America the beautiful: The best small towns in the U.S.

So-called ‘drip pricing’ can make it difficult to determine the total cost of airline tickets and vacation rentals.
Fair warning: Local wildlife can bring traffic to a standstill on Parks Highway 3 while you're driving through Denali National Park. Then again, that is part of this road's allure.
Slide 1 of 60: Bigger isn't always better, and small towns are here to prove it. To highlight these gems, we set out to find the best small towns in the country. A panel of experts selected a total of 120 nominees, each with a population of fewer than 30,000 people. The top ten winners in six categories were then chosen by 10Best readers, and these are the results.
Slide 2 of 60: Abingdon is known for its performing and visual arts, but its culinary scene is equally creative, having placed second in the 10Best Readers' Choice contest for Best Small Town Food Scene. Local chefs are inspired by the region's farming heritage, and they serve a diverse mix of cuisines. Enjoy stellar barbecue at Bone Fire Smokehouse, have afternoon tea at Camella's, and finish off your visit with a dessert at 149 Sweets.
Slide 3 of 60: Thanks to the numerous small shops and dealers lining the streets of downtown, Allen took ninth place in Best Small Town for Shopping. Nicknamed the "Antique Capital of Michigan," it really sets the scene for a small town weekend treasure hunt. Many of the shops are housed in historic buildings and Victorian homes.
Slide 4 of 60: This small town on the Jersey Shore is experiencing a revival, which is why it took second place for Best Small Town Cultural Scene. A once-quiet downtown is alive with restaurants, dozens of bars and even an art house cinema, while abandoned Victorian homes are being bought and restored. The boardwalk has been reborn, brought back to its former glory, and the revitalized Paramount Theatre is hosting live performances once again.
Slide 5 of 60: The gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, as proven by its ninth-place rank in Best Small Town for Adventure. You can cycle along the car-free carriage roads or kayak along the Maine coast. Go whale-watching from May to October, and come winter, hit the trails for cross country skiing or snowmobiling.
Slide 6 of 60: Bath's two main thoroughfares are lined with 19th century architecture, including many historic mansions, as well as local book sellers and antique stores. Art galleries also make an appearance, such as the Centre Street Arts Gallery and the Chocolate Church Arts Center. For these reasons, it placed ninth in Best Historic Small Town.
Slide 7 of 60: Charming Bayfield, the 10th Best Coastal Small Town, features Victorian-era homes and quaint bed and breakfasts lining hilly streets. A gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the town is located in far northern Wisconsin and is especially charming come autumn, when the foliage is at peak color and the apple harvest is in full swing.
Slide 8 of 60: A National Register Historic District, Berlin's downtown has been featured in films like Tuck Everlasting and Runaway Bride. But there's more to it than being picturesque; it's also the Best Small Town for Shopping according to 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. Main Street is lined with more than 50 retail shops, from antiques and jewelry stores to art galleries and clothing boutiques.
Slide 9 of 60: Those in the know have been escaping to the mountain town of Blowing Rock since the 1880s. Now, the secret's out, with its eighth-place ranking in Best Small Town for Adventure. The North Carolina village sits directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is convenient to nearby Pisgah National Forest.
Slide 10 of 60: Step back in time as you walk the streets of Breaux Bridge, ranked fifth for Best Small Town Cultural Scene. This Louisiana hideaway makes a great home base for exploring the state's rich Cajun culture. Visitors can fill up on fresh crawfish, listen to live Zydeco music, shop for antiques or stroll the picturesque downtown.
Slide 11 of 60: The sixth Best Coastal Small Town, Cape May is one of the oldest resort towns in the country and a Victorian gem on the New Jersey seashore. With some 600 preserved 19th century buildings, the entire city is a National Historic District . Colorful gingerbread structures, stellar birdwatching and a relaxed vibe make this a favorite escape.
Slide 12 of 60: The town of Cody is just 50 miles from Yellowstone National Park, making it an ideal gateway for park goers. Founded in 1896 by the legendary Buffalo Bill himself, it's the seventh Best Historic Small Town and the Rodeo Capital of the World. You'll find a colorful downtown filled with cowboy apparel shops, steakhouses, historic hotels and Old West saloons.
Slide 13 of 60: Visitors to Collingswood, which has the Best Small Town Food Scene in America, will find global flavors coming from the kitchens of South Jersey's "Restaurant Row." Restaurants run the gamut from casual (Bobby Chez Famous Lump Crab Cakes, Primo Hoagies, Collingswood Diner) to upscale (Bistro di Marino, Hearthside) and everything in between.
Slide 14 of 60: Historic Columbus, ranked sixth for Best Small Town Cultural Scene, is an ideal getaway for anyone interested in local arts and Southern architecture. Blues singers Bukka White and Big Joe Williams once busked on Catfish Alley, and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Eudora Welty went to school in Columbus. Located on the Mississippi Blues Trail, the town is also home to nearly half a dozen museums and art galleries.
Slide 15 of 60: With the fifth Best Small Town Food Scene in the country, Covington is home to an impressive 100-plus restaurants, offering Cajun flavors in the form of crawfish boils, fried oysters and Louisiana blue crab soup. Visitors will also find freshly roasted coffee, hand-rolled sushi, Thai, Greek and Cajun fusion.
Slide 16 of 60: World-famous Dodge City is known for its Wild West shenanigans involving Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp during the late 19th century. Years later, Dodge City maintains much of its historical appeal and is ranked as the sixth Best Historic Small Town. Wild West Heritage Area educates on how livestock shaped the cultural landscape of Southwest Kansas, while the Boot Hill Museum features a replica of the town circa 1876, complete with nearly 30,000 artifacts.
Slide 17 of 60: Easton has a tiny population of under 20,000 people, yet its cultural offerings rival that of a much larger city, making it home to the seventh Best Small Town Cultural Scene. The art deco Avalon Theatre consistently has a busy calendar of performing arts events. Meanwhile, the Talbot Historical Society oversees a museum highlighting more than 1,000 historic photographs, in addition to many priceless artifacts. And the town's Academy Art Museum has been recognized nationally for its collection that spans two centuries of art.
Slide 18 of 60: The third Best Coastal Small Town, Eastport is also the easternmost city in the United States, serving as a gateway to Downeast Maine and Fundy Bay. The town is rich in natural beauty, but also packs a cultural punch due to the many artists, writers and filmmakers who call Eastport home.
Slide 19 of 60: Located near the southern tip of Florida, Everglades City is the sixth Best Small Town for Adventure. Outdoor enthusiasts come through this gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands, where you can canoe through mangrove tunnels, look for gators on a tour of Everglades City swamp or hike through Big Cypress National Preserve.
Slide 20 of 60: Known as Alabama's City of Flowers, the beautiful village of Fairhope is also blossoming with retail. The sixth Best Small Town for Shopping is home to nearly 100 shops and galleries. You can take home a piece of local history at the many antique shops, or if you're more of a fashionista, you'll find plenty of clothing and accessories options. Specialty shops sell everything from fly fishing gear to fine cigars.
Slide 21 of 60: The second Best Small Town for Adventure, adrenaline junkies flock to Florence. Situated on the Oregon coast off Highway 101, you'll find some of the nation's best sand dunes for buggy rides, hiking, sand boarding and fat-tire biking. Fishing, clamming and crabbing are other popular pastimes. Don't leave without visiting the restaurants in the charming old town that serve up the fruits of those labors.
Slide 22 of 60: Ranked 10th for Best Small Town Food Scene, Frankenmuth's German heritage is well-represented in its cuisine, but the scene here goes far beyond Bavarian. The town is home to Michigan's oldest brewery and winery (Frankenmuth Brewery and St. Julian Wine Company), as well as a cocktail bar and pizzeria (Tiffany's Food & Spirits), and a wine bar (Prost Wine Bar & Charcuterie). Willis Sausage Company makes more than 100 varieties, and the Frankenmuth Fudge Kitchen is on hand to satisfy any sweet cravings.
Slide 23 of 60: Fredericksburg, located in the Texas Hill Country, is the seventh Best Small Town for Shopping, with more than 150 shops lining its historic streets. Many antique dealers and furniture design studios can also be found here, making it a popular destination for Texans looking to furnish a home. Visitors can take home a taste of Texas from Rustlin' Rob's Texas Gourmet Foods, "traditional chic" fashion at Jabberwocky or handmade crosses and plaques from The Seasons.
Slide 24 of 60: The small community of Georgetown is the Best Coastal Small Town in the country. Situated on the Carolina coast, it's what Charleston used to be - scenic plantations, 200-year-old homes (more than Charleston, in fact), lots of Southern charm and none of the crowds. Local eateries serve up Lowcountry specialties, and outdoor adventures might include fishing, kayaking or paddleboarding.
Slide 25 of 60: Visitors to Gulf Shores, the fifth Best Coastal Small Town, will be met with sugar sand beaches, championship golf courses, Southern-style fresh seafood and nearly any water sport you can imagine. At the heart of the Alabama Gulf Coast, state parks and preserves protect much of the region and make Gulf Shores an ideal destination for a natural coastal escape.
Slide 26 of 60: Haddonfield is one of the oldest communities in the Delaware Valley, having been occupied by European settlers since the late 1600s. A Quaker meetinghouse was established in 1721, and the community grew soon after. Visitors to the third Best Historic Small Town today can still see many of its historic homes and sites. For instance, the colonial American Indian King Tavern and Greenfield Hall, now home to a Historical Society of Haddonfield museum.
Slide 27 of 60: Aptly-named Highlands, one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi, is the fourth Best Small Town for Shopping and is home to the tenth Best Small Town Cultural Scene. It's served as a cool mountain escape for travelers for over a century, with a picturesque Main Street that stocks a little bit of everything in its shops. Additionally, awesome restaurants and a thriving art scene mean there are plenty of other activities besides shopping on offer.
Slide 28 of 60: Hungry visitors to the town of Hudson, which has the eighth Best Small Town Food Scene, face a tough decision: where to eat! The Rivertown Lodge is an ideal spot for brunch, while Tanzy's serves baked goods, sandwiches and afternoon tea. Go on a journey to the tropics at Lil Deb's Oasis, enjoy a farm-to-table burger at Grazin' or splurge at the James Beard-nominated Fish & Game, housed in a former blacksmith shop.
Slide 29 of 60: It's difficult to find a city more beautiful than Jackson Hole, the tenth Best Small Town for Adventure, with stunning mountains surrounding it on all sides. While the town's Western heritage is still present at places like the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar and Mangy Moose, Jackson Hole also caters to luxury travelers with some of the country's swankiest ski accommodations.
Slide 30 of 60: Nicknamed the Switzerland of America, travelers have been enchanted by Jim Thorpe for three centuries. As the fifth Best Small Town for Adventure, its surrounding rails, trails and waterways appeal to outdoor enthusiasts. The town also boasts Victorian architecture in the Old Mauch Historic District, which is brimming with restaurants, pubs, B&Bs and art galleries.
Slide 31 of 60: Lake City, home to the Best Small Town Cultural Scene, is a haven for festivals. The population almost triples during its annual ArtFields festival, while the town's calendar also includes the South Carolina Tobacco Festival (one of the longest-running festivals in the state) and the Rhythm & Q's BBQ and Live Music Competition. During the rest of the year, art lovers enjoy the Smithsonian-qualified Jones-Carter Gallery in the heart of the downtown historic district.
Slide 32 of 60: At the heart of the Berkshires lies the village of Lenox, home of the eighth best Small Town Cultural Scene. The community is a popular summer getaway, famous for its Tanglewood Music Festival. You'll find several shops and eateries at the town center, all surrounded by some mighty impressive homes. Visitors to the Ventfort Hall Museum have the chance to see inside one of these Gilded Age abodes.
Slide 33 of 60: Those searching for historic treasures and rare finds should head to Second Street in the small town of Lewes, the second Best Small Town for Shopping. But it's not all about antiques there; shoppers will also find American crafts, nautical gifts, boutique clothing, jewelry and even health food.
Slide 34 of 60: Despite its very small size, Madison boasts more than 45 specialty shops and 160 antique dealers, and is the tenth Best Historic Small Town in the nation. Located an hour east of Atlanta, the historic district's oak-lined streets, Antebellum homes, gardens and churches make this tiny town one of the prettiest in the South.
Slide 35 of 60: Marquette may be small, but it's big on fun as the Best Small Town for Adventure in the country. Situated on the shores of Lake Superior, it's a hot spot for outdoor enthusiasts. Presque Isle Park serves as the launching point for canoeing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, while McCarty's Cove offers a family-friendly beach. Hikers and paddlers come from all over to explore the 150 miles of singletrack, 83 miles of Lake Superior shoreline and 77 waterfalls in Marquette County.
Slide 36 of 60: Mystic, the eighth Best Coastal Small Town, was once a major whaling center and shipbuilding port on the East Coast. And it still holds tight to its seafaring history with attractions like the Mystic Seaport Museum. The excellent Mystic Aquarium is great for families, while the town itself has numerous boutiques, restaurants and galleries to help pass the time.
Slide 37 of 60: Gourmet chefs abound in Naples, home to the ninth Best Small Town Food Scene. You'll find plenty of seafood and Italian cuisine, with Sicily-born Chef Vincenzo Betulia serving delicious creations at Osteria Tulia, and small plates on the menu at Sea Salt, a restaurant by Venice-born Fabrizio Aielli and partner Chef Jason Goddard.
Slide 38 of 60: Natchez, the fifth Best Historic Small Town in the nation, is home to stunning antebellum homes and staggering slave-trade history, both of which make it a riveting destination for visitors. Carriage rides and tours of historic homes offer guests the chance to take in the town's many stories as they admire the gorgeously preserved architecture. Fantastic local restaurants and taverns allow for plenty of eating and drinking - and in many cases, live music, as well.
Slide 39 of 60: Welcome to "Nack-a-Tish," B&B Capital of Louisiana, quaint setting for the classic, Steel Magnolias, and the second Best Historic Small Town in the U.S. As the oldest town in the state, its historic district is packed with shopping, dining and other attractions. And numerous annual events - many incorporating Native American, Creole and Louisiana cultures - draw visitors by the busload. Some of the city's most popular focus on music, including zydeco and jazz, while others center on regional must-haves like Louisiana barbecue.
Slide 40 of 60: North Conway, the seventh Best Small Town for Adventure, offers visitors access to Mount Washington (the tallest peak in the northeast) and four different seasons of recreation. Set amid the sprawling White Mountain National Forest, the area boasts some of the region's best skiing and snowmobiling during the winter, while summer is great for hiking, fishing, golfing and camping. Not to mention, the fall foliage here is some of the best in the country.
Slide 41 of 60: The sugary white sand isn't the only draw in coastal Orange Beach, which took third place for Best Small Town Food Scene. In fact, creative chefs here have drawn inspiration from the Gulf of Mexico bounty, including three-time James Beard nominee Chef Bill Briand with his upscale Fisher's Upstairs. Anchor Bar and Grill serves up seafood-centric bar fare (think fried oysters and seared sea scallops) while The Gulf pairs scenic views with a mean grouper sandwich.
Slide 42 of 60: Known as the "gem of the San Juans," Orcas Island is ranked as the eighth Best Small Town for Shopping. It's also one of the most developed islands, packed with excellent opportunities to lighten your wallet. With the shopping scene mostly concentrated in Eastsound village, visitors will find jewelry, pottery, glassware and home decor.
Slide 43 of 60: Paducah, a designated UNESCO Creative City, is known for its National Quilt Museum that anchors a flourishing fiber arts community. It also hosts the third Best Small Town Cultural Scene in the nation, concentrated in the Lower Town Arts District. It's the oldest neighborhood here, and is home to many working artists and artists-in-residence whose work can be seen at the numerous galleries and collectives across town.
Slide 44 of 60: Pismo Beach, the second Best Coastal Small Town, offers long white sand beaches, spectacular sunsets and access to ample area wineries. Visitors can fish off the historic pier or grab a wetsuit to try out body boarding or surfing. Situated on California's central coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles, this classic beach town feels like it's straight out of the 1950s.
Slide 45 of 60: Sedona, located in the heart of Arizona's Red Rock Country, is the fourth Best Small Town for Adventure. But it's often also listed as one of the country's most beautiful places. All that natural beauty begs to be explored, whether by biking or hiking the 300 miles of trails, catching some rays in Slide Rock State Park, fishing in Oak Creek Canyon or taking a day trip to the Grand Canyon.
Slide 46 of 60: Sequim, an old mill town on the Olympic Peninsula, is the third Best Small Town for Shopping in the country. Visitors can enjoy a walkable downtown lined with gift shops and cafes, and punctuated by a historic grain elevator. The unusually sunny small town (at least by Washington standards) is also famous for succulent Dungeness crab, as well as the fields of fragrant lavender at its outskirts.
Slide 47 of 60: Historic Sheridan, where you'll find the fourth Best Small Town Cultural Scene, is the quintessential American West town. Legendary cowboys and outlaws once walked its streets, surrounded by the wild Bighorn Mountains. When you visit, grab a drink at the Mint Bar, a 1907 saloon, or peruse cowboy memorabilia at the King's Saddlery museum.
Slide 48 of 60: In 1911, a group of Danish-Americans traveled to California from the Midwest in search of a warmer climate where they could establish a new settlement. They chose a sunny spot in the Santa Ynez Valley, just northwest of Santa Barbara. And what did they call this fledgling community? Solvang, which is Danish for "sunny fields." Fast forward one hundred years, and Solvang is a flourishing hub of Scandinavian architecture and culture on the West Coast. It's also the eighth Best Historic Small Town.
Slide 49 of 60: The historic maritime town of Southport has been a pitstop for everyone from pirates to fishermen since the 1500s. Today, this ninth Best Coastal Small Town is filled with boutique shops and seafood restaurants where visitors tuck into crab cakes and steamed shrimp on waterfront patios. The historic town is also the launching point for ferry trips to nearby Bald Head Island.
Slide 50 of 60: St. Simons Island, the most developed of Georgia's Golden Isles and the seventh Best Coastal Small Town, combines the finest parts of a beach resort with the Old South. Golf courses, sandy beaches, tennis facilities and more than 100 restaurants - many specializing in freshly-caught seafood - are best explored by driving or biking the oak-lined streets connecting the island's villages.
Slide 51 of 60: Locally-made products abound in the shops of Taos, the tenth Best Small Town for Shopping. In this New Mexico mountain hideaway, you'll find everything from decorative chile ristras and American Indian moccasins to chile powder and fresh-roasted pinon nuts. Jewelry and Southwestern style pottery are also standouts.
Slide 52 of 60: Visit Tarpon Springs, the Best Historic Small Town in the country, and you might feel like you're on the shores of the Greek Islands. In the early 1900s, sponge beds were discovered nearby, and Greek sponge divers set up shop in what has become the town's famous Sponge Docks on the Anclote River. The community's beautiful historic district features 145 historic buildings.
Slide 53 of 60: The flourishing arts community in Traverse City, home to the ninth Best Small Town Cultural Scene, makes this tiny town feel way bigger than it is. The Interlochen Center for the Arts brings in talent from around the globe, while the Traverse Symphony Orchestra performs regularly in the City Opera House. And the Dennos Museum Center houses a permanent collection of art from the Canadian arctic - one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Slide 54 of 60: Though situated on the south shore of Lake Erie, Vermilion feels more like a New England seaport, complete with a rich nautical heritage and even a historic lighthouse. Popular in the warm summer months, it's the fourth Best Coastal Small Town, featuring walkable streets lined with charming boutique shops, art galleries, ice cream parlors and local restaurants. Summer evenings often include concerts on the green.
Slide 55 of 60: Boasting miles of hiking trails, dozens of waterfalls and one of the nation's best state parks to explore, it's little wonder that Watkins Glen was voted America's third Best Small Town for Adventure. Within Watkins Glen State Park, hikers can pass 19 waterfalls in less than 2 miles, while nearby Finger Lakes National Forest offers hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking and cross country skiing throughout the year. Stretching for 560 miles, the Finger Lakes Trail is a popular footpath for hikers.
Slide 56 of 60: Though Whitefish is most renowned for its menu of outdoor adventures, it knows how to satisfy hearty appetites as well, earning its seventh-place ranking for Best Small Town Food Scene. With four-time James Beard nominee Chef Andy Blanton at the helm, Cafe Kandahar is celebrated for its modern, seasonal cuisine, while Chef David Lewis cooks up "Mountain Mexican" at Pescado Blanco. Delight in breakfast and American comfort food at Loula's, pit BBQ at Piggyback, Cajun fare at Tupelo Grille and Mediterranean flavors at Latitude 48.
Slide 57 of 60: Williamsburg lost much of its prominence when Virginia's capital was moved from its borders to Richmond. This would prove to be a blessing in disguise as the town was left largely untouched by urbanization and the Industrial Revolution. Despite bitter battles and sieges waged in its area throughout the Civil War, many of its historical buildings and sites remain intact to this day, cementing Williamsburg's place as the country's fourth Best Historical Small Town.
Slide 58 of 60: The tiny town of Winters is a hidden gem in the already bejeweled crown of the California culinary landscape. Voted as the fourth Best Small Town Food Scene, it's home to several travel-worthy restaurants, such as Buckhorn Steakhouse, Ficelle's Tapas Bar, Preserve Public House, Putah Creek Cafe and Turkovich Family Wines.
Slide 59 of 60: With its exquisite downtown area featuring numerous boutiques and galleries, Woodstock was understandably voted the fifth Best Small Town for Shopping. Settled in 1765 on the banks of the Ottaquechee River with many of its historic homes still standing, Woodstock has become a year-round destination for foodies, antiquers, shoppers, history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Slide 60 of 60: When thoughts turn to Yountville, three words immediately spring to mind: The French Laundry. The self-proclaimed "Culinary Capital of Napa Valley" has no shortage of other compelling dining establishments; in fact, this tiny village has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in North America. With options like Ad Hoc, Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty and Bottega, it's hard to go wrong, and it's little wonder that 10Best readers voted it the sixth Best Small Town Food Scene.

Small towns across America

Abingdon, Virginia

Allen, Michigan

Asbury Park, New Jersey

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bath, Maine

Bayfield, Wisconsin

Berlin, Maryland

Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana

Cape May, New Jersey

Cody, Wyoming

Collingswood, New Jersey

Columbus, Mississippi

Covington, Louisiana

Dodge City, Kansas

Easton, Maryland

Eastport, Maine

Everglades City, Florida

Fairhope, Alabama

Florence, Oregon

Frankenmuth, Michigan

Fredericksburg, Texas

Georgetown, South Carolina

Gulf Shores, Alabama

Haddonfield, New Jersey

Highlands, North Carolina

Hudson, New York

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Lake City, South Carolina

Lenox, Massachusetts

Lewes, Delaware

Madison, Georgia

Marquette, Michigan

Mystic, Connecticut

Naples, Florida

Natchez, Mississippi

Natchitoches, Louisiana

North Conway, New Hampshire

Orange Beach, Alabama

Orcas Island, Washington

Paducah, Kentucky

Pismo Beach, California

Sedona, Arizona

Sequim, Washington

Sheridan, Wyoming

Solvang, California

Southport, North Carolina

St. Simons Island, Georgia

Taos, New Mexico

Tarpon Springs, Florida

Traverse City, Michigan

Vermilion, Ohio

Watkins Glen, New York

Whitefish, Montana

Williamsburg, Virginia

Winters, California

Woodstock, Vermont

Yountville, California

Source: Read Full Article