The 12 Prettiest Small Towns in the U.S.
Experts say that these are the most gorgeous destinations across the country.
There's something undeniably charming about small towns in the U.S., from the tight-knit communities to the local haunts. Growing up in these quaint spots is a unique experience, and just visiting one can give you that warm and fuzzy feeling. These towns almost always offer something unique, but some across the U.S. have particularly stunning settings. We all have different ideas of what defines "beauty," whether you prefer touring historical buildings or feeling the breeze in a seaside city. With that in mind, our travel experts have suggested a range of small towns that offer different amenities, views, and experiences that might catch your eye. Read on to discover the 12 prettiest small towns in the U.S.
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Mt. Shasta, California
Head over to the West Coast and you'll find a true hidden gem, Sherry Arkfeld, travel blogger and author of Digital Nomad and a Dog, tells Best Life.
"Mt. Shasta city is a town of around 3,500 people that sits at the base of Mount Shasta itself," Arkfeld, who grew up in Northern California, explains. "The views of the mountain are a big reason why this town is so beautiful, but [the city of] Mt. Shasta is also pretty in its own right."
Visitors receive a warm welcome here, she adds, and you'll feel like you've been transported back to the early 20th Century "when the town became popular with workers in the timber industry."
"In the summer, visitors can enjoy nearby Lake Siskiyou," Arkfeld says. "More adventurous people can climb to the top of the mountain where, on a clear day, you can see all the way to the Pacific Ocean."
The winter is also a picturesque time to explore town, as Arkfeld describes Mt. Shasta as a "skiing mecca" and "snowy wonderland."
Cape May, New Jersey
Don't overlook this cozy little beach town, nestled as far south as you can go on the Jersey Shore.
"Cape May is known for its Victorian architecture and charming downtown district," Joshua Haley, founder of Moving Astute, tells Best Life. "There are also several beaches and parks located in the town, making it a popular destination for visitors looking to enjoy the outdoors."
You'll be able to soak up the sun in Cape May during the summer months, but there's plenty to do, even during the "off season." This includes the famed Cape May County Park & Zoo, which is open all year and free to visit.
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While it's a bit bigger than your standard small town, Capitola makes the list thanks to its incomparable charm.
"Capitola, a small town on the coast of Northern California, is not only one of the prettiest, but also one of the friendliest towns in the U.S.," Arkfeld shares. "It's a popular vacation destination known for its iconic multicolored houses lining the beach." Truly Instagram-worthy, these homes have an oceanfront view, which the Capitola Village website says is reminiscent of spots in the Mediterranean.
Arkfeld also points to the downtown area of Capitola, noting that it "is full of lovely shops selling everything from housewares to clothing to souvenirs." As a bonus, the locals are welcoming and make you feel at home.
"Wandering the streets and chatting with the shopkeepers and locals is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon," Arkfeld says. "No trip to California would be complete without spending a few days in this charming seaside town."
Rosemary Beach, Florida
Yearning for warm weather and to unwind on beautiful beaches? The small town of Rosemary Beach, Florida, is waiting for you. The town's website states that it combines the New Urbanism architectural style with the West Indies style, which you can take in while strolling along cobblestone streets.
According to Ashley Y, the travel blogger behind Yumeology, Rosemary Beach "is a feast for the eyes."
"From the stately homes on the beachfront to the charming fairytale-like cottages in the heart of town, every building here makes it one of the 'prettiest' towns in the U.S.," she gushes.
You can explore rooftop restaurants or check out the art scene, as the town plays host to sculptures created by international artists. "The beach here is absolutely stunning," Ashley Y adds. "No matter what time of year you visit, you'll find something fun to do!"
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An ideal outdoor adventure should be scheduled in the alpine village of Helen, Georgia. Here, you'll take in the breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and tour cobblestone streets similar to those in Bamberg or Lindau, Germany, the town's website states.
"The architecture in downtown Helen will make you feel like you've stepped into a Bavarian Alpine Village," Ashley Y says. "Visitors can also enjoy plenty of outdoor activities in the surrounding mountains, including hiking along the Dukes Creek Falls Trail or watching the beautiful waterfalls at Anna Ruby Falls."
Booking a trip from May to September will ensure that you can explore in warmer weather, but you can also visit in the fall for the town's annual Oktoberfest—or in the winter, when this quaint spot is lit up for the holidays.
Edenton, North Carolina
Edenton, North Carolina, is another lovely locale on the Southeast coast. This waterfront hub was actually the first Colonial capital of North Carolina between 1722 and 1743, according to the town's website—and history abounds here. The Visit Edenton website points out that many of the town's buildings predate the Colonial period.
"This small town is located on the Albemarle Sound and is known for its gorgeous antebellum architecture," Fred Baker, senior travel editor of Travelness, explains. "Visitors can take a leisurely stroll through the historic district, tour the Edenton State Historic Site, or enjoy one of the many annual festivals and events."
You certainly shouldn't miss the 1886 Roanoke River Lighthouse, which stands out on its elevated screw-pile base, nor the 1787 Chowan County Courthouse. According to the town's website, many consider the design of the courthouse to be the "finest example of Georgian architecture in the South."
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Cannon Beach, Oregon
With just over 1,500 residents, Cannon Beach is not only a gorgeous seaside settlement—it's also got that small-town feel.
"[The town] is full of clapboard beach shacks, a charming main street, and a spectacular beach," Jessica Schmit, the blogger behind Uprooted Traveler, tells Best Life. "While the coastal architecture in town is undeniably charming, the main attraction here is the eponymous beach, with the iconic Haystack Rock towering 235 feet out of the Pacific Ocean."
If you choose to take a stroll on the beach, you'll be in for a treat, as wildlife like puffins and gray whales might make an appearance, Schmit says.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
Foodies, artists, and history buffs will revel in the beauty of New Hope, Pennsylvania.
"This small town is located on the Delaware River and is known for its charming Victorian architecture and lively arts scene," Baker explains. "Visitors can enjoy strolling through the historic district, browsing the shops and galleries, or taking in a show at one of the many live music venues."
You can catch a production at the Bucks County Playhouse, which dates back to the early 1900s. And if you decide to stay the night, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts to rest your head. Late spring and early summer are ideal times to visit, and if you schedule a trip in May, you can take part in the annual Pride Week and Parade, which celebrates the LGBTQ+ community with a whole host of events.
Cazenovia, New York
Head to upstate New York and you may stumble on Cazenovia, which has a small population, but plenty of to do and see, Samantha Linnett, travel planner and blogger of Discover with Sam, tells Best Life.
"It sits right on Cazenovia Lake and has multiple lakeside parks and beaches," Linnett offers. "The downtown is a few blocks of two- to three-story historic brick buildings filled with little shops, cafes, and restaurants [all] decorated with flower boxes. Colonial houses from the 1700s and 1800s are all around town marked with placards and showcasing some truly beautiful historic architecture."
According to Linnett, the best time to visit Cazenovia is in the summer or autumn, when you can explore the true beauty of this town. There's no shortage of fall foliage or breweries and wineries to unwind at, she adds.
"There are all kinds of walking and hiking trails around the town, including some that go through secret pocket parks and sculpture gardens within town limits," Linnett says. "Chittenango Falls State Park is within a short drive and Delphi Falls County Park is right next to the town, both with stunning waterfalls."
If you want a snowy getaway, this little town also offers show-shoeing, cross-country skiing, and horse-drawn sleigh rides during the winter months.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Head down south to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and find one of the prettiest hamlets in the country. Downtown Eureka Springs is filled with Victorian-style architecture, as well as boutiques and restaurants, Caitlin Dismore, travel blogger of Twin Family Travels, explains.
Visitors can "enjoy the seclusion of the beautiful Thorncrown Chapel that is nestled in the trees" or opt to "board a train on the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway for a special dinner ride." Beaver Lake is also a sight to behold, where you can take a scenic cruise, kayak, or fish when the weather is warmer.
It's also a great spot to visit ahead of Halloween. Dismore recommends that you "explore the paranormal" at the 1886 Crescent Hotel, which is known both for its architecture and holds the title of "The Most Haunted Hotel in America."
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A visit to Vermont is well worth it, and Stowe is one of the prettiest (and coziest!) spots that the state has to offer. "Having traveled extensively over the Northeast for many years, and writing about New England for the last few years, Stowe continues to impress me with every visit," Samantha Hamilton, creator and writer of New England Wanderlust, says. "One of the best things about it is that it's magical in all four seasons."
According to Hamilton, Stowe is gorgeous when covered in snow, as well as when spring arrives. "While it's known for being a big ski destination in the winter, its picture-perfect landscapes featuring the town's white steepled church make you feel like you're in a New England postcard year-round," she tells Best Life. "But if I had to suggest one season to visit, it would be fall. The foliage surrounding the covered bridges is something special to experience."
If you're looking to make another stop in Vermont, you might also want to check out the beautiful town of Woodstock, which is just over an hour south of Stowe.
Another town that will make you feel like you've ventured across the pond is Carmel-by-the-Sea in California. "This town is located on the Monterey Peninsula and is known for its charming European-style architecture and beautiful flower displays," Baker says. "Visitors can enjoy strolling through the town, visiting the shops and art galleries, and taking in the stunning views of the coastline."
The village is only one square mile, per the town's website, but it has no shortage of things to see and do. Take in this cute town on a historic walking tour, or discover hidden passageways and courtyards dating back to the 1920s. You can also set up your beach chair on the iconic Carmel Beach—the blue water will truly take your breath away.