Some of our nation's most underrated travel destinations are its small towns, places with fewer than 30,000 people where life moves a little bit slower, people tend to be friendlier and mom-and-pop establishments help keep things local.
We set out to find the best small towns in the United States – the best coastal and historic small towns, and the best small towns for eating, shopping, culture or outdoor adventure. To do so, we asked our readers to vote for their favorites and the results were in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners:
Best Coastal Small Town: Sandusky, Ohio
Sandusky has a bit of everything, from wine country to roller coasters — Photo courtesy of iStock / JodiJacobson
Located midway between Cleveland and Toledo, Sandusky is one of Ohio’s best lakeside escapes. Visitors will find a revitalized downtown district with plenty of shopping and dining options, recreation on Lake Erie, wine tasting and some of the world’s best roller coasters at Cedar Point.
Best Historic Small Town: Granbury, Texas
Granbury is a favorite historic Texas escape — Photo courtesy of iStock / Skyhobo
The charming town of Granbury makes frequent appearances on "best small town" lists, and it’s easy to see why. The town’s historic 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.
Best Small Town Cultural Scene: Doylestown, Pennsylvania
The Doylestown Cultural District is home to two excellent museums and an art deco theater — Photo courtesy of iStock / aimintang
This Pennsylvania town is home to the Doylestown Cultural District, where visitors will find both the Mercer Museum and James A. Michener Art Museum – home to a collection of Pennsylvania impressionist works – within steps of Main Street. The art deco County Theater, built in the 1930s, still screens movies.
Best Small Town Food Scene: Abingdon, Virginia
Treat your taste buds to a trip to Abingdon — Photo courtesy of Jason Barnette / Abingdon Convention & Visitors Bureau
While Abingdon is perhaps best known for its performing and visual arts, its culinary scene is equally creative. Local chefs draw inspiration from the area’s farming heritage as they craft an eclectic mix of cuisines. Satisfy a sweet tooth at 149 Sweets, sample some smokey barbecue at Bone Fire Smokehouse, enjoy afternoon tea at Camella’s or dine on raw plant-based dishes at Chef Jennifer’s Raw Life Giving Cuisine.
Best Small Town for Adventure: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Winning small town offers four seasons of recreational opportunities — Photo courtesy of iStock / csfotoimages
As Lake Geneva became a popular resort destination in the nineteenth century, it earned the nickname 'Newport of the West.' Extravagant summer mansions line its shores, while visitors enjoy four seasons of recreation both on and off the water.
Best Small Town for Shopping: Highlands, North Carolina
You can find it all in Highlands — Photo courtesy of iStock / huePhotography
The picturesque Main Street in the small North Carolina town of Highlands is a shopper’s paradise stocking a little bit of everything – sportswear, gift items, European and American antiques, home decor and accessories, fine art and kitchen gear.
Congratulations to all of our small town winners. Remember to visit 10Best.com daily to vote in other Readers' Choice categories.