Best Small Towns In America: Top 5 Quaint Communities Most Recommended By Experts

Looking to get away from the overstimulation that is a big city? Are you craving a trip to a place that’s a little more intimate? Maybe you want to leave the city lights altogether; you’ve packed up and you’re ready for small-town living. But where to? StudyFinds searched the web to find the consensus best small towns in America, according to travel experts.

If you need reason to escape from a city, we have some research that will be of interest to you. One recent survey finds that people who live in big cities last just 18 days on average before they find themselves in need of a getaway to calmer confines. And what are some of the reasons for the need to escape? Researchers found that living in a big city comes with plenty of headaches. In those 18 days, city-dwellers will be bumped into 12 times, miss their bus or train 13 times, feel rushed by a stranger 15 times, and find themselves waiting in 15 long lines. And if that’s not enough to make you consider small-town living, let’s talk real estate prices.

Having a large pad and keeping costs reasonable isn’t an option in big cities. If you’ve saved enough to afford a $400,000 home, you might be surprised what exactly that will get you in various cities. According to one study: “While the average square footage for a new single-family home now sits at 2,561 sq. feet, researchers found that $400,000 will get you less than 300 feet of space in New York City.” It’s probably safe to assume that most people don’t want to pay $400K for a closet.

And NYC isn’t the only place where the price to space ratio is lopsided: “Rounding out the most expensive markets which get you less than 500 sq. feet of space for $400,000 are New York, N.Y. (449 ft.), Brooklyn, N.Y. (456 ft.), Boston, Mass. (487 ft.), and Fremont, Calif. (494 ft.),” the article adds.

Ready for small town USA? We thought so. Let’s get to our list of the five best small towns in America, according to experts. Our list is comprised of the five most frequently recommended sites atop experts’ lists. Of course, we want your opinion, so comment below to let us know which small town tops the list in your eyes!

The List: Top 5 Small Towns in America, According to Experts

1. Sedona, Arizona

If you’re looking to head west, this town with a population of just 9700 people landed on just about every expert’s list of the best small towns in America. And even though it’s small, there’s no shortage of things to do.

“This beautiful desert town is located about two hours from Grand Canyon National Park and under an hour from Flagstaff, making it an ideal stop on a southwestern road trip. Sedona is surrounded by incredible red rock formations, so it’s a popular destination for outdoorsy travelers looking for scenic hikes and wellness seekers wanting unique experiences. The town is filled with galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and more — check out Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village for local, artisanal products and dining,” writes Travel + Leisure.

Canyons and cliffs in Sedona, Arizona
A view of Sedona, Arizona from Schnebly Hill Road. (Photo by Edmundo Mendez, Jr. on Unsplash)

Thrillist lists even more options for things to do whether you’re visiting or moving to Sedona: “Arizona’s red-rock playground offers seriously breathtaking desert landscapes best enjoyed on a hike or a climb, and a walk around town mingling with kooky-but-kind locals. Take off your boots and zen out with a massage and guided meditation session at one of Sedona’s many spas, or binge on top-notch tamales from Tamaliza and gussied-up carne asada at Elote Cafe. When you start itching for a punchier after-hours scene, the very-hip Flagstaff is less than an hour down the road.”

If you’re looking for a specific hike, a place to swim, or a glass of wine to swirl, Cosmopolitan recommends that you “hike the Devil’s Bridge Trail, visit a vortex site, check out wineries along the Verde Valley Wine Trail, and go swimming at Slide Rock State Park.”

2. Telluride, Colorado

If you’re looking for a breath-taking backdrop and a place that’s packed with things to do year-round, Telluride is calling you.

“This Colorado town woos visitors with its captivating scenery and delightful Mountain Village. Skiers flock to Telluride’s slopes for more than 2,000 acres of terrain, plus ample après-ski spots, more than 300 inches of snow and 300 days of sun annually. Year-round, the town hosts numerous festivals and cultural events, and travelers can hike, bike and golf when the weather warms,” writes U.S. News & World Report.

Beautiful highway view in Telluride, Colorado
This gem was captured south of Telluride Colorado. When driving, I stopped, thought to myself, and immediately got my camera out to shoot this. It’s truly a beautiful nature meets mans moment. (Photo by Jack Millard on Unsplash)

Far & Wide think this best of the best small towns in America deserves more attention than it gets: “Aspen and Boulder usually get all the attention in Colorado, but Telluride — more quaint, less pricey — deserves love too. The historic district is dotted with red brick buildings, set against the backdrop of the sweeping San Juan Mountains. In the summer, when the days are long and pleasant, tourists enjoy immersing themselves into the local culture at the Telluride Historical Museum and the Sheridan Opera House. In the winter, the town’s population significantly increases when visitors come to hit the ski slopes, then enjoy some fine wine while warming up beside the fireplace.”

And for a little history on Telluride, Travel + Leisure says “this former mining town in the Colorado Rocky Mountains is a year-round destination perfect for active travelers and history lovers alike. The core area is a National Historic Landmark District with Victorian-era buildings, and these days, guests can shop at boutiques and galleries or dine at local restaurants.”

3. Stowe, Vermont

Stowe gets quite busy in the fall and winter, attracting leaf peepers and skiers. But don’t worry, because though it attracts tourists, it certainly maintains is small-town feel. And if you search Stowe on the internet, you’re sure to find pictures of the iconic church steeple that has become a must-capture picture for photographers.

“Stowe, VT is a charming village in the northern part of Vermont and is the gateway to Mount Mansfield, the state’s highest peak,” explains Y Travel. They go on to share that “around town, you have 60+ unique shops and 40+ restaurants, and the church steeples and colonial-style houses.” And of course, the mountains: “Stowe’s proximity to the mountains means it offers endless opportunities to enjoy hiking trails, biking, and cross-country skiing adventures. So you can enjoy the outdoors any time of the year!”

Stowe, Vermont horizon
Stowe, Vermont (Photo by Jeffrey Clayton on Unsplash)

Our Escape Clause shares that “Stowe is a beautiful alpine New England town that looks as though it’s been lifted straight out of a storybook. Situated in Northern Vermont and home to Stowe Mountain Resort, it is a haven for outdoor lovers and adrenaline seekers. In the winter, visitors are spoilt for choice with alpine activities. Generally considered to be the best ski resort in Vermont, there are a variety of slopes for downhill skiing and snowboarding, as well as an abundance of backcountry trails for cross-country skiing.” And if you’re not a skier or snowboarder, but you still want to play in the snow they share that “other winter activities on offer include snowshoeing, snowmobiling, dog-sledding, and ice skating.”

Stowe is a well-known spot to visit when the New England leaves start to change colors, so be sure to plan accordingly if you choose to visit at that time of year. But it may be worth it as Cosmopolitan says it has “GORGEOUS foliage”, but they also note that “Stowe is perfect for visiting all year round” if you’d rather avoid crowds.

4. Whitefish, Montana

Another ski resort town with a population of just 7279, Whitefish is nestled in the Rocky Mountains and comes highly recommended on most of the best small towns in America lists we reviewed.

Architectural Digest writes that “skiing is the premier winter activity in Whitefish, located in Glacier National Park. But year-round you can enjoy a huckleberry cocktail—a regional specialty—at the town’s two microbreweries and two micro distilleries. In the summer you can rent paddleboards on Whitefish Lake. Stroll down Central Avenue, home to many of the town’s shops and restaurants.”

Whitefish, Montana
Winter in Montana If you find my photos useful, please consider subscribing to me on YouTube for the occasional photography tutorial and much more (Photo by Roberto Nickson on Unsplash)

According to HGTV, “National Geographic once named Whitefish, Montana, one of the “Top 25 Ski Towns in the World,” but this small town on the shores of Whitefish Lake offers even more to do and see. Visitors come to snowboard, hike, boat, bike and enjoy live, professional theater and fine dining. For nature lovers, Glacier National Park is a short drive away.”

And speaking of the national park, Far & Wide writes that “if you’ve ever seen pictures of Glacier National Park, then you won’t need anyone to convince you that a visit to Whitefish, one of its main gateway towns, is worthwhile.” They say that “sometimes it’s hard to believe this town is actually real” and also share this “fun fact: Whitefish used to have a far more unfortunate name — Stumptown, because of how many tree stumps were left behind when trees were felled to make way for the city.”

5. Beaufort, South Carolina

Not to be confused with Beaufort, North Carolina, though that did show up on lists as well. We’ll let the Beaufort Hotel in NC clarify this: “The difference is about 375 miles or 6 hours. There’s a Beaufort in North Carolina and South Carolina. The big difference between them is in the way you pronounce Beaufort (This is not a trivial issue). Beaufort, North Carolina is pronounced “BOW-firt,” as in a bow and arrow. If you’re going to Beaufort, South Carolina, you must say, “BEW-furd. Ironically, both are named for an Englishman, Henry Somerset, the Second Duke of Beaufort, who never came to either North Carolina or South Carolina.” Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about why this small town is worth checking out.

Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort, South Carolina. (Photo by bbcamericangirl on Flickr ( (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0))

“Beaufort, South Carolina is an exquisite and serene small historical city and one of the most charming towns in America. It’s immersed in history and in a forest of ancient live oaks and surrounded by marshlands, islands, waterways, and the Atlantic Ocean,” writes Y Travel. And if you want to take in the scenery: “Live Oaks with their dripping Spanish moss drape together to form a canopy of the streets and a cooler place for you to walk and admire the stately antebellum mansion.”

Thrillist explains that there is no shortage of beauty or culture in this quiet small town: “The South Carolina Lowcountry has no shortage of coastal appeal, but some areas can get a little oversaturated. But not Beaufort, a town with all the historical allure of Charleston at a slower, easy-going pace. The beauty isn’t limited to its streets: Head out to the barrier islands, like Saint Helena, where rural simplicity, fragrant marshes, and live oaks draped in Spanish moss make for instant relaxation. Experience the Gullah culture of emancipated African American slaves who moved to these islands centuries ago and have preserved much of their distinctive language, food, and customs. Then boat out to the isolated Daufuskie Island, a car-free escape stocked with colorful characters.”

Which cozy confines of our country do you think deserve to be on the Best Small Towns in America list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This post may contain affiliate links.

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  1. The article fails to mention the current lowest priced home in Telluride is just under $3 million or ~$2000 per square foot.

  2. san luis obispo ca should be considered for this list? best weather in the country and plenty of activities. cost of living is high though.

    1. My wife is black and we have not found this to be the case over a twenty year period. If you are always looking for racism you will find it even if it’s not there or you make the exception the rule.

  3. Sedona is overpriced and culturally challenged. Okay, if you’re content to hike the arid, red rocks. Filled with overpriced mediocre restaurants!

  4. A large portion of the locals are having to leave Sedona because the Hollywood invaders are putting prices beyond their reach. Telluride…same thing. Both are nice places to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live in either one. Not sure why either town was included in this article.

  5. They have all become playgrounds for rich people. No longer friendly to the middle class that settled them.

  6. Sedona, Arizona is out of this world beautiful, BUT though the scenery is still beautiful the last 15 or 20 years visiting their has become horrible with the traffic. The two main roads form a T through town with the main artery of the T going through the most scenic parts is a two lane jammed up nightmare. All of the restaurants, hotels, and shops are over priced. Sedona is still a fun place to visit, but you need to go with a patient mindset and plenty of money to truly enjoy it. It has really become a playground for the rich. Living there appears to be expensive and many of the workforce live in trailers due to living costs.

  7. Did you know that the name Telluride was from people heading there being told “To Hell You Ride”?

  8. Those of us who live in or near Sedona realize that the rather low population you quote is a ridiculous and misleading number. The tourists have invaded and taken over the town! Heavy auto and foot traffic have ruined our once peaceful community. Stop telling people to come here!!!

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