Life

11 Under-The-Radar Small American Towns To Visit On Your Next Vacation

A little inspiration for your next vacation.

Did you know that our nation has reached a population of over 324,000,000, with ten cities that have one million or more people? These United States Census Bureau “fun facts” have us feeling like we need to find a little space to stretch out and explore.

And, to that end, we’ve compiled a list of 11 under-the-radar, beautiful American towns that are worth a visit.

1. Greenough, Montana

Bring out your inner cowgirl or cowboy on a trip out west to usurp all others. The Resort at Paws Up offers cabin or glamping adventures, outfitted the way nature intended with cool breezes, star-filled skies, lodgepole pines, horses and farm animals, and snaking creeks and rivers. With exciting events throughout the year—Winterfest, Wildflavor, Adrenzen, Cowgirl Spring Roundup, Montana Master Grillers, Montana Master Chefs—everyone, young and young-at-heart, will find happiness and nature-filled fun here.

Alfresco dining, with the birds and horses.
Wendy Altschuler

2. South Walton, Florida

Forget a trip to Key West or Miami, and consider a jaunt to South Walton, which includes a chain of sixteen seaside villages with immaculate white-sand beaches, a plethora of dining options (including Airstream Row, where eateries are housed in retro aluminum trailers), and protected and gorgeous park land. Visit one of fifteen biologically diverse coastal dune lakes, full of endangered species and lush vegetation. Here you can bike along the 19-mile coastal Timpochee Trail, go scuba diving in Morrison Springs, explore the wetlands of Topsail Preserve State Park and go kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and fishing.

South Walton, Florida Shopping and Strolling
Visit South Walton

3. Galena, Illinois

If you’re a history buff who loves charming little towns with tiered and winding brick streets, boutique shopping, distillery tours, and wine tastings, then Galena is for you. Adventurers can go on a hot-air balloon ride and ride horses in the summer or take a spin on a dog sled in the winter. If you stay at the Goldmoor Inn, a charming, castle-like, full-service villa, you will have the opportunity to see the American Bald Eagle in its natural habitat.

Downtown Charm in Galena
Wendy Altschuler

4. Morro Bay, California

Sometimes you just need to visit one of those Instagram-worthy destinations that will make you look stunning in all of your photographs. Morro Bay, with its exquisite beaches, Morro Rock (a 581-foot volcanic plug), natural estuary, bay cruisers and electric boats, parks and trails will have you covered—in spades. Visit the local bakeries and coffee shops, go for a hike or kayaking adventure, wine and dine at one of the many popular restaurants, and pop in a boutique or two. Check out Discover Morro Bay for events, free things to do, deals and promotions in this city located two hours up the coast from Santa Barbara.

Morro Bay Sky
Discover Morro Bay

4. Kohler, Wisconsin

Kohler is a sleepy and quiet town that scratches the itch for those who need some down-time, a romantic getaway or quality family fun. Year-round activities include shooting sports, bird-watching, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, fishing, yoga and more.

The Kohler Design Center showcases more than 90 designers—there is an entire wall of toilets that’s interesting to see (yes, it’s really true!). The shops at Woodlake, with their quilts, handmade soaps, beautiful clothing, and teaching kitchens are fun to stroll through, and if you stay at the historic, Tudor-style, The American Club, you can take advantage of world-class dining, golf and spa treatments. Be sure to check out the resort’s website for information on one of their amazing weekend events: Kohler Festival of Beer, Kohler Food & Wine or In Celebration of Chocolate.

Discover Kohler at The American Club
Wendy Altschuler

 6. Rapid City, South Dakota

South Dakota is one of the most beautiful states in our country. If you visit Rapid City, you’ll have access to Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Jewel Cave National Monument and Custer State Park. Take fun family photos, and look bad-to-the-bone in Art Alley, a three-block stretch of public graffiti and art that covers walls, streets and even garbage dumpsters. Also, don’t miss the Prairie Dog Ranch Store, a roadside dog haven where you can hand-feed the little guys peanuts.

Art Alley in Rapid City, South Dakota
Wendy Altschuler

7. Sunriver, Oregon

Venture over 4,000 feet above sea level, to stunning Sunriver in central Oregon. Here you’ll find high desert rocky terrain, sunshine for days on end, and a culture that is all about the outdoors and nature. Beer aficionados will be in heaven here—there are more breweries per capita than in any other Oregon city. Go rock climbing, whitewater rafting, mountain biking, skiing, snowshoeing, caving—if you can dream it, it’s here.

And, there is no better place to stay than the Sunriver Resort, a luxury lodge with phenomenal, award-winning dining options; golfing; and horseback riding with Sunriver Stables. Not to be missed is the Sage Springs Club & Spa where you can get a renewing facial, a body scrub or a therapeutic massage.

Mountain views in Sunriver at Sunriver Resort
Wendy Altschuler

8. Holland, Michigan

You won’t be able to leave this tulip-filled coastal city with a “Main Street USA” feel without handmade chocolate fudge or a pair of wooden yellow Dutch shoes. Visit Nelis’ Dutch Village for windmill sightings, animal interactions, theme park rides and nods to 1900s Netherlands. Explore one of the many family-owned strawberry or blueberry farms, stick your feet in the sand along Lake Michigan and visit one of the many charming Dutch boutiques. Holland also has many festivals and art fairs that are worth building a trip around.

Street Views in Holland, Michigan
Discover Holland

9. Troy, New York

Troy, located on the Hudson River and not far from Albany, is full of local chocolatiers, candy shops, independent coffee shops, breweries and wine makers. Tiffany stained glass windows abound—you’ll see them inside Bush Memorial Hall, Troy Public Library and St. Paul’s Church. Troy is chock-full of art galleries and little museums, historic buildings and monuments.

History Buffs Delight, Troy, New York
Downtown Troy Business Improvement District

10. Marietta, Ohio

Marietta, the oldest city in Ohio, was named after the French Queen, Marie-Antoinette. This riverfront town is full of charm and history—westward expansion by early pioneers is said to have started here and there are Underground Railroad and Anti-Slavery Movement roots in Washington County. You can walk down brick streets, past aged lampposts that brighten up Victorian homes, and shop in stores that have been owned by multiple generations. Go on a guided or self-guided walking tour, or drive your car around parts of Appalachia and over covered bridges.

 

Q Spot International

11. Bluffton, South Carolina

What about visiting a small town that is the fifth largest in South Carolina by land area not population? Bluffton is located in the southernmost coastal county, Beaufort County, and it’s Old Town square sits on—you guessed it—a high bluff with panoramic views of May River. Many folks travel due east to Hilton Head Island or southwest to Savannah, but you’ll find that Bluffton is one of those charming and seemingly untouched towns well worth a visit. You’ll notice an artsy, free-loving vibe here with quaint boutiques, streets dotted with gorgeous old homes, trees from each side of the road connecting overhead and forming a tunnel, and stunning churches.

bluffton south carolina photo
Flickr | LowcountryLori