The more you travel to big destinations and famous cities, the harder it gets to appreciate them. You can’t really hate on world-class chefs and major league sports, but after you’ve lugged your suitcase up enough subway stairs and drained your bank account on $18 cocktails, you start thinking that small towns might have just as much to offer. And, for short stays, many of them do.
Of course, smaller hotspots rarely stay small for long. Tiny cities like Portland, Maine, and Boulder, Colorado, are just as crowded during peak season as their more populated neighbors, and some small towns that ended up on this list in previous years — like Bend, Oregon, and Greenville, South Carolina — are now household names. So where in this big country can you still have a great time with no crowds, no price-gouging, and a whole lot on offer this coming year?
Each of these 25 towns, all with populations under 100,000, offers something special and has come into its own as a destination of late. Whether you’re looking for untamed wilderness or sandy beaches, deep history or provocative art, craft cocktails or cheap beer, these are the 25 coolest small towns in the US to visit next year.
This year’s list of coolest towns was written by Matthew Meltzer, Noelle Salmi, Nickolaus Hines, Tim Wenger, Elisabeth Sherman, Alex Bresler, and Laura Reilly, with submissions from the entire Matador Network staff.