Do you live in one of the America’s prettiest cities? It’s impossible to say what’s “best” for everyone, of course. But where’s the fun in not trying? Here, below is our list of top 10 prettiest towns in the United States. These beautiful towns are not only thriving economically, they’ve also got all you could want in a place to raise a family: plenty of green space, good schools, and a strong sense of community.
10. Edgartown, Massachusetts
Edgartown is a town located on Martha’s Vineyard in Dukes County, Massachusetts, United States. It is the county seat of Dukes County. Widely known as an exclusive enclave for the affluent and famous, the island is at its most charming in Edgartown, the largest and most expensive community on the Vineyard. Meticulously maintained Victorian sea captains’ houses and a beguiling collection of shops and galleries sit near the harbor. “Stroll about its manicured streets with some home-made ice cream from Mad Martha’s (a local institution since 1971) and you’ve got the makings of a perfect day,” says Arabella Bowen, executive editorial director at Fodor’s.
9. Key West, Florida
Closer to Cuba than it is to the mainland United States, Key West exudes a laid-back and casual vibe that is different than almost any other town in the country. It’s a place that marches to its own (usually steel) drummer. Take the kids dolphin-spotting, charter a boat to snag a marlin, or just relax on the beach beside crystal blue waters. And getting there is half the fun: the 127-mile Overseas Highway is the only road in or out to the mainland, and there’s no road in the country like it. If that’s not enough, Key West is also home to the only National Park that is accessible only by boat, Dry Tortugas National Park, where the snorkeling, diving, or just exploring are unparalleled.
8. Longview, Washington
Not even the port industry that clusters around the Lewis and Clark bridge can block the scenery of one of the Pacific Northwest’s most charming towns. “It is one of the only, if not the only planned community in the west at the time,” says Foster Church of “Discovering Main Street: Travel Adventures in Small Towns of the Northwest. “It was planned by a wealthy lumber magnate who decided to build two lumber mills in this location because it was close to the Columbia River.” He needed 14,000 workers to help run his two mills, so in 1921, he built a city that could house up to 50,000 people. Today, the town retains its old town lumber mill feel, and is home to the well-planned but serene beauty of Lake Sacajawea Park, which Foster says is “one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever seen.”
7. Athens, Georgia
A university town that enjoyed a small measure of renown in the ‘80s and ‘90s, thanks to a fertile music scene which gave birth to the B-52s and R.E.M., among others. Athens is earning a more recent reputation as a post-industrial success story. Old factories have been rehabilitated and now house galleries and boutiques, but though the manufacturing may have left, the town still holds onto its identity with pride. “It has kept ruthless development at a minimum,” says Jason Cochran, editor-in-chief of Frommer’s.com. “You can still find avenues of those stately old Georgia mansions that the best towns retain. So you’ve got this vibrant blend of slouching red-brick warehouses and bold Greek Revival mansions.”
6. Tarrytown, New York
Tarrytown’s rich history, including being a throughway on the Underground Railroad, name-dropped by Washington Irving in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” and, later, one of the preferred Upstate getaways for New York’s rich and powerful, is visible wherever you go in this Hudson River-side town. Lyndhurst, the widely-regarded robber baron Jay Gould’s castle-like mansion in town, is toured by throngs of visitors every year. The town has played host to recreational and cultural options aplenty, including the famous (and former, running from 1971 to 2006) Tarrytown Film Festival, which was more of a film salon hosted by noted ‘70s and ‘80s film critic, Judith Crist.
5. Fort Benton, Montana
Fort Benton is a city in and the county seat of Chouteau County, Montana, United States. A portion of the city was designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1961. Established in 1846, a full generation before the U.S. Civil War, Fort Benton is one of the oldest settlements in the American West. Founded as a fur-trading post in 1847, the town flourished well into the 1860s, when the Gold Rush cash was flowing back eastward. The railroad would eventually put the brakes on the town’s growth, however, but not before Fort Benton earned a reputation as the sort of place where disagreements were regularly settled with sidearms. “Jesse James and all the other characters used to have shoot-outs on these streets and you can relive it all on Main Street today,” says Andrew Evans, National Geographic Traveler’s Digital Nomad.
4. Breckenridge, Colorado
In a state known for its charming alpine ski towns, Breckenridge stands out both for its stunning vistas, charming streets, family-friendly vibe and – most importantly, for many visitors – unsurpassed proximity to a wide variety of world-class ski options. With giant peaks, more than 150 trails, North America’s highest chairlift, and a wide variety of options for everyone from the shakiest of beginners to the most jaded back-country daredevils, Breck really does have something for everyone. Though the town really comes to life from November through early April, there’s still a lot to do during the warmer months, from hiking to fishing to mountain biking.
3. Gatlinburg, Tennessee
With its charming, quaint old buildings in the centre of town, its dramatic mountain backdrop and the only ski resort in Tennessee, Gatlinburg has become a popular tourist destination for regional fun-seekers. Located on the border of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg benefits from its location as a tourist draw and reinforces it with attractions such as an aerial tramway, an aquarium, white-water rafting, hiking, and even a haunted house. But let’s not kid ourselves: as pretty and irresistible the town is, the real draw in this part of Tennessee is the nature. “The wildflowers around Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are absolutely spectacular in the spring as they burst with wild-flowers at their peak,” says Zain Habboo, National Geographic’s director of travel.
2. Camden, Maine
Camden is a famous summer colony in the Mid-Coast region of Maine. Similar to Bar Harbor, Nantucket and North Haven, Camden is well known for its summer community of wealthy Northeasterners, mostly from Boston, New York and Philadelphia. “It’s like a movie set. In fact, it has often been a movie set.” Camden retains a certain salty grit and allows more of its working-class roots to show — though, like many New England seaside villages, the residents are more likely to be affluent these days. “Where the mountains meet the sea,” boasts the town, and indeed one of the best ways to see Camden is from a perch high above the harbor on nearby Mt. Battie. The white sailboats pepper the water in Penobscot Bay, and the waterside seafood beckons. Visit during September’s peak leaf season for an autumnal fireworks display of reds, oranges, yellows, and purples.
1. Newport, Rhode Island
Known for being the city of some of the “Summer White Houses”. Like a town stuck in time but with the occasional hole in the space-time continuum to allow for modern touches, Newport, with its stunning harbor and bevy of old homes, is the quintessential New England town. Newport’s fame began as a 19th century summertime visitors’ magnet of a town, and it still reliably draws in clusters of visitors, both for the daytime shopping, eating, and sightseeing options. At night, one of the town’s many music festivals or varied collection of bars draws in local students and stalwart party goers for good times that can run late and loud.
But the town itself is chief among American small towns in the category of most well-preserved colonial homes and Gilded-Age mansions – a testimony to its tony residential reputation, and to its history as the summer destination of choice from 1953 until around 1963. It is also the location of an important collection of naval training centres.