50 Beautiful Small Towns in America

Bewitching backdrops, inviting shops and historic treasures await in these storybook towns.

By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterJan. 29, 2018
By Liz Weiss, Staff WriterJan. 29, 2018, at 4:07 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

50 Beautiful Small Towns in America

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Long exposure of cars driving down Main St. in Park City, Utah.
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Park City, Utah

For a dose of ski town charm, fresh powder and lively après-ski hangouts, head to this lively former mining town located about 35 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Powder-seekers will want to check out Park City Mountain Resort, which boasts 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, and Deer Valley Resort, which offers more than 100 ski runs. After an adrenaline-pumping day on the slopes, check out the smattering of galleries and crowd-pleasing restaurants along Main Street like Tupelo Park City and Riverhorse on Main. When you're ready to turn in for the day, check into the Stein Eriksen Lodge, which boasts a Norwegian-inspired spa, crackling fireplaces and cozy rooms.

A rocky cliff view of the Pacific ocean at low tide in Carpinteria, California.
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Carpinteria, California

Picture a cinematic Southern California escape with small-town charm: antique storefronts and local bohemian boutiques stretch to picturesque beachfront properties along an ocean-facing boulevard with Santa Barbara just a short drive away. This is Carpinteria, a low-key beach town known for its avocados (don't skip the California Avocado Festival in early October) and superlative sand and surf. Carpinteria "is a step back in time to the laid-back, sandy California beach towns of our imagination," says Sarah Stocking, Lonely Planet's California and Mexico destination editor. "Tiny, shingled beach cottages dot the shore while the surf maintains a steady easy flow, perfect for those who have always wanted to learn," she adds.

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Annapolis, Maryland
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Annapolis, Maryland

When you picture a charming seaside escape along the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis likely comes to mind with its brick- and cobblestone-lined streets, Colonial buildings and glamorous sailboats and yachts passing by the City Dock. History buffs will love exploring the U.S. Naval Academy, St. Anne's Episcopal Church, the Banneker-Douglass Museum and the charming row houses populating Main Street. And, of course, no trip to Annapolis is complete without sampling local steamed blue crabs and crab cakes at crowd-pleasing establishments like Cantler's and O'Learys Seafood Restaurant. Also make sure to save room for a sweet scoop from the Annapolis Ice Cream Company and meander to Ego Alley to marvel at the spectacle of yachts in the harbor.

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Discover postcard-perfect towns across the country.

If you've already visited America's inspiring national parks – filled with snow-capped peaks, painted deserts and windswept coastlines – as well as vibrant cities showcasing twinkling city skylines and gleaming skyscrapers, turn your eye toward the country's charming small towns. While you won't find big-city splendor in these idylls, you can embrace a slower pace, beautiful backdrops, quaint cobblestone streets, architectural gems and an unmistakable local flavor. Best of all, these scenic towns are close to legendary drives, towering rock formations, deep canyons and craggy cliffs, affording spellbinding sightlines at every turn. Read on for 50 enchanting small towns across the country.

Ely, Minnesota

For adventurous travelers pining to explore glacier-sculpted landscapes and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness refuge, Ely offers an enticing getaway. In winter, popular pastimes include dog sledding, ice fishing and cross-country skiing. And in spring and summer, you can immerse yourself in nature in the unspoiled reserve area, which features 1,500 miles of canoe routes, isolated rivers and lakes that snake past plunging cliffs, sandy coastlines and pine forests. Consider booking a trip with a reputable adventure travel outfitter such as Wilderness Outfitters or Ely Outfitting Company to avoid sweating the details. Back in town, wander into local shops and galleries, grab a bite at Britton's Café and retreat to cozy accommodations at Timber Trail Lodge.

Big Sur, California

A postcard-perfect seaside escape perched atop craggy cliffs and the dramatic St. Lucia mountain range, Big Sur's 90-mile stretch of coastline from San Simeon to Monterey Bay has long enamored visitors. Wander past redwood groves, captivating waterfalls and rocky cliffs along alluring trails, such as the Waterfall Overlook Trail and the Lookout Trail in the windswept Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Then, slip away to Ventana Big Sur or the Post Ranch Inn, where you can enjoy nightly stargazing, guided nature walks and dreamy accommodations facing the surrounding mountains or the Pacific Ocean that are outfitted with fireplaces and deep-soaking tubs.

Padanaram, Massachusetts

This South Dartmouth village is a best-kept secret, says Everett Potter, a columnist for Forbes and author of the website "Everett Potter's Travel Report." Overlooking Buzzards Bay, Padanaram's charming village is populated with stately 19th-century homes and quaint shops and is an ideal launching pad to nearby beaches and forests. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Padanaram Village offers a storybook setting for days spent watching sailboats glide along the Cape's southern coast, especially during the annual Buzzards Bay regatta in August. After taking in the pretty harbor and seafaring charm in this former shipbuilding epicenter, refuel at the Sail Loft on Elm Street to delight in New England staples such as clam chowder and lobster rolls.

Marfa, Texas

This postage stamp-sized desert town in West Texas is known for its flourishing art scene, clear skies (stargazers, take note) and its notable landmark, the Prada Marfa – a sculpture resembling a sleek Prada storefront set in the desert, approximately 37 miles northwest of downtown. After snapping a few photos of the quirky can't-miss fixture, refuel with a taco at Capri or a memorable burrito at Marfa Burrito and check out the area's versatile galleries (Ballroom Marfa is a must-see) and gift shops (Ranch Candy and the tiny crystal store Blue Agate and Rocks offer enticing roadside stops for souvenirs). As for accommodations, Hotel Saint George offers stylish and contemporary digs.

Old Lyme, Connecticut

"It doesn't get any prettier than Old Lyme," Potter says. From its classic Yankee charm to its Colonial architecture to its streets filled with well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century buildings, Old Lyme offers a serene escape. Set along the coast at the intersection of the Long Island Sound and Connecticut River, Old Lyme brims with picturesque seascapes. And with a population of 8,000, Old Lyme offers an unmistakable small-scale appeal. During your trip, carve out some time to visit Old Saybrook, another quaint town with a pretty white lighthouse. The upscale Saybrook Point Inn & Spa, which gazes over the Long Island Sound, offers easy access to charming antique shops, local boutiques and scenic golf courses.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

With its shingled cottages, windswept beaches and sand dunes and lovely lighthouses (Sankaty Head Lighthouse and Brand Point Light are postcard-perfect), it's no wonder why Nantucket lures seafaring types each summer. Located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket offers a secluded retreat for R&R-seekers and a dizzying array of outdoor activities, from whale watching tours and sunset cruises to bird watching and bike riding to sunbathing at Surfside Beach. When you're not unwinding along the island's pristine beaches, check out the Whaling Museum or savor a beer at Cisco Brewers (or a sweet treat at Downyflake Doughnuts) before retreating to one of the area's cozy properties like The White Elephant Hotel.

Winter Park, Florida

This tiny town near Orlando is surrounded by lakes and trees draped in Spanish moss. With its genteel charm and colorful boutiques, you may think "you're in some extension of Georgia or the Carolinas," Potter says. He suggests staying at The Alfond Inn, a high-end boutique hotel with a robust contemporary art collection and an award-winning restaurant, Hamilton's Kitchen, which dishes out Southern staples like fried green tomatoes, white cheddar-bacon scones and Key West shrimp and grits. Beyond the hotel, there are plenty of fascinating museums, galleries and outdoor spaces to explore, including the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art and the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens.

Taos, New Mexico

Tucked within the Sangre de Christo Mountains, this alluring desert town attracts history lovers, artists and nature enthusiasts with its crimson canyons, vibrant art community and storied sites. Photographers will want to check out the 83-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway, which weaves past pine-filled valleys and forests, along with the 13,161-foot Wheeler Peak – the state's tallest point – for superlative vistas. History fans will also enjoy checking out Taos Pueblo, a storied Pueblo Indian settlement (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) that showcases striking multitiered adobe walls and ceremonial sites. And culture vultures will want to pop into eclectic galleries and boutique shops in downtown Taos before settling into picturesque accommodations like the Hacienda del Sol, a charming bed-and-breakfast.

Annapolis, Maryland

When you picture a charming seaside escape along the Chesapeake Bay, Annapolis likely comes to mind with its brick- and cobblestone-lined streets, Colonial buildings and glamorous sailboats and yachts passing by the City Dock. History buffs will love exploring the U.S. Naval Academy, St. Anne's Episcopal Church, the Banneker-Douglass Museum and the charming row houses populating Main Street. And, of course, no trip to Annapolis is complete without sampling local steamed blue crabs and crab cakes at crowd-pleasing establishments like Cantler's and O'Learys Seafood Restaurant. Also make sure to save room for a sweet scoop from the Annapolis Ice Cream Company and meander to Ego Alley to marvel at the spectacle of yachts in the harbor.

Park City, Utah

For a dose of ski town charm, fresh powder and lively après-ski hangouts, head to this lively former mining town located about 35 miles southeast of Salt Lake City. Powder-seekers will want to check out Park City Mountain Resort, which boasts 7,300 acres of skiable terrain, and Deer Valley Resort, which offers more than 100 ski runs. After an adrenaline-pumping day on the slopes, check out the smattering of galleries and crowd-pleasing restaurants along Main Street like Tupelo Park City and Riverhorse on Main. When you're ready to turn in for the day, check into the Stein Eriksen Lodge, which boasts a Norwegian-inspired spa, crackling fireplaces and cozy rooms.

Carpinteria, California

Picture a cinematic Southern California escape with small-town charm: antique storefronts and local bohemian boutiques stretch to picturesque beachfront properties along an ocean-facing boulevard with Santa Barbara just a short drive away. This is Carpinteria, a low-key beach town known for its avocados (don't skip the California Avocado Festival in early October) and superlative sand and surf. Carpinteria "is a step back in time to the laid-back, sandy California beach towns of our imagination," says Sarah Stocking, Lonely Planet's California and Mexico destination editor. "Tiny, shingled beach cottages dot the shore while the surf maintains a steady easy flow, perfect for those who have always wanted to learn," she adds.

St. Simons Island, Georgia

With its moss-blanketed oak trees, quaint inns and seaside splendor, St. Simons Island offers Southern charm at its finest. The largest of Georgia's Golden Isles, St. Simons offers a range of recreational activities, including fishing, hiking, kayaking and horseback riding. Plus, historic landmarks and fashionable restaurants abound. You won't want to skip snapping a few photos of the iconic St. Simons Lighthouse perched on the isle's southern tip or sunbathing and windsurfing at East Beach. As for accommodations, consider the charming St. Simons Inn by the Lighthouse or, if you're looking to splurge, slip away to The Lodge at Sea Island for opulent surroundings and gracious hospitality.

Tiverton, Rhode Island

For old-fashioned, all-American charm that captures the essence of the Rhode Island coast, visit Tiverton, Potter says. The area brims with serene nature trails, Victorian architecture and artisanal shops, and is one of the prettiest little towns in America, he adds. If you're planning a trip in autumn, strap on your hiking boots and enjoy optimal leaf-viewing at Weetamoo Woods, where sassafras, scarlet oak and red maple trees are covered in crimson, yellow and purple hues come October. Other highlights include Little Compton Commons, a classic New England town square and Sakonnet Point for dreamy photo ops, and Tiverton Four Corners, which features a vibrant arts center showcasing concerts, festivals and other seasonal events.

Leavenworth, Washington

This Bavarian-inspired village located about 2.5 hours east of Seattle in the Cascades is easy on the eyes, especially during the winter holidays, when horse-drawn sleigh rides and twinkling lights across the town center beckon to cold-weather enthusiasts. But wandering in a winter wonderland isn't the only draw for planning a trip to this picture-perfect town. Throughout weekends in October, you can delight in traditional music, dancing and Bavarian staples for Oktoberfest, and grape-seekers can enjoy tastings in Leavenworth Valley Wine Country. And at the end of the day, you can get pampered with replenishing treatments at the Icicle Village Resort, which offers Swedish massages and alpine-inspired facials.

Berea, Kentucky

"Berea, Kentucky, is a small, handsome town at the foot of the Appalachian hills that has a lot to offer for its relatively small size," says Bailey Freeman, Lonely Planet's destination editor for South America. Often overlooked in favor of Lexington's legendary racehorses and bourbon, Berea is known for its vibrant arts community and lively college town. Freeman suggests joining a public art tour or craft workshop or catching "a front porch jam session at the Artisan Village." When you're not popping into galleries and studios, you can strap on your hiking boots and hit the trails at the John B. Stephenson Memorial Forest State Nature Preserve or get your history fix at the Boone Tavern Hotel and Restaurant.

Telluride, Colorado

Telluride is synonymous with skiing, with more than 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, snow-covered peaks and a typical annual snowfall of more than 300 inches. Each winter, powder chasers flock to Telluride Ski Resort to stroll along charming cobblestone streets in the Mountain Village, take in the high-altitude scenery and tackle the well-groomed trails. And in autumn, especially late September and early October, Telluride draws leaf peepers with its golden aspen groves tucked amid the San Juan mountains. For a foliage-filled escape, hit the Telluride Trail to immerse yourself in golden flecks. Then, retreat to one of the area's top-notch properties, like Lumière Telluride, where you can warm up around a roaring fireplace and get pampered with an in-room spa treatment.

Hood River, Oregon

Located in the striking Columbia River Gorge, Hood River is an "outdoor paradise," says Clem Bason, CEO of goSeek, a site focused on surfacing hidden hotel discounts. Bason highlights Hood River's dizzying array of recreational pursuits, from windsurfing to kite surfing to kayaking to cycling. He suggests exploring the 35-mile Fruit Loop to pick up blueberries, flowers, pears and fruit pies, among other items. If you plan a visit in autumn, check out the Hood River Valley Harvest Fest in October for wine and beer tastings, arts and crafts and other fun fall events. As for accommodations, bargain-hunters should consider the three-star Columbia Cliff Villas Hotel for standout Columbia River Gorge views and wallet-friendly rates under $150 per night on goSeek.com, Bason says.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

This scenic mountain town where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia intersect is known for its rich heritage and beautiful natural scenery at the junction of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers and the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. An easy weekend drive from the nation's capital, Harpers Ferry is especially arresting in October and early November, when gorgeous orange, golden and green shades color the townscape. Get your heart racing with some hiking, rafting or zip lining in the park, which offers access to the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. And when you need a break from outdoor adventure, check out nearby Civil War battlefields, enjoy leisurely riverside walks or wander along quaint cobblestone lanes before retreating to an inn.

Dorset, Vermont

For a less touristy alternative to Woodstock, visit Dorset, which boasts charming white clapboard houses, Potter says. In winter, enjoy ice skating, horse-drawn sleigh rides and skiing at nearby resorts such as Stratton and Okemo; in the warmer months, partake in fishing, hiking, biking and horseback riding, among other recreational pursuits. Autumn also marks an ideal time to visit if you're looking to embrace the changing colors across the Green Mountain State. After embracing the great outdoors, steal away to the Dorset Inn, a cozy bed-and-breakfast that dates back to 1796 and boasts well-appointed cottages and an intimate tavern dishing out plates such as roast turkey croquettes and Prince Edward Island mussels.

Lake Placid, New York

This picturesque Adirondacks village appeals to outdoorsy types, with its dizzying array of adventurous pursuits, from snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter to hiking and cycling in summer. Powder hounds won't want to miss scoping out the Olympic Sports Complex, while R&R-seekers should beeline for the area's opulent resorts – Whiteface Lodge and Mirror Lake Inn Resort and Spa – for spectacular lake and mountain vistas. Autumn is another appealing time to visit, when scarlet, auburn and yellow colors paint the Olympic Trail scenic byway, and you can enjoy kayaking and hiking along Mirror Lake. When hunger strikes, grab a bite at the Lake Placid Club Boat House.

Ellijay, Georgia

A tiny town that bills itself as Georgia's Apple Capital, Ellijay lures visitors with its Apple Pickin' Jubilee in early fall at Hillcrest Orchards and its annual Georgia Apple Festival in October. Ellijay also offers an ideal location for exploring the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest. Beyond scenic cycling and hiking routes, which are even more enchanting in autumn when ablaze in bright colors, Ellijay attracts visitors to Georgia Highway 52, which has been dubbed "Apple Alley." Along the drive through north Georgia from Dahlonega, you'll wind past apple orchards and lush vineyards. After taking in the fruit-filled surroundings and staggered Dalonega peaks in the distance, hunker down at Mulberry Gap, a mountain retreat with camping spots and wooden cabins.

Salida, Colorado

Situated in Colorado's "banana belt," which enjoys milder winter weather than the state's alpine regions, Salida offers at artsy, unpretentious vibe. Flanking the Arkansas River, Salida is framed by the Sawatch Range, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and the Arkansas Hills, beckoning to outdoorsy types. For an adrenaline-pumping adventure, try the challenging, roughly 35-mile long Monarch Crest Trail on a mountain bike. Or hit the picturesque Salida Mountain Trails within the Arkansas Hills and Methodist Mountain trail systems. After you've immersed yourself in nature and peddled past inspiring landscapes, grab a craft beer and a hearty meal at Boathouse Cantina or Amicas Pizza back in town. If you're on a tight budget, consider making Tudor Rose, which offers country-manor style lodging, or the hip Amigo Motor Lodge your home base.

Oxford, Mississippi

This northern Mississippi college town oozes Southern charm with its fragrant magnolia trees, historic sites and mouthwatering cuisine (brisket grilled cheese or shrimp and grits, anyone?). Get your foodie fix at Snackbar, Big Bad Breakfast or City Grocery. Then, tour the landmarks that inspired novelist William Faulkner, like Rowan Oak, near the town wquare, where he penned chapters for his novel "A Fable." Lit fans will also appreciate browsing the well-stocked stands of Square Books. And no trip to Oxford is complete without catching an Ole Miss football game – and scoping out the lively tailgating scene at the Grove, a college campus park where fans partake in revelry with drinks, snacks and partying on game days.

Nashville, Indiana

A lovely colony set in Indiana's Brown County, Nashville is filled with local craft stores, inviting restaurants and brick-lined paths. Plan a trip in mid- to late October for prime leaf-viewing at Brown County State Park, which bursts with yellow, auburn and crimson hues blanketing birch, oak and sugar maple trees. For more outdoor adventure, stroll or horseback ride along the scenic trails across the park. Then, head back into town to grab a bite at Hobnob Corner or Shapiro's Delicatessen before strolling along Main Street to check out historic homes and antique shops. At the end of the day, bunk down at Story Inn, a charming bed-and-breakfast with rooms outfitted with balconies and clawfoot tubs.

Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, along Michigan's Lower Peninsula, offers an enticing escape, says Trisha Ping, Lonely Planet's Eastern USA destination editor. "The clear waters of Traverse Bay are warm enough for swimming or kayaking in summer and early fall, and there's enough local shopping and dining to keep you busy over a long weekend," she says. "Visitors might be surprised by the quality of the local wineries. Traverse City is on the 45th parallel, which also marks some of Europe's best wine regions," Ping adds. And while Traverse City offers a classic weekend getaway year-round, it's especially alluring in July during the annual National Cherry Festival, when you can partake in time-honored traditions from parades to art competitions and enjoy fresh tart cherry treats.

Bozeman, Montana

This scenic mountain town tucked amid the Tobacco Root Mountains and the Bridger Mountains is an ideal launching pad for exploring Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky, Montana. But this pretty pastoral area isn't just a prime destination for skiers and hikers. If you're longing for an outside-the-box adventure in winter, try a mushing expedition with venerable outfitter Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures or a horse-drawn sleigh ride with tour operator Sunrise Pack Station. Or try snowga (snowy yoga) at Big Sky Yoga Retreats. Then, cozy up at one of the lively cafes in town along Main Street before turning in at The Lark, a contemporary boutique hotel with an outdoor wood-burning fireplace and rooms outfitted with flat-screen TVs and cozy bathrobes.

Ferndale, California

Ferndale "is the charming northern gateway to California's Lost Coast," Stocking says. "The well-manicured town has maintained its Victorian architecture for a charming home base to exploring a bit of California's rugged coastline and redwood forests." After checking out the towering redwoods and captivating views along Humboldt Bay, look up at the elaborate architecture in town, which includes painted ladies along Main Street as well as mission- and Italianate-style buildings. Then, check out the area's eclectic fine art galleries, grab a bite at a casual tavern or café and slip away to one of the area's quaint bed-and-breakfasts.

Galena, Illinois

Set along the Mississippi River, Galena offers alluring backdrops and a leisurely pace, making it a quintessential retreat for Windy City residents. Lit lovers will want to check out the annual Galena LitFest each January, and history buffs will enjoy exploring the DeSoto House Hotel, which has an illustrious past dating back to 1855. For more activity, embark on a horseback riding expedition along the river, hit the links on one of the area's golf courses or enjoy hiking along the Galena River Trail. When hunger sets in, check out One Eleven Main. If you're looking to unwind and pamper yourself, check into the Goldmoor Inn, which peers over the Mississippi River Valley.

Breckenridge, Colorado

This storybook ski town has all the trappings of a winter wonderland – down to its powdery peaks, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice skating rinks and arresting alpine scenery. But there's more to Breckenridge than cold-weather pastimes. Not only does Breck offer a lovely downtown area filled with trendy boutiques and galleries, Victorian-era architecture and a thriving arts district, it also offers fun seasonal events year-round, like the Spring Beer Festival each April and an authentic Breckenridge Oktoberfest celebration in September. If you're looking to embrace the great outdoors in autumn, check out the Peaks Trail off Highway 9, which intersects Breckenridge and Frisco and affords striking golden landscapes, or the picturesque Boreas Pass Road.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Chock-full of idyllic coastal views, sophisticated galleries and lovely cafes, this seaside village near Monterey and Pebble Beach dazzles visitors year-round. If you're not in awe of the windswept seascapes from Bixby Creek Bridge on Highway 1 (you may recognize the dreamy backdrop from the opening credits of the hit HBO series "Big Little Lies"), you're sure to be charmed by crisp sea air and powdery sands along Carmel Beach. Apart from sunbathing and hiking, you can fill your days with leisurely tastings at trendy wine bars and perusing the shops along Ocean Avenue. End your day by retreating to a charming bed-and-breakfast such as Cypress Inn or the Wayside Inn.

Nevada City, California

A former gold rush town, Nevada City is perched at the western edge of the Sierra Nevada foothills. As you explore around town, which dates back to 1849, you may feel like you've been transported back in time on a horse-drawn carriage ride weaving past glowing streetlamps or the Nevada Theatre, which welcomed literary luminaries such as Mark Twain and Jack London. "The town is also chock-full of artists, restaurateurs and artisans," Bason says. Other highlights include exploring Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park and Firehouse No. 1 Museum, a storied bell tower building that contains unique relics from the gold rush. Cap off your visit with a tasting at Nevada City Winery.

Beaufort, South Carolina

Steeped in history and Spanish moss-draped oak trees, Beaufort oozes low country charm. Admire the area's antebellum architecture and superlative cuisine (Old Bull Tavern and Lowcountry Produce are crowd-pleasers), before venturing to Hunting Island State Park to hit the trails and capture dreamy photos of the storied lighthouse, Hunting Island Light. Then, stroll through Scout Southern Market to grab a few souvenirs, take in the salty sea breeze along Bay Street or pop into the fashionable boutiques and galleries in town. At the end of the day, slip away to Anchorage 1770, a historic Victorian inn where you can enjoy waterfront yoga classes on a sweeping veranda overlooking the harbor or rent a fat tire bike.

Asheville, North Carolina

With the Blue Ridge Mountains in the backdrop, Asheville lures outdoorsy types, hipsters, epicureans, culturists and history lovers alike. If you're yearning for adventure, enjoy whitewater rafting, hiking or cycling in one of the area's parks and forests, such as the Pisgah National Forest. And if you're a discerning foodie, check out a few culinary institutions, such as Rhubarb and Nightbell. Then, explore the area's historic gems, like the Omni Grove Park Inn and the Biltmore Estate, before meandering through the River Arts District to explore chic galleries and boutiques.

Ketchum, Idaho

An off-the-beaten-path ski town with easy access Sun Valley's glistening slopes, Ketchum is a best-kept secret. Come for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and other cold-weather pastimes, then wander around town to check out exhibits, workshops and art classes at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, a hybrid museum and gallery venue, or warm up with a pint at Sawtooth Brewery. After soaking in your surroundings, check into the Limelight Hotel to enjoy a lively après-ski happy hour, or make your way to the Sun Valley Lodge, which features a 20,000-square-foot spa, a yoga studio and other wellness-focused facilities.

Camden, Maine

A classic New England port town along Penobscot Bay, which is teeming with sailboats and Victorian homes, Camden is a postcard-perfect getaway, Potter says. While the area fills with tourists in the dog days of summer, it offers the perfect dose of coastal Maine charm, he adds. In autumn, hit the trails at Camden Hills State Park to take in striking crimson, emerald and yellow shades draping chestnut, birch and elm trees or check out Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park for spellbinding scenery. After immersing yourself in Camden's coastal beauty, check into Whitehall for cozy accommodations, cocktails and mouthwatering dishes such as lobster rolls and blueberry cheesecake at the on-site dining venue, Pig + Poet.

St. Augustine, Florida

History-filled cobblestone streets. Spanish colonial architecture. Lively shops. St. Augustine isn't your typical Florida beach town. Visit Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, which has a history dating back to the 17th century, check out the Freedom Trail to retrace the footsteps of MLK Jr., and explore the antique shops, eclectic boutiques, lively cafes and museums along St. George Street. After painting the town, stretch out along the powdery shores at Anastasia State Park beach or escape to the Casa Monica Resort & Spa, Autograph Collection for high-end digs featuring with four-poster beds and Bose sound systems. Even better, the property can arrange outdoor excursions, from fishing and sailing to golfing and horseback riding.

Jackson, Wyoming

Jagged peaks, scenic trails and a charming slope-side village: It's no secret why powder hounds flock to this laid-back ski town each winter. While skiers will want to beeline for Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, where you can tackle 4,139 acres of runs, ski-averse visitors can take their pick from a range of off-slope offerings. Take advantage of Jackson's enviable location, tucked amid the Teton and Gros Ventre mountain ranges, and explore one of the more than 200 trails in Grand Teton National Park. Or, for one-of-a-kind wildlife-viewing, head the National Elk Refuge during the peak elk-watching season in autumn. At the end of the day, head to The Kitchen or the legendary Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.

Paia, Hawaii

If you're looking for an untrammeled surf town with requisite Hawaiian hospitality, venture to Paia, a less-trodden enclave on Maui's northern coast. Located off Highway 36, Paia lures surfers, windsurfers and bohemian types to Ho'okipa Beach Park. When you need a break from the sand and surf, browse the eclectic boutiques, galleries and cafes downtown, such as Café des Amis and Indigo Paia gallery. Then, make your way to the bustling Paia Fish Market or take in the jaw-dropping vantage points along the legendary Road to Hana. As for accommodations, consider the Paia Inn, a chic boutique hotel that offers an ideal starting point for snorkeling, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, among other recreational pursuits.

Blue Hill, Maine

A tucked-away coastal village on Maine's western shoreline, Blue Hill is a gem nestled between Blue Hill Harbor and Blue Hill Mountain. Arrive in early October, and you can take in brilliant fall colors along Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park. Then, meander across town to pop into lovely galleries and boutique shops, such as Rackliffe Pottery and Blue Hill Books, for a souvenir (or two). When hunger strikes, visit Arborvine, an intimate dining venue with farm-to-table dishes. As for lodging, check into the Blue Hill Inn for airy accommodations and complimentary breakfast items such as blueberry pancakes, waffles and sweet breads.

Sitka, Alaska

An isolated seaside village on the outer edge of the Alaskan panhandle, Sitka lures wildlife lovers (the area is home to wild salmon, bald eagles and seals) and serenity-seekers with its beautiful nature trails. Set at the base of Mt. Edgecumbe – a snow-topped dormant volcano – the area offers awe-inspiring backdrops. And outdoor pursuits abound, from hiking to kayaking to whale watching. Cruise along Southeast Alaska, join a walking tour, kayak or fish before hiking along scenic trails in Sitka National Historical Park. Then, make your way to Eliason Harbor to catch sight of the area's colorful fishing boats before stealing away to Talon Lodge & Spa, a wellness-centered fishing lodge with striking views of Alaska's Inside Passage.

Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan

Located on the northern tip of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, this scenic area is a classic lakeside getaway with alluring hiking trails, hardwood forests and captivating coastline. Keweenaw National Historical Park is the main draw, with its jagged sandstone cliffs and scenic overlooks, which are even more alluring in the fall when blanketed in golden, scarlet and emerald hues. Copper Harbor along U.S. Route 41 is another prime fall foliage viewing area (the scenic Copper Harbor Lighthouse offers an ideal spot for a memorable photos). After soaking in the scenery, grab a pint at Keweenaw Brewing Company and check-into Fitzgerald's Hotel & Restaurant in nearby Eagle River.

Darby, Montana

Beneath the Bitterroot Range in southwest Montana, Darby is a quintessential adventure town in the heart of Big Sky Country. In autumn, you can take in auburn, gold and crimson shades draping aspen and maple trees. And in the warmer months, carve out some time for fly-fishing, whitewater rafting and horseback riding, among other outdoor diversions. Another draw is the Bitterroot National Forest; take the arresting hike to Boulder Falls for an enchanting photo op. At the end of the day, cozy up at Triple Creek Ranch, a high-end, 600-acre mountain retreat with well-appointed cabins, wraparound decks, roaring fireplaces and all-inclusive activities, from alpine skiing to wildlife- and nature-viewing safaris.

Saratoga Springs, New York

Located about 200 miles north of New York City and about 35 miles north of Albany, New York, Saratoga Springs has long been a classic summer getaway for city slickers. "There's a thriving downtown area filled with restaurants and small shops," says Alicia Johnson, Lonely Planet's Central America and Caribbean destination editor. "The biggest attraction is the Saratoga Race Course, which features thoroughbred horse racing from July to September," she adds. After checking out the track, venture to Congress Park, a verdant green space with picnic areas, duck ponds and a charming wooden carousel. Then, meander to Caroline Street, a bustling thoroughfare brimming with cosmopolitan restaurants and cocktail bars.

Spearfish, South Dakota

Set at the foot of the Black Hills and Custer State Park, Spearfish is a gem in South Dakota, Potter says. The classic Western town offers a lively Main Street filled with antique shops, historic buildings, and inviting wine bars and cafes. But the reason you go to Spearfish is to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. Take a scenic drive to the nearby Bridal Veil Falls, Mount Rushmore or Bear Butte State Park. After soaking in the great outdoors, refuel with a meal back in town at a casual barbecue and brisket joint, pub or low-key tavern. As for lodging, you can take your pick from bed-and-breakfasts, campgrounds, cabins and budget-friendly hotels.

Tuscumbia and Muscle Shoals, Alabama

These neighboring small towns tucked in northern Alabama are best known for their illustrious music history. The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin are just a couple of legendary musicians to have laid down tracks in the Muscle Shoals area. Plus, the area is home to the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, Bason says, adding that the historic downtown appeals to audiophiles and gastronomes alike with its lively food scene. Arrive in late spring or early fall for pleasant temperatures. Music lovers won't want to miss the W.C. Handy Music Festival in neighboring Florence, Alabama, in July, and history buffs will want to carve out some time to tour Ivy Green, the childhood home of Helen Keller in Tuscumbia, Bason adds.

Newport, Rhode Island

A quintessential New England retreat, Newport is perhaps best known for its glamorous sailboats, stately mansions and seafaring charm. But the arresting town has much more to offer history and architecture lovers. In addition to the colonial-era structures, lovely summer cottages and glitzy Gilded Age buildings (like The Breakers, Rough Point and Marble House), there's the National Museum of American Illustration and the verdant Fort Adams at the base of Narragansett Bay. Newport also boasts the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk, a scenic seaside stretch with salty sea breezes and postcard-worthy views. For an enviable address and unobstructed bay views, check into the Castle Hill Inn or The Chanler at Cliff Walk.

Calistoga, California

If you're dreaming of an understated wine country getaway, Calistoga offers a laid-back alternative to Napa and Sonoma Valley. In fall, leaf peepers will want to check out the Silverado Trail to admire golden and scarlet hues blanketing the vineyard-filled route. And after enjoying leisurely tastings, you can indulge in gallery-hopping, soaking in soothing hot springs and getting pampered at luxurious hotels. At Calistoga Ranch, guests can enjoy complimentary Pilates and yoga classes, unwind in lodges outfitted with fireplaces and rain showers and get pampered with decadent spa treatments like facials, stone massage therapies and detoxifying mud wraps. For more arresting views, check out Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, where picturesque trails snake past black oaks, maples and redwoods.

Ticonderoga, New York

This tony town tucked in the Adirondacks along Lake Champlain "is beautiful throughout most of the year," Johnson says. "There are trails and boat launches and small-town eateries." But the crown jewel (and most popular site) is Fort Ticonderoga, which stretches across Vermont's Green Mountains and New York's Adirondacks. History buffs will want to catch a 1777 British siege re-enactment, while outdoorsy types will be drawn to the 2,000-acre area's picturesque trails and gardens (King's Garden is a must-see and offers seasonal programming such as apple picking in autumn and hands-on gardening lessons). Other highlights include Crown Point, a neighboring town with a charming lighthouse, and the LaChute River Walk Trail, a scenic path that leads to plunging waterfalls.

Sedona, Arizona

Set amid dramatic crimson-rock formations, craggy sandstone buttes and pine tree-filled forests, Sedona features a desert landscape like no other. Nature lovers will enjoy exploring the legendary red rocks along one of Sedona's more than 100 scenery-packed hiking trails (the Cathedral Rock Trail is a must) and Red Rock State Park. Meanwhile, fans of the area's New Age movement will want to check out the Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village. Spa-goers will appreciate Mii Amo, a Destination Spa, which is available to Enchantment Resort guests and offers invigorating treatments like prickly pear butter wraps. If you have time to spare, take in sweeping views on trails near iconic buttes such as Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.

Stowe, Vermont

Stowe's well-groomed ski runs (if you're a powder hound, tackling the slopes of Mount Mansfield – Vermont's highest peak – is a must) and gorgeous amber and yellow hues draping sugar maples, elm, hickory and birch trees each September and October are top draws for outdoorsy types. For Instagram-worthy photo ops, drive along Stowe Hollow and pick up a sweet scoop at Ben & Jerry's Factory. Soak in your surroundings in this quaint town beneath the Green Mountains by exploring Stowe's charming steepled churches and crowd-pleasing local hangouts such as Solstice and Swiss Fondue by Heinz. End your day cozying up by a crackling fireplace at a luxurious retreat such as Topnotch Resort or Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa.

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Liz Weiss, Staff Writer

Liz Weiss is a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report. With more than six years of ...  Read more

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