You know what they say: Bigger isn’t always better.
Sure, bustling cities attract tourists in droves with their culture and landmarks, but that’s just it — they attract tourists in droves. But some of the best vacation destinations in America are hidden gems where you can relax affordably and stress-free.
Click through to see which picture-perfect towns are out there waiting for you to explore.
Want to visit one of the best wineries in the country? Consider planning a trip to Solvang.
A charming Danish town, Solvang is part of California’s Santa Barbara wine country. Boasting more than 120 area vineyards and tasty farm-to-table cuisine, this is one retreat bon vivants will certainly get behind.
Named one of “America’s Best Small Towns” by Fodor’s, Bardstown is known as the “Bourbon Capital of the World” and is the home of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History. With seven distilleries and the Bourbon Bed & Manor in the vicinity, it’s advised to come thirsty — and plan on taking an Uber.
Ocean City, Md.
As the name suggests, visiting the ocean is indeed the biggest draw to this picturesque East Coast escape. With 10 miles of free beaches, a boardwalk that’s 3 miles long and 200-plus restaurants, it’s one of the best getaways for sun and fun.
Borrego Springs, Calif.
Part of the Anza-Borrego Desert, which is California’s largest state park, Borrego Springs is a desert oasis for intrepid adventurers.
There are petroglyphs, slot canyons and mud caves primed for exploration. It’s a place to fall off the grid, get back to nature and enjoy the solitude of small-town life.
The U.S. has many beautiful and mesmerizing waterfalls. And, you can find some of them in small towns.
Better known as the Land of Waterfalls, Brevard is an outdoor adventure paradise. There’s hiking, mountain biking, fly fishing, paddling and horseback riding set to a backdrop of 250 roaring falls, the highest concentration in the U.S.
A quirky Bavarian town in the Cascade Mountains, Leavenworth is a hub of German beer, cuisine, Alpine architecture and themed festivals. Basically, it’s the best (and cheapest!) way to experience German culture without booking a flight to Europe. And during Christmas, the city becomes one of the most festive places to spend the holidays.
Lake Geneva, Wis.
This picturesque resort town of Lake Geneva might not provide you with traditional small-town oddities, but it is the Midwest’s answer to a weekend at the lake. World-class golf courses, high-end spas and fine dining attract travelers in search of relaxation and pampering without venturing too far from home.
Awarded the Distinctive Destination/National Trust of Historic Preservation award, Lititz is regularly included in roundups of America’s coolest small towns. A traditional Amish community, the colonial homes and bustling business district both contribute to its eclectic charm.
With a name that means “Beautiful Place By the Sea,” Ogunquit is a place to enjoy the outdoors, let the salty air breeze through your hair and the waves lap at your feet. It’s a nostalgic and welcoming waterfront community without pretension. You can also try to save on airfare by taking your trip during Maine’s off-season.
Colorado’s wine region of Palisade is home to more than 30 local wineries with tasting rooms. You can either drive or bike the Fruit & Wine Byway to sample fresh produce and take in the views of the breathtaking Grand Valley.
A visit in the winter months might save you a little money, but either way, you’ll see why it’s no surprise USA Weekend put Sedona at the top of its list of “Most Beautiful Places in America.” Equal parts rugged and resort, the desert landscape is steeped in Native American history.
Voted one of the “10 Coolest Small Towns in America” by Budget Travel, Abingdon is an artsy mountain town set to a backdrop of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains.
With a classic Main Street, bucket-list theater and outdoor recreation aplenty, it’s a great small-town getaway for both culture and nature.
Nestled at the base of Zion National Park, Springdale is the gateway to Utah’s five national parks. The majestic red cliffs mean the hiking, biking and canyoneering options are plentiful.
Traverse City, Mich.
Rated the best small town on the livability index in America in 2016, Traverse City offers both lakefront recreation and winter sports. In particular, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park is a must-visit before indulging in one of the many craft breweries in the area.
Gatlinburg is your base for exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, America’s most popular national park. With more than 600 miles of hiking trails, downhill skiing and whitewater rafting, it’s a great option for an active family getaway that won’t break the bank. On the flip side, Gatlinburg is also one of the best trips for solo travelers.
An eclectic Midwest escape, Galena has a number of draws from the Antique Trail to the Scenic Art Loop. It’s a good place to cozy up in a B&B and take in the history of the area with many landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places.
Surrounded by more than a dozen of Colorado’s tallest peaks, Salida is a small town with big recreational opportunities. Boasting the largest historic downtown in the state, a strong arts community and hot springs, it’s a place to rejuvenate and refresh.
Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.
Dobbs Ferry is just a quick train ride from New York City, yet it feels a world away. It’s more like a quintessential New England escape, and the Hudson River provides walking paths, ferry boats and riverfront dining.
Equally famous for its Antique Row and wineries, Sebastopol is an eclectic community in Sonoma County. The area’s rich agricultural history contributes to the robust farm-to-table dining options of the region.
Ruidoso is the kind of town where when you visit once, you’ll want to visit again. Ruidoso offers fun things to experience year-round, such as skiing and snowboarding at Ski Apache or horse racing at Ruidoso Downs.
All hotels were pulled from Skyscanner for the price of a highly rated hotel in the town for the dates of Feb. 2-3, 2018. All populations come from the U.S. Census Bureau.