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The best small towns in America

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

In need of a digital detox? Craving inspirations? Looking for coastal romance? Maybe you just want to live out your cowboy fantasies. Whatever you desire, there is a small town in America that has it. Here are our nation’s 10 best small towns.

Make sure to check local government websites for the latest information before you make a booking or pack for your flight. You can also check out Skyscanner’s COVID-19 travel advice page. Here, you’ll find up-to-the-minute travel regulations and restrictions on a state-by-state basis. These include whether you need to quarantine or monitor your own health while traveling in certain places.

The most romantic small towns

Romance is definitely in the air in these towns, and you’ll be swooning at every turn. 

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Areal view of waves crashing on the coast of Carmel Beach.

Carmel-by-the-sea is a storybook seaside town with romance levels through the roof. Lovers of art? There are over a hundred galleries in the one-square-mile of downtown. Is local cuisine your thing, no problem. Carmel is chain-restaurant free, just locally owned, award-winning restaurants. Splurge on fabulous coastal cuisine at Aubergine. Oenophiles? Cheers, Carmel has over twenty tasting rooms. Long romantic walks on the beach? You’re a stone’s throw from Carmel Beach.

Seriously, does it get any more romantic? Yes, especially if you stay at Hyatt Carmel Highlands.

Crested Butte, Colorado

Colorado's Crested Butte town covered in snow with Crested Butte Mountain in the background.

If romance is an adventure, look no further than the majestic Colorado Mountains and the intimate ski resort town of Crested Butte. Known for its pristine slopes and starry nights, it offers couples year-round activities. The wildflower explosion that takes place each summer is unmissable, especially when seen on horseback. Flanked by snaking rivers, there is kayaking, water rafting, as well as biking and hiking.

Stroll down downtown’s Elk Avenue, with its colorful collection of clapboard houses, shops, bars, and restaurants. Share small plates at Django’s before retiring to the rustic and oh so luxurious Eleven Experience Scarp Ridge Lodge or Public House Lofts.

Ephraim, Wisconsin

Hardy Gallery at sunset on the shores of Eagle Harbor in downtown Ephraim, Wisconsin.

A picturesque Midwestern town, it takes pride in preserving its history and beauty. There are 30 historical sites throughout the village, 11 of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. See them strolling hand in hand on a self-guided tour. Or spend the afternoon weaving in and out of quaint shops and galleries. Don’t miss the Hardy Gallery, whose stunning location on the shores of Eagle Harbor is rivaled only by the work of Door County artists’ found inside. Seal your faith as a couple by scribbling your names on the gallery’s exterior.

Visit the Peninsula State Park for stunning views of Lake Michigan, especially in the fall when the foliage is afire with color. Or head to Eagle Harbor for a perfect day of kayaking or paddle-boarding. Sleep in at the lovely Eagle Harbor Inn and then explore the charming towns of Sturgeon Bay, Ellison Bay, Egg Harbor, or Baileys Harbor.

The best small towns for family fun in the USA

These may be small towns, but for this family holiday, make larger than life memories.

Helen, Georgia

Bavarian-style building in Helen, Georgia

For a tiny town set in the foothill of the Blue Ridge mountains, Helen has many tricks up its sleeve. First of all, it looks like a Bavarian Alpine village, complete with cobblestone streets, annual Oktoberfest celebrations, and German eateries. Head to Bodensee for spaetzle, goulash, and wursts. The fun starts with tubing down Chattahoochee River, panning for gold and gems at Gold ’N Gem Grubbin, ziplining, and a low ropes course at Unicoi State Park and Lodge. Then it’s off to the races at Alpine Speedway. And don’t forget to adopt a Cabbage Patch kid at Babyland General Hospital. The list of family fun goes on and on in Helen.

Bandera, Texas

Close-up view of cattle in American small town

Bandera, Texas, the self-proclaimed cowboy capital of the world, is here to make your cowboy and cowgirl dreams come true! First, stop at the Frontier Times Museum, where over 40,000 Wild West relics tell Bandera’s long and colorful story. Walk around the historic district to the town’s original jail and county courthouse. Don’t be surprised to see horses tied up at restaurants, bars, and shops. You might even happen upon a honky-tonk. Brave kids can even take part in a kid-friendly rodeo–mutton busting.

Many family-friendly dude ranches surround the area, Flying L Guest Ranch among them, where you can ride horses, fish, have chuckwagon dinners, dig for fossils, and hike along river trails. 

Best small towns for artists in America

Find inspiration at these American small towns brimming with interesting histories, natural wonders, and quirkiness.

Sitka, Alaska

Boats at Crescent Harbor in Sitka, Alaska with Mt Verstovia in the background

Sitka, Alaska, accessible only by plane or ferry, ignites the imagination with the sheer beauty of its landscape and extraordinary history populated by Tlingit, Russian, and American settlers. Discover it at Sitka’s Historical Society and Museum, the Sheldon Jackson Museum. Then go on to the Russian Bishop’s House and the totem-lined trails at the National Historical Park. Outdoor activities abound, and you can even come face to face with bears and bald eagles at Sitka’s wildlife sanctuaries.

Downtown has lovely shops where you can purchase Alaskan made gifts such as quilts and handcrafted Alaskan herb soap. Stay at the Sitka Hotel for great views and an excellent local seafood restaurant.

Bisbee, Arizona

Hilltop view of building and streets in small town Bisbee, Arizona

All kinds of artists call Brisbee, Arizona home. The New York Times dubbed it “Greenwich Village West.” Art is literary everywhere, and not just on gallery walls. Building facades, windows, floors, staircases, and even cars are canvases. The vibe here is laid back and a little weird, thus totally conducive to creativity. Head to the Copper Queen Plaza for some eclectic shopping and bites. Next, check out Brewery Gulch, once home to 50 saloons during Bisbee’s mining hey-day, and the old Brisbee Brewing Company for some local suds. And if you’re still thirsty, a nightcap at St. Elmo Bar, which has been operating since 1902, should do the trick.

Bed down at a super cool revamped vintage camper, bus, or Airstream at the Shady Dell. For a proper hotel, there’s the Copper Queen or BTC Lofts. In the morning, head to Lowell, a veritable 1950s ghost town; it’s only operating business is the Bisbee Breakfast Club on the aptly named Eerie street. It serves exceptional huevos rancheros, pancakes, and coffee.

Best small towns to get away from it all

Travel trends are telling us you just want to get away from it all and refresh the mind, body, and soul! If peace and quiet were destinations, these small towns would be it.

Glasgow, Montana

Long stretch of an empty highway with clouds on the horizon

Geographically speaking, Glasgow, Montana, is just about as far as you can get from anywhere. 4.5 hours from a city in any direction, it’s literally in the middle of nowhere. Still, you’ll find plenty to do. Check out the Valley County Pioneer Museum, a fascinating hodge-podge of local artifacts and historical displays, including a T33 Air Force jet in the front yard and a restored 1920s homestead home. Close by, the M. Russell Wildlife Refuge surrounded by the Fort Peck Reservoir, covers over one million acres. Or take a trip to the Sleeping Buffalo Hot Springs for a relaxing soak. Replenish at Busted Knuckle Brewery or the old Montana Bar, either one will set the mood for the Middle-of-NoWhere Burger from Flip Burgers and Treats

Fairfield, Iowa

Aerial view of Maharishi International University's two domes.

Find inner peace at Fairfield, Iowa, the midwest meditation capital, and the world’s largest Transcendental Meditation training center. Start with a stop to Maharishi University, where Transcendental Meditation is on every syllabus. Follow up with a tour of Maharishi Vedic City, where you’ll learn about Vedic architecture, Ayurveda, and yogic flying. A sense of well-being permeates Fairfield. From solar-powered business to downtown’s quaint shops, earthy cafes, numerous alternative therapy practices, yoga studios, and wellness centers, you’ll reach your happy place in no time.

The town boasts an impressive variety of international restaurants, offering everything from Vietnamese to Indian. Clear your mind hiking the 16-mile Fairfield Loop Trail, which snakes through woods, lakes, parks, and art installations. Refresh with fresh-pressed juice at Andy’s Juice Joint. 

Green Bank, West Virginia 

Rolling mountains covered in colorful foliage in small town America

Unplug–and by no means voluntarily–in this tiny community, home to the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest steerable radio telescope. The surrounding 13,000-square-mile area is a federally mandated National Radio Quiet Zone that requires electromagnetic silence to protect sensitive equipment from interference. That means no cellphone service or wi-fi — no devices! The quiet zone is vastly made up of national parks, undulating farmland, and rolling mountains. So unless you consider rusting payphones an attraction, there is not much to do here, and, that’s kind of the point, right?

Still, visit the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park or stop by Fort Warwick located on a working horse farm where you might walk in on an excavation. Or do nothing. Hit the mute button. Hear yourself think in the quietest town in America.

FAQ

Where is the smallest town in America?

In terms of populations, Monowi, Nebraska is considered the smallest town in America. It has one resident, Elsie Eiler. As such, she is Monowi’s mayor, treasurer, clerk, secretary, and librarian. She’s also the owner and bartender of Monowi Tavern.

How many small towns are in America?

According to Statista, an online portal for statistics, in 2019 there were 19,502 incorporated places registered in the United States. Of that number, 16,410 had a population under 10,000. The most recent estimation by the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that 76% of the approximately 19,500 incorporated places had fewer than 5,000 people. America is indeed a nation of small towns.

What is the safest small town in America?

The answer to that question is complicated by our natural assumption that small towns are safe. However, a 2013 study by the University of Pennsylvania found that small towns are not as safe as they seem. Yes, the risk of homicide death in a large city is higher than in a smaller town; however, when it comes to unintentional death–car accidents and deadly injury–a small town can be a dangerous place. The study reviewed 1.3 million deaths between 1999 and 2006 and found that the risk of death from unintentional injury is 20 percent higher in rural small towns than large cities.

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