Small Town Gems – America

Discovering Small Town America

Toledo IL Courthouse While researching a post I’m working on I stumbled on an interesting website – Small Town Gems. I don’t know who publishes the site but it clearly states it is not supported by advertisers related to the featured towns. They do list their criteria and disqualifiers. The lists are organized by state with Highest Recommendation, Approved, Disqualified and Hall of Shame categories. The site has a copyright date of 2002 and there is no indication of when it was last updated.

I probably spent an hour browsing states I’m most familiar with, reading comments and viewing pictures. Of towns I have a fair base of knowledge about I find myself in general agreement with Small Town Gems’ assessments. My biggest sticking point is in the definition of “Small Town”, some of the places included are much larger than my interpretation. For instance  – St. Charles, Missouri. Yes, the old portion of town along the Missouri River certainly qualifies as historic and well preserved but the town’s overall size, proximity to St. Louis, sprawling suburbia and plethora of businesses strung along I-70 are disqualifiers in my opinion.

This threw my mind into gear thinking of charming, surprising, intriguing and quirky small towns I’ve visited and enjoyed.

  • TNHP - Church in Arch Tumacacori, Arizona – Doesn’t really qualify as a town but I love the old Jesuit mission at Tumacacori National Historical Park. South along the frontage road is Santa Cruz Chili and Spice company – a must shopping stop and north of the mission four generations of Wisdoms serve delicious Mexican food and mix a darn good margarita at Wisdom’s Cafe.

                        Additional Related Posts:

                        Tumacacori NHP, Santa Cruz Chile and Spice, Wisdom’s Cafe 

  • Ouray, Colorado – Yes, the town is totally based around tourism but the scenery makes it worthwhile. Jeep tours, mining history, hot spring pools, restaurants and lodging from historic hoteAbbott's Lobster Dinersls to cabins and campgrounds are found in the “Switzerland of America”.
  • Noank, Connecticut  – Most of this village east of Mystic is listed on the National Historic Register. Houses and churches dating back to 1840 line narrow meandering streets. Follow the traffic to Abbott’s Lobster in the Rough for a New England seafood feast.
  • Sawtooths - Idaho Stanley, Idaho – Scenery, scenery and outdoor recreation in the Sawtooth Mountains. The first time I visited Stanley tourist facilities were minimal but that has improved to meet demand. Far enough off the beaten path not to be overrun.
  • Elsah, Illinois – As soon as you leave the Great River Road (along the Mississippi River) and enter the village you’re in another place and time. Love to stay in one of the B&Bs, soak up the peace or bike the Sam Vadalabene Trail.
  • New Harmony, Indiana – Founded almost 200 years ago as an utopian, communal community, New Harmony combines history, idealism, tranquility plus modern creature comforts at the New Harmony Inn.
  • New Harbor, Maine – This was just the kind of New England coastal village I’d been seeking for two weeks. Lobster boats at the dock unloading their catch, down-to-earth restaurant above the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse dock serving fresh seafood, ferry service to Monhegan Island, art galleries and the historic Pemaquid Point Lighthouse. All without feeling like a tourist trip. Can’t wait to go back.
  • Glen Arbor, Michigan
  • Hamilton, Montana
  • Ste. Genevieve, Missouri
  • Arroyo Seco, New Mexico
  • Yachats, Oregon
  • Seaside, Washington
  • New Glarus, Wisconsin
  • Centennial, Wyoming

Travel gems are always very subjective. My selections are based on visiting these small towns, not assessing the potential for relocation.

I would love to hear from readers of this post some of their favorites. Your favorite could be my next travel “discovery”. Why are they a favorite? Is it scenic, historic, artsy, an oddity or have a personal/emotional attraction? Please comment.


2 thoughts on “Small Town Gems – America

  1. Christi

    Hello from the staff at I came across your blog when doing research for our site and am thrilled that you captured our essence well. If you return to the site you will notice that the copyright has been updated. We continually add new towns to the site (currently NC) and are updating almost daily.

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