As a continent-sized country with 50 states America has thousands of beautiful and historic towns, so it was a challenge for 24/7 Tempo to shortlist the 23 most charming. Small towns have a particular advantage by virtue of their size — they’re not crowded, life often moves at a slower pace, traffic is less of a problem, people are usually friendly, and there’s lots of civic pride.
The towns on our list have additional advantages, typically starting with location. Many are on the coast or in the mountains, or have some special feature of their own, such as mineral springs. Nature has been kind to them in other ways, supporting wineries or wildflowers. Many of them have rich histories, too — some are the oldest in their region and have interesting architecture, museums, and other charms.
Our list is particularly timely because Americans have been living with COVID-19 restrictions for a year now and tourism and entertainment have taken a hit. With the vaccination program progressing across the country and the promise of restrictions being eased, people are ready to hit the road again. And where better to go than the most charming towns in America? (But before you take off, check out COVID-19: The Latest Travel Restrictions in each state.)
1. Beaufort, South Carolina
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 13,404
Beaufort defines Southern Charm. It’s small, pretty, rich in history, and full of things to see and do, including mansions and museums. It’s also on one of South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands and has lots of recreation options.
2. Boonville, California
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 947
Boonville is a tiny town in Mendocino County in Northern California, which means it has a nice climate. It’s in a scenic valley that has wineries and is also near the sea.
3. Culpeper, Virginia
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 18,342
Culpeper is known for its “Great American Main Street” and was named The Prettiest Town in Virginia by Architectural Digest. In 2011 a 5.8 magnitude earthquake caused some damage to historic landmarks.
4. Deadwood, South Dakota
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 1,548
Deadwood was a boomtown in the 1870s during the Black Hills Gold Rush, and attracted characters such as Wild Bill Hickok, who was killed there. It has a much smaller population now, meaning it has all the history and charm without the craziness. Deadwood was the setting of the HBO series of the same name.
5. Fredericksburg, Texas
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 11,245
Fredericksburg is proud of its German heritage and has been described as the Texas Hill Country’s unofficial capital of food and wine. It’s known for wildflowers such as bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrush and Mexican Hat. When blooming they’re said to be “like a fireworks display on the ground.”
6. Galena, Illinois
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 3,249
Galena is set in the rolling hills of Northwest Illinois. Its 19th-century architecture and opportunities for outdoor recreation attract nearly a million visitors a year.
7. Highlands, North Carolina
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 1,164
Highlands is a quaint town two hours north of Atlanta. As the name suggests, it’s situated on a plateau more than 4,000 feet high. It’s surrounded by the Nantahala National Forest and has the tallest waterfall east of the Rockies.
8. Homer, Alaska
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 5,709
Homer is 200 miles south of Anchorage, at the end of the Sterling Highway. Surrounded by wilderness and ocean, it’s known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World and the City of Peonies.
9. Houghton, Michigan
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 7,870
Houghton is located in the Keweenaw Peninsula and is surrounded by water with numerous inland lakes and streams. It gets a lot of snow in winter and has lots of opportunities for recreation.
10. Jud, North Dakota
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 69
Jud is a tiny town — the population is just 69 — but it’s known as “The City of Murals.” Just about every building has one.
11. Lambertville, New Jersey
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 3,822
Lambertville is in western New Jersey, on the Delaware River. A half-century ago it was run down, but people started renovating its old buildings. Now it has lots of charm and attracts visitors from New York and Philadelphia, both an easy drive away.
12. Livingston, Montana
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 7,575
Livingston was the “Original Gateway City to Yellowstone National Park” and it’s surrounded by mountain ranges and rivers. It has charming redbrick buildings. The only downside — it’s Montana’s windiest city.
13. Magnolia Springs, Alabama
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 968
Magnolia Springs gets its name from its many magnolia trees and from the natural springs on both sides of the Magnolia River. Its charms are accentuated by its camellia, azalea, wisteria, and dogwood blossoms.
14. Manitou Springs, Colorado
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 5,283
Manitou Springs’ name and charm derive from its famous mineral waters. These come from aquifers deep underground. As the water erodes the surrounding limestone, carbonic acid is created, giving the springs their effervescence. This natural carbonation forces the water to the surface through cracks in the rocks, absorbing minerals on the way.
15. Manzanita, Oregon
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 393
Manzanita is a small town on Oregon’s north coast with a spectacular setting. It’s between the Pacific Ocean and Neahkahnie Mountain and next to Nehalem Bay.
16. Micanopy, Florida
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 542
Micanopy is the oldest inland town in Florida. It was included in a land grant made by the King of Spain in 1817. Ancient oaks covered in Spanish moss provide shade and Southern charm.
17. Natchitoches, Louisiana
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 17,898
Natchitoches is the oldest permanent settlement within the borders of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and has numerous historic sites and natural beauty.
18. Port Townsend, Washington
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 9,551
Port Townsend is a Victorian seaport with two National Historic Landmark Districts, although its history goes back much farther to the days of the S’Klallam people. Just two hours from Seattle it has lots of restaurants, an art scene, and miles of beaches and trails.
19. Rhinebeck, New York
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 2,570
Rhinebeck is situated in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley, near the Hudson River and with views of the Catskill Mountains. The town itself has lots of charms and the surrounding region has numerous historic homes, museums, and other attractions.
20. Silver City, New Mexico done
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 9,627
Silver City is in the high desert of New Mexico, next to the huge Gila National Forest. It’s at an altitude of 6,000 feet, which provides an escape from the Southwestern heat. The town is noted for its clear mountain air, low humidity, and beautiful surroundings.
21. Stockbridge, Massachusetts
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 1,795
Stockbridge is a historic town with charms aplenty. As the home of Norman Rockwell it might be regarded as the quintessential charming town. Local attractions include the Rockwell Museum, Tanglewood music venue, Berkshire Theatre Group, and Berkshire Botanical Garden.
22. Stonington, Connecticut
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 934
On the Connecticut coast, Stonington has extensive beaches, historic seaside homes, and cultural attractions. With a history dating back to the 17th century the town itself is charming
enough, but also offers views of nearby Rhode Island and Long Island, New York.
23. Warsaw, Indiana
> Total population (2019 5-Year): 15,458
Warsaw was named after the capital of Poland as a tribute to Thaddeus Kosciusko, the Revolutionary War hero. As well as historic sites, the city is surrounded by beautiful lakes and creeks, including Pike Lake, Center Lake, Eagle Creek, and Deeds Creek.
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