The 10 Most Charming Small Towns in the U.S. For a Winter Getaway
WHETHER YOU WANT A SNOWY ADVENTURE OR TO JUST CURL UP BY THE FIRE, THESE TOWNS HAVE ALL THE WINTER VIBES.
Big cities and neon lights can be exciting, but sometimes a small-town getaway is exactly what you need to recharge and unwind. Luckily, you don't have to turn on a Hallmark Christmas movie to find small towns full of friendly faces, beautiful scenery, and charm this winter. Such places actually exist in real life. From Oregon to Massachusetts, our experts have crisscrossed the country to round up the most charming small towns in the U.S. for a winter getaway.
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The 10 Best Small Towns in the U.S. For a Winter Getaway
1. Lexington, Virginia
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With historic brick buildings lining the sidewalks and horse-drawn carriages clomping along the road, Lexington, Virginia looks like a village from a snow globe somehow came to life.
"There's something magically sweet about Lexington despite its Civil War history," says travel writer Heide Brandes. She says the Washington and Lee University campus is filled with Southern charm and the walkable downtown full of boutique shops and restaurants impart a welcoming atmosphere to visitors and locals alike.
Lexington is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are especially beautiful when covered with snow. The area is also adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is opened up to cross-country skiers and snowshoers when it's shut down to vehicles due to too much snow.
2. Guthrie, Oklahoma
Guthrie, Oklahoma also tops the list for Brandes. "The Victorian downtown homes make you feel like you've stepped back in time," she says. "The history seeps out of the sidewalk here and thanks to the Oklahoma Territorial Museum and Frontier Drugstore and Apothecary Garden, you can actually experience what life was like during the Land Run Days of Oklahoma."
Brandes is quick to add that there's more to Guthrie including a quaint downtown full of candy stores, galleries, antique shops, and Oklahoma's first legal distillery. While in town, she suggests stopping into the Blue Bell Saloon, which is now a pizza parlor. Once a notorious brothel, you can still see bullet holes in the walls and the property is rumored to be haunted by the unfortunate souls who perished there.
If you're looking for something a little more wholesome, Guthrie is a wonderful place to be visit over the holidays, with Christmas parades and carolers dressed in Victorian era clothes that will give you all the warm feelings.
3. Newburyport, Massachusetts
If you've ever wished you could step inside a Christmas card, you're in luck.
"You know those pictures you see of a New England town, church steeple and all, frosted with snow? That's Newburyport, Massachusetts," says travel writer Hannah Selinger. Newburyport owes its picture-perfect aesthetics to historic preservation laws which have protected the colonial and federalist era homes the town is famous for, explains Selinger.
Located on the banks of the Merrimack River, the town is home to a historic boardwalk and a lively downtown waterfront park famous for stunning sunrises. Later in the day, take a stroll down the main road paved with brick and pop into one of the many shops and restaurants.
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4. Leavenworth, Washington
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You don't have to travel overseas to lose yourself in the charm of a Barvarian Village. Located in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, the European-themed town of Leavenworth, Washington is filled with breweries, curiosity shops, and even a nutcracker museum, all housed in chalet-style buildings.
"Stroll through the charming streets, go ice skating or sledding in one of the parks, or take a horse-drawn sleigh ride," says Feross Bessadeg, travel expert and the Founder of Travelness. "You can also hit the nearby slopes for some downhill skiing or snowboarding. And don't forget to try the local German cuisine and beer." Best of all, this little slice of Europe is less than a 2 ½ hour drive from Seattle.
5. Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
If your idea of a winter getaway includes sleigh rides, sledding, and a fairyland made of ice, look no further than Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
"Lake Geneva is home to Ice Castles for several weeks in the winter," says says Matilda Geroulis of The Travel Sisters blog. "The beautiful man-made castles include ice-carved tunnels, sculptures, and ice slides, lit by different colored LED lights in the evening."
She also urges visitors to check out Winterfest, the annual Lake Geneva winter festival which includes the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship.
6. Woodstock, Vermont
Vermont is famous for its fall foliage but the state is just as lovely in winter. Located on the banks of the Ottauquechee River, the little town of Woodstock is about as scenic as they come with three covered bridges and the state's only national park.
"The town comes alive in the winter with its annual Winter Carnival, which features a parade, ice sculptures, and a fireworks display," says Matt James of the travel website Vistingly.com. "And if you're looking for a winter adventure, be sure to check out the sledding hill or go for a hike on one of the many trails in the area."
7. Fredericksburg, Texas
Located in the Texas Hill Country a short distance from both San Antonio and Austin, the small town of Fredericksburg is quickly becoming one of the most popular vacation spots in the state. Downtown is filled with historic architecture built by the town's early German settlers. The sidewalks are full of galleries, winery tasting rooms, and boutiques perfect for an afternoon of winter browsing. The surrounding area is filled with vineyards and farmland.
"The weather in central Texas is generally mild in the winter, making it the perfect time to explore Fredericksburg," says Michelle Snell of Totally Texas Travel.
8. Hood River, Oregon
Hood River, Oregon combines outdoor adventure with a walkable downtown filled with breweries, restaurants, and art galleries. Located along the Columbia River Gorge at the base of Mount Hood, the views are stunning in any direction.
"The outdoor adventure options here are endless: skiing or snowboarding on Mount Hood, ice climbing frozen waterfalls, and snowshoeing through pine tree forests," says Jessica Schmit of Uprooted Traveler. She also recommends booking a hotel on the river so you can ooh and aah over the fantastic views of the gorge to your heart's content.
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9. Eureka Springs, Arkansas
You don't have to travel back in time to enjoy a Victorian Christmas. You only need to make it as far as Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
"The entire town is on the National Register of Historic Places," says Lindsey Ralston of the All About Arkansas travel blog. "It has winding streets and quirky shops that truly make it a magical place. Once there, you'll find the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, famous for its outdoor ice skating rink."
Ralston also recommends stopping by to marvel at the architecture and views at Thorncrown Chapel, a glass sanctuary nestled in a stunning woodland setting.
10. Rhinebeck, New York
Rhinebeck, New York has an arts scene that would put the cultural offerings of many big cities to shame according to Aileen Weintraub, author of travel-related books like Secrets of the American Museum of Natural History.
"Rhinebeck has a playhouse with performances that will satisfy even Broadway enthusiasts not to mention their renowned Sinterklaas Festival," she says. "Weintraub is also enthusiastic about the quaint-shop lined streets and the Mirbeau Inn and Spa, which she says is the perfect place for a day of winter pampering."