Thinking of small towns in the USA to escape the crowds, for when you want to get away from your mundane 4 walls? Perhaps, you’d also like a good refreshing view as you further reconnect with Mother Nature. We’ve singled out such places for you, below.

    Most of these small towns offer magnificent views and nature on their doorstep, while others serve as ideal bases for exploring the lush scenery and getting up-close with the beautiful wildlife and all that the great American outdoors have to offer. Here are some small USA destinations for your next big escape. 

    1

    Carmel-by-the Sea, California

    A charming seaside Californian town

    Carmel-by-the Sea is a small and laidback Californian beach town that fascinatingly offers a bit of a classical European village vibe with its fairy-tale cottages. A walk down Ocean Avenue offers such pleasant sights, and it’s also lined with chic shops, art galleries, and seafood restaurants. Wherever you are in most parts of the town, you’re just a short stroll away from its gorgeous stretch of white sand lined with cypress trees.

    Carmel Beach, at the foot of the avenue, is a slice of natural beauty on the Monterey Peninsula. This surfing haven treats you to exciting wave-riding between Point Lobos and Pebble Beach. Hike the Scenic Bluff Path, watch birds and sea life in their real habitat or check out the whaling museum at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.

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    2

    Steamboat Springs, Colorado

    Conquer the ski runs then unwind at a hot spring

    Steamboat Springs is a friendly town and ski resort in Yampa Valley that’s big on skiing adventures in Colorado's great outdoors. It’s surrounded by numerous peaks and working ranches, though a top draw is the collection of therapeutic hot springs that gave it its name.

    What’s best about Steamboat Springs is that it offers fun year-round. In the summer months, camping and fishing are wonderful family pursuits. During snowfall, it has 3,000 skiable acres and scenic snowshoe trails. Skiing is also possible in spring. Whatever the season, there’s nothing like sinking into a mineral-rich soaking pool fed by Steamboat Spring’s geothermal resource. The well-equipped and long-standing Old Town Hot Springs, located right in the heart of town, is one not to be missed.

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    3

    Marfa, Texas

    An oasis in the desert

    The desert town of Marfa is known as an artsy and cultural hub of West Texas, with most of its masterpieces created by Mother Nature. Think panoramic landscapes that hark back to the Wild West, and a town in the middle of it all where cowboy hats are part of the local fashion.

    In town, get your hat or leather boots from souvenirs shops, check out the art galleries, or step inside The Chinati Foundation Museum – housed within an old artillery shed. Outside of town, you can pick up a bit of ufology and try your luck at a special viewing platform from where you can witness the mysterious and unsolved phenomenon known as the ‘Marfa Lights’.

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    photo by Daniel Schwen (CC BY-SA 2.5) modified

    4

    Sedona, Arizona

    Where Red Rock State Park is at your doorstep

    Sedona is a small town in Arizona that many escape to for a fine balance between the great outdoors and rest-and-relaxation. You’re surrounded by the Arizona Desert, which served as filming locations for many Hollywood flicks. There are over 100 hiking trails through Red Rock State Park’s canyons and ponderosa pine forests to explore.

    After your adventures, unwind back in town at Sedona’s day spas or get a good dose of retail therapy at the many shopping villages and plazas. Sedona is also well known for its wines – you can either opt for winery tours to the Verde Valley or hop into any of the wine-tasting bars around the heart of town.

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    5

    Sitka, Alaska

    A beautiful seaside escape in America’s Last Frontier

    Sitka is a small, remote seaside town, formerly the capital of Russian America, where you can truly get far away from the mundane. You’ll need to take a ferry or a plane to get there. It’s truly picturesque with its lush mountain forests that flow onto the shoreline, where the sight of islands bobbing on the horizon greet you.

    Get up-close with Sitka’s impressive wildlife, be it with the native brown bears at the Fortress of the Bear, or with humpbacks on a whale-watching tour out in the calm waters. Find more of the great Sitka outdoors along the looped and scenic Totem Trail through Alaska’s oldest national park – the site of the historical battle between Russians and Native Alaskans back in 1804.

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    6

    St Augustine, Florida

    For a journey back in time

    St. Augustine is a quaint beach town where history looms heavily – it’s known as the oldest city in the States. Strolling along the town’s centuries-old brick-lined streets, you’re greeted by rows of beautiful Spanish architecture – the occasional sight of horse-drawn carriages simply adds to the charm. In the centre, you'll find the majestic landmarks of Plaza de la Constitucion and the Castillo de San Marcos fort. 

    Besides the amiable journey back in time, St. Augustine also offers beachgoers wonderful moments on its white-sand coast, with wide and dune-fringed beaches that meet the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Some of Augustine’s beaches have a wooden boardwalk that allows for direct access to the sand and surf.

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    7

    Gatlinburg, Tennessee

    An answer to your call of the wild

    Gatlinburg is your gateway to exploring the Great Smoky Mountains, where the beautiful Appalachian wilderness awaits. This friendly little resort town is a popular base for taking in the fresh mountain views and air, with skiing slopes, adventurous hiking, and horse-riding trails at its doorstep.

    In town, you’re treated to plenty of fun, be it through a stroll on the Historic Arts & Crafts Trail or the live entertainment choices available. Families can hit Gatlinburg’s amusement parks and arcades – check out the Pinball Museum for a bit of nostalgia. For all, a ride on the Space Needle or the Sky Lift to Ober Gatlinburg offers you more breathtaking views of the Smokies.

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    8

    Williamsburg, Virginia

    Visit a living time capsule

    Williamsburg is a quaint Virginian town with a rich historical appeal where you can travel back to the Colonial period. On a pleasant stroll, you can view historical buildings, including the Governor's Palace, and places where period-era gunsmiths, milliners, and merchants are busy at work.

    Looking for some thrills? Williamsburg isn’t just for history buffs. With a short drive south of town, you can spend a thrilling family day out at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, with its thrill rides and rollercoasters. For a different kind of thrill, note that the town is home to some of Virginia’s creepiest haunted houses. Outdoor enthusiasts will love the area’s scenic landscapes, complete with 109 miles of cycling paths.

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    photo by Smash the Iron Cage (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    9

    Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

    Escape to an island and summer colony

    A visit to Martha’s Vineyard makes for an exclusive island getaway to a New England summer colony. You can only get to this island off the shores of Cape Cod by air or ferry. The quaint appeal of the island lies in its flowing green countryside dotted with small towns and a gorgeous shoreline with lighthouses and rugged beaches.

    There are several small towns on Martha Vineyard you can explore. Each town is unique – some have traditional gingerbread cottages, others being home to major breweries and agricultural centres, and one being a former whaling port with plenty of seafaring history. Beachgoers head to South Beach in Edgartown for great sun and surf.

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    photo by FaceMePLS (CC BY 2.0) modified

    10

    Stowe, Vermont

    A charming mountain village for all seasons

    Stowe is a village in Vermont that’s known by many as the ‘ski capital of the east’ – and for good reason. It’s a popular winter destination with great ski slopes to conquer. Even so, Stowe is wonderful in any other season. In the autumn, you’re treated to the kaleidoscopic red, yellow, and orange of foliage, while summertime offers many other possibilities in the great Vermont outdoors – hiking, cycling, events, and local fare being among the main draws.

    After all the action and adventure, you can unwind back in town with a visit to a village brewery or catching up on local history at either the Vermont Ski & Snowboard Museum. There’s also the von Trapp family’s Austrian-inspired mountain lodge, made famous in the all-time classic flick, The Sound of Music (1965).

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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