K.C. was a featured writer for Yahoo! Travel before joining trips to discover in 2013. She is the author of Best Travel Guide for First Time Visitors to Ireland, an Amazon bestseller every year between 2013 and 2016. She has been a featured expert on Newsweek, Travel + Leisure, Travelocity, among others.
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While the hustle and bustle of the city can be fun to enjoy, it’s hard to deny the appeal of a more peaceful retreat surrounded by nature. There are many fabulous countryside escapes from small towns in California’s Gold Country to the rugged shores of Maine. One of these destinations might just be your next perfect getaway.
If you like history, spectacular scenery, and outdoor adventure, Wallace is a great destination in Idaho. The entire town is on the National Historic Register. Established in 1884, it became known as the “Silver Capital of the World” with its mining district referred to as Silver Valley, producing more than one billion ounces of silver over the next century. Visitors can check out the Rails to Trails Hall of Fame and other museums, enjoy dazzling alpine lakes and a myriad of trails like the Trail of the Coeur d’Alene, a 73-mile paved trail that spans the Idaho panhandle between Mullan and Plummer.
The riverside town of Paducah is a UNESCO Creative City, one of only nine in the U.S. as a mecca for quilters and other fiber-based artists. It has an interesting history thanks in part to its location on both the Tennessee and Ohio rivers, with 20 blocks of its downtown district on the National Register of Historic Places. This beautiful city in Kentucky showcases fine examples of 19th-century architecture, and in artsy Lower Town, its oldest neighborhood, you’ll find many unique boutiques, antique stores and local indie art galleries. It has a blossoming culinary scene and vibrant nightlife too, with live music, theater, comedy, and multiple venues hosting national and local music artists.
Kennebunkport is a picturesque beach town that was a shipbuilding center before becoming a popular spot for affluent vacationers. Visitors of all sorts still come during the summer today to stroll through the town, relax on the beaches and stay in quaint hotels. There are plenty of unique treasures to discover in the shops at Dock Square, although the highlight of your time here might be enjoying scenic drives along the back roads that bring views of lobster traps piled high, stunning ocean vistas, including Ocean Avenue with its Blow Holes, and a glimpse of former President George Bush’s summer home.
Set along the banks of the Ottauquechee River, Woodstock is renowned for its quintessential New England charms, complete with a covered bridge, old country farms, a village green and pretty parks, and streets lined with magnificent Greek Revival, Federal and Georgian homes. While it’s gorgeous in every season, when the leaves turn in the autumn framing those postcard-perfect scenes or when winter brings a blanket of snow, it’s especially appealing. No matter when you’re here, be sure to visit Sugarbush Farm for a sample of Vermont maple syrup, cheeses, and jams.
Surrounded by lakes and streams on the Keweenaw Peninsula, many visitors come to Houghton to enjoy world-class biking and hiking opportunities at nearby McLain State Park. Winter brings the Winter Carnival as well as being the time to hit snowmobile trails, snowshoe, or cross-country ski. History enthusiasts will find plenty year-round as this town has a colorful mining past, while everyone can look forward to the stunning sunsets over Lake Superior.
Whitefish is a small town along the shores of Whitefish Lake in Montana, a short drive from Glacier National Park. While it’s been named among the “Top 25 Ski Towns in the World” by National Geographic, visitors will find a wealth of things to do year-round. There are many possibilities for recreation, including boating and water-skiing, hiking and biking. Sandy City Beach and Whitefish Lake State Park both have boat launches and picnic areas. In town, you can catch a professional theater show and shop locally at the farmer’s market.
Fort Collins is an outdoor lover’s paradise with endless trails in town and throughout the surrounding foothills and mountains. You’ll find many lakes, rivers, and streams nearby for play too. Horsetooth Reservoir is just a short drive from downtown offering fishing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, sailing, hiking, camping, and more. The Poudre River runs right through the city limits and is Colorado’s only nationally designated “Wild & Scenic” river with locals and visitors alike enjoying the cool water to kayak, raft, tube, and swim. There’s plenty to do afterward in Old Town, especially in the summer when free concerts are frequently hosted.
The frontier town of Cody was named after William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, who played a key role in its planning. His image can be seen throughout, in statue form, and at the famous Buffalo Bill Historical Center, dubbed the “Smithsonian of the West,” which includes five themed museums that cumulatively present the most informative introduction to the American West there is. Multiple prestigious rodeos are held here year-round, while the Old Trail Town provides a rare glimpse of what a Western town actually looked and felt like as a living museum with 26 historic frontier buildings from the late 1800s. Day trips to Yellowstone are possible too with the park just an hour’s drive away.
Taos sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Northern New Mexico, known for its historic adobe architecture and Taos Pueblo, a village that’s been continuously inhabited for over a thousand years. It’s the perfect place for history enthusiasts with a focus on Hispanic and Native American history, as well as art lovers, with lots of regional works showcased in galleries and museums, and foodies will find plenty of delicious cuisine too. And, with the mountains nearby there are plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.
Ely was established after copper mining began in the area in 1906 and today it provides a glimpse at the Old West and much more. While it may be a small town you’ll find plenty to do, including the chance to discover what it was like to live here during the early days at the Renaissance Village. It includes eight period homes, a barn, an art studio and a general store, all furnished with antiques. There are historic reenactments and tours available too, although the railroad is one of the most popular attractions, with steam locomotive train rides available, including special event trains like the Haunted Ghost Train and the Polar Express train which runs around the Christmas holidays.
Eastern Oregon has a much more remote appeal and a drier landscape than what you’ll find in the west, with one of the biggest towns in the region Baker City, with a population of less than 9,800. In the historic district, history comes to life at the Geiser Grand Hotel when you sit down at the saloon for a drink. You’ll find more at the Baker Heritage Museum, or while riding the narrow-gauge steam train.
The National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center just northeast of town offers living history demonstrations, interpretive programs, exhibits, and more. If you’re interested in ghost towns, there is plenty to explore in this area too, including Sumpter, though it still has a small population of about 200.
Today Bisbee is renowned for its artsy feel, home to many artists and other creative types, with unique works spread throughout the town, including some cars that have been turned into fabulous displays of their own. It was once a major silver and copper mining hub and offers plenty of traces of its past too. Check out the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum and take the Queen Mine Tour where you’ll don a hard hat and ride an ore track down into the underground mine. Those who have an interest in the paranormal shouldn’t miss the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour.
Just east of the Mississippi River, Galena offers old-fashioned charms with tree-lined streets and a six-block Main Street area that will take you back in time. But it’s not all about history here, Chestnut Mountain Resort offers year-round outdoor activities like river cruises, zipline rides, an alpine slide, segway tours, and more. In the winter, it becomes a ski resort. Visitors can also enjoy samples at Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., shop at boutique stores, and discover burial mounds and Native American archaeological sites at Casper Bluff Land and Water Reserve.
Fredericksburg has a rich history as the home to a number of significant battles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, along with countless charms. The neighborhoods are filled with historic homes and buildings that now house interesting shops and fantastic restaurants, with the Historic District featuring more than 350 buildings that date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. If you’re interested in Civil War history, you can explore portions of Civil War battlefields and the sites of over 15,000 Union burials at the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.
Located in California Gold Country in Calaveras County, there are many reasons to spend time in Murphys. Right in town historic Main Street is lined with unique shops, antique stores, boutiques, restaurants and wine tasting rooms. In fact, this area has become a popular grape-growing region with many award-winning small production estate wines. Some say it’s like stepping back into the Napa Valley of 30 years ago. A wealth of outdoor adventures abound nearby, including hiking, cycling, zip-lining, and cave exploring.