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American Beauties

Whether you're planning a road trip, cruising toward retirement, choosing colleges, moving for work, or just looking for a change of pace, every state in America has a destination that you've heard people rave about. But popular doesn't equal paradise — for that, you'll have to dig a little deeper. We scoured online reviews and rankings to uncover desirable destinations that don't typically get extensive national attention, yet offer tremendous value to visitors and locals alike. Our selections took into account towns with a range of attractive offerings, including cultural attractions, outdoor activities, great dining and shopping options, low cost of living, and high quality of life, among other factors. Here's a look at the unsung American sleeper towns that can seduce, charm, and mesmerize visitors into putting down roots.

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Alabama: Tuscumbia

Phrases such as "Southern charm" and "Southern hospitality" are easy to write in marketing literature but hard to deliver in the age of Walmart and homogenized U.S. culture. The old railroad town of Tuscumbia, however, delivers the classic, quintessential small-town Southern experience. It's got all the history of Muscle Shoals and the greater Shoals region, but enough shopping and nightlife (when there's not a pandemic going on) to keep you entertained.

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The Golden Eagle Saloon is located in the center of beautiful downtown, Ester, Alaska by AnaSoc (CC BY-SA)

Alaska: Ester

Fairbanks is one of Alaska's most popular spots. Among its neighbors is a less-famous Fairbanks bedroom community called Ester. Move there and you'll be part of a super-tight-knit gang of very familiar faces. The center of the mining town is home to only a few families, and Ester is centered around the Golden Eagle Saloon, where you can buy a raw burger and grill it up yourself.

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Arizona: Bisbee

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. 

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Arkansas: Eureka Springs

Located in the beautiful Ozarks near the Missouri border, Eureka Springs is built to accommodate the crush of tourists who come to discover its charm for the first time — but it's also a choice spot to be a local. It's close to Fayetteville and the region's other larger cities, but its small-town vibe feels far away from life inside the hive. The temperate climate provides all four seasons, but spares residents the worst of the winter and the summer. 

Related: 12 Small Towns Known for Being LGBTQ-Friendly

San Luis Obispo, California by Basar (CC BY)

California: San Luis Obispo

Nestled between Los Angeles and San Francisco is the California Central Coast gem of San Luis Obispo — but if you do decide to move there, it's probably best to join the in crowd and just call it SLO. Its beaches, beauty and natural landscape rival any in the state. Between surfing and wine tasting, cave swimming and nightlife, there's more to do than you could possibly cram into one lifetime — all without the crowds and cost of L.A. and the Bay Area. Home to California Polytechnic State University, it also has a nice college-town vibe.

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Colorado: Breckenridge

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.

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Connecticut: Guilford

Unlike the neighboring New Haven suburbs of Branford and Madison, Guilford has managed to retain its small-town grit and character. The Long Island Sound shore community boasts the third-largest collection of historical homes in all of New England. The town's heritage, which dates all the way to 1639, is chronicled in its assortment of historical museums, inns, taverns, and farms.

Selbyville, Delaware by Don Woods (CC BY)

Delaware: Selbyville

Selbyville is the beating heart of the regional beach scene in Delaware. Just miles from either side of Route 54 are Fenwick Island and Ocean City, Maryland — 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 housing boom not long ago. Hundreds of homes across several developments sprouted up, many containing families drawn to Selbyville's award-winning schools.

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Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Florida: St. Augustine

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 $260,000.

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Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Georgia: Athens

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.


Hawaii: Hanalei

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. 

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Idaho: Kellogg

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 with it.

183 by EarlRShumaker (CC BY)

Illinois: LaSalle

With history dating to the Native American Mud Builders who dominated the area until the 1600s, LaSalle 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.

Chesterton, Indiana by hakkun (CC BY)

Indiana: Chesterton

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 in a typical 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.

Broadway, Emmetsburg, Iowa, looking toward Five Island Lake from in front of the Courthouse. by David Morris (CC BY)

Iowa: Emmetsburg

Tourists come to Emmetsburg for Five Island Lake, but residents make their homes there because of the town's warm, family-oriented feel. Home to about 3,800 people, Emmetsburg saw a recent business and housing revival thanks to a $200 million POET Biorefining Project Liberty transformation project, an ethanol plant that uses corn cobs, leaves, husks, and stalks to produce renewable biofuel.

Atchison, Kansas by Tim Kiser (CC BY)

Kansas: Atchison

From the recent water tower rehab and the Lutz Brothers fuel pump upgrade to the reconstruction of the LFM Park Basketball Courts and the installation of high-speed fiber internet at Shannon Industrial Park, it seems like everything is new in Atchison. The scenic town is modern in its amenities, but closely tied to its eventful past — Atchison is home to more than 20 sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Covington, Kentucky by EEJCC (CC BY)

Kentucky: Covington

Centrally located Covington offers residents a quick drive to Ohio or Indiana. In fact, a beautiful, newly refurbished suspension bridge links the city to Cincinnati just across the river. Covington locals are engaged and involved, with 19 neighborhood organizations representing the town and working with elected officials to improve the city's quality of life.

Sean Pavone/istockphoto

Louisiana: Shreveport

In Louisiana, you go to party in the Big Easy — but you go to live in Shreveport. A roadway improvement plan has been in place there since 2015 and the Hirsch Coliseum attracts big national events such as the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants. If you're into activities and the outdoors, the city's parks and recreation division maintains a whopping 63 parks, 46 playgrounds, five swimming pools, 16 rec centers, and it beautifies Shreveport with 300 flower and rose beds.

Damariscotta, Maine by Smuconlaw (CC BY)

Maine: Damariscotta

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 American 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.

Crisfield, Maryland by baldeaglebluff (CC BY)

Maryland: Crisfield

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 gets tourists 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.

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Deerfield, Massachusetts by John Phelan (CC BY)

Massachusetts: Deerfield

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.

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Michigan: Traverse City

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. Visitors and locals alike revel in a typical year's full of outdoor concerts, drive-in theater visits, and, of course, all the majesty of the West Grand Traverse Bay.

Owatonna, Minnesota by Jon Platek (CC BY)

Minnesota: Owatonna

Founded in the mid-19th century, Owatonna now boasts 25,000 residents. The multitudes are drawn, more than anything else, to the bustling town's quality of life. At the crossroads of U.S. 218 and Interstate 35, the town's restaurants, shops, 20 parks, and outdoor attractions beckon tourists not just from the region, but from across America.

Ocean Springs - Downtown by Jared (CC BY)

Mississippi: Ocean Springs

Coastal Living calls Ocean Springs a favorite small town for plenty of reasons. 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.

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Christine Robbins/istockphoto

Missouri: Perry

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.

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From the Interpretive Center in Fort Benton by Bureau of Land Management (CC BY)

Montana: Fort Benton

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. Forbes and National Geographic have gushed over Fort Benton's charm and livability.

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Seward, Nebraska by Ammodramus (CC BY)

Nebraska: Seward

Seward has been 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.


Nevada: Laughlin

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.


New Hampshire: Exeter

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.

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New Jersey: Keyport

Keyport is located at the top of the vaunted Jersey Shore on the coast of Raritan Bay, which separates the Garden State from New York City's Staten Island. With fewer than 10,000 residents, Keyport has loads of small-town charm. It also offers views of the city, direct access to the Parkway, a quaint downtown, and a waterside rec area that — especially in years without pandemics — hosts farmers markets, as well as parades, outdoor movies, and annual festivals.

Cloudcroft, New Mexico by Edward Jackson (CC BY)

New Mexico: Cloudcroft

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 a half-million acres of surrounding pristine wilderness, which beckons visitors from around the country and the world.

100409 500 by Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA)

New York: Poughkeepsie

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 spares 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 opportunities with a just a short drive.

Sean Pavone/istockphoto

North Carolina: Asheville

In the heart of the vast, beautiful, and rugged Blue Ridge Mountains lies the intellectual and artistic oasis of Asheville. The bohemian character and hip culture of the town gels seamlessly with the area's natural beauty. Teeming with attractions and things to do, Asheville is centered around one of the most celebrated music scenes in the country.

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Crosby, North Dakota by Andrew Filer (CC BY)

North Dakota: Crosby

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 a farming town and an oil town — move there and you'll get to know the locals quickly and intimately. Just 6 miles from Canada and 35 miles from Montana, most of the small town's 1,300 residents are of proud Scandinavian heritage.

Germantown, Ohio by J Flerchinger (CC BY)

Ohio: Germantown

As its name implies, Germantown was indeed founded by German-speaking families, mostly from neighboring Pennsylvania. The town is home to two well-maintained parks and a surprisingly diverse array of businesses. Germantown is growing, but if you're looking for small-town flavor, that's exactly what the residents and their elected leaders are working hard to preserve.

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Chandler, Oklahoma by MARELBU (CC BY)

Oklahoma: Chandler

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 is bursting with history and a down-home quality of life. Residents enjoy parks and lakes, golf, walking trails, and community theater.

Pendleton, Oregon by Doug Kerr (CC BY-SA)

Oregon: Pendleton

Located in Eastern Oregon, Pendleton blends traditional Western culture with the rugged-yet-modern feel that's typical to the Northwest. Toss in the culture of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and you've got a one-of-a-kind blend of the ancient and the new, all anchored by the region's rich horse culture.

Doylestown, Pennsylvania by Dough4872 (CC BY)

Pennsylvania: Doylestown

The crown jewel of Bucks County, Doylestown and its impressive Doylestown Cultural District offer a vast menu of art, theaters, dining, nightlife, and history. Part of the Bird Town Pennsylvania conservation cooperative, Doylestown works with several groups to preserve the region's environment. The safe, vibrant community is also a quick drive away from the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia.

Sunset Over Sakonnet by Jennifer Macaulay (CC BY-NC-ND)

Rhode Island: Little Compton

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 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.

Port Royal, South Carolina Sands Beach boardwalkPort Royal, South Carolina Sands Beach boardwalk by Thomson200 (CC BY)

South Carolina: Port Royal

Established just 70 years after Columbus first set sail for the New World, Port Royal is tucked away in the nucleus of the Carolina Low Country between Battery Creek and the Beaufort River. Billed as "one of America's leaders in small town new urbanism," Port Royal beckons anyone considering relocation to the south with a blend of impressive environmental offerings as well as abundant in-town amenities.


South Dakota: Harrisburg

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 be even breezier thanks to a reconstructed highway connecting the big city directly to Harrisburg.


Tennessee: Pigeon Forge

Smoosh together the Tennessee versions of Las Vegas and Disneyland, plop it in the middle of the most scenic stretch of the Great Smoky Mountains and you've got Pigeon Forge, home to Dolly Parton's wildly popular Dollywood. It is, first and foremost, a tourist destination, but the stunning natural scenery, charm and carnival-esque spectacle of the place is enough to make visitors decide to hang around.

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Texas: Wimberley

If you've never heard of Wimberley, that's probably because the town is easily lost in the giant shadows cast by the cities it's nestled between: Austin and San Antonio. Yet even residents of those great cities head to Wimberley when they crave a refreshing change of scenery. That includes, among other things, rejuvenation in the Jacob's Natural Well area, enlightenment in one of the town's many art galleries, or a twirl around the 11 dance halls that make up the Wimberley Dance Hall Wheel.


Utah: Ogden

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 against the backdrop of the wild and majestic Wasatch Mountains, a short drive away. In between is a lifetime's worth of live music, the town's famous annual marathon, and its art stroll.

Shelburne, Vermont by Fancy-cats-are-happy-cats (CC BY)

Vermont: Shelburne

The picturesque town of Shelburne bursts with clubs and organizations that 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 7 miles from Burlington, Vermont's largest city.

Bristol, Virginia by Aplomado~commonswiki (CC BY)

Virginia: Bristol

Deep in the southwestern interior of Virginia lies Bristol, a city that serves as a five-state jumping-off point — one of America's great cultural crossroads. State Street links Virginia to Tennessee, and the interstate corridors there can launch Bristol residents to Kentucky, North Carolina, and West Virginia in just minutes. Cities in Bristol's immediate orbit include Asheville, Knoxville, Roanoke, and Lexington.

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Redmond, Washington by Sam.Meyer.Marton (CC BY)

Washington: Redmond

Light rail is coming to Redmond in 2024, but the city's residents can expect the downtown district to keep booming until then. Bustling and connected, downtown Redmond is home to 10,000 jobs and 6,000 residents, whom you'll see zooming by on bikes, on foot, and on buses. Venture just a bit outside of the downtown area, however, and you'll be able to lose yourself in an outdoor paradise of streams, rivers, forests and all the other wilderness you'd expect from the Great Northwest.

Thinking of going?
Find a room on or check out Redmond vacation rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo.

Bridgeport, West Virginia by JERRYE & ROY KLOTZ M.D. (CC BY)

West Virginia: Bridgeport

Two hours south of Pittsburgh, Bridgeport has history dating back to the 18th century when the town was still part of Virginia. After an analysis of the cities and towns in West Virginia, neighborhood data provider HomeSnacks rated Bridgeport among the top places to live in the entire state.

Thinking of going?
Find a room on or check out Bridgeport vacation rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo.


Wisconsin: Eau Claire

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 such as Forbes, AARP, and Kiplinger have done that for it. Eau Claire has earned impressive rankings and awards in categories such as work-life balance, best places to retire, best places for business and careers, job growth, and best places for students.

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Ten Sleep, Wyoming by Paul Hermans (CC BY)

Wyoming: Ten Sleep

Although the genesis of its name is lost to the history of Native American folklore, Ten Sleep is tiny, cozy and seems to be frozen in time. A true gem of the West, it's also one of the country's greatest rock-climbing destinations.