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Top 12 Small Towns For Quality Of Life In America

There are many things that make small towns special—like their vibrant arts scenes or rich history—but what truly sets them apart is how excellent they are for individuals who want to settle down and start a family or simply get away from it all. You won’t find another list like this anywhere else.

If you enjoy nature, excellent food, and friendly neighbors, then these are our top 12 choices for the finest small towns for quality life. Beautiful beaches are available, as well as charming downtowns with local businesses and eateries. And the best part about it is that they aren’t too far away from big cities if you need them.

 

 

So what are you waiting for? Check out our list to find incredible small towns with great real estate, schools, restaurants, healthcare, and more.

 

 

Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City, with a population of 15,000 people, strikes a balance between keeping things small while yet making their community exciting. This city has a really lovely downtown area with numerous historical structures, including a Victorian theater and the City Opera House, where you may enjoy some culture.

Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, and it includes asparagus, cranberry beans, cucumber, tart cherries, Niagara grapes, and squash. Each year, thousands of people visit the National Cherry Festival to see all things cherry.

Also, there are several lovely parks in the town, many of which are on the water where you can go boating, fishing, kayaking, and flyboarding.

Taos, New Mexico

If you enjoy art, this is the ideal location for you. Taos has several art colonies, and with just over 5,000 residents, it has 80 galleries and three art museums. Taos also boasts a sizable Hispanic and Native American community, which adds to the richness of small-town life.

The town is centered on a historic multi-story adobe structure, which is located on Taos Plaza, with stores, eateries, galleries, and live music. 

There’s also some fantastic skiing in the region, as well as some excellent hiking. Not to mention that there are several nice restaurants nearby.

Dahlonega, Georgia

This incredible small town was once a mining camp that boomed during the Gold Rush era, although it is now mostly recognized for its wineries.

Dahlonega is a wonderful location for people who want to participate in a variety of outdoor activities like hiking and fishing because it’s located in the southeast with mild weather. A number of beautiful drives and waterfalls are available, as well as a chance to prospect for gold.

If you’re running out of things to do, you may visit the historic city center to discover the boutiques, restaurants, and museums. Notably, with a median home price of $234,000, Dahlonega is also quite affordable.

Clinton, New Jersey

This lovely, picturesque little town was featured in films such as One True Thing.

Walking around the area, you’ll find charming grist mills and vintage cottage homes. It has a fantastic historic downtown, as all of our other recommendations do, along with lovely tree-lined sidewalks, numerous parks, walking routes, and a lovely riverfront.

Despite its modest size, with only around 2,500 people, the city’s public schools are highly regarded, ranking in the top 20%. Only about an hour from New York City, it also has access to top-tier healthcare, entertainment, and dining.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Yes, the name gives it away—it’s a beautifully stunning seaside community. With an unrivaled concentration of art galleries in its charming cottage-themed core, it also has a picturesque harbor with ferries that depart frequently from both ends… Just bring all your black cards because you’re gonna need them!

This culinary paradise also has a variety of independent gourmet eateries, bakeries, and candy shops. You could spend days walking around the charming backstreets and courtyards, but you wouldn’t see everything that downtown has to offer.

There’s also that beautiful white sand beach just a few blocks away, and you can visit wineries, museums, historic Spanish buildings, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, and hiking in the hills above town all within walking distance.

Cooperstown, New York

Cooperstown was originally a summer retreat in the mid-nineteenth century, thus it is full of historical sites like the Otesaga Hotel and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

With a population of only 1,853 people, Brewster has a decent number of employment options in the tourism and healthcare industries.

It has a lovely downtown with several stores and restaurants, and it’s on the shores of beautiful Otsego Lake. With great schools and a wealth of parks, it’s ideal for families. They even have caves and goat yoga!

Beaufort, South Carolina

This beautiful small town is perfect for those who enjoy Southern living because it has a vast selection of antebellum, or pre-civil war homes. 

It’s situated on Port Royal Island, which means plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water activities. 

Beaufort has a population of over 13,000, so it’s also just big enough to have some great schooling and job opportunities. It also features a number of lovely parks, walking paths, and a picturesque historic center with boutiques and restaurants.

Naturally, this is a fantastic location to golf in the region, and it’s also highly regarded as a retirement destination. Another benefit is that living costs are about 2% lower than national norms.

Whitefish, Montana

The small town of Whitefish is recognized for its microdistilleries, which produce alcohol from local huckleberries in the summer and for being a skiing destination in the winter.

Central Avenue is one of Whitefish’s major attractions, where you can enjoy a small-town excursion down a picturesque road filled with local shops and restaurants.

Situated on a beautiful lake and also a gateway to Glacier National Park, you have access to incredible mountains, forests, lakes, and rivers…The hiking is divine.

St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine is a fantastic place to live, as it is the oldest European-built settlement in the United States. A lively, historic metropolis, the town is densely packed with one-of-a-kind stores and eateries, although it does have a touristy flavor to it.

Beautiful Flagler College provides excellent educational opportunities, and the city itself has a low unemployment rate with plenty of jobs in hospitality, retail, and education. For its lovely waterfront location, warm weather, and beautiful parks, this town is particularly appealing to retirees.

(This is becoming a real theme, isn’t it? Beautiful waterfront, cute downtown, lots of parks.)

Spearfish, South Dakota

Spearfish, South Dakota, offers a lovely, small-town ambience with a lively and friendly Main Street for wandering, including the Matthews Opera House, where you can watch local performances.

This town of 11,500 people is nestled between beautiful canyons, waterfalls, and mountains—a great place to live if you like to play in the great outdoors, also featuring several historic attractions you can explore nearby.

Spearfish is clean, it’s safe, and it’s a college town. Which means there’s good beer.

In addition to being an enjoyable area to ski, golf, or dine out, Spearfish also has a lot of low-cost housing and interesting job prospects in health care, hospitality, and education.

Mystic, Connecticut

Mystic, located in the Connecticut River Valley and known for being the backdrop of the film Mystic Pizza, is a small town that was once a shipbuilding center but is now more recognized as an iconic New England community.

With its gorgeous waterfront, it’s an ideal spot to enjoy coastal attractions. 

There are numerous historic sites, a charming historic downtown, an arts center, an adventure park, nature preserves, and even an aquarium.

Mystic, with its low crime rates, numerous local festivals, and well-rated public schools, is an especially attractive community for young families.

Breckenridge, Colorado

Breckenridge is a mountain town in Colorado’s high Rocky Mountains, located at 9603 feet above sea level. Breckenridge has a population of about 4,900 people, but it also draws 3 million visitors each year for its beautiful skiing and cultural scene.

Living there, you get to enjoy small-town perks like safe neighborhoods and local restaurants, and the town is also notable for being almost entirely walkable,with shops and galleries galore.

Nestled in a valley in the Rocky Mountains, it’s an outdoor paradise with hiking, biking, rock climbing, horseback riding, snowmobiling, snow shoeing, dog sledding, sleigh rides, and more.

Breckenridge has a number of specialty festivals every year, so there’s always something to look forward to!

The Bottom Line

We hope you’ve found some new small towns to add to your list of possible places to live in America. 

To help you find your perfect place, we recommend using a spreadsheet with weighted scores to help you clearly prioritize your choices. Our free template below can save you hours of time as you weigh your options.

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