I may call New York City home, but when I’m on vacation, I like to slow it down. You know– unplug a bit, maybe take a stroll down Main Street, park my rental car in a quiet surface lot for FREE(!). It’s the little things. Here are a few small towns in America I’m eying for my next vacation.
Nestled in the Russian River Valley, this charming town is anything but podunk. The main square is flanked with incredible wine tasting rooms, gourmet cheese shops, stylish boutiques and more. Wine lovers will love sampling cabernets and zinfandels at Thumbprint Cellars (or Banshee Wines… or Portalupi Wines… really, there are a lot of tasting rooms to pick from). If all that pinot is making you hungry, check out the Parish Café for Cajun food, Mateo’s for upscale Latin fare, or Vallette for seasonal California cuisine. Though many places look fancy, locals will remind you this is a farming town. You can wear jeans and sneakers everywhere, kids are welcome in most places, and while the food and drink is incredible, no one takes themselves too seriously.
In the most northwestern corner of Illinois, you’ll find beautiful Galena. Founded in 1827, the historic downtown is filled with cute boutiques, perfect for a day spent bumming around. Not into shopping? Tour the former home of Ulysses S. Grant, the Dowling house (built in 1826, it’s the oldest home in town), or sign up for a historical walking tour. Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking Horseshoe Mound, soaking up views of Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. And if you’re in the market for a little R&R, check out the Galena Day Spa. No matter how you spend your days, a dinner in town is a must. Try Fritz and Frites for a French bistro experience. Another favorite? The Log Cabin, which offers up that old school steakhouse vibe, complete with cozy lighting and live piano music.
Texas is known for its vastness. And this little town (population: 1,800) is a long way from a major city—nearly a three hour drive to El Paso! Still, plenty of travelers flock to Marfa, and for good reason. It’s one of the most creative communities in the country. Love art? Check out the Chinati Foundation, a contemporary art museum with modern sculptures, installations, paintings and more. For an out of the ordinary stay, sleep in one of El Cosmico’s yurts or teepees. Outfitted with real, comfy beds, leather chair and couches, it’s about as far from roughing it as “camping” gets (though you will have to share a bathroom). Prefer accommodations with walls and an en suite? El Cosmico also rents out refurbished vintage trailers. Just take a look —they’re so cute! The hotel hosts many concerts, the biggest being the Trans-Pecos music festival. It’s perfect for music lovers who enjoy tunes under the big Texas sky.
Founded in 1711, this lowcountry harbor town is the perfect place for a long weekend. History buffs will have no shortage of places to explore, starting with the Old Sheldon Church ruins. This Greek Revival-style church, built in the 1740s, was burned down twice. What’s left is a stunning brick structure, surrounded old burial sites and oaks. Sounds weird, but it’s gorgeous. You can tour Penn Center, the first school for freed slaves, as well as numerous historic churches. Beaufort’s Visitor’s Center offers tons of information on how to best navigate the town’s historic landmarks. Water also plays a big role in the greatness of Beaufort. Personally, I love getting out on the water without getting in it. If you’re like me, you’ll love renting paddleboards or kayaks (and maybe even have a bottle nose dolphin sighting while you’re at it!). If you prefer less physical exertion, check out Captain Dick’s River Tour. You’ll learn a little bit about history, ecology and wildlife, all while getting out on the water.
Though it is one of my favorite fall destinations, Stowe is a fantastic locale any time of year. Home of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest point, this small town offers plenty of outdoor adventures. Rent bikes and meander down the Stowe Recreation Path trail, which crosses the West Branch River on 11 old-style wooden bridges. Come winter, there’s lots of fantastic skiing (hey, there’s a reason they call it the Ski Capital of the East!). Stay and ski at Stowe Mountain Resort, the northeast’s only ski-in, ski-out luxury lodge. If hitting the slopes isn’t your thing, there’s no shortage of other ways to enjoy the outdoors. Try cross country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding (yes, even in the snow!), dog sledding, ice climbing or sign up for a snowmobiling excursion. For those who prefer to stay inside, harness your inner Ron Swanson and enroll in a woodworking course. Really, does it get much more Vermont than that?
What are some of your favorite small towns in America? Share in the comments!