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U.S. News Best Vacations Badge

Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

U.S. News Best Vacations Badge

Filled with charm and plenty of friendly locals, small towns are synonymous with life in America. To help you decide which towns are worthy of a vacation, U.S. News narrowed it down to places with a population of fewer than 50,000 that offer plenty of restaurants and attractions, plus have a unique character all their own. So ditch the big-city crowds and start planning your small-town getaway, and don't forget to vote for your favorite destination to help us determine next year's list. 

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Gold Badge #1 Telluride

Gold Badge #1 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

This Colorado town woos visitors with its captivating scenery and delightful Mountain Village. Skiers flock to Telluride's slopes for more than 2,000 acres of terrain, plus ample après-ski spots and an impressive 300 inches of snow and 300 days of sun annually. Year-round, the town hosts numerous festivals and cultural events, and travelers can hike, bike and golf when the weather warms. Read More »

Main Street View 20 photos
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Gold Badge #2 Jackson Hole

Gold Badge #2 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Jackson Hole has made a name for itself thanks to its 400-some inches of annual snowfall and 2,500 acres of skiable terrain. But it's more than a top ski spot. Visitors return to this Wyoming town year after year for its picturesque scenery and proximity to Grand Teton National Park, as well as its collection of local breweries, concert venues and access to outdoor activities like biking, paragliding and whitewater rafting. Read More »

Jackson Hole Ranch View 16 photos
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Gold Badge #3 Steamboat Springs

Gold Badge #3 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Along the banks of Yampa River, this northern Colorado town offers excellent ski conditions, a community of friendly locals and geothermal hot springs that are perfect after a long day spent on the slopes. Travel to Steamboat in the spring or summer to enjoy the Yampa River Botanic Park's flora and free concerts. Or, take the kids on a mountain coaster ride or kayaking and swimming in the Colorado River. Read More »

Steamboat Springs View 17 photos
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Gold Badge #4 Sedona

Gold Badge #4 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

You'll find the perfect mix of adventure and relaxation in this Arizona small town. The 100-plus hiking trails are great for nature lovers, while the vortexes draw holistic enthusiasts and the luxe spas cater to visitors looking to unwind. Plan a winter trip to get a break from harsh temperatures elsewhere in the country. Read More »

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Gold Badge #5 Lake Tahoe

Gold Badge #5 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

This lake that straddles the California-Nevada state line lets visitors pick their adventure. Ski at the intimate, cozy Homewood Mountain Resort in the winter or soak up the sun and swim at Kings Beach State Recreation Area in the summer. And you can tempt Lady Luck at various local casinos year-round. Read More »

Lake Tahoe View 41 photos
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Gold Badge #6 Bar Harbor

Gold Badge #6 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Small-town Maine at its finest, Bar Harbor is a relaxing East Coast retreat filled with bed-and-breakfasts and plenty of opportunities for outdoor fun. Boat tours, history tours and culinary tours are just a few ways travelers can get better acquainted with Bar Harbor. What's more, the town is a gateway to Acadia National Park, where visitors can hike and kayak.

Bar Harbor
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#7 Monterey

#7 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

A popular California vacation destination, Monterey offers something for everyone. Golfers can hit the links at Pebble Beach, epicureans can dine at gourmet restaurants and culture hounds can wander through the art galleries clustered around Cannery Row. Pencil in some time to relax on the beach, too: Monterey is known for its stunning shoreline. Read More »

Monterey View 19 photos
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#8 Sanibel Island

#8 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

With a population of fewer than 8,000 year-round residents, Sanibel Island is still one of Florida's best kept secrets. Sanibel Island exudes a laid-back vibe, perfect for travelers looking to chill on the beach and stroll through town to check out the surf shops, boutiques and casual restaurants. Plus, this Florida vacation spot offers ample lodging options, ranging from hotels to small inns to vacation rentals. Read More »

Shelling View 16 photos
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#9 Cannon Beach

#9 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

This town's main draw is its nearly 4-mile-long scenic stretch of sand along the Oregon coastline that's interrupted by towering rock formations. A vacation here should include relaxing on the beach, exploring the area's parks and enjoying the local cultural activities, such as glass-blowing and live theater.

Cannon Beach
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#10 Juneau

#10 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Although it's the capital city of Alaska, with a population of about 32,000, Juneau can still be considered America's "Last Frontier." Nowhere else in the country can you spot whales and glaciers – including the incredible Mendenhall Glacier – in the same trip. Once you get your fill of the great outdoors, head to the Alaskan Brewing Company for a tour and tasting of local beers. Read More »

A Nature Lover's Paradise View 18 photos
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#11 Sonoma

#11 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

At the heart of one of America's best winemaking regions, this Northern California town boasts all the charms of a rustic yet refined locale without the crowds and high price tags of its larger neighbor, Napa. Before heading to the wineries, spend the day exploring the shops and restaurants along the 8-acre Sonoma Plaza. Read More »

Cline Cellars View 17 photos
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#12 Destin

#12 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Beautiful beaches, fun water parks and fishing characterize Destin, which is set on the Emerald Coast of Florida. Perched along the Gulf of Mexico, Destin is all about the water. Families can set sail on a boat tour or fishing charter, splash about at Big Kahuna's Water and Adventure Park or pack a picnic and enjoy a day on the beach swimming and sunbathing. Read More »

Boating View 17 photos
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#13 Breckenridge

#13 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Sure, you'll find plenty of fellow powder hounds on the slopes of nearby ski resorts along with stunning mountain vistas year-round, but this Colorado town also packs a historic punch thanks to its 19th-century gold rush roots. Other outdoor pursuits like hiking and biking are popular when the weather warms up and plenty of breweries around town occupy travelers off the trails. Read More »

Breckenridge View 14 photos
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#14 Moab

#14 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

This eastern Utah town serves as a gateway to the otherworldly rock formations found in Arches National Park and the numerous canyons and buttes in Canyonlands National Park. The town itself hosts countless festivals, including the Moab Folk Festival, the Moab Art walk and the Moab Trashion Show, where participants create fashionable clothes from recycled materials. Plus, travelers rave about the area's ATV tours.

moab
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#15 St. Augustine

#15 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Full of history and unspoiled beaches, this Florida town draws visitors with its links to Spanish colonial landmarks. After strolling along St. George Street and through the Colonial Quarter, check out the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. Then, head to the shore to relax and wade in the calm ocean waters. Read More »

City Hall View 19 photos
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#16 Laguna Beach

#16 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

The main draw of this Southern California town is, of course, its 7 miles of pristine coastline. Laguna Beach comprises several beaches: Main Beach, Thousand Steps Beach and Aliso Beach are a few that are popular with everyone from surfers and volleyball players to families. Laguna is a great jumping-off point for exploring other Orange County beach towns or venturing to Los Angeles as well.

Laguna Beach
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#17 Naples

#17 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Golfing and relaxing draw travelers to Naples. Excellent warm weather year-round means perfect conditions for golfers looking to hit the links at one (or more) of the dozens of courses in the area. Naples is also home to luxe resorts with pools and spas, plus a long stretch of beach overlooking the turquoise Gulf of Mexico – all ideal for visitors who need to decompress. Read More »

Naples Pier View 18 photos
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#18 Hilton Head

#18 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Hilton Head offers 12 miles of wide beaches for kids to play on and for parents to relax on. Golf and tennis are popular pursuits in this South Carolina vacation spot, but so are biking around town, kayaking and paddleboarding in the calm creek waters. What's more, accommodation options abound, with top-notch hotels, vacation rentals and smaller bed-and-breakfasts to choose from. Read More »

Aerial Harbour Town View 22 photos
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#19 Cape May

#19 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

A seaside retreat in New Jersey, Cape May invites travelers to take it easy. You'll want to spend time meandering through the historic district to admire the Victorian homes and enjoying fresh seafood at the oceanfront restaurants. The beaches here are welcoming, too, with opportunities for volleyball, fishing, surfing and swimming.

Cape May
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#20 Stowe, VT

#20 in Best Small Towns to Visit in the USA

Stowe makes for a great winter getaway (thanks to its ski slopes), a fun fall trip (thanks to its kaleidoscopic foliage) and an enjoyable spring or summer vacation (thanks to its various outdoor offerings). This quaint Vermont town is set in a valley and backed by mountains, which means exploring Mother Nature is top priority for most travelers. Wind down with a visit to one of the area's breweries. Read More »

Stowe Mountain Resort View 18 photos
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