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Strolling the streets of one of the many charming towns in the US is a wonderful way to spend a day. These quaint places often have an interesting history, beautiful buildings, and some fabulous boutique shopping.
Must Visit Charming US Towns
Visiting one of these unique US towns makes for a lovely way to spend a weekend away. Many of them are particularly stunning in fall; if you love to experience the vibrant fall foliage, check out my top fall foliage weekend getaways in the US!
1. Stanley, Idaho
For someone who loves visiting small towns, Stanley is like one of the best-kept secrets of Idaho. I have been to several other adorable towns while traveling in the United States, but Stanley is one that I would go back to any time.
There is a long list of things that you can do in Stanley, especially if you love the outdoors. And all your experiences will be pretty intimate, since, with less than a hundred residents, it’s rarely crowded.
There are many primitive hot springs; you can find a tiny tub on the Salmon River and The Basin Creek Hot Springs and Sunbeam Hot Springs are also well worth a visit.
The Redfish lake, a gorgeous alpine lake surrounded by the Sawtooth Mountains, is lined by beaches where you can have a picnic. You can also rent a kayak or stand up paddleboard if you fancy taking to the water.
If you love hiking, there is no shortage of trails in Stanley, my favorite is the hike to Hell Roaring Lake! Alternatively, you can try river rafting; there are half and full-day trips on the Salmon River that for a great adventure through the Idaho wilderness.
There are lots of cozy lodges to stay at in Stanley, I particularly recommend Redfish Lake Lodge. For the more adventurous, you can also camp in the wilderness!
By Deb from The Visa Project
2. Bar Harbor, Maine
If you are looking for a charming town set among mountains and the ocean, look no further than Bar Harbor, Maine. Located less than five hours north of Boston, Bar Harbor has a population of just over 5,500. Many visitors make their way to this seaside town each year to experience the coastal beauty.
Luxurious inns along with cozy bed and breakfasts abound providing a lovely home base as you tour the town. Eat fresh seafood at a variety of delightful restaurants. Take a lobster boat tour out on the deep water. Shop the many boutique stores lining the streets. Walk to beautiful Bar Island during low tide – the only time this spot becomes accessible.
If a little adventure is what you are after, explore adjacent Acadia National Park. One of America’s most-visited national parks, Acadia offers plenty of outdoor fun and beauty. Hiking, biking and swimming are just some of the activities to embark on in the park. Watching the sunrise at the top of Cadillac Mountain is a must-do as this spot is the highest point along the North Atlantic seaboard and the first place to view the sunrise from fall through spring.
Whether you want relaxation or adventure, the town of Bar Harbor has it all while exuding charm at every turn.
By Deanne from Scenic and Savvy
3. Golden, Colorado
If a charming town in the US is what you’re after, then you must look into visiting the quaint mountain town of Golden, CO! Located a short 20-minute drive from Denver, Golden feels like a world away. It’s the perfect place for a mountain getaway from the city (without the super long drive to get there).
One of the best things to do in Golden, CO is to visit Main Street and take in all the locally owned shops, galleries, restaurants, and more. It’s the perfect place to walk and shop while enjoying the gorgeous mountain setting. Be sure to check out Golden’s iconic welcome arch spanning Main Street – it’s a great backdrop for a commemorative photo! Local restaurant favorites include Café 13, D’Deli, Tributary, and Woody’s – you really can’t go wrong with any of them.
And many people might not know this, but Golden, CO is the world’s biggest little beer town, brewing more beer (by volume) than any other city in the world! Coors got their start here (back in the late 1800s), and they still operate the world’s largest single-site brewery there today.
You can tour the facility to learn the history that put them on the map while sampling the fruits of their labor. If craft brews are more your thing, Golden has you covered there also! Locals love sipping suds in the beer garden at Golden City Brewery. Or check out the killer eats AND brews at Barrels & Bottles Brewery.
By Kara from Destination Live Life
4. Everglades City, Florida
The city of Everglades is a charming fishing village with a population of 443 people, with great food and a long history. It is known as the fishing and stone crab capital of Southwest Florida. The Everglade City is located on the western gateway to Everglades National Park, nearby Chokoloskee Island. It is only a 1:30 hour drive from Miami, and it makes a great day trip visit, and it is absolute heaven for lovers of outdoor activities with loads of nature, many hiking trails to choose from, and water activities like kayaking and the traditional airboat.
You can explore the historic city of Everglades City and Chokoloskee Island by car, bicycle, or on foot, and are able to appreciate up close a legendary past such as visiting buildings from the 1920s.
Another must-visit place during your trip to the Everglades City is the Ten Thousand Islands Wildlife Refuge, the second largest mangrove forest in the world forming fascinating labyrinths of water and islands with very rich wildlife, including some endangered species.
Make sure to stop at the Smallest Post Office in the USA that is located in Ochopee. This closet-sized, 7×8-foot building used to be an irrigation pipe shed for a tomato farm, which also housed the post office in 1953.
Signature events in Everglades City include the annual Everglades Seafood Festival in early February and Calusa Days in March at Everglades National Park’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center. In Everglades City, you can find shops, restaurants, motels, a museum, and even a very small airport. There are also places to rent canoes, kayaks, or bicycles, and you can take boat and airboat tours from the marina.
By Paula from Paula Pins the Planet
5. Joseph, Oregon
In Northeast Oregon, the tiny town of Joseph is a strange outlier among what are mostly sleepy, dusty towns in this part of the American West. Joseph, though home to only about one thousand people, is an exception with a lively local culture and is one of the most charming towns in the United States.
Eastern Oregon is largely rural and sparsely populated. What the town of Joseph lacks in size it makes up for with charm and scenery. The setting is an idyllic one, with the architecture aptly designed in the style of the old American West and the beautiful Wallowa Mountains providing a gorgeous backdrop.
Among these buildings are a surprising amount of art galleries (particularly bronzeworks), plenty of good options for food, and no shortage of shopping. However, the real attraction of Joseph is the natural side of town.
Joseph is on the edge of the Wallowa Mountains. These mountains rise dramatically above the surrounding plains and rolling hills and offer a lot of outdoor options for visitors. There is a picturesque lake, wildlife, and enough hiking trails to last a lifetime. The wilderness area outside of Joseph is the largest in the entire state of Oregon.
Winter is beautiful in Joseph, but the high elevation, snow, and remote location could limit outdoor opportunities and make travel tedious. Summertime is the best season to visit Joseph, and it is a perfectly charming town to spend a couple of days when taking a road trip across the American West.
By Jean-Paul from The Hangry Backpacker
6. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket is a picturesque island located 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Although the island is only 14 miles long, it makes up for what it lacks in size with infinite charm. Visitors will enjoy strolling the cobblestone streets, admiring exquisitely-restored pre-Civil war homes, and renting cruiser bikes to explore on two wheels. Alternatively, renting a car is an ideal way to explore more in a brief time.
Island-goers can’t miss the opportunity to visit at least one of Nantucket’s three iconic lighthouses, from charming Brant Point Lighthouse, to colorful Sankaty Head Light, to Jeep-accessible Great Point Lighthouse. Additionally, ocean enthusiasts will love strolling along the popular Sconset Bluff Walk. This two-mile pathway offers sweeping coastal views from behind gorgeous beach-front properties.
Travelers will also love browsing the boutiques along Nantucket Boat Basin and indulging in a succulent lobster roll and other seafood delicacies. Beer enthusiasts won’t be able to resist a visit to Cisco Brewers, the island’s exclusive craft brewery.
While Nantucket is arguably beautiful year-round, it’s best to visit during the spring and fall (shoulder season). During these times, hotel prices drop and visitors can enjoy reduced crowds. Summertime draws the most tourists and hotel costs will consequently spike. However, regardless of season, Nantucket is not a budget destination, so prepare accordingly. In addition, plan on spending at least one night on the island, as the ferry ride will drastically shorten a brief day trip. Hotel guests will especially love White Elephant, the island’s luxurious resort.
By Elena from The Carry-On Chronicles
7. Traverse City, Michigan
Traverse City is a charming town located in Michigan’s “pinky” region in Michigan’s lower peninsula. The city itself is nestled between the East and West Grand Traverse Bay giving visitors access to the beautiful Lake Michigan waters. The best time to visit this area is in the summer months when the weather is nice and there are lots of activities to participate in! Inducing the National Cherry Festival which takes place each year in July.
Traverse City is known for its great food and wine tasting! This charming town is near Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula wine region, one of the four American Viticultural Areas within the state. Visitors can enjoy great Michigan wines at one of the 11 wineries located on Old Mission Peninsula and the 20+ on Leelanau Peninsula.
The town itself has a great shopping area on Front Street! Here you can find everything from handmade jewelry, clothes, outdoor gear and Traverse City Cherry products. There are also great restaurants downtown like Poppycock’s and Sparks BBQ. If you are looking for something a little different, then head on over to the Little Fleet. This is a group of food trucks that offer a variety of different food options plus a bar area with outdoor seating!
Near Traverse City, you also have several state parks where you can hike, swim, fish and camp. Visitors can also visit the nearby Turtle Creek Casino for a night of fun!
By Sara from WanderMoore
8. Provincetown, Massachusetts
The magical Provincetown at the northernmost edge of Cape Cod is about 2.5 hours’ drive from Boston or Providence, RI. This lovely town has everything you can wish for a fun weekend, all year long, though summertime is the most vibrant period. It is known for being a hot destination for the LGBTQ community, with many events and parties, and the pride flags all around give a warm welcome.
The main street, Commercial Street, is the place to walk between souvenir shops, art galleries and restaurants. Many of them are facing the water, so you get a meal with a great view of the pier and the bay. There are hotels and guesthouses around Commercial Street, but if you are looking for a quieter time, there are many more lodging options at the east or west ends of the town.
If you want to spend time at the beach, go to either Hearing Cove Beach to the west or Race Point Beach to the north. Another option is to drive to one of the beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore, a 10-30 minute drive depending on which beach you aim for. Nature lovers can enjoy amazing views of the Cape Cod Bay (and some lighthouses), hiking or biking in the Beech Forest, or even go out to the ocean for whale watching.
A visit to Provincetown can be full of activities, or just a relaxing time on the beach. One thing is guaranteed – it will be fun.
By Moshe from The Top Ten Traveler
9. Sedona, Arizona
Located in central Arizona is one of the most trendy destinations in the United States. Self-proclaimed as the most beautiful place on earth, Sedona is a small desert town that boasts hipster vibes, a vibrant creative arts community, and numerous wellness centers. Its mild climate makes it an all-year-round destination for everyone in the family. Sedona is a must-see on any Southwest USA road trip.
Surrounding Sedona is 400+ miles of hiking trails, many of them leading to gorgeous red rocks and sacred vortices. Many people believe that these vortices are powerful centers of energy with spiritual influences.
Other than the mysterious voices and gorgeous red rocks doting the desert landscapes, Sedona is home to many indigenous ruins and cave dwellings. Visitors will stumble upon many as they hike around Sedona, but they must not miss the Montezuma Castle National Monument, site of the cliff dwelling ruins of the Sinagua people dating back to the 12th century.
If you are an avid photographer, you will find nothing but paradise in Sedona. Known as one of the darkest night skies in the United States, glimmering stars dot the night skies. It is even possible to see the Milky Way with the naked eye. Stargazing is something you must-do in Sedona, Arizona.
Luckily for you, there are many places to stay in Sedona that will enhance your stargazing experiences. Many accommodations have an outdoor hot tub where you can soothe your aching limbs after a day of hiking and admire the starry sky at the same time!
By Sean from LivingOutLau
10. Key West, Florida
When you’re looking for a charming town in the US to explore, hop a flight or plan a road trip to the last stop on Highway A1A, and celebrate in Key West, Florida!
Located off the mainland of southwest Florida 130 miles southwest of Miami, Key West is quite literally the Southernmost Point in the USA and just 90 miles from Cuba. For hundreds of years, this tropical outpost has been home to pirates, smugglers, jet setters and celebrities and its history has left its mark on everything from the local food to the charming architecture. You can hop on the Conch Tour Train and see most of the Old Town Bahamian-style conch houses and Victorian mansions in one afternoon.
A Key West vacation definitely means warm sun, Floribbean island food, a lively bar scene, and azure water everywhere. Snorkeling the offshore reef is one of everyone’s favorite things to do in Key West followed by a spectacular sunset display at Mallory Square. Take a sunset cruise and enjoy all of this from the bow of a catamaran. Or see the town from a bird’s eye view and go parasailing for the afternoon.
At night, do the Duval Crawl, a DIY pub crawl stopping at some of Key West’s finest dive bars for a quick cocktail and live music. Then grab a table at one of the fabulous Cuban restaurants or choose Latitudes for a truly romantic evening. Key West is so full of tropical charm, you’ll be planning your return trip again and again
By Lori from Travlinmad
11. Boone, North Carolina
In the mountains of North Carolina, you’ll find many adorable towns to explore, with one of the best being Boone. This funky college town is home to Appalachian State University and there is no shortage of outdoor activities, delicious restaurants, and cute boutiques.
You won’t find a better place to hit the perfect hiking trail. There are so many options so everyone can find something that fits their fitness level. Some of my favorite hikes in the area are Linville Falls, Glen Burney Falls, and Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway is just a short drive away in case you want to view the scenery from the comfort of your car.
King Street is the main drag in Boone where you’ll find bars, restaurants, and boutiques to explore. Be sure to set aside some time to walk around town and look at the unique stores. The Horton Hotel is a new boutique hotel downtown where you’ll be pampered for your whole stay.
Boone is really a year-round destination. Each season brings something special. Spring for the flowers, summer for great weather, fall for the foliage, and winter for the snow. There are three ski mountains near Boone if you choose to visit in winter. This charming town has plenty to keep you busy for a long weekend at the least.
By Anna from PaddlingSpace
Visiting South Carolina? Get some inspiration for stopping by the beautiful and charming Charleston here!
12. Bayfield, Wisconsin
From kayaking to inspiring art galleries, Bayfield in Wisconsin is one of the most charming places in the US. Situated in northern Wisconsin and opposite Madeline Island, Bayfield offers versatile sites to tourists. There is a lot to do in the city, from experiencing inspiring crafts to camping in beautiful state parks of Wisconsin.
Whatever you ask for, either adventurous kayaking through famous Apostle Islands Sea caves or picking berries in the sunny field, the city has it all. If you want to relax and get rid of all the chaos, Bayfield is the perfect destination for you. It would be best if you visited this place in summers or fall as you can experience beautiful colors and can take a stroll through green fields.
The city offers a lot of activities and things that you can do upon your visit. Start your tour by visiting the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Centre. You can get some maps there and can understand its layout. When you are ready with your map, start with witnessing Houghton Falls State Natural Area. Dig your bare feet in the sand to relax and when it’s time for lunch, head to some popular restaurants like Pier Plaza, The Fat Radish, etc.
After lunch, spare some time to visit Bayfield Maritime Museum. And then, spend a peaceful night at one of the best winter cabins in Wisconsin, I particularly recommend The Little Inn of Bayfield.
By Paulina from Paulina on the Road
13. Joshua Tree, California
Take a road trip to one of the quirkiest desert towns in California. Joshua Tree is known for its incredible sunsets, uniquely shaped cacti, eccentric shops and a vibrant music scene. Located just 45 minutes from Palm Springs near Joshua Tree National Park, this bohemian town is the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
Make a stop at Pioneertown, an Old West set that was used for films and TV shows in the 40s and 50s. A highlight is listening to live music at Pappy & Harriet’s, a famous saloon-style music venue and BBQ restaurant.
Admire the architecture of Monument House, a colorful cubist house that sits in the desert. It’s the perfect spot to take a picture.
If you love the outdoors, take a sunset hike in Joshua Tree National Park. The Cholla Cactus Garden is a wonderful spot to walk through the famous Joshua trees. The hike is easy and takes no more than 30 minutes. You will be amazed by the changing colors of the desert as the sun sets.
Joshua Tree also has some really great, eclectic stores, you don’t want to miss the World Famous Crochet Museum, a former California photo stand turned crochet store.
By Cecily from Groovy Mashed Potatoes
14. Newport, Rhode Island
Located on Aquidneck Island, Newport is a quaint town surrounded by breathtaking beaches and sea cliffs. Take a stroll along the 3.5 mile Cliff Walk to take in the beautiful natural surroundings. There are a few parking areas along the way, so you do not have to do the whole thing if you’re short on time. Park near The Breakers, one of the most famous mansions of Newport are known for their history and architecture.
If you’re visiting in the summertime, taking a sailboat out on the water is a true Newport experience. In the spring and fall, you can still see sailboats on the water, but in the winter the boats are taken out of the water due to the freezing temperatures.
Any day trip wouldn’t be complete without delicious food! If you arrive in Newport for breakfast, head to Cru Cafe near the Audobain Museum – the blueberry stuffed french toast is delicious! For lunch, visit the Fifth Element for classic American fare with a New England twist.
And of course, it wouldn’t be a trip New England without a seafood meal. The Black Pearl is located on Bannister’s Wharf and has views of the harbor – but be sure to make reservations ahead of time as it gets busy. Tennis fans would also enjoy a tour of the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
A wonderful mixture of nature, history, and food makes Newport one of the best destinations on the east coast!
By Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler
15. Helen, Georgia
This charming town located just over an hour away from Atlanta resembles a Bavarian alpine village. Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Helen is a small town with a big personality!
Among the best things to do in Helen, GA are to take a stroll around the downtown streets for some unique pictures of the German architecture lining the main street, go shopping for handmade crafts and local goods, and grab some delicious Bavarian food and a pint. If you are traveling with kids, Helen offers a mountain coaster, mini-golf, gem mining, and short waterfall hikes within minutes of town.
There is no “bad” time to visit Helen. If you are visiting during the summer, tubing down the Chattahoochee River is quite popular, as are the outdoor hiking trails and waterfalls just a few minutes north at Unicoi State Park. The fall brings many tourists to celebrate their annual Octoberfest, which is one of the largest in the country. The holiday season is also a great time to visit, as the town decorates with wreaths, lights, and a huge Christmas tree in the main square.
There are many unique places to stay in town or just outside of town. If you prefer something a little less traditional, there are a variety of cabin rentals available ranging from luxurious to rustic. For a quirky and one-of-a-kind stay, consider the Heidi Motel. It is one of the photographed spots in town and guests can choose to stay in a suite inside the working windmill and enjoy mountain views in a quaint space
By Margie from DQ Family Travel
16. La Jolla, California
La Jolla is the quintessential charming beach town in Southern California. Just north of San Diego, this place has it all: stunning coastline, sandy beaches, golf, boutiques and amazing restaurants and hotels. It is an upscale town, but you get what you pay for; La Jolla hotels know how to pamper you and make your stay extra special.
If you are into hiking, I recommend hiking at Torrey Pines State Park. There, you will find coastal trails overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and if you are lucky, you might even see some whales. If you prefer something less rugged, you can walk along the beach walk towards “Children’s pool”, which is home to a large sea lion population. It is so much fun to watch these creatures. They are pretty used to tourists and not very shy, so you can take some great photos.
Kayaking is a great way to see La Jolla’s beautiful coastline and maybe even see some wildlife. You can explore the caves and even kayak into them. Depending on your skill level, you can rent kayaks and go out on your own, or go on a guided kayaking tour.
By Maria from San Diego Explorer
17. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Carmel-by-the-Sea is located on the Pacific Coast of California. It is considered to be one of the most charming towns in the US due to the whimsical architecture and famous storybook cottages and even just wandering around feels like stepping into a fairy tale.
Have you ever seen Thomas Kinkade’s paintings? Those bucolic cottages of his are from Carmel! He actually lived and worked in Carmel-by-the-Sea and now you can visit his gallery right in the center of town. Kinkade was not the only painter who lived in Carmel. The town’s charm attracts many artistic souls so it became an artist colony of sorts. There are many galleries in Carmel and quite a few cute shops.
How did Carmel get its storybook look? It happened almost 100 years ago when one guy, Hugh Comstock, built 2 small cottages for his wife’s handmade dolls. And then he built more in the same style and after that people loved his fairy tale cottages so much that they started to then build houses in the same style, and the rest is history!
In addition to unique architecture, Carmel-by-the-Sea is also famous for its beautiful secret alleys that complete its charming look. The town is easily walkable and on this map of Carmel-by-the-Sea, you can find the cutest cottages and nicest alleys. Once you are done with your walking tour, you can enjoy Carmel’s famous white sand beach.
By Tatiana from Family Road Trip Guru
18. Ellijay, Georgia
One of the most charming towns in the US to visit is the town of Ellijay, Georgia. This peaceful town is also commonly known as the “Apple Capital of the state of Georgia”, and even has an annual Apple Festival in October where people can have fun and eat some delicious apples.
Aside from the apples, the town is also known for the many beautiful rivers and trails that surround this place. In fact, one of the most popular things to do here is to visit Amicalola Falls State Park where you can enjoy beautiful waterfalls, amazing hikes, as well as enjoy a peaceful day being surrounded by nature and wildlife. Visitors who come here will also find that there are many rivers surrounding this town which means tubing is also another popular thing to do, as you’ll sit in a tube and float peacefully down the river.
And if you’re looking for a place to stay, then one place that comes to mind is the Overlook Inn, which provides polished woody rooms in a rustic area that is surrounded by mountainous views all around. But if you are wanting to take things even further, you should try glamping in the mountains as it is an experience unlike any other.
The town of Ellijay is exceptionally charming and a place everyone should really visit. Although if you want to come, try to come during the summer or fall seasons as that is when the atmosphere and experience is at its best.
By Wayne Dang from The Daily Tourist
19. Mystic, Connecticut
Mystic is a charming seaport village in Connecticut. Filled with seafood, cute shopping areas and fun things to do, Mystic is a great place to visit. If you visit Mystic in the winter you will most likely be met with some snow, but it’s worth it to see all the gorgeous Christmas decorations they have up around town. The Howard Johnson Inn is a quaint hotel located within walking distance of the Mystic Aquarium and Old Mystic Village.
Old Mystic Village is so fun to walk around. You will find restaurants, a coffee shop, and tons of shops to enjoy. Two of the best shops are Sticky Situations, a honey shop, and Alice in the Village where you can enjoy tea time. A Harry Potter Tea time is held occasionally and it is such a fun experience. Old Mystic Diner is located right next to The Howard Johnson Inn. They have a delicious breakfast menu and bottomless coffee!
Exploring downtown Mystic is a great way to spend the day as well. You can walk over the Mystic drawbridge and enjoy the river views. There are a lot of great shops on the strip as well. Be sure to visit the Tea and Spice Exchange while there, it is such a cool shop.
By Hailey from Diary of a Wanna Be World Traveler
20. Galena, Illinois
Just 3 hours west of Chicago, lies Galena, Illinois, one of the most charming hidden treasures in Midwest, USA. Galena is best known for its history, rolling vineyards, and 19th-century architecture.
About 85% of Galena’s buildings are listed in the National Register of Historic Places! Galena’s main street, S Main Street, is lined with more than 100 local mom n’ pop shops, wine-tastings, art, museums, and delicious eateries. Believe it or not, Galena’s Main Street has been recognized as one of the greatest main streets by Travel + Leisure Magazine. It’s no surprise many people come from around the country to check out this Midwest slice of heaven.
Although there is something to do and see all-year-round, I especially love Galena during the summer and fall. Galena is made for outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of outdoor activities like kayaking, biking, and horseback riding. Check out Apple River Canyon State Park for camping, fishing, or a picnic.
During autumn, you can find events like ghost tours, haunted pub crawls, dinner theater., and see the gorgeous fall hues. Also, make sure to check out Galena Cellars Winery and Vineyard for wine-wasting and vineyard tours. Galena has something for everyone.
Best place to stay? I recommend a bed and breakfast like Cloran Mansion Bed-and-Breakfast or a cute boutique hotel like The Irish Cottage Boutique hotel. If you prefer an all-inclusive, check out Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa for a range of activities including golf, horseback riding, hot-air balloon rides, and more.
For more Midwest treasures, check out 75+ Things to Do and See in Midwest, USA
By Courtney from Courtney the Explorer