8 Small Towns in the U.S. That Feel Like You're in a Hallmark Movie
If you love cozy romances, you'll want to check out these charming spots.
With both fall and winter fast approaching, many of us are already preparing for festive celebrations, cozy season, and, of course, Hallmark movies. Some call them cringey, while others find them charming—we think they're simply one of the greatest guilty pleasures. One of the most common features of these made-for-TV movies is a big-city corporate gal returning to her hometown, or an otherwise remote and surprisingly charming 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 cardigan and embrace the Hallmark atmosphere in these eight small towns.
READ THIS NEXT: 10 Small Towns in the U.S. That Feel Like Stepping Back in Time.
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, including 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 Christmas movie plot. "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 explains, 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 the 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.
For more travel advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
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 ambience 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, tells Best Life. "[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 sees 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!"
Head to the Northeast and 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 through 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 and boutique shops and small businesses," she says. "Make sure to walk along the river by the Connecticut River Museum and watch sailboats bobbing in the water."
Crescenti 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," she adds. You may find it's the perfect setting for you to stumble upon the handyman with the heart of gold, or the handsome yet troubled bartender.
READ THIS NEXT: The 10 Best U.S. Cities to Visit If You Love Old Houses.
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 explains "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 the hustle and bustle of the 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.
READ THIS NEXT: The 8 Most Charming Towns in the U.S. for a Fall Getaway.
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, tells Best Life. "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 opt to visit nearby Yellowstone National Park if you're looking for 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. Pam Howard, owner and author of the travel blog Our Adventure is Everywhere, explains that you too can have this feeling when visiting Petoskey, Michigan, located on Lake Michigan.
"In the winter, there is plenty of snow everywhere, and the downtown is beautifully decorated for the holidays," Howard explains. 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 opt to 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.