Shake up your next vacation with a visit somewhere off the beaten path. There is a seemingly endless number of charming, quaint towns across America that offer an unforgettable getaway. These towns boast a more laid-back experience compared to other tourist destinations, as well as fascinating historic attractions and one-of-a-kind landmarks. Stay at a cozy vacation rental for a true small-town experience. Before you know it, you might even want to move there!
1. Mystic, Connecticut
This quaint seaside village is dedicated to all things maritime. From the nation’s largest maritime museum to some seriously stunning ocean views, you’ll be a seafarer in no time. Any landlubbers out there should check out the Mystic Art Association’s galleries and studios, or have a lunch at Mystic Pizza, the eatery made famous by the Julia Roberts movie of the same name.
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2. Homer, Alaska
Welcome to the great outdoors. In Homer, Alaska, you’ll have every opportunity to unleash your wild side. About 220 miles south of Anchorage, the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Kachemak Bay State Park are within easy reach. You’ll also be close to the Homer Spit, a 4.5-mile-long stretch of land that juts out into Kachemak Bay, which offers recreational activities like fishing charters, kayaking tours, and miles of beaches.
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3. Abingdon, Virginia
Abingdon is surrounded by the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains, which forms a massive wilderness playground complete with rivers, lakes, and trails. The famous Appalachian Trail is nearby and the Virginia Creeper Trail begins in downtown Abingdon. If you prefer shopping and nightlife to outdoor adventure, Main Street and the historic downtown district are filled with great restaurants and unique shops and galleries. We recommend Heartwood — Southwest Virginia’s Artisan Gateway where you’ll find crafts, gifts, delicious food and live music.
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4. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Carmel sits atop the bluffs of Carmel Beach, between Big Sur and Monterey Bay. Fun fact: Carmel doesn’t allow any chain restaurants or stores, so the independent shops, restaurants, and art galleries will give you a truly unique experience. If you’re looking for a vacation rental, stay in one of the English-style cottages that give Carmel its whimsical feel.
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5. Stowe, Vermont
Thanks to Vermont’s tallest mountain, Stowe has become a popular destination for its ski resort, which offers up just as much fun in the summer as it does in the winter. If you’re not planning to hit the slopes, this quintessential New England town is also notable for its luxurious spas and sprawling golf courses.
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6. Frankenmuth, Michigan
Nicknamed “Little Bavaria,” this Michigan town also boasts the world’s largest Christmas store. With fantastic festivals, eclectic shopping, and indoor waterparks, Frankenmuth is a great spot to recharge and refresh any time of year. Take in all of this town’s German glory by coming for the Frankenmuth Beer Festival in May.
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7. Telluride, Colorado
Telluride boasts nearly 2,000 acres of skiable terrain and is consistently considered one of the best places to ski in the country. Even if you don’t ski, you should still consider a visit just to appreciate Telluride’s natural beauty. As you drive into Town Park, you’ll immediately be greeted by the stately San Juan Mountains, which tower high above the main street. While you’re here, definitely visit Bridal Veil Falls, the longest natural free-falling waterfall in Colorado.
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8. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
This popular beach town’s population rises from 1,500 year-round to a whopping 25,000 during the summer. No wonder it’s nicknamed the “Nation’s Summer Capital.” Travelers from the East Coast and District of Columbia flock here for the town’s calm shores, and it’s a great destination for families too.
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9. St. Augustine, Florida
St. Augustine is actually the oldest city in America. Discovered in 1565 by the Spanish, it’s the oldest, permanently occupied European settlement. That means there’s plenty of history to be found, and the town is even thought to be haunted. Visit the Old Jail on a ghost tour or head to the Colonial Quarter to learn about the area’s history.
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10. Ketchum, Idaho
Being next to world-renown skiing destination, Sun Valley, has made this former mining and ranching town into a bustling resort hub. The surrounding area also offers plenty of other activities like hiking, trail riding, and hunting.
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11. Bar Harbor, Maine
Located next to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is a prime place to enjoy Maine’s stunning scenery. There are also antique shops, independent bookstores, and specialty stores selling everything from hemp attire to artisanal olive oils. However, the must-try for any visitor or local alike is lobster. Every year, more than 5 million lobsters are consumed in Bar Harbor.
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12. Annapolis, Maryland
Once you’ve had your fill of lobster in Bar Harbor, come to Annapolis for the crab. This postcard-worthy, waterfront town will take you back more than 300 years as you stroll down its cobblestone streets admiring the Colonial architecture. Meander through Historic Annapolis and Ego Alley, and visit the United States Naval Academy, the alma mater of notable politicians, such as former President Jimmy Carter and Senator John McCain.
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13. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Only about 30 miles off the coast of Cape Code, Nantucket is known for its relaxing beaches and seaside charm. We’re talking little lighthouses, quaint harbors, and cobblestone streets. Some of the lodging can be pricey so opt for a more pocket-friendly vacation rental instead. There are also plenty of free attractions like Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, the Brant Point Light grounds, Surfside Beach, and Jetties Beach.
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14. Oberlin, Ohio
Oberlin College is the main attraction here and is notable for some serious strides throughout history as well as its beauty. Oberlin was the first higher education university to grant women bachelor’s degrees and later, one of the first colleges to admit African American students. During the late 1800s, Oberlin was even given the title “the town that started the Civil War” for a slave rescue that helped raise awareness about the abolitionist movement nationwide.
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15. Guthrie, Oklahoma
This sweet town about 33 miles north of Oklahoma city is the perfect weekend getaway. Guthrie once served as Oklahoma’s state capital and is full of old-fashioned architecture with 19th-century stone facades with a historic downtown beckoning to be admired. One of the most popular spots is the Scottish Rite Temple, one of the country’s largest Masonic centers.
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