The USA's big cities and landmarks are exciting and inspiring, but sometimes it's in the smaller places that you'll get a taste of what daily life is like for most Americans. Head to one of these attractive spots to soak up the atmosphere and get a feel for small town life.
Enjoy country comforts in Texas
is home to lots of colourful small towns. The characterful town of Fredericksburg
combines cosy charm with big city attractions and amenities. It has more than 150 locally-owned shops, art galleries and restaurants in and around its Main Street. Just out of town you'll find Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, one of the nation’s largest granite outcroppings where you can camp, follow hiking trails, rock climb and enjoy spectacular views over the pink granite landscape. Meanwhile, the small town of Bandera, 'cowboy capital of Texas', is known for its dude ranches and large population of cowboys. Visit and you’d be forgiven for thinking you'd stepped onto a movie set as you see horses tied to hitching posts at watering holes or a horse-drawn wagon travelling down main street.
Admire historic houses in Galena, Illinois
You'll find carefully preserved nineteenth-century buildings all along Main Street in Galena, Illinois,
often voted 'Best Main Street in the Midwest.' This pretty town has an attractive setting, tucked into the Mississippi River Valley. There's plenty of things to do in and around the town. Shop the iconic downtown, sip wine at local vineyards, visit championship golf courses, hit the slopes for a day of skiing or explore the lush rivers and hiking trails dotted throughout the area.
Minnesota small town trail
Travel along the Mississippi River and the Great River Road to explore some of the best small towns in Minnesota
. Take a stroll through the historic Main Street in Red Wing, Minnesota and stop at some of the local shops, restaurants and the famous St. James Hotel. Make your way down the Great River Road and stop in the charming city of Winona, where you can experience more than 100 sites on the National Register in Historic downtown. Winona also has lots of scenic bike routes, left, with a special 8.8km paved path around 300-acre Lake Winona.
Tour the atmospheric Capital Region
Take a short drive out of Washington DC and you'll find plenty of charming little towns in the Capital Region
. Try Bristol, for example, named 'The Birthplace of Country Music,' in 1998 as it was the location of the first country music recordings made for national distribution, or Staunton, home to the Beverley Historic District with 150 striking Victorian buildings, as well as the Frontier Culture Museum and Woodrow Wilson's Birthplace. Two hours away you'll find the picturesque town of St. Michaels, on Maryland’s famous Chesapeake Bay, with its pretty Victorian-era whiteboard houses. Explore the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, browse the boutiques and galleres on Talbot Street, take a boat ride and try Maryland blue crab.
Get a warm welcome in Visalia, California
There's a friendly small-town feel in Visalia, California
, known as the ‘Jewel of the Valley’ as it's the oldest town in the San Joaquin Valley. As well as being great home base for a trip to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, it's worth a visit in itself. The historic downtown offers pedestrian-friendly walkways, charming boutiques, cafes and restaurants as well as vibrant arts and entertainment venues.
Find some of Louisiana's 'oldest' in Natchitoches
You'll find plenty of Southern charm in Louisiana's oldest town
- and bed and breakfast capital - Natchitoches. This lovely small city is the oldest settlement in the Louisiana Purchase area, established by French colonists in 1714 and named after the Natchitoches Native American tribe. Originally built along the Red River, Natchitoches suffered an economic downturn when the river changed its course. Today, the revitalized city is one of the most popular destinations in Louisiana. Visit and discover the famous Natchitoches meat pie and the oldest general store in Louisiana.
[Enchanted Rock photo credit: Steve Rawls]