The best small towns in America

While there’s nothing quite like the energy of the big city, the hectic pace isn’t for everyone, and urbanites themselves often need a respite.

But the U.S. is home to thousands of perfectly charming small towns that are great places for weekend escapes—or to settle down in. We’ve swept the country to find some of the best, whether you’re looking for a ski lover’s paradise, a historic spot that's still near a major metropolis, or a remote waterfront retreat.

Here are a few of our favorite small towns in America.

1. Traverse City, Michigan

(Chad Thomas/Getty Images)

Though the biggest town in Northern Michigan, Traverse City has a population of only about 15,000. It's famous for being the largest producer of tart cherries in the U.S.—each July, it hosts a National Cherry Festival that brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors.

2. Jacksonville, Oregon

(John Elk/Getty Images)

Founded in the 1850s when gold deposits were discovered in the Jackson Creek, this town fell on hard times when the treasure ran out. But in the 1960s, Jacksonville was designated a National Historic District, and today it's the heart of the Southern Oregon wine region.

3. Dahlonega, Georgia

(Steve Grundy/Getty Images)

Though on the opposite side of the country, Dahlonega has a lot in common with Jacksonville, Oregon. It was the site of the first gold rush in the U.S. and is also known today for its many wineries.

4. Taos, New Mexico

(Chel Beeson/Getty Images)

Known for its pueblo houses, Taos has long drawn artistic types to its rugged setting, including influential abstract painter Agnes Martin. Today there are three art museums, more than 80 galleries, and several performing arts venues.

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5. Stowe, Vermont

(Alan Copson/Getty Images)

Skiing might be the most popular tourist pastime in Stowe, but the town has much more to offer. In addition to the myriad outdoor activities (like zip-lining and rock climbing), there are more than 70 shops and nearly 40 restaurants. It's also home to the Trapp Family Lodge, the resort owned by the Von Trapp family made famous in The Sound of Music.

6. Clinton, New Jersey

"This is the historic Clinton, New Jersey mill. It is well known around central Jersey for it's history and classic look."

"This is the historic Clinton, New Jersey mill. It is well known around central Jersey for it's history and classic look." (iStock)

An hour's drive from New York City will get you to the quaint town of Clinton, whose most famous landmark is the Red Mill Museum on the banks of the Raritan River. Stroll down Main Street to enjoy cafés, shops, and art galleries.

7. Sitka, Alaska

The city of Sitka, Alaska at dawn.

The city of Sitka, Alaska at dawn. (iStock)

For a truly remote destination, head to Sitka, which is accessible only by plane or ferry. The town is a wildlife lover's dream, as sightings of bald eagles, brown bears, humpback whales, and sea otters are common.

8. Camden, Maine

Camden, Maine, USA Bright blue awnings fill the streets of downtown while the steeple of the church is surrounded by Fall Foliage.

Camden, Maine, USA Bright blue awnings fill the streets of downtown while the steeple of the church is surrounded by Fall Foliage. (iStock)

Situated between Portland and Bar Harbor, this seaside town is surrounded by stunning landscapes perfect for adventure seekers, but it also has its fair share of cultural attractions, like the Camden Opera House. Its population surges each summer when the beach lovers arrive, but the off-season is still a prime time to visit.

See more of the best small towns in the U.S.