The Most Underrated Town in Every State
From its mining town roots to the funky, artsy outpost it's become, Bisbee has always been a wild and remote border town. Its reputation as a weird but welcoming oasis has made it a tourist stop with a delightful downtown shopping district, but the city's eclectic core of interesting locals is what gives Bisbee its flavor.
Breckenridge is booming. Move there and you'll have your choice of more than 200 boutiques and shops, more than 75 bars and restaurants, and too many athletic, lifestyle, and cultural options to name. The reality, however, is that all this is packed into a small, cozy town. Only 4,500 residents live within Breckenridge's 5.3-square-mile boundaries -- although a rush of visitors can swell the population to nearly 40,000 on a busy day.
Selbyville is the beating heart of the regional beach scene in Delaware. Just miles from either side of Route 54 are both Fenwick Island and Ocean City, Maryland -- both of which are top-tier beach destinations. Selbyville serves both towns and their millions of visitors through a huge range of supporting businesses and industries, which keeps employment numbers high and has triggered a recent housing boom. Hundreds of new homes across several developments have sprouted up, many containing families drawn to Selbyville's award-winning schools.
With a half-millennium of history -- give or take a half a century -- St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited city in America. That naturally makes it a tourist destination — but it's not a tourist trap. The city is alive with not just a rich, long history, but also culture, arts, entertainment, and nightlife. If you're looking to own your own slice of one of the most happening cities in the Sunshine State, the median home value in St. Auggie is still south of $250,000 -- and according to Zillow, its currently an ice-cold buyer's market.
Athens is conveniently close to Atlanta, but far enough away to avoid the gravitational pull of the capital city's culture. The climate is forgiving, particularly by Georgia standards. That, combined with its world-class regional medical facilities, draws retirees from far and wide -- but Athens is a college town at heart.
It's hard to find a lousy part of Hawaii, but if you ever do, you can bet it's not Hanalei Town. Located on Kauai, just north of Princeville, the town is historic and modern at the same time — the culture ranges from contemporary art galleries to a 19th-century pier made famous by the 1957 classic "South Pacific." Before you take the leap, be sure to learn the local etiquette that regulates the one-lane bridge you'll have to cross to get into town. The town was also hit hard by record flooding in April, but most shops and restaurants have reopened and could definitely use the support of visitors. Just be aware that some trails and beaches may have limited access for a while.
For Idahoans, outdoor paradise and wilderness adventure are par for the course. Few spots in the state, however, capture everything Idaho has to offer quite as completely as Kellogg. Nestled in the postcard-worthy Bitterroot Mountains, Kellogg stakes its claim in the Idaho Panhandle between Lookout Pass and Fourth of July Pass. For residents, that means immediate access to 2,600 square miles of pristine nature -- and all the activities that go along with it.
With history dating to the Native American Mud Builders who dominated the area until the 1600s, La Salle was one of the towns that sprung up when the dream of linking the Illinois Valley to Chicago by canal became a reality. Today, it's one of the best places to live in the state, thanks to its farmers market and dozens of restaurants and bars -- not to mention a five-digit median home value.
Art galleries, festivals, antique shops, and historical sites nurture the 13,000 residents who call Chesterton home -- as well as the countless visitors who pour into the region every year. Chesterton boasts impressive ecological diversity in the nearby Coffee Creek Watershed Preserve, but with the glimmering lights of Chicago just 45 miles away, it's also a quick trip to the city by car or train.
In Southeast Maine, just 12 miles from the ocean and on the mouth of the Damariscotta River, lies the river's namesake town -- and what a town it is. Damariscotta boasts a three-season waterfront, good public and private schools, a rich history dating back to Indians who lived there for at least 2,500 years, a vibrant arts community, Colonial-era structures, and natural beauty that's impressive even by the standards of Southern Maine.
Billing itself as the "crab capital of the world," Crisfield exists on a tiny, 3-square-mile island that is divided almost equally between land and water. Beyond crab fishing, water recreation options are abundant -- and Crisfield receives a flood of annual tourism eager to get in on the action. The climate is temperate but seasonal, and the landscape is stunning, particularly at sunset. Ocean City gets all the hype, but Crisfield might just be the best shore town in Maryland.
There's no limit on the number of great places to visit and live in Massachusetts -- but Deerfield is one of the state's unsung heroes. With boutiques and shops, inns and B&Bs, Deerfield is old New England all the way. Live the life that the town's tourists only get to sample by making your home among the town's warm residents, safe neighborhoods, and undeniable character.
Visit Traverse City once and you may never want to leave -- but the good news is, you don't have to. Between the wineries, lakes, beaches and golf courses, you'll have more things to do than there are hours in a day or days in a year. Both visitors and locals alike revel in the town's outdoor concerts, drive-in theaters, and, of course, all the majesty of the West Grand Traverse Bay.
Coastal Living calls Ocean Springs a "dream town" -- and that's not just hyperbole. Tiny, quaint and welcoming, Ocean Springs is bursting at the seams with more than 100 restaurants and more than 150 independent art galleries and shops. Artists and music lovers have been beckoned there, as are those drawn to the natural beauty of the Biloxi Bay and the majestic Gulf Coast.
Perry is a little lake town with a big heart. With a population of fewer than 700 people, it's the classic small Midwestern town -- but don't expect a ho-hum, slow-paced life. The town serves as the "gateway" to Mark Twain Lake, which is only minutes away and draws millions of visitors each year. If you live in Perry, you'll get all of the economic opportunity and bustle of the tourism trade without being submerged in a tourist town.
Known as "the birthplace of Montana," Fort Benton encapsulates America's Western heritage more completely than perhaps any other place in the country. Steamboat levees, Native American displays, and the Missouri River's first bridge seal the past in a living time capsule -- but the town is also a fine place to make a home in the modern world. Both Forbes and National Geographic have gushed over Fort Benton's charm and livability.
Seward earns the distinction of being ranked the No. 1 best place to live in all of Nebraska. Known as the state's Fourth of July destination, Seward is the quintessential Midwestern small town. Home to Concordia University and Seward County Fair, the many tourists the town draws will envy you once they get to know you -- they, after all, eventually have to leave.
The problem with the excitement, fun, and limitless everything of Las Vegas is that it's in Las Vegas -- a crowded, tacky tourist trap. Residents dial it back and still have it all, however, in Laughlin. From horseback riding to bowling, jet skiing to gambling, Laughlin blends the nightlife, gambling, entertainment, and excitement of Sin City with the outdoor culture of rural Nevada -- truly the best of both worlds.
Every mile of Exeter oozes New Hampshire charm. The farmers market thrives not just in the summer and fall, but even in the cold New England winter. Art exhibitions and associations are baked into the town's culture, and the shops, restaurants, and activities that keep locals happy all year long also draw tourists from around the region and the country.
Much of New Mexico can feel remote, isolated and, quite frankly, depressing -- but not Cloudcroft. The mountain village is billed as a tourist retreat, but it's also a great place to grow roots. The town's shops, restaurants, and attractions are complemented by the nearly half a million acres of surrounding pristine wilderness, which beckons visitors from around the country and the world.
Hard to spell but easy to love, Poughkeepsie blends the wildlife and rugged natural beauty of Upstate New York with the culture and accessibility of the city -- yet it spares its residents the problems and headaches associated with both. The quaint and vibrant town is awesome in and of itself, but it's also centrally located in Dutchess County, which opens Poughkeepsie residents to a world of new opportunities with a just a short drive.
Whether you consider it the end of the world or the center of the country, Crosby is everything North Dakota should be -- rugged, wild, remote, and free. The seat of the northwesternmost county in the state, Crosby is both a farming town and an oil town -- move there and you'll get to know the locals quickly and intimately. Located just six miles from Canada and 35 miles from Montana, most of the small town's 1,400 residents are of proud Scandinavian heritage.
One of the true gems along the legendary Route 66 corridor is the town of Chandler, which is often overlooked thanks to its location between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Billing itself as "the best-kept secret in Central Oklahoma," Chandler -- and its down-home quality of life -- is bursting with history. Residents here enjoy local parks and lakes, golf, walking trails, and community theater.
Considered by Travel+Leisure to be the finest sliver of "Rhode Island's Secret Coast," Little Compton spent much of the 20th century as an artist colony -- and those bohemian roots are evident throughout the town to this day. From its ancient graveyard to the historic Wilbor House, Little Compton is steeped in history that reminds residents they are just one link in a population chain that spans the centuries.
Home to 5,700 people, Harrisburg is a stone's throw from the largest city in South Dakota -- but it's steeped in small-town amenities. The schools are excellent at all levels, so you'll feel comfortable dropping the kids off there if you commute into Sioux Falls for work. That commute will soon be even breezier thanks to a five-lane highway that will connect the big city directly to Harrisburg in the near future.
The Ogden slogan is "we are rugged and rustic, yet cool and urban." A bold statement -- but one the town happens to live up to. Booming nightlife, destination dining, and enough shopping to make your credit card bleed give the place a modern, metropolitan feel. But that all comes to a screeching halt with a short drive to the wild and majestic Wasatch Mountains. In between is a lifetime's worth of live music and the town's famous annual marathon and its art stroll.
The picturesque town of Shelburne is bursting with clubs and organizations that new arrivals can join to cement their place in the community. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, houses of worship, and attractions, including the Shelburne Museum, an American bucket-list destination. And although it's home to just over 7,100 residents, Shelburne is only seven miles away from Burlington, Vermont's largest city.
Eau Claire offers boundless natural beauty and opportunities for outdoor adventure, but that could be said for much of Wisconsin. Eau Claire, however, doesn't need to set itself apart -- respected organizations and publications like Forbes, AARP, and Kiplinger have done that for it. Eau Claire has earned impressive rankings and awards in categories like work-life balance, best places to retire, best places for business and careers, job growth, and best places for students.
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