People walking to the shops with vehicles parked on the streets. Ashland, Oregon. Editorial credit: Nature's Charm /

6 Cutest Small Towns In The Pacific Northwest To Visit In 2024

Stretching through the western United States from the Pacific Ocean coast in Washington and Oregon to the mountains in Idaho, the Pacific Northwest, or Cascadia, is one of the US's most geographically diverse regions. Home to high peaks, national parks, rainforests, Pacific islands, and sparkling lakes, the PNW is a favorite escape from the city that keeps on giving. As a popular destination even among worldwide travelers, it is a must-visit if you've never been, with its cute towns—the perfect gateway hosts.

Whether you're in for a crowdless seaside beach escape in the off-beaten-path Pacific City, the arts in Ashland, or the remote vibes on Orcas Island, these cute towns promise comfort, magic, and entertainment to discover the best of the Pacific Northwest. Ashland is a college town, Chelan features a wine trail, and McCall is a wintertime skiing destination, including downhill and Nordic trails.

Ashland, Oregon

Sign and entrance to Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon, USA.
Sign and entrance to Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon, USA.

Ashland, home to the world-famous Oregon Shakespeare Festival, is a real cultural hub of the state for all the art fans, but not just that. The theatre festival takes place in the beautiful Lithia Park, with trails and cute features like scenic bridges, streams, and scented flower beds. Ashland's vibrant galleries, music venues, and outdoor performances expand your views, enriching a getaway for every group. Take advantage of the cutest date ideas for a romantic evening over a Shakespearean, contemporary, or another classical play, while the Schneider Museum of Art flaunts an impressive collection of perceptual works, like abstract art to ponder over and optical illusions that fascinate the young.

In addition to the scores of die-hard Shakespeare fans, the town in Oregon's deep south, at the gateway to both the mountains of the state and California, caters to thousands more sunshine and adventure lovers. Home to Southern Oregon University, there's no shortage of shopping, dining, and nightlife to mingle, talk innovation, or huddle up in your own group at one of the serene nooks. Each spot with a personality, the uber-popular Case Coffee Roasters, is a must-hit in the heart of downtown for a caffeine jolt or a hearty breakfast.

Chelan, Washington

Lake Chelan in Washington, USA.
Lake Chelan in Washington, USA.

Some three hours from Seattle, Chelan is a cute lakeside town edging the lake by the same name. Thriving in a geologically rich area where nature is lush, and the waters sparkle blue, an astounding two million visitors enjoy discovering this really pretty yet authentically pristine PNW slice along the third deepest lake in the US. At over 1,500 feet in depth, the glacial lake carved 10,000 years ago by massive glaciers during the last Ice Age features clear waters and a deep U-shape, which is so much fun to explore. Filled with glacier meltwaters and rain, the 50-mile-long lake is a heaven for jet skiing, paddle boarding, tubing, and canoeing, as well as swimming after a hot summer day hike and a photo shoot in a frame of nature akin to painting.

From the banks of the Lake Chelan Valley, wine lovers have access to over 30 wineries, including Benson Vineyards Estate Winery, Lake Chelan Winery, and Tsillan Cellars. The thriving watery world and agriculturally rich valley extend to the best dining after a stroll through Chelan Riverwalk Park downtown, with trails and picnic areas overlooking the surrounding mountains. Whether you're in for relaxing views, water sports, or inland adventures, Campbell’s Resort features stunning guest rooms and private beach access right from Chelan’s historic downtown waterfront. Having first opened its doors in 1901, it is just a stroll to the modern attractions in brick-and-mortar buildings like shopping at Lake Life Chelan and Lake Chelan Sports and the Stormy Mountain Brewing, a local pub with a motto of “Beer. BBQ. Friends. Beer.”

McCall, Idaho

 Classic building fronts in a McCall, Idaho. Editorial credit: Charles Knowles /
Classic building fronts in McCall, Idaho. Editorial credit: Charles Knowles /

McCall, the cute town on the shore of the 5,330-acre Payette Lake, lives and breathes water, attracting like-minded boaters and kayakers for some adventurous paddling. Whether you're a first-time SUPer or a professional swimmer, the views along this expansive, deep blue glacial lake leave no soul untouched. Just north, the snaking Payette River, feeding the lake, offers some of the best whitewater opportunities in the country, with guides and rapids for every level of taming, from mellow family float trips to class IV and V rapids. The kayakers can practice at Kelly’s Whitewater Park, just south of town, before exploring the nooks and crannies along the lake.

After the holidays at the end of January, family fun continues in McCall, when the popular Winter Carnival, first held in 1965, offers ten days of elaborate fun. From life-sized ice sculptures to live music and fireworks over the lake, there's even a beer garden and a Mardi Gras parade. Tourists can enjoy the festivities in conjunction with some powder shredding for the active. The intermediate slopes at Brundage Mountain are right in town with wide groomers and "soft snow," while the nearby Tamarack Ski Resort features an extensive Nordic trail system just 20 miles south on Lake Cascade.

Orcas Island, Washington

Aerial image of Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, WA, USA.
Aerial image of Orcas Island, San Juan Islands, WA, USA.

Despite being the largest in the San Juan archipelago, Orcas Island, in the northwest corner of Washington, is cute, with its own airport and boat access. Seamlessly blending spellbinding nature, which epitomizes the wild island vibes of the state, with the laid-back attitude of the locals, it feels like a new world full of wonderment for the city souls and outdoor enthusiasts to discover and yet feel completely at peace—at home. Attracting artists, nature lovers, photographers, and every other person seeking a real retreat with so much inspiration, it is no wonder it is called the "island of artists," while families can bond over unique opportunities.

Home to around 4,500 people, including retired astronauts and world-class restaurateurs, and even until recently, Oprah, the central arts village, Eastsound, has been a great place to start discovering through studios and galleries like Orcas Island Artworks. Don't miss Orcas Island Pottery or the Orcas Centre, and when you're sugared up at the Brown Bear Baking for adventures, Moran State Park is a hop away south on the island's right flank. Flaunting a bunch of smaller towns along the perimeter, there is the best seafood at Buck Bay Shellfish Farm near Olga and your potential stay at Rosario Village to unwind after the central Island Hoppin Brewery.

Pacific City, Oregon

Pacific City, Oregon, seen from Cape Kiwanda.
Pacific City, Oregon, seen from Cape Kiwanda.

Pacific City exudes the air of the undiscovered as one of the lesser-visited gems along the Oregon coast among its many. Off the beaten path, the ambient town with many cute features strikes through the heart with its awe-inspiring open ocean vistas, prevailing serenity, and the slower pace of the local lifestyle. Still accessible via Highway 101, Pacific City will quickly become your favorite escape with beachfront rental options and a smallish downtown with highlights like the Grateful Dead, a themed bakery for delicious breakfast.

From the oceanfront Pelican Brewing, a microbrewery right by the city beach, to the lavish Headland Coastal Lodge & Spa, stay with magnificent views of Haystack Rock on Cannon Beach or just enjoy a pampering treatment, which hits the spot after exploring the Cape Kiwanda Sand Dune, just north, or charging at them with a buggy. Pacific City, just a small town in the big natural embrace of Bob Straub State Park, offers lovely oceanfront cabin rentals with access to trails, more serene beaches along the shoreline, and Pacific Wayside Crest just south against the breathtaking sunset.

Port Angeles, Washington

View of city and Olympic Mountains in Port Angeles, Washington. Editorial credit: Francisco Blanco /
View of the city and Olympic Mountains in Port Angeles, Washington. Editorial credit: Francisco Blanco /

Tinged with fame and steeped in history in the rain shadow of the Olympic Mountains, Port Angeles pokes its cute face out of bold nature with nuggets to discover beneath the bewitching beauty. The surrounding Olympic National Park defines the Evergreen State with its rugged wilderness for your vibrant adventures or a cozy mountain retreat. Whether you are a water baby for the seaside or the gateway to one of the US's largest, the top-of-the-bucket list national parks in the Pacific Northwest, the friendly harbor town is the epicenter of outdoor fun on the Olympic Peninsula.

Attracting nature lovers from near and far, Port Angeles promises magic, comfort, and entertainment for all, where the undulating sea views meet the peaky vistas, including world-class dining and entertainment like Deer Park Cinema. From the City Pier to the Ediz Hook scenic lookout, the Olympic Park National Visitor Center is the best place to start, while the Feiro Marine Life Centre reveals the secrets of the underwater world, and Hollywood Beach is central to it all. Play in between the park, the Hoh Rainforest, and the red sands of Ruby Beach for the ultimate Olympic Peninsula experience on your PNW journey.

Encompassing the Olympic Mountains, top national parks, and rainforests like Hoh, the PNW is a must-experience in 2024, with many small towns in the region that are downright adorable in between all the wilderness.

Port Angeles, the portal to it all on the Olympic Peninsula, flaunts a world-class culinary scene to dine after adventures at one of the chic waterfront restaurants. McCall and Chelan are cozy lakeside towns along the 1,500-foot-deep Lake Chelan and the 5,330-acre Payette Lake, respectively.

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