There’s just something about small towns that captures people’s hearts. Whether it be the historic buildings lining Main Street, the welcoming locals greeting visitors like friends, or the modest cafes serving up “homemade” everything, small towns have an attraction to them that can’t be ignored. We, CarRentals.com, love them and we think you’ll love them, too. We searched the country from coast to coast to find the 25 best small towns in the nation. Why did we choose them? Some are postcard-beautiful. Some have incredible historical significance. Some have must-eat restaurants. And all are worth the drive.
Population – 5,905
The seemingly endless West Texas plains give way to a mile-high city not named Denver. Sitting at an elevation 4,475-feet, Alpine, Texas, is small in area, but big in character. From catching a ball game at Kokernot Field to mingling with locals, this town has earned its spot on our list.
- What Makes It the Best: Driving through the high desert landscape while the sun is setting is second to none.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: If you only do one thing while traveling through this cowboy city make sure it’s grabbing a homemade breakfast in town before driving out to Big Bend National Park.
- Best Time to Visit: Springtime from mid-March to mid-April is the best time to visit this high desert town. Wild flowers are in full bloom and daytime temperatures have yet to reach into triple digits.
Population – 2,827
Parowan, the first incorporated town in Iron County, is a bounty of fun. The 23-mile drive to nearby Dixie National Forest has miles upon miles of unreal trails, and the Little Salt Lake to the north is worth a visit.
- What Makes It the Best: The outdoor activities in this town never end.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Head into the heart of Dixie National Forest and make your way to Cedar Breaks National Monument. Whip out your phone and snap as many selfies as you can while perched atop Sunset View Overlook.
- Best Time to Visit: If you fancy yourself a snow bunny, you may want to think about driving out to this gorgeous Utah town during the winter months. The slopes of Brian Head Ski Resort are less than 20 minutes away and are perfect for all levels of riders.
Population – 3,009
Set along the banks of the Bighorn River and surrounded by several different mountain ranges including the Bridger, Owl Creek, and Big Horn Mountains, this small Wyoming town belongs on the pages of a National Geographic issue.
- What Makes It the Best: The Wind River Canyon Scenic Byway.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Head to ot HotHot Springs State Park. Take a dip in the public bath house, where the water temperature is kept at a sultry 104 degrees.
- Best Time to Visit: The summer months and early fall are ideal times to visit. Temperatures hover in the mid-80s during the day which makes for perfect hiking conditions and you’ll be enjoying temperatures in the 50s during the evenings.
Population – 3,863
Bishop, California, sits next to the Sierra National Forest to the west and the White Mountains to the east. It’s known as the “Mule Capital of the World,” and is home to some of the best rock climbing in the state, and close to the world-class slopes of Mammoth.
- What Makes It the Best: Bishop Mule Days.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Go bouldering at The Buttermilks. These massive mounds of rock provide perfect canvasses for both beginner and expert rock climbers.
- One Other Thing to Do: If you want to see a glacier lake up close, make the hike up to Third Lake. This emerald-colored body of water looks like it belongs on the planet of Pandora.
- You Have to Eat Here: The Bishop Burger Barn. Order up a bacon guacamole burger. After scarfing down one of these babies, your life may be complete.
- Best Time to Visit: Early September through late October is a perfect time for you to drive through the eastern Sierra Nevada.
Population – 8,771
Situated along the Santa Fe Trail sits this southern Colorado town where the past is never forgotten. Historic buildings line the downtown streets and the nearby Spanish Peaks Wilderness area provide more than enough fun things to do during your stay.
- What Makes It the Best: Roll down the windows of your spectacular rental car and go for an unbelievable drive along Colorado State Highway 12, also known as the Highway of Legends.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Picnic at Trinidad Lakes State Park.
- Best Time to Visit: For the best fishing, boating, and hiking conditions in nearby Trinidad Lake State Park, anytime from late spring until early fall is perfect for you.
Population – 67,793
This quirky Gulf Coast city is a place with friendly locals, fantastic restaurants, the “World’s Largest Fishing Rodeo,” miles of scenic beaches, and a seemingly endless list of fun things to do from golfing to gambling.
- What Makes It the Best: The seafood.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: If you want to attract more Instagram followers than you care to count, snap a few selfie shots in front of the Biloxi Lighthouse. It’s 20 minutes away and makes for a great drive along the coast.
- You Have to Eat Here: Take a seat at the Half Shell Oyster House and see how many oysters you can suck down.
- Best Time to Visit: Make your drive to the Gulf Coast at the end of February so you can take part in the area’s Mardi Gras festivities.
Population – 3,047
Introduction: It’s your stereotypical New England town along the Saint Croix River Reservoir, where the days are spent strolling along the Calais Waterfront Walkway with a hot chai tea latte and a clear mind.
- What Makes It the Best: Bold Coast Scenic Byway.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Take a short ferry ride down the river reservoir and spend a day exploring Saint Croix Island. Sign up for a guided tour with a park ranger and you’ll learn everything there is to know about the historic settlement on this picturesque island.
- Best Time to Visit: From mid-September to early November is the best time to see some of the most spectacular fall foliage.
Population – 24,950
Imagine driving through the Great Plains of the “Sooner State” and all you see is miles upon miles of endless wheat and cornfields. You think to yourself that there’s nothing out there but golden yonder and then you come across a place that’s friendly, inviting, and fun. Welcome to Ardmore, Oklahoma.
- What Makes It the Best: A classic Oklahoma town where the Great Plains meet the city like two friends.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Hop in your stylish rental car and go for a cruise down on of the best Main Streets in the state. Stop in one of the antique stores and look for the deal of a lifetime.
- And Another Thing: A vacation here isn’t complete without a day trip to Lake Murray State Park.
- Best Time to Visit: Plan your road trip for middle November and you’ll be able to attend the Carter County Arts and Crafts Festival & Food Fair.
Population – 3,103
When you think of epic wine regions, Napa and Sonoma usually come to mind. But that’s because you’ve never been to Zillah, Washington, a place surrounded by vines that produce some of the best vino in the West. Cheers.
- What Makes It the Best: The nearby wineries like Severino Cellars and Two Mountain Winery.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Drive along one of the region’s incredible wine trails.
- Best Time to Visit: Plan your visit during the spring time, when the weather is great and events like food and wine pairings happen almost daily.
Population – 5,385
When you’re walking down the streets of New Castle, Delaware, it’s like you’ve time traveled back to the days when men wore powdered wigs. That’s probably because many of the brick buildings in town have been standing since the 1700s and some restaurants still refer to themselves as taverns. You’ll thoroughly enjoy it all.
- What Makes It the Best: Located along the Delaware River, New Castle’s plentiful historic sites make it seem like it has never left the 1700s.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Day trip to Pea Patch Island and explore Fort Delaware State Park.
- You Must Eat Here: Jessop’s Tavern. It’ll feel like you’re dining in the Revolutionary War period.
- Best Time to Visit: Late September for the Art on the Green festival.
Population – 10,111
Located in the northern Verde Valley among towering red sandstone formations that light up with the rising and setting of the sun, the landscape of Sedona, Arizona, looks too beautiful to be real. But it is far from make-believe. The downtown district is full of adobe buildings that house authentic cowboy stores and incredible Mexican restaurants.
- What Makes It the Best: The amount of yoga activities to do here are through the roof. Plus, the locals say the energy is very transformative because of the crystals that lie under the red rocks.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Guided tour with Sedona Trolley.
- You Must Eat Here: Javelina Cantina. Why? Because the mole enchiladas, carne asada plate, and margaritas are to die for.
- Best Time to Visit: Any time between March and May or September through November.
Population – 10,490
This charming southern town near the banks of the White River has been a place for people to escape the stress of everyday life for a long time. Whether you’re driving in from Little Rock or making a cross-country road trip, you won’t want to miss this small town.
- What Makes It the Best: The Mark Martin NASCAR Museum.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Pay a visit to the Old Independence Regional Museum and learn about the history and heritage of Independence County through interactive exhibits.
- Best Time to Visit: Plan your trip for the summer time so you can enjoy boating, fishing, and swimming in the White River.
Population – 12,895
You may not be ready to retire just yet, but stepping away from everyday life for a little while is perfectly acceptable. And you may not find a better place than this central Florida town.
- What Makes It the Best: A quick drive from all the theme parks in the Orlando area.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Become an expert in everything Mount Dora at the Mount Dora History Museum.
- You Have to Eat Here: The Goblin Market serves a New Zealand rack of lamb that is other worldly.
- Best Time to Visit: If you’re not a fan of high temperatures and humidity levels that don’t seem real, avoid the summer months.
Population – 781
Sitting in the upper panhandle region of the “Silver Capital of the World,” Wallace is a tiny town filled with big possibilities. The surrounding mountains and pine forests provide an endless playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
- What Makes It the Best: The only town in the country where almost every building in the downtown district is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Explore the wacky Oasis Bordello Museum. A unique experience to say the least.
- You Must Eat Here: The Fainting Goat Wine Bar. Gourmet macaroni and cheese and a full glass of merlot, what could be better?
- Best Time to Visit: The summer months are unbelievable here with warm days and cool nights, making your activity list never-ending.
Population – 15,946
The coastline of the Pacific Northwest is rugged, secluded, wild, beautiful, and home to charming towns like Coos Bay. If you’re planning a trip to this part of the country, this small coastal town needs to be at the top of your list. The ocean, the forest; it has it all.
- What Makes It the Best: It’s one of the most picturesque towns on the West Coast.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Channel your inner child and run around Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area for a few hours.
- You Must Eat Here: Get a cold beer, a juicy burger, and listen to great local tunes at the Sunset Pub & Grill.
- Best Time to Visit: Go during the end of July and attend the Oregon Coast Music Festival.
Population – 6,649
Located on the western side of the continental divide and a stone’s throw away from Glacier National Park, Whitefish, Montana, is a little slice of heaven plopped down in the middle of the wilderness. Hike, fish, meet new friends, enjoy new experiences, and enjoy the simplicity.
- What Makes It the Best: A mecca for adventure seekers, naturalists, and outdoor lovers.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Head into Glacier National Park and drive along the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun Road.
- You Must Eat Here: Drink a Good Medicine Strong Red Ale and eat bighorn nachos at Great Northern Brewery.
- Best Time to Visit: Visit in the middle of August and you’ll be treated to the Huckleberry Days Arts Festival.
Population – 482
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains start in southern Colorado and extend deep into the state of New Mexico. They’re home to alpine mountaintops with names like Relica Peak, Flag Mountain, Gold Hill, and Lobo Peak. And sitting in the shadows of these towering, snowcapped mountains is the town of Red River.
- What Makes It the Best: The natural beauty around every corner.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Take a jeep tour along the Goose Lake Trail.
- Best Time to Visit: If you fancy yourself an expert on snowy slopes, go during winter and keep your tips up at nearby Taos Ski Valley. Not into snow? No problem. During the summer, Red River has some of the best mountain biking trails this side of the Mississippi.
Population – 8,370
The Katy Trail is a 225-mile state park that runs from north to south in the great state of Missouri. At the trail’s halfway point sits the town of Boonville. It’s a place where locals greet passing strangers like they’ve been lifelong neighbors and summer days are spent frolicking in the waters of the Missouri River.
- What Makes It the Best: The nearby Warm Springs Ranch is the home of the Budweiser Clydesdales.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Take a Boonville Historic Walking Tour.
- Best Time to Visit: The month of September is perfect for its mild temperatures day and night. Plus, the Festival of Lights is held every Thursday night during this month. Downtown shops stay open late and booths along Main Street offer food, free stuff, and games.
Population – 4,603
Remember when Dorothy told Toto she didn’t think they were in Kansas anymore? Of course, you do. But did you ever wonder where in Kansas she was talking about? We’re willing to bet it was Wamego, a small town in Pottawatomie County. Why are we so confident in this statement? Read below:
- What Makes It the Best: It honors “The Wizard of Oz.” What more could you ask for?
- One Thing You Must Do Here: It’s imperative that you visit the OZ Museum. That’s right, it’s a museum dedicated to the “Wizard of Oz” with over 25,000 artifacts relating to the classic book, movie, and adaptations.
- Best Time to Visit: Visit in October. Excuse us, we meant OZtoboer because that’s when OZtoberFest takes place. We’re not kidding; this really happens.
Population – 738
Fillmore County, Minnesota, is home to many things: rivers, expansive pastures with cows milling about, dense woodlands, and the town of Lanesboro. It’s a cute place along Mill Pond, where most of the downtown buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a huge Amish community lives nearby.
- What Makes It the Best: The town has received the Great American Main Street Award and has been rated one of the “50 Best Outdoor Sports Towns” by Sports Afield magazine.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Sign up with Bluffscape Amish Tours and see a different side of American life.
- You Must Eat Here: Riverside on the Root for riverside dining and their dirty martini lounge.
- Best Time to Visit: Plan your trip around early August so you can enjoy Buffalo Bill Days.
Population – 679
An inviting northern New England town where covered bridges are a-dime-a-dozen, the maple syrup tastes like it was hand-crafted by God himself, and the fall leaves are brighter than the sun.
- What Makes It the Best: The Grafton Village Cheese Company makes some of the best cheese outside of Wisconsin.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Enjoy the great outdoors at Grafton Ponds Outdoor Center.
- You Must Eat Here: Eat all things maple at Plummer’s Sugar House.
- Best Time to Visit: Few things beat visiting New England in the fall and the same goes for the village of Grafton.
Population – 2,588
Summers County is overflowing with outdoor activity. From the shores of the New River to the hiking in Bluestone State Park, you won’t have a problem finding something fun to do. Especially if you make the county seat of Hinton your base camp for your driving excursion through the West Virginia cola country.
- What Makes It the Best: Fishing in Bluestone Lake can yield you a bass bigger than a Fiat.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Explore the Hinton Railroad Museum.
- Best Time to Visit: Plan your trip for middle October and you’ll get to experience Hinton Railroad Days.
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Population – 1,010
Located on a small island 13 miles south of the coast of our smallest state is the town of New Shoreham, Rhode Island. When you want to completely escape without having to go far away, this is the place for you. Here’s a few things you should consider during the ferry crossing to a well-deserved vacation:
- What Makes It the Best: it’s a small town on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean just far enough away from the mainland to make you forget about real life for a while.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Take Instagram photos at the Mohegan Bluffs.
- You Must Eat Here: Enjoy a bowl of lobster macaroni and cheese at the Poor People’s Pub.
- Best Time to Visit: Spend the Fourth of July there and enjoy one of the most joyous festivals of its kind on the East Coast.
Population – 18,211
Nestled high in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina is the town of Boone. Yes, it’s named after the famous pioneer Daniel Boone and yes, you need to go now. Why? Because they have great skiing in the winter and incredible gardens in the summer.
- What Makes It the Best: Its location in the Blue Ridge Mountains makes it an active person’s dreamland.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Go for a leisurely stroll through the Daniel Boone Native Gardens.
- You Must Eat Here: Get a fat cheeseburger and wash it down with a cold beer at the Boone Saloon.
- Best Time to Visit: Go during the winter and hit the slopes at Sugar Mountain Resort.
Population – 2,471
No, it’s not the fictional Lake Placid from that movie with the man-eating alligator. This Lake Placid is the one that was the host of the 1980 Winter Olympics. Yes, the ones where a bunch of college kids sporting the red, white, and blue took down those mighty Soviets. It also happens to sit in the middle of the awesome Adirondacks which makes it a perfect vacation destination.
- What Makes It the Best: The town has excellent shopping opportunities, including treasures at Adirondack Decorative Arts & Crafts.
- One Thing You Must Do Here: Channel your inner John Wayne when you go for a horseback ride at the Adirondack Equine Center.
- You Must Eat Here: Lake Placid Club Boathouse.
- Best Time to Visit: Summer is for the lake and winter is for the slopes.
Small towns are the backbone of this country. They cover the landscape from coast to coast and everywhere in between. There’s so many of them it’s hard to figure out which ones to visit. But not anymore. With our list of the top 25 in the country, your journey through America starts now.
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