Searching for some new sights (and Instagram bragging rights) on your summer road trip? Add one of these small US cities to your route for great eats, beautiful scenery and fun for the whole family. And see our list of the Airbnb Alternatives for accommodation on the way there!
Note that these cities aren’t listed in any particular order– picking a favorite is just too difficult!
7. Telluride, Colorado
You probably know Telluride as a ski destination, but there’s even more to do in the summer. Soak up the rich natural beauty of the area through an incredible array of outdoor activities for the whole family, including hiking, biking, golf, skateboarding, fishing and more. Adults will love the shopping and world-class restaurants like La Marmotte in gorgeous historic downtown Telluride, and kids will delight in the free gondola ride to explore nearby Mountain Village.
6. Minot, North Dakota
Swing by Minot, North Dakota in July for the state fair, then hang around to check out the fantastic Scandinavian Heritage Park, which boasts a full size replica of Norway’s Gol Stave Church along with a replica storehouse, traditional sauna, and 230 year old home imported from Norway. Whether you’re here for the “grams” or educational value, it’s a truly unique stop. There’s also a zoo, museums and galleries, a brewery and more to make Minot an enticing destination. You might find you’re tempted to head back in September for Norsk Høstfest, the largest Scandinavian festival in the US.
5. Pontiac, Illinois
Get your nostalgia fix in Pontiac, Illinois, a less hyped but worthwhile Route 66 stop. Pontiac is home to the Route 66 museum, the superb Pontiac-Oakland Automobile Museum, along with several dozen downtown murals for ready-made photo ops, and Route 66 heritage sites. You’ll also find gems like a third generation German bakery, and a retro diner in former filling station.
4. Friday Harbor, San Juan Islands, Washington
The San Juan Islands might sound like an exotic, far flung locale, but they’re actually right off the coast of Washington, and easily accessible by ferry. Head to Anacortes, just North of Seattle, and jump on a ferry to Friday Harbor for a wealth of activities within walking distance, and endlessly Instagrammable scenery (the photo at the top of this post is from Roche Harbor, also on San Juan Island). You’ll find boutique shopping, museums, and of course fresh seafood. Also consider hopping the inter-island ferry over to the hamlet of Olga for the Orcas Island Artworks Gallery where you can browse the work of more than forty local artists.
3. Schulenberg, Texas
Stunning painted churches, German food, and a polka museum for good measure? With equal parts kitsch, culture and beauty, Schulenberg, Texas deserves a spot on your itinerary. In and around Schulenberg you’ll find a handful of churches intricately painted by Czech and German immigrants in the early 1900s. Make it a full day with a visit to the Texas Polka Museum or the delightful Stanzel Model Aircraft Museum, and be sure to plan for a stop at City Market for BBQ and authentic German sausage.
2. Bath, Maine
Billed as “Maine’s Cool Little City”, Bath is a quintessential summer road trip stop. We recommend scheduling your stay to treasure hunt at the citywide yard sale (on May 5th this year). You’ll also want to allot time for the peerless Maine Maritime Museum, and get some beach time in at one of the two sandy beaches close to downtown. And don’t forget the seafood–which you’ll find in abundance, including tasty local specialties like the haddock Reuben at Kennebec Tavern.
1. La Pointe, Wisconsin
Yes, Wisconsin has islands, and La Pointe on Madeline Island is where you want to beeline to this summer. A short ferry ride from Bayfield, you can start your visit off with a free walking tour of the downtown. After a day spent sailing and lounging on the beach, sit down to a farm-to-table meal, or head to the charming mish-mash of a dive bar that is Tom’s Burned Down Cafe. And if hopelessly picturesque restored dairy farms strike your fancy, be sure to look into the multi-day visual and fiber arts workshops at the Madeline Island School for the Arts.