Small Town Charmed

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When you have the opportunity to go on a trip or “get away” for a long weekend, where are your favorite places to visit? My first thought had always been to hop on a plane and travel to a place as far away as possible, thinking that distance would make me feel more relaxed and that I was taking a true vacation. While I still love traveling and exploring the world, I have also discovered the joy of “escaping” in my own backyard by discovering charming small towns to spend time in and explore!

For me, this excitement and interest for visiting small towns began when my husband and I took our first trip together to Northern Michigan.  We were staying at a local bed and breakfast and decided to venture into the town we were staying in to find something to eat.  We didn’t realize just how tiny this town was, and it ended up only consisting of a few buildings, one being an extremely small bar with BIG character.  Chuck and I sat for hours and hours eating nachos, drinking beer, and enjoying that little hidden gem of a bar.  I remember feeling so safe and cozy almost like the two of us couldn’t be found, and completely engrossed in conversation as well as my surroundings.  Even when we left the bar and walked along the dark sidewalk lit by a single streetlamp, it was as if we were in our own little snow globe away from the rest of the world.

Discovering small towns has been one of our favorite things to do together. Whenever we have a long weekend or an opportunity to go on a short trip, we pull up a map and start researching places in driving distance.  We have been to smaller towns that were highly recommended on lists that we found through searching “the best small towns to visit in the United States.”  We have also visited towns that we have chosen simply by looking at pictures that caught our attention and peaked our curiosity.

Get Small Town Charmed!

Traveling to a small town is an adventure in itself! No matter which town you choose to explore, there are some common experiences of small town charm to enjoy with every visit!

Small Business, Big Dreams

The Paperie & Co. in Cedarburg, Wisconsin

One aspect of small towns that I absolutely love is the number of local businesses that you can find! Small boutiques, popcorn shops, used bookstores, galleries, and locally owned restaurants and coffee shops line the streets, and they all seem to have their own unique atmosphere and story to tell.  When I walk into one of these shops or restaurants, there is a certain comfort that encompasses me, and I immediately feel like I am walking into someone’s dream that they have imagined and created. I love browsing all of the treasures and unique pieces that can be found, trying the local favorite dishes, and sometimes even being lucky enough to chat with the owners and hear their stories.

Oh, the Places You’ll Stay!

The Royal Victorian Manor in Woodstock, Illinois

One of my favorite parts of vacationing in a smaller town is that you can find the coolest places to stay! I love searching for local bed & breakfast-type lodging; so much character and history live in their walls, and the decor can be absolutely unforgettable.  When you chose to stay at a bed and breakfast over a major hotel chain, it’s a guarantee that you are going to have some sort of story to tell later! It took me a couple of stays to get used to basically sitting in someone’s dining room with strangers as they cook breakfast in their actual kitchen, but it truly is an unforgettable experience.

We have met some of the most interesting and enjoyable people at breakfast in some of the places we have stayed, including the hosts themselves!  Sitting across from complete strangers and sharing breakfast is truly amazing, and oh my, the conversations you will have!  There is a chance to meet local people who can share history about the town and surrounding area, and you might also meet others who have traveled from other parts of the country with many of their own stories to tell. Finding a locally owned bed and breakfast for your stay is one of the most wonderful things that I can recommend on your small town adventure!  It truly is a treat and an experience all on its own!

Create The Unexpected

The Five 20 Social Stop @ The Stagecoach Inn

When Chuck and I visit a smaller town, we rarely have a “game plan” to follow, especially when we know nothing about where we are going. I know it sounds a little crazy to do this, but it’s actually so much fun if you have an open mind! We normally like to walk around and just stop in whatever places come our way.  We have discovered some of the coolest restaurants, bars and shops by simply walking around and popping into different paces.  I feel like I have so many stories that I could share about the unpredictable fun times we’ve had on some of these trips. My favorite unexpected time we had was just this past spring when we visited Cedarburg, Wisconsin and stayed at the Stagecoach Inn.  The Inn has a little pub attached that is opened to guests and the public throughout the day.  On that particular night of our stay, the innkeepers (who were two of the nicest people by the way) had some friends coming in town, among them a few musicians. They informed us that they might stay open a little later with this additional entertainment, and that we were welcomed to join in on the fun.  Well, “a little later” meant midnight, and “some friends” ended up being an entire group of people who were extremely talented musicians. We ended up sitting in this pub for close to 7 hours listening to music, talking to the people around us, and making friends with these people who made us instantly feel like we had known them our whole lives.

I guess what I’m saying with this story is that you just never know who you are going to meet or what kinds of places you’re going to find, especially when you go into a situation not having a certain expectation or definite plan. While this holds true to anywhere you visit, visiting a small town for me has always allowed for a different type of spontaneity that is a little more personal, intimate, and relaxed.

Enjoy the Company

One piece of small town vacationing that I love more than anything whether I am with Chuck or with my friends or family is the way that time seems to just stop and disappear, and I feel as if I am able to escape into this snow globe and just live in the moment with the people I am with, free of distractions or time schedules. Personally when I visit a smaller town, I feel less of a sense of urgency to fill my time with sight seeing and “being a tourist” (which I do love being at times, don’t get me wrong!), and am  filled with more of a desire to have this relaxed, unexpected fun around town and get lost in its charm.

I have memories of visiting small towns with friends over long weekends and spending hours in coffee shops just talking and simply enjoying the fact that we were together in this little corner of town. I also have memories of being with my mom on a main street traveling from shop to shop not worrying about the time or what we were going to do later that day, occasionally stopping for ice cream or a coffee and more conversation. I have a memory with Chuck of walking down the street in Woodstock, Illinois, and stumbling upon this tiny bowling ally with about 6 lanes where we ended up bowling for two hours over beers and so much laughter. It’s an amazing experience when you can forget about time and schedules, and just see where the town takes you!

 “Drive until the city lights dissolve into a country sky” -Zac Brown Band

If you have a long weekend or an opportunity to go on a short trip, I strongly encourage you to look right outside your backdoor!  I guarantee you will find so many great options of towns where you can become “small town charmed!” Whether you are going with your husband or wife, a group of friends, or your family, taking a trip like this can be just as unforgettable and fun as visiting a big city or staying at a resort.  Find rare treasures in local shops, eat at a family own restaurant, have unexpected conversations with new people, experience the charm of a bed and breakfast, and allow time to get away from you as you walk around Main Street or sip coffee in the town square. Small town vacationing is its own kind of adventure, and one that can be relaxing, unpredictable, enlightening, and entertaining all at the same time!

 

What are some unforgettable small towns that you would recommend visiting?? I’d love to hear your stories!

Wishing you zest & light,
Stephanie =)

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32 thoughts on “Small Town Charmed

  1. Reading this post has made me excited and curious to see what our small Texas towns have to offer. We always want to “get away” and experience a new place. The first thing we think of is how far can we go! Silly as it sounds, it never crossed my mind to make those trips to the small towns around here.

    1. Melissa, I used to do the exact same thing! Distance equaled more of a vacation in my mind, but it’s amazing what kind of experience you can create from just a short drive to a cool town =) You will have to keep me posted on if you find any great places to visit around Texas!

  2. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us! Small towns are hidden treasure. They usually are filled with so much history, but are lesser known!

    1. Thanks for reading, Jenell! It is definitely amazing the amount of history a small town can hold. When you ask the right questions to the right people, you can really learn so many interesting facts. It can allow you to view a place in a whole different light!

  3. Yes!!! Stephanie, what a great post! It is so easy for us to think about a vacation or a weekend away and completely loose sight of the smaller quaint towns and instead Dream of far away places, like you said. I love small towns too and your post totally made me think of “stars hallow” and Gilmore Girls! I think finding a place and having no set destination or events planned is so freeing… it is so different from our daily lives of lists and plans! I know I would feel the same way as you… living inside a snow globe… the world carrying on and me being content inside! I would love for Dave and I to do this more! We have been to a couple small towns near us and absolutely love them, but I desire to go on more adventures and why not make them right next door?!! Thanks for sharing!!! Such great insight and memories- made me smile the whole time I read!

    1. oh my goodness I wish that I could go to “Stars Hollow”!! I remember watching that show when I was younger (and also recently haha) and just thinking how lucky they all were to be able to live there and go to that adorable coffee shop ALL of the time! It is definitely SO freeing to visit a place and just walk around and explore, and not have anywhere set to go. Maybe we will have to plan a small town getaway for the 4 of us to go on together! I know we’d have a blast! Thanks so much for reading! I am glad it made you smile! =)=)

  4. Since I grew up in a small town but now I live in a big city I’m ambivalent about visiting small towns……… however your post seem very interesting and that you had a great time. What a great post!

    1. Thanks, Chad! I can totally relate; I grew up in a smaller town too(not SUPER small), although it has grown quite a bit in the last 15 years. How fun that you grew up in a small town and had that experience! I’m sure you have many stories to tell =)

  5. You’re so right-it can be lovely to take trips in your own little area. Of course, I don’t live in a small town. I live in Seattle-a pretty darn big city. But I do love going to the small towns in the mountains, or going berry picking in the outskirts etc. It’s very relaxing. Maybe I’ll have to come to your corner of the world sometime. It sounds quite charming!

    1. I have never been to Seattle, but hope to get there one day! I live in Chicago and also love to get away to small towns around the area for a little escape. I’m sure there are so many places for you to go with those big beautiful mountains around you! Thanks so much for reading, Elizabeth!

    1. Yes there are, Melynda! Let me know if you find any fun new places around you, and if you do end up going exploring! Thank you for reading! I am so glad the post made you feel inspired!

  6. I love visiting small towns! They have so much more character than bigger places. Unfortunately I don’t remember the names of the small towns I’ve visited, but I grew up in central PA and there are a lot of them! And even if it’s just a day trip, it really does feel like a vacation!

    1. Hi Kate! Oh my goodness I am sure you have visited some amazing towns around you! One day I just want to take a road trip around that area and the surrounding states and just hop from small town to small town! I’m sure it is beautiful in the fall =) And I completely agree, it can really feel like a vacation!

  7. Very true and I also like to take fun adventures in small town. Small towns has too much to offer like seeing big dreams and happiness all around.

    1. I completely agree, Yukti, I instantly feel happy when I travel to a small town =) Thank you for reading!

  8. I love the idea of visiting small towns (local if possible)! I live in the LA area, so there aren’t too many small towns nearby; however, while I visited my mom in Wisconsin earlier this month, we explored a lot of charming towns. It was fabulous! Great post.

    1. That’s so fun, Aarika! I live in Chicago, so I wonder if we visited some of the same places! There are definitely some beautiful, charming small towns up north. I feel like I keep finding new ones to explore! I’m sure LA has so much to explore all on its own, too!! Thank you so much for reading =)

    1. Thanks so much, Kalyan, I appreciate that so much! I’m so happy that you stopped by Citrus & Sun!

  9. I love visiting and discovering small towns! We live in a big city, so we’re actually looking for a quaint, small town to get married in! I love the small town charm.

    1. Congratulations on your engagement, Teresa!! My husband and I went back to the bed and breakfast that I first mentioned in my post and got married there in a super cute barn! I totally agree that getting married in a small town is so intimate and romantic =) Good luck with wedding planning! I hope you find your perfect place!

  10. Great post, and so true! I love visiting small towns… so much charm and character! Two of my favorites right now are Wethersfield, Connecticut and Belfast, Maine!

    1. Thank you, Christine! It is my goal to get over to the East Coast at some point and visit some of the beautiful small towns in Maine and Connecticut! Thank you for those recommendations!

  11. What a great blog you have! I love your photography and illustrations. I’m from a small town myself and — although I hated it growing up, I have to admit — I quite enjoy them now. I currently live in a town similar to the size of my hometown (on the opposite side of the country) and I love how quaint it is. My husband and I do something similar to you and yours when it comes to not having a “game plan.” We love to explore with our open minds (and our dog). 🙂
    Great blog, I’ll be sure to bookmark you.
    Elly

    1. Thank you so much for your feedback, Elly!! That warms my heart! So glad to be connected! How fun that you live in a quaint, smaller town =) I definitely appreciate smaller towns now that I am older, just as you mentioned, especially living in Chicago! I’m sure that the three of you have so much fun exploring! Thank you so much for reading!

  12. My husband and I travel often and we feel the same way about small towns. On most of our trips we purposely take the back roads so that we can experience the smaller towns along the way. It takes us much longer to get to any destination but it’s so much more rewarding. I look forward to reading more of your travels.

    1. Chrissy, that is such a great idea to take back roads so that you can see more and explore! Recently my husband and I missed a turn on a main road when we were on a road trip, but ended up on a beautiful scenic drive that was just a little out of our way, but so much better! Thanks so much for reading! I wish you and your husband many more fun travels to small towns!

    1. Thank you, Erin, that is so sweet of you to say!! I wish you a fun adventure back to your hometown! How fun that you were able to grow up in a charming small town =) Safe travels! Thank you for reading!

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