If you’re tired of the crowded attractions that come with some of our country’s more popular vacation destinations, there’s good news. The United States has hundreds of quiet spots and small towns with reasonably priced lodgings and unforgettable attractions to help create the perfect vacation. Here are ten of America’s favorite small-town vacation destinations.
Gatlinburg, Tennessee, appeals to a wide range of vacationers. Nestled in the hills, and gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg and its sister city of Pigeon Forge are a return visit for many who come once and fall in love with the unique Smoky Mountains. While the towns offer countless visitor attractions and family-friendly fun, the natural attraction are abundant all around also. Affordable rental Gatlinburg cabins in the mountains offer luxury amenities – such as hot tubs, mountain views, full kitchens, games and entertainments, Jacuzzis – and affordable convenience to both the national park and the towns, with impossibly scenic driving everywhere in between.
This little town located on California’s Monterey Peninsula recently celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. The town offers something for every type of visitor with a quaint downtown, proximity to Big Sur, and its location at the tip of one of the world’s most scenic roads, 17-Mile Drive, passing through exclusive Pebble Beach. Carmel attracts a wide variety of entertainers, artists, and writers, including former mayor Clint Eastwood.
You might recognize this little seaside town’s name as the setting of the 1988 film Mystic Pizza (they’re still in the same spot). Area attractions include the Mystic Seaport Museum, the Mystic Aquarium, and Harkness Memorial State Park, a superbly beautiful park with a gorgeous botanical garden and much more to stroll through. The Seaport Museum has several historic ships and a recreation of a 19th-century village on display. Popular with families, the Mystic Aquarium features Beluga whales, African penguins, and various local species. Most area accommodations also provide shuttle service to the nearby Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casinos.
Cooperstown, New York
Located at the tip of Lake Otsego in central New York, Cooperstown may be best known as the home of America’s Baseball Hall of Fame Museum. But the area has lots of other attractions that bring in visitors year-round. Beginning in the mid-1800s, the town became a popular summer retreat for wealthy city-dwellers, and many of the area’s historic lakeside estates remain today. For a unique stay, check out the Otesaga Hotel. Erected in 1909, the luxury hotel is still family owned and enjoys landmark status. It provides a glimpse into the lives of the ultra rich from the early 19th Century. One of the nation’s top beer crafters, the Brewery Ommegang, draws connoisseurs to Cooperstown as well.
Just about halfway between Destin and Panama City Beach on Florida’s Emerald Coast, the charming little town of Seaside takes vacation relaxation to the next level. Put your car keys away and slip on some flip-flops immediately upon arrival in Seaside. Downtown, the beach, and most of Seaside’s accommodations are a stone’s throw from each other. Its downtown area has some excellent restaurants – as reported by Emeril Lagasse on his hit show Emeril’s Florida – and lots of unique shops and galleries. Area lodgings include colorful cottages that offer a combination of luxury with an old beach colony vibe.
Spearfish, South Dakota
Located in the Black Hills between Devils Tower National Monument (of Close Encounters of the Third Kind fame) and the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Spearfish holds its own as a vacation destination, surrounded by astonishing natural beauty and opportunities. Nearby Spearfish Canyon, for example, features several magnificent waterfalls, and numerous scenic drives as well as hiking and biking trails.
Main Street Spearfish plays host to Downtown Friday Nights every Friday evening from June through August. The festival features area bands, local food, and lots of shopping.
Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Named after one of America’s most successful Olympic athletes, the town of Jim Thorpe also goes by the name of “Switzerland of America” from its picturesque mountain setting. Nestled in Pennsylvania’s scenic Lehigh Gorge, Jim Thorpe consistently ranks among our nation’s best family-fun towns. Jim Thorpe’s quaint Main Street boasts 19th-century architecture, lots of antique shops, and gorgeous mountain views. Its mountain location makes Jim Thorpe popular for whitewater rafting, swimming, freshwater fishing, hiking, and biking.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Wedged between the Atlantic coast and Acadia National Park, the little seaport town of Bar Harbor draws visitors for its diverse variety of scenery. The town itself has a mix of unique shops, galleries, and historic Inns and B&Bs. Acadia National Park features some of our nation’s most dramatic scenery thanks to ice-age receding glaciers, and can rightly be called the crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast. Twenty-seven miles of historic motor roads, 45 miles of carriage roads, and 158 miles of hiking trails make Acadia one of the country’s top ten most visited national parks.
A short drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, a mix of beautiful scenery, Spanish Colonial architecture, and world-class wine brings visitors to Sonoma year-round. Its location near many popular area attractions such as Muir Woods, Castello di Amorosa, and Safari West make it a perfect home base for area travel. Along with lots of great restaurants, Sonoma also has a small amusement park for the kids, including a quarter-scale railroad on four miles of track that runs through town.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Known mainly for its excellent skiing, Jackson Hole’s proximity to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks makes it a worthy destination any time of year. A nature-lover’s paradise, the area boasts incredible scenery, abundant wildlife, and just about every outdoor activity you can imagine. Home to “Old Faithful”, Yellowstone also features stunning waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and canyons. Ask the ranger upon entering either park how to pay one price for admission to both.