TravelAwaits readers voted in our Best of Travel Awards to help us determine everything from the best beaches to the best national parks. Our readers have spoken. Here are the friendliest small towns in the United States.
Friendliest Small Town Winner: Skagway, Alaska
The friendliest small town can be found in The Last Frontier. Year-round, only about 900 people live in the tourist town of Skagway, Alaska. However, a million visitors flock to the cruise ship stop each summer for its spectacular scenery, Klondike Gold Rush history, and incredible things to do.
Skagway is nestled between the Coastal Mountain Range and the deepest fjord in North America. In addition to hiking, this small town offers breathtaking train rides, glacier helicopter tours, and dogsledding tours. One lone bank anchors the six blocks of downtown, which have been designated a National Historic District. Pop into the Red Onion Saloon for a brothel tour, gawk at Arctic Brotherhood Hall’s driftwood-covered facade, and then stroll down to Skagway Brewing Company for an ice-cold Spruce Tip Ale.
Friendliest Small Town Finalist: Lindsborg, Kansas
Välkommen till Lindsborg! Located about an hour north of Wichita on Interstate 35 in the rolling hills of the fertile Smoky Valley, Lindsborg has a population of just over 3,000. Founded by Swedish immigrants in 1868, this central Kansas town stays true to its Scandinavian heritage.
Nicknamed Little Sweden, this small town’s attractions, cuisine, and architecture offer a taste of the motherland. Dala horse sculptures decorate the streets in celebration of the city’s heritage.
Stop into Blacksmith Coffee Shop and Roastery, a unique coffee house located in a former smithy. Try the famous The Brent Nelson sandwich — a Polish sausage on a hoagie, topped with onions, Cheddar, and hot pepper cheese — at Ol Stuga.
Visit Coronado Heights, a nearby stone castle known as the “castle on the plains.” Stay at Seasons of the Fox Bed and Breakfast in a room decorated for a season of the year. On the second Friday of the month, Main Street transforms into Makers Street for the community art walk. If you happen to visit in June, don’t miss the Midsummer’s Festival, complete with Maypole dancing.
Friendliest Small Town Finalist: La Conner, Washington
Situated on the banks of the Salish Sea’s Swinomish Channel (say that five times fast), this beautiful historic village is the heart of the Skagit Valley. La Conner is an adorable small town that can be found between Seattle and Vancouver. With a population of under 1,000, folks in this quaint fishing village have no choice but to be friendly.
Beautiful scenic views of the Cascade Mountains act as a backdrop for this picturesque community, which feels like a step back in time. The tiny town boasts three museums as well as large antique shops that could almost be museums. Locally owned boutiques and galleries dot the vibrant downtown art colony. Keep an eye out for eagles, otters, and sea lions as you walk along the waterfront, and stop into a waterfront restaurant for a bite. Be sure to grab a German chocolate or savory scone from The Scone Lady Bakery, too.
La Conner makes for the perfect pit stop along The Cascade Loop, Washington’s ultimate summer road trip. Go in spring to experience the bright blooms of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival!
Warwick, New York
Just 55 miles northwest of New York City lies a little getaway that is far, far removed from big-city living. Made up of three villages — Florida, Greenwood Lake, and Warwick — this Hudson Valley gem spans a mere 104 square miles. Located on the border of New Jersey in Orange County, New York, the Town of Warwick is also home to actual hamlets — smaller than villages, for those keeping track.
In addition to natural beauty and charm, Warwick has shops, restaurants, and wineries. Right outside of The Big Apple, Warwick offers apple-centric activities like apple-picking and cider-tasting. The fall foliage is especially glorious in the mountains and fields of Warwick Valley, where the deep shades of autumn are all around you as you walk or hike the miles of trails in the area, including sections of the Appalachian Trail.
Stay at a bed and breakfast, like the charming Inn at Stony Creek, a historic 1840 home on 9 acres. Try the Bellvale Bog at Bellvale Farms Creamery, a dairy farm with one of the best-reviewed ice cream parlors in the country. Tee off at Hickory Hill Golf Course. Catch a movie at the Warwick Drive-In. In the winter, Warwick offers skiing, and in the summer, you can swim at the lake.
With a population of 7,369, Ponchatoula is a sleepy town about an hour’s drive from New Orleans. Thousands of people descend upon the area each April for the Strawberry Festival in search of all things strawberry, from shortcake to margaritas. Even if you don’t catch the festival, make sure to snag some strawberry jam to take home.
The quaint downtown area is home to tons of antique shops and the Ponchatoula Country Market. Located in the town’s train depot, it’s full of handicrafts, including candles, quilts, and wood carvings. Ponchatoula is also a great spot to hop on the Louisiana Northshore Quilt Trail, a driving route that includes more than 135 individual quilt blocks painted or displayed on buildings and barns across a five-parish swath of the state.
Hammondsport, New York
With a population of just under 500, the village of Hammondsport sits on the south end of Keuka Lake, one of the Finger Lakes. Although small, this town offers a little bit of something for everyone.
Aviation nerds will want to check out the Glenn H. Curtiss Museum. Oenophiles will want to try the fruity rieslings and Bordeaux-style Eclipse Red at Heron Hill Winery (they also serve nonalcoholic grape apple cider and grape iced tea). Foodies can indulge in a four-course dinner at Waterfront Restaurant overlooking Keuka Lake.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Blowing Rock’s storybook streets are the perfect place to go for an old-fashioned Christmas. With a population of just over 1,000, this quaint town off the Blue Ridge Parkway is less than 2 hours from Charlotte and just over 3 hours from Raleigh. Its namesake is the state’s first tourist attraction, a million-plus-year-old rock. The Blowing Rock juts out 3,000 feet over the Johns River Gorge. The views are simply stunning, especially during the fall.
This outdoor mountain playground also offers hiking, fly fishing, and cold-weather activities. Other highlights of this quaint town include boutiques, independent restaurants, art galleries, a spa, and antique shops. On Main Street, in the center of town, Memorial Park gives the friendly small town a magical feel.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Situated about 3 hours north of Boston, this charming town is home to just over 2,000 New Englanders. Boothbay Harbor boasts a rich history that’s steeped in boatbuilding and lobster fishing. Whether you’re into hiking, sailing, or island hopping, there’s always a reason to visit this quaint coastal town.
Cabbage Island Clambakes shuttles guests out to a private island for a traditional New England clambake. Cap’n Fish’s Cruises offers whale and puffin sightseeing trips. Boothbay is also home to one of the state’s top attractions, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens. Spend an afternoon exploring its 250 acres of impressive stonework, spectacular flowers, and majestic waterfalls.
Stroll the town center to see stores, restaurants, and galleries. Get a lobster roll from Shannon’s Unshelled. Enjoy an evening meal on the water at the Boathouse Bistro. Spend the night at the Bayberry House Bed and Breakfast or Spruce Point Inn and Spa.
People come to see the fall foliage, but there are celebrations and festivals year-round, from Windjammer Days in summer, during which majestic schooners decorate the waterfront, to December’s Harbor Lights, which features many events, including a boat parade.
With a population of 6,362, Abilene is a charming Kansas locale with one of the best small-town Fourth of July celebrations in the Midwest. Dwight D. Eisenhower hailed from Abilene, and now it’s home to the World War II general-turned-U.S. president’s Presidential Library, Museum & Boyhood Home. On the other side of the railroad tracks from Ike’s humble farmhouse sits the Seelye Mansion. One of the “Eight Wonders of Kansas,” the stately estate is decked out in poinsettias at Christmastime.
Full of history and dotted with amazing architecture, this quaint Midwestern town offers plenty of things to do. Treat yourself to a family-style chicken dinner at the James Beard Award-winning Brookville Hotel. Get your picture taken with the chocolate-covered teddy bear sitting outside Russell Stover Chocolates, and then go in to make your own custom box!
Whidbey Island’s Coupeville is just a couple of hours and a ferry ride away from Seattle. Filled with historic seaside charm and 100-year-old buildings, this waterfront village is Washington state’s second-oldest community. Front Street features shops, restaurants, and the Island County Museum. Walk out on the wharf for a peek at its iconic red building. Make reservations at The Oystercatcher — the epitome of farm-to-table, this cozy dining spot even ferments local produce.
This adorable small town is also home to breathtaking hikes, since it sits in the nation’s first federal reserve, Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Bluff Trail offers majestic views of Mount Baker to the east with the Cascades flowing to the south. The Olympic Mountains loom over the Puget Sound as you walk along this trail.
Villa Rica, Georgia
The friendly small town of Villa Rica (population 16,058) lies about half an hour outside of downtown Atlanta. Take Exit 24 off I-20 West to find this small Georgia town, where art, culture, and history intersect. With its walkable downtown filled with boutiques, restaurants, and antique shops, this off-the-beaten-track destination makes for the ideal weekend getaway.
The Pine Mountain Gold Museum is located on an actual gold mine. One of Georgia’s only gold museums has played host to events such as The Cowboy Festival (pictured above). Housed in the former courthouse in the neighboring town of Douglasville, the Douglas County Museum of History and Art is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Sweetwater Creek State Park, the most-visited state park in Georgia, is about 19 miles away. Fish at George Sparks Reservoir and hike its 15 miles of trails. When you get hungry, head to Evans Barbeque for some fried barbecue egg rolls. And when you get thirsty, make your way to the wildly popular Uncorked on Main, a tasting room and wine bar located in a historic commercial building downtown.
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Perched on the Pajarito Plateau in the mountains of northern New Mexico, Los Alamos is about 90 miles north of Albuquerque, 55 miles from Taos, and 35 miles from Santa Fe. Surrounded by the Santa Fe National Forest, Bandelier National Monument is a rugged wildlife habitat. Explore the cliff dwellings of the Ancestral Puebloans as you hike the 70 miles of trails that wind through the 33,000-acre park.
Another must-see attraction is the Los Alamos History Museum, where you can learn about the Manhattan Project. For more atomic history, the Bradbury Science Museum offers 60 interactive exhibits.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Snowbirds and Gulf Coast road trippers alike flock to this idyllic coastal city on the Mississippi Sound to be welcomed by the 17,862 kind residents of beautiful Ocean Springs. In addition to pristine white-sand beaches, this charming town has a vibrant art and music scene, world-class dining, and cute boutiques.
There’s no shortage of things to do. When you’re not swimming, sunbathing, or having your breath taken away by the stunning sunsets, shop and listen to live music along Government Street in the downtown district. If you can’t get enough of the famous Mississippi painter’s work that decorates the city, tour the Walter Anderson Museum of Art.
Grab a mouthwatering biscuit breakfast sandwich from Greenhouse on Porter to take to the beach. For dinner, the James Beard-lauded Vestige serves a New American and Japanese-inspired tasting menu made with fresh local vegetables and seafood. For tapas, live entertainment, and cocktails, check out Mosaic.
Stay downtown at The Roost Boutique Hotel, rent a cottage by the beach, or camp out at the Davis Bayou Campground.
Pacific Grove, California
Located on the rugged Central Coast, the quiet town of Pacific Grove is home to about 15,000 friendly Californians. Flanked by the popular and pricier destinations of Monterey and Pebble Beach, this protected stretch of coastline is the ideal base from which to explore the entire peninsula.
If you find yourself in Steinbeck country — perhaps on Cali’s scenic 17-Mile Drive — take a walk around Asilomar. Tide pools housing abundant marine life dot this narrow mile-long strip of sandy beach and rocky coves near Point Pinos Lighthouse.
Inland, Pacific Grove’s quaint historic downtown is full of Victorian-era buildings that house charming boutiques and excellent restaurants. Try local favorite Red House Cafe for any meal of the day. Passionfish is the place for delicious and sustainable seafood. For a literary place to lay your head, stay in Steinbeck’s studio!
Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin
You can find this hidden gem and its 1,035 friendly occupants on the Lake Michigan side of Door County. One of the most picturesque parts of the country, Baileys Harbor makes for a great day trip from Milwaukee.
Baileys Harbor boasts 6,000 acres of public lands, beaches, and parks. The Ridges Sanctuary and Toft Point State Natural Area offer great hiking, bird-watching, and wildlife-viewing opportunities. Head to Anclam Town Park Swimming Beach to take a dip in Lake Michigan. Or swim or paddle over at Kangaroo Lake and explore the trails at the Kangaroo Lake Nature Preserve.
Other local attractions include the Cana Island Light Station and the Christina Nilsson shipwreck. Summertime means fun annual festivals, like the Door County Beer Festival and Food Trucks & Floaties. If you find yourself downtown on a Friday night, don’t miss the famous fish fry at Baileys Harbor Cornerstone Pub. For great dining and a beautiful view, look no further than Florian II Lakeshore Supper Club.