When is the last time that you visited small town America on a boomer road trip? While metropolitan U.S. cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta or Los Angeles get most of the travel attention, you’re doing yourself a disfavor by not including an off-the-beaten-path small town in some of your travel plans.
By featuring seven of my small town America favorites, I’m encouraging you to drive the backroads, walk the main streets, enjoy the community celebrations and meet the citizens (they’ll be happy to talk to you) in the villages and small towns scattered throughout the United States. You may just find that these tiny towns are the highlight of your trip.
Stevensville, Montana, population 2,156
Well, of course I’m going to include Stevensville, Montana as a small town America favorite. Alan and I live here! And it took moving to a small town to appreciate this way of living.
I’ve seen more parades since we moved to Stevensville than I have in my entire life. As a former majorette in a marching band, I KNOW parades.
But seriously, Stevensville is Montana’s first permanent settlement, which the town celebrates during June’s Western Heritage Days festivities, including a parade down Main Street. Or you can come back in August for the Creamery Picnic and another parade.
History buffs will want to visit St. Mary’s Mission, the true beginning of Stevensville.
However, Alan and I are drawn to the outdoor recreational opportunities in Stevensville. We can access any number of trails into the Bitterroot Mountains for a hike before breakfast.
Kootenai Creek Trail is one of our favorites. And nearby forest roads provide plenty of off-road options for riding our ATV.
Cyclists will appreciate the 50-mile Bitterroot Trail, a paved path that travels through the Bitterroot Valley from Missoula to Hamilton. Alan enjoys riding the portion between Stevensville and Victor or Stevensville to Florence (and of course back).
There’s so much to tell you about Stevensville and the Bitterroot Valley that the writing’s on the wall. I need to create a separate article about my new home town.
Bluff, Utah, population 247
When it comes to tiny towns, Bluff in southeastern Utah definitely qualifies. And, it’s one of my favorites.
Bluff, within a 2-hour drive of Moab, Utah; Durango, Colorado; and Farmington, New Mexico; makes a convenient headquarters for exploring the canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau. If you’re looking for sparsely populated (and untouristed) wide-open spaces with dramatic scenery, this is it.
But save time to appreciate this small town. Founded in April 1880 by Mormon settlers, many of the original structures remain, earning the town a spot on the National Register of Historic Paces. You’ll also find artists and authentic Navajo fry bread.
I recommend lodging at Desert Rose Resort & Cabins (Alan and I have stayed in both a cabin and a hotel-style room) or Bluff Dwellings Resort (on our list for next time).
If you’re visiting Monument Valley, drive the 50 miles to stay in Bluff. I much prefer it over staying in Kayenta and I’ve done both.
Ogunquit, Maine, population 1,181
Confession time. Alan and I haven’t made it, yet to Ogunquit. But contributing writer, Vanessa Chiasson, wrote about this Maine city for us in Romantic Boomer Getaway to Ogunquit, Maine. And, after reading her article, I added Ogunquit to my small town America list.
What attracts me to this Maine seaside village? Noshing on Lobster rolls. Driving twisty country roads. Tidepooling on the rocky Atlantic coastline at Ogunquit Beach.
Crowded with vacationers in the summer, I’d choose Ogunquit as the last stop on an early fall Northeast Coast road trip. The Cliff House would make the perfect headquarters for relaxing from all the road trip fun.
Ouray, Colorado, population 1,046
If you’re looking for a town that’s held on to its historical significance, visit Ouray, Colorado in the San Juan Mountains. Two-thirds of the town’s original Victorian structures are still used as shops, galleries, restaurants and homes. And most hotels in Ouray are within walking distance of the main streets.
Alan and I visited once during a 4th of July weekend. One of the highlights: a parade down Main Street where firemen sprayed the crowd with water from the fire hose.
Ouray owes its beginnings to the gold and silver mining boom of the late 1800’s. That legacy has left active boomer travelers with a maze of hiking and four-wheel-drive trails providing access to Colorado’s “Swiss Alps.”
Mendocino, California, population 1,100
During a coastal California road trip, Alan and I discovered the seaside charms of Mendocino in the northern part of the state. Our headquarters at Sea Rock Inn offered relaxing views and walkable access to this quaint Victorian village.
Although the visit included stormy weather, as soon as the rain stopped, we headed for the trails at Mendocino Headlands State Park to watch the surf pound into the rocks below the cliffs
Coastal Living calls Mendocino a dream town for good reason. Next time, we’ll enjoy coastal walks on Glass Beach and Bowling Ball Beach, ride the Skunk Train, go wine tasting at nearby vineyards or enjoy a seafood festival or two.
Micanopy, Florida, population 635
The small village of Micanopy—population 600+—proves there’s more to Florida than beach resorts or Walt Disney World. Located south of Gainesville, Micanopy’s town center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Stroll through antique shops or my favorite, Mosswood Farm Store, where visitors learn about the old way of doing things before we mechanized our lives. The baked goods that they prepare on site are delicious, too!
Looking for something more active? Enjoy a morning kayaking on the Ichetucknee River.
Republic, Washington, population 1,068
Another town with mining history, Alan and I visited Republic, Washington on the way to Canada at the beginning of our Alaska Highway road trip. Although we only stayed the night at the Northern Inn, the adventure opportunities we learned about will bring us back for sure.
Off-road enthusiasts will appreciate the many ATV trails. And, of course, there’s hiking, birding, fishing and nine lakes to visit.
Or you might enjoy digging for fossils at the Stonerose Interpretive Center & Eocene Fossil Site. The K-Diamond-K Guest Ranch looks like a good choice for next time. You know how we love guest ranches.