6 Small Towns That Should Be on Your Must-See List

There’s a reason musicians reminisce about small-town charm. Think “Walking in Memphis” by Marc Cohn, “Abilene” by Sheryl Crow, or “Small Town USA” by Justin Moore. Small-town life moves at a slower pace—where you can stroll Main Street to shop antique stores and stop for an afternoon ice cream cone at an authentic soda fountain.

Historic elements, cultural offerings, outdoor adventures, and natural beauty wait for you in small towns across the country. We sought out towns with less than 50,000 in population and the best variety of entertainment options so you can start planning your next small-town getaway.

Pendleton, Oregon

You know you’re in for a vacation filled with rich traditions when you visit a town recognized as the “Top True Western Town” by True West Magazine in 2011. In Pendleton, you can immerse yourself in the history and craftsmanship of pioneers, cowboys, and Native Americans. At the foot of the Blue Mountains, you’ll find antique and western wear stores, and a lesson in how the pioneer settlers impacted the native people at the Tamástslikt Cultural Institute. From there we recommend taking a tour of the underground tunnel and exploring in the Charm Trail, a self-guided tour, where you create a personalized charm bracelet while visiting museums, restaurants, and antique shops in town.

Where to Stay: Oxford Suites Pendleton

You’ll be centrally located in Pendleton at the Oxford Suites, just a 15-minute drive from the Wildhorse Casino and Happy Canyon Hall of Fame, and just a little more than a mile from the Heritage Station Museum and Roy Raley Park.

Getting There: If flying into Pendleton, it’s best to fly into either the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport or Portland International Airport and connect to Seaport Airlines, which will take you the rest of the way to the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport in Pendleton.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Find the best Colorado has to offer in a small-town hamlet set in a valley surrounded by mountains. Known for its geothermal springs, the Glenwood Springs area boasts three hot springs attractions where you can soak in the healing waters. The Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves offers a spa experience where you can sweat from the vapors in the naturally filled caverns. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy cycling, skiing, rafting the Colorado River that runs through Glenwood Canyon, hiking, and even tandem paragliding from the top of Red Mountain.

Where to Stay: Courtyard Glenwood Springs

Located close to the historic downtown area, the Courtyard Glenwood Springs offers the perfect place to find adventure and relaxation. You’ll find plush bedding and well-lit work spaces with free Wi-Fi in this modern hotel.

Getting There: The closest airport to Glenwood Springs is the Eagle County Regional Airport, a 30-mile drive down I-70 W. If you’re looking to fly into a larger airport with fewer connecting flights, we recommend flying into Denver International Airport and making the scenic three-hour drive to your final destination. 

Sedona, Arizona

Outdoor activities abound in Sedona, an area known for its famous energy-filled vortexes. With more than 100 hiking trails, it’s an ideal location for families and adventure seekers alike. Stargazers get a treat from the area’s blanket of darkness at night or take a drive through Red Rock Country for a spectacular view of the magnificent canyons, creeks, wildlife, cliffs, and desert terrain. Other activities you can enjoy in Sedona include trail riding, art galleries, and cowboy cookouts.

Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Sedona

Sedona is as scenic as it gets and you can enjoy its splendor at the Hampton Inn, set in one of the most scenic locations in the U.S. When you’re not out enjoying the outdoor activities, you’ll appreciate the comfort and amenities the Hampton Inn offers indoors.

Getting There: Most visitors choose to fly into the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the closest international airport to the Sedona area. Once you land, rent a car and enjoy the picturesque two-hour drive through the Arizona desert.

Galesburg, Illinois

Train enthusiasts are in for a treat when arriving in Galesburg. Amtrak’s Southwest Chief Train stops at the Galesburg station daily, offering a great location to step off the train and spend a day or more exploring this small town. Once there, check out the Galesburg Railroad Museum and the Discovery Depot Children’s Museum. Also nearby are the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site, the Galesburg Antique’s Mall, and a variety of quaint shops and restaurants that line the streets of downtown.

Where to Stay: Baymont by Wyndham Galesburg

Located near the Galesburg Railroad Museum, Knox College, Monmouth College, Carl Sandburg College, plus plenty of shopping and dining options, the Baymont by Wyndham Galesburg features an indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center, and a complimentary continental breakfast.

Getting There: You have three options for getting to Galesburg: drive three hours from either Chicago or St. Louis, fly into one of the nearby regional airports (the Peoria International Airport or the Quad City International Airport), or take an Amtrak train from Chicago’s Union Station.

Monterey, California

Relax on the beach, play a round of golf at Pebble Beach, wander the art galleries, and soak in the scenery at this sophisticated small town. In Monterey, you’ll enjoy a small-town vibe with a spectacular coastline. While you’re there, take time to explore the local wineries and enjoy a scenic jaunt down 17-Mile Drive.

Where to Stay: Hotel Abrego

Located near Monterey’s best beaches, Hotel Abrego features guestrooms with cozy fireplaces, Italian linens, beverage coolers, and balconies. Enjoy their Bistro Abrego for morning breakfast favorites and locally sourced seafood dishes.

Getting There: Your best bet for getting to Monterey is to fly into the Monterey Regional Airport, which is located just 10 minutes from the downtown area. Alaska Airlines, Allegiant, American Airlines, and United Express all fly directly into this regional destination.

Gainesville, Georgia

Set at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Gainesville is called the “City of Excellence.” We have to agree with this nickname. Here you’ll find a mix of outdoor activities and trendy shops and restaurants mixed with small-town charm.

With Lake Sydney Lanier nearby, there are plenty of water activities to enjoy including boating and paddle boarding, fishing, waterskiing, and swimming. The Elachee Nature Science Center is located in the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, where you’ll find an interactive museum, hiking trails, animal exhibits, and more. Be sure to take the Solar System Walking Tour—it’s one of only 13 to-scale solar system walking tours in the United States, and the only one in Georgia. The walking tour starts downtown and takes you 2.5 miles through woods and natural settings, ending at Lake Sidney Lanier.

The shops along the square are an eclectic mix of a farm-to-table restaurant, day spa, and tea room, among others. If you’re a history buff, try the Alta Vista Walking Tour or the Green Street Walking Tour.

Where to Stay: Hampton Inn Gainesville

At the Hampton Inn Gainesville, you’ll find lakeside beauty amidst big-city thrills. Located in the central business district, you’ll find a broad range of services and amenities to make your visit to Gainesville exceptional.

Getting There: Rather than flying directly to Gainesville, you’ll need to fly into one of the major airports nearby. We recommend flying into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and making the one-hour drive northeast to Gainesville.

Want More?

We can’t wait for you to hit the road, hop on a train, or take a quick flight to explore these must-see American small towns. While you’re planning your trip, we’re here to help you find the perfect place to stay. Visit roomkey.com to compare rates from more than 45,000 hotels around the world, and we’ll have you on your way with peace of mind that your hotel reservation is safe and secure.

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