Thoughtful Thursday: What is the best small town in each state?

The Best Small Town in Every State

The heart of many states exists in the small towns, where you’ll find industrious locals, unique experiences, and a slower pace that makes breathing a little easier. Yes, it’s true. Conversation—and sometimes the service—is dawdling and the boutiques and businesses are repeatedly strung along a Main Street, U.S.A., picture-perfect for exploring on foot. Often the doorway to nature and outdoor adventures, these villages are ideal for the great American road trip or for delving deeper into a weekend getaway with friends or family. Even the most scholarly wordsmiths will find it difficult not to rhapsodize any of the following small in every "quaint or “charming.”

Illinois - Galena

Galena is ideal for a couple’s vacation or a girl’s getaway trip. Numerous wineries, distilleries, and breweries call this midwestern town home, including Galena Brewing Company, Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery, and Blaum Bros Distilling Company. Visit Carl Johnson’s art gallery, learn about pottery at Artists’ Annex, and view regional art at Galena Center for the Arts. Finally, tour Ulysses S. Grant’s home (the 18th President) and stop in the Galena History Museum.

Indiana - Huntingburg

Located in southwestern Indiana, Huntingburg is home for 6,500 people. The town’s charm exists in its town square, with shops and dining flanking the cobblestone Main Street, and it’s easy to see why the League Stadium was the set location of the movie "A League of Their Own," starring Tom Hanks, Gina Davis, and Madonna. This town is as Americana as it gets.

Iowa - Quad Cities

Situated at the confluence of the Rock and Mississippi Rivers, the Quad Cities include Davenport and Bettendorf in Iowa and Rock Island, Moline, and East Moline in Illinois. Spend time at the Figge Art Museum, a modern glass building that houses artworks from around the world. The Putnam, a history, anthropology, natural sciences, and regional archival museum, is also popular and well worth a visit. Travel the Ale Trail; go biking, hiking, or kayaking in the outdoors; and dine on Midwestern fare.

Kansas - Emporia

Disc golf, or frisbee golf, is a popular activity in the small town of Emporia, Kansas. In fact, the largest disc golf tournament in the world, Glass Blown Open, is held here annually. To learn how to play, or to find a field to practice, visit Dynamic Discs, Emporia Country Club Disc Golf Course, or Peter Pan Park. Beyond that, you can visit the Johnston Geology Museum, Lyon County History Center, Schmidt Museum of Natural History, and William Allen White House State Historic Site (Red Rocks).

Michigan - Mackinac Island

Michigan’s Mackinac Island is a wonderous place where cars aren’t allowed. To get from point A to point B, you’ll have to ride a horse carriage, bicycle, or use your feet. Explore the many fudge shops in the downtown, ride your bike entirely around the outer path to circle the island, and stay up late to see the stars. There are several places to stay, including small cottages and large resorts. Mission Point Resort and the Grand Hotel are popular choices for their full amenities and access to everything you’ll want to explore on the island. Make sure you visit the American Fur Company Store and Dr. Beaumont Museum, Benjamin Blacksmith Shop, Biddle House, and Fort Mackinac.

Minnesota - Ely

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the largest wilderness preserve east of the Rocky Mountains, allure visitors to Ely, Minnesota each year to hike, fish, camp, and hunt. The downtown area is worth seeing as well, including Front Porch Coffee and Tea Company, Ely Steak House, Gator’s Grilled Cheese Emporium, and Boathouse Brew Pub and Restaurant. If time allows, visit the Bois Forte Heritage Center and Cultural Museum, Dorothy Molter Museum, or Ely Arts and Heritage Center.

Missouri - St. Genevieve

History, wine, food, access to nature—Ste. Genevieve, settled in the 1700’s, has it all. The town was first settled in the 1700s Visit the historic district for complimentary walking tours, bring the kids to the Linden House for immersive activities, wander through the Centre for French Colonial Life, and see the Louis Le Clere grave in the Memorial Cemetery from 1796. Listen to live music at Music Art Love, sample different flavors of honey at Harold’s Famous Bee Company, and wander through the many shops in the historic downtown. You may want to visit during one of the many festivals or events like the Jour de Fete Arts & Crafts Festival, French Heritage Festival, or the Chocolate Walk.

Nebraska - Grand Island

One of the biggest migrations in the world happens along the Central Flyway in Nebraska’s Central Platte River Valley. Nearly 600,000 sandhill cranes funnel into town to feed on corn from the fields and roost along the Platte River. There’s something so magical about waking up when it's still dark out to hike through a Nebraska field toward a viewing blind, where you’ll silently wait until sunrise. Once the cranes wake up, you’ll hear a cacophony of sound as they take flight and make their way toward dry land. Make sure you visit the Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center and while you’re in town, visit Fred’s Flying Circus, Raising Nebraska, and Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.

North Dakota - Medora

The Badlands of North Dakota set the backdrop for Medora, a town of 112 people. Visitors pass through this town on their way to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. While in town, visit the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, hike on the Painted Canyon Nature Trail, and attend the Medora Musical for nighttime entertainment on a grand scale. Visit Cowboy Lyle’s Candy Barn, play a round at Bully Pulpit Golf Course, and memorialize your time in the Badlands with a visit to Todd’s Old-Time Photos and Gifts.

Ohio - Yellow Springs

The naturally derived Yellow Spring is what has been drawing visitors to the town of Yellow Springs since the 1800s. The town is surrounded by agriculture while downtown is where you’ll find shopping, dining, and art studios and galleries. Get out and explore Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve, Glen Helen Nature Preserve, and John Bryan State Park or rent bicycles and ride the Little Miami Scenic Trail—part of the country’s largest network of paved off-road trails. For some food and drink, drop in Black Barn Creamery, Brandeberry Winery, Caesar Creek Vineyards, or Flying Mouse Farms.

South Dakota - Deadwood

The wild west town of Deadwood, with a population of 1,300 people, has been welcoming gamblers and drinkers since 1876. Gold prospectors found gold in a creek near a gulch full of dead trees (hence the name), which allured the likes of Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, and Seth Bullock. Play a hand of poker at one of the casinos and visit Buffalo Bodega Saloon where Buffalo Bill Cody once drank. Also, in the area is the Black Hills Mining Museum, Broken Boot Gold Mine, and Crazy Horse Memorial.

Wisconsin - Sheboygan

Did you know that you can go surfing on Lake Michigan in Wisconsin? It’s true. Sheboygan is home to year-round surfing adventures and is considered by some to be the “Malibu of the Midwest.” Excellent dining options are available at Harry's Prohibition Bistro and Blind Horse Restaurant while espresso can be found at Paradigm Coffee Shop. Kids love Above & Beyond Children's Museum and GameOn and adults will enjoy a brew tour at 3 Sheeps Brewing Co. Taproom. The John Michael Kohler Arts Center is not to be missed. Make the Blue Harbor Resort your home base, especially if you have kids in tow. There’s a waterpark, arcade, mini-golf, and a spa.

*The above is an excerpt from the article published on written by Wendy Altschuler. We focused on the small towns in the midwest, but you can access the full article at the following:

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