Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns 2023
We're thrilled to present our highly anticipated Coolest Small Towns list, just in time for your summer planning. We had a great time compiling this list and hope you enjoy it too!
This year, we've elevated this important editorial feature and revamped our approach. Being a "Cool Small Town" is much more than just having a small population. In fact, we've included a couple of larger destinations that have a "Cool Small Town vibe" (e.g.; Franklin, TN; and Asheville, NC).
Our list showcases places that offer unique culinary experiences, friendly local businesses, a sense of community, and captivating stories. Take Bisbee, Arizona, for example. This former mining town has reinvented itself as an artists' haven and a hub for cultural tourism. With its colorful architecture, quirky shops, and galleries, Bisbee offers a glimpse into the creative and eclectic spirit of the American Southwest. The nearby Queen Mine Tour offers a unique underground adventure into the area's mining history.
Or, consider Woodstock, Vermont. This picturesque town, nestled in the Green Mountains, epitomizes New England charm. With its historic covered bridges, quaint village center, and scenic hiking trails, Woodstock is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. For a taste of the town's culinary scene, be sure to check out the local farmers' market or dine at one of its many farm-to-table restaurants.
Our goal is not only to inform and entertain you but also to inspire you to visit these destinations by demonstrating how Cool Small Towns are both affordable and less crowded than typical tourist hotspots. By supporting these communities, you'll not only have a memorable trip but also contribute to the preservation of their cultural heritage and the growth of local economies. So why not pay these charming towns a visit?
And finally, after the challenging past few years, we believe that visiting a Cool Small Town can be a fantastic way to reset and rejuvenate our mind, body, and budget in 2023. Whether you're looking for outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, or just a relaxing getaway, there's a small town out there waiting for you to discover it.
Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns in 2023
Honorable Mention: Asheville, North Carolina
Road Trip itch?
Do you have a couple of months and about 8000 miles to spare? You could hit the road and visit all these places in approximately two months (6-hour trips and 4-day stays in each Cool Small Town). Here’s the ideal route: https://goo.gl/maps/YWJWViTh8V4GaoBx8
Ski season is open! As usual, skiing in the US attracts snow enthusiasts from all levels and backgrounds. Whether you are with your family, a group of friends, or on a solo trip, there are plenty of reasons to head to the mountains. But which resort should you choose? Holidu, the booking portal for holiday rentals, decided to carry out a study to determine which ski resorts in the US are the most popular on Google for the 2022-2023 winter season. Resorts were ranked by average number of online searches per month during the past year. Information regarding ski pass prices as well as the accommodation costs have also been included to show you out of the most popular, which resorts offer the best value for money. Get ready to hit the slopes for some epic trips without needing to break the bank! (TIE) #9. Mount Snow, Vermont Mount Snow, Vermont - courtesy of mountsnow.com Tied for 9th place is Mount Snow in the Green Mountains, which received an average of 44,000 online searches per month in the last year. This southern Vermont resort boasts a family-friendly vibe and has plenty of activities for all types of visitors, regardless of ski ability. It has also been rated as having the best terrain park in the east! So if you enjoy challenging yourself to perform some tricks, Mount Snow is the place for you. What are you waiting for? Average daily ski pass: $113 (TIE) #9. Snowbird, Utah Snowbird in Utah shares the 9th place spot with an average of 44,000 searches per month in the past year. Snowbird is located in the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains near Salt Lake City, and it offers a wide range of winter activities for the whole family. From classic skiing and snowboarding to more alternative choices like snowmobiling and snowshoeing, Snowbird offers it all! Average daily ski pass: $151 (TIE) #7. Heavenly Mountain Resort, California Heavenly Mountain Resort - courtesy of travelnevada.com In another tie, we have Heavenly Mountain Resort, California’s largest ski resort, in 7th place. Heavenly spans across the California-Nevada border, offering snow-sports enthusiasts over 4,800 skiable acres of terrain. This resort has been open since 1955 and treats visitors to breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe as its backdrop. Average daily ski pass: $171 (TIE) #7. Vail Ski Resort, Colorado Vail ski resort - courtesy of vailresorts.com Next up is Vail Ski Resort in Eagle County, Colorado sharing the 7th place ranking. This resort can be found at the base of Vail Mountain within White River National Forest and is the third-largest single-mountain ski resort in the US, offering more than 5,200 acres of ski terrain. Its world-renowned skiing is only complimented by its equally impressive offering of shops, restaurants, accommodations and overall party atmosphere. Average daily ski pass: $211 #6. Big Sky Resort, Montana Big Sky, Montana - courtesy of visitbigsky.com Next up we head to Madison County, Montana and to Big Sky Resort. Big Sky is actually one of the largest ski resorts in the US based on acreage, and you’ll have plenty of powdery slopes to explore when visiting here, as it records more than 400 inches of snow each year! Moreover, Big Sky prides itself on being a mountain village that maintains its charming vibe year-round and has plenty of accommodation and dining options to suit everyone. Average daily ski pass: $170 #5. Hunter Mountain, New York Hunter Mountain in New York is the fifth most popular this year! The resort belongs to Hunter, Greene County, and is approximately three hours northwest of New York City. Hunter is a subsidiary of Colorado-based Vail Resorts, a company that owns a number of the most popular ski resorts on this list. The resort has terrain across three mountains and one of its best features is its state-of-the-art snowmaking that covers all trails, which has resulted in it being dubbed the “snowmaking capital of the world”. Hunter also has quite an even breakdown of beginner, intermediate, and expert trails, meaning ski and snowboarders of all abilities will enjoy a trip to this fantastic resort! Average daily ski pass: $84 #4. Breckenridge, Colorado Breckenridge ski lift - courtesy of powderhounds.com The second Colorado ski resort appearing in this ranking is Breckenridge, with an average of 67,000 searches per month. Located at the base of the Rocky Mountains’ Tenmile Range, this resort is made up of 3,000 acres of terrain, Five Peaks and three base areas, making it a ski lovers playground. One of the best things about this resort is the quaint mountain town it belongs to. Breck attracts visitors from all over the world eager to experience the bustling and lux ski resort life. Average daily ski pass: $197 #3. Palisades Tahoe, California Palisades Tahoe ski resort - courtesy of palisadestahoe.com Heading to California next, Palisades Tahoe secures its position as the third most popular ski resort this year! Located in Olympic Valley, northwest of Tahoe City in the Sierra Nevada range, Palisades Tahoe is home to 34 lifts and a whopping 6,000 acres of skiable mountain. Palisades Tahoe is no stranger to popularity, having often been cited as one of North America’s best resorts. It is also known as one of the most advanced ski areas, ranking in the top 10% of most-difficult ski resorts in North America thanks to its 59% of trails that are expert-level rated. Beginners and intermediate skiers need not worry, as the huge size of this resort means that it still has plenty to offer less experienced and confident skiers. Average daily ski pass: $157 #2. Crystal Mountain, Washington Crystal Mountain lies around 2 hours from Seattle and offers plenty of parking to cater to visitors. This is Washington’s largest ski resort and has 11 lifts, 80 named runs and covers more than 2,600 acres of terrain. The resort welcomes over 400 inches of annual snowfall! If you’re lucky, head to Crystal on a clear day, you will be treated to incredible views of the surrounding Cascade Range and the epic Mt. Rainier! Average daily ski pass: $65 #1. Copper Mountain, Colorado Copper Mountain - courtesy of coppercolorado.com Copper Mountain in Colorado is officially the most popular US ski resort this year! With an impressive 10,000 more searches per month than the second-place resort, Copper Mountain is an outright winner. And rightly so! From its world-class skiing and snowboarding terrain to its charming villages filled with family-friendly activities and accommodation options, it’s not hard to see why this is the nation’s must-visit resort. This winter 2022/23 season is Copper Mountain’s 50th anniversary and being crowned the most popular resort in the States seems a fitting way to celebrate.Average daily ski pass: $154 — View the full top 50 ranking here.
From Park City to Panorama, HomeToGo has researched the price of skiing across the continent, taking into account the latest prices and search trends for the upcoming 2022-2023 season. The report includes 50 of the ultimate ski havens from 15 states across the USA and Canada, so that you can carve out your winter travel plans without getting buried by debt. Scaling mountains of data and research, this year's report compares the affordability of lift tickets and overnight accommodations, as well as the search trends of skiers planning their vacations. Ski resorts provided their latest pricing data for lift tickets during peak season periods and HomeToGo data was used to find the average price per person to stay in a 6-person vacation rental. So strap on your skis and get ready to drop into HomeToGo's 2023 Ski Season Report! #5. Lake Louise Ski Resort Courtesy of Lake Louise Ski Resort Located in Alberta, Canada, the Lake Louis Ski Resort is home to 4,200 acres of diverse terrain over four mountain faces (that’s 164 runs, with the longest expanding over 8 kilometers). Feel the thrill that comes from exploring the unique layout of ski runs, with beginner, intermediate, and expert routes from nearly every chair. Visitors can also work on jumps, 180s, and tricks in some of the biggest and best designed park terrain in the world. Don't forget to take in some of the best views of Banff National Park on the Lake Louise Sightseeing Gondola. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $111.74 Median Accommodation Price: $35.65/person Total: $147.39 #4. Mount Hood Meadows Ski Resort Courtesy of Mount Hood Meadows Located in the Mount Hood National Forest, Mount Hood Meadows is just 90 minutes away from Portland, Oregon. The variety of Meadows' terrain is what makes it so unique and popular.The wide-open terrain off of Cascade Express (voted most popular cruising terrain in Oregon) offers incredible panoramic views from its 7,300-foot elevation. Advanced skiers and snowboarders seek out the steeps in the front bowls, or drop into the seemingly endless pitch of powder-filled Heather Canyon. Explore the double black steeps, gladed tree runs and cliffs through access gates into Private Reserve and S&R Cliffs. Beginners learn on the gentle slopes of Buttercup and the Ballroom Carpet. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $79.00 Median Accommodation Price: $65.05/person Total: $144.05 #3. Kicking Horse Mountain Resort Courtesy of Kicking Horse Resort Located in Golden, British Columbia, Kicking Horse can be both a fun, family excursion or a challenging endeavor. With 120 trails across nearly 3,500 acres of terrain, there are opportunities to shred gnarly powder or glide along gentle slopes. In fact, it is known as the Champagne Powder Capital of Canada due to its ridges and bowls which are constantly stashed with deep snow. For thrill seekers, Kicking Horse is home to a 1,300-meter vertical drop, the sixth largest vertical drop of any North American ski resort. Meanwhile, beginners are welcome to explore the gentle glades for an incredible on-snow experience and lovely mountain views. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $105.82 Median Accommodation Price: $23.77/person Total: $129.59 #2. Kimberley Alpine Resort Courtesy of mturnerphoto.com Kimberley, British Columbia prides itself on its small-town charm and real mountain experiences. The region receives an average of 13 feet of snowfall each season. It features 80 named runs, 1,800 acres of terrain and a variety of ski-in or ski-out accommodations. The Purcell Range of the Canadian Rockies offers stunning scenery and a relaxed atmosphere to enjoy the powdery snow, regardless of experience level. Skiing is not Kimberley’s only activity either, guests are welcome to try dog sledding, snowshoeing and snowboarding. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $84.00 Median Accommodation Price: $40.61/person Total: $124.61 #1. Mission Ridge Ski Area Courtesy of missionridge.com Sitting 12 miles from Wenatchee, Washington, this ski area is built into a 2,000-acre basin on the eastern side of the Cascade Mountains. With 300 days annually of sunshine, it sits higher and drier than other mountains in the area. It’s known for its light, dry powder, which provides a smooth ride for the whole family. Mission Ridge has more than 36 designated runs with trails, chutes, screamers, bowls and even a 2,250-foot vertical drop. Whether you shred the slopes or explore the backcountry, Mission Ridge provides family fun and amazing mountain views. Adult Lift Ticket Price: $97.00 Median Accommodation Price: $18.13/person Total: $115.13 To explore the rest of the ski resorts on HomeToGo's list, click here.
'Tis the season for giving!—and the season for inboxes full of promotional emails, busy schedules, and endless, end-of-year to-do lists. Shopping can add a lot of stress this time of year, but we've got a few ideas that can help. Whether your gift list includes an avid traveler or just someone who enjoys the occasional day trip, we've got a great list of budget-friendly picks and stocking stuffers that are both practical and thoughtful. Please remember: If you purchase through our links, we may earn a commission from our partners, thanks for your support! The Charging Cable That Does It All Mr Bio Eco Friendly Universal Compact Multi Charging Cable - courtesy of brookstone.com. This Mr Bio Eco Friendly Universal Compact Multi Charging Cable is a multi-adapter cable that can charge all kinds of devices and only costs around $15. It features a patented dual USB/USB type C power in and power out tips to Apple lightning connector, USB type C, and micro USB tips. Bonus points: the company works hard to make their product environmentally-friendly, as it is created with a bio-degradable enclosure and woven-paper cable made out of recycled plastic bottles. A Power Bank for Off-the-Grid Adventure Solar-charged power bank - courtesy of magellans.com This solar-charged power bank will keep your devices up and running no matter how long the next hike takes! Perfect for camping and backpacking trips, users can keep devices charged without having to track down an outlet thanks to this product's front solar panel and dual USB ports. It even features a built-in flashlight. For those travelers not going to far into the wild, these power banks can still save the day when it comes to airport layovers or outings to busy theme parks when searching for an outlet for a mid-day charge is unsuccessful. Laundry On-the-Go Tide sink packets - courtesy of amazon.com Family trips, road trips, and extended stays in hotels are made infinitely easier with simple and quick laundry solutions like stain pens and these Tide Travel Sink packets. Maybe not the fanciest gift on the list, but a perfect fit for the ultra-practical packer or parent-turned-travel agent in your life. The Perfect Travel Pillow Samsonite Magic Travel Pillow - courtesy of jcpenney.com Sometimes the journey isn't always as fun as the destination. Make trains, planes, and automobiles a lot more manageable by gifting a comfy travel pillow, like this Samsonite Magic Travel Pillow. This one can be switched between a U-shaped pillow or a square shape, comes with a travel clip for easy transport, and weighs a mere half a pound. Add earbuds and a sleeping mask to make a perfect package for light sleepers. A Memory Journal Promptly Travel Journal - courtesy of amazon.com A simple journal for writing down thoughts, reflections, memories, or even sketches can be a great easy-to-pack activity for anyone on the go. All that's needed is a beautiful blank notebook and maybe a nice set of pens, and you've got a incredible thoughtful and open-ended gift. For those that especially love the process of writing, though, this one from Promptly Journals is specifically designed for documenting vacations with space for everything from pre-departure plans to post-journey takeaways. A Germ-Busting UVC Sanitizer U-V-C Sanitizer Portable Case - courtesy of jcpenney.com. Nothing ruins a trip more than a surprise illness—and yet, sometimes it's hard to avoid when passing through busy airports and cities along the way. This U-V-C Sanitizer Portable Case eliminates some of the stress for the germ-conscious traveler, featuring a compact size that can still easily fit items like jewelry and earbuds. For an added touch, throw in some other handy health items like lozenges and wipes and you've got a perfect travel care package. Road-Trip Safety Kit Black Series Roadside Auto Emergency Safety First Aid Kit for Drivers - courtesy of jcpenney.com For solo travelers and those that prefer to hit the open road, this roadside emergency kit that includes jumper cables, a head lamp, and simple first aid tools can save the day when things don't go quite as planned—especially when cell service is spotty and gas stations are far between. A Portable Hammock AnorTrek Camping Hammock - courtesy of amazon.com Some travelers, like the minimalist backpacker, prefer to pack light, making shopping for them even harder. A portable hammock can be a great item for campers and hikers that want to pack efficiently. This AnorTrek Camping Hammock comes in a dozen colors, weighs just over a pound, and can be set up in seconds. Reminders of Trips Past Chicago candle - courtesy of amazon.com Homesick Candles makes a perfect, sentimental gift for those who may be nostalgic for a place or city that they've always loved visiting in the past. Choose from scents inspired by specific locations, like "Southern California" or "New York City," or more general travel themes like "Ski Trip" and "Beach Cottage." Gear for Efficient Packing Packing cubes - courtesy of jcpenney.com. Sometimes, it's hard to pack light—and for some people, it can be nearly impossible. For those that like having lots of outfit options, lean towards being over-prepared, or simply just want to make the most of their suitcase capacity, these affordable packing cubes help keep everything organized and compact. For the chronic over-packer, save them a headache at the airport luggage weigh-in with this handy luggage scale.
In Florida, a day at a park doesn’t always have to mean hanging out with The Minions, Mickey or Big Bird, though it often does. No surprise, considering the Sunshine State is synonymous with popular theme and water parks. But, Florida is also home to 175 state parks scattered from the Panhandle to the Keys, each offering an opportunity to experience the state’s myriad natural and cultural treasures, whether streams and rivers threading through a verdant landscape, a system of caverns peppered with stalactites, miles of undeveloped sandy beaches, dense tracts of forests dripping with moss, or historic forts and lighthouses. The entire compendium of state parks shows off Florida’s grand diversity of ecosystems, from mangroves to pinelands to dunes, as well as the resident and migrant creatures that call these vast expanses home or pay a seasonal visit. In the six state parks below, a grand array of enticing scenery and activities are on full display. (You can learn more at floridastateparks.org.) 1. Oleta River State Park Just 30 minutes from downtown Miami, Oleta is considered Florida’s largest urban park and one offering numerous water- and land-based activities. Inside the park, BG Oleta River Outdoors rents canoes and kayaks so visitors can paddle through dark, foliage tunnels along the mangrove-lined river and then on to peaceful Biscayne Bay and the Intercoastal Waterway with opportunities to spot river otter, and sea turtles. (This concession also offers full moon and one-hour Friday sunset kayak tours.) And, despite Miami’s perfectly flat topography, Oleta is considered one of Florida’s best mountain biking venues, with more than a dozen miles of interconnected, challenging single track coursing beside the park’s waterways. 2. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park Bill Baggs Cape - Istock/lucky-photographer On the southern tip of Key Biscayne, Bill Baggs is most noted for its one-mile-some beach -- perfect for sunning and swimming -- that’s often named as one of the top 10 beaches in the U.S. by Dr. Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University, aka Dr. Beach. Bird watchers are also attracted to this park that’s a stopover on the Atlantic Flyway for migrating species, such as Cerulean and Bay-breasted wood-warblers. Anyone walking to the southern tip of the Pond Trail will be near the Cape Florida Lighthouse, South Florida’s oldest structure that provides stunning views of Biscayne Bay, Key Biscayne and South Beach. 3. Topsail Hill Preserve State Park Named for the tallest of the coastal dunes along the Gulf of Mexico that resembles a ship’s sail, rising over 25 feet high, Topsail Hill, located in the Florida Panhandle, preserves these white quartz dunes with lakes -- a unique ecosystem -- where fresh and saltwater mix. Those with a fishing license can try to snag catfish, bream or bass in one of these lakes, or cast from the beach for Spanish mackerel, pompano or red fish. The paved Campbell Lake Bike Trail -- named for this coastal dune lake, a popular picnic spot -- that’s shaded by tall longleaf pines appeals to cyclists. 4. Hillsborough River State Park Hillsborough River State Park - Istock/benedek Just a few minutes north of Tampa, Hillsborough is one of the few spots in Florida featuring whitewater rapids. Those who bring their own canoe relish the small section of Class II rapids. The park also rents canoes that can be put in just below the rapids on this blackwater river, the color deriving from the tannins leaching from fallen leaves. Growing along the shore, live oaks, magnolia and cypress trees provide for shaded paddling, with opportunities to see otters or alligators on the banks. History buffs often sign up on a guided tour of the reconstructed Fort Foster, a replica of the circa 1837 fort from the time of the Second Seminole Indian War. 5. Honeymoon Island State Park Having received its name after several dozen honeymoon cottages were constructed (and subsequently demolished) in the early 1940s, this barrier island remains a stunning day-trip from Tampa for nature lovers. Though beachgoers flock to the sandy and seashell/rock studded four-mile stretch, a wild landscape of tide pools, sand dunes and salt marshes await those walking past the last parking lot to the shaded Osprey Trail. Hikers will find monarch butterflies fluttering about and the ever-present scent of pine. A real treat is seeing osprey with their young. 6. Caladesi Island State Park A short ferry ride away from Honeymoon Island, Caladesi was once attached to its sister island prior to a major hurricane in 1921. Though now connected to Clearwater Beach after a land bridge formed, Caladesi feels like the Florida of another era, once visitors wander past the ranger station/concession, with nothing but the sounds of bird calls, and the tide lapping at the powdery beach. In 2018, Dr. Beach ranked Caladesi’s dazzling quartz sands as one of the country’s top 10. A network of sandy trails wind through the heart of this island where signs remind visitors that the dense interior is snake territory.