Bigger isn’t always better, and small towns are here to prove it. To highlight these gems, we set out to find the best small towns in the country. A panel of experts selected a total of 120 nominees, each with a population of fewer than 30,000 people. The top ten winners in six categories were then chosen by 10Best readers, and these are the results.
Abingdon is known for its performing and visual arts, but its culinary scene is equally creative, having placed second in the 10Best Readers’ Choice contest for Best Small Town Food Scene. Local chefs are inspired by the region’s farming heritage, and they serve a diverse mix of cuisines. Enjoy stellar barbecue at Bone Fire Smokehouse, have afternoon tea at Camella’s, and finish off your visit with a dessert at 149 Sweets.
Thanks to the numerous small shops and dealers lining the streets of downtown, Allen took ninth place in Best Small Town for Shopping. Nicknamed the “Antique Capital of Michigan,” it really sets the scene for a small town weekend treasure hunt. Many of the shops are housed in historic buildings and Victorian homes.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
This small town on the Jersey Shore is experiencing a revival, which is why it took second place for Best Small Town Cultural Scene. A once-quiet downtown is alive with restaurants, dozens of bars and even an art house cinema, while abandoned Victorian homes are being bought and restored. The boardwalk has been reborn, brought back to its former glory, and the revitalized Paramount Theatre is hosting live performances once again.
Bar Harbor, Maine
The gateway to Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor is full of opportunities for outdoor adventure, as proven by its ninth-place rank in Best Small Town for Adventure. You can cycle along the car-free carriage roads or kayak along the Maine coast. Go whale-watching from May to October, and come winter, hit the trails for cross country skiing or snowmobiling
Bath’s two main thoroughfares are lined with 19th century architecture, including many historic mansions, as well as local book sellers and antique stores. Art galleries also make an appearance, such as the Centre Street Arts Gallery and the Chocolate Church Arts Center. For these reasons, it placed ninth in Best Historic Small Town.
A National Register Historic District, Berlin’s downtown has been featured in films like Tuck Everlasting and Runaway Bride. But there’s more to it than being picturesque; it’s also the Best Small Town for Shopping according to 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards. Main Street is lined with more than 50 retail shops, from antiques and jewelry stores to art galleries and clothing boutiques.
Charming Bayfield, the 10th Best Coastal Small Town, features Victorian-era homes and quaint bed and breakfasts lining hilly streets. A gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the town is located in far northern Wisconsin and is especially charming come autumn, when the foliage is at peak color and the apple harvest is in full swing.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Those in the know have been escaping to the mountain town of Blowing Rock since the 1880s. Now, the secret’s out, with its eighth-place ranking in Best Small Town for Adventure. The North Carolina village sits directly on the Blue Ridge Parkway and is convenient to nearby Pisgah National Forest.