Home For Travelers "Best of" Lists 12 Charming Small Towns to Escape it All

12 Charming Small Towns to Escape it All

Often overshadowed by nearby metropolises, America’s most charming small towns prove that bigger isn’t always better. Offering unrivaled peace and quiet and captivating local attractions, they provide travelers with the ultimate escape from the mundane of day-to-day responsibilities. Sounds pretty great, right?

Because small towns don’t always get as much mention as classic vacation destinations like Orlando or Wailea, we’ve rounded up the best in the country and ranked them in order of the most bookings on FlipKey in 2016. From the unspoiled beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains to the striking shores of Washington, there’s a small town for every traveler on our list. With less than 100 vacation rentals available in each place and populations under 60,000, these are the most popular destinations for travelers looking to live like a local. 

12. St. George Island, FL

Florida beach houses that overlook the Gulf of Mexico on St. George Island.

Surrounded by the Gulf of Mexico, just off the coast of the Florida Panhandle, St. George Island offers visitors miles of pristine beaches, untouched natural beauty in a charming seaside setting. Bask in the sun at the beach or sip a mai tai at an oceanside bar. Rain or shine, this island has endless opportunities for fun.

Stay in St. George Island, FL

11. Gettysburg, PA

American Civil War bronze cannon weathered with age to a pale greenish hue rests at at Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, USA.

Known for Gettysburg National Battlefield and its well-preserved Civil War-era homes, storefronts and taverns, Gettysburg is a city steeped in history. Discover the local history by exploring the Gettysburg Museum of History or taking a ghost tour through the area. If history doesn’t pique your interest, enjoy a wine tasting at a nearby winery or get your adrenaline pumping on an outdoor adventure through the surrounding countryside.

Stay in Gettysburg, PA

10. Laguna Beach, CA

Rocky cliffs with palm trees fill the leftside foreground leading back to beach and breaking surf of Laguna Beach, California.

Laguna Beach is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Set along the picturesque shores of the Pacific Ocean, the area’s beaches are its main attraction. Snorkel and body-surf at Main Beach or make friends with the locals for a game of beach volleyball. In the afternoon, reapply sunscreen and go for a walk at Heisler Park. Once the sun sets, stroll the charming streets for window shopping and a hip place for dinner.

Stay in Laguna Beach, CA

9. Livingston, MT

Historic center of Livingston near Yellowstone National Park.

Book a vacation home on the range and plan your adventure in Livingston. This small town’s natural beauty is always on display as it’s situated on the banks of the Yellowstone River and surrounded by majestic mountains. You’ll feel a million miles away from your everyday worries during your trip to Livingston.

Stay in Livingston, MT

8. Cape Ann, MA

Rockport is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Boston at the tip of the Cape Ann peninsula.

Just 30 miles from Boston, Cape Ann feels a million miles away. Home to four coastal communities – Essex, Gloucester, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Rockport – the area offers some of New England’s finest beaches and most charming town centers. Inhale the refreshing, salty air, snap a selfie in front of a lighthouse or lose track of time at a museum. Cape Ann is guaranteed to be a good time.

Stay in Cape Ann, MA

7. Hilo, HI

Rainbow Falls in Hilo, Hawaii at Wailuku River State Park.

From black, brown and white sand beaches to snow-capped volcanos, Hilo’s unrivaled landscape has something for every traveler. Climb to the top of Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa for panoramic island views, follow trails through the thick of the rainforest to a secluded waterfall or simply plant yourself on a beach, shaved ice in hand.

Stay in Hilo, HI

6. Whidbey Island, WA

Fishing boat entering Deception Pass from Puget Sound on Whidbey Island, WA.

Tempted by the thought of an island getaway? Then plan a trip to Whidbey Island, a picturesque vacation destination in the Puget Sound. Wide-open beaches and scenic nature reserves provide unmatched settings for memorable outdoor adventures.

Retreat to this island any time of year and stay steps from the water’s edge to enjoy its total tranquility.

Stay in Whidbey Island, WA

5. Hot Springs, AR

City traffic in Hot Springs, AR. Central Avenue is a hot spot for shopping and dining.

Hot Springs’ visitors will enjoy a wealth of natural beauty and Southern charm during their stay. The city is set among several hot springs for which the city is named for and many attractions are set within the area’s beautiful landscape. Whether you explore the Ouachita Mountains on foot or discover this small town’s storied history, Hot Springs is a must-visit.

Stay in Hot Springs, AR

4. Logan, OH

Hocking River at sunrise in October

The perfect balance of small town charm and big city conveniences, Logan is an ideal place for a weekend getaway. Its quaint Main Street offers a variety of diners and shops, while the outskirts of town boast refreshing relaxation. Roam the wilderness of nearby Hocking Hills State Park during the day and cozy up around the fire in a Logan vacation home in the evening.

Stay in Logan, OH

3. Wildwood, NJ

Ferris Wheel and roller coaster silhouette at sunset. Taken in Wildwood, New Jersey.

Wildwood is home to delightful seaside attractions and some of the best beaches on the Jersey Shore. Visit during the summer months to soak up sun and stroll barefoot along the boardwalk. During the off-season, take advantage of lower rental prices and take in the piece of Americana that is Wildwood.

Stay in Wildwood, NJ

2. Maggie Valley, NC

Yellow flowers with mountains in the distance in the Smoky Mountains near Maggie Valley, North Carolina.

Maggie Valley has it all: trickling streams, rugged mountains, a vibrant town center and so much more. Whether you desire a high-energy mountain adventure or a relaxing stay amidst nature, this small town destination should be on your bucket list. Explore the network of hiking trails that wind through the area, wine and dine at local restaurants and breathe in the fresh mountain air of Maggie Valley.

Stay in Maggie Valley, NC

1. Townsend, TN

A view of the Great Smoky Mountains from Look Rock in Townsend, TN.

Just a short drive from the popular tourist destinations of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Townsend is a quiet mountain town ideal for escaping it all. It lies along the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and boasts an abundance of things to do among the area’s breathtaking natural beauty. Whether you hike up a mountain or go tubing down a river, there’s never a dull moment here!

Stay in Townsend, TN