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The 40 Most Charming Small-Town Downtowns in America

Explore the history, culture, attractions and beauty of charming small-town downtowns across America.

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Photo: Visit Cabarrus

Charming Small Towns

Nothing charms like a small downtown that beckons visitors with historic architecture and boutique shops or local culture and tree-lined streets. Many small-town downtowns are located in beautiful settings or have stunning views. Others welcome visitors with lively festivals, delicious foods or a nostalgic atmosphere.

In creating this list of irresistible small-town downtowns across America (and it was tough to narrow this list to 40), we looked for vibrant towns that invite you in and encourage you to stay and explore. Caution: You may want to add all of them to your travel bucket list.

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Photo: / Jason Thrasher

Athens, Georgia

Home to the University of Georgia, Athens is a vibrant college town that's rich in Southern appeal. It's also well-known for its music scene, thanks to wildly successful hometown bands like R.E.M. and The B-52s. Stroll Clayton Street to pop in and out of eclectic shops like Wuxtry Records and Agora Vintage. Snap photos of restored Victorian-era buildings, then cross over Broad Street to explore the university's North Campus. You can't leave Athens without a stop at the historic Morton Theatre on Washington Street. It's the first and oldest surviving vaudeville theater in the United States, but today it hosts concerts, film festivals and more. Come during football season and cheer for the hometown team, the Georgia Bulldogs, and wear their colors, red and black.

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Photo: Kindra Clineff/Connecticut Office of Tourism

Mystic, Connecticut

The charming seaside village of Mystic is one of Connecticut's most popular vacation destinations. World-class eateries with nationally-acclaimed chefs and lodgings that range from cozy B&Bs to pampering resorts welcome visitors. You'll also find every kind of shopping experience, from antique stores to outlet malls to local boutiques with one-of-a-kind handmade items. Choose from history and heritage museums that focus on maritime explorations, Native American life, prehistoric artifacts (and dinosaurs!), notable homes and gardens and even Connecticut's haunted past. Try your luck at two casinos rated among the top ten in the country--Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun--and, of course, enjoy the beautiful waters with a cruise or outdoor tour.

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Photo: Amelia Island Tourist Development Council

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Situated in the northeast corner of Florida, Amelia Island is bursting with charm and a distinct character all its own. It's also home to Fernandina Beach and its delightful 50-block historic district that has something for everyone, particularly along Centre Street where you’ll find antique shops, eclectic boutiques and local favorites like indie bookstore, The Book Loft. Wind down from your day with other guests at The Hoyt House Bed & Breakfast during social hour, offered from 4 to 5 p.m. except on Sundays. Dine al fresco at Lagniappe, where the chef puts a French spin on Southern cuisinie, or feast on oysters, salmon and other delights at Down Under while you watch the sunset and look for manatees and dolphins from the oversized deck.

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