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If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s the long weekend getaways that make life worth living. And lucky for us, there’s a small town around nearly every corner, welcoming us with its quaint bed and breakfasts and friendly local joints. Here’s a list of some of the best small towns to pass a long weekend in, ranked from cool to coolest. Enjoy the ride.

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Nogales, Arizona

— Population: 20,456

Nogales straddles the Mexican border in a very literal way—there’s a Nogales on both sides, and both edge up so close to the wall that you could likely shout a conversation from either side. So bring that passport with you in case you’d care to stroll across the border for some authentic, barely-south-of-the-border cuisine. Not that there isn’t enough to do on the Arizona side. Here, you can explore an 18th-century Franciscan mission and museum, sample the wares of nearby wineries, visit ghost towns and stargaze in the surrounding national parks. Nogales is located in one of the country’s few Dark Skies areas. It’s also been an unexpected hotbed of Hollywood activity for decades—dozens of films have been shot here, including 3:10 to YumaThe Hangover III and Oklahoma! the musical. Stay at Frida’s Inn, a bed and breakfast, for a little extra local flavor.

Newport, KY

The leaves start to change on trees over Overton Street in Newport, Kentucky. Photo: Ally Marotti

Newport, Kentucky

— Population: 15,382

Although this Northern Kentucky town sits in the shadow of Cincinnati, it has a certain charm its bigger neighbor lacks. Row houses with quaint yards line some historic streets, while oversized Victorian homes populate others. There are family-owned bars and restaurants are nearly every corner — try Katerina’s for authentic German food, Strong’s for the best wood-fired pizza this side of the Mississippi, and Pompilio’s for an old-timey bar/Italian restaurant. And certainly don’t miss the more commercial attractions at Newport on the Levie, like Newport Aquarium, or cross the very short bridge into Cincinnati for more sightseeing. 

Gatlinburg

The Sky Lift in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Photo: Faungg’s photos – Flickr.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee

— Population: 4,097

Gatlinburg might not seem like such a small town with all the visitors it draws, but it’s not hard to find hikes that make you feel far from civilization. Known as the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, Gatlinburg gives way to miles of hiking trails and seemingly endless breaths of fresh air. Get outside and climb a mountain, or head into town for some activities like touring the Sugarlands Distilling Company, shopping at the Village Shops and go under the sea at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies. And if you don’t want to work for the panoramic views available all around Gatlinburg, take the Sky Lift, a 2.1-mile aerial car for a ride, or ride 407 feet up into the Space Needle observation tower. Spend the night riverside at the beautiful Eight Gables Inn.

Tybee Island, Georgia

A Tybee Island sunset. Photo: Ryan McKee – Flickr.

Tybee Island, Georgia

— Population: 3,044

Once a haven for Native Americans, later a hideout for pirates and recently a quiet getaway for Savannah residents, Tybee Island has become a popular getaway destination for folks throughout Georgia and the surrounding area. Make beachfront DeSoto Beach Hotel your home base for visiting the lighthouse (built in 1736), watching the sunrise over the Atlantic or grabbing some local fare at the popular Crab Shack. There are more than 25 restaurants on the island, as well as deep-sea charters and a pier for fishing. If none of those options suit your tastes—or if they suit you just fine and you have a few extra days—drive the 18 miles into Savannah.

 

Manitou Springs

Dream catchers at a shop in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Manitou Springs, Colorado

— Population: 5,242

Nestled between larger Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountains, Manitou Springs offers a ton of things to do within itsrather small, historic town center. First off, there are plenty of places to drink that craft beer Colorado is so famous for. Then there’s the food: dig into some burgers at the Manitou Brewing Co, sample Mediterranean at Sahara Cafe or fill up on a slice or seven at Savelli’s Pizza. Don’t worry, you can work it all off just a little ways outside of town by exploring nearby cliff dwellings, river rafting, hiking in the mountains and horseback riding. Or bring your camera along as you ride the cog rail up Pikes Peak.

Lake Placid

The hike to Mt. Marcy, the highest peak near Lake Placid, New York. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Lake Placid, New York

— Population: 2,471

Lake Placid is a great place to getaway at literally any time of the year. It played host to the 1980 Winter Olympics, and during their eponymous season, you can visit the park or ski the slopes throughout the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. If you visit in the summer or fall, the hiking is pretty darn great, both in orange and green hues. Mt. Marcy is the area’s tallest peak, and you’ll need more than a day to summit if you so choose. Otherwise, you can rent mountain bikes or kayaks in Lake Placid and go on a slightly less strenuous adventure. Refuel at any of the excellent dining establishments in the little ski town. For instance, after a good night’s sleep at Hotel North Woods, start the day at The Breakfast Club with a basil prosciutto sandwich with provolone and over-easy eggs, or dig into some noteworthy BBQ at Wyatt’s.

 

Mendocino, California

The Pacific Coast near Mendocino, California. Photo: Lee Coursey – Flickr.

Mendocino, California

— Population: 894

The unincorporated community of Mendocino is small but mighty, giving way to a gorgeous stretch of rocky, cliff-laden coastline that more closely resembles New England than what you’d normally think of as coastal California. And there’s plenty to do between its famous glass beach, the towering Redwoods and the eastern edge of town—little shops and restaurants line streets that were once the setting for Murder She Wrote‘s fabled Cabot Cove. Best of all, there isn’t a chain in sight in this artist’s community, meaning that you’ll have to forego your Starbucks habit for a few days, but the tradeoff is a hefty dose of local flavor. Set up shop for the long weekend at the quaint Blackberry Inn or the stately Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites.

 

Traverse City, Michigan

Hiking the Sleeping Bear Dunes near Traverse City, Michigan. Photo: Ally Marotti.

Traverse City, Michigan

— Population: 15,018

There’s nothing more refreshing than a long weekend getaway in Traverse City. Climb the nearby SleepingBear Dunes or bike through the forests of Northern Michigan. Kayak on the Grand Traverse Bay or go on a hike. Or, if you’d like to keep the weekend a little more civilized, go wine tasting at one of the area’s many top-notch vineyards, hang out in the quaint downtown area or sit by the harbor and watch the boats bobbing. There are plenty of campgrounds around if you really want to keep it cheap. For hotels, try the Country Inn & Suites, or one of the motels along StateRoute 31.

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Tagged: Beach, California, Cheap Tips, Last minute travel, Tips & advice

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