The USA is colossal – a nation with 50 impressive states certainly makes it an enormous country. Yet, when it comes to travelling in the USA, holidaymakers and globetrotters hardly scratch the surface of the USA’s destination experience.
A USA holiday is bound to be planned around New York, Niagara Falls, Florida, Las Vegas, San Francisco and Los Angeles. It is time to broaden our minds and look beyond these cities into a whole new world of charming and picturesque towns and country sides.
USA is home to many hidden gems – small yet amazingly interesting and beautiful townships that are seldom on the radar of US visitors. So here’s a list of small towns in USA which will change the way you look at USA itineraries for your travel plans.
Big Sur, California
A scenic stretch along the rugged central coast of California – Big Sur offers its visitors dramatic landscapes of Santa Lucia Mountains in the east and sweeping panoramas of Pacific Ocean in the west. The breathtaking shored flanked by cliff sides and tranquil waters along with the scarcely populated township have been a beguiling factor which has allured beach lovers, hikers and nature enthusiasts to this destination. If you are visiting San Francisco, then you can allot a day to spend at Big Sur which is approximately 2 hours away from San Francisco.
Tucked away in the Rockies of Southwest Colorado, Ouray is a charming countryside brimming with stunning mountain vistas and natural hot springs. This American town is an idyllic choice for visitors who are looking for a US vacation filled with adventure and relaxation. Hike through breathtaking nature trails that offer viewpoints overlooking panoramic views of the town and the ocean. The scenic drive on San Juan Skyway is one of the popular things to do in this town. After an adventurous day, feel your fatigue melt away with a rejuvenating soak in hot spring pools of Ouray.
An art lover’s haven, Nashville in Indiana is a quaint, little township teeming with charming art galleries and antique stores. The whole town feels like a mini art museum where you can find unique studios and public art displays on the streets while you are wandering around. The town showcases the talents of local and international artists who once were visitors to Nashville but fell in love with the town and decided to settle down. The surrounding areas of Nashville are covered in lush verdant forests which makes it one of the best vacation spots in the US for outdoorsy and adventurous travellers to enjoy a wilderness stroll or gear up for mountain adventures.
Grand Rivers, Kentucky
Known as ‘The village between the Lakes’, Grand Rivers is a beautiful town located between the Kentucky Lake and Barkley Lake. With a mere population of 343, this township is a tranquil retreat for those who wish to experience leisure moments away from the maddening global cities of USA. Spend your days here strolling on nature walking trails, canoeing, fishing, and boating. You can even notch up your holiday to a luxury level with a yacht cruise on the lakes. Grand Rivers is one of the idyllic places to visit in the USA to spend quality time with your dear ones while enjoying some lakeside fun.
Taos, New Mexico
A UNESCO Heritage site, Taos is a rustic city in New Mexico that has preserved the historic charm of its bygone era. It is also one of the few US towns where you will come across Native American communities. The natural scenery is simply astounding as this antiquated township is dominated by sweeping panoramas of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Moreover, this is one of the places to go in America where art and talent are appreciated and it encourages artists of all genres to exhibit their talents. Here, you will come across cenotaphs of noted writer DH Lawrence and renowned painter Georgia O’Keeffe. Some of the highlights of this US town are the adobe buildings of Taos Pueblo, Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and Historic churches and museums. With an eclectic mix of Anglo, Hispanic and Native American charms together with the vibrant art scene, inspiring cultural elements and natural vistas, Taos gives you a glimpse of the ethnic communities within the USA.
If you are visiting California on your American trip, take an excursion to Carmel-By-The-Sea for a unique holiday experience. This European-styled beach village nestled on the Monterey Peninsula in California offers a myriad of experiences to enjoy. The best way to explore the town is on foot. Enjoy a laid-back evening at the tranquil Carmel beach amid postcard-perfect panoramas or stroll around the town to witness historical structures and fairy tale like cottages of the town. You can also take a drive along the Scenic Road or 17-Mile Drive that offers jaw-dropping vistas of the passing beaches, dramatic shoreline cliffs and sweeping ocean views. Spend a couple of days here so that you can explore this tiny hamlet’s bounty of picturesque beauty and its Mediterranean-ish vibes.
Brimming with a plethora of outdoor activities, no matter what time of year it is, Stowe in Vermont is an adventure enthusiast’s paradise. Nestled between valleys and surrounded by alpine vistas, the scenery feels like a page out of a storybook village tale. The foliage turns into a riot of colours during autumn which is worth viewing. Hiking and walking trails are the popular outdoor recreational activities to be done here. As winter approaches, the mountain slopes get sheathed in velvety white snow which is perfect landscapes for skiing and snowboarding activities. Adventure seekers can gear up for skiing, cross-country hikes, hot air ballooning, mountain biking and rock climbing. A nature hike at the Sterling Falls Gorge Natural area is an astounding experience to explore Stowe’s stellar natural beauty filled with spectacular waterfalls, gorges, and pools cocooned within the verdant forest. Take some time out and explore the sublime vibes of the village on a walking tour or on horse carriage rides. The food here is awesome giving you a resplendent plateau of lip-smacking delicacies.
Cold Spring, New York
Undoubtedly you would visit New York City while you are on your USA holiday. How about taking a day excursion to the north of New York to a charming town known as Cold Spring? It’s a great way to take a break from the overwhelming hustle of New York City for a while, plus it is just an hour’s drive away from New York City. While New York is a city which is 24×7 dynamic and pulsating, Cold Spring is a picturesque village tucked between mountains minus the maddening rush of the modern era. Stretching along the Hudson River, you can enjoy relaxing strolls at flowering gardens and nature hikes under the blue open sky, overlooking spectacular vistas of Hudson River and its surrounds. Explore the town to discover an amazing collection of museums and galleries as well as to delve into some scrumptious palette of international cuisines.
A USA travel experience goes beyond its globally recognized cities. These trivial towns of the USA which are quite unpretentious offer you ways to reconnect with nature, introduce yourself to inspiring cultures and find solace in subtle lifestyles.
While it is obvious from the moment you get your USA visa, you would be pretty excited to plan a visit to New York City. Nevertheless, adding a few of these modest American towns to your USA travel itinerary will give you an offbeat yet complete USA experience which shows you the best of both worlds – the modern way of life and a simplified life under open blue skies.
Useful Tools for Booking Your Sabbatical
I always use Skyscanner or Agoda alongside Google Flights to make sure I’ve got the best price. I use Google Flights to save a route and monitor price changes and a combination of Skyscanner and Agoda to get the cheapest tickets.
If you are in the UK I would also highly recommend signing up for Jack’s Flight Club to get incredible flight deals sent to your email inbox every week.
When booking accommodation I always start with Booking.com as they generally have the best range and prices. I also regularly use Airbnb for longer stays and apartments in cities (use this link for £25 off your first stay). For a different experience try signing up to Housecarers for free house-sitting opportunities (get 10% off membership with this link).
Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary cost, but when a flight gets cancelled, injury occurs or you damage a piece of gear you’ll regret not paying in advance. I’ve used World Nomads for two sabbaticals and (after badly damaging a hire car in Laos!) found the claim process to be simple and transparent.
Getting from the airport to your destinations is an added stress after a tiring flight, so take the guesswork out and pre-book with JayRide.com. Their prices often beat the local taxis and I've found them to be reliable and easy to use.