The U.S. is dotted with small towns that make amazing vacation destinations. This list looks at 10 such towns that will make especially great getaways, based on attractions and activities, seasonal considerations, safety, and ease of finding accommodations. It aims to provide suggestions for a variety of interests, from skiing to balmy beaches – there’s something on this list for everyone!
1. Jackson, Wyoming
Jackson is a small town that sits at the entrance to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. This town is popular to visit during both the summer and winter, though available activities will vary. If you’re visiting in the winter, the areas ski resorts – such as The Snow King -, as well as snowmobiling opportunities, are the top reasons people visit.
If you’re visiting in the summer, exploring one of the nearby National Parks (Grand Teton and Yellowstone), as well as enjoying other outdoor activities such as white water rafting, are some of the main motivations to go. The town itself offers a variety of boutique shops and restaurants. There aren’t a ton of big-name chain stores, however. Additionally, accommodations can fill up quickly in the busier summer months, meaning you’ll probably want to plan ahead a bit if you do decide to visit.
2. Sedona, Arizona
Sedona is a charming town bordered by stunning red rock formations in Arizona. This town makes an especially great winter getaway, as its desert location means it enjoys pleasantly warm weather even in the coldest months. While the summer months are a lot hotter, the presence of some nearby water activities such as Slide Rock State Park means you shouldn’t totally discount it. The town itself is also home to several high-quality spas – perfect for those looking for a destination with rest and relaxation.
3. Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Steamboat Springs is a small town in Colorado that, like Jackson Hole, is great to visit any time of year. The town offers plenty of nearby skiing opportunities in the colder months. The jewel of the town’s ski season is the nearby Mount Werner. When summer comes around, meanwhile, it becomes a great home base for all manner of outdoor recreation. Some popular activities include stand-up paddleboarding in the Yampa River or hiking nearby trails such as Emerald Mountain.
4. Bar Harbor, Maine
This charming town in Maine borders Acadia National Park. Its close proximity to the park (less than 20 minutes to the park entrance, depending on where you’re starting from in town) makes it a popular home base for visitors. Acadia is most frequently visited in the summer and fall, and offers some stunning displays of foliage from September to October. It’s also home to all manner of hiking trails for any skill level. In addition to being close to a gorgeous national park, the town itself has plenty to offer as well. It’s home to several historic estates and museums. There are also some out-of-the-box activities offered, such as the Bar Harbor Ghost Tour.
5. Seaside, Oregon
Seaside is a small Oregon town perhaps best known for its proximity to the stunning Cannon Beach. And while this beach alone does make it an amazing destination, it isn’t all this small town has to offer. Seaside has many attractions and things to do that are geared towards visitors of all ages, making this an especially great option for families. A few examples of this include Captain Kid Amusement Park and the Carousel Mall. You’ll also want to be sure to check out the many small but worthwhile shops lining the streets of this town. Many are perfect for picking up some unique gifts or souvenirs.
Finally, because many of the attractions are partially outdoors or include water, summer is one of the best times to visit Seaside to fully experience everything the town has to offer. However – if you’re visiting for a relaxing getaway, interested in exploring the shops, or are up for some cold-weather hiking the town is much less busy in the winter.
6. St Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine holds the unique boasting point of being the oldest city in the United States. This small town in Florida is known for its historic buildings and Spanish colonial architecture, but it has plenty to do for visitors of all ages. March through May are the most popular times to visit this city, as temperatures can drop into the 50s in the winter months. It also doesn’t get particularly humid in the summer as some places in Florida do.
However, like many spots that are most popular to visit in the summer, an off-season visit is a great way to beat some of the crowds. It might not be ideal if you’re looking for warm, sunny beaches. However, if you’re headed to visit one of the many museums, art galleries, or living history reenactments, visiting in the winter can still be incredibly fulfilling.
7. Telluride, Colorado
Here’s a great option for those who love skiing and snowboarding! Another charming town in Colorado, Telluride’s biggest draws are probably its ski resort and its art scene. Because of its excellent winter recreation opportunities, the snowier months are generally the most popular time to visit. There are some notable events in the warmer months too, though, including the annual Telluride Film Festival held on Labor Day Weekend.
8. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
If you’re looking to relax in an idyllic, peaceful town on the coast, look no further than Carmel-By-The-Sea California. Carmel-By-The-Sea, otherwise known as Carmel, offers some of the best draws of southern California without the hustle and bustle of large cities like Los Angeles. Soak up the sun on Carmel Beach. Go wine tasting at one of the town’s wineries, such as Silvestri Vineyards. Pick up a one-of-a-kind gift at one of the town’s boutique shops. No matter what you’re preferred way of spending your vacation is, Carmel has a wide variety of options.
9. Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport has historically been associated with summer visits and resorts, but today it has plenty of year-round activities to enjoy. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, check out the beaches that border the town. Water activities aren’t just limited to the summer months, though – sailing and whale watching are popular even in the colder months. You also might want to consider checking out some of the town’s art galleries and shops – it has a large number of both for a small town. One such example is Minka, which also offers handmade and sustainable creations for sale.
10. Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac Island sits in the middle of Lake Huron in Michigan. The town is a great place to get away from modern life for some more simple serenity, and the complete lack of cars on the island is a great example of that. Despite no cars being allowed on the island, there are still plenty of ways to get around including bicycle rides and horse-drawn carriages (and the town is very walkable).
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