The 40 Most Underrated Small Towns in America from The 40 Most Underrated Small Towns in America
The 40 Most Underrated Small Towns in America
Going on a trip, whether for the weekend, a week or a month, is probably everyone’s favorite pastime. Make the most of the few vacation days you have, and don’t flock to tourist traps like New York or Los Angeles. Think outside the box.
There are plenty of underrated adventure destinations in the U.S. that are worth your time. Many are ideal for exhilarating quests ranging from exploring a lesser-known corner of the planet or going on a unique expedition.
Some of them are small towns with a population of a few hundred or about 10,000.
Perdido Key, Florida
Perdido means lost. The aptly named community in Escambia County, near Pensacola, is a one of Florida’s hidden gems. Everything you love about the state in general – nice weather, pristine beaches and water, wildlife preserve, unspoiled parks, etc. – you will find in Perdido Key, minus the crowds. People have a laid-back attitude, traffic is minimal and everything is just a short drive away.
Sitka is considered Alaska’s most beautiful seaside town with its views of island-studded waters and stately spruce forests reaching to the water’s edge. Ancient lands were home to the Tlingit Indians, long before Russians or Americans walked on the rocky shores. Visit the Fortress of the Bear, go whale-watching, and explore Alaska’s oldest national park. It commemorates the Battle of 1804. The 113-acre park includes the scenic Totem Trail.
This wonderful and charming small town is surrounded by apple orchards and vineyards, and is only 15 miles from both the Pacific Ocean and the Russian River. Explore The Barlow, a 220,000-square-foot culinary and arts center. The nearby Laguna de Santa Rosa is the county’s largest freshwater wetlands complex, according to Sonoma County. It’s a gorgeous mosaic of creeks, open water, and riparian forests.
Skiing, biking, rafting, delicious food and good beer – you name it, Durango has it. Days are filled with adrenaline-pumping adventures such as zip lining. The town is a top destination for train enthusiasts. With over 300 days of sunshine, the San Juan range is amazing to visit year-round. For a different experience, spend a week at a ranch and go horseback riding or fly fishing.
Amherst Center, Massachusetts
This is heaven for college students – there are 49 colleges within 50 miles of Amherst Center. There are many can’t-miss things to do, ranging from attending special events to getting involved in the arts. You get to live like a busy college student every day (minus the grueling studying).
This is one of the most romantic cities in the state of Arizona. Couples go there for an inspiration of for relaxation. It’s just 90 miles from Tucson and nestled among the Mule Mountains. Bisbee is the picturesque county seat of historic Cochise County, according to Discover Bisbee. Hikers, wine-tasters, music-appreciators also visit often.
You don’t have to move to Las Vegas if you like living the Southern life. Tunica has several casinos, making it a typical gaming city. They don’t just offer slot machines and poker tables. They also schedule a lot of concerts and fun events like horse shows, sporting, stage bars and festivals. Tunica is popular for its golf courses, as well as blues clubs.
This town in the Blue Ridge Mountains is the gateway to the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. Damascus is a hiking paradise, especially if you love to explore the wilderness. It lies within a short distance of hundreds of miles of other hiking, horse, and biking trails and is traversed by dozens of iconic trails including the Appalachian Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia’s Birding and Wildlife Trail, according to Visit Damascus.
Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City, which often makes the lists of best beach towns in America, is known for its outdoor recreation every season of the year, according to Pure Michigan. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a magnificent mix of water, sky and towering sand dunes on the Lake Michigan shoreline, is a famous attraction with an abundance of hiking trails. The biking and fishing opportunities are endless.
Physically active people will love it there. This is one of America’s best college towns for cycling. You will also find plenty of dive bars, a thriving scene for hiking, fishing and boating since it’s right on the shores of three lakes, Big Ten sports, breweries, local organic foods, a revolving door of shows and concerts. In 2014, topped the list of the 100 best places to live in the U.S.
Decatur, a quintessential college town, is just 4 square miles with 18,000 residents. There are more than 200 mostly independent shops, restaurants, galleries, salons, and a nice walkable tree-shaded downtown. This is a place for foodies, fashionistas and fun-lovers. Tip: Did you know that the Lincoln Square Theater in Decatur is among the most haunted places in the country?
Boise nabbed the top spot on Time Magazine’s cities that “get it right” in the 2014 “Solutions for America” article. In 2008 Boise landed the number two spot in Forbes for “Best Places for Business and Careers.” The fact that other cities are at least 5-6 hours away has forced locals to build whatever they need – such as theatres and even a symphony – in their own city. Sitting at the intersection of desert and mountains only adds to Boise’s allure.
This is a destination on the rise. People describe it as beautiful, clean, and very peaceful. Gatlinburg offers access to the Great Smoky Mountains and lots of good places to eat delicious southern food. Cycling in the Smokies, zip lining and mountain golf are some of tourists’ favorite activities. Visit nearby Dollywood to ride the world’s fastest wooden roller coaster, Lightning Rod.
Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
It’s known as Missouri’s first settlement. It’s where creative soul go for inspiration, couple go on a romantic getaway, nature lovers go to explore the wilderness, and history buffs come to see the many historic attractions. Much of historic Ste. Genevieve's charm and ambiance is due to the remarkable preservation of its original vertical log structures.
Camden is a classic seaside town at the foot of Camden Hills. Its slogan is “Where the Mountains Meet the Sea” and is considered by many visitors to be one of the most beautiful places in New England, according to a travel guide. It has a small town sensibility with friendly people, gorgeous views, preserved buildings and historic structures. Camden and its surroundings are perfect for hiking, mountain biking, sailing, and paddle boarding.
This is a quick, convenient getaway that is really different from many quick, convenient getaways. The experience isn't just in getting there, and the scenery is unique. The city is less than 2 hours from Seattle, according to My Ellensburg. Go the “urban” route for spas, salons, wining and dining, galleries, antiques, and performing arts; or be more adventurous and go fly fishing, rafting, biking and hiking along dozens of trails.
St. Augustine, Florida
The oldest city in the U.S. is tied with a few other cities on the list of best beach towns in the country for having the most nightlife establishments and restaurants per capita. Its overall “Quality of Life” rank is second. The city, which has a quaint feel but big appeal, offers historic sights, family fun adventures and venues, awesome “on the water” experiences, and unique scenery.
Wallace is the world’s largest silver producer — making it the richest mining town still in existence, and the last town entirely listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to Visir North Idaho. Explore the more than 1,000 miles of mining, logging and Forest Service roads that have been turned into the world’s largest mountain bike, ATV and snowmobile trail system. Go on underground mine tours, and visit the mine museums after hiking in lush green forests.
This lively city on the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain has a lot to offer. The outdoors is what truly draws people in. From mountain biking in the nearby Green Mountains to kayaking and boating on the lake, it’s easy to enjoy your favorite outdoor sports. The bustling nightlife is tough to beat. Burlington is most accessible from Albany or Boston.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Couples go there for a nice and cozy vacation. The cabin rentals are especially popular with vacationers. There are over 40 attractions with favorites like Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, waterparks, WonderWorks, mini-golf, go-karts and outdoor activities in the area like rafting, hiking the Smokies or Pigeon Forge zip lines.
Even though it’s located in a small and artsy chic town along the state’s amazing coastal highway, it maintains its old-fashioned vibe. The main beach also has a laid-back atmosphere, which you may not expect from a beach in California. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a stunning, European-style town snuggled above a scenic white-sand beach where everything is within walking distance.
Los Alamos, New Mexico
The city’s rich history will astonish you. Take the historic walking tour and see ancestral pueblo dwellings, a homesteader’s cabin, and very spot where the first atomic bomb components were assembled. Major attractions include the Manhattan Project National Historic Park, The Bandelier National Monument, and the Bradbury Science Museum. The scenic looks from Anderson Overlook Park will take your breath away.
Hood River, Oregon
This small adventure town and “recreational boomtown,” as National Geographic calls it, is perfect for a weekend getaway. Why not make it your permanent home? Everyday activities can include kayaking off Celestial Falls, seeing jaw-dropping scenery, and mountain biking. You won’t miss the big city at all; Hood River is just about an hour away from Portland.
This modern but small town is perfectly situated between Denver and Boulder, two popular cities from which you may want to escape sometimes. Louisville is a successful example of how Colorado is blending the old and the new. Go in the summer for a range to outdoor concerts, farmers' markets, a state of the art golf course, and thrilling cycling opportunities.
Mount Kisco, New York
This is one of Westchester's most lively communities. It’s only about 3 square miles, but don’t let that fool you. Located 43 miles from New York City, it is easily commutable by train or car. The urban village is known for fine dining, entertainment, and award-winning medical care.
Clinton, New Jersey
The gorgeous small towns looks like it’s coming straight out of a fairytale or a painting. Charming Clinton shows off its antique iron bridge, built in 1870, and the Raritan River. Perched on either side of the bridge are classic grist mills. The landmark 10-acre Red Mill Museum Village is home to the Hunterdon Historical Museum, which has a collection of more than 40,000 historic artifacts, according to Visit NJ.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Consider the lesser-known but equally charming Beaufort for your romantic holiday. At least visit for the day; it’s a quick stop from Savannah or Charleston. Whatever you imagine southern charm to be, Beaufort has it – Antebellum architecture, moss-laden oak trees, parks, Civil War-era homes…Explore the nearby Hunting Island State Park, its maritime forest, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state, and the white-tipped waves of the Atlantic.
Lebanon, New Hampshire
Lebanon is actually one of the largest cities in the Upper Valley with about 16,500 people. Located along the banks of the Connecticut River, West Lebanon is the areas major shopping district. The area that is now known as West Lebanon was home to the earliest settlers, as it rests along the Connecticut River. Lebanon is always buzzing with activity. One of the area’s most well-known, events is the Farmers’ Market on The Green which also offers concert series and a lot family-friendly activities.
Berlin was named America’s coolest small town in 2014 by Budget Travel. Visiting is like traveling back in time. Stroll down Main Street to walk along the path taken by the Assateague and Pocomoke Indians well before the colonial period. Almost 50 individual structures are noted in the National Register of Historic Places and represent nearly two centuries of architectural heritage.
The small town of about 2,000 residents is known mostly for its art scene. Looking for a unique Texas experience? Stay in a 22-ft. diameter yurt with wood floors. This kind of adventure destination is a combination of the lifestyles of hipsters and nomads who have passed through the region over the years.
In 2015, Carlisle was ranked #16 on Livability.com's 100 Best Small Towns. If you are into American history, you will love this place. Take a walk and explore the streets that George Washington once walked on. Carlisle is filled with landmarks and museums where you can learn a lot of the country. There is also a Civil War augmented reality walking.
Fisherman will fall in love with Onalaska. The town offers direct access to Lake Onalaska, a huge man-made reservoir that has often been called the "sunfish capital of the world." The best time to go for the best chances to catch different kinds of fish is in the spring.
This town is among the top vacation destinations in the entire state. You’ll be spending your time in the lakes, and having a blast. Supreme lakes, great fishing, top-notch golf, history and arts, and, of course, boutique shopping, are just some of the possibilities to enjoy yourself. You can stay at nice resorts, charming B&Bs, a family campground, or a unique retreat lodge.
Spearfish, South Dakota
Adventure is everywhere in this small town surrounded by unrivaled natural beauty. Hike the Big Hill Trails or explore the Bear Butte State Park. (The Bear Mountain is sacred to many American Indian tribes.) Sign up for bike races or just trek to the majestic Bridal Veil Falls – whatever you choose to do, your stay in Spearfish will surely be memorable.
Those of you who like to vacation on the Gulf Coast will absolutely fall in love with this picturesque small town. The antebellum homes, streets, live oaks, and walkable downtown will make you want to move there, too. Sitting on bluffs that overlook Mobile Bay, Fairhope always has a stunning view of the water. The relaxed vibe only adds to its allure. Visit the boutiques and art galleries, and eat at the many excellent seafood restaurants.
Some call it “Wyoming’s Jewel.” It’s easy to see why. The town’s legendary western history, old west charm and stunning mountain views are awe-inspiring. Just a walk along Main Street will take your breath away; you will be seeing the magnificent Bighorn Mountains.
This is the Outdoor Recreational Capital of Colorado, nestled in some of the most rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies. It’s an ideal adventure spot every season of the year. Go hiking or biking along any section of the Dallas Trail system. You’ll pass through Telluride, with off-shoots to the famous scenery of Blaine Basin and Blue Lakes. Relax in hot springs, go on an amazing road trip and drive the San Juan Highway, and go river tubing on the Uncompahgre River in the fall.
This is a place for couple who love nature and spending time outside. Common sights include moose and black bears crossing the road or porpoises playing in the surf. The stunning seaside city overlooks Kachemak Bay and the Kenai Mountains. Start here and go glacier skiing or sign up for guided kayak tours. Make time to see the Halibut Cove, which is an artists' enclave where the roads are made of water.
Historic Astoria is home to stunning views, beautiful beaches, and a variety of museums. The gorgeous Ecola State Park is not far away. Explore Indian beach, a little-known beach popular among beachgoers and surfers, famous for its tide pools and gorgeous scenery. Visitors will enjoy views of spectacular rock formations off Ecola Point to the south.