The Mid-Atlantic is home to a myriad of beautiful small towns that you should visit, from New York to North Carolina, each uniquely captivating. With parks graced by shimmering waters, ancient forests standing tall, and time-honored buildings radiating hues of red and orange, the region is a tapestry of beauty and history. From serene pockets nestled amidst the Appalachians to bustling harbors carved into dramatic rocky coves, the charm of the Mid-Atlantic is undeniable. Dive in to uncover some of the region's most enchanting small towns.
New Hope, Pennsylvania
New Hope is a small town on the Pennsylvania-New Jersey border with more than two centuries of history. The Delaware River runs through the downtown's Main Street, accenting historic buildings like the Locktender's House and the Perry mansion. The Delaware Canal Trail, leading to the Delaware Canal State Park, is an easy and quiet walk that helps guide visitors through the main sights. Go apple picking at the Solebury Orchards and have a good beer at the Triumph Brewing Company. Fall visitors should climb Bowman's Hill Tower for a beautiful red, yellow, and orange scenic lookout; summer and spring visitors should stroll through the Bowman's Hill Wildflower Preserve.
The cobblestone streets and brick storefronts in Lewes testify to its Dutch settlement in 1631. Likewise, the Zwaanendael Museum tells a great story. Still, what puts Lewes over the top is its natural beauty. The sandy Savannah Beach is the town's coastline, and a dramatic seaside former military base, now Cape Henlopen State Park, full of beaches, trails, marshlands, and historic landmarks, is just next door. On the other side of town is the Great Marsh Preserve for avid birdwatchers. For a majestic sunset in the middle of town, go to Pilottown Marina's thin, wooden boardwalk filled with small boats.
Chincoteague has a population of 3,306 people and 150 adult ponies. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, home of the famous Chincoteague pony, is only 10 minutes from downtown Beach Drive. It's a unique trip featuring 14,000 acres of marsh lowlands and wide-roaming ponies seen up close and from a distance on short, walkable trails. The most popular attraction is Assateague Island, far away from traffic and noise from both people and cities. White and brown ponies walk the shore and graze on green grass; visitors take primitive campsites and fall asleep to a full sky of stars after an expansive sunset. Those bargaining for less activity can turn a long walk into a short bike ride from the Bike Depot rental shop or just stay in town with a beer at the Black Narrows Brewing Company.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Kennett Square is "the mushroom capital of the world," supplying 60% of the country's mushrooms right from suburban Pennsylvania. The small town is only a pocket within a vast Appalachia oak forest: the Anson B. Nixon Park is a prime example, full of tall wooded landscapes and quiet waters, and Auburn Valley State Park is only 8 minutes in the other direction. There are the long, green rows of the Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery for quiet nights and the Braeloch Brewing Company for noisy ones. Still, the most impressive attraction is the Longwood Gardens, where vibrant flowers and trees line a garden fit for a royal family with intricate water structures and sculptures.
Havre de Grace, Maryland
Past the picturesque Chesapeake Bay and busy Baltimore is the small town of Havre de Grace, split down the middle by the Susquehanna River. Incoming boats pass Millard Tydings Memorial Park, a perfect family park, and come around the historic Friends-Concord Point Lighthouse from 1827 and head towards the Havre De Grace Marina, where you can find one of the best sunsets on the Atlantic coast. Move further inland and learn about the history of canals at the Lock House Museum. Then, keep going and find the Susquehanna State Park, where a rocky river meets forested hills and an intricate system of walking trails.
Lake Placid, New York
Lake Placid is on the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. It's known for winter sports and has hosted Winter Olympic events in 1932 and 1980. Learn about the events at the Lake Placid Olympic Museum. There are hiking trails and majestic mountains all around, like the Whiteface Landing Trailhead and the Owen Pond Trailhead in the Sentinel Range Wilderness. Mirror Lake, forming a natural oasis around the town's Main Street activity, is a scenic view from dinner at The Cottage restaurant or Smoke Signals barbecue and beer. Adventurers looking for more should take a tour from the Lake Placid Boat Agency.
Highlands, North Carolina
The town of Highlands is a temperate jungle dotted right in the middle of the Atlantic Coast. It's 4,100 feet (1,200) meters up in the southern Appalachian Mountains within the Nantahala National Forest, meaning high precipitation, clean air, and amazingly lush forest. Adventurers are always sure to walk the amazing Dry Falls trail that runs inside the 75-foot waterfall and climb the Whiteside Mountain Peak, where 700-foot (213m) cliff faces make amazing views over the Appalachians. There's enough town to make a fun nightlife too: The Bascom is a renowned art center, the Highlands Country Club is a beautiful round of golf, and The Ugly Dog Public House is a popular and cozy family-friendly restaurant.
St. Michael's, Maryland
St. Michael's is a beautiful maritime village on the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay. Sailers explore the waters in yachts, sailboats, and skiffs; visitors usually try the Selina II boat tour, limited to only six passengers, which offers a stunning sunset view of the harborfront. Or stay on land, rent a bike, and peddle to the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, or the Higgins Yacht Yard. Waterfront Park on Miles River is perfect for a morning walk and a lunchtime picnic, overlooking calm ocean water and simple wooden boardwalks. Then get classic seafood, including some of the best crab and oysters in the country, at Ruse and The Galley.
Saratoga Springs, New York
Saratoga Springs is one of the biggest 'small' towns in the country. It's filled with beautiful brick buildings on downtown Broadway and Lake Avenue, accented with sharp black window trim for an upscale style and accented with big oak trees. The town's fame is its horseracing history; the Saratoga Race Course is one of the oldest sporting venues in the country. Almost as well recognized is Saratoga Spa State Park, featuring a historic pool complex and mineral springs. More active visitors can try the Geyser Creek Trail or the various event centers — the Saratoga Automobile Museum, the Children's Museum, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center — fitted inside the massive park.
A walk around Annapolis is a walk around a charming, modest town of the 18th century. Brick and wooden homes and businesses are squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder in bright colors along the banks of Chesapeake Bay ocean water. Explore beautiful brick buildings and museums dotted around the busy but humble-feeling Main Street: try the William Paca House & Garden and the Banneker-Douglass Museum. Then, have dinner in a cozy local restaurant like Iron Rooster or have lunch at Chick & Ruth's Delly. Plus, there are beautiful morning walks everywhere, especially through Acton Cove's Waterfront Park and the Annapolis City Dock. And, of course, Annapolis is home to the magnificent and impressive United States Naval Academy.
This is the quintessential small town: brick-ridden streets filled with locally-owned and reasonably-priced restaurants like the Thaiverse and the Red Horse Tavern, and a quiet and scenic rural area with fantastic wineries like the family-owned Stone Tower Winery. As "the nation's horse and hunt capital," Middleburg also has world-class inns like the Red Fox, established in 1728 and now one of the oldest in America; there are other pretty and more economical options, too, like Zion Springs. Appreciate the wide-open fields and the surrounding world-class equestrian filled with Olympic riders with a jumper show at a facility; the courageous can try their own horseback ride on any of the nearby ranches.
Road trip the Mid-Atlantic
Despite the diversity between the eleven towns on this list, they can all be arranged into a road trip with only short stints on the road and long, relaxing stays in these small, picturesque towns. Try the best sailing tour available, and when the salt of the sea is too strong, travel inland and picnic in a luscious state park or find a nice view overlooking long vineyards. There's every opportunity for new landscapes and experiences in the Mid-Atlantic: they're only waiting for ambitious travelers to find them.