Best Small Town Cultural Scene (2022)


Bigger isn't always better, especially when it comes to these small towns, each with a population of fewer than 25,000 people. What each lacks in size it makes up for in culture – museums, art galleries, performing arts, and plenty of events. 

  • Clayton

    New York

    This New York community was first settled in 1822 and became a significant port for shipbuilding and lumbering. Many unique museums detailing aspects of Clayton’s history are in this area – the Antique Boat Museum, with the most extensive collection of fresh-water recreational boats in North America and the host of the nation’s oldest antique boat show; the Thousand Islands Museum, a waterfront museum with a collection of antique watercraft and innovative exhibits; and the Thousand Islands Art Center, with an extensive 20th-century textile collection from North America, and pottery and weaving studios.
    Photo courtesy of Horizon Aerial Media

  • Mariposa


    This small California community offers several experiences that give visitors an insightful glimpse into the area’s historical significance. The California State Mining & Mineral Museum has over 13,000 minerals, gems, and fossils, and holds in its collection the Friscot Nugget, thought to be the largest nugget found during the Gold Rush years. The Northern Mariposa County History Center provides a glimpse of early California, including collections of clothing and accessories of past eras. The Mariposa Museum and History Center portray life in the area from the Native American and Spanish periods through the early 1800s, including a fully functional blacksmith shop and broom-making shop.
    Photo courtesy of Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau

  • Collingswood

    New Jersey

    Quakers initially settled this New Jersey community in the late 17th-century, and the Stokes-Lees Mansion, built in 1707, is one of the oldest houses in Camden County. The town is also the location of Harleigh Cemetery, the final resting place of the American poet Walt Whitman. With an incredible roster of local and national acts, the historic Scottish Rite Theater in Collingswood, with exceptional sightlines and acoustics, is a great place to catch a play or musical event.
    Photo courtesy of Gannett, Douglas Bovitt/(Cherry Hill, N.J.) Courier-Post

  • Ocean Springs

    Ocean Springs

    First settled on Mississippi’s Gulf Coast by the French in 1699, Ocean Springs today is known for its arts culture as much as its fresh seafood. The Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center of Arts and Education and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art showcase traveling exhibits and local works, and public art installations accent the city. Visitors can find many public art installations throughout the downtown area, including a mosaic depicting “a day on the water” at the end of the Ocean Springs-Biloxi bridge.
    Photo courtesy of ArtistheJourney // Getty Images

  • Haddonfield

    New Jersey

    One of the best small towns in the Delaware Valley, particularly for shopping and dining, Haddonfield is one of the oldest communities in the region, occupied by European settlers since the late 1600s. The downtown area features more than 200 shops and art galleries, as well as restaurants ranging from casual fish and chips shops to candlelit dining rooms. The Haddonfield Plays & Players put on dramatic productions, while the Markeim Arts Center hosts classes, art camps and exhibitions throughout the year.
    Photo courtesy of Downtown Haddonfield

  • Staunton


    Located in the stunning Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Staunton is the hometown of President Woodrow Wilson and the location of Beverley Street, a celebrated historic main street. Staunton is also home to the Heifetz International Music Institute, Staunton Music Festival, Red Wing Roots Festival, and the R.R. Smith Center for History and Art. A highlight is the American Shakespeare Center's Blackfriars Playhouse, a recreation of Shakespeare's theater in London.
    Photo courtesy of Staunton Convention and Visitor's Bureau

  • Solvang


    This California community is only two hours north of Los Angeles but carries on all the traditions of the language, folk dancing, music, and cuisine of Scandinavian Denmark. Solvang’s Danish heritage can be appreciated with visits to the Elverhoj Museum of History & Art and the Hans Christian Andersen Museum. Bethania Lutheran Church embraces Danish architecture and art, with the Little Mermaid fountain and a bust of Hans Christian Andersen. Be sure to visit the replica of Copenhagen’s famous 17th-century Rudetaam (Round Tower), and stop by in September for the Danish Days annual festival, which commemorates Solvang’s heritage.
    Photo courtesy of HaizhanZheng // Getty Images

  • Eureka Springs

    Eureka Springs

    The entire town of Eureka Springs is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and South Main Street running through downtown is lined with beautiful Victorian architecture. While curative hot springs were once the main draw, modern-day visitors come for the live music, art scene, and romantic Queen Anne-style B&Bs scattered throughout the town. The town is home to hundreds of working artists and galleries.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / JTGrafix

  • Sedona


    The small town of Sedona has a long and colorful history with the world of art. In 1965, over beers in a local saloon, The Cowboy Artists of America was created in this Arizona community. The Sedona Arts Center showcases local artists’ work and special exhibitions, live and online classes and workshops, and an online gallery. Several of Sedona’s prominent art galleries participate in 1st Friday Evenings in the Galleries, where visitors can enjoy an evening of openings, demonstrations, and receptions. Artistic mediums on display range from Western bronzes, contemporary jewelry, Native American weavings, stained glass, woodcarvings, and much more.
    Photo courtesy of Sedona Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau

  • Saratoga Springs

    Saratoga Springs
    New York

    The cultural offerings in small Saratoga Springs rival those of much larger cities. The town is particularly strong in the performing arts, with one of the nation’s top outdoor music venues (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) serving as the summer home of the New York City Ballet, Philadelphia Orchestra and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. “Get your toes tapping at the National Museum of Dance. Saratoga is the New York City Ballet’s summer home so it’s a fitting location for the country’s first museum dedicated to this art form,” suggests 10Best contributor Allison Tibaldi.
    Photo courtesy of Saratoga Convention & Tourism Bureau

  1. Clayton - New York
  2. Mariposa - California
  3. Collingswood - New Jersey
  4. Ocean Springs - Mississippi
  5. Haddonfield - New Jersey
  6. Staunton - Virginia
  7. Solvang - California
  8. Eureka Springs - Arkansas
  9. Sedona - Arizona
  10. Saratoga Springs - New York

A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning towns!

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AlertThe Experts

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

10Best Editors

Dynie Sanderson

Dynie Sanderson

Dynie Sanderson

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Marla Cimini

Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell

Sherel Purcell

Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith

Catherine Smith