These 7 Small Towns Were Just Named the Best in the Country — Did Your Favorite Make the List?

‘Travel + Leisure’ named its winners for America’s Best Small Towns of 2023 on Tuesday, crowning seven hidden getaways across the U.S.

If you’re looking for an under-the-radar travel destination for your next vacation, these seven small towns were just recognized for being among the best of the best.

On Tuesday, Travel + Leisure announced its 2023 list of America’s Best Small Towns. Looking at categories like geography, wellness, food and wine, the publication examined towns with populations of less than 25,000 residents to determine what small locales are worth a detour.

Of the seven categories, four of Travel + Leisure’s small towns were chosen based on the destination’s natural beauty and abundance of outdoor activities. The publication named winners in the category for best beach, lake, desert and mountain town for adventurers who are fans of any climate.

Best Small Beach Town - Boca Grande, Florida

Gasparilla Island’s main town of Boca Grande in Florida took the crown for T+L’s best beach town. The island situated in the Gulf of Mexico has no stoplights or major franchises, instead opting for a more laid back life. Boca Grande has been named the “Tarpon Capital of the World” for the droves of the game fish that appear from April to October

<p>Getty</p> Gasparilla Island's main town of Boca Grande from an aerial view.


Gasparilla Island's main town of Boca Grande from an aerial view.

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Best Small Desert Town - Kanab, Utah

For a more arid experience, T+L recommends Kanab, Utah, as America’s best small desert town. The town that sits on the border of Arizona is centrally located to some of the southwest’s most sought after destinations. The Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks are each only a short one to two hour drive from the desert town. Visitors hoping to see the geological site known as The Wave will pass through the small outpost on the way to the trails to the popular red rock formation.

<p>Getty</p> The Red Wave outside of Kanab, UT.


The Red Wave outside of Kanab, UT.

Best Small Mountain Town - Highlands, North Carolina

T+L awarded Highlands, North Carolina with the honor of being the country’s best mountain town. A summer escape from the humid marshlands of North Carolina, this town rests at the highest crest of the Western North Carolina plateau. The town is within driving distance of major cities like Nashville, Charleston and Charlotte for those in need of a day trip.

<p>Getty</p> Dry Creek Falls, just outside of Highlands, North Carolina.


Dry Creek Falls, just outside of Highlands, North Carolina.

Best Small Lake Town - Grand Marais, Minnesota

The last winner of T+L’s geography-based towns comes from Minnesota. Grand Marais, just two hours north of Duluth, is home to the best lake town in the U.S. The artsy town that borders Lake Superior is home to food trucks and art installations, rather than stoplights.

<p>Getty</p> Grand Marais, Minnesota


Grand Marais, Minnesota

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The travel magazine also selected some of its winners based on opportunities to experience the town’s food, beverage or wellness culture.

Best Small Food and Culture Town - Los Olivos, California

For the best small food and culture town, T+L elected Los Olivos in California as the best. This town in the Santa Ynez Valley has 27 wineries located in the 2.5 square-mile boundaries of the community. New restaurants in the town use up the produce from the surrounding Central Valley to pair with the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that grow in the California community.

<p>Getty</p> The small town of Los Olivos, California is located in Santa Barbara County.


The small town of Los Olivos, California is located in Santa Barbara County.

Best Small Wine, Beer and Spirits Town - Dahlonega, Georgia

For people who want a broader spectrum of beverages, T+L recognizes Dahlonega, Georgia, as the best small town for wine, beer and spirits. The Appalachian town houses several wineries and tasting rooms as well as a new crop of breweries and distilleries to wet just about anybody’s whistle.

<p>Getty</p> Trees line a downtown street in Dahlonega, Georgia.


Trees line a downtown street in Dahlonega, Georgia.

Best Small Spa and Wellness Town - Aurora, New York

In choosing its final small-town destination, Travel + Leisure focused on the wellness space. For a relaxing spa vacation, the publication found that Aurora, New York, is America’s best small spa and wellness destination. The Inns of Aurora Resort + Spa features six lodgings and one large hilltop retreat for an all-inclusive getaway by New York’s Finger Lakes.

<p>Getty</p> The Cayuga Lake shoreline in Aurora, New York.


The Cayuga Lake shoreline in Aurora, New York.

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In addition to recognizing these seven towns, Travel + Leisure found a runner-up for each category to spread the love across the U.S.

In July, the publication announced its winner for the best city in the United States.

Praised by readers who love its blend of Southern charm and urban flair, Charleston, South Carolina, took the top spot on the outlet's list of best domestic destinations for the eleventh year in a row, as voted by readers.

“This place is a destination to behold,” one wrote in Travel + Leisure Readers’ 15 Favorite Cities in the United States of 2023. Others complimented the welcoming locals, historic attractions, and the shopping and dining along King Street.

“So many incredible restaurants” have made Charleston a hotspot destination for food, and "the mix of hotels makes the city a perfect fit for any type of traveler," T+L shared.

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