Each year, we celebrate the many small towns that make up the heart of America. These are the types of places where communities come together to celebrate the reopening of a more than 200-year-old lighthouse, and to welcome a Major League Baseball event to a historic ballpark. The sort of spots where local citizens have come up with innovative ways to reimagine their town for a new generation, such as the opening of a live music hall inside a former church. From full-moon hikes among lunar-like landscapes to Friday night bluegrass jams, they’re the locales that truly embrace all that this country has to offer … and then some.

Much like last year, this year’s towns vary in size, but their populations are all fewer than 25,000 residents, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates. They also boast vast cultural experiences, superb nature, and a plethora of activities and events, not to mention an anniversary or opening that makes 2024 an especially great year to visit. Glassboro, New Jersey, for example, is finally welcoming the public to its long-awaited Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum of Rowan University, while the small town of Beaufort, South Carolina, is commemorating 30 years since its starring role in the beloved, Academy Award-winning film, Forrest Gump.

The Best Small Towns to Celebrate Summer

From the 50th anniversary of Mammoth Site, the largest mammoth research facility on the planet, in Hot Springs, South Dakota, to a major mountain expansion in Aspen, Colorado, here are 15 towns that are encouraging us to get out there and explore.

Seaside Small Town: Scituate, Massachusetts (pop. 19,297)

Old Scituate Light Ted Curtin
Scituate DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images
Birthplace of the Irish mossing industry The Scituate Historical Society
Lawson Tower Wes Ennis

This August, one of the oldest lighthouses in the country will be revealing its restoration to the public. The unveiling of the Old Scituate Light, a historic beacon built of split granite blocks that overlooks Scituate Harbor, and was activated in 1811, takes place on August 7, National Lighthouse Day. Although plans for the day are still unfolding, many local restaurants will be including lighthouse-inspired dishes and drinks—such as fresh seafood at spots like Salt Society and Hibernian Tavern, and a celebratory “beer blend” from Scituate’s Untold Brewing—on their menus. The lighthouse’s completely rebuilt lantern room will also be on full display.

The seaside town of Scituate sits approximately 30 miles south of Boston along the Atlantic Coast, and it is home to a higher concentration of Irish descendants than anywhere else in the U.S. It’s often called “the most Irish town in America.” Its waters also feature an ample supply of Irish moss, which Irish immigrant Daniel Ward first spotted off the coast around 1847. This type of red algae seaweed is a main source of carrageenan, a gelatinous substance used as an emulsifying and suspending agent in everything from pharmaceuticals to makeup.

Set in the 18th-century home of Captain Benjamin James—a militia leader and shoemaker—Scituate’s Maritime & Irish Mossing Museum celebrates the local mossing industry and the town’s longstanding relationship with the sea. Exhibitions include a Shipwreck Room highlighting the many devastating local wrecks and an Irish Mossing Room featuring the country’s last remaining Irish mossing shed, a place the seaweed was cured, dried and kept before purchase. The museum is a stop on the drivable South Shore Irish Heritage Trail, which winds its way through nine Massachusetts coastal towns, from Weymouth to Plymouth. Another local stop is Lawson Tower, an iconic Scituate landmark that looks like a turret on a European castle, but is actually the enclosure for a water tank. An elaborate set of ten bells, which are played on special occasions, are located at the top of its 123 stairs. Both the tower and its surrounding gardens are part of the Scituate Historical Society, and they are open to the public on select dates throughout the year.

Film buffs might recognize Scituate from movies like Witches of Eastwick (1987) and the recent American Fiction (2023). Its picturesque harbor boasts a vibrant cultural arts district hosting events like a summer bandstand series every Thursday evening, and dozens of shops, including Harbor Light Toy Company, packed with puzzles, picture books and penny candy.

Fresh seafood is plentiful here, with The Mill Wharf serving up orders of fish and chips and lobster rolls with panoramic waterfront views, and the no-frills Satuit Tavern dishing out large portions of scallops, sole and clam strips (though their Thursday night prime rib special is equally as popular). For local beers and hand-pressed soft corn tacos stuffed with local haddock, swing by the Galley Kitchen & Bar.

Each early August, the town’s Heritage Days draws 30,000 visitors with a weekend of live music, food trucks and dory races, which have expanded to include other seafaring vessels, like kayaks, paddleboards and even homemade rafts.

A Revitalized Small Town: Humboldt, Kansas (pop. 1,816)

Downtown Humboldt Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Bijou Confectionary Kansas Tourism
Bijou Confectionary Kansas Tourism
Downtown Humboldt Jill Toyoshiba/The Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
BaseCamp Kansas Tourism
Kayaking at BaseCamp Kansas Tourism
HoneyBee Bruncherie Kansas Tourism
Southwind Rail Trail Kansas Tourism
The Hitching Post Kansas Tourism
The Hitching Post Kansas Tourism

It’s been less than a decade since the residents of Humboldt, a rural town in southeast Kansas—two hours southwest of Kansas City—decided it was time for a change. Faced with a declining population, a group of Midwest natives kicked revitalization efforts into overdrive. In 2016, they established A Bolder Humboldt, an economic development organization formed with the support of the local community, which focuses on reimagining and rebuilding the 167-year-old town for a new generation of entrepreneurs, citizens and visitors.

In the years since, this self-described “scrappy group of dreamers, builders and doers” has helped lead well over a dozen local projects—hosting summer movie nights on Humboldt’s public square, setting up a community garden project to teach area residents about food and the joys of being outdoors, and investing in places like Bijou Confectionary, a French-inspired, boutique sweets shop where macarons and petit fours share space with build-your-own boxes of fudge.

Still, it wasn’t until 2022, when the New York Times included Humboldt in its list of “52 Places for a Changed World,” highlighting spots (such as Greenland and Sierra Leone) in which travelers can be part of the solution, that this small town gained a global audience. By then, Humboldt had already undergone quite a transformation.

Today, you’ll find spots like BaseCamp, a 21-acre “glampground” featuring both full-size cabins and mini A-frame cabins, perched on the edge of town. Along with additional sites for overnight RVing, the property is home to a quarry pond for anglers and sits at the trailhead for the 6.5 mile Southwind Rail Trail. The latter works its way to the nearby town of Iola, where it connects with the 52-mile Prairie Spirit Trail for a continuous hiking and cycling route through southeast Kansas.

Humboldt’s drink, dining and entertainment options run the gamut from made-to-order chais, matchas and cold brews at Octagon City Coffee Company to the honky-tonk-style Hitching Post, where an enormous whiskey selection goes hand in hand with old-school country music. Or splurge on innovative breakfast dishes, like pancakes made with Cap’n Crunch cereal, at the oh-so-Instagrammable HoneyBee Bruncherie.

Soon-to-open venues include Union Works Brewing Co., which will start serving wood-fired pizzas and micro-beers sometime this summer, and the Revival Music Hall, a live performance venue for everyone from punk artists to folk singers in the bones of a century-old church.

A Bolder Humboldt has also revived the town’s annual Water Wars, a signature August event that transforms the square into a massive water park—complete with kiddie pools, Super Soakers and an ice-filled “polar plunge” tank.

Soothing Small Town: Hot Springs, South Dakota (pop. 3,609) 

Mammoth Site Travel South Dakota
Mammoth Site Travel South Dakota
Mammoth Site Travel South Dakota
Moccasin Springs 605 Magazine
Wild Horse Sanctuary Travel South Dakota
Wild Horse Sanctuary Travel South Dakota
Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival Travel South Dakota
Downtown Hot Springs Travel South Dakota

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Hot Springs’ Mammoth Site, the largest mammoth research facility on the planet and home to the biggest concentration of mammoth remains. To celebrate, the active paleontological dig site and museum is hosting Mammoth Days on June 21 and 22, complete with kids’ bouncy houses, a barbecue and food trucks, and even an atlatl (a type of spear-throwing device) competition. New exhibitions, such as one on permafrost treasures, also help ring in the site’s half-century of late Ice Age research. Visitors can embark on a self-guided tour of the facility; engage with interactive displays, including an augmented-reality sandbox that allows users to move sand and see how its topography changes in real time through projected images; and view the skeletal remnants of both Columbian and woolly mammoths in the same layout as researchers discovered them.

Hot Springs is also celebrating another milestone in 2024: the reopening of its Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary to guests, for the first time since 2020. Once again, visitors can join a guided three-hour SUV tour to watch hundreds of American wild mustangs, as well as endangered wild horse bloodlines like the Curly and Choctaw, graze freely across 11,000 acres of prairie.

Known as the southern gateway to the Black Hills, more than one million acres of forested hills and mountains ideal for camping, climbing, fishing and hiking, Hot Springs is also where you’ll find some of South Dakota’s most soothing mineral waters. Located on the ruins of the town’s historic Hot Springs Hotel, the hillside Moccasin Springs Natural Mineral Spa recently added a healing salt room to its offerings—which already include hot stone massages, soothing facials and access to several spring-fed and outdoor pools. The spa’s Dragonfly restaurant nourishes guests with veggie-filled bowls and thin-crust flatbreads.

Locally owned coffee houses and eateries are the norm in this southern Black Hills town. Pair locally roasted coffee with breakfast burritos and house chili at Wandering Bison Coffee, or opt for homemade farm-to-table food in a casual and comfy setting at Southern Hills Diner & Bakery. For juicy burgers and more than 20 beers on tap—as well as in-house brews from the state’s first kombuchary, Scobi Kombucha, try the Southern Hills Mercantile & Taproom.

Hot Springs’ skies will be bursting with color come the Fall River Hot Air Balloon Festival, August 23 through 25. Expect morning balloon launches, food vendors and an evening “Glow Around Town,” in which pilots fire up their balloon burners for a spectacular light display, at this popular weekend event celebrating its ninth year.

Spooky Small Town: Sleepy Hollow, New York (pop. 10,962)

SUP Witches Festival Tom Grajek
Gate to Sleepy Hollow Cemetery John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
Burial site of writer Washington Irving in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
Old Dutch Church John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
The Headless Horseman statue in Sleepy Hollow neilfein via Flickr under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Headless Horseman Bridge John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
Kykuit Darren McGee/NYSDED
Philipsburg Manor Darren McGee/NYSDED
SUP Witches Festival Tom Grajek
Tarrytown Light, also known as Kingsland Point Light and Sleepy Hollow Light, is a sparkplug lighthouse on the east side of the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow. Michael Orso/Getty Images

It’s been 150 years since the charming village of Sleepy Hollow (then known as North Tarrytown) was first incorporated, and its local residents are pulling out all the stops to celebrate. Events ranging from the inaugural Sleepy Hollow Mermaid Festival, on July 20, to a rollicking anniversary block party in September are a part of the yearlong festivities.

Author Washington Irving’s 1820 tale “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” put this tiny slice of the globe, less than 20 miles north of New York City in the state’s bucolic Hudson Valley, onto the international map.

Irving is buried in the village’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, and he was a vestryman, Sunday school teacher and regular parishioner in nearby Tarrytown’s Christ Episcopal Church, where his pew is marked by a brass plaque. But it’s the short story of schoolmaster Ichabod Crane and the notorious Headless Horseman that lives on in various landmarks throughout town. Take, for example, the millpond at the restored 17th-century Philipsburg Manor—a former milling and trading complex that now tells the story of the enslaved Africans who once lived and worked here, and is open on select dates between May and December—where the schoolmaster walked with his dates, and the Old Dutch Church, where Ichabod’s life comes to a mysterious end. Here, a two-acre burying ground serves as the final resting place of local residents who likely inspired some of the short story’s main characters, including Katrina Van Tassel, the tale’s female protagonist, as well as the horseman himself. South of the church is an 18-foot-tall Headless Horseman statue, created by local artist Linda Perlmutter.

Halloween is when the village especially springs to life, with activities such as a haunted hayride, which follows the same route that Ichabod took while trying to escape the horseman. Another favorite seasonal happening is the SUP Witches Festival, on October 13, when hundreds of costumed enchantresses, occultists and sorcerers take to the Hudson River at Horan’s Landing on stand-up paddleboards, kayaks and other watercraft.

Sleepy Hollow’s Kykuit manor was once home to four generations of Rockefellers, an illustrious American industrial, political and banking family that amassed one of the largest fortunes on the planet. Visitors can tour this opulent hilltop estate, including its 40-room mansion and sculpture-filled gardens, between May and November. A few miles north, Rockefeller State Park Preserve is the perfect place for quiet walks along carriage roads in a hardwood forest, filled with oak, maple and beech trees.

A Small Town That Knows How to Fuel Your Fun: Aspen, Colorado (pop. 6,612) 

View of Aspen Tamara Susa
Downtown Aspen Tamara Susa
Aspen Music Festival Alex Irvin
Student performing at Aspen Music Festival Courtesy of Aspen Chamber Resort Association
Aspen Snowmass Courtesy of Aspen Chamber Resort Association
Aspen Snowmass Courtesy of Aspen Chamber Resort Association
Base State Longevity Petr Wiese/Mountain Home Photo
Cold plunge at Base State Longevity Tyler Wilkinson-Ray
Aspen Ideas Festival Courtesy of Aspen Chamber Resort Association
Bosq Hatnim Lee Photography

It seems like there’s a new opening, anniversary or earned acknowledgement just about everywhere you turn in Aspen at the moment. This endlessly sunny resort town (Aspen gets around 300 days of sunshine per year) in the Colorado Rockies is best known for its four ski mountains—Aspen Highlands, Aspen Mountain, Snowmass and Buttermilk—that transform into hubs for hiking and mountain biking come summer. Together they fall under the moniker “Aspen Snowmass,” and they recently unveiled a new Hero’s terrain: 153 acres of skiable chutes, glades and trails, as well as a high-speed quad chairlift, just in time for the 2023-2024 winter season. It’s the first major addition to Aspen Mountain since 1985.

Aspen’s upscale lodging options have also expanded. The Bauhaus-inspired Aspen Meadows Resort merges natural materials like walnut and oak with a palette of primary colors inspired by graphic artist Herbert Bayer, and MOLLIE Aspen, a design-forward, 68-room boutique hotel, opened downtown in late 2023.

Also unveiled toward the end of 2023, Colorado’s first Michelin Guide features five Michelin one-star restaurants across the state, including Aspen’s Bosq. This 30-seat, tasting-menu-only eatery specializes in hyper-local cuisine served over multiple courses. Three additional Michelin-recommended restaurants in town include Prospect at the Hotel Jerome (a local landmark since 1889), showcasing foods inspired by greater Aspen’s terroir; Mawa’s Kitchen, a cozy, art-filled space serving up Mediterranean dishes infused with French and African heritage; and Element 47, focused on Colorado contemporary eats and tucked inside the Little Nell, Aspen’s only five-star, five-diamond, ski-in/ski-out hotel.

The town even debuted three new spas for its winter 2024 season. One in particular, Base State Longevity, offers an array of innovative treatments—like cold plunge pools and red light therapy—to help rejuvenate both bodies and minds.

This summer, Aspen Music Festival and School is celebrating 75 years of showcasing classical music with 53 nights of festivities, including popular alumni performances, while the weeklong Aspen Ideas Festival (June 23-29) commemorates 20 years with its first guest curator, award-winning magazine editor and author Tina Brown.

While in town, be sure and swing by the Aspen Thrift Shop (also 75 years old) for Louboutin shoes and Prada ski gear at a fraction of their original price.

A Laid-Back Small Town: Haleiwa, Hawaii (pop. 4,941) 

Boutique in Haleiwa Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Vincent Lim
Aerial view of Haleiwa Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson
Waimea Bay John Seaton Callahan/Getty Images
Jump Rock at Waimea Bay annamarkiewicz/Getty Images
Shave ice Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Daeja Fallas
Haleiwa Beach Park Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Vincent Lim
Souvenir shop Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Shops in Haleiwa Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

For 25 years, the Haleiwa Arts Festival has been promoting art and culture along Oahu’s North Shore. Not only does this free event provide a platform for 100-plus local painters, photographers, sculptors and more to share and sell their works, but the two-day festival (June 29 and 30) also includes live performances and plenty of food for noshing. This year’s silver jubilee celebration takes place at Haleiwa Beach Park, a favorite among swimmers and beginning surfers alike.

About a 45-minute drive northwest from Honolulu, the laid-back Haleiwa serves as the North Shore’s artistic and social center. While experienced surfers flock here for its massive waves, this small town is also rich in island history. Approximately 30 plantation-era buildings influenced by the area’s once-prominent Waialua Sugar Mill fill the town, many of them housing surf shops, boutiques and art galleries, and thanks to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program, any new buildings must adhere to a similar design.

A good example of combining plantation-inspired architecture with a handful of preserved historic structures is the town’s Haleiwa Store Lots, an open-air retail center that’s home to everything from island wear like Kahala—Hawaii’s oldest operating apparel company, they’ve been selling aloha shirts commercially since 1936—to art galleries such as Polu Gallery, specializing in surf-inspired art from both regional and international artists. It’s also where you’ll find some of Haleiwa’s tastiest treats, including Makua Banana Bread and family-owned Matsumoto Shave Ice, a local institution.

The North Shore Chamber of Commerce hosts 90-minute walking tours of Haleiwa. Each stroll incorporates dozens of historic sites en route, such as the town’s own Buddhist temple and the wood-frame Waialua Court House, built in 1913.

Haleiwa is an ideal place for taking in the tropical offerings that make Hawaii so special. Bask in the soft sands and calm waters of its Haleiwa Beach Park, then take in one of Oahu’s epic sunsets from the park’s shores. Rainbow Watersports rents out paddleboards and kayaks to explore the island’s blue waters, or you can join one of their Twilight Glow paddles on an LED-illuminated stand-up paddleboard, keeping an eye out for spotted rays and sea turtles as you go.

Haleiwa boasts a wonderful array of food trucks, with plates of garlicky shrimp scampi from Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck competing for tastebuds with helpings of mango sticky rice and panang curry from Khan & Phim Thai. If it’s a sit-down eatery you’re after, Haleiwa Beach House pairs poke bowls and island po’ boys with superb Pacific views.

Fossil-Filled Small Town: Glassboro, New Jersey (pop. 23,987) 

Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum of Rowan University Jean and Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum of Rowan University
Render of Jean and Rick Edelman Fossil Park of Rowan University Ennead Architects/KSS
Heritage Glass Museum Holly Bush/Visit South Jersey
Downtown's Rowan Boulevard Borough of Glassboro

As the Jean & Ric Edelman Fossil Park and Museum of Rowan University gets ready to open its doors this summer, a whole new side of this South Jersey town is about to be unveiled. The 65-acre fossil park is the only site east of the Mississippi where you can actively dig for fossilized remains from the Late Cretaceous period, which ended 66 million years ago, and its 44,000-square-foot eco-friendly structure is everything that a world-class museum should be.

The space is equipped with geothermal heating and cooling systems, making it the largest public net-zero facility in the entire state, and features impressive exhibits like the “Hall of Cretaceous Seas,” home to dozens of marine recreations (including that of a mosasaur, a type of sea-dwelling lizard that was unearthed onsite) by world-renowned paleo-sculptor Gary Staab, and a “Hall of Extinction and Hope,” which explores innovative ways to take action against climate change. The museum itself is perched above an active dig site. Here, visitors can search for fossils of shark teeth and marine crocodiles alongside Rowan University’s top paleontologists.

German glassworker Solomon Stanger first established Glassboro in 1779 as a “Glassworks in the Woods,” and thanks to its quality sand and many trees, glass manufacturing became the town’s leading industry for well over a century. Downtown’s Heritage Glass Museum showcases this history through displays of antique and Depression glass, hand-blown glass from the region, and a selection of South Jersey paperweights, including several by local world-renowned glass artist Paul Stankard.

The town’s centerpiece is Rowan University, a four-year public institution that was founded in 1923 as a school for training teachers. It was also the impetus for downtown’s Rowan Boulevard, a one-third-mile corridor lined with shops, eateries and even classrooms that has been consciously developed over the last 15 years to create the “quintessential college town.” It’s home to Exit 4 Private Escape Rooms, where you’ll have an hour to outwit the Jersey Devil or break free from a haunted mountain hotel, and Cookie Munchers, a purveyor of humongous, freshly baked chocolate chip and M&M cookies. Glassboro’s Town Square along High Street serves as a community hub, hosting summer events like barbecue fundraisers and Friday night movies.

Head to LaScala’s Fire for cocktails, local brews and happy hour eats, including paninis served on wood-fired piadina. For an authentic diner experience, slide into a booth or belly up to the counter at Angelo’s Glassboro Diner. Their pork roll sandwich completes the South Jersey experience.

A Small Town Preserving Its Indigenous Heritage: Santa Ynez, California (pop. 4,505) 

Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center Mimi Fuenzalida/Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center
Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center Mimi Fuenzalida/Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center
Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center Mimi Fuenzalida/Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center
Santa Ynez General Craft & Cluster/Visit the Santa Ynez Valley
Downtown Santa Ynez Barry Winiker/Getty Images
Grassini Family Vineyards and Winery Craft & Cluster/Visit the Santa Ynez Valley
Crown Point Vineyards Craft & Cluster/Visit the Santa Ynez Valley

This fall, the central California coastal town of Santa Ynez will see the opening of its Santa Ynez Chumash Museum and Cultural Center, a long-awaited 6.9-acre landscape dedicated to the history and culture of the region’s Indigenous Chumash people. Visitors can explore a LEED Silver-certified museum with a permanent exhibition gallery displaying objects such as traditional musical instruments and hunting tools—all which shed light on over 8,000 years of ancestral life. An outdoor cultural park features an amphitheater for storytelling and gardens filled with over 11,000 California native plants. These include over 140 species traditionally used by the Chumash, such as tule grass for matting and thatching houses, and elderberries for crafting whistles and bows.

Tucked within the agricultural riches of the state’s Santa Ynez Valley, between the Santa Ynez Mountains to the south and the San Rafael Mountains to the north, Santa Ynez boasts the feel of a bygone cowboy town. Horseshoes are embedded in its crosswalks, artisan-painted wooden horses decorate its downtown streets, and Western-style storefronts hide modern shops like Santa Ynez General, featuring a curated selection of homeware (think champagne buckets and California-scented candles), and Global Gardens, the larger county’s first certified organic extra virgin olive oil producer.

The greater Santa Ynez region is home to more than 200 wineries and tasting rooms: places like Gainey Estate Vineyards & Tasting Room, where visitors can sample varietals of syrah and sauvignon blanc, and picnic on the lawn with a bottle of vino. Or pair your wine tasting with a guided trail ride through the countryside, courtesy of Vino Vaqueros Horseback Riding. Local hikes include the challenging 7.8-mile Tequepis Trail, which begins near the shores of Cachuma Lake.

For dining, the upscale Dos Carlitos Restaurant & Tequila Bar pairs plates of tostadas and ceviche with a selection of 60-plus, 100 percent blue agave tequilas. Set in a stylish farmhouse, S.Y. Kitchen whips up rustic Italian fare, such as wild mushroom pappardelle and Dungeness crab spaghetti, using simple, thoughtfully sourced ingredients. The Baker’s Table is the place for breakfast, whether it’s a slice of “flavor-of-the-day” quiche or a mouthwatering, hand-rolled almond croissant.

Baseball-Obsessed Small Town: Huntingburg, Indiana (pop. 6,495) 

League Stadium Visit Indiana
League Stadium Visit Indiana
Downtown Huntingburg Visit Indiana
Market Street Park Visit Indiana

Come August 10, all eyes will be on southwestern Indiana’s Huntingburg, when its inaugural Big League Baseball Classic rolls into town. This seven-inning exhibition game is bringing together former Major League Baseball legends from teams like the St. Louis Cardinals, Chicago Cubs and New York Yankees for a one-of-a-kind sports experience. So far the roster includes former pitcher Kyle Farnsworth and Bret Boone, a three-time All-Star second baseman, as well as local and minor league players.

The Big League Baseball Classic takes place at Huntingburg’s historic League Stadium, made famous in the 1992 movie A League of Their Own. In the film, the ballpark served as home field for the all-women professional baseball team the Rockford Peaches, and much of its 1940s vintage signage still remains on display. A group of “Peaches” in throwback uniforms also help cheer on the crowds when the Dubois County Bombers, the region’s wooden-bat summer baseball team, are in town. To get the full experience, be sure and book a 30-minute stadium tour.

Huntingburg’s picturesque downtown is a historic district of two-story Italianate and late Victorian commercial buildings that center around Fourth Street, the neighborhood’s main thoroughfare. It’s home to an impressive collection of antique stores, specialty shops and eateries: places like Downtown Emporium, featuring multiple vendors who stock everything from vintage toys to Longaberger baskets, and My Little Soap Shop, where you can fill up on bath bombs and even paint your own pottery in the evenings.

For homemade cheese ravioli and tender cuts of ribeye and filet, all served up in a landmark 19th-century space, local residents head to Mama T’s Italian Steakhouse. A thriving Latino community means plenty of authentic fare, like the carne asada tacos and chicken enchiladas available at My Jalapeño, a casual Mexican eatery.

Huntingburg’s calendar features a bevy of annual “strolls” that draw plenty of foot traffic to Fourth Street. Autumn brings Pumpkin Stroll, with shopping discounts, a pumpkin patch and s’mores, and the popular Christmas Stroll kicks off the holiday season in early November with a Hallmark-like display of decorated Victorian storefronts, visits with Santa and even a “cookie walk” with delicious samplings.

An Oasis in the Desert: Superior, Arizona (pop. 2,571) 

Downtown Superior JPopPhoton
Superior's Main Street during a festival JPopPhoton
Downtown Superior JPopPhoton
Aerial view of Superior's Main Street during a festival JPopPhoton
Downtown mural JPopPhoton
Boyce Thompson Arboretum Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Boyce Thompson Arboretum Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Boyce Thompson Arboretum Arizona Office of Tourism
Boyce Thompson Arboretum Boyce Thompson Arboretum
Legends of Superior Trail LOST Trails
World's Smallest Museum Arizona Office of Tourism

It’s been 100 years since American engineer and philanthropist Colonel William Boyce Thompson founded Superior’s Boyce Thompson Arboretum on 372 acres of upland Sonoran Desert. Today, this world-renowned botanical garden is home to 20,000 desert plants from around the planet—including places like Madagascar, Japan and Israel. To celebrate its centennial, Arizona’s oldest and largest botanical garden is rolling out a series of exhibitions, tours and sustainability programs. A new “Spiny Splendor” exhibition is a fusion of art and nature showcasing hedgehog cactuses alongside colorful fiberglass sculptured counterparts, and its docent-led Legacy Tour sheds light on the arboretum’s history.

Located 70 miles from Phoenix, to the west, and 95 miles from Tucson, to the south, Superior got its start as a supply center for Pinal City (now a ghost town with only a few foundations remaining), and later as a mining town. These days, downtown’s mountain-backed Main Street is lined with shops and art galleries like Picket Post Antiques, a treasure trove of vintage signage, kitchenware and furniture, and the aptly named All Things Desert, stocked with everything from used books on Arizona rockhounding to potted cactuses for purchase. Bruzzi Vineyard Tasting Room is perfect for sipping wines made from Vidal Blanc grapes—an unusual find in Arizona—while browsing the many paintings, photographs and sculptures of adjoining La Paloma Fine Art.

Downtown is also home to the World’s Smallest Museum, a quirky 134-square-foot shed-like structure with a roof crafted from beer cans and plenty of pop culture memorabilia. Only two people at a time can explore this free museum’s collection, which includes a 1984 Compaq home computer and a rare variety of black obsidian stone known as an Apache Tear. The latter is reputed to be one of the largest such specimens on the planet.

For a geospatial audio tour of Superior, download the Superior A.I. audio app from ListenUp, which serves as a free “multilingual private tour guide” of this small town, turning its streets into a museum-like experience.

Outdoor enthusiasts flock to Superior to enjoy its Legends of Superior Trails, an 11.65-mile-long hiking, biking and equestrian recreational trail that runs through Superior to the climbers’ heaven, Queen Creek Canyon, passing through Arnett Canyon and its riparian forest—as well as the remnants of Pinal—along the way. Six miles west of town, the trail connects with the Arizona National Scenic Trail, a non-motorized pathway stretching 800 miles north-south across the state, from its northern border with Utah to its southern border with Mexico.

Superior’s many locally owned restaurants include Jalapeños, known for its large portions and bacon-wrapped carne asada burritos; Silver King Smokehouse & Saloon, where brisket and burgers go hand in hand with live tunes; and Felicia’s Ice Cream Shop, dishing out street tacos and Cuban paninis alongside cones of prickly pear ice cream.

Cinematic Small Town: Beaufort, South Carolina (pop. 13,850)

Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images
Downtown Beaufort DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images
John Mark Verdier House Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Woods Memorial Bridge PhotoviewPlus/Getty Images
Downtown Beaufort DenisTangneyJr/Getty Images
Hunting Island State Park Discover South Carolina/SCPRT
Hunting Island State Park Discover South Carolina/SCPRT

When the movie Forrest Gump was released in July 1994, it became an instant classic. Now, to mark the 30th anniversary of this beloved motion picture, greater Beaufort is showcasing its own starring role. Visitors to the area can traverse the swing-style Woods Memorial Bridge where Forrest first started his cross-country run, step inside nearby McPhersonville’s Stoney Creek Independent Presbyterian Chapel where he prays for shrimp with the choir, or stroll among the thick forested trails of Hunting Island State Park, a stand-in location for Vietnam in the film located a half-hour east of town.

Founded in 1711 and located on Port Royal Island, one of South Carolina’s coastal Sea Islands, Beaufort has so much going for it. Dozens of well-preserved antebellum mansions and private homes that have been lovingly restored sit tucked among the town’s winding streets, sharing space with centuries-old, moss-draped live oak trees and lush gardens. One in particular is the John Mark Verdier House, a pre-Civil War era Federal-style mansion filled with period furniture and exhibitions, including one on Robert Smalls, a Beaufort resident who became a leader during the Reconstruction era. Many of the town’s other architectural beauties are open to the public during the Annual Beaufort Old Homes and Garden Tour happening the last weekend of June. Along with a walking tour of private homes, churches and historic places, the event promises narrated bus tours of the historic district, as well as an antique car show.

Fresh seafood and Lowcountry specialties are culinary standards in town. Dine on classic shrimp and grits or flounder po’ boys at Plums, a casual down-home eatery with views of the Beaufort River, or try Wren Bistro & Bar for shareable plates and craft brews.

Numerous offerings allow visitors to learn about Beaufort’s history while also getting lost among its natural splendor. Try a leisurely kayaking tour along the Beaufort riverfront, or opt for a boat tour with Coastal Expeditions. The company offers 1.5-hour dolphin and history excursions that cover the area’s heritage, from its Native American origins to its days under Union occupation during the Civil War. You can even hop in a golf cart to explore the town’s Hollywood movie locations, which also include the 1983 comedy-drama The Big Chill and the 1991 romantic-drama The Prince of Tides, indulging in a little seaside air as you go.

An Atomic Small Town: Arco, Idaho (pop. 930) 

First city in the world to be lit by atomic power Visit Idaho
Mural art in Arco Visit Idaho
Mural art in Arco Visit Idaho
A spatter cone at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Visit Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Visit Idaho
Hiking the lava tubes at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve Visit Idaho

The small town of Arco has a unique claim to fame: On July 17, 1955, this gateway to central Idaho’s Lost River Valley (a favorite among hikers, climbers and ATV enthusiasts) became the first community on the planet to be lit solely by nuclear-generated electricity. Arco, Idaho, is the site of the Idaho National Laboratory (INL), the nation’s leading center for nuclear energy research and development, and the technology of nearly every operating reactor in the world can be traced right back to here. This year, INL is celebrating 75 years of scientific innovation with expanded summer programming that includes guided tours of its Experimental Breeder Reactor-I (EBR-I), the earliest power plant to produce electricity with atomic energy. Visitors can also peruse INL’s onsite museum, which includes radiation detection equipment and interactive displays that share the story of EBR-I’s sibling, Experimental Breeder Reactor-II.

Arco and its lab sit 19 miles northeast of Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, a volcanic landscape of lava flows, exposed fissures and cinder cones that’s commemorating its 100th birthday this year. This lunar-like setting is where Apollo 14 astronauts, including Alan Shepard (the first American to travel into space), trained in the late 1960s for upcoming visits to the moon. This summer, the parkland welcomes visitors to celebrate “all things Crater” with events like dark night “star parties,” ranger-led full-moon hikes, and geology hikes among weird and wondrous formations, such as steep-sided spatter cones and billowy pahoehoe lava. Come August, Craters’ dark skies will also be one of the best spots in the country to view the Perseids, one of the brightest meteor showers of the year.

For a full night of stargazing, bed down at Arco’s Craters of the Moon/Arco KOA Journey. Perched on the edge of Idaho’s tallest mountain, 12,662-foot-tall Borah Peak, this cozy campground offers shady RV and tent sites, as well as a couple of simple cabins, from April through September. Local restaurants include the no-frills Pickle’s Place, a mom-and-pop eatery known for its juicy charbroiled Atomic Burger, smothered with grilled mushrooms and onions for a full-flavor mouth explosion, and the seasonal Lost River Drive In, serving chicken strips and ice cream sundaes.

Each third weekend in July, Arco honors its historic heritage with Atomic Days, a community-wide get-together that includes games like horseshoes and cornhole, a parade and fireworks, and even an open rodeo.

A Rollicking Small Town: Floyd, Virginia (pop. 449) 

Floyd Country Store Joey Wharton/Virginia Tourism Corporation
Floyd Country Store Hannah Armstrong/Virginia Tourism Corporation
Floyd Country Store Hannah Armstrong/Virginia Tourism Corporation
Floyd Country Store Hannah Armstrong/Virginia Tourism Corporation
Downtown Floyd Hannah Armstrong/Virginia Tourism Corporation
The Station Hannah Armstrong/Virginia Tourism Corporation
Dogtown Roadhouse Hannah Armstrong/Virginia Tourism Corporation

Music is an essential component of southwestern Virginia’s Blue Ridge Plateau heritage. This is especially true in the small town of Floyd, where the Floyd Country Store has now been welcoming musicians, dancers and visitors from around the globe to its Friday Night Jamboree for 40 full years. Each week, the old-timey storefront transforms into a rowdy, rollicking venue for Appalachian musicians of every caliber, coming together to perform simply for the love of song and the interaction with others. People of all ages start flatfooting and clogging to the sounds, crowds pour out into the streets, and during warmer months, you might find bands playing in the nearby alleyways and parking lots.

Floyd Country Store opened in 1910, and it serves as Floyd’s community gathering space. Whether it’s indulging in simple Southern classics like Brunswick stew from its cafe, sipping on a classic milkshake at the store’s adjacent soda fountain, or shopping for homemade jams and playing cards, this laid-back country store is a one-stop shop. It’s also one of the major venues along the Crooked Road Trail​​—southwest Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail—which is celebrating its 20th year. In addition to its Friday night jamboree, the Floyd Country Store hosts various musical events all week long, such as Honky Tonk Thursdays and Americana Afternoons every Saturday.

Floyd is known for its vibrant arts community, and it’s one that’s on full display at the Floyd Center for the Arts, three gallery spaces tucked inside a repurposed dairy barn. Peruse the works of local and regional artists in its upper-level Hayloft Gallery, partake in classes ranging from stained glass to painting, or attend a night of classical music as part of the center’s annual concert series. The Station is an artisan center filled with a wonderful selection of shops, including the women-owned Troika Gallery, home to contemporary crafts like handmade pottery and turquoise jewelry.

Floyd’s Blue Ridge surrounds are a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Adventure outfitter On the Water rents out canoes, kayaks and inner tubes for a run down the Little River, Floyd County’s largest waterway, while Along the Water offers guided horseback rides along the banks. At 4,500 acres, Rocky Knob Recreation Area along the Blue Ridge Parkway is loaded with hiking trails winding through woodlands and open pastures.

Hikers looking for sustenance can hit up Dogtown Roadhouse for wood-fired pizzas paired with live music and craft beer or local staple DJ’s Drive In, which serves up classic burgers and fries, curbside, with a side of 1950s nostalgia. The summer farmer’s market is worth a look-see too.

A Stargazer’s Small Town: Silver City, New Mexico (pop. 9,377)

Downtown Silver City New Mexico True
Gila National Forest New Mexico True
Gila National Forest New Mexico True
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument New Mexico True
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument New Mexico True
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument New Mexico True
Gila Wilderness New Mexico True
Downtown Silver City New Mexico True

A century ago, the U.S. Forest Service set aside a large swath of natural landscape in southwest New Mexico as America’s first designated wilderness. Known as Gila Wilderness, this roadless 559,688-acre expanse of rocky canyons, mountain meadows and aspen glades is now honoring its 100th anniversary with a bevy of celebratory events—including speaker lectures, birding excursions, stargazing and hikes—throughout the year. For the more adventurous, the Gila 100, a 100-mile endurance run on October 12, will start just outside Silver City, which sits right on the wilderness’s southern edge.

At about 6,000 feet above sea level, the town’s prime, high-desert location in the foothills of the Pinos Altos Mountains keeps temperatures cool all summer long. Brimming with Old West charm, Silver City is a mining town turned artistic and outdoor hub. Painters, potters, weavers and glassblowers all find home in this walkable downtown filled with colorful murals and several historic Nuevo Deco-style structures.

The town’s plethora of art galleries range from the hand-painted furniture and vivid watercolor paintings of Aldea Gallery, to the rich fiber traditions of the American Southwest on display at Wild West Weaving, which also offers beginning weaver classes on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Shop for vintage goods at Silver City Trading Company, where a wide array of vendors feature everything from vinyl records to silver jewelry. For dining, the burning question at the charming Jalisco Cafe, known for its Southwestern fare, is whether guests want red or green chili smothered on their burritos or enchiladas, while Corner Kitchen serves up rotating breakfast and lunch menus that include regional items like papas locas (fried potatoes loaded with eggs, black beans, guacamole, salsa and cotija cheese), chilaquiles (an egg and tortilla chip breakfast dish) and barbecue sandwiches.

Silver City sits along the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, a 3,100-mile-long pathway that traverses the United States from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. About 45 miles north of Silver City is Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument. The agricultural Mogollon (Southern Ancestral Pueblo) people turned these naturally eroded alcoves into homes in the late 1200s, and they’re still fitted with the original wooden beams. Both the monument and Gila Wilderness are surrounded by Gila National Forest, over three million acres of forests, mountains and open range that’s perfect for hiking, camping and stargazing.

A Garden Lover’s Small Town: Kennett Square, Pennsylvania (pop. 6,521)

Longwood Gardens VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Longwood Gardens VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Longwood Gardens VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Longwood Gardens VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Longwood Gardens VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Downtown Kennett Square VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Kennett Square Mushroom Festival VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley
Talula's Table VISITPA and Chester County's Brandywine Valley

Pennsylvania’s scenic Brandywine Valley is known as America’s Garden Capital, and for good reason. It’s home to Longwood Gardens, an over 1,077-acre botanical garden in Kennett Square brimming with woodlands, meadows, natural wilds and meticulously landscaped grounds, as well as 20 indoor gardens, plenty of fountains, and a conservatory housing 4,600 different types of plants and trees. This November, the property is introducing “Longwood Reimagined: A New Garden Experience,” a transformation of 17 acres of the conservatory and its surrounding grounds—including the re-envisioning of historic sections like Longwood’s Bonsai Courtyard and its Waterlily Court, and the addition of new indoor and outdoor gardens.

Located about 40 miles southwest from Philadelphia’s Center City, Kennett Square has a long history. Lenni Lenape tribe members hunted and fished in the region for thousands of years; British troops set up camp here during the Revolutionary War; and the area served as a military encampment during the War of 1812. Kennett Square was also a prominent stop on the Underground Railroad, a network of secret routes and safehouses that helped enslaved African Americans escape into free states. The Kennett Underground Railroad Center offers guided bus tours to the area’s documented sites, including historic homes and Quaker meetinghouses, throughout the year.

The town itself is also known as the “Mushroom Capital of the World,” because the region produces roughly 60 percent of the country’s mushrooms. Fungi lovers can purchase mushroom varietals ranging from shitakes to baby bellas at the Mushroom Cap on State Street, Kennett Square’s main stretch. About a five-minute drive south is the 19th-century, family-owned Woodlands at Phillips Mushroom Farms, which sells fresh, dried, jarred and specialty toadstools. An onsite museum highlights the growing process and health benefits of mushrooms.

When it comes to dining, Portabello’s of Kennett Square continues the fungi theme with dishes that include pappardelle pasta made with brown butter mushrooms and spinach, portobello egg rolls, and a beloved roasted mushroom soup. For comfort food at its best, Nomadic Pies serves up chicken pot pies, honey lavender custard pies, and every pie in between. One of the hottest tickets in town is Talula’s Table, a tiny farm-to-table BYOB featuring an eight-course tasting menu. Although dinner reservations must be made a year in advance, the space operates as a gourmet market during the day, with pastries, salads, sandwiches and provisions available for sale.

The annual two-day Kennett Square Mushroom Festival is the town’s signature event. Held on September 7 and 8 this year, the festive street fair includes everything from a fried mushroom eating contest to a tent where you can learn the ins and outs of sustainable mushroom production.

Get the latest Travel & Culture stories in your inbox.