Best Midwestern Small Town: Grand Marais, Minn.

Charlevoix, Michigan takes second place

The Midwestern United States – Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin – are home to thousands of quaint communities and small towns. USA TODAY 10Best enlisted the help of local experts to nominate their 20 favorites, all with populations of less than 10,000 (according to the latest census data).

  • Weston
    Missouri

    Weston, a popular day trip destination from Kansas City, packs a big cultural punch for such a small town. Visitors can sip wine at Pirtle Winery, tour Green Dirt Farm or dive into the town's history at the Weston Historical Museum or train depot, home to an interesting Lewis and Clark exhibit. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy nearby Weston Bend State Park.
    Photo courtesy of Missouri Division of Tourism

  • Nebraska City
    Nebraska

    A former trading post and departure point for western exploration during the pioneer days, Nebraska City is a popular destination for apple picking in the fall. Aside from its nearby orchards, the town also boasts a historic downtown area filled with boutiques and antique stores, a few history museums and access to the Missouri River Basin Lewis and Clark Interpretive Trail and Visitor's Center.
    Photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism

  • Granville
    Ohio

    Founded in 1805, the picturesque college town of Granville was first settled by New Englanders, and it shows in the town's 19th century architecture. One of the most striking examples is the Buxton Inn, opened in 1812 and in operation ever since. Vintage stores, art galleries and cute-as-a-button cafes add to the small town appeal.
    Photo courtesy of TourismOhio

  • Saugatuck
    Michigan

    One of the most popular resort towns on Michigan's Gold Coast, Saugatuck is known for its B&Bs, art galleries and stunning Lake Michigan shore. This small town's charms include a 19th century downtown area brimming with shopping opportunities and chic cafes and easy access to the dunes and beaches of the nearby state parks.
    Photo courtesy of iStock, Getty Images

  • Nashville
    Indiana

    Art galleries, historic homes and a calendar full of festivals (nearly 40 spread throughout the year) make Nashville, Indiana a favorite small town getaway in the Midwest. In this former artists community, visitors will find everything from paintings to hand-thrown ceramics, as well as live theater, musicals and ample opportunity for outdoor adventure in surrounding Brown County.
    Photo courtesy of Brown County

  • Shipshewana
    Indiana

    Buggy rides, flea markets, antique shopping ... these are among the many draws of Shipshewana in the heart of Indiana's Amish Country. Turn-of-the-century storefronts house art galleries, bakeries, craft shops, furniture workshops and restaurants serving hometown Amish dishes. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays May through September, the Midwest's largest flea market brims with locally made artisan items. Those curious to learn more about the surrounding communities can do so at Menno-Hof, a museum dedicated to Amish and Mennonites.
    Photo courtesy of Tysto / Wikimedia Commons

  • Chagrin Falls
    Ohio

    Located about 40 minutes from Downtown Cleveland, the small town of Chagrin Falls gets its name from the natural waterfalls in the center of its historic downtown. The shopping scene is a big draw; Franklin and Main Streets are lined with antique shops, art galleries and boutiques, and Gamekeeper's restaurant offers some of the best patio dining in the Cleveland area.
    Photo courtesy of Wendy Soucie / Flickr

  • Lanesboro
    Minnesota

    Located in Southern Minnesota on the Root River Bike Trail, the town of Lanesboro offers a wide range of experiences, from outdoor adventures like fishing, hiking and canoeing to cultural attractions like art galleries, historic architecture and the chance to tour the surrounding Amish country. Numerous B&Bs offer a place to stay during longer getaways, and the town's Commonweal Theatre frequently stages live productions.
    Photo courtesy of Bobak Ha'Eri / Wikimedia Commons

  • Charlevoix
    Michigan

    Vacationers looking for an Up North escape love Charlevoix for its beautiful lake beaches, historic architecture and boutique shopping. Castle Farms, the town's most famous attraction, was built in 1918 as a working dairy farm. Today, it's a popular place to go for a scenic stroll. Visitors to the town can also tour Earl Young's Mushroom Houses or visit Beaver Island, the largest island on Lake Michigan.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Charlevoix

  • Grand Marais
    Minnesota

    Situated at the end of Minnesota's North Shore Scenic Drive, the town of Grand Marais charms with its art galleries, quirky restaurants, local shops and diverse lodging. While there's plenty to do in town (it's home to one of the nation's best art colonies), this harbor village also serves as a gateway to outdoor adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

For the past four weeks, our readers have been voting daily for their favorites, and the votes have been counted.

The top 10 winners in the category Best Midwestern Small Town are as follows: 

  1. Grand Marais, Minn.
  2. Charlevoix, Mich.
  3. Lanesboro, Minn.
  4. Chagrin Falls, Ohio
  5. Shipshewana, Ind.
  6. Nashville, Ind.
  7. Saugatuck, Mich.
  8. Granville, Ohio
  9. Nebraska City, Neb.
  10. Weston, Mo.

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Expert Lisa Schwarz (St. Cloud Times) and our team of 10Best Local Experts were chosen based on their knowledge and experience of Midwestern travel.

Additional nominees for the title of Best Midwestern Small Town included Bayfield, Wis.; Cottonwood Falls, Kan.; Elkhart Lake, Wis.; Galena, Ill.; Hermann, Mo.; Hot Springs, S.D.; Medora, N.D.; Mount Vernon, Iowa; Parkville, Mo. and Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Congratulations to all our winning small towns!

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