USA: Small Towns So Charming You Can't Pass Them Up

2 September 2016

The USA may be calling with its impressive selection of big cities, but these small towns prove it's worth getting off the tourist trail. Whether you're looking for outdoor excitement, coastal cool or picture perfect main streets, here are 10 small towns so charming you won't be able to pass them up.

Travel Inspiration Beautiful desert landscapes surround laid back Sedona (Image: Getty)

Sedona, Arizona

  • 116 miles outside of Phoenix (approx 2 hours by car)
  • Population: 10,000
  • Highlight: Cathedral Rock

This smaller Arizona town has developed a bit of a reputation for being a spa and wellness haven. It's no wonder with the stunning natural surrounds and swathe of wellness retreats that have popped up across the desert town. Check in for a day or two to truly mellow out, but don't forget to explore the surrounding canyons and buttes.

Travel Inspiration Sun or snow, Mammoth Lakes delivers charm (Image: Getty)

Mammoth Lakes, California

  • 259 miles outside of San Francisco (approx 5 hours by car)
  • Population: 8,234
  • Highlight: The plethora of outdoor activities

Those that frequent the slopes have no doubt heard of Mammoth. It's one of the USA's best late season skiing spots. Mammoth Lakes, however, is often overlooked despite being a superb hub from which to explore the surrounding peaks. Hiking, biking, swimming, fishing and more are all within easy reach.

Travel Inspiration Ketchum is your mountain destination for outdoor fun (Image: Getty)

Ketchum, Idaho

  • 158 Miles outside of Boise (approx 2.5 hours by car)
  • Population: 2,689
  • Highlight: Following in the footsteps of former resident Ernest Hemingway

When it comes to outdoor pursuits, Idaho serves them up in spades. There's hardly a state more scenic and Ketchum sits right in the middle of it all. Hiking, biking, fishing, swimming, camping, trail riding and more are all readily available, but it's not without its creature comforts. Neighbouring Sun Valley is all about star studded accommodation, boutique shopping and dining. Oh yeah, the skiing is pretty great too.

Travel Inspiration Picturesque coastlines and lobster aplenty make Rockland worth a visit (Image: Getty)

Rockland, Maine

  • 23 miles outside of Boston (approx 35 mins by car)
  • Population: 7,297
  • Highlight: Lobster rolls aplenty!

When it comes to quintessential New England small towns, Rockland certainly looks the part. But this seaside town is anything but typical. Sure it's main street is regularly lauded for its photogenic qualities, but it also happens to house a host of unique boutiques, trendy art galleries and bookstores. There's more than enough to keep you entertained for a day or two.

Travel Inspiration Did you know Edgartown is in the heart of Martha's Vineyard? (Image: Getty)

Edgartown, Massachusetts

  • 59 miles outside of New Bedford (approx 2 hours by car including ferry)
  • Population: 4,067
  • Highlight: Relaxing in the sun on South Beach

This small town delivers big on the coastal charm, which is no wonder considering its situated in the heart of swanky Martha's Vineyard. Along with a sweep of sandy beaches calling to beach bums from around the world, the town encapsulates New England history with the likes of Vincent House (built in 1672) and the Old Whaling Church (circa late 19th century).  There are also scenic lighthouses, upscale restaurants and boutique shops to explore.

Travel Inspiration Swing a bat in Cooperstown (Image: thisiscooperstown.com)

Cooperstown, New York

  • 194 Miles outside of New York City (approx 4 hours by car)
  • Population: 1,852
  • Highlight: National Baseball Hall of Fame

Venturing just outside of mighty New York City will reward with a whole swathe of charming small towns. It seems the further away you go, the better they get as evidenced by Cooperstown. Nestled against the shores of Otsego Lake, this tiny town proves that big things come in small packages. Aside from famously being the home of baseball's hall of fame, its tree-lined streets deliver museums, markets, restaurants and more.

Travel Inspiration The whole city of Jacksonville is a National Landmark (Image: great-oregon-vacations.com)

Jacksonville, Oregon

  • 272 miles outside of Portland (approx 4.5 hours by car)
  • Population: 2,785
  • Highlight: The architecture

The entire town of Jacksonville has been declared a National Historical Landmark. That means, this little Pacific Northwest gem is brimming with history. Boutique and antique shops line the Main Street and there are no less than six winery tasting rooms within a mile of the town! The buildings are old in all the right ways, with narrated walking tours available, and the stunning natural surrounds provide plenty of opportunity for outdoor adventures.

Travel Inspiration Even the bridges are charming in Gettysburg (Image: Getty)

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

  • 141 miles outside of Philadelphia (approx 2 hours by car)
  • Population: 7,620
  • Highlight: Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg holds an important part in US history being the home to the Battle of Gettysburg (held as the key turning point in the US Civil War) and Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address. It's this rich history that draws most travellers to this small Pennsylvania town, but they're also rewarded with a picture perfect town that begs to be explored. By bike, foot or horseback, tours are readily available that showcase the best this little town has to offer.

Travel Inspiration Get on the aerial tram for beautiful vuews of Gatlinburg (Image: Getty)

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

  • 222 miles outside of Nashville (approx 3.5 hours by car)
  • Population: 4,047
  • Highlight: Ober Gatlinburg Aerial Tramway

Known as the 'gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains', this small Tennessee town lures travellers with natural beauty, charm and a heaping dose of southern hospitality. A stroll of any of its streets will reveal a surprisingly diverse mix of boutique shopping and dining, but for those that care to venture further, the wilderness awaits. From incredible views (thanks to the aerial tramway) to white water rafting, you'll have your pick of exciting outdoor adventures.

Travel Inspiration Quintessential Jackson photo op! (Image: Getty)

Jackson, Wyoming

  • 88 miles outside of Idaho Falls (approx 1.5 hours by car)
  • Population: 9,577
  • Highlight: A photo under the antler arches

Another small town that sits on the fringes of a notable national park, Jackson is known as the 'gateway to Yellowstone'. But this small town is worth much more than a pass through en route to the great outdoors. Winter travellers flock to Jackson's world famous ski slopes, but the tiny town is also in the direct path of the elk migration. Sleigh rides through the herd (numbering in the thousands) are popular. Summer travellers are also well rewarded with plenty of outdoor fun to be had. Hiking, fishing, camping and more are all within easy driving distance.


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Carlie Tucker

Travelling is for discovering the unexpected. From fantastic meals in ramshackle joints to stumbling upon a best kept secret, I love those fortuitous travel moments that couldn't be planned if I tried.