Big cities tend to get all of the design cred. But this summer, we’re taking the path less traveled and singing the praises of small towns across America. From the nouveau nautical style of the Pacific Northwest to the hippie mystique of California, the bayou boutiques of Louisiana to the arty prepsters of Massachusetts, there’s a world of inspiration on the backroads and byways of the US-of-A. So next time you put in that PTO request, consider trading in the crowded metropolis for a quieter, quainter experience. Because these 12 towns are small in size, but big in style.
Astoria, OR: Astoria’s salty dog seafaring look has gotten slightly refined by a new influx of brewers, designers and chefs making over the once down-and-out waterfront town. Check into The Commodore, a seriously quirky revamp of an old seaside flophouse. Grab a frosty IPA at the Fort George Brewery + Public House before checking out the Flavel House Museum, a Queen Anne home that gives a slice-of-life look at the Victorian period.
Ojai, CA: Oh hi, Ojai. This small city just under two hours north of Los Angeles is an idyllic oasis with an artistic spirit and citrus-infused breeze blowing through its desert mountains and valleys. Once a secret escape for John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the town has maintained its free-spirited vibe, from the entirely outdoor bookstore Bart’s to hip-kid design shop Summer Camp to the biker-bar/farm-to-table honkytonk Deer Lodge. Go horseback riding, catch the pink-hued sunsets from Meditation Mount, then bed down at revamped motel the Ojai Rancho Inn, which often has poolside concerts, craft nights and cookouts.
Hudson, NY: Unless it’s the Hamptons, most people get lost in the thrill of the Big Apple and forget about New York state’s other gems, chief among them Hudson. To get a feel for its comforts and style, stay at the Hudson Milliner, a boutique inn right at the heart of Hudson. With a vibe that feels like it’s been ripped from the pages of Kinfolk, Bonfiglio & Bread is the ideal small-town café to hit up your first morning in town. Did we mention that Hudson is home to the Etsy offices? Expect lots of cool, crafty shops and eclectic, stylish locals as you peruse this city’s streets.
Asbury Park, NJ: While you may recognize Asbury Park from Springsteen’s debut album, “Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J,” residents and visitors know it as a once, down-and-out beach town that has become a hip center for music, food, and culture. One of the key players in the resurgence of this urban Jersey Shore outpost is creative agency, Smith, who is responsible for five wildly popular restaurants, including the old-world Neapolitan pizzeria, Porta, restaurant and bar Brickwall, and French brasserie Pascal & Sabine. Once you’ve filled up on artisan eats and artfully crafted cocktails, roam the Shoppes at the Arcade to score vintage accessories, one-of-a-kind decor, and antiques. If antiquing isn’t really your thing, head over to home and lifestyle boutique Red Moon for a curated selection of handmade items from passionate artists across the country.
St. George, UT: As the gateway to Zion National Park, St. George offers endless opportunities to connect with nature on an unbelievable scale. But this colorful natural wonderland isn’t all trails and outdoor adventures. With big city amenities and a small town feel, St. George is a seriously inspiring place to call basecamp. The striking scenery is complemented by a vibrant local cultural community. Reward yourself after a long hike with a meal at Anasazi Steakhouse, part upscale eatery, part art gallery, where artistic presentation is huge (imagine meat cooked at your table on top of sizzling volcanic rocks).
Madison, GA: A historic town just an hour east of Atlanta, Madison, GA, is filled with antebellum charm. Roam the city’s downtown historic district, where you’ll find impressive structures built in the early 1800s. Next, hit the Madison Markets for a mix of trinkets and upscale antiques. If you’re spending the night, make sure to book a room at the James Madison Inn, where you’ll feel like you’re staying in one of the town’s stately mansions.
Lafayette, LA: Lafayette is the cultural hub of French-speaking Louisiana, and it has a serious history of good eats, good music and good living. Stop by the beautifully designed French Press for an industrial fusion of fine dining and forward-thinking Cajun cuisine. Take your credit card for a spin through the unapologetically hip Genterie Supply Co. menswear store. At night, put on your (new) dancing shoes and head to the Blue Moon Saloon, which hosts local Cajun acts, swamp pop, and rock bands at its tiki-style bar.