Bright lights, crowded streets and public attractions all around, big cities may seem like the perfect destination for a vacation. And with the re-emergence of travel this fall following yet another summer locked down by the COVID-19 pandemic, the tourist market is beginning to boom. However, it is skyrocketing not in the bigger “tourist trap” cities, but in small towns across the country that bring about a sense of leisure and calmness. If you need inspiration for where to go for your next weekend getaway, check out Study Breaks’ list of the best small towns in the U.S. to check off your bucket list.
Located in North Carolina near the Georgia border, Cashiers boasts beautiful mountain views and fresh air that is guaranteed to make your trip memorable. Known for its Southern hospitality, unique restaurants, and local shops and boutiques, Cashiers is on the hot list for getaway destinations across the country, says an article by Landmark Vacations. Within “village limits” resides only about 150 people, a perfect fit for the aesthetics of this mountainous retreat.
One of the most interesting parts of the town’s shopping center, which you’ll find as you drive into the village, is the rustic charm of all the buildings, including their local Subway. However, you’ll rarely find large, commercial shops. Instead, the streets are lined with small, local businesses and a farmer’s market that bring the village alive. Outside of the village are countless opportunities to enjoy the beautiful nature that surrounds Cashiers, including hiking, fishing and golf, all of which can be guided and scheduled through local businesses in town.
With a minimum two-night stay, The High Hampton, Cashiers most beloved resort, can run for about $1,095 dollars/night, making the village a rather expensive place to visit. However, there are other smaller inns and taverns available for lodging, though they may not allow for the same amenities and scheduling opportunities that you would get at The High Hampton.
Lexington, Virginia, the home of the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University, is nestled between the Blue Ridge Mountains and is one of the most scenic small towns in the country. With an unbeatable small-town feel, Lexington, with a population of about 2,000 for the entire county, is a gem in the middle of nature. While most of the residents are college students and professors, the downtown streets are growing each year with new locally-owned shops and restaurants that are sure to make your weekend memorable.
One of the town’s most notable spots, The Southern Inn, is home to some of the best fried chicken and mashed potatoes you’ll find in all of Virginia. The community is very tight-knit and welcoming, which further adds to Lexington’s homey feel. Outside of the small community are ample options for those who enjoy the outdoors. From hiking some of the area’s most notable mountains, House Mountain and Cole Mountain, to floating or fishing in the Maury River that runs along both W&L and VMI’s campuses, the mountainous views are unbelievable and sure to make you never want to leave. Lexington is very affordable in comparison to other small-town destinations, with The Historic Hampton Inn’s most affordable room starting at $170/night.
If the West Coast is more your style, be sure to make your way to Ashland, Oregon, for your upcoming small-town visit. With a population of about 20,000, Ashland is a bit larger than the other towns we have covered; however, its location within the foothills of the Cascade and Siskiyou Mountain ranges makes it a prime destination for those who wish to get out of the city and enjoy the beauty that nature has to offer. Known for its appreciation of theater and fine arts, Ashland boasts the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, one of the country’s premier events for Shakespeare lovers and those who are just looking for a fun afternoon activity.
A popular attraction for most visitors, the Belle Fiore Estate and Winery offers traditional French architecture with views of the small Oregon town and the landscape beyond. Ashland isn’t lacking in its outdoor and natural attractions either, with the beautiful Lithia Park surrounding Ashland Creek and featuring trails, gardens and a duck pond, along with the resident Mt. Ashland. Northeast of Ashland resides North Mountain Park, a part of the Ashland Parks Foundation, which provides its visitors with incomparable views, educational tours and organized excursions that will get you out and into nature during your time in Oregon. Ashland is a relatively affordable place to visit as well, with rates at some of the town’s highest-rated hotels starting at about $150/night.
While there are endless opportunities for exploration around the country, we at Study Breaks believe that these are some of the most fun, diverse and memorable small towns to visit on your next adventure.