Consider this an ode to knowing your neighbours, having the baristas at the coffee shop know your order by heart, and seeing everyone come together to root for the local high school football team on weekends. These are our finest quaint communities—the best small towns in America.
One of the original major cities of the Gold Rush, Jacksonville was founded in the early 1850s by pioneers hoping to strike it rich. The entire town, which has a population of about 2,800, was designated as a U.S. National Landmark in the 1960s, so it’s definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re a history buff. Jacksonville is home to over 100 National Historical buildings sprinkled throughout the community in the heart of Oregon’s country and surrounded by gorgeous greenery, so there really is something for everyone. Insider tip: Consider staying in one of the incredibly adorable family-owned bed and breakfasts or inns for an extra small-town feel. We’re told they offer exceptional service and amazing dinning options. (Oregon is also home to some of the most haunted places in America.)
Traverse City, Michigan
Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is the ultimate outdoor and water activities destination. In the warmer months, you’ll find everyone hiking and biking the numerous trails and participating in the most popular recreational water sports—kayaking, fishing, windsurfing, and paddleboarding. There’s also golfing and bird watching for those who are looking for a more leisurely vacation. July is an especially busy month in Traverse City, as it’s when hundreds of thousands of visitors come in for the National Cherry Festival (the city boasts being the largest producer of tart cherries in the country). And the many farm-to-table dining options, breweries and distilleries make it a destination worth visiting even in the winter. (See which iconic book takes place in Michigan.)
Besides its famous gorgeous red rock geography—which is truly a jaw-dropping natural wonder, Sedona is known for its eclectic art scene, near-perfect weather, and of course, fantastic cuisine. Sedona truly has it all, whether you’re looking for a girl’s spa weekend, an outdoor family excursion-based trip, or a romantic getaway. Spend a day exploring the 200 plus miles of hiking trails or browsing the local handmade craft shops. You can even enjoy an aerial view of the town via hot air balloon, a widely popular activity, especially with a glass in hand. The best part of Sedona? There’s really no bad time to visit because events like art festivals, concerts, and food tastings happen year-round thanks to the fabulous warm weather. Here’s how to take a nearly magical Sedona road trip.
If you’ve got a week or two to spare, consider heading outside of the continental U.S. to Lahaina, Maui. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Lahaina is an historic little town with a population of less than 12,000. The town has a prime oceanfront location just south of the famous K’anapali coast, which boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and is home to Maui’s only walkable “downtown” area, lined with shops, eateries, and bars. You can expect lots of gorgeous sunshine-filled days and a dry and mild climate in Lahaina, which is probably why the town is often called “Lele,” meaning “relentless sun” in Hawaiian. (See more cool insights into the Hawaiian language.) And since Lahaina centers around one of Hawaii’s busiest harbors, you can travel among the other islands via ferry for a small fee.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Arkansas isn’t on many people’s radar when it comes to vacation destinations, but Eureka Springs is a small town that shouldn’t be missed. Nicknamed “The Little Switzerland of America” and “The Stairstep Town,” Eureka Springs is a tiny Victorian town nestled in the Ozark Mountains. While the entire city is less than seven square miles, there’s plenty to do and see, like browsing the more than 100 local shops and galleries, visiting historical buildings such as the Thorncrown Chapel, or exploring the underground onyx cave parks. After a busy day, try out one of the town’s multiple award-winning restaurants that serve everything to Czech-German to Mediterranean fare. A new study suggest mismatching your cuisine leads to a more enjoyable meal, so consider heading to the restaurant for dinner and the Czech-German for dessert!
About three hours south of our nation’s capitol lies the city of Williamsburg, a tiny town that played a major role in our country’s history. Williamsburg is almost always a stop on every school’s eighth grade Washington D.C. trip, and for good reason. Founded in 1632, the city was the capitol of the colony of Virginia for nearly 80 years. Williamsburg is the ultimate history buff’s paradise, centered around Colonial Williamsburg, a living-history museum where you’ll see what life was like in the 18th century. You’ll find people dressed in colonial clothing, cobblestone streets lined with blacksmiths and candle makers, and maybe you’ll even catch a ghost tour or witness a witch trial.