Visit These Tiny (but Cool) US Cities

Travel writers reveal their favorites on Thrillist
By Gina Carey,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 30, 2024 1:00 PM CDT
America's Best Small Cities
Renovated industrial buildings at sunset along the river in Bend, Oregon.   (Getty / AlbertPego)

Smaller cities don't always make it into guidebooks, so a visit means you're in for a unique regional experience, minus the crowds. Thrillist tapped travel writers to name America's best small cities to visit, and they came up with 16 that span the country. Here are a few favorites:

  • Ithaca, New York (population: 31,710). Think charming college-town vibes, but surrounded by natural beauty that includes over 150 waterfalls within 10 miles of this city's bustling downtown.
  • Fort Myers, Florida (population: 92,245). This is the place to be in the Sunshine State for pristine beaches (or to explore the magical islands dotting its shores), while also an MLBer's dream as teams descend for spring training.

  • Bend, Oregon (population: 102,059). Bend is high-altitude living at its finest—known for skiing and outdoor splendor, and complemented by a vibrant art, foodie, and craft brewery scene.
  • Juneau, Alaska (population: 31,973). Alaska's capital is the setting of the 1898 gold rush, but tack on outdoor wonders like whale watching and glacier hiking, and good food and drink to help weather cold winters.
  • Flagstaff, Arizona (population: 76,989). Weather-wise, Flagstaff hits two surprising extremes: a dry summer to enjoy the Arizona sunshine or stargaze in the world's first International Dark Sky City, and a chilly winter for skiing at the state's largest resort.
  • Merced, California (population: 89,308). The gateway to Yosemite, Merced's funky retro vibe spans generations of Americana for a bit of unique culture before hitting the national park (and as a bonus, connoisseurs can enjoy nearby Napa and Sonoma varieties of wine).
  • Eau Claire, Wisconsin (population: 69,441). Repping the Midwest, Eau Claire has a vibrant music scene, an abundance of craft breweries, and access to the Chippewa River, which winds through it.
View all the best small cities on Thrillist. (This is the happiest city in America.)

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