When planning your next vacation, thoughts of New York City or Los Angeles often jump to the top of the list. While these large cities are popular destinations, visiting a small town often provides a better vacation experience. America’s small towns are its treasures, offering more affordable prices and unique experiences lacking in many bigger cities. Head off of the beaten tourist track to find charming small towns with plenty of sites to see.
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (Wisconsin Dells Hotels)
At first glance, Wisconsin might not seem like the most obvious state for a water park mecca. However, Wisconsin Dells (population 2,678) draws millions of tourists each year to its world-class resorts. Dells.com reports that Wisconsin Dells offers a variety of adventurous activities, including zip lines, fishing, spelunking, or jet skiing. One of the primary attractions in the town is Noah’s Ark, the largest water park in the United States. Although summer is peak season, off-peak visitors often find lower prices and can enjoy the Kalahari Resort, one of the largest indoor water parks in America.
Taos, New Mexico (Taos Hotels)
Anyone interested in early American history or different cultures is sure to enjoy Taos, New Mexico. The town of 5,716 is located in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in north-central New Mexico, providing stunning natural beauty. One of the main attractions is the Taos Pueblo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the oldest continuously inhabited community in the United States, reports Taos.org. Taos is an excellent place to learn more about the culture and customs of Native Americans in the Southwest. While you would think the desert would be sweltering in the summer months, the 7,000-foot elevation of Taos keeps it a cooler, pleasant place to visit year-round.
Camden, Maine (Camden Hotels)
If the sea is calling you, Camden, Maine, is the perfect destination. With just 4,850 year-round residents, Camden offers classic maritime charm. Many visitors come to Camden to stroll its beautiful streets, enjoy local art galleries and spend time sailing, according to Lonely Planet. Its close proximity to a state park provides opportunities to hike and camp. Prices rise in the summer months as visitors flock to Midcoast Maine. Visiting in the spring or autumn months brings gorgeous weather, fewer crowds, and more affordable prices.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming (Jackson Hole Hotels)
Many tourists pass through Jackson Hole, Wyoming, without spending time to take in its natural beauty. The town of 8,647 is found in west-central Wyoming near the Idaho border. In addition to being a natural jumping-off point to visit Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks, Jackson Hole is a tourist destination in its own right. The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce recommends staying in a mountain lodge to enjoy white-water rafting, hiking, and world-class skiing.
Gulf Shores, Alabama (Gulf Shores Hotels)
If a beach getaway is your idea of a relaxation vacation, Gulf Shores, Alabama, is a fantastic option. Home to about 5,000 people, Gulf Shores offers some of the best quality public beaches in the United States, reports GulfShoresAL.gov. With recent tourism disruptions due to hurricanes and the BP oil spill in 2010, look for discounted prices at local resorts.
No matter what your idea of the perfect vacation, small town America is prepared to deliver. Although smaller towns may lack hot nightclubs or five-star restaurants, the smaller crowds and relaxed pace make them excellent choices for your next getaway.