From sea to shining sea, the USA is packed with charming towns and artsy villages waiting for travelers who love diamonds in the rough. Overshadowed by more metropolitan neighbors or the sweeping natural landscapes in which they lie, these towns often miss out on recognition in guide books. But thanks to Instagram and the rise of social travel, these ridiculously photogenic towns are landing on the map again and attracting snap-happy tourists.
1. Carmel by the Sea, California
Photo by @mirticaalonso
There are a lot of pretty beach towns in California, but they all pale in comparison to Carmel by the Sea. Featuring fairytale cottages and gardens set beside the chilly Pacific Ocean, this town is the stuff of romance novels. But it's more than just a pretty face, and with a collection of art galleries, shops, and surfing it offers plenty for travelers to do once they put down their camera phones.
2. Telluride, Colorado
Photo by @ryanbonneauphoto
In Colorado, the stunning Rocky Mountains often take center stage for visitors. But in Telluride, they fade to the background providing a dramatic setting for an adorable town. With a cowboy spirit and rugged mountain charm, Telluride is a perfect blend of the American West. Dozens of hiking trails will offer spectacular views for your photos, while downtown has plenty of art galleries, coffee shops, and Western bars to explore.
Read our Telluride Itinerary for more tips on this gorgeous town!
3. Marfa, Texas
Photo by @taliagarzac
Probably the most popular town on Instagram these days is the artists' colony at Marfa. Most people come for the famous Prada storefront art installation, but several other art exhibits, restaurants, and hotels have popped up to cater to the many photographers who come to the middle of nowhere searching for that perfect shot. Stay in a glamourous yurt, or camp in a van under the stars while observing the Marfa Lights. Snap as many pics as you can with the stunning desert as your backdrop.
4. Paia, Hawaii
Photo by @angelanelsonphoto
Hidden gems in Hawaii are hard to find, which is why we love Paia. This little town on Maui's northern shore has all the trappings of an ideal Hawaiian town - brightly colored storefronts advertising shaved ice, long surfboards stacked in the sand, and palm tree-fringed beaches. A hub for windsurfing, this historic town is an unassuming yet gorgeous place to spend a few days snapping photos that don't have crowds of tourists in the background.
5. Bar Harbor, Maine
Photo by @bradyhommel
Perched along Maine's Frenchman Bay and adjacent to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor embodies New England charm. With mountains on one side and the ocean on the other, this town has the best of both worlds, allowing you to snap a wide variety of vacation pics that will be the envy of all your friends back home. Relax in a rocking chair on the front porch while watching the sunset, or get active with hikes and water sports. However you spend your vacation, just be sure to take lots of pictures.