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Best Historic Small Town (2021)

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The USA has a fascinating history and exploring the places which most affected it is much more fun than simply reading about it. These 10 Best Historic Small Towns, selected by our readers, have big histories and small populations – fewer than 25,000 people – making them fun and affordable ways to dive into our nation's past. 

  • Granbury

    Granbury
    Texas

    The charming town of Granbury makes frequent appearances on “best small town” lists, and it’s easy to see why. The town’s central square, lined by historic landmarks, makes for excellent shopping, and there are plenty of mom n’ pop restaurants to choose from when it comes time to refuel. The beach at Lake Granbury offers a way to cool off on those hot Texas afternoons, and there’s even a family-friendly boardwalk.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Skyhobo

  • De Smet

    De Smet
    South Dakota

    Charles and Caroline Ingalls settled in De Smet in 1879. Their daughter Laura recorded her childhood memories in her Little House books, the basis for the Little House on the Prairie TV series. Locals retell the story every summer in an open-air theater, and visitors can see buildings connected to the Ingalls family.
    Photo courtesy of Chad Coppess South Dakota Tourism

  • Taos

    Taos
    New Mexico

    The Taos Pueblo is believed to be one of the oldest continually active communities in North America and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The earliest residents of the area, the Taos-Tiwa tribe, have lived in Taos Valley for more than a thousand years, and many of the town’s unique adobe structures are several centuries old. Taos has attracted artists for over a hundred years and now has more than twenty sites on the National Register of Historic Places
    Photo courtesy of Town of Taos

  • Abilene

    Abilene
    Kansas

    Abilene is the hometown of Dwight D. Eisenhower, a 5-Star General and 34th President of the United States, and that’s just the start of this town’s historical appeal. Besides the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood home, visitors can ride the state’s only operational steam locomotive, tour the Historic Seelye Mansion, take a spin on the oldest known Parker Carousel and step back into the Wild West in Old Abilene Town.
    Photo courtesy of Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau

  • Natchez

    Natchez
    Mississippi

    Since its settlement in 1716 by French colonists, Natchez has played an essential role in developing the lower Mississippi River Valley. Once the capital of the Mississippi Territory, wealthy Southern planters and riverboat captains built their mansions here before the Civil War, many of which are well preserved today. Visit the Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture to understand their lives in the southern United States. Also in Natchez is the infamous Forks of the Road, home to one of the largest slave markets in the United States.
    Photo courtesy of StevenGaertner // Getty Images

  • Mineral Point

    Mineral Point
    Wisconsin

    One of Wisconsin’s oldest cities, Mineral Point’s mining activity in the 19th Century attracted miners from Cornwall, England. Today, the Pendarvis Historical Site preserves their Cornish heritage, architecture, and cuisine. Also known as the town “where Wisconsin began,” downtown Mineral Point hosted the inauguration of Henry Dodge, the first governor of Wisconsin Territory, on July 4, 1836.
    Photo courtesy of JamesBrey // Getty Images

  • St. Augustine

    St. Augustine
    Florida

    Situated on the banks of the Matanzas River, the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America was initially founded by Spanish pioneers in 1565 as a forward base for expanding further into the continent. Throughout its history St. Augustine, protected by the oldest fort in America, Castillo de San Marcos, has been raided, attacked and changed hands several times. 
    Photo courtesy of Stacey Sather / FloridasHistoricCoast.com

  • Mackinac Island

    Mackinac Island
    Michigan

    One of the last car-free destinations in the U.S., Mackinac Island, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, seems trapped in the past, but in the most delightful way. Accommodations consist of white colonnaded turn-of-the-century hotels, while the horse-drawn carriage remains the favored form of transportation. With 80 percent of the island occupied by protected state parkland, those looking to explore the outdoors will find plenty of opportunity for hiking and biking.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Michael Deemer

  • Natchitoches

    Natchitoches
    Louisiana

    Welcome to “Nack-a-Tish,” B&B Capital of Louisiana and quaint setting for the ensemble-cast classic, Steel Magnolias. Natchitoches is the oldest town in the state. Its historic district is loaded down with shopping, dining and other attractions while ample annual events – many incorporating Native American, Creole and Louisiana cultures – draw visitors by the busload. Some of the city’s most popular center on music, including jazz and zydeco, others on regional staples like good ‘ol Louisiana barbecue.
    Photo courtesy of Natchitoches Convention & Visitors Bureau // Brian Jarreau

  • Berkeley Springs

    Berkeley Springs
    West Virginia

    Less than two hours’ ride from the DC/Baltimore area, Berkeley Springs is worlds away from big-city bustle. Visitors discovered the power of this mountain enclave’s natural warm springs ages ago and have been coming ever since, seeking relaxation and rejuvenation. You can still spend time at centuries-old baths at Berkeley Springs State Park, but myriad modern options abound, as well, along with lovely inns, dining venues, shopping options and cultural events.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / WilliamSherman

The top 10 winners in the category Best Historic Small Town are as follows: 
  1. Granbury - Texas
  2. De Smet - South Dakota
  3. Taos - New Mexico
  4. Abilene - Kansas
  5. Natchez - Mississippi
  6. Mineral Point - Wisconsin
  7. St. Augustine - Florida
  8. Mackinac Island - Michigan
  9. Natchitoches - Louisiana
  10. Berkeley Springs - West Virginia
Congratulations to all these winning towns!
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