10 Small Towns in the U.S. That Feel Like You're in a Hallmark Movie
These quaint spots have that same charming and cozy feeling.
Cold weather and Hallmark movies go hand-in-hand: These flicks just work best when you're under a big blanket. Some call them cringey, while others find them charming—we think they're simply one of the greatest guilty pleasures. A common feature of these made-for-TV movies is a big-city corporate gal returning to her hometown, or an otherwise remote and surprisingly delightful little hamlet. If you've always wanted to feel like you're living your pumpkin-spiced fantasy, travel experts have a few perfect recommendations for you. Swap your business casual look for a comfy coat and embrace the Hallmark atmosphere in these 10 small towns.
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Red River, New Mexico
Nestled in the mountains of New Mexico is the seriously small town of Red River, which currently has a population of just 554 people. Beth McCarter, family travel blogger of The Travel Fam, suggests checking out this ski town for several different reasons, namely the "snowy weather, perfect for getting stranded together," and a ski lift ride that you can take to the top of a mountain to enjoy a romantic dinner.
"I can see it now—big city lawyer books a vacation in a hideaway ski town to forget her recent engagement break-off," McCarter notes as a potential Hallmark movie plot set in Red River. "She meets a hunky single dad who's just trying to do it right by his adorable son, who's been asking for a mom for forever. He owns a ski shop and wears a lot of flannel. There's probably a scene where the lawyer gets her high heel stuck in the snow and he has to help her."
Whether or not your visit plays out like this, you'll certainly enjoy what McCarter calls "small town vibes" and views of the "idyllic mountain backdrops."
If you're looking for a dreamy spot on the East Coast, give Rockport, Massachusetts, a try. While there hasn't been a Hallmark movie filmed in this little town (yet), it has been a location for a few rom-coms you might recognize, including The Proposal (2009) and The Love Letter (1999), Kimberly Voltero, owner of The Emerson Inn By The Sea in Rockport, tells Best Life. Those are just two of the 23 films that have used this seaport as a key setting.
Here, you'll find colorful buildings, Voltero says, most of which are "passion projects, lifestyle businesses, or like mine, an unimaginable dream come true." This town is also home to Motif No. 1, the famed red shack that's served as an artist's studio and is known as the most painted building in the world.
"In all cases, we have the multiple church steeples, the coffee shop where all the gossip starts, the personalities, the celebrities, and the secret stories that slip out over a craft cocktail created to celebrate the harvest moonrise," Voltero says, adding that the Emerson Inn is the only remaining grand hotel north of Salem, Massachusetts.
You'll truly feel like you're ready for your closeup—or to meet a well-traveled fisherman—whenever you get the chance to visit Rockport.
Head even farther north and you'll find the small town of Ogunquit, Maine. According to Peter Hoopis, owner and CEO of the outdoor lifestyle and travel blog Peter Hoopis Ventures, this charming spot "looks and feels like it came straight out of a Hallmark movie."
"This seaside town is rich in beauty and culture. There are numerous quaint cafes, restaurants, and specialty shops, and there is no shortage of rustic inns and hotels for accommodations," he tells Best Life. "There are museums, a thriving arts scene, and a local theater playhouse, all in line with their small-town architectural vibe."
You'll really feel like you're in a dreamy Hallmark rom-com when walking along Marginal Way. "Everything was picture perfect!" Hoopis says of the 1.25-mile walk. "There were majestic ocean views, a quaint lighthouse, beautiful gardens, the scenic coastline, and fishing boats. There were many benches where we could rest, chat, contemplate, or read a book."
Along the way, you'll also pass Shore Road and Perkins Cove, both which have plenty of picturesque spots, he says, but you can't go wrong anywhere you head in town. "Ogunquit is a picture of a beautiful, charming, cozy town with a warm community vibe," Hoopis shares.
If you want to plan a visit, he recommends booking a trip between May and September, as winters can be harsh in Maine.
Visiting Alaska might require some planning, depending on where you live in the U.S., but if you want to be fully immersed in the ambiance of a Hallmark movie, don't skip Skagway, located in the Southeast region of the state.
"I live in a real-life Hallmark movie town," Nicole Goodman, photographer and blogger for Off Your Beaten Path, says. Skagway "is quintessential small-town America at its finest. From the boardwalk-lined streets to the old-fashioned buildings that are reminiscent of a time long ago, this town is oozing with charm."
Skagway entertains more visitors during the summertime, as it's located along a cruise ship route. But Goodman recommends heading to this small down during the holiday season—and what Hallmark movie devotee would want to turn that down?
"The holiday season is full of all the charm that you would expect from a Hallmark movie—including tree lightings, craft markets, art shows, and so much more! During the off-season (before and after the cruise ships), sometimes we are lucky enough to experience the Northern Lights, too!"
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Ellicottville, New York
Ellicottville, New York, is another small town with Hallmark movie vibes—and that might be because one was actually filmed there. The 2016 movie A Christmas in Vermont was filmed in four Northeast locations, including Ellicottville, Amar Hussain, founder of the travel site Only Wanderlust, tells Best Life.
"This cozy little village is the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life," he says. "This stunning little place is home to a few dozen shops and restaurants, hiking and biking trails, and even a couple of ski slopes."
You might be waiting to book your next trip over spring break, but Ellicottville is a great spot for a getaway this winter. "The ski slopes are located within walking distance of the village's shops and restaurants, so you are always going to be within arms reach of all the amenities that Ellicottville has to offer," Hussain says.
You'll also have your pick of a Hallmark movie staple—bed and breakfasts—where you can cozy up by a fire. "There's no need to worry about accommodation in Ellicottville: There are numerous hotels and B&Bs to choose from," Hussain notes. "Overall, I'd highly recommend paying this cozy little village a visit, it's a truly unforgettable experience."
Explore Essex, Connecticut, which Lyndsay Crescenti, travel blogger and founder of The Purposely Lost, calls "a quintessential Hallmark-like small town."
According to Crescenti, the town was first settled in 1648, and while it has "come a long way from its colonial seaport and shipbuilding days," you'll still feel like you're stepping back in time. What Hallmark movie is complete without our heroine feeling a newfound appreciation for the simpler things in life?
"The easily walkable Main Street is lined with beautiful Colonial-style historic homes from the late 1700s, boutique shops, and small businesses," Crescenti says. "Make sure to walk along the river by the Connecticut River Museum and watch sailboats bobbing in the water."
She recommends visiting in either the summer or fall, when the foliage is at its peak. "To complete your Hallmark-inspired experience, you need to stay at The Griswold Inn, one of the oldest continuously operating inns in the country," Crescenti adds. Who knows—you may find it's the perfect setting to stumble upon the handyman with the heart of gold or the handsome yet troubled bartender.
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You can check out Stillwater, Minnesota, for a fully immersive Hallmark movie experience, Eva Phan, travel social marketing strategist and travel blogger, editor, and founder of Eva Darling, tells Best Life.
"Stillwater, Minnesota will have you dreaming of being swept off your feet in a Hallmark rom-com," Phan gushes. "This charming small town is a blast from the past, with wonderfully retro must-gos such as Leo's Grill and Malt Shop—a bright red '50s-style malt shop covered in vintage Coke signs."
She also recommends heading to Tremblay's Sweet Shop for what they call "old tyme candies," or Nelson's Ice Cream. There, they'll serve you "a pile of ice cream larger than your head, perfectly split by two (they call it the 'kid scoop')," Phan adds.
The travel expert says you can also "get lost in one of Stillwater's many antique stores—perfect for a meet-cute or weekend date—where you'll find no shortage of eclectic vintage treasures."
According to Phan, this quaint town is especially picturesque in the fall. "Book a St. Croix River Cruise for a romantic ride down the river, viewing the fantastic fall colors over brunch or wine tasting featuring vineyards of the St. Croix," she offers. "For those who prefer land, get swept up in Stillwater with beautiful views of the fall colors and the St. Croix River by walking across Stillwater's historic lift bridge to Wisconsin."
Hallmark movies almost always feature a small, welcoming community where the heroine can escape busy big city she hails from. That's exactly the kind of feeling you'll have when visiting Shipshewana, Indiana, according to Kim Parizek, of Boutique Travel Advisors.
"You don't have to be in Shipshewana too long before you realize the locals subscribe to a different set of worldly values," Parizek says. "When you arrive in the rural area, you will pass the Amish in their buggies, sharing the same roads with cars. You will park in a parking lot next to horses attached to wagons waiting for their owners to return."
Parizek adds the quaint spot "will immediately teleport a visitor to a quieter and sweeter time," where electronics are fewer and neighbors are quick to help one another out in times of need.
"Along with being exposed to a bygone period, one cannot escape the charm and unique contributions that make it like a Hallmark movie," she says, adding that goods are made by hand in small batches and sold at the local flea market—which is actually the largest in the Midwest.
"A Hallmark movie could quickly be based on this town with the social pressures of the outside world encroaching on their slower-paced lives," Parizek says.
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Refuge out West is something many a Hallmark heroine has sought out. If you want to plan a getaway for the same reason, check out Livingston, Montana.
"It is literally like walking into a Hallmark movie," Shannon Carlton, solo traveler and digital nomad of the blog Uprooted Adventures, says. "Livingston is a town of about 7,000 people with a quaint downtown."
Carlton adds that you'll find typical Main Street USA and that "local small town feel" in Livingston. While you stroll past the shops, you'll also have a view of Livingston Peak. "They host monthly art walks in the summer where the retail and art shops in town have wine, live music, and local artists," she says. "There are flower boxes outside local businesses, and people gather at the local coffee shops to connect."
This is a great spot to visit in the summer months, Carlton explains, thanks to the mild temperatures, the weekly farmers' market, and a rodeo in July. You can also visit nearby Yellowstone National Park if you're looking for a romantic hiking spot or to just get lost in nature.
The female lead in a Hallmark movie is often traveling during the holiday season, and they sometimes need to be reminded of what the Christmas spirit is really all about. We've just wrapped up those festivities, but you can still plan a visit to Petoskey, Michigan, in the coming months, according to Pam Howard, owner and author of the travel blog Our Adventure is Everywhere.
"In the winter, there is plenty of snow everywhere, and the downtown is beautifully decorated for the holidays," Howard says. She shares that while she was visiting, "light, fluffy snow started falling," and she told her travel companion that it felt like they'd stepped into a Hallmark movie.
"There are dozens of adorable shops, several comfortable coffee shops, and plenty of delicious and cozy restaurants," Howard adds. You can also explore nearby ski resorts for a "wintery vacation feel."
"Grab a hot chai latte at Roast & Toast and wander into the nearby bookstore to browse after spending a morning on the slopes," she recommends. "In the winter, the town has 'Hallmark movie' written all over it!"
CORRECTION: Petoskey is located on Lake Michigan. An earlier version of this post misstated the lake. We regret the error.