Summer travel is tough. If possible, spend July in a sunny European villa, drinking crisp white wine and eating plenty of oysters. But that’s not the reality, at least not now. I used to worry about summer travel restrictions (thanks Instagram), but in the last few years I’ve taken a new approach to how to make the most of this time of year. It sounds disgusting, but the state of mind is the issue this season.Leaning into the incredible is the best accessible From campgrounds to city parks to my favorite small town, there are so many places I want to go. Sure, it could be better than Euro travel.
The operative word here is familiar, and one of the most exciting ways to travel in the summer is to get in the car and go to some obscure (or not-so-obvious) spot in the country overlooking Condé Nast. I thought America has many small cities and small towns to visit. Most of them have their own culture. Take Bentonville, Arkansas, for example. Home to one of the finest American museums I’ve ever seen, Crystal Bridges, this Ozark gem is a treasure trove of nature and art. My time here felt rushed like a weekend abroad.
featured image Kristen Kilpatrick.
Best small towns to visit this summer
Whether it’s Lisbon, Missoula, or an hour away, there’s a catharsis to the journey.Summer is the season for newness freely. This season is as much home to adventure and exploration as it is to take care of yourself and relax.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up five great small towns to visit this summer. Spread across the United States, these cities, each full of unique charm and potential, have left an indelible mark.
Summer Travel: A Reality Check
Before we get to the point, it would be careless not to look at the time and money that often get in the way of summer travel. Even the smaller towns below require funds and energy to get there and explore. Still, where there is a will, there is a way. Even with gas prices, a car is often cheaper than a plane (the journey begins the moment you step into the car!). Additionally, these smaller cities and towns are more affordable than larger domestic and international destinations, making dining out and recreation more budget-friendly.
image provider buff strickland
Bentonville stole my heart the moment I arrived. I came here a few years ago when I was anchoring the news in nearby Joplin. I’ve heard it’s worth driving an hour south to see the lush greenery and hiking trails of northwest Arkansas. Little did I know that the University of Arkansas and the Walton Arts Center would indulge me in so much more, including seeing great plays and concerts. Bentonville sits between Rogers and Fayetteville, her two other small cities with plenty to see.
what to do:
visit Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art is a serious imperative. This one-of-a-kind museum boasts fascinating exhibits by Rothko, Eames, and other contemporary artists. The grounds are also home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Buckman Wilson House, which alone is a reason to go. Admission is free, thanks to the Walton family, the founders of Walmart.
If you enjoy exploring nature on foot or by car, the area has a wide variety of trails, from easy walks to trails. strenuous hiking or mountain biking. The North Bentonville Trail is paved and accessible for most levels, so it’s a great place to start. In the evening, catch live performances, including Broadway shows, at the Walton Arts Center.
This boutique hotel chain has a strong focus on art. Their bases (many of which are in smaller cities) host in-house art collections or are located near museums. Our Bentonville store is located in the town square, close to the Crystal Bridge, restaurants and cafes.
After viewing the river is flowing, my mother and I fell in love with Montana. She could argue that she became even more depressed after moving to the storied state 14 years ago. But I found every reason to visit this magical place with her whenever possible. Every small town or city in Montana has its charm, but Missoula holds a special place in my heart. Tucked away above the Bitterroot Valley and home to the University of Montana, Missoula combines the heart of a big city with the slow pace of a true mountain town. It’s unbelievable.
what to do
Missoula is the city of good coffee, so start your day with a strong cup. like clyde coffee black roasting coffee company. From there, explore downtown on foot or by car, stopping by locally owned boutiques (Betty Devine’s We have a great selection of vintage Levi’s) and Meadowsweet herb An intimate apothecary that creates organic skincare. Go to the University of Montana, tour the campus, and if you’re up for it, hike the M Trail for perfect views of the town behind the campus. End the evening with a show and dinner at the historic Wilma Theatre. Flora Bella.
This charming boutique hotel, the newest addition to Missoula, has everything you need in a hotel: friendly staff, proximity to everything (restaurants, bars, shops, art), and affordable prices. increase. Plus, its cool lobby makes you want to hang out while you beat.
image provider Kristen Kilpatrick
Burlington is the epitome of New England with its quaint streets, historic buildings and countless arts. I always thought of this East Coast city of Boulder, Colorado. Her two small cities attract people who love nature, microbrews and a slow pace of life. (It’s no coincidence that Burlington’s bustling Church Street was designed by the same designer as Boulder’s Pearl Street.) Summer is the best time to visit this idyllic town, but Burlington makes an impression all year round. remain.
what to do
I mentioned Church Street, Burlington’s day and night hub. The outdoor brick mall has over 100 places to eat, shop, drink and explore. It is always busy here, especially in spring and summer. (Vermonters are having a warm day.) Solid coffee can be found at: Onyx Tonics Specialty Coffeeone block from Church Street, walk around the street.
In the afternoon, head to the South End Arts District. Once an industrial hub, this district now boasts some of the city’s best art exhibits and cider bars, as well as one of the city’s best farmers markets on Saturdays.
to my hometown JuniperOne of the best dining options in Burlington, Hotel Vermont is a boutique hotel on Lake Champlain. The design is airy, minimal and warm. It has a spacious outdoor patio and a very cozy lounge-like lobby, both of which attract locals as well as hotel guests.
Rapid City, North Dakota
If there’s one small city worthy of praise that receives little media attention, it’s Rapid City.When I came here during my trip, I thought why do people keep this secretLocated just outside the Black Hills, a gorgeous natural labyrinth, Rapid City does a great job of keeping the secret of being small and intimate yet having a lot to see.
what to do
Spend at least one day exploring downtown. There are many shops, restaurants and galleries all within walking distance.I loved to drink coffee at Harriet and Oak Cafe, sitting along Main Street Square. We then strolled through the galleries and checked out the Art Alley and the weird but cool Dinosaur Park. (You can’t get out of here if you have small children.)
Now, if you have the time, I urge you to do so, but it’s important to venture an hour out of town to visit the Black Hills, a vast forest area punctuated by jutting rock pinnacles. It’s intense, isn’t it? Mount Rushmore is also a tourist attraction here. And to the east lies the Badlands, one of the country’s most eerie and enchanting landscapes. It may be the closest month to visit here. Rocks and cliffs capture the sunlight, creating an otherworldly landscape.
This Hilton outpost is located in downtown Rapid City, just a short walk to galleries, restaurants, bars and cafes.
image provider Kristen Kilpatrick
A few years ago I started hearing stories of people high tailing it on the bend. After spending some time here, I can see why. The town is a mecca for nature lovers and those seeking peace and quiet. Located in central Oregon, it has rivers, lakes, mountains, and clean air. (And, of course, the friendly locals.) We’re just hours away from Oregon’s hotspots of Portland, the Three Sisters Mountains, and Ashland.
what to do
Visiting Bend in the summer invites you to get outdoors.go to Looney Bean Cafe, sip an early oat milk latte in the sprawling backyard at this quaint coffee shop on the Deschutes River. Then put on plenty of sunscreen (this is the high desert) and head out for a hike or bike ride on dozens of trails in and around the city. Floating down the Deschutes River is a fun way to cool off from the high summer heat. Afterwards, enjoy a beer or lemonade. Bend Brewing Company. Spend the night watching an outdoor concert at the Hayden Holmes Amphitheater in the trendy Old Mill district.
A day can be centered around exploring this former Catholic school, now a hotel with numerous bars (one is hidden), restaurants and a public deep pool can. Every corner is attractive. The decor is eclectic and rustic, with dark wood walls and a gorgeous mix of art and kitschy vintage lighting. Step outside the property and you’re in downtown Bend.