9 Small Towns Straight Out of a Norman Rockwell Painting
They'll make you feel like you've stepped back in time.
There is perhaps no artist whose works summons Americana more than Norman Rockwell. His images remind us of a time when people interacted more. A period of American life when shopkeepers and barbers became family friends. Norman Rockwell used his art to conjure the charm and beauty of life in small towns in a way that hasn't been replicated since.
You may not be able to travel back in time, but if you're waxing nostalgic for the classic life that Norman Rockwell depicted, look no further. Our experts have put together a list of small towns that look like they're out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
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The Most Nostalgic Small Towns in the U.S.
1. Lexington, Virginia
Lexington, Virginia is a historic community lined with brick sidewalks and brick buildings dating back as early as 1823. Patty Williams of Lexington and Rockbridge Area Tourism says it looks something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. "Overflowing flowerpots, fanciful storefront windows, red brick sidewalks, and friendly faces are what makes Lexington, Virginia, as pretty as a postcard," says Williams. "Our small town… reconnects visitors to a slower time and place. Hidden gems like horse-drawn carriages, country stores, and historic mills harken to the idyllic nostalgia of the Americana lifestyle of the past."
2. Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
It is easy to imagine that the quaint small towns of Wisconsin's Door County peninsula sprung to life from a Norman Rockwell painting. Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan, each community is known for picturesque main streets full of shops, restaurants, and lovely architecture Jon Jarosh of Destination Door County says this is especially true of Sturgeon Bay. "Sturgeon Bay provides visitors a step back in time as they walk through a downtown filled with shops, taverns, restaurants, and businesses in a city that was founded in 1883." The town is also home to Renard's Cheese, one of the best places to sample Wisconsin cheese in the entire state.
3. Okoboji, Iowa
Jessica O'Riley with Travel Iowa says Okoboji looks like it was painted by the hand of Norman Rockwell. "We know that Norman Rockwell was loved for his authentic capture of culture and visual storytelling that brought it to life," she says. "This location, in the heart of the Midwest, brings Americana to life for all who visit." The area is also a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts who come to play in the lakes in the summer and go snowmobiling and ice fishing in the winter. In summer, be sure to check out the nearby Arnolds Park, an amusement park on the shores of the lake.
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4. Schuyler, Virginia
Maureen Kelley of Nelson County Tourism in Virginia says the historic village of Schuyler, has the feel of a Norman Rockwell painting. "Nelson County's village of Schuyler has been a must-visit for nature lovers, history buffs, and fans of 'The Waltons' television show," she says. "The Schuyler Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and there's a lot of interesting things to learn, see, and do in the former company town. 'The Waltons' certainly put Schuyler on the map with Earl Hamner Jr.'s retelling of a large, rural family's experiences during the Great Depression."
5. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Matt James of Vistingly has traveled extensively throughout small towns in the U.S., but Harpers Ferry, West Virginia stands out for being particularly picturesque. "Harpers Ferry is a small town with a big history," he says. "[It] was the site of a pivotal moment in the Civil War, and it's also where you'll find the remains of a historic arms factory. Today, Harpers Ferry is a popular tourist destination, thanks to its many historical sites and its scenic location at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers." Be sure to check out Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to immerse yourself in nature and the area's fascinating history.
6. Hillsborough, North Carolina
James also believes the little community of Hillsborough, North Carolina belongs on this list. "Hillsborough is a small town in North Carolina that looks like it could be straight out of a Rockwell painting," he says. The historic town has a gorgeous downtown area, complete with a quaint courthouse and plenty of charming shops and restaurants. It is also home to the oldest college in North Carolina, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a thriving community of artists and writers. Plus, its historic district features more than 100 historic buildings.
7. Magnolia Springs, Alabama
Magnolia Springs, Alabama is as beautiful as the images conjured by its descriptive name. Jenny Ly of Go Wanderly says the picturesque hamlet reminds her of a Norman Rockwell painting of small-town America. "The epitome of a small town is Magnolia Springs, which was given its name in honor of the majestic magnolia trees that line the Magnolia River and provide a stunning canopy," she says. "The town in the South has a long history that dates to the 1800s when the Spanish established a settlement there." Magnolia Springs is also famous for being the only place in the United States with a river route where the mail is delivered by boat.
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8. Hayward, Wisconsin
Chris Ruckdaschel of the Hayward area chamber of commerce says Hayward, Wisconsin is a small town that summons the spirit of a Norman Rockwell painting. He says,
"Our community of Hayward, Wisconsin represents in many ways an ideal of America, and the very type of place one wishes to raise a family, make loyal friends, and create lifelong memories," says Chris Ruckdaschel of the Hayward area chamber of commerce. "In Hayward we know our neighbors, we help other community members and causes without hesitation, and we recognize and are grateful for how lucky our everyday quality of life is." Add to that, a picturesque setting and a charming main street and it's no wonder visitors flock there during the holidays for shopping and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
9. Lindsborg, Kansas
Lindsborg Kansas is known as the Little Sweden of the Plains. Much like a Norman Rockwell painting, Holly Lofton, director of the Lindsborg Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the town is known for making visitors feel like they've stepped back in time. It has an abundance of charming shops and restaurants filled with the types of friendly folks depicted in a Norman Rockwell painting. After you've had your fill of exploring downtown, be sure to take a drive to the Prarie Trail Scenic Byway and hike through the stunning Horsethief Canyon at nearby Kanapolis State Park.