Aerial View of Round Lake in Charlevoix, Michigan, USA, Early Summer with Boat Traffic.

7 Cutest Small Towns In the Northern United States To Visit In 2024

The Northern US, designated the "Union" during the Civil War, comprises 20 stunning states, with eight bordering Canada. From the New England town of Maine to Wisconsin, the Badger State, New York, Michigan, and the Great Lakes State, not to mention the falltime favorite of Vermont, the region's geography is varied, wild, and consuming. Imagine the charm of the smallest towns hidden off the beaten path or peeking out of the scenery with cute downtowns and friendly locals.

With so much variety in nature to offer for every type of traveler, this eclectic mix of towns includes gems like Lambertville, the king of antiquing, and Charlevoix, Ernest Hemingey's roaming grounds as a child. Charlevoix is a Lake Michigan gem with its own Charlevoix Lake at its heart, as is Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, along the bay of Lake Michigan, while Red Lodge is a gateway to the iconic Yellowstone just west of town.

Charlevoix, Michigan

Charlevoix Town and South Pier Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.
Charlevoix Town and South Pier Lighthouse on Lake Michigan.

Charlevoix, home to the infamous 31 cottages by Earl Young that grow as if deep from the forest floor, is a sweet town. Giving off major Lord of the Rings vibes, the mushroom huts are at 306 Park Ave., while the World's Largest Cherry Pie Tin is just south, and Lake Charlevoix is the heart. Warm temps and great sandy Lake Michigan beaches make it a second-to-none destination in the northern region to visit this summer, perhaps for the vibrant 4th of July celebration with fireworks over the lake and boating. From the Charlevoix South Pier Lighthouse to the lush banks with lots of places to seek shade along the trails and the spectacular North Point Nature Preserve, this town is not just cute but "Charlevoix the Beautiful."

Attracting photographers and families, the lakeside beauty begs to be captured and explored, while the Villager Pub welcomes patrons for a family meal or drinks downtown. Boutique shops charm with friendly patrons and local craft to find the perfect gift for back home as a memory of time spent here, beyond the 45th parallel. Home to just under 2,500, Charlevoix's timeless allure and warm hospitality, as well as serene beaches, inspire a relaxing retreat, including B&Bs for every season, like sledding, skiing, and ice skating on the small lake in winter. Founded in 1852 and once home to the young Earnest Hemingway, Charlevoix, the inspiration from his childhood eyes is indeed sprinkled through his adult masterpieces.

Lambertville, New Jersey

Charming Historic Town of Lambertville, New Jersey, Along the Delaware River.
Charming Historic Town of Lambertville, New Jersey, Along the Delaware River. Editorial credit: EQRoy /

This destination town for all vintage lovers is an antique itself along the scenic Delaware River banks across from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Promising a comfortable, natural, and interesting escape for any group, its most eclectic cluster of antique shops, galleries, and colourful storefronts with cute cafes and spots for a beverage, like the Boat House, is waterfront. Visitors can browse the People's Store for vintage wares and the Artists' Gallery, as well as craft, boutique designer clothing, home decor, and a music store, among artists and craftsmen, with a stop at Holcombe Jimison Farmstead Museum. Sit down for a treat or grab a cone to go from the Owowcow Creamery for a memento across the bridge before turning into the antiquated heart of downtown.

The unique architecture dating from the founding days in 1705 delights the eye in neat rows of federal townhouses and Victorian homes, while the restored 19th-century train depot, the Lambertville Station, doubles up as a luxurious waterside restaurant and an inn. The 1816 James Wilson Marshall House Museum is a worthy stop at the headquarters of the Historical Society of Lambertville, among other treasures behind the town's moniker, “the Antiques Capital of New Jersey.” For a fantastic hike, Goat Hill Overlook is just south, steps away from Washington’s Rock, a perfect spot to picnic with one of the region's best views of bridges and New Hope Wing Dam on the mighty river. Just north, the Music Mountain Theatre is incredibly popular in the evening with seasonal productions like Christmas plays and The Sound of Music, while three days a week, the Golden Nugget Antique Flea Market spreads out its rare offerings in a large outdoor and indoor setting.

Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania

Street View of Ohiopyle with Falls Market General Store, Pennsylvania, USA.
Street View of Ohiopyle with Falls Market General Store, Pennsylvania, USA. Editorial credit: gg5795 /

Ohiopyle, a southwestern Pennsylvania gem, is picturesque along the meandering Youghiogheny River banks with old-growth White Pines. Drawing adventurers and water sports lovers to the famous Ohiopyle Park, including first-rate whitewater rafting, kayaking, and anglers, its rugged nature has a warm, beating heart. The inviting outdoors beckons you to experience natural wonders while rock climbing, wildlife spotting, and taking incredible waterfall hikes. Dominating the scenery, the most scenic Ohiopyle Waterfall steals the stage, captivating all senses along the rim of Cucumber Gorge. With three viewing decks for different angles of the falls and the rapids, each being cuter for a picture than the last, don't miss the Ohio State Park Visitor Centre for insights, tips, and souvenirs.

There's also a charming bridge and Cucumber Run, where the water and its rock floor end precipitously for a spectacular photo op and thrills, while the rustic stairs beckon to explore below in a jungle of rhododendrons and one of the top observation points. Ferncliff is an exposed sandstone stone area with rock slabs and ledges along and above the Ohiopyle Falls, the noisemaker where visitors can face this voluminous, twenty-foot waterfall. Don't miss the Falls Market Restaurant & Inn for a casual dinner and rest before another day full of wonders like the natural water slides just south. The Great Allegheny Passage, a nearly-level rail trail, spans a total of 150 miles, with bike rentals in town for a paddle east along the banks of the river, a scenic 11-mile ride to the town of Confluence.

Red Lodge, Montana

Downtown Streets of Red Lodge, Montana, USA, Near Beartooth Highway.
Downtown Streets of Red Lodge, Montana, USA, Near Beartooth Highway. Editorial credit: melissamn /

Red Lodge, famously the gateway to Yellowstone National Park, is too adorable not to stop along the beautiful Beartooth Highway and experience genuine Western hospitality. Bursting with old west vibes, this quaint, historic mountain town under the Beartooths looks even cuter and feels more genuine amid the extraordinary beauty of Montana’s highest peaks, home to rough-handed, warm-hearted mountaineers and real nature lovers at the doorstep of world-class outdoor recreation. Perfect for a romantic escape, a road trip with friends, or family-style fun, it all starts along the Beartooth Highway, the 68-mile state-of-the-art road through the mountain range. Visitors with kids can say hi to the cute animals at the famous Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary in town, while just south, the Beartooth Basin Summer Ski Area is sunny and has plenty of snow.

Replete with accommodations, eateries, and entertainment for every group and taste, and 2,300 friendly locals to point you in the right direction, there's no wrong way per se at the northeast entrance of Yellowstone. The Red Lodge Historic Broadway downtown feels idyllic on a stroll to feel out the vibe, which often contradicts the expectations of a western mountain town spirit. Strewn with art galleries like the Carbon County Arts Guild & Depot Gallery and artisan eateries, as well as its very own candy emporium, visitors can stock up on unique craft souvenirs from local artists and sweets. Don't miss the last chance hoorah meal or celebratory drink at the iconic Bogart's for having conquered a section of Yellowstone and a drive home with mountains behind you.

Saugerties, New York

Esopus Creek Bridge, Ulster County, New York, USA.
Esopus Creek Bridge, Ulster County, New York, USA.

Sugar-coated with its name and a feature in Budget Travel as a cool town, New York's Saugerties is also sweet within some of the state's most stupendous natural scenery, namely the foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Nestled along the Hudson River confluence with the Esopus Creek, with an extensive frontage of Plattekill Creek, its shores for every taste range from developed to wild for summertime recreation. From kayaking and paddleboarding on Esopus Creek with rentals in town to the 155 wild acres of Esopus Bend Nature Preserve, don't miss the awe-inspiring Opus 40 and the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. The artsy town full of galleries, a bookstore, and antiquing treasures also hosts the Woodstock ’94 rock concert on the 800-acre Winston Farm.

Saugerties, Dutch for “sawmill,” reveals deep European roots in the unique architecture like an old beer hall, through the revitalized village center with eclectic antique stores, vintage shops, and an array of cuisines, as well as the notable Orpheum Theatre. Don't miss the iconic Diamond Mills Hotel & Tavern at Leasy for a drink, if not dining or staying in its luxurious quarters. Saugerties First Fridays beckon you out of the city for an early weekend escape with discounts and special activities through the village's restaurants and shops, which stay open late on Friday nights. Great for a steal-on flight of drinks after arriving, don't go overboard because there is so much to explore, like the serene and remote Saugerties Lighthouse via driftwood- and flora-laden boardwalk along the sandy Hudson River shore.

Shelburne, Vermont

Ticonderoga Steamboat, National Historic Place in Shelburne, Vermont, USA.
Ticonderoga Steamboat, National Historic Place in Shelburne, Vermont, USA. Editorial credit: Wangkun Jia /

Home to Shelburne Farms, a major attraction, Shelburne attracts every type of traveler with gorgeous views, miles of walking trails, and fantastic cuisine. From photographers to hikers and families escaping the city blues into bucolic charm, the quaint farm features animals and educational programs. Everyone loves Shelburne, a cute town with literally big attractions like the giant, artisan, handcrafted teddy bear, and the huge annual Vermont Cheesemakers' Festival. Guaranteeing a lifetime of memories, Shelburne Vineyard is unmissable to appreciate the beauty of lush vines on a stroll and the taste of Vermont's finest made from sustainably grown grapes in a beautiful tasting room with award-winning wines.

Families can bond at Shelburne Orchard while picking crispy, juicy apples from the trees right on Lake Champlain shore, stocking up on pantry items like cider and apple brandy, and having a snack of apple cider donuts with coffee or tea. Shelburne, home to excellent shopping and dining downtown, is drenched with Americana vibes as a historic suburb of Burlington on Lake Champlain, with highlights at the Shelburne Museum. Visitors can discover the cute town's longtime fame as the favorite lakeside retreat from the city through a fascinating collection of art, design, and artifacts, part of the historic collection of buildings together housing some 150,000 works over 45 acres.

Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Sturgeon Bay Canal View, Door County, Wisconsin, USA.
Sturgeon Bay Canal View, Door County, Wisconsin, USA.

There's plenty to do in the Sturgeon Bay area of Lake Michigan, a real summertime paradise in the Northern US, the Badger State, and the Great Lakes Region. From waterfront activities to the locally grown produce at the Saturday market, like sweet cherries and corn, this lakeside Door County town is an open door into both the iconic Cave Point County Park and Whitefish Dunes Park for dune strolls, picnics, and photoshoots. Beach lovers enjoy a choice of beautiful sands at this park or those fringing Otumba Park and Sunset Park. The Door County Maritime Museum displays Great Lakes maritime history with exhibits for all ages, like fishing tugs, while the Jim Kress Maritime Lighthouse Tower offers ten floors with exhibits and top views of Sturgeon Bay!

Its shipbuilding legacy is all along the harbor, from the container ships to the local anglers at work on your next seafood feast and the sturdy, red Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal Pierhead Lighthouse. The beautiful architecture along the historic Third Avenue tells the story of a thriving town with its little shops and inviting cafes for gifts and delicacies and the sparkling bay's natural beauty in between—a beacon for water babies. From fresh-caught dinners at a local restaurant to the Bay Shipbuilding facility, there's no wrong way to imbibe the local culture, including on a bass fishing charter boat. On the outskirts, the shaded trails through Potawatomi State Park feel heavenly in the summer as you whizz through the lushness on a bike or take a self-paced hiking excursion.

Discover the Northern Charm

Drawing worldwide visitors year-round, the northern states commonly experience a humid continental climate with cold, snowy winters and plenty of sunshine during the summer. The seven cutest towns for every taste offer, as one, a simpler way of life where nature takes the stage, and each caters to dining, entertainment, and lodging.

Whether you're in for magnificent views of lakes, national parks, waterfalls, or antiquities, each cute town flaunts unique experiences like the thriving Sturgeon Bay, an open door into both the iconic Cave Point County Park and Whitefish Dunes Park, three sandy beach fronts, and the Door County Maritime Museum display. Saugerties flaunts Dutch roots, Shelburne-Americana charm, and Ohiopyle, the natural park with its center waterfall.

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