Biker consults the tourist information in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Image credit Rolf_52 via Shutterstock

9 Offbeat Towns to Visit in the Northern United States

The Northern United States is characterized by its diverse landscapes ranging from the Great Lakes to vast forests, all the way to the oceans slapping on the shoreside.

With so much land to cover, you can find places where Scandinavian traditions meet American landscapes, historic mining tales are preserved, and maritime heritage shapes coastal life.

The Northern States are a testament to the complex story that is American life, inviting you to discover their unique and offbeat character, from outdoor adventures to heritage treasures.

Explore nine of the most offbeat towns in the Northern US.

Belfast, Maine

Downtown street in Belfast, Maine
Downtown street in Belfast, Maine. Image credit Kristi Blokhin via Shutterstock

Belfast is a cozy coastal spot with plenty of appeal and interesting landmarks to experience.

Take a trip down memory lane at the Belfast Historical Society & Museum and explore the local history.

Located in a building that has stood for two centuries, it brims with interesting displays. Among them is a Civil War-period flag quilt, carefully brought back to its former glory.

When in town, look for the Belfast Harbor Walk for a stroll with scenic waterfront snapshots at every turn. Kick things off at the Armistice Footbridge, and meander past iconic spots like Front Street Shipyard and Steamboat Landing.

Belfast's own Perry's Nut House is another great spot to visit. It has been around since 1927 and has a lineup of crunchy nuts, sweet homemade fudge, and all sorts of odd treasures.

Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

Mt. Horeb Opera Block, Wisconsin.
Mt. Horeb Opera Block, Wisconsin. Image credit Jaknelaps, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This small town wears its Norwegian heart on its sleeve, with buildings and traditions that nod to Scandinavia.

All around Wisconsin, Mount Horeb is known for the troll statues scattered throughout the town. The sculptures are influenced by tales from Norway, mirroring the town’s Scandinavian roots.

To learn more, check out the Driftless Historium for a cool journey into southwest Wisconsin's Driftless area's past and special scenery.

Not far from Mount Horeb, the Cave of the Mounds shines as the "jewel box" of America's great caves. Here, you are invited on guided strolls to marvel at its rock structures. Steady temperatures keep it welcoming for visitors any season of the year.

Also, for some outdoor fun, Tyrol Basin is a ski and snowboard area that is only a 15-minute drive from Mount Horeb.

Montpelier, Vermont

Montpelier, Vermont, decked up in fall colors.
Montpelier, Vermont, in fall.

Montpelier is the capital of Vermont and holds the distinction of being the smallest state capital by population in the United States. Also it is also the only state capital without a McDonald's.

Standing proud in Montpelier, the Vermont State House catches eyes with its shimmering gold top. Real gold leaf covers the dome, showing off the city's style and reflecting Vermont's long-standing history.

In Montpelier, the local arts truly come alive at the Montpelier Art Walk. It occurs multiple times each year and puts a spotlight on hometown artists' creations, displayed across downtown spots.

A visit to the famous stone tower in Hubbard Park is something you should not miss when you are in Montpelier. It is reminiscent of those old English castles right out of a storybook. Just a quick walk away, and you will find yourself looking out over the town with beautiful views that go on for miles.

Mystic, Connecticut

The Mystic bascule bridge spans the Mystic River
The Mystic bascule bridge spans the Mystic River in Mystic, Connecticut. Image credit Paul Latham via Shutterstock

Mystic, a quaint seaside town in Connecticut, is famous for its roots in sailing, its lovely downtown, and one-of-a-kind sites.

Close to Mystic, the site known as Gungywamp brings a sense of wonder with its secrets from the past. Explorers can see relics that are as old as 2000 to 770 BCE, witness an impressive double ring made up of huge stones, and sites from both Native American and colonial American periods.

In Mystic, BF Clyde's Cider Mill is a celebrated historical spot and holds the title of National Historic Landmark. It is known for its cider pressing demonstrations, where guests can witness the traditional way of crafting cider from times long past.

In the downtown of Mystic, the Mystic River Bascule Bridge has been an iconic sight in town since 1922. Also, downtown, there is a neat store called Mystic Knotwork. It is the first knot shop in America, offering a variety of nautical-themed items to buy.

Wallace, Idaho

Main street in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho.
Main street in the historic mining town of Wallace, Idaho. Image credit Kirk Fisher via

Welcome to the "Center of the Universe." This title came to be one evening when folks in town decided that since no one could show it was not true, why not claim it?

The whole town of Wallace has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, showing off a history that has been kept in great shape over the years.

Not only that, it has the Bitterroot Mountains, casting an imposing and beautiful background for the town.

The town of Wallace is famous for mining more silver than anywhere else on Earth. It has been known as one of the top spots for silver production worldwide.

The town of Wallace has some stories to tell, and nowhere is its lively history better preserved than at the Oasis Bordello Museum. Here, visitors get a sneak peek into the town's boisterous times when miners would flock for more than just precious metals.

Grand Marais, Minnesota

Grand Marais Light against the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains on Lake Superior, Grand Marais, Minnesota.
Grand Marais Light against the backdrop of the Sawtooth Mountains on Lake Superior, Grand Marais, Minnesota.

Grand Marais sits by the vast Lake Superior, offering a vibrant small town with a long history associated with the arts.

Every year, the town opens its doors to artists from everywhere during the Plein Air Grand Marais festival. This event shows off the town’s deep ties to the world of art, long influenced by the surrounding nature.

If you need some fishing gear Beaver House, has you covered. It stands out because of a huge walleye fish head sticking out from the front. Since the 1960s, Beaver House has been known as a special place in town.

Want to have a great time outside? Try visiting Gunflint Trail. It goes on for 57 miles right into nature.

This spot is well-known for its amazing sights of Superior National Forest and the surrounding lakes. It's perfect for those who enjoy spending time outside.

Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

Carpenter Gothic Cottages with Victorian style, gingerbread trim on Lake Avenue, Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Image credit Wangkun Jia via

Ever been to Massachusetts? If so, you might know about Oak Bluffs, with its cute gingerbread cottages.

This place beams with over 300 colorful and detailed Victorian-style homes, originally used as spots for Methodist meetings.

Oak Bluffs has a special connection to African American history. As part of the Underground Railroad, for years since the 1800s, it's been a welcoming holiday spot for Black Americans.

A major highlight is Inkwell Beach, known for being a welcoming and safe beach for visitors for over a century.

Circuit Avenue, in Oak Bluffs, is also buzzing with activity. The area is filled with stores, places to eat, and entertainment spots that show off the town's fun vibe.

Not to forget about is the Flying Horses Carousel, the oldest carousel of its kind in the country. Built in 1876, it still runs today in Oak Bluffs. Riding its hand-crafted horses and trying to catch the brass ring is something special.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Small harbor in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Small harbor in Kennebunkport, Maine. Image credit Enrico Della Pietra via Shutterstock

Kennebunkport has a real charm, with its lively Dock Square full of local crafts and great places to grab a bite. It has all been made even better by the peaceful Kennebunk River.

It is also home to truly distinct landmarks, like the Maine Art Hill, a remarkable art space featuring nine galleries that display works from over 45 local artists.

A local icon is the Wedding Cake House, often called Maine's most photographed house because of its appearance as a big, fancy wedding cake.

Kennebunkport's floating eatery, the Spirit of Massachusetts, delivers a one-of-a-kind mealtime adventure. Picture tucking into scrumptious dishes while gently bobbing on the waves—a delightfully intimate and extraordinary dining twist.

Lastly, tucked away near Kennebunkport, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge is a piece of pure nature. It is a peaceful locale for spotting birds and sinking into the quiet world outside.

Hudson, New York

Warren Street in downtown Hudson, New York.
Warren Street in downtown Hudson, New York. Image credit quiggyt4 via

A defining natural feature of the region, the Hudson River provides a scenic backdrop to the town of Hudson. It is popular for boating and fishing and offers great views, especially during sunsets.

Love art? When visiting Hudson, look for the Olana State Historic Site. This place used to be where Frederic Edwin Church, an important artist from the Hudson River School of painting, lived. It provides beautiful sights of the Hudson Valley and includes a blend of Victorian, Persian, and Moorish designs in its buildings.

In town, the Hudson Opera House is New York State's oldest surviving theater and still hosts a variety of performances, workshops, and community events.

For a journey outside of town, the High Falls Conservation Area is an escape right outside town, with a stunning waterfall and great hiking trails to tackle.

Exploring the Northern United States shows a rich collection of cultural and natural wonders, where echoes of Scandinavian, maritime, and artistic legacies blend seamlessly with the landscapes.

This region's charm is magnified by offbeat traditions, historical landmarks, and a welcoming community spirit.

Here, history is carefully preserved in architecture and museums, while the great outdoors invites adventurers and artists, making it an important destination for those seeking to experience the essence of America.

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