Does anyone else get a winter travel bug? Mostly because it’s freezing here in Chicago and I start to itch for sunshine! #ChefAdrian and I have a (very) long list of travel destinations, and while we travel about 4-5 times a year, we’re finding that a lot of the places on our list are smack dab in the heart of small-town USA. Here’s to packing your bags for a great adventure in some of our favorite small towns.
Been to Denver? Then you’ll love the clean, mountainous air of Durango. I’m a tad bias as #ChefAdrian’s family moved out there last year but it’s one of the most naturally scenic places I’ve ever been to. About a 7 hour drive south of Denver, Durango sits just above the New Mexico boarder. That means it’s warmer and a close distance to Santa Fe if you are up for the adventure. Best part? I know a fantastic tour guide who can show you around any time of the year!
- Over The Top Adventures for all your on water or land tours.
- Downtown Durango is seriously adorable and very historical.
- Bridal Veil Falls is nestled in between Mt. Sneffels, Mt. Wilson and Mt. Eolus in Telluride that is so worth the drive!
Located in southeast Alaska, the small town of Sitka is mostly known for its wildlife, stunning views and tribal culture. With a population under 10,000, there are many opportunities to get out and explore Sitka when visiting.
- Sitka Tribal Tours is the best way to learn more about the Tligit way of life along side hiking through the Sitka National Historical Park.
- Fortress of the Bear has almost one full acre of bear cubs roaming the rain forest environment.
- Sitka Salmon Tour allows you a behind-the-scene look at Sitka’s great relationship with salmon and their local fisheries.
- Kayak Tour‘s are a great way to explore “coast lines less paddled”. Take a guided kayake adventure and explore “the coast less paddled.”
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor is a beautiful town located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island next to Acadia National Park. The spectacular beauty of the area attracted tourists as early as 19th century. Bar Harbor is one of the favorite tourist destinations on the East Coast, offering historic charm, a beautiful coastline and a range of activities.
- Mount Desert Island has only four official townships on the island but it’s perfect for exploring with the most amazing ocean views!
- Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company will certainly *blow* your mind. Believe it or not, #ChefAdrian used to work on whale watching boats and said touring with them is one for your bucket list.
- Acadia Photo Safari is just such a great idea! No need for prior experience or camera, just see the sights and shoot away!
- Havana Restaurant has not only hosted the former FLOTUS and POTUS Obama family, but it’s also ranked #2 of the most unique and best dining experiences in Maine!
Leipers Fork, Tennessee
Leiper’s Fork is a sweet and charming rural, unincorporated village in Williamson County, Tennessee–we’re talking 650 people! Known for it’s Sunday morning charm, it’s picturesque surroundings, culture and Southern fare almost literally takes you back in time. It’s claim to fame really comes from the distinguished force of local artists– from galleries, collectors, antiques, sweets and more will have you exporting all day!
- Puckett’s Grocery & Restaurant lunch and grocery spot by day, live entertainment venue by night!
- The Leiper’s Fork Distillery specializes in small batch production and is operated in a 200 year old cabin– can’t beat that.
- The West & Company is a country mercantile featuring apparel and gift items for the casual country lifestyle. You will definitely find the best leather goods and candles here!
- Middle Tennessee Hot Air Balloon Adventures basically speaks for itself. This was the ONLY thing we didn’t get to do when we visited.
Having literally just stepped off the plane from Phoenix, I am constantly amazed by the stunning desert landscape. Both #ChefAdrian and I have family down here and we love coming to visit. There is always new bars and restaurants to go to, excellent hiking and breathtaking photo opportunities!
- Bell Rock Pathway is a moderate hike that offers amazing views. Make sure to stop by The Hike House to refuel and chat it up with local hikers!
- Tlaquepaque Arts and Crafts Village is a great way to end the day, especially after long hiking trails. Freshen up and go right before sunset to experience this outdoor shopping center designed in the style of a traditional Mexican Village. So picturesque its a great spot for a photo-op!
- Mii Amo Spa is most literally a world-class destination set into the Sedona Red Rocks and arranged in a private enclave of casitas shaded by cottonwood trees. It is the ultimate relaxation hub offering spiritual, transformational and soulful experiences that are unlike any other.
- Slide Rock State Park is the perfect place to camp out and enjoy the waters set in the valley of Oak Creek Canyon. Historically known for its apple orchard past, it’s now known for exactly what it sounds like–sliding down the canyons. Great for families and adventure seekers, I recommend going in Fall when all colors are vibrant but still warm enough to cool off.
I can’t talk enough about how much I love Detroit. Having been there three times last year, I was consistently amazed by the mix of old and new, the sprawling night life and unbelievable foodie subculture. It’s hard to imagine Motor City being a great location for a vacation– but trust me, it’s so worth the trip!
- Michigan Central Station was built in 1913 and was intended to be the gateway to the Midwest. But by the late 1970s, the downfall of Detroit’s downtown had left the station empty and unvisited. However, it makes for an eerie quick trip to view the unbelievable Greek-isnpired architecture.
- Eastern Market is comprised of six different Sheds that offer produce, plants, antiques, small local shops, eateries and more! Offering true Detroit for over 150 years, make sure to plan ahead for this one.
- Aloft Detroit at The David Whitney if you’re looking for a place to stay, I highly recommend The David Whitney Building. The stunning architecture is honestly a must-see!
- Old Miami Bar + The Painted Lady Bar are amongst my favorite dive bars to check out. While Detroit is known for it’s nonchalant pubs, you’ll most likely end up stumbling across several others while out and about.
Greenville, South Carolina
Nestled into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville has combined traditional southern charm, stunning natural beauty and an unexpected contemporary cool to create one of America’s hottest emerging destinations and fastest growing cities.
- Smiley’s Acoustic Cafe is hands down the best place to see live jazz when visiting. Get there early through, word’s out and this place and get a little packed!
- Paris Mountain State Park is no joke. Check out all the waterfalls while hiking, swimming and canoeing around.
- Tupelo Honey Cafe is the best place for bunch AND a cocktail with their super creative menu items.
- Dark Corner Distillery has the most educated distillers. I recommend sticking around to see what different types of cocktails you can make with their whiskey– even create your own concoction!
I guess we have done some traveling over the years! Do you have your favorite small towns? Let me know in the comments below!