Aerial view of Stowe, Vermont.

8 Of The Most Welcoming Towns In The Northern United States

Ultimately, what makes or breaks your destination getaway is the inviting locals, creating an atmosphere that feels like home for you to explore the lands around and return to enjoy the evenings in town. The northern small towns, each with a distinctive feel, local spirit, and natural features, happily share the cultivated culture of the respective region over the best attractions, food, and hidden gems that will highlight any visit!

New Glarus, founded by the jobless Swiss textile workers in 1845 after escaping the potato famine back home, invites tourists for a relaxing weekend in America's Little Switzerland with its iconic New Glarus Brewing Company. Cape May, with its over 600 Victorians, boasts spectacular waterfront mansions, B&Bs, and dining options along the best Jersey Cape beaches! These towns encourage you to slow down and relax at a local pace away from the city, recharge in nature, and spend quality time with loved ones!

Bar Harbor, Maine

Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.
Aerial view of Bar Harbor, Maine.

Incorporated as Eden in 1796, Bar Harbor extends its warmest welcome with a special blend of nautical Down East and Maine characters on Mount Desert Island! "Down East," a coastal bearing, refers to a two-century-old state of mind when large ships would sail down the wind eastward from Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, carrying goods to England and Europe. Home to just over 5,500, with local tell-tail "Mainer" dropping the "r," like "lob-stuh," these little charms and imposing seaside ambiance make "Bah-Hah-Bah" a world-sought-after destination.

Small-town Maine at its finest charms, with maritime views for days around its heart of gold at the backdoor of Acadia National Park! Whether you are in for relaxing sights, bed-and-breakfasts, or a whole lot of entertainment, there's plenty of adventure at Acadia National Park! You can explore around-the-rock pools, try lobstering, or enjoy lighthearted coastal walks, hikes, bike rides, kayaking, and shake it out at many local bars. From sightseeing to history boat tours to strolls and culinary experiences, a fresh local feast of lobster and other seafood delicacies is as good a way as any to get acquainted!

Cannon Beach, Oregon

The Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon.
The Haystack Rock in Cannon Beach, Oregon.

This endlessly famous, picturesque village by the sea is one of the Northwest's top art towns and among the world's most beautiful places! From oceanfront lodging to Oregon's North Coast Food Trail and a cascading waterfall at Hug Point, Cannon Beach will spark your imagination to explore! The historic town, with a ton of character since a naval cannon washed up along these shores from an 1840s shipwreck, is famous for its Haystack Rock, which protrudes just off the coast. With other adjacent stone "needles" amid vibrant tidepools, you can see flocks of seabirds, like tufted puffins, adorning the towering boulder between April and July.

Humble at heart and generous in nature, there is family fun for all, including welcoming artist studios, glass blowers, and boutique shopping, as well as specialty shops and fine dining options, with a year-round lineup of live theater performances! Come for the annual sandcastle building competition of stunning artwork along the sandy beach, and stay for lounging along its 4-mile sand stretch, a many-time winner for "best overall beach in Oregon!" Nearly as iconic, Ecola State Park tops the headland with easy access from town for sweeping coastal views, scenic picnic spots, and all-level trails, including extensive hikes!

Cape May, New Jersey

Aerial View of Cape May, New Jersey.
Aerial View of Cape May, New Jersey.

Home to around 3,500 locals, Cape May, America's original seaside resort, is the premier summertime getaway in the state, with stunning landscapes and imposing timeless charm, just 45 miles south of Atlantic City! With a collection of quaint bed-and-breakfasts with a bygone-era feel but a modern comfort level, Cape May caters to over 50,000 vacationers each year, and for one good reason: its endless south-facing beach next to Cape May Point State Natural Area.

From Jersey Cape's top beaches to stunning boardwalks, America's sweetheart boasts some 600 preserved Victorianas, historical sites, and coastal mansions. Cape May's military significance deserves a standing-up ovation. This tiny town was a tough and brave defender of the coastline during the second half of World War II. You can enjoy some of the world's best birding spots, wine appellations, oceanfront stays like Angel of the Sea, and dining at Rusty Nail or the popular Mad Batter Restaurant & Bar.

Decorah, Iowa

Decorah, Iowa, in fall.
Decorah, Iowa, in fall.

While this riverside town with a deep Scandinavian heritage is definitely up there in the United States, in the northeastern part of Iowa, its hospitality feels southern. Decorah's charm is quaint; the stunning museum collection includes the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum with the world's most extensive collection of Norwegian-American artifacts, the Seed Savers Exchange & Heritage Farm with heirloom display gardens, and the historic Porter House Museum. You can invest in your own creative side at ArtHaus and gather at the local favorite watering hole, Bocks Sports Bar & Grill. Discover international flavors at Korean-Japanese Restaurant, Rubaiyat for American, made-from-scratch at La Rana Bistro, or Mabe's for pizza.

The clear Upper Iowa River through the heart is great for canoeing, kayaking, fishing, and strolls, while Decorah Fish Hatchery invites all to feed the trout or enjoy the 11-mile Trout Run Trail. A real playground for the outdoors through its extensive park system, including Dunning's Spring Park with its spectacular 200-foot waterfall, alongside Ice Cave, Phelps, Palisades, and VanPeenen parks for every kind of adventure! From an awe-inspiring arts scene to delightful shopping and fresh markets, you can find home decor and gifts, with or without Norwegian flair. And just as welcoming, the venues for craft include Pulpit Rock, Toppling Goliath, and Iowa flavors at Convergence Ciderworks and Winneshiek Wildberry Winery.

New Glarus, Wisconsin

The Swiss United Church of Christ in New Glarus, Wisconsin.
The Swiss United Church of Christ in New Glarus, Wisconsin. Editorial credit: Aaron of L.A. Photography /

New Glarus is America's Little Switzerland, but there's nothing wrong if this town reminds you of beer. In fact, New Glarus enjoys its non-conformity and invites tourists to relax at friendly gatherings over a weekend and tour the iconic New Glarus Brewing Company. Just outside of town, there's a whole cult around it, famously distributing beer only in Wisconsin! But back to European-influenced small towns, New Glarus, among the finest, will make you stay longer than a few drinks to explore deep into its roots thanks to the jobless Swiss textile workers who founded the town in 1845 after escaping the potato famine back home!

The woes didn't end there with a local dairy plant closure. Still, New Glarus, staying decidedly Swiss to save its hiney, grew into a popular tourist destination with cultural festivals, boutiques, and restaurants. Home to roughly 2,250 locals and nearly every building with Swiss decor, the bank sports the symbol of Saint Fridolin, while the town hall looks like a ski chalet! Whether you are in to taste award-winning brews any day or the Oktoberfest, the idyllic town in the scenic rolling hills of Badger State will cater to a mix of rich culture, Swiss-inspired architecture, and food!

Saranac Lake, New York

Lake Flower at Saranac Lake in New York state
Lake Flower at Saranac Lake, New York.

With endless attractions and adventures between the mountains and the shore of the lake, Saranac Lake inspires play, art, recreation, and relaxation in the alpine atmosphere of the Adirondacks. Unlike any other, its relaxed atmosphere, laid-back locals, and decidedly adventurous spirit, with a tagline of "Let the fun begin!" make this town everyone's favorite. You will feel like arriving home to a mountain vacationland with natural beauty through every season! From Lake Flower on site to Lake Colby just northwest, the extensive Lower Saranac Lake in the west boasts Eagle Island with a day-use camping area!

In the winter, do as the locals do, from sprawling cross-country ski routes and snowshoe treks with extensive wide-open views over valleys onto the mountains. You can dial it up to intense snowmobiling across frozen lakes or down to lowkey skiing at Mt. Pisgah Recreation Center, a perfect place for tubing or picking up the skills of alpine skiing. Saranac Lake overflows with creativity through galleries, diverse local brands, antique stores, and boutiques, as well as world-class menus. Its historically rich downtown, with year-round live music, cultural, and arts events, features sought-after venues like the Adirondack Carousel and Blue Moon Café ADK. 

Steamboat Springs, Colorado

Aerial View of the Colorado Ski Town of Steamboat Springs during Winter
Aerial view of the Colorado ski town of Steamboat Springs during winter.

While you wouldn't be wrong to associate the town with hitting the slopes at Steamboat Ski Resort, its name comes from the famous hot springs. Steamboat Springs welcomes many nature lovers and adventure junkies with something enticing through every season, like fishing and camping in the summer, as well as visiting local ranches. You can hike to Fish Creek Falls or bike the Yampa River Core Trail and unwind in Strawberry Park Hot Springs, mineral pools, or downtown with more than 100 bars, restaurants, and art galleries.

Nicknamed Ski Town, U.S.A., it welcomes you with 3,000 traditional downslope skiing acres primed for shredding powder at more affordable prices than Aspen or Vail! Steamboat Springs is a popular departure point for some of the state's best snowmobile tours, while the plethora of outdoor pursuits extends over an unforgettable winter retreat with snowshoeing and the magic Steamboat Gondola, a right of passage during every visit with never-the-same scenery. There is also the Tread of Pioneers Museum, as well as the Howelsen Ice Arena for the season. 

Stowe, Vermont

Aerial view of small charming ski town of Stowe, Vermont
Aerial view of small charming ski town of Stowe, Vermont.

How about a big ol' bienvenue to Europe? Zooming in: Stowe is a lookalike village from the Alps tucked between CC Putnam State Forest and the Green Mountains. With none other than Mount Mansfield, the state's highest peak, towering above the cozy town, its quaintness is multiplied! The little sliver with classic New England charm invites you for shopping, hearty mountain cuisine, fine dining, and farm-to-table cuisine from the surrounding appellations. Stowe looks resplendent in every season, with peeking peaks of church steeples out of the foliage, snow, or lushness.

With year-round opportunities to stay outdoors, you can enjoy world-class skiing and snowboarding upon ascending Mansfield in one of Stowe Mountain Resort's gondolas. From sledding and sleigh rides to strapping on snowshoes or cross-country skiing through the forest, you can enjoy a great apres-ski scene or sip hot cocoa—make it Swiss chocolate—in a close group fireside at one of the Swiss-style chalets. Now that you have saved the money to fly to Europe, you can aspire to stay at Stowe's Trapp Family Lodge, where the melodious family from "The Sound of Music" found a place that reminded them of Austria!

The "more serious" part of the country, with Norwegian roots in Decorah, for instance, makes you forget southern hospitality and fall for quaint places. Stowe, a sliver in the Alps of the US with classic New England charm, shopping, and rich history and culture, is an idyllic town. There's no better winter break than in Saranac Lake, with enticing opportunities to enjoy world-class snow shredding, an apres-ski scene, and boutique holiday shopping or boxing day sales along a sparkling lake! Visit Cannon Beach, humble at heart and generous in nature, with its Haystack Rock, which welcomes scores of tourists with oceanfront stays. 

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