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The best small towns to visit across America

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Where to go when you need a break from the city

Boats in a marina in Rockport, Massachusetts. There are colorful fishing shacks lining the marina.
A fisherman’s shack in Rockport, Massachusetts.

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated with the most recent information.

From New York to Los Angeles, urban life can take a toll. Whether you’re battling traffic, the subway, or you’ve just have had enough of that sweaty urban smell (you know the one), it might be time for a change. If the dog days of summer have you yearning for a getaway, look no further than the small towns within just a few hours of America’s biggest cities. Things move a little slower away from the hustle and bustle of the urban core, but that doesn’t mean you’ll find a lack of activities. From old opera houses to beachside getaways to funky art havens, a trip to a picturesque small town could be just what you need.

We’ve rounded up the best small towns near 17 of America’s most important cities. Whether you live in Chicago or San Francisco, Denver or Miami, here’s where to play the next time you need a break from the cities we love.

If you live near New York City, head to Cold Spring:

A sidewalk in Cold Spring, New York. There are shops and restaurants on one side of the sidewalk. United States flags hang in front of the businesses. On the other side of the sidewalk are trees. Via Cold Spring Living

"Not to be confused with Long Island’s Cold Spring Harbor, this town on the Hudson Metro-North line has a main street that feels like something out of a postcard. The locals love the town so much they stick its name everywhere: Get the hat trick by picking up organic skincare products at Cold Spring Apothecary, home goods and jewelry at Cold Spring General Store, and lunch at Cold Spring Depot, which is along the train tracks—ask for an outdoor seat if you want to watch the trains go whizzing by. Bonus: the regional trolley picks up downtown and drops you off in front of Boscobel, the restored 19th-century mansion in Garrison." [Curbed NY]

See 15 other small towns near NYC, over here.

If you live near Los Angeles, head to Ojai:

A courtyard with a fountain in Ojai, California. The courtyard is surrounded by buildings.
The plaza in downtown Ojai
Via dailymatador

"With a combination of quality wine, mission-style architecture, and a legion of spas and health resorts, Ojai has everything one could want from a small town retreat from city life. Take a hike. Read a book. Meditate. Ojai has long been the place Southern Californians go to relax." [Curbed LA]

Curious about the other small towns in Southern California? Head this way for more.

If you live near Portland, check out Cannon Beach:

Cannon Beach in Oregon. In the foreground is a body of water and a beach. In the distance are mountains.
View of Cannon Beach in Oregon with Haystack Rock in the background.

A 1.5-hour car ride from downtown Portland, Cannon Beach is one of the most photographed spots on the Oregon coast, and for good reason. Haystack Rock towers 235 feet from the edge of the shoreline, and the nearby town is a picturesque and walkable retreat. Don’t miss the art galleries and the robust year-long festival calendar.

If you live near Chicago, head to Ephraim and its next door neighbor Sister Bay:

Wilson's Fun Fact: our amazing staff are actually leprechauns! #rainbow #doorcounty #ephraim #doorcountyviews #wilsons

A photo posted by Wilson's Ice Cream Parlor (@wilsons1906) on

"Located in Door County, Ephraim and its next door neighbor Sister Bay are popular getaways for Chicagoans. These small towns are big on charm and nature. Those interested in cross-country skiing or snowshoeing can get their fix at the nearby Peninsula State Park in the winter. During the summer, get your fix for classic Americana by visiting Wilson's Ice Cream and the Skyway Drive-in Theatre." [Curbed Chicago]

For 17 other top-notch destinations near Chicago, head over here.

If you live near San Francisco, don’t miss Half Moon Bay:

A beach and cliffs at Half Moon Bay. There are people on the beach. In the distance are mountains.
The beach and cliffs at Half Moon Bay in California.

"From surfing Maverick's to picking Ollalieberries overlooking the sea, Half Moon Bay is a great destination only 30 minutes out of the city. The drive southward along the Highway 1 ain't too shabby either." [Curbed SF]

See 19 other towns near San Francisco, over here.

If you live near Atlanta, head to Madison:

"Unlike Atlanta, Gen. Sherman’s pyro-happy ways did not obliterate Madison, a Morgan County town of just 4,000 the Union leader famously deemed too pretty burn, according to Georgia lore. Madison’s picturesque, antebellum charms persist today, with one of the Peach State’s largest National Historic Districts chockfull of celebrated restaurants and well-kept Greek Revivals and cottages. Budget Travel Magazine recently notched Madison among the 16 most beautiful small towns in the world."

See 9 other top-notch destinations near Atlanta, this way.

If you live near Dallas, check out Salado:

Businesses along a sidewalk in Salado, Dallas. There are benches outside of the businesses. People are sitting on the benches. A United States flag hangs outside of the business in the foreground.
The downtown of Salado, Texas

This charming creek-side town in Texas may not be large, but it just might be one of the best small art towns in the state. Don’t miss the plethora of antique shops and boutiques, and a trip to a handful of wineries and breweries round out the offerings.

If you live near Detroit, head to Port Austin:

A post shared by Pure Michigan (@puremichigan) on

"Located right at the tip of the thumb, Port Austin has the perfect location for watching both the sunrise and the sunset over Lake Huron. Great for those who love the outdoors, Port Austin has many hiking trails and kayak opportunities, including the distinct and gorgeous Turnip Rock. The small downtown has shops, cafes, and a beach."

Explore 13 other small towns "Up North," this way.

If you live near Austin, don’t miss Fredericksburg:

A street in Fredericksburg. There are buildings with shops. The buildings have stone facades.
The main drag of Fredericksburg.
Chris Litherland via Wikimedia Commons

"Fredericksburg has long attracted visitors who appreciate its natural beauty, old-timey downtown strip, cute B&Bs, vineyards, and wineries. Lately, it has become a bit of a culinary destination as well. Along with nearby New Braunfels, it keeps alive and celebrates the heritage of German immigrants who came to Central Texas in the 1800s." [Curbed Austin]

Head over here for 14 other great small towns to visit near Austin.

If you’re sick of the Hamptons, try out Greenport:

A post shared by Caleigh Drane (@caleighcello) on

"Greenport used to be a center for shipbuilding, so visit the Seaport Museum. Then wander around antiques shops and art galleries around the village center. Ride the antique carousel in Mitchell Park and visit the camera obscura. If it’s mealtime, Claudio’s Clam Bar or the Frisky Oyster are worth a visit, or go for a tasting at Kontokosta Winery." [Curbed Hamptons]

Check out 6 other getaways near the Hamptons, over here.

If you live near Philadelphia, don’t miss West Chester:

Beautiful Thursday afternoon in #WestChesterPa #Summer

A photo posted by West Chester, PA (@westchesterpa) on

"This cute town is in the heart of the Brandywine Valley. It was established in 1712 and now has a popular restaurant, retail, and arts scene. In addition to its historic homes, the National Register of Historic Places district also features an impressive amount of Greek Revival architecture." [Curbed Philadelphia]

See 19 other small towns not far from Philly, this way.

If you live near Boston, try the charming town of Rockport:

A boat marina in Rockport near Boston. There is a red fisherman’s shack in the foreground.
A fisherman’s shack in Rockport, Massachusetts.

"Located about an hour's drive north of Boston and with around 7,000 residents, Rockport checks all those boxes necessary for a quintessential New England seaside town: lobster fishermen (and other smaller, seafaring vessels), lots of rocky beaches, a healthy dose of beach-y wildlife (gulls galore), and a laid-back vibe that only a rapacious great white shark could interrupt." [Curbed Boston]

If Rockport’s just not your style, Curbed Boston has 11 other cute towns, over here.

If you live near Miami, don’t miss Naples:

A beach in Naples, Florida. There are buildings adjacent to the beach. Birds stand on the shore.
The beach in Naples, Florida.

"If an upscale scene is more to your suiting, head two hours west to Naples, where you'll find plenty of the same outdoor activities but also a solid number of fancy restaurants and high-end hotels." [Curbed Miami]

Nine other small towns near Miami, right this way.

If you live near Seattle, head to Leavenworth:

A courtyard in Leavenworth near Seattle. The buildings are decorated in holiday lights and decorations.
The town of Leavenworth decorated for Christmas.

"You might think Leavenworth is only for the winter but it's much more of a year-round tourist destination, This small town is nestled in the Cascade Mountains and although it was once a logging town, it's been remade into a Bavarian village. We don't know what it's like in Bavaria but this sounds like as good of an approximation as you're going to get. Old world charm, German cuisine, and festivals like Maifest mean there's always something to try here. Or you could just head to the mountains for hiking, skiing, or anything else one does in the mountains." [Curbed Seattle]

See 13 other small towns near Seattle that are worth a stop, this way.

If you live near New Orleans, make a trip to Natchez:

A large house in Natchez, Louisiana. The facade is white with tall columns.
A plantation home in Natchez.

"Untouched in the Civil War, Natchez—which celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2016—is the place to go if you want to be wowed by antebellum architecture. Besides the gorgeous mansions, visit Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, indigenous tribal grounds; the Natchez National Cemetery; and the Natchez booze trinity of Old South Winery, Charboneau Rum distillery, and Natchez Brewing Company. Natchez is also known as the Biscuit Capital of the World. It's a little less than three hours from New Orleans." [Curbed Nola]

Discover 9 other can’t-miss towns near New Orleans, over here.

If you live near Washington D.C., head to Old Town Alexandria:

A row of attached houses in Old Town Alexandria near Washington D.C. The house in the foreground has a red door and light green siding. There is a United States flag hanging above the door.
A city street in Alexandria, Virginia.

"Old Town Alexandria has it all: exceptional restaurants, quirky shops, a cool ambiance, and an artsy museum. This walkable neighborhood also often hosts festivals, like the annual Sidewalk Sale and Restaurant Week." [Curbed D.C.]

Explore 8 other small towns near D.C., this way.

If you live near Denver, check out Georgetown:

A post shared by Rachel (@rmb_rambles) on

Less than an hour from Denver, Georgetown is often neglected in favor of the other ski towns on Colorado’s I-70 corridor, but this Victorian-era stopover is worth the detour. Architecture geeks will love the historic buildings, while the family-friendly Georgetown Loop Railroad and nearby lake provide plenty to do.