.
Stowe’s proximity to the mountains means it offers endless opportunities to enjoy hiking trails, biking, and cross-country skiing adventures. So you can enjoy the outdoors any time of the year!
We enjoyed hiking to the top of Mount Mansfield and the Stowe Recreation Bike Path.
6. Monticello, Florida
I fell in love with the Southern charm and hospitality of this small town in Florida. I think we knew everyone’s name and background by the end of our two-night stay.
The city of Monticello is in the heart of Natural North Florida and has a population of just over 2,000 people.
This charming, historical town, located 24-miles east of the state capitol, Tallahassee, was founded in 1827 and is the seat of Jefferson County.
Jefferson is known as the Keystone County for its unspoiled beauty and mild climate offering the ‘keys to quality living’ and year-round good weather.
The surrounding region is simply spectacular and offers quiet rural experiences and outdoor adventures.
We experienced one of our favorite adventures in the USA in the Monticello region: kayaking the Wacissa River.
7. Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort, South Carolina is an exquisite and serene small historical city and one of the most charming towns in America. It’s immersed in history and in a forest of ancient live oaks and surrounded by marshlands, islands, waterways, and the Atlantic Ocean.
One of the most beautiful Southern neighborhoods I’ve seen is The Old Point neighborhood, just to the east of downtown Beaufort.
It was the residential summer enclave of the wealthy plantation owners, as their island marshland homes became too hot and buggy.
Live Oaks with their dripping Spanish moss drape together to form a canopy of the streets and a cooler place for you to walk and admire the stately antebellum mansion.
Beaufort has a fascinating Civil War History, as it was one of the only towns not burned by Sherman’s advancing army.
After the locals all fled their antebellum mansions in fear, Sherman decided to take them over for their troops and turn them into Union hospitals.
He freed the slaves – of which they far outnumbered the locals – and hired them to work in the hospitals.
Many were able to buy their master’s homes as they owed large sums of taxes when they finally returned. They didn’t pay them as they felt they would not have homes to return to.
Beaufort is rich in the Gullah culture of emancipated African-American slaves who have preserved much of their distinctive language, food, and customs.
8. Stuart, Florida
The city of Stuart Florida has a sublime location on the St Lucie River with 22 miles of undeveloped Atlantic Coast beaches just a short drive away.
That means you have access to endless water activities, delicious seafood, and a laid-back Florida charm. Downtown Stuart is charming with art galleries, boutique stores, and riverfront restaurants.
We can understand why it was named Coastal Living’s 2016 “Happiest Seaside Town” as well as several other acknowledgments for it being a beautiful American small town.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Stuart and the surrounding Martin County and Treasure Coast region.
Read More: A perfect winter vacation in Martin County Florida and a unique houseboat vacation rental on the Treasure Coast.
9. Wallace, Idaho
Wallace, Idaho is an intriguing town with its unusual mix of American Colonial revival Queen Anne, and Art Deco buildings and English-style cottages. Any wonder it’s one of the few small towns in the USA entirety listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The historical town of Wallace started in 1884 to accommodate the influx of people to the Silver Valley in search of its namesake shiny promise.
For over 100 years it’s been the world’s largest silver producer – over 1.1 billion ounces — making it the richest mining town still in existence.
You’re sure to find your own take-home treasure with its antique and specialty stores focused on Idaho silver products and collectibles.
Not only is it an enchanting small USA town, but it’s surrounded by the Bitterroot Mountains and endless opportunities for outdoor adventure.
We LOVED our 15-mile bike ride on the Route of the Hiawatha and skiing at the nearby North Idaho Ski resorts.
10. Jackson, Wyoming
Wowzers! That was my word arriving at the resort town of Jackson, located in the Jackson Hole Valley in Wyoming.
I knew it was good for skiing, but I never realized how strikingly beautiful this area was with its majestic Teton Mountains rising sharply out of the valley floor and the Snake River winding through the yellow grasslands and cottontails that line its bank.
Jackson is the main town in Jackson Hole (the valley) and is a unique USA cowboy town with a modern Hollywood style.
I loved the vibe of Jackson and want to return to explore more. It offers much in the way of restaurants, cafes, breweries, and shops.
Don’t miss The Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, established in 1937. It is a landmark watering hole famous for its Western Swing Dance lessons and live music. The décor will intrigue you.
Jackson Hole is close to many fantastic outdoor experiences and ski resort towns, like ski runs right in town, to the Grand Teton National Park. It’s also not too far from Yellowstone National Park.
11. Ferndale, California
Ferndale is the town where time stood still.
Meander down the main road to find lamppost-lined blocks of historic Victorian-style architecture that house various artisans from artists to blacksmiths, this is small town Americana.
Its location sandwiched between the Lost Coast and ancient redwood forests make for a beautiful and tranquil base to explore this Humboldt County region.
You can see why this charming town has been the setting for a few Hollywood movies.
There’s an eclectic mix of independent stores alongside small cafes and fine dining. A few we loved browsing: Paintings by Dajota Daetwiler, Ferndale Arts Gallery, Farmer’s daughter, Sweetness and Light, and the Golden Gait Mercantile.
Five minutes from the town of Ferndale is a long wind-swept beach, which is great for walking and playing.
Another popular small town in California is Carmel by the Sea, or Ventura, which is a great place to visit if you want to see the Channel Islands.
12. Leadville, Colorado
We passed through briefly for lunch driving on the Independence Pass, a scenic drive from Snowmass to Denver, Colorado. It is one of the most spectacular drives in the USA passing clear rivers, beautiful valleys, steep peaks, and extensive aspen forests.
At 10,512 feet above sea level is the old mining town of Leadville, the highest incorporated city in North America.
Downtown Leadville has preserved its old wild lawless reputation well with its museums and mining-era buildings that now house galleries, boutiques, and shops.
Of course, with its location, Leadville offers an incredible amount of outdoor beauty and adventure. It’s on my Colorado bucket list to return and spend more time exploring this cute small mountain town in the USA.
13. Leavenworth, Washington State
Leavenworth is a tastefully done tourist town with a lot of soul and plenty of reasons to enjoy a little taste of Bavaria. And of course, a few pretzels, bratwurst, and steins – you are welcome to wear lederhosen while doing so!
Leavenworth was once a thriving logging village. When that took a turn for the worst, instead of letting it die, the community decided to use its beautiful setting and turn it into mini-Bavaria.
It’s now one of the most popular places to see in Washington State and a very unique small American town.
In the town, visitors will find Bavarian-style architecture that houses restaurants, bars, breweries, cideries’, and local retail stores. Basically, enjoy shopping, eating, and drinking in Leavenworth!
We certainly enjoyed doing that, especially after a tube float down the river!
Its location at the base of the Cascade Mountains and on the Wenatchee River means it’s also a hot spot for outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, whitewater rafting, or gentle tube floating.
14. Sedona, Arizona
If you’re looking for a rural town with an incredible desert landscape, then you’ll want to head to Sedona in Arizona.
The town is known for its luxury resorts and spas, but it also has incredible landscapes and red rock formations, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.
The locals here believe the town has natural vortexes with healing qualities. Whatever you believe, no one will argue that the natural beauty of Sedona is incompariable to anywhere else in the world.
With 300+ miles of hiking and biking trails nearby, as well as stunning mesas and canyons, a small-town charm and numerous other outdoor activities to explore such as jeep rides, Sedona is a wonderful little town in the USA to make a stop in.
15. Taos Pueblo, New Mexico
Taos Pueblo is tiny town in New Mexico, located just north of the city of Taos. The last census was in the year 2000, and during that time the popular stood at 1,264 people.
The town is famous for being one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the USA and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was built in the 14th century by a Native American community, who built their homes out of the rock from the landscape.
The town has no running water or electricity, and the homes you see here are the original homes built all those centuries ago.
The town is only visitable by a guided tour, and is closed during times when the locals hold tribal cermonies and in the winter.
16. Marfa, Texas
Another small desert town in Texas is Marfa, known for being an artist’s playground. It was founded by Donald Judd, who created the The Chinati Foundation, and displays huge pieces of artwork on an old army base.
The installations are both indoors and outdoors, and you can even see exhibitions and concerts at the Marfa Myths Cultural Festival.
The town is best seen from a viewing platform outside the town. It is said that in this spot, mysterious orbs can be seen across the town. The orbs are known as the “Marfa Lights” phenomenon and people say they belong to ghosts, UFOs or will-o’-the-wisp.
Scientists believe they are reflections of car headlights and campfires, but many believe it could be something paranormal.
17. Sitka, Alaska
Sitka is probably the most rural small town in the USA on this list as it’s only accessible by boat, plane or cruise ship. It’s a small town just outside Juneau, the state capital.
The town is nestled on Baranof Island, which is part of Chichagof Islands. It’s a naturally stunning town with lots of wildlife, especially marine life such as whales and seals, who migrate through its waters.
The town was once part of Russia until 1867 when it was conquered by the indigenous Tlingit people.
Today, the town is a reserve, known as Sitka National Historical Park and is still home to the residents of the Tlingit people. You can see many traditional homes and a trail dotted with totem poles.
If you love fishing, then you’ll enjoy it here. It has the 6th largest port by value of seafood in America. You can fish for the Alaskan favorites, such as Salmon, Trout, Halibut, and Rockfish.
18. Cannon Beach, Oregon
Oregon is a state of outstanding natural beauty and should not be missed on any trip around the west coast of America.
The small town of Cannon Beach is a coastal town you must make sure you visit if you’re passing through on an Oregon road trip.
It’s known for its beaches and Haystack Rock, an epic rock formation that stands tall off the coast of the beach. The most popular beach near here is Arcadia Beach, which has impressive tide pools and a picnic area. It is also a seasonal home for tufted puffins.
Many visitors come here to hike the trails in Ecola State Park which have incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. You can also find sea caves near Hug Point.
Inside the town, you’ll find the main street with boutique stores and coffee shops. It’s got a laid-back vibe and is all about relaxing by the ocean.
19. Grand Marais, Minnesota
Grand Marais is a small town of approximately 1,300 residents and is famous for its artistic atmosphere.
It was named as America’s Coolest Small Town by Budget Travel Magazine, as well as the Next Great Adventure Town by National Geographic.
It’s a picturesque harbor village and is surrounded by gorgeous nature spots and wildlife. It’s nestled between the Sawtooth Mountains and Lake Superior, which is perfect for any nature lover looking for a small town to relax in.
It’s said that many musicians and artists come to Grand Marais to find inspiration and they never leave without it. In fact, it has the oldest art colony in Minnesota and you’ll find many painters practicing their craft at the aptly named Artist’s Point.
Because of its northern location, it’s also possible to see the Northern Lights here under the right conditions.
20. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is a small coastal town in Maine that’s well known for its seafood.
Since it’s located on Mount Desert Island, a small island in the Maine Frenchman Bay and Cranberry Islands, it’s the perfect small town in America to relax in and be by the water.
It has a town pier which is the perfect place to fish from or catch a boat over to the Porcupine Islands. Head over to the scenic Sand Beach which is surrounded by mountains.
It’s also the gateway to Acadia National Park, a stunningly scenic area off the Atlantic coast with dense woodlands, rocky beaches, and glacier-scoured peaks such as Cadillac Mountain.
See if you can spot some of the local wildlife whilst meander around the nearby hiking trails. It’s possible to see moose, black bears, whales, and many species of seabirds.
21. Moab, Utah
Moab is a town so small you probably won’t even notice you’ve visited it. It’s known for being the gateway to the national parks of Utah, including the famous Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.
Moab is surrounded by massive red rock formations, canyons, gorges, mesas, and buttes, as well as Native American rock art. You can also find dinosaur tracks in some of the rural sites such as Bull Canyon Overlook and Copper Ridge.
Many people visit Moab for adventurous mountain biking trails and jeep safaris, which are one of the best things to do in Moab.
Downtown Moab is pretty cool. It has a small collection of museums that feature dinosaur bones and findings from archeological sites.
Moab only has a population of just over 5,300 residents and has a charming vibe and small town charm.
22. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Another small town in the USA that puts you close to nature is Eureka Springs, which is nestled in the Ozark Mountains.
It’s famous for its well-preserved Victorian buildings in the Historic District. We even stayed at one of them on a mother-daughter trip, which was the famous Crescent Hotel.
As the name suggests, the town is built on natural hot springs. If you’re looking for a spa weekend away, this is a great place to visit.
As well as being surrounded by natural beauty, such as the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, the area is known for having some thriving wildlife. You may even spot some big cats and bears nearby.
23. Whitefish, Montana
Whitefish is a small resort town in the USA, nestled in the Rocky Mountains and near Glacier National Park. It’s most well-known for being a skiing and snowboarding hot spot in the winter, and a mountain biking hot spot in the summer.
Whitefish Lake State Park is a great place to go swimming or boating in the summer.
The downtown area is pretty cool too, with many boutique stores and eateries on Central Avenue. You’ll find that many of the stores here are locally owned, so you can find some unique gifts and souvenirs to take home.
Although Whitefish is a small town of around 8,500 people, it’s growing in popularity because of its winter sports. Definitely make sure you visit here while it’s still small and still has an authentic, homey charm.
Final Thoughts on Small Towns USA
So there you have it, those are 24 of the best small towns in America. As you can see, there are many quaint, rural and authentic places to enjoy.
Whether you want to find yourself lost in nature, explore quirky artistic towns, or revel in a coastal landscape – there’s a small town for everyone on this list.
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Your turn. What do you think are some of the best small towns in the USA?