When you’ve taken in the wonders of America’s national parks, painted deserts, and windswept coastlines, turn your eye towards visiting some of the country’s most beautiful small towns. Enjoy your time in a vacation rental as you soak up an idyllic life that moves at a slower pace, situated in places that are framed by gorgeous backgrounds. In these small towns, you can find an unmistakable local flavor. Take a look at a few of our favorites to start you on your way.

1. Dahlonega, Georgia

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Gwringle

Despite its eastern location, this small town with a population of less than 7,000 was the site of the first gold rush in the U.S. You can tour the numerous wineries for which this area is renowned and sit for hours by the spectacular waterfalls in the vicinity. If fishing is your sport, bring your gear because trout are begging to go home with you.

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2. Beaufort, South Carolina

Source: Wikimedia Commons / Elisa.rolle

Stroll through town and admire the abundance of antebellum homes that speak of the town’s historical significance. Beaufort, following Charleston, is the second oldest city in the state, and it was the setting used during the filming of Forrest Gump. Beaufort sits on Port Royal Island, so you can get your fill of water sports such as boating and fishing.

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3. Eureka Spings, Arkansas

Source: Flickr / jamestheroo12

Stroll this burg’s downtown streets and mingle with the very happy 2,100 residents. The gingerbread-style homes perfectly complement downtown’s quaint collection of mom and pop stores, craft shops, and small taverns. Beaver Lake, just minutes away, is a boater’s paradise and if you love bass, you can catch plenty in one of the best lakes in the Ozarks.

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4. Helen, Georgia

Source: Flickr / Robert Lz

Turn onto main street in this Blue Ridge Mountain wine country town and morph into the mindset of drinking beer in a German Alps biergarten and eating chocolates from the finest chocolatiers. Helen is on the Chattahoochee river, so renting a vacation rental with fishing, rafting and hiking right outside your door is not only possible, but irresistible.

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5. Hoopers Island, Maryland

Source: Flickr / rashida s. mar b.

If you love shrimp, this tiny, off-the-beaten path village has the freshest seafood in the state. If you want to see how oysters are hatched, raised, and shucked head to the Oyster Aquaculture Company. Work off all the calories you consume while tasting the best crab dishes at Old Salty’s with kayaking, biking, or paddleboarding in tranquility at the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

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6. Traverse City, Michigan

Source: Flickr / marada

Venture forth from a well-appointed lakeshore vacation rental and taste some great world-class pinots and cutting-edge ice wine in the region’s vineyards. if beer is your preference, this town’s local breweries are top notch. It’s hard to resist the gorgeous beaches, so don’t. They are magnificent.

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7. Valentine, Nebraska

Source: Wiki / Ammodramus

Smack on the middle of the Midwest plains, Valentine feels like a rainforest with six ecological systems nestled together on the shores of the Niobrara River. Visit the state’s tallest waterfall at Smith Falls River State Park, and watch the prairie dogs and bison share turf at the wildlife refuge.

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8. Elko, Nevada

Source: Flickr / Ethan

Elko is one of Nevada’s hidden gems. It’s Nevada’s answer to a Rocky mountain getaway but without the high prices and pesky tourists. Elko has an artistic soul, and you can shop for artisan-quality photos, art and crafts along the streets. Commune with nature, take a hike, or do some off-road ATV riding just a few miles to the south in the Ruby Mountains.

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9. Portsmouth, New Hampsire

Portsmouth was founded in 1623, so it’s one of the oldest towns in the country. Take a harbor cruise or tour the historic homes along the waterfront, and don’t miss shopping on Market Street. None of what you do while here is complete without a stop at a top-notch local brewery such as Smuttynose or Stoneface.

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10. Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Source: Flickr / Sam Howzit

Wander somewhere between Cleveland and Akron and you are sure to find Chagrin Falls, once a stop on the Underground Railroad. Walk the nearby nature preserves, shop at the charming boutique stores or tour the colonial homes. Stop by a local favorite, Rick’s Cafe, for lunch and don’t miss The Popcorn Shop for handmade candies, ice cream and, of course, popcorn.

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11. Bell Buckle, Tennessee

Source: Wiki / Brian Stansberry

Head a few miles out of trendy Nashville down I-24 and enter the idyllic world of Bell Buckle where street art is more than just a term; there’s an actual quilt painted on the street. If you visit in June, don’t miss the RC-MoonPie Festival, shop from crafty artisans, and participate in the Moon Pie Olympics. Following a classic dinner of twice-fried pork chops, sit in a handcrafted rocker at the cafe and relax while watching the trains pass by.

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12. Marfa, Texas

Source: Wiki / Dschwen

Art aficionados love this town in the middle of nowhere. It’s not only quirky with a Prada store smack in the middle of the desert in a small adobe-style building, it’s renowned for its year-round film and music festivals and galleries. Sit on a folding chair after sunset at the Marfa Lights Viewing Area and watch for flashes. You never know what you can see flying through the skies of Texas.

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13. Moab, Utah

Source: Wiki / Hurricanehink

Moab is the beautiful gateway to spectacular wilderness areas like Arches and Canyonlands National Park, but it’s a desert oasis that calls to wanderers of all kinds including artists and adventuring storytellers. Organic is the name of the restaurant game in Moab, but pizza and Asian fusion are well represented as well.

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14. Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania

Source: Flickr / David Wilson

When you want the charms of a European village and the thrills of a mountain destination, plan to visit this historic town known in the Lehigh Gorge area of the Pocono Mountain region as Switzerland in America. Book a lovely vacation rental home right in town and never miss a minute of shopping, eating, or entertainment right outside the door. There’s also plenty of trails for hiking and waterways to explore, and a train ride is a leisurely way to enjoy the scenery.

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15. Woodstock, Vermont

Source: Flickr / daveynin

This picture-perfect village is a charming oasis at the base of the Green Mountains. The town buried their telephone lines to attract Hollywood to its virgin beauty, unfettered by modern conveniences. Forrest Gump was filmed here. Don’t miss the gorgeous covered bridges, and be sure to stop by the Thursday night farmers market for a fresh slice of homemade pie.

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