Tiny Travelogue: 50 Small Towns to Visit Across the U.S.
Big cities are often hyped as the best tourist destinations in the United States, but many of the nation's small towns are gems. From coast to coast and north to south, small towns represent much of what is great about each state or region, just on a smaller scale than larger cities -- and typically at a lower price. With lots of charm, natural beauty, history, and great food, small towns often make the best trips. State by state, here are some of the best ones to visit.
(Editor's note: This story has been revised since publication.)
In Smyrna, home to just under 11,000 residents, lovers of artisanal alcohol can get their fill. Blue Earl Brewing Co. offers tours of the brewery for $10 on weekend afternoons. At Painted Stave Distilling, five tastings of whisky, vodka, or gin cost $5, and tours are also available. Not into booze? Woodland Beach is an ideal spot on Delaware Bay to enjoy a picnic and relax to the sound of the waves.
Related: 10 Brewery Tours That Feature Free Craft Beer
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, features white sand beaches and several historic spots, including Hulihee Palace, a former summer home for Hawaiian royalty, and Ahuena Heiau, once the residence of King Kamehameha and a sacred religious site. Ahuena sits on a public beach that features calm waters ideal for snorkeling.
Related: 50 of the Best Beaches in America
With a population under 4,000, Chester fits the very definition of a small town, but this unique destination still offers plenty of diversions. Chester's picturesque Main Street is a shopper's delight, offering gifts crafted by local artists and an assortment of eateries. Hop on the Chester/Hadlyme Ferry for a view of Gillette Castle, which sits high above the Connecticut River.
Related: 18 Scenic Ferry Rides
Kentucky is famous for producing bourbon, and the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown has been in operation for more than 130 years. The distillery sits on 196 acres in the heart of bourbon country and features 29 barrel-aging warehouses. Complimentary tours of the facility are available Monday through Saturday. The Bardstown Art Gallery, which showcases works from regional artists, is a must-see for lovers of art and culture, as is Thomas Merton Books.
The biggest draw for visitors to Bar Harbor is nearby Acadia National Park, with outstanding scenery created by receding glaciers many millennia ago. Bar Harbor offers its own diversions, including bookshops, galleries, gift shops, and more. And no visit to Maine would be complete without lobster, served in various ways at many local restaurants.
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A trip to Pacific Grove combines beaches, history, and classic charm. Check out Point Pinos Lighthouse, have lunch at the Beach House restaurant, and enjoy an afternoon swimming or surfing at Lovers Point Park and Beach. The various small shops along Main Street invite leisurely shopping.
Related: 18 Lighthouses to Visit on a Summer Road Trip
The seaside village of Rockport features some of the most scenic beaches on the East Coast, with views that have inspired artists since the days of Winslow Homer. Take a trip to Front Beach to look for sea glass and take a quick dip (nearby parking is $10). On Saturdays during summer and fall, the town hosts a farmers market featuring fresh, locally grown produce and other delicious goods.
Related: 25 Unique Farmers Markets Across the U.S.