It’s easy to get lost in the mundane tasks of our day-to-day-lives, forgetting to step back and appreciate the beauty that surrounds us — whether you find yourself in a charming village with a rich history and character, a bustling and up-and-coming city, or in one of the country’s smallest towns, there’s beauty everywhere you look if you’re willing to see it.
Despite declining foreign tourism to the United States, domestic travel is expected to grow this year. And with so much geographical diversity and cultural variety, so many fantastic museums, and some of the best food and drink, the U.S. is still one of the best places in the world to live and travel. You’ll find plenty of beautiful cities and towns in every single one of the 50 states, and while we couldn’t make a list of every lovely town in the nation, we thought we’d bring you a list of the prettiest one from each. From an artistic village in southwestern Ohio to a gorgeous, isolated spot in Maui to a colorful beach town in New Jersey, each destination offers something enchanting and unique. For a road trip filled with wonderful landscapes, amazing architecture, and stunning sights, here are the prettiest towns from every state.
The name of this beautiful town comes from the old magnolia trees that shade the streets, and the natural springs flowing on both sides of the Magnolia River. The small-town, Southern feel of this area makes for a lovely escape from the metropolitan lifestyle of cities like Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama — both of which are only a short drive away.
Located on the harbor between the Sisters mountain range and the Gulf of Alaska, Sitka is one of Alaska’s hidden gems. This remote town is a gorgeous destination for any outdoor adventurer who loves to hike, boat, kayak, or even climb — and we can’t forget about the various fishing opportunities as well.
What began as a bustling mining town in Arizona’s Mule Mountains is now a quaint town of artists and old architectural styles. The city’s history is visually present, with old saloons and brothels from the mining period finding new purposes, such as the Bisbee’s Brewery Gulch. Experience the rich culture of the town with guided mining tours.
The historic bathhouses of Bathhouse Row in Hot Springs, Arkansas, may now all be closed (with the exception of Buckstaff Bathhouse), but the buildings are still kept the way they were in the 1800s and open for tours. You can still enjoy the natural mineral spring water by filling up a water jug at the public fountain on Bathhouse Row on your way to the Historic Downtown Farmers Market. (Newer, more modern bathhouses are also available throughout town.) Hot Springs is also one of the country’s best small arts towns with a thriving fine arts community, as well as a local documentary film festival held every October. The Arkansas Alligator Farm and Petting Zoo has about 200 alligators in addition to many other types of animals, and the Garvan Woodland Gardens are great for botany geeks or for a peaceful walk. Thirteen hotels and four neighborhoods are listed by the National Register of Historic Places, and the town is also home to Magic Springs Theme and Water Park, as well as Hot Springs National Park for the more nature-minded.
Carmel-by-the-Sea — often just referred to as Carmel — is a small yet popular destination in Monterey Bay. It would only take you five minutes to walk across the entire town, but those five minutes have plenty of art galleries, cafés, inns, and restaurants to explore, including Chef Justin Cogley’s Aubergine. You’ll take much longer than five minutes just walking down, though, as the architecture is beautiful in this tiny town known to have numberless houses. Carmel Beach itself is gorgeous, and beaches are often populated with admirers at sunset. It’s also leash-free, so your dog can enjoy running through the white sand with you, after joining you at one of the town’s many canine-friendly restaurants and hotels. You can also enjoy the view by car, as the aptly-named Scenic Drive runs along the beach. Another scenic drive, the 17-Mile Drive, winds through one of California’s most prestigious neighborhoods, and non-residents have to pay $9.50 just to go through the gate.
Right at the eastern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park is a town rather than a park in the traditional sense — park, in the local dialect, can refer to an upland valley or meadow. While tourism is heaviest from July through September, the area is beautiful and you can always hide from other tourists at The Wheel Bar. Estes Park is also a quieter wintertime destination for enjoying the Colorado Rockies due to its world-class snowshoeing and cross-country skiing opportunities. The area is also great for camping, and visitors also enjoy hiking, horseback riding, mountain climbing, biking, fishing, birding, and rafting.
Mystic is just a village of a little over 4,000 people, but it’s a popular tourist spot in Connecticut due to its scenic marinas, shopping, and aquarium. Mystic Seaport’s The Museum of America and the Sea is the country’s largest maritime museum, perfect for maritime history geeks, and the Olde Mistick Village is an outdoor shopping experience complete with stores, food, and entertainment for the entire family.
Just a little under 1,200 people reside in the coastal Delaware town of Bethany Beach, but over 15,000 come to visit them every summer. The area is known for its peacefulness, and for the Bethany Beach boardwalk, a nice, well-kept change from more popular seaside destinations such as Atlantic City. Both golfing and swimming are popular endeavors here, but the town also has cute little cafés and stores for you to peruse. Don’t miss Chief Little Owl, the 24-foot totem pole welcoming you to town, or the town museum, which chronicles the town’s history from its birth as a religious retreat.
A cobblestoned town with over 400 years of history, St. Augustine is easily the prettiest town in Florida, and one of the state’s top destinations that aren’t Disney. Check out the oldest masonry fort, pop in and out of the many stores down St. George Street, or stop into one of the restaurants to grab a bite. You’ll quickly fall in love with the city’s ambiance.
Due to the city’s decision to immediately surrender to General Sherman during the Civil War, Savannah is one of the few big Southern cities with its antebellum architecture intact. Visit Forsyth Park for Savannah’s best dining, shopping, and entertainment, as well as the town’s many parks to enjoy Savannah’s more natural beauty. Its plethora of historic squares provide pleasant sites as well as quite a bit of Georgia’s history, and ghost stories are popular, with multiple walking tours centering around haunted locations and ghost hunting in historic parts of town.
Hana is one of those gorgeous spots in Hawaii that haven’t yet been overrun by tourists, making it a relatively peaceful destination. Located on the southeastern end of Maui, it’s a scenic yet adventurous paradise. Take a hike along the cliffs of Wai’anapanapa State Park or visit its amazing black sand beaches, or make a visit to the quiet Hamoa Beach. If you’re looking for a more luxurious vacation, Travassa Hana is one of the best all-inclusive resorts in the world.
Wallace, Idaho, is a historic mining town with a small population of only 784. Although there is still silver mining done in the area — the town’s nickname is “Silver Capital of the World” — the mountains surrounding Wallace create a striking backdrop to the historic buildings of downtown.
This Illinois town was named after the mineral that was mined in the area, but is now a beautiful getaway for those looking to step back in time. Galena’s Historic District is even on the National Register of Historic Places. So take a scenic drive through the town’s rolling hills, and take a stroll down the charming Main Street, which overlooks the Galena River.
The town’s beauty and art are the primary bases for tourism in Nashville, Indiana. Nashville has all of three traffic lights and a population of 803, with most of its residents working as artists. Beyond the Brown County State Park, Nashville has wonderful bed and breakfasts, cottages, restaurants, art galleries, shops, music venues, and antiques dealers.
The charming town of Pella, founded in 1847 by Dutch immigrants, is an oasis of bold color in largely rural Iowa. It’s home to Vermeer Mill, the tallest working grain mill in the country, as well as the Tulip Time Festival, a three-day festival in which the town’s Dutch heritage comes to life with Dutch costumes, tulip gardens, music, food, parades, and more.
The beautifully kept homes of Abilene are the true treasures of this town. It is the hometown of President Eisenhower, and you can visit his house at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library and Museum. Another must-see attraction in this Kansas town is the A.B. Seelye House, a beautiful mansion and museum built in 1905 for A.B. Seelye, a patent medicine tycoon.
Bardstown has previously been named one of the Most Beautiful Small Towns in America by USA Today, and its beauty is matched by its rich history. This town is the second oldest in Kentucky with hundreds of endearing buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also been home to whiskey distilleries since 1776 — today it hosts the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival and has trademarked the title “Bourbon Capital of the World.”
This coastal town in Maine has plenty of local shops and restaurants to keep visitors busy, but there are also the Camden Hills to explore. Hit the water and go sailing, or go mountain biking in the hills for an exciting Camden experience. The picturesque Curtis Island Lighthouse marks the entrance to the town’s harbor.
Chesapeake City is a charming small town in Maryland with a population of just over 700, located on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. A beautiful waterfront lined by trees makes this one of the most scenic spots in the mid-Atlantic region, particularly during the fall. You’ll find quite a few buildings and homes dating back to the nineteenth century, many of which have since been converted into restaurants, local history museums, and some of the best bed and breakfasts in America.
The island of Nantucket is just 3.5 miles wide by 14 miles long, but its beauty and idyllic vibe have long attracted upper-class Americans and celebrities as well as the average Joe. Nantucket is extremely green-conscious, so all visitors must follow the island’s well-established recycling system. This Massachusetts town is so pretty largely thanks to the Nantucket Conservation Foundation, which preserves 36 percent of the island, as well as local wildlife. The marine life of Nantucket can be seen at the local aquarium — and eaten at fantastic seafood restaurants such as the Nantucket Lobster Trap. Nantucket is also an extremely safe destination, and families have been known to allow their children to wander on their own.
Pronounced “MAK-i-naw,” Macinac Island is the hidden gem of Michigan with its Victorian charm and fun activities for the entire family. The island is a three-in-one destination: You can visit Active Mackinac for a more outdoorsy time with biking, hiking, horse-riding, and paddling; Grand Mackinac for a more upper-class experience at the Grand Hotel resort; or Fudgie Mackinac to indulge your sweet tooth with the island’s famous fudge amid historic and shopping sites. Tours of the island are available on foot, bike, or even via kayak or stand-up paddle board, both of which are available for rentals. We also recommend bringing your own bicycle; Mackinac is known for its island-wide motor vehicle ban.
Lanesboro is a small, isolated town in southeastern Minnesota with a population of 754 where you won’t find any wine bars or large chains. The town has a prominent arts scene, and is a truly unique place with livestock auctions held twice a week in its downtown area.
Natchez’s prosperity prior to the Civil War has left it with a plethora of antebellum homes. Year-round tours can take you through the homes and Southern history. The town’s visitor center has pamphlets and maps to help guide you through both driving and walking tours of Natchez’s beautiful historic district, and horse-drawn carriage tours are available as well. The local King’s Tavern is worth a visit, deemed one of the most haunted places in not just Mississippi, but the entire country.
A village in the Missouri River Valley, Hermann has lovely rolling hills and seven wineries which produce a third of the state’s wines. Established by Germans in the nineteenth century, the old Missouri town has a cozy atmosphere with vintage brick buildings that line the sidewalks.
Although this Montana town is quickly growing in population, you’ll still experience its small-town charm. Located in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana, Hamilton is surrounded by mountains and forests that are perfect playgrounds for any outdoor activities. While you’re there, check out their breweries: Bitter Root Brewing and Higherground Brewery.
Located in the Great Plains region, Chadron has an abundance of nature destinations surrounding it with Oglala National Grasslands and the Nebraska National Forest nearby. Chadron has a history that began in the fur trading industry, and in honor of its past, the town celebrates with the annual festival called the Fur Trade Days.
Located in southeastern New Hampshire, Exeter is one of New England’s most charming towns. Its historic downtown has beautiful buildings with art galleries, restaurants, shops, and more. Situated where the Exeter River feeds the Squamscott River, Exeter has a scenic waterfront and is a great spot for outdoor activities such as boating, biking, and hiking.
On the southernmost tip of New Jersey lies the coastal city of Cape May. Declared a national landmark in 1976, Cape May is known for its Victorian architecture and fantastic beach, making it a particularly popular spring break destination. Its iconic lighthouse is well worth the visit, and you can climb its 199 steps for fabulous views of the town and shore. Water sports, of course, abound, with many opportunities to Jet Ski, parasail, kayak, surf, swim, and fish. Biking is also a great way to get around town, and dinner cruises often leave from the ports as well.
Two hours from Santa Fe, you can discover the lesser-known destination of Taos, a fantastic destination in New Mexico that’s great for an affordable family summer vacation. You can go any time of year, however; Taos is great for skiing and art, and the Taos Ski Valley is a must for anyone wanting to try out the Southwestern slopes. You can also make a trip to visit the Taos Pueblo, a Native American community just north of town that’s open to visitors as long as you’re respectful. The Rio Grande also means plenty of available river adventures, and the Enchanted Circle is a self-guided driving tour taken by many visitors through the scenic surroundings of Taos.
About a four-hour drive from New York City and located in central New York, Ithaca is notable for its breathtaking scenery. The town lies at the southern end of Cayuga Lake, and you’ll find plenty of opportunities for hiking among gorgeous greenery (or fall foliage if it’s autumn). It’s also a university town, giving rise to a thriving cultural and arts scene.
Asheville is a Southern gem hidden between North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and Great Smoky Mountains, and has been variously described as the “Paris of the South” and the “San Francisco of the East.” There are four distinct seasons, and fall in particular is breathtaking in Asheville due to the color of the surrounding hills. Bearing the most complete collection of Art Deco structures in the U.S., the city’s man-made sights are gorgeous as well. The most notable landmark of Asheville, however, is actually just a few minutes outside of the city: the Biltmore Estate. Influenced by French Renaissance architecture, the chateau has over 250 rooms and is the largest privately-owned house in the world. Admission is a between $45 to $60 (with half-price admission for youth, and free for children 9 and under), but you’ll find it’s more than worth it after exploring the estate, its gardens, hiking trails, stables, and wineries.
Just around 130 people live in Medora, a tiny North Dakota town with a big reputation in its home state. It’s home to Little Missouri National Grassland, the largest grassland in the country, and the Medora Musical, a popular Wild West-themed musical that runs each summer in an open-air amphitheater. You’ll also find North Dakota’s most luxurious Airbnb cottage in Medora.
Yellow Springs is a lovely, art-centric village in Ohio that you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with on your first visit. The downtown area is bustling with a unique assortment of local boutiques, galleries, eateries, and pubs that have vibrant and colorful storefronts.
Although the coastal Oregon town of Cannon Beach has a population of only around 1,700 people, more than 750,000 visit every year to enjoy an affordable yet totally Instagrammable vacation. Photos of its shore often feature the 235-foot-tall Haystack Rock, said to be the third largest intertidal monolith — meaning a rock that stands alone in the area where the land meets the sea — in the world. Low tide reveals starfish and other marine life living near the base of the rock. You can also find even more natural beauty at Ecola State Park, a favorite of many hikers and campers for its great views of the coast, and charming little shops line the streets in town.
The architecture and scenery of Jim Thorpe has lent itself to being called the “Switzerland of America” and the “Gateway to Poconos.” This romantic, Victorian town is located in the Lehigh Gorge in eastern Pennsylvania and offers visitors everything — from an adventurous experience exploring Pocono Mountains to a quiet weekend away enjoying live entertainment and strolls through the downtown area.
The seaside views of Newport, Rhode Island, make this one of the most popular Northeastern summertime destinations, and it's still a great East Coast beach town to visit in the fall. Newport’s famous cliff walk, a three-and-a-half-mile public walkway, holds some of the most beautiful views on the Eastern Seaboard. Witness wildlife and beautiful mansions that run alongside the walkway, the latter of which can also be visited for their own history. If you’re not up for a walk, take your car down the Ocean Drive, a 10-mile drive along the shore that will take you past some of Newport’s best sights.
Yet another great destination for Southern history and culture, visitors to Charleston can enjoy the city’s centuries-old homes, historic streets, beautiful gardens, and Revolutionary and Civil War-era sites. A height restriction ordinance has kept the skyline low in South Carolina’s largest city, and so it is populated with the city’s many churches, as well as the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The nation’s history of slavery is particularly apparent here, and one can visit the sites of old slave markets as well as former slave plantations. In addition to walking tours, there are also carriage tours available for those wishing to experience Charleston without putting in quite as much physical effort.
The great outdoors of the Midwest can be experienced in full at Sioux Falls, and a visit to Falls Park will provide plenty of places from which to witness the natural beauty of South Dakota. A five-story observation tower in the park will allow you to see the eponymous waterfalls, as well as historic buildings in the city. Museums display the history and culture of the area, as well as its wildlife. Sertoma Park has outdoor fun for the whole family; the main section is fit for kids with five huge jungle gyms and many picnic tables. Golfers will find a great number of courses here, particularly for a relatively small city. A recent increase in immigration has also led to diverse ethnic cuisine.
Old factories and warehouses have been converted into apartment complexes in Knoxville, ushering in a generation of young people who are bringing Knoxville back to life. Once the setting of the 1982 World’s Fair, Knoxville is home to the University of Tennessee and is only about 30 minutes from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A variety of restaurants and fascinating shops and boutiques line the downtown Market Square — home to one of the country’s best farmers markets — and visitors can head to the Old City for a varied nightlife with something for everyone.
Wimberley is a quaint and beautiful small town in central Texas, with much to do. The most exciting entertainments in Wimberley include attending their weekly “Bluegrass Jam” event and losing track of time at the Blue Hole — a gorgeous swimming hole surrounded by cypress trees and park area.
Park City is a resort town visitors can enjoy all year round, but what sets it apart from the many other resort towns of Utah is its tradition of the arts. After all, this is the host city of the annual Sundance Film Festival. Music also has a big place here, and you can watch bands play at Silver Lake in the summer or enjoy all kinds of artists at the Kimball Arts Festival, attended by over 45,000 people every year. Park City also has some top-notch restaurants that are worth checking out.
Stowe is so dedicated to skiing that it even houses the Vermont Ski Museum. This little Vermont town has much more to offer, however, with the Trapp Family Lodge drawing fans of The Sound of Music, who come to enjoy skiing as well as concerts in the summertime. Stowe is also not far from the Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory, the Cold Hollow Cider Mill, or the Cabot Cheese Outlet. Stowe’s natural beauty not only makes outdoor recreation more enjoyable, but it also makes for great scenic walks and drives, particularly in the fall. Its food scene is also quite vast and adventurous, and you won’t feel the need to go far for a good meal.
Rudi Riet/Wikimedia Commons
This romantic little village is located in northeastern Virginia and has a small population of fewer than 200 people. Known as Virginia’s “Little Switzerland,” Monterey is home to the annual Highland Maple Festival where you’ll see how sap from sugar maples is collected and turned into syrup. It is a year-round beauty that is even more gorgeous in the winter, when holiday celebrations are abundant.
Off the coast of Washington state, but still part of it, lie the San Juan Islands, a sparsely populated yet popular tourist destination that is perfect for a weekend getaway. It is here that you will find Friday Harbor, a town of just over 2,000 people with beautiful scenic views of the surrounding waters and mountains. Perfect for boating, kayaking, and other water sports, Friday Harbor is made even more beautiful by its Mediterranean climate.
A.E. Crane/Wikimedia Commons
Known as the “Gateway to the New River Gorge,” Fayetteville is a small town with fantastic scenery and great opportunities for river and outdoor activities. While you can do some horseback riding, you may be more intrigued by the llama treks that are popular here. The waters, rivers, mountains, and landscapes of Fayetteville draw many visitors to West Virginia for scenic hiking, drives, and different river expeditions, most notably rafting. Make sure to check out the Appalachian arts and crafts available in local shops, as well as the Fayetteville Farmers Market.
The town of Lake Geneva in southeastern Wisconsin has a wonderful law that states that all lakefront properties must allow for a bit of their land to be used as part of a path that encircles the entire lake. Bikes are banned, which allows for you to go for a nice, tranquil walk, untroubled by cyclists moving at a more frantic pace. You can also rent a boat and actually get on the lake for sailing or parasailing. Cute little stores offer all kinds of trinkets and goods for tourists to take home.
Acquaint yourself with the old Western town of Dubois with a leisurely horseback ride, a calming hike, adrenaline-boosting mountain biking, contemplative fly fishing, or even invigorating snowshoeing during the winter. You won’t be disappointed with the town’s incredible views of the Absaroka and Wyoming’s Wind River Mountains. Before you go rushing out for a road trip, however, you'll want to know the best food and drink in every state.
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