12 Charming Lesser-Known U.S. Towns
12 Charming Lesser-Known U.S. Towns

Forget the crowds of Central Park and the flashing lights of Vegas; this one’s for all you offbeat adventurers looking to make your own way down the path less traveled. From cozy cabins in the eastern mountains to the stunning red rocks of the western states, here are 12 charming, though vastly underrated, U.S. towns that you should consider putting in your travel plans.

Seward, Alaska

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Historically serving as a military port during World War 2 and, before that, as a post for the old Russia-America fur trade, the Seward of today is a small, coastal town whose area is mostly made up by icy water.

Seward is surrounded by snow-capped mountains and rugged, frost-covered shores. With highlights like the Exit Glacier, the Kenai Fjords National Park, and Mount Marathon, it comes as no surprise that the best way to experience Seward is in the great outdoors. If you’re lucky, you only need to take a stroll past the pier to see wild humpback whales!

By Alaskan standards, the climate here is fairly tame (it rains more than most other places in the state, which serves to even out the temperatures.) That said, it is still subarctic, so pack your wooly underpants.

Little Switzerland, North Carolina

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Little Switzerland is one for the nature lovers among us. The community is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains at a 3,500-foot elevation - and landscape-wise, it’s delightfully reminiscent of the real deal Swiss countryside.

Little Switzerland is the perfect destination for a quiet break from the city. You’ll want to rent a cabin up in the mountains, go for hikes along the nature trails, and peruse the local craft shops where artists flog their handmade creations.

Interestingly, the area is surrounded by old gem mines and one of the highlight activities in the locality is to rent out a sluice and bucket and try your luck at dredging up some precious stones. Not only does it make for a unique family activity and a fun day out, but the thrill of actually finding an emerald or a piece of gold in your sluice is unbeatable.

Moab, Utah

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If we’re going to be persnickety about things, Moab is technically a city- but with a population of less than 6,000, it still maintains an air of an authentic, small-town community. Moab sits right on the outskirts of not one, but two national parks, which has played no small part in the town developing a reputation for outdoor and adrenaline offerings like offroad biking, hiking, canyoneering, and camping.

To the north lies the incredibly beautiful Arches National Park, where you’ll find soaring red rock formations and massive sandstone arches. To the south, you’ll hit the Canyonland National Park, with its rugged terrain shaped by the flow of the gushing Colorado River.

The area is littered with historical relics, from Native American rock art to bona fide dinosaur footprints. In Moab itself, there are lots of well-curated museums and thoughtfully designed visitors centers showcasing the highlights of the local history.

Lubec, Maine

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Developed on the back of the demand from the agricultural and fishing industries, Lubec is a small, coastal town that sits on the very most easterly point of the United States.

A town that prides itself on not having any fast food restaurants, shopping malls, or- interestingly- stop lights, Lubec is a quaint, tight-knit town that’s perfectly suited to travelers who prefer to skip the crowds and instead spend time with authentic, welcoming locals. Extra brownie points for the fact that the town is also a pleasantly affordable place to stay.

Stroll along the coastline to the charming red and white striped West Quoddy Lighthouse and the surrounding state park or head to Cobscook Bay and soak in the scenery. If you’re there in the summer, make sure to check out the local art fairs.

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico

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The little town of Taos in New Mexico is super easy to visit for any traveler planning on spending time around Santa Fe. Taos, though steeped in history, is a modern town surrounded by stunning mountains. A mile up the road you'll find Taos Pueblo, a village that acts as a living reminder of what life was like in an America of long, long ago.

Taos Pueblo belongs to the Native American Puebloan people, and is widely considered  one of (if not the) oldest living communities in America. The Puebloans still live just as their ancestors did; with no electricity, no plumbing, and with great reliance and respect for the land. Their self-built houses sit in a traditional Adobe complex and are surrounded by absolutely drop-dead gorgeous mountains, where you’ll have tons of opportunities to do some skiing, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, golfing, horseback riding, and even llama trekking.

Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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About midway between Boston and Portland, Portsmouth is a small, coastal town straddling the border between Maine and New Hampshire. The vibe here is a unique combination of New England characteristics, from colonial architecture and red brick sidewalks to the vibrant and tight-knit community of artists and makers to the marine activity to be expected from a port village. The charm here lies in the smaller population and natural beauty as well as the mix of things to do, like visiting independent shops, staying at a quaint bed and breakfast, or enjoying a romantic meal by the water.

Fredericksburg, Texas

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First and foremost, you should know that there exists an entire wine region in Texas known as Texas Hill Country (like, big enough to showcase over 100 wineries). And second, you should know that the most adorable town (city, technically) lies at its core. Fredericksburg is unlike any other Texas town, with its limestone buildings lining the extra-wide streets (made so ox-carts could effectively U-turn), captivating history of 1800s German settlers and role in World War II, and blend of wineries, upscale restaurants, and boutique lodging with modest southern living and tradition. If anything, be sure to visit Marktplatz in the very center of town, whether for a summer farmers market or during Weihnachtszeit (Christmas season), when a 26-foot-tall, authentically crafted German pyramid is erected to spread good tidings and holiday cheer.

Iowa City, Iowa

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Home to the University of Iowa and serving as the state’s literary capital, Iowa City is a great place to visit for a few days (or call home for a few years). Sure, the university is the main draw here, and just about everything in town revolves around it, but as a result, you can find great restaurants, an endless array of bars, and both museums and libraries where you can explore great works of art and writing. There’s no wrong time to visit, but if you can, stop through on a weekend during the football season to see the home of the Hawkeyes in true swing.

Mystic, Connecticut

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Perhaps you’ve seen Mystic Pizza, perhaps not. The one thing you need to know is that it is, in fact, delicious and you should definitely grab a slice while you’re here. Settlers of this quaint seaside town date back to the mid-1600s, though a visit today offers views more along the lines of sleek boats docked in the marina, an elevated restaurant scene, and sprawling waterfront estates. There are a ton of boutique shops and art galleries to explore here, so a day trip has more than its fair share of things to do. Check out the Mystic Museum of Art, stroll along the historic Mystic River Bascule Bridge, or slurp an oyster or five while enjoying the salty breeze at sunset — just your standard, coastal New England stuff.

Georgetown, Colorado

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Head west of Denver on I-70 for about an hour, and as you round one of the highway’s many curves, a picturesque lake and town seemingly stuck in time will suddenly appear before you. Georgetown is one of several former mining towns you’ll find dotting the Colorado Rockies, where life moves a little more slowly and quietly than neighboring mountain villages. Make your first stop at the wildlife viewing area where you can attempt to spot bighorn sheep through tower viewers, then head into town, with its colorful buildings, rich history, and various shops. Be sure to make note of the billboards advertising the Georgetown Loop Railroad, too, an adventure through majestic, mountainous terrain that’s fun for visitors of all ages.

Athens, Ohio

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Ohio is home to lots of charming small towns, but those who have spent time there know that there’s only one Athens. This is truly a small town with a population during the school year of only around 25,000 (Ohio University is based here). But what it lacks in skyline or sprawl it makes up for with access to state parks (Stroud’s Run is the closest and a popular getaway spot for students), great bars, and an alternative/hippy energy that’s evident everywhere. Make sure to stop by the Jackie O’s pub or taproom to try some of the best beer in the state too.

Middlebury, VT

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The best time to visit Middlebury is, as with any New England town, is in the middle of the leaf-peeping season. Then, when you’re strolling down Main Street or sipping a maple coffee on the banks overlooking the Middlebury Falls, the mountains around you will be a riot of color. Middlebury is sweet, from the community focused Festival On The Green to the bustling businesses that jut out over Otter Creek. There’s the Vermont Book Shop and Vermont’s own Danforth Pewter stores to browse, farm-to-table cafes and delis to eat at, and Middlebury College’s Campus to explore. This picturesque town is just steps from Branbury State Park, Lake Dunmore beach, and the hiking, biking, and camping in the Green Mountain National Forest.

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