While the big cities across America draw in plenty of tourists, there are numerous small towns across the country worth a visit. Each has its own charm and often a touch of quirkiness. Here’s a look at four of my favorite small towns each with a distinct personality.
Located in north central Pennsylvania, Wellsboro serves up plenty of Americana. A Statue of Wynken, Blynken and Nod occupies the center of the town square. The lantern-lit Main Street is lined with hometown restaurants, galleries and eclectic shops. Try your hand at jewelry making with a fusing class at Stained Glass Reflections or stop in at Pop’s Culture to play old-fashioned board games with the locals or shop for a game to satisfy the kid in you. Enjoy a nostalgic shopping experience at Dunham’s Department Store. With a century-long tradition of providing quality products, Dunham’s is current with the latest styles and products, but still offers a small town friendly welcome to shoppers.
For some outdoor recreation, head just outside of town to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. A greener version of its western sister, the canyon offers plenty of hiking trails, an old fashioned wagon ride and seasonal rafting and kayaking. Guided kayaking, biking, hiking and rock climbing packages are available through Pine Creek Outfitters.
Don’t leave town without a stop at the iconic Wellsboro diner at the end of Main Street. A fixture of Wellsboro since 1939, the diner is Pennsylvania’s only surviving example of a New England barrel roof diner.
In Helen, Georgia, you’ll swear you’ve stepped into a Bavarian alpine village. This lovely town located in the mountains of Northeast Georgia in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains is filled with half-timbered houses and numerous shops offering handcrafted treasures. Helen has a longstanding tradition of craftsmen including potters and glassblowers dedicated to preserving the traditional craftsmanship of their arts.
Natural beauty surrounds Helen providing ample opportunity for outdoor recreation. Go kayaking or tubing right through the village on the Chattahoochee River or take an easy hike along a paved trail to the scenic Anna Ruby Falls. Ziplines and hot air balloon rides will give you a view from above the village. And in true Bavarian tradition, Octoberfest is a very big deal.
The college town of Burlington, Vermont, situated on picturesque Lake Champlain gave the world Ben & Jerry’s ice cream along with plenty of eclectic arts and crafts treasures. Bike the Burlington Bike Path along the shores of Lake Champlain or head out for a sightseeing cruise aboard the Spirit of Ethan Allen III.
Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace is a traffic free street lined with galleries, shops and cafes, named as one of the Great Public Spaces in American, the marketplace’s public art works includes the mural "Everyone Loves a Parade!" by Canadian muralist Pierre Hardy. Look closely and you’ll recognize some famous Vermonters including Bernie Sanders and of course, Ben and Jerry.
Don’t miss a tour of the famed Ben & Jerry’s factory in nearby Waterbury where you can sample the creamy goodness, learn about the history of the company and pay your respects to the dearly departed ice cream flavors of the past at the Flavor Graveyard.
At the mention of Mystic, Connecticut most of us immediately think of the blockbuster hit, "Mystic Pizza," starring Julia Roberts. The Zelepos family opened a pizza shop on the historic main street of Mystic, Connecticut in 1973 and dubbed it Mystic Pizza. The pizza shop caught the eye of screenwriter Amy Jones while she was spending the summer in the area and she chose Mystic Pizza as the setting for her story of the lives of three young waitresses. After the movie’s release in 1988 people came from everywhere to try "A Slice of Heaven!" Today the movie plays continually in the dining room and the walls are adorned with movie memorabilia, but the superstar of this shop is the delicious pizza.
Built along the banks of the Mystic River, one of the most notable historic sites along the main street is the Bascule Bridge. The drawbridge was originally built in 1835 and oxen opened it by pulling it to the east side. The bridge has been replaced by new and more advanced models several times since the original installation and the current bridge was installed in 1924.
Stroll through a 19th-century seafaring village comprised of dozens of historic New England buildings including a post office, grocery store, houses and churches at the Mystic Seaport Museum. One of the town’s main attractions is the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration which is home to numerous ocean animals including rays, beluga whales, sea lions and those ever adorable waddling penguins.
Do you have a favorite small town?
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