Kennebunkport, Maine/unite states-7/20/2019: Boat Hotel and restaurants In the harbor of kennebunk river. Editorial credit: Yingna Cai /

The 10 Most Charming Small Towns in The United States

With thousands of towns across 50 states, the US has its fair share of small-town charm. Full of heritage, culture, and cute things to do, the 10 small towns on this list will have travelers feeling like they’ve just stepped into a Hallmark rom-com. So if you’re looking to channel that main character energy during your next day trip or weekend getaway, consider giving these places a try. Between the Old West buildings in Medora, North Dakota, and the towering Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon – everyone can enjoy a small town trip.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Quaint ivy covered shops in Carmel by the sea. Editorial credit: J Wendy Baker /

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach town in California with an interesting history and an abundance of natural beauty. The beginning of Carmel-by-the-Sea dates all the way back to 1603 when Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino stumbled upon the sandy shores. Today, many quirky details about the town remain. For example, no one in Carmel-by-the-Sea has a street address, opting instead to get their mail from a central post office. Along the same vein, visitors will find no parking meters, street lights, or chain restaurants in town either.

When looking for things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea, travelers will be met with a wide array of outdoor adventures. Those traveling by car can hop on the scenic 17-mile Drive – a 17-mile loop taking drivers past coastal cliffs, sparkling beaches, and densely forested areas. The town is also home to a handful of parks including Garrapata State Park and Carmel River State Beach – both offering opportunities for hiking, swimming, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

Woodstock, Vermont

Woodstock, Vermont, USA at the Middle Covered Bridge.

Over 3,000 miles from the white sand beaches of Carmel-by-the-Sea, travelers will find Woodstock, Vermont – a romantic little town filled with classic New England charm. Once known as the Shire Town of Windsor County, Woodstock has historically served as a hub for entrepreneurs, artists, and craftspeople. That artisan culture is still strong today with theaters, farmers markets, and small shops lining the streets. Those planning a weekend trip to Woodstock may want to book accommodations at the Woodstock Inn & Resort. Here, guests will have easy access to both the downtown core and the surrounding wilderness making it easy to indulge in a range of activities. One nearby site you won’t want to miss is the Billings Farm & Museum where you can spend time connecting with animals and diving into a bit of local history.

Next, head to Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park for an afternoon of hiking and education. Of course, a trip here isn’t complete without seeing the town's four covered bridges – The Taftsville, the Quechee, the  Lincoln, and the Middle Covered Bridge. Each bridge has its own story and each makes for a great photo op.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon Coast.

Cannon Beach, Oregon is a postcard-perfect town located along the Pacific coast. The small town, home to less than 2,000 people, features some of the most scenic beaches and parks around. So scenic that National Geographic included the town on its list of 100 most beautiful places in the world. One of the town's most famous draws is Haystack Rock. Featured in a handful of movies and novels, Haystack Rock stands 235 feet tall and is frequently covered in seabirds. Visitors can access the rock by foot when the tide is low.

Other worthwhile stops in Cannon Beach include the Cannon Beach Farmers Market, the Tillamook Lighthouse, and the nearby Oswald West State Park. Ecola State Park is another must-see and offers visitors opportunities for hiking, lighthouse viewing, and swimming.

Cape May, New Jersey

Beach goers enjoy a beautiful day in Cape May, New Jersey. Editorial credit: Racheal Grazias /

Cape May, New Jersey sits at the tip of the Cape May Peninsula and offers visitors incredible fishing opportunities and breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Home to bustling boardwalks and sunny beaches, the ‘Jersey Cape’ is considered a quintessential beach town by everyone who visits. Naturally, spending a few hours at Cape May Beach is a must, but visitors will also want to explore places like Cape May State Park and the Cape May Lighthouse.

History buffs will enjoy local spots such as the Emlen Physick Estate and the Historic Cold Spring Village. Speaking of history buffs, Cape May has a history of being the “Unofficial Lima Bean Capital of the World.” This history dates back to the Great Depression era when many local farms had up to 1,000 acres of land dedicated solely to lima beans. Today, they still celebrate their farming roots with an annual Lima Bean Festival.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Historic downtown Eureka Springs, AR, with boutique shops and famous buildings. Editorial credit: Rachael Martin /

Those looking to trade sandy beaches for pristine mountain views will want to take a trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Located in the Ozark Mountains, Eureka Springs is a haven for outdoor adventure. Upon arrival, visitors can explore several naturally beautiful areas including Lake Leatherwood City Park. The 1,610-acre park is home to boardwalks, 25 miles of hiking trails, playground equipment, cabins, and Lake Leatherwood itself. 

Keep the exploration rolling by heading underground at Onyx Cave Park. Touted as Arkansas’ oldest toured cave, Onyx Cave offers audio-guided tours, a gift shop, and opportunities for axe throwing and gem mining. Another charming experience in town is the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway. Here, visitors can enjoy scenic train rides, dining cars, and historic locomotive exhibits.

Historically, Eureka Springs was regarded as a place of healing when the town's indigenous tribes believed the cold spring water could cure a variety of ailments. Eventually, word got out and flocks of “Victorian-age health-seekers” rushed to Eureka Springs, hoping to find miracle cures. Today, visitors can still admire the cold springs around town including Grotto Spring and Harding Spring.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Nice view of the small harbour on August 8, 2015 in Kennebunkport, Maine. Editorial credit: Enrico Della Pietra /

Kennebunkport, Maine is known for having some of the best seafood, sailing, and sunsets in the state. Visitors hoping to get a taste of all three will want to travel down Kennebenkport’s Ocean Avenue. The roughly 2-mile route features marinas, incredible sunset views, and delectable seafood once you reach Cape Porpoise. Another great way to take in the town’s scenery is with a sightseeing trolly tour offered by Intown Trolley. Those who prefer to travel by water can also book a whale-watching tour with First Chance Whale Watch. Other must-see spots in Kennebunkport include Gooch’s Beach and the beautiful Goat Island Lighthouse.

Skaneateles, New York

Gazebo and small park on the shore of Skaneateles Lake in Skaneateles, New york.

They don’t call Skaneateles, New York the ‘Jewel of the Finger Lakes’ for no reason. Home to one of the cleanest lakes in the country, Skaneateles has a handful of stunning parks, waterfalls, shops, and historical sites. For a day of sun and recreational fun, head to Clift Park. Here park goers will have access to beautifully landscaped grounds and a small but pristine swimming area. The park sits right in the heart of downtown so local restaurants and boutiques are always nearby. Those who are interested in doing a little vacation shopping may want to check out Skaneateles Antique Center which has two floors worth of used goodies to explore.

Next, plan to hike along the Charlie Major Nature Trail – a scenic 1-mile trail offering views of the creek, footbridges, dams, and abandoned sections of rail. Finally, don’t forget to visit the Carpenter Falls Unique Area which features an elevated boardwalk, an observation platform, and a stone staircase leading to a rushing waterfall. 

Medora, North Dakota

Aerial View of the Tourist Town of Medora, North Dakota outside of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Saddle up! Medora, North Dakota is beloved for its rich Western culture which is still thriving today. Visitors will feel like they’ve stepped back in time when looking at the old-west-style buildings that line the town streets. Those hoping to dive deeper into the history of it all will want to pay a visit to the North Dakota Cowboy Museum. Or for a more lighthearted experience, check out the Western-themed buildings and play equipment at the Medora Children’s Park.

Of course, one of the biggest draws to Medora is the popular Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The picturesque park offers a myriad of activities including hiking, backcountry camping, canoeing, fishing, and wildlife viewing. On any given day park goers can expect to see bison, feral horses, birds, prairie dogs, and snakes. The national park is also an excellent spot for stargazing at night.

Leadville, Colorado

Aerial View of Leadville, Colorado during Autumn.

Keeping with the Old-West theme, Leadville, Colorado (once home to iconic gunfighter ‘Doc’ Holliday) is another charming US town with roots in the Wild West. The town also has a rich history of gold and silver mining. Today, visitors can learn more about Leadville’s past by visiting its historic district. Leadville also offers visitors plenty of chances for outdoor activities including fishing, camping, and hiking at the beautiful Turquoise Lake Recreation Area. Visitors can also take a scenic ride on the Leadville Railroad where fields of wildflowers and rolling hills can be admired from the train. 

Moab, Utah

Double Arch in Moab with snow and a sun star in a blue sky.

Less than 300 miles from Leadville, travelers will find the unique town of Moab, Utah. While Moab has a rich and interesting history, today the town is most known for its abundance of natural sandstone arches. Those hoping to get up close to the towering red arches should head to Arches National Park where hiking, camping, canyoneering, rock climbing, and stargazing are all on offer.

For more desert landscapes, Indigenous drawings, and scenic overlooks don’t forget to visit Canyonlands National Park and Dead Horse Point State Park as well. After all that outdoor exploration, travelers will surely work up an appetite. For a memorable dining experience, try the Moab Food Truck Park which hosts 14 different food trucks, ensuring there’s a little something for everyone’s taste.

In Conclusion

From pristine beach towns to old-west-themed villages, these 10 charming small towns in the US each offer a unique visitor experience. So whether you’re headed to upstate New York or have your heart set on the desert landscapes of Utah, you’re in for a real treat. Despite being different from each other, each town on this list has a history that’s worth diving into and a wide array of things to do during a visit. So don’t wait, get out and start exploring today.


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