Best Small Town In Every State—Where You Might Next Live, Work & Play

January 11, 2022

With people becoming less enticed by the idea of crowded living and hustle culture, many are opting for life in small towns. The U.S. has loads of them—all great places to feel a little more connected to nature. Here is the best one in every state, and places to eat there (whether they be vegan restaurants or places that offer options that are seriously delicious):

Alabama- Fairhope

This coastal town is a lovely place to enjoy seaside views and art galleries. It’s often called the “jewel of the Eastern Shore” due to its beauty, and its perfectly sandy beaches have earned it awards throughout the years as one of the most best small towns in the country. Enjoy the ocean, browse through artist-owned shops, walk along the pier, explore the French Quarter, grab a book in one of the little book shops, and of course—watch the sunset over the gulf.

Where to eat: The Hope Farm 

Alaska- Talkeetna

Where art meets nature, this quirky small town in Alaska is a must-see for everyone visiting the state. As the jumping off point to Denali, it is a perfect place for those wanting to connect with the wild, but the downtown is also lovely. Enjoy the art galleries, breweries, and historic architecture. Book a cabin overlooking the Susitna River, or in the vast forests near the edge of town, and enjoy the amazing views!

Where to eat: Conscious Coffee

Arizona- Carefree

This tiny town in the desert is famous for its beauty. Enjoy the unique boulder formations and brightly colored rocks everywhere on a hike, or hang out in the hip town. Their sundial in the town garden is the largest in the country! There are a plethora of spas, art galleries, and yoga studios where you can connect with your body after a peaceful hike in the desert—the best way to relax!

Where to eat: Terras at CIVANA

Arkansas- Eureka Springs

The streets in this mountain town are cliff-side and filled with gorgeous Victorian homes. It’s so beautiful that it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The streets are lined with boutiques, art galleries, and street art. There are festivals year around, tree houses and cabins to sleep in, and plenty of nearby hikes to embark on.

Where to eat: Ermilio’s 

California- Carmel-by-the-Sea

This is one of the best places in the country for those who love the sea. Carmel boasts beautiful beaches, colorful sunsets, gardens, and a vibrant artist community. Wander through the stunning art galleries, feast on local produce, and soak up the therapeutic sea air. This is the ideal town to slow down in.

Where to eat: Julia’s

Colorado- Paonia

Famous for its peonies and fruit trees, this small town in a river valley is absolutely beautiful. It’s best enjoyed during wildflower season, but all year round visitors can enjoy mountain views, a number of gorgeous wineries, and lots of hiking trails. It’s an awesome place to get some fresh air!

Where to eat: The Simple Cafe

Connecticut- Essex

This tiny coastal village constantly gets awards for its beauty and historic preservation, and is considered to be the best small town in the country by many. Enjoy colonial-era architecture, festivities such as Burning of the Ships Day, gardens, and river views. This is a great place to connect with the past, and get a taste of life from centuries back.

Where to eat: Privateers Pizza and Provisions

Delaware- Lewes

Founded in 1631, this historic seaside town sits on Cape Henlopen. Their beaches are amazing for sunrise watching, seashell collecting, and dolphins! Browse through the art gallery, antique shops, and lovely storefronts in between days spent on the sandy shores.

Where to eat: Surf Bagel

Florida- Anna Maria Island

Anna Maria Island is surrounded by turquoise waters and covered in white sand beaches. It’s pretty hard to beat. Visitors can enjoy the stunning ocean views and wildlife, while also getting to enjoy a gallery-filled, laid back, kayak-friendly town! The beach market is also a treasure in Anna Maria, and should not be missed.

Where to eat: Beach Bistro (ask for the vegan menu!)

Georgia- Jekyll Island

Jekyll

This is the best town in the state for seaside views, sunrises, and amazing wildlife! Visitors can watch dolphins from the shore, or help sea turtles at the local rehabilitation center. Kayaking, biking, and paddle boarding are all ideal activities for the little island town thanks to the well preserved coastal areas. Jekyll Island is an incredible place to learn about sea creatures and slow down in nature.

Where to eat: Eighty Ocean Kitchen and Bar

Hawaii- Haleiwa

This is the ideal place for those who love to surf! If not, it’s still a gorgeous beach town filled with good food, amazing sunset views, and art galleries! Make time for the beach and enjoying the town, because neither will disappoint.

Where to eat: The Cosmic Kitchen

Idaho- Sandpoint

One of the most beautiful towns in the country, Sandpoint offers sparkling mountain lake views and endless wilderness. The town is home to numerous festivals, and the surrounding wild places are fantastic for cross country skiing and other outdoor activities. Downtown, enjoy the city beach, breweries, and outdoors stores!

Where to eat: City Beach Organics

Illinois- Galena

This quirky small town in Illinois is perfect for those wanting to enjoy river views, kayaking, and a number of wineries! Take it easy, and let the charm of this small town help you to relax and unwind. Visitors can expect both quality time in nature and fun nights out in the trolley-driven streets of Galena.

Where to eat: Vinny Vanucchi’s

Indiana- Winona Lake

The little lakeside town is ideal for those who enjoy water sports, but the shores have a lot to offer as well! It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to the beautifully preserved cottages that fill the town. It’s a great place to walk, slow down, and watch a good sunset over the lake.

Where to eat: Cerulean

Iowa- Pella

Known for being modeled after a Dutch canal town, this is a fun place to feel like you’ve traveled to Europe. There is a big windmill, a famous tulip festival, and stunning Dutch architecture everywhere you look. Enjoy the boutiques, good bread, and friendly atmosphere.

Where to eat: Liberty Street Kitchen

Kansas- Cottonwood Falls

As the home of the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, this town is ideal for those wanting to visit the prairie and get a taste of the beauty of the Midwest. The town itself is also lovely, with its French architecture and famous courthouse.

Where to eat: Grand Grill

Kentucky- Bardstown

With plenty of art galleries, 11 bourbon distilleries, and a stagecoach stop built in 1779, this is the ultimate Southern small town. Visit the local forest and arboretum for some centering time in nature, or go bourbon tasting! There are so many options in this beautiful town.

Where to eat: Scout and Scholar

Louisiana- Covington

This spot is not too far from New Orleans, but it holds its own as far as tourism goes. This town has loads of art galleries, breweries, quirky little shops, flower-covered balconies, a great farmers market, and museums. It’s been the setting of films thanks to its beauty, and is considered by many to be the most beautiful town in the state.

Where to eat: Toad Hollow Cafe

Maine- Rockport

This artists’ hub in the Northern state is as picturesque as it is full of creative spirit. Enjoy incredible sunrise views over the sea, lighthouses, rocky shores, and a lovely downtown. It’s a magical spot on the coast, and it’s somewhere everyone needs to visit at least once in their lives.

Where to eat: La Bella Vita

Maryland- St. Michaels

This isolated town sits on the eastern shore of Maryland, and is absolutely beautiful. It’s the best place to enjoy secluded sea views, kayaking, a nautical museum, famous filming locations, shops, and local seaside culture. Take it easy, grab a drink, and take a walk on the beach. It’s the best place for it.

Where to eat: Ava’s Pizzeria and Wine Bar

Massachusetts- Concord

There are so many gorgeous tiny towns that speckle the state, but Concord is especially great. Come here for the rich colonial-era history, famous authors’ houses, the famous Walden Pond, and quaint shop fronts. Visit the Old North Bridge, Orchard House, and the stunning woods all around. It’s the best place to enjoy both history and nature.

Where to eat: Haute Coffee

Michigan- Mackinac Island

Famous as the setting of Somewhere in Time, this little town lives up to the hype. The Grand Hotel is just as stunning as it was in the film, and there are no cars allowed on the island. It’s an awesome place to take long walks or bike rides, take in sparkling blue views of the lake, and of course—enjoy the romantic town itself.

Where to eat: Main Dining Room at Grand Hotel

Minnesota- Ely

With so many beautiful towns in the state, it’s hard to narrow down which is the best, but Ely stands out. The Northern Lights can be seen easily, and it is an outdoors-person’s paradise thanks to all the nature and kayaking. The town is filled with outdoors stores, and is surrounded by pines. Talk about a perfect place to unwind.

Where to eat:  Northern Grounds

Mississippi- Bay St. Louis

Thanks to its glittering ocean views, eclectic art shops and galleries, numerous piers, and local creativity, this is the best small town in the state. It’s refreshingly artsy compared to most of the rest of the state, and it’s the perfect place to feel inspired by the galleries, and rejuvenated by the sea. It’s a perfect balance.

Where to eat: Mockingbird Cafe

Missouri- Kimmswick

Famous for its numerous festivals, this tiny town is ideal for those who want a taste of local culture. There are plenty of parks, unique shops, and an apple butter pavilion. It’s a great place to enjoy a laid back pace of life.

Where to eat: LaChance Vineyards

Montana- Whitefish

Surrounded by pristine snowy mountains, this little town in Northern Montana is perfect for those who love hiking. The forests all around it are stunning, and Glacier National Park is right there. On top of that, the town itself is scenic thanks to the wooden storefronts, art galleries, ski resorts, and coffee shops galore!

Where to eat: The Wich Haus

Nebraska- Chadron

Sitting on the edge of a huge pine forest, this quaint little town is great for connecting with the landscape. There are plenty of hiking trails, museums, wellness centers, and of course—amazing views of the rolling hills.

Where to eat: Bean Broker Coffee House and Pub

Nevada- Incline Village

This little town is on the banks of Lake Tahoe’s incredibly blue waters. It’s a fantastic place for water sports, lakeside walks, and enjoying the smells of pines and highlands. In a state of deserts, it’s really hard to beat.

Where to eat: Mountain High Sandwich Co.

New Hampshire- Hanover

With the Appalachian Trail running through this college town, it’s an idyllic place to be if you love nature. Enjoy views of the Connecticut River, kayaking, snowy mountains, museums, art centers, breweries, and plenty of parks!

Where to eat: Pine

New Jersey- Cape May

This is an awesome spot if you love Victorian houses, boardwalks, sea views, and perfect beaches. Come for the sea, and stay for the lovely downtown filled with darling homes!

Where to eat: The Mad Batter

New Mexico- Taos

It’s no wonder this town has inspired artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams—it’s gorgeous! Located in the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the views are to die for (and have earned the town numerous global awards). The Taos Art Museum is incredible for art lovers, and everyone should visit the Taos Pueblo that dates back 1,000 years- a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Where to eat: Manzanita Market

New York- Trumansburg

This village is filled with farm-to-table cafes, gothic architecture, pubs, boutiques, and great cider spots! It’s also surrounded by a stunning forest, and offers plunging waterfall views and endless hiking trails. It’s like something out of a storybook.

Where to eat: Atlas Bowl

North Carolina– Ocracoke

Well

Known for its pirate history and amazing beaches, Ocracoke is a little town in the Outer Banks that you won’t want to miss. Enjoy kayaking, swimming, shopping in the historic downtown, and watching the sunrise over the wildlife-filled waters. Make sure to visit the famous pirate well that served at their meeting spot, as well as the beach along that trail for the best swimming area!

Where to eat: Dajio

North Dakota- Medora

Medora is a great place to go on prairie hikes, learn about Theodore Roosevelt (a Medora enthusiast), and enjoying the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It’s a remote town worth visiting.

Where to eat: Theodores Dining Room

Ohio- Yellow Springs

This little town has a reputation for being a hippie town thanks to its progressive residents, laid-back vibe, and artsy shops. It’s a fantastic spot to explore nature at as well, being close to a number of good hiking trails.

Where to eat: The Greene Canteen

Oklahoma- Pawhuska

This prairie-side town is great for enjoying…the prairie! The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is there, making it a beautiful place to connect with that ecosystem! The town itself is also adorable, rightfully attracting celebrities nonstop.

Where to eat: P-Town Pizza (order a pizza without cheese)

Oregon- Cannon Beach

Despite the numerous awesome small towns in the state, it would be impossible to not name Cannon Beach as the best of them. There’s a reason it’s become so popular in recent years, with its jaw-dropping ocean views, scenic beaches, and beautiful shingled cottages lining the coast.

Where to eat: Mi Corazon Mexican Cuisine

Pennsylvania- New Hope

New Hope is filled with eclectic shops, beautiful dining on the river, an amazing theatre (that has hosted some of the best performers in American history), and endless bed and breakfasts. It’s a lovely place to enjoy a slower pace of life.

Where to eat: Sprig and Vine

Rhode Island- Watch Hill

This is a surreal place—it’s that beautiful! Numerous celebrities have had homes here throughout the years, and it’s easy to see why. The beach is impeccable, the historic yellow hotel on the hill is almost magical, the art galleries are filled with gorgeous work, and the sea is sparkling. It’s impossible to beat.

Where to eat: Coast

South Carolina- Beaufort

Rich with history and waterfront views, this colonial town is as beautiful as it is interesting. Numerous films have been filmed here thanks to its picturesque setting and town, making it ideal for film buffs. Sitting on an island, it offers visitors an awesome getaway at sea.

Where to eat: Herban Market and Cafe

South Dakota- Custer

Located in the beautiful Black Hills, this town is great for those who want to get closer to nature. Visitors can see roaming buffalo herds, a sweeping forest, and endless skies. The town itself is historic, and offers lots of quaint shops to enjoy.

Where to eat: Skogen Kitchen (they will make you a vegan dish upon request)

Tennessee- Gatlinburg

Gatlinburg is ideal for those who love to hike, with it being nestled in the Smoky Mountains. Rent a cabin, explore the woods, and drink in those mountain views in between enjoying the boutique-filled downtown. It’s a fantastic little town!

Where to eat: Whole Earth Cafe

Texas- Dripping Springs

Famed for its surreal swimming hole, this place is absolutely beautiful. Known as the “Gateway to the Hill Country”, the surrounding landscape is serene. Visitors can explore the numerous wildlife areas, parks, and trails, or explore the downtown filled with historic buildings and eclectic shops! It’s an awesome place to be.

Where to eat: Skull and Cakebones

Utah- Logan

logan

Situated up in Cache Valley in northern Utah, this town is surrounded by nature. Visitors can expect panoramic mountains, insanely colorful sunsets, and endless hikes in the hills, canyons, and mountains. The town itself is a cultural hub for granolas, artists, singers, and actors.

Where to eat: Le Nonne

Vermont– Woodstock

Not even pictures do this town justice—it’s like a postcard in real life. The famous covered bridge, dollhouse-like homes, babbling river, surrounding woods, incredible bookshop, coffee shops, and fantastic farmers market make this town the best.

Where to eat: Woodstock Farmers Market

woodstock

Virginia– Middleburg

The entire state is dotted with beautiful small towns and historic villages, so narrowing it down to one is close to impossible. Middleburg stands out however for its stunning historic main street, surrounding rolling countryside, views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, boutiques, and local wine.

Where to eat: The Red Fox Inn and Tavern

Washington– Anacortes

Anacortes

This scenic town on Fidalgo Island offers mind-blowing views of the Salish Sea, Mount Baker, and surrounding islands. The downtown is filled with art galleries, boutiques, bookshops, and espresso bars! Take a hike in their swath of preserved forest lands, swim in one of the island’s lakes, take a dip at the beach, gather sea glass and shells along the shores, and watch the sunset from Washington Park. They also have an unbeatable farmers market in the summer, so be sure to visit if you’re there during the season!

Where to eat: Gere-A-Deli

West Virginia- Shepherdstown

This college town in the mountains is quirky, colorful, and nature-filled! This is an awesome spot for those wanting a good hike and a great coffee in the same day. The bookstore in town is incredible, downtown is adorable, and the river offers great views.

Where to eat: Rainbow Connection Cafe

Wisconsin- Cambridge

Known for pottery and all things art, Cambridge is ideal for those who consider themselves artists (in actuality or at heart). There are also good trails, a beautiful lake, boutiques, and adorable houses.

Where to eat: Cambridge Market Cafe

Wyoming- Jackson Hole

Would it even be reasonable to name another town? Jackson Hole is famous for good reason. The surrounding views of the huge mountains, beautiful river, and endless art galleries make this town sublime for every type of visitor.

Where to eat: Cultivate Cafe

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Photo: Emily Iris Degn

Emily Iris Degn
Emily Iris Degn is an environmental travel writer, editor, passionate eco-journalist, professional artist, and published eco-poet. She is from the San Juan Islands, but currently lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her incredible partner and beloved sea shell collection. You can find her in many spaces on Instagram: @emilyirisdegn @happyvegansfeed @emfallstoearth @emilydegnart OR at emilyirisdegn.com.

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