The 6 Most Underrated Small Towns in the United States
Some places top the list unmissable destinations thanks to their famous landmarks, acclaimed cuisine, and often-shared Instagram photo ops. But heading to somewhere off the beaten path and less recognized can be just as exhilarating, especially if you don’t have to wait in line or fight for a spot on the beach. There are some small towns in the United States that travel experts consider “underrated” that you should add to your to-do list. Read on to find out which six spots aren’t getting enough credit.
READ NEXT: The 6 Cutest Small Towns on the East Coast.
The Most Underrated Small Towns in the United States
1. Thermopolis, Wyoming
Head west and you’ll find a small, underrated town nestled in central Wyoming.
The city is named after the largest mineral hot spring in the world, Big Spring, Lindsay Harveyowner of Called to wander travel blog, tells Better life. It’s part of Hot Springs State Parkand the city sits along the beautiful Wind River Canyon and the Bighorn River, an excellent fly-fishing destination.
“With lots of history (including the current bar where Butch Cassidy was known to frequent) and a world-class dinosaur museum, the city also has one of the best state parks that still hosts events in addition to offering a small bison herd and incredible views of the surrounding area” , explains Harvey.
This scenic and cool spot is sometimes overlooked because it’s close to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, she says, adding that “most travelers pass right by and spend time in places like Jackson or Cody instead”.
However, Thermopolis is well worth a visit and Harvey says you’ll probably need more than a day to see all the city has to offer.
2. Lambertville, New Jersey
Another place that doesn’t get its due is the quaint town of Lambertville, New Jersey.
“Although less than 4,000 people reside in Lambertville, the historic town packs a punch,” Madeline driver, travel blogger behind That Getaway Girl, explains. “Their downtown is extremely walkable and offers quaint family cafes, a mix of artsy and historic dining options, and a variety of shops.”
For those who have a natural side, The driver says to check out the city’s extensive bike paths and float or kayak the Delaware River. It’s also a quick walk over a bridge to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where you can explore another pretty town known for its Victorian architecture and artsy vibe.
“Whether you are greedy, a history buffor just looking for a fun weekend getaway, Lambertville has something for everyone,” says Driver.
For more travel tips straight to your inbox, Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
3. Manzanita, Oregon
You may not have heard of this small town on Oregon’s west coast with a population of just 617 people, but Manzanita certainly has a lot to offer, including exploring and hiking nearby. Oswald West State Park or relax on the beach at Nehalem Bay State Park.
“Manzanita is usually overshadowed by its more popular neighbors, like Cannon Beach or Pacific City”, Jessica Schmitfrom the travel blog Uprooted Travelerrecount Better life. “But this quiet little town has a lot to offer, with an expansive beach lined with towering pine trees and a charming town center full of yoga studios, an organic grocery market and cafes.”
A visit to Manzanita Winery is another must-have. “You can have a glass of Oregon’s famous wine and huddle around their fire pits to warm up against the cool ocean breeze,” says Schmit.
4. Winthrop, Washington
Schmit also recommends a trip to Winthrop, yet another hidden gem often overlooked by travelers hidden away in Washington’s North Cascades.
“While the surroundings of Winthrop are simply breathtaking, Winthrop itself is well worth a visit, with ancient wooden walkways and buildings with Wild western facades lining the streets of its tiny downtown area,” says Schmit.
She recommends taking a hike to North Cascades National Park well, then explore the streets of the city. “Check out some of his charming businesses, like the Old School Breweryan aptly named little brewery, located along the river in a former school.”
Winthrop is particularly well known for its annual Hot air balloon overview in March, a festival where dozens of hot air balloons are launched over a three-day period, creating a magnificent spectacle against the backdrop of the North Cascades.
5. Lake Elkhart, Wisconsin
With a population of less than 1,000, Elkhart Lake is small town at its most authentic.
“Elkhart Lake is well known for its crystal clear waters and sandy bottom lakes, making it a popular destination for swimming, boating and fishing,” said Nicky Omohundroowner and chief content creator of Little Family Adventure. “Hiking in the area is fantastic, with the Ice Age National Scenic Trail passing very close to town.”
The city sits “in the heart of Wisconsin’s scenic Kettle Moraine region,” according to Omohundro, but it offers even more than natural wonders.
It is the house of Road Americaa premier road racing course dubbed the “National Park of Speed” by carol shelby, a former runner. Any motor racing enthusiast will be delighted to soak up the atmosphere, and after your tour you can enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants in Elkhart Lake.
“In such a small town, you wouldn’t expect to find such a variety of dining options, but Elkhart Lake truly has something for everyone,” says Omohundro. “From upscale bistros to popular tavernas, there’s a restaurant for everyone. This is honestly one of the best meals I’ve had on my travels.”
6. Holbrook, Arizona
If you like kitsch Americana, Schmit also recommends visiting Holbrook, Arizona in the northeastern part of the state.
“Historic Route 66 runs through this town, and it’s conveniently located along some classic Route 66 road trip stops, like Petrified Forest National Park or Barringer Crater,” she says.
The city is “steeped in Native American culture, Hispanic roots, and the pioneers of all walks of life“, according to the city’s website. And, while it’s not a well-known vacation destination, it’s not one to miss.
“Given its history, the town has an eclectic vibe, with several restaurants and other businesses with 1950s facades and other reminders of the heyday of Route 66,” Schmit says, adding that you might recognize the dinosaur statues located on every corner.