Small Towns to Add to Your Bucket List
Small towns have always been the treasures of the American landscape; with more people hitting the road this year than ever before, here’s a list of several unique small towns to add to your bucket list. These charming towns have it all, from their laid-back, welcoming atmosphere to their great food, music and arts scene. Whether you’re in the mood for a lazy beach vacation or a snowboarder’s dream, you’ll find your new favorite small-town vacation destination.
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Located near the Outer Banks, the coastal town of Elizabeth City is home to B&Bs such as the Culpepper Inn and the Pond House Inn. A variety of cultural events await visitors to the town, such as the North Carolina Potato Festival and the First Friday ArtWalk, featuring live music and art created by local artists. The city itself is a hub or artistic endeavor: check out the Coca-Cola ghost mural, along with the many others commissioned by Project Art Downtown. Good food and great art awaits you at this charming coastal town.
San Angelo, Texas
A larger yet no less community-oriented town, San Angelo is committed to its arts and parks scenes, with museums, murals and more. Civil League Park is home to the International Waterlily Collection, one of the largest collections of beautiful water lilies in existence. Quirky festivals and delicious restaurants like the Silo House, a restaurants that features farm-to-table ingredients, are this town’s calling cards, making this large town fun for the whole family. You can even stay in the Old Central Firehouse Bed and Breakfast, a firehouse-turned-B&B built in 1929.
Not too far from both Austin and San Antonio in the heart of Texas Hill Country, the small town of Fredericksburg is home to more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms. With its German history and delicious home-grown peaches, as well as the National Museum of the Pacific War and the Japanese Garden of Peace, every member of the family will have something to look forward to. Some of the best stargazing and camping in the state can be found at Enchanted Rock Natural State Area, a designated Dark Sky Park with incredible views of the sky and the state’s signature rolling hills.
Called the “Rose Capital of America,” Tyler is home to the country’s largest rose garden, the Tyler Municipal Rose Garden, as well as the Rose Museum and the Tyler Rose Festival. The town is near the border of Louisiana, and is less than a hundred miles from Dallas, so a visit to Caddo Lake is perfect for fans of Spanish moss and cypress trees. The Piney Woods region near Tyler is also perfect for fishermen, gardeners and hikers because of its natural beauty. Visit the Caldwell Zoo and Tyler State Park all-year round in this “little big town”.
The dream of actor Dick Curtis, this “living, breathing movie set” is perfect for fans of Westerns or those stopping through on their way to Joshua Tree National Park. During the 1940s and ‘50s, dozens of Westerns, both movies and television shows, were filmed in the downtown area, made to look like it was built in the 1880s, during the cowboy heyday. Visitors can stay at Pioneertown Motel, shop at the Pioneertown General Store and listen to some incredible music at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.
Two Harbors, California
Curious to see what real laid-back island living is? Just 22 miles off the coast of Long Beach, California lies Catalina Island, home to just two towns: Avalon and Two Harbors. The smaller of the two towns, travelers can reach Two Harbors from Avalon by ground transportation or via boat into the harbor. Explore the seaside bluffs and encounter the native bison herd, or rent a kayak, stand-up paddleboard or scuba equipment from Two Harbors Dive Shop and explore the local ocean scenery. Visit Doug’s Harbor Reef Restaurant for great food and great views. Camp at the Catalina Cabins or spend the night at the Banning House Lodge.
Steamboat Springs, Colorado
Steamboat Springs, located just three hours outside of Denver, is known to many as Ski Town, U.S.A.®, having produced more winter Olympians than any other town in North America. Stay at Steamboat Ski Resort, renowned for its skiing. The Strawberry Park Hot Springs are sure to warm up anyone after a day of snowsports. Eat at Yampa Valley Kitchen near Main Street for some incredible food. Feeling the town’s cowboy roots? Pick up your own pair of cowboy boots at the historic F.M Light & Sons store.
Des Moines, Iowa
The small city of Des Moines, Iowa features a stunning 800 miles of trails, used for activities like biking, walking and cross-country skiing. Home to Mainframe Studios, the largest nonprofit arts space in the country, the city’s downtown area is fondly called the Midwest’s “East Village,” the streets full of boutiques, galleries and cafes. Aparium Hotel Group plans to open Surety Hotel in November of 2020, a marked achievement for the downtown area, the building itself the city’s first skyscraper.
Blackstone Valley, Rhode Island
Recognized as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, Blackstone Valley is home to important historic sites such as Slater Mill, the first successful cotton-spinning factory in the country. The Blackstone River Bikeway and Lincoln Woods provides ample opportunity to explore the local nature and wildlife. Many family-owned farms within the valley allow you to pick your own seasonal fruits, such as apples, a perfect fall memory to make with your loved ones. For the adrenaline junkies, take a ride on the Swamp Scare, a riverboat tour around Blackstone River and learn about the mysteries that lay hidden beneath the water.
Dunedin is fun-filled, eclectic beach culture at its best. Filled with parks, antique shops, art galleries, pubs and restaurants, everything in the charming town of Dunedin is sure to please. Learn about the town’s Celtic heritage at the Dunedin Historical Museum, a railroad station-turned-museum, or at the Celtic Shop of Dunedin. Visit some of the most beautiful beaches in the country at Caladesi Island State Park and Honeymoon Island State Park. The Dunedin Brewery is sure to have a craft brew to your liking, and the sunset from the rooftop bar of the Fenway Hotel is a beautiful way to end your day in Dunedin.
Ybor City, Florida
Ybor City, Florida has one of the strongest Cuban influences in the state. Known for world-class restaurants, incredible culture and a beautiful waterfront, this historic city is the overlooked gem of Florida. For a new boutique hotel to stay in, try Hotel Haya, a 178-room property that evokes colors and classic art inspired by the “Golden Age of Havana” during the 1950s. Cigar lovers can visit the J.C. Newman Cigar Factory, the oldest family-owned cigar factory in the country, which has celebrated its 125th anniversary this year. Busch Gardens is a great local adventure escape for the family, located just north of the city.
Deadwood, South Dakota
The legendary gold rush town of Deadwood has been featured on both the big and small screen, and it has been drawing visitors since its creation in 1876. The Deadwood Alive theater troupe brings the Wild West back to life, reenacting events famous in cowboy history. Visit Mount Moriah and discover the life of the miners during the Gold Rush, take a ghost tour of the Historic Bullock Hotel and visit The Days of 76 Museums and the Broken Boot Gold Mine. The town is replete with local breweries, casinos and resort hotels to enjoy. If the Wild West if your favorite part of American history, Deadwood has it all.
Montclair, New Jersey
Just 45 minutes away from New York City, Montclair is an accessible getaway for people looking for fine food, fall foliage, less crowds and an incredible film scene. The Montclair Film Festival runs annually from October 16-25 at the festival’s Carpool Theater drive-in. The town’s MC Hotel is a beautiful rest stop from your journeys. The hotel’s rooftop bar, Alto, is the only one in the town and features stunning views of the fall foliage, along with the skyline of Manhattan in the distance.
Finger Lakes, Ontario, New York
County Population: 109,777
The Finger Lakes are eleven lakes in Ontario Country, New York, renowned for their beauty and small town charm. Visit Grimes Glen Waterfall and experience beautiful fall foliage and all that nature has to offer. Cuddle a cow at Mountain Horse Farm and experience something rare and unique. Explore the Canandaigua Lake Wine Trail and make stops at six local wineries. Eat one of the locally famous concord grape pies at Monica’s Pies. To stay the night, check into the Lake House on Canandaigua, a newly opened hotel perfect for the barn wedding of your dreams.
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