Skip to content

7 Small Towns in the U.S. That Will Make You Feel Like You're in a Fairy Tale

Whimsical town centers, dreamy views, and magical vibes await at these destinations.

Traveling internationally often means you get a chance to encounter towns and landmarks with long and storied histories. Think castle-dotted green pastures in Ireland, magnificent shrines in the East, and cobblestone English streets lined with flowering pathways and candy-colored buildings.

What many people don't realize is that you can get a similar whimsical experience right here in the U.S. by visiting one of the countless destinations that feel like you've stepped back in time. To plan your next dreamy getaway, read on to learn about the best small towns in the U.S. that will make you feel like you're in a fairy tale, from romantic seaside villages to tiny hamlets inspired by European charm.

READ THIS NEXT: 10 U.S. Cities That Will Make You Think You're in Europe.

7 Small Towns That Feel Like You're in a Fairy Tale

1. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel by the Sea

Even the name of this coastal California town feels like it was taken from a page of a fairy tale. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a stunning beachside village perched on the Monterey Peninsula that was founded in 1902. The quaint town is only one square mile, which means it's very walkable and easy to explore in a day or two.

Carmel is best known for its picturesque Ocean Bluff Path, white sandy beaches, and cozy village center that's chock-full of tasty local cuisine and English-style cottages. And you can't go wrong with any of the local boutique hotels or bed and breakfasts.

2. Leavenworth, Washington

Leavenworth Washington
randy andy/Shutterstock

Tucked away in the dreamy Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth, Washington is a small, historic ski village with cheery Bavarian roots. This scenic town will fill you with the wonder of the old world and is the place to go if you want to throw back some good German beer, explore quaint wineries, and chow down on hearty European fare.

Along with food and drinks, I recommend checking out the Nutcracker Museum and spending some time shopping. Depending on your timing, you may even catch one of the town's traditional European-inspired celebrations or festivals.

For more travel advice delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

3. Tarrytown, New York

View of the Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown, New York, which looks like a historic castle.
Alexander Friedman / Shutterstock

You know you're in a legit fairy-tale town when an actual castle exists. Enter Tarrytown, New York, a village in Westchester County that's located along the eastern front of the Hudson River. Tarrytown is home to the gorgeous Lyndhurst Mansion, built in 1842, which is quite literally a castle that's open to the public for tours, exhibitions, special events, and live theater.

And if one castle isn't enough for you, the town's actually got two! Castle Hotel & Spa has all the makings of an authentic castle even though it was only built in 1997. You'd think these giant landmarks would feel out of place, but they blend right into the surroundings of this historic town.

4. Galena, Illinois

A view of Galena, Illinois in the fall.
Nejdet Duzen / Shutterstock

Smack dab in the middle of the country in Galena, Illinois, you can find a picture-perfect fairy-tale setting that'll have you in awe. Galena is a small, historic town located just a couple hours outside of Chicago and is known for its 19th-century architecture, rolling hills, and delightful, shop-lined streets.

In a way, it feels like the charming riverside town is frozen in time, which is only enhanced by its horse-drawn carriage rides, historic trolleys, and artisanal stores and boutiques that showcase everything from hand-thrown pottery to watercolor paintings and homemade food.

READ THIS NEXT: The 10 Prettiest Small Towns in the U.S.

5. Frankenmuth, Michigan

Bavarian-style architecture in Frankenmuth, Michigan.
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock

Also in the Midwest, you'll find Frankenmuth, Michigan, a vacation destination that's become famous for its authentic Bavarian-style architecture and Germanic roots. In fact, Frankenmuth has been aptly dubbed "Michigan's Own Little Bavaria."

Here, you can enjoy activities like carriage rides, riverboat tours, and antique and boutique shops inside castle-like buildings. Try to time your travel to catch the town's authentic Bavarian Festival, Oktoberfest, or its epic Christmas decorations for an old-fashioned good time. (It's home to the largest Christmas store in the world, making it an especially popular destination for holiday travels.)

Also, the town's phone number is 1-800-FUN-TOWN, so you know they're serious about making sure you have a great time.

6. Tyringham, Massachusetts

Tyringham Massachusetts
Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

Established in 1739, Tyringham, Massachusetts has all the makings of a small fairy-tale town, and we're lucky to have it right here in the U.S. Snuggled in Berkshire County, Tyringham is home to its very own "Gingerbread House," a large shingled cottage on the Santarella estate that could have probably inspired all those whimsical drawings you've run into in your favorite books. The unique architecture and sprawling gardens make for a relaxing and charming getaway.

Tyringham is also unique for its lack of businesses. Yep, no commercial businesses, shopping centers, or even banks are allowed in the town, which helps preserve that old-timey atmosphere. Instead, you can relish in nature's beauty and enjoy some of the town's special events.

Tyringhamn's relaxed, simple atmosphere has made it a go-to destination for creative types, including prominent figures such as Mark Twain and sculptor Henry Hudson Kitson.

7. Stonington, Maine

Stonington Maine

Anyone who craves a seaside getaway will fall in love with the fairy-tale town of Stonington, Maine. This tiny village is located on the very end of a remote peninsula and is home to fishermen, artists, and nature lovers. The town's beloved for its scenic waterfront, coastal charm, and historic 19th-century architecture, and it offers a plethora of picture-perfect bed and breakfasts, tasty local fare, and beautiful landscapes.

While it makes sense to visit in the summer, don't sleep on this gorgeous seaside escape come winter. The quaint town is stunning in the chilly months when the entire harbor becomes covered in a blanket of snow. In the evening, the sun sets over the harbor, lighting the whole town in beautiful sunset hues.

Wendy Gould
Wendy Rose Gould is a veteran freelance lifestyle reporter based in Phoenix, Arizona. She covers travel, wellness, pets, and beauty. Read more
Filed Under