The Most Romantic Small Towns in the U.S.

From Vermont to California, these cozy towns will have you feeling all kinds of love.

Vacationing Couple Taking Photos While Hiking in the Woods

by NEA Member Benefits

While big cities can have a certain kind of romance (hello, Paris), many small towns can offer a cozy, charming environment to get close to your honey. From strolling down cobblestone streets hand-in-hand to sipping hot drinks in charming cafes to experiencing a couple’s spa treatment, finding a romantic town to hole up in over a weekend getaway can help add a spark to any relationship—whether for Valentine’s Day or anytime. The United States is filled with quaint small towns from coast to coast, and we’ve chosen six that are particularly romance-inducing, whether you’re a longtime married couple, embarking on your first trip as a couple together or somewhere in between.

1. Burlington, Vermont

The artsy city of Burlington is set on the shores of glittering Lake Champlain in northern Vermont, with the looming Adirondack Mountains in the background making for a stunning setting. A vibrant city known for its artistic flair, local community spirit and a unique brand of offbeat charm, you and your partner can expect plenty of small businesses displaying local artisans’ work to explore, amazing farm-to-table fare and easy access to nature.

Stroll down Church Street, the famed pedestrian street running through the middle of downtown, which is home to more than 70% of locally owned shops and restaurants. From boutiques to thrift stores and vintage shopping to shopping centers, such as the Church Street Marketplace and the Essex Experience, Burlington is packed with talented makers creating handcrafted pieces such as waxed canvas bags and mid-century modern birdhouses.

Lake Champlain is a great place to walk around, go on a boat ride (in season) or just admire the gorgeous views. There are romantic sunset dinner cruises, or you can just enjoy the specular colors reflected on the crystal-clear lake from the Burlington Harbor Marina.

Vermont is known for the farm-to-table movement, and Burlington restaurants support local farms for their ingredients. Visit the Farmhouse Tap & Grill on Bank Street downtown to sample cheeses from the Champlain Valley, vegetables from Pitchfork Farms and Vermont heritage pork. While you wait for your table, head downstairs to the Farmhouse basement to play some board games beside a cozy fire. In late winter and early spring you can experience a taste of Vermont’s sugaring season. Palmer’s Sugarhouse in nearby Shelburne offers by-appointment tours of their family farm throughout the off season. You might even get a taste of a special Vermont snack if you drizzle maple syrup on snow and devour nature’s own snow cone.

NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through NEA Travel to Burlington International Airport (BTV), and then look at the NEA hotels page to see deals like an average of $215 per night at the charismatic Blind Tiger Burlington, formerly the Willard Street Inn, which is a guesthouse in a circa-1881 brick mansion that has 14 one-of-a-kind, distinctly decorated rooms with bespoke and vintage furniture and names such as Gold Glitter and Forever Tomgirl. The cozy lobby features a wood-burning stove and each morning a complimentary artisanal toast and yogurt bar is served. Or, for an average of $219 per night there’s Hotel Vermont, a boutique hotel with minimalist rustic-inspired rooms and a wood-burning fireplace in the lobby. There’s a fitness center with a yoga studio, and the hotel’s restaurant Juniper is excellent.

Plan your itinerary: Hello BurlingtonVermont Vacation

2. Rhinebeck, New York

The Hudson Valley region north of Manhattan is nothing if not charming, with the Hudson River surrounded by picturesque mountains and dotted with dozens of adorable small towns. One of the loveliest is Rhinebeck, and at about 100 miles north of Manhattan’s Times Square, it’s an easy drive or Amtrak train ride away from the city.

We suggest strolling along Market and Montgomery Streets, the center of downtown. Pop into apparel and accessory shops such as Darryl’s and Haldora for stylish togs and Pegasus Footwear and Rhinebeck Department Store for rugged outdoor brands such as Pendleton and Woolrich. Hammertown is an award-winning home goods store, and book lovers will adore Oblong Books & MusicRhinebeck Antique Emporium and Beekman Arms Antique Market are a must for anyone who enjoys searching for vintage treasures. Recharge at Bread Alone, a locally favorite bakery and café, or make an appointment at Chinese Healing Arts Center or Breathe Studio: Barre & Pilates to wind down after a day of exploration. To truly relax, visit the full-service spa—complete with saunas and whirlpools—at Mirbeau Inn & Spa.

To get your fill of nature, head to Ferncliff Forest, a 200-acre old-growth forest preserve with an easy fire tower hike that affords epic valley views. Mt. Rusten Trail is the most popular loop (2.6 miles) but if you’re looking for more, link a few trails before heading up the fire tower, which is one of the best sunset spots in the Hudson Valley.

The dining scene in Rhinebeck is also excellent: The Amsterdam, Bia, Terrapin Restaurant or Willow by Charlie Palmer are all great options with romance on tap.

NEA member travel benefits: There are several airports to choose from that are near Rhinebeck: New York Stewart International Airport (SWF), Westchester County Airport (HPN), Bradley International Airport (BDL), and LaGuardia International Airport (LGA). Whichever airport you choose, book your flight through NEA Travel: Flights for the best prices. To find a hotel, visit NEA Travel: Hotels for deals like an average of $169 a night at the historic Beekman Arms Hotel, which has quaint details such four poster beds and includes free breakfast. Or for an average of $179 a night, you can dial up the romance at Delameter Inn, which features 57 snug rooms with quaint details and is right in the historic district.

Plan your itinerary: Enjoy RhinebeckI Love New York

3. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel-by-the-Sea, or simply Carmel, is a gateway to California’s beautiful central coast, and is just off the gorgeous Pacific Coast Highway. The fairytale-style village of Carmel has been a haven for artists and celebrities since the late 1800s, and walking along the cobblestone streets of downtown, you’ll immediately be immersed in its artistic center, where there are nearly 100 art galleries in one square mile. The Carmel Art Walk takes place every second Saturday afternoon, when galleries open up to the public with their artists on hand to chat with visitors. There are also dozens of charming boutique shops and cafes, as well as wineries and tasting rooms for the many surrounding vineyards. Follow the free, mobile Carmel Wine Walk Passport, which is a guide to local wineries and tasting rooms, and has exclusive offers and discounts at places such as Da Tierra Vineyards, Galante Family Winery and Chalone Vineyards Tasting Room, right in the heart of Carmel Plaza.

For breakfast or brunch, visit StationæryKaty’s Place, or The Village Corner, and for dinner book cozy tables at Grasings, Little Napoli and Mission Ranch Restaurant, where you can dine outside, amid the farm.

Queer travelers will feel especially at home here, and may want to check out the romantic rooms at The Vagabond’s House Inn, Carmel’s only LBGTQ-owned bed and breakfast.

NEA member travel benefits: Book a flight through NEA Travel to Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) or San Jose International Airport (SJC), which is an hour away. Choose a hotel from the hotels page from options such as the Carmel River Inn, a delightful boutique hotel with lovely rooms that average around $153/night, or to really up the romance factor, book a private studio cottage with a cozy sitting area, king bed and spacious bathroom. There’s a heated outdoor pool set amid a leafy garden, too. Another option is Hofsas House Hotel, which offers quaint rooms with bathrooms that have heated floors and ocean views, for an average of $171/night. It’s ideally located within walking distance of the town and the beach, and it has an outdoor pool. Breakfast and parking are included.

Plan your itinerary: Visit Carmel-by-the-SeaVisit California

4. Sedona, Arizona

If you and your boo are nature lovers, Sedona is known for stunning vistas of red rock formations, natural arches, deep gorges and lofty peaks. Dramatic landscapes surrounding this Arizona town just beg for exploration—and excellent hiking opportunities are within easy reach. Popular hikes include Bell Rock Trail, a leisurely stair-step climb up and around the prominent bell-shaped landmark, and Fay Canyon Trail, which winds through a gorgeous box canyon to a red rock arch.

If you’re not into hiking but still want to see the area’s famous red rocks, book a tour with Pink Adventure Tours, which offers off-road trips across backcountry routes to see Sedona’s natural landmarks. Get ready for epic desert views!

Aside from immersing yourselves in nature, make sure to spend some time in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village where you can discover Sedona’s artsy, spiritual side by exploring its boutique shops and art galleries, and enjoy live music. Sedona is also renowned for its crystal and jewelry shops, so set aside some shopping time at places such as Crystal Magic and Garland’s to buy unique gifts for each other.

Be sure to book a reservation in advance at the Latin-American-inspired Mariposa restaurant, which is led by local celebrity chef, Lisa Dahl. Another great choice is Cress on Oak Creek, where you can sit on the romantic patio and enjoy views and sounds of the gurgling creek. The menu features local and seasonal ingredients, many of which are foraged from the surrounding area.

Sedona is also known for its spa and wellness scene, and for something truly special—especially if you go hiking and need to recharge—book a couples massage at L’Apothecary Spa’s private creekside tent or at Sedona’s New Day Spa, where there’s a menu of desert and Native American-inspired treatments to indulge in.

NEA member travel benefits: Fly into Flagstaff Pulliam Airport (FLG) or Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX). For hot deals on airfare, check NEA Travel’s portal. Also check the hotels page at NEA Travel for summertime savings. Although there are some expensive resorts in Sedona, you can find discounted rooms at NEA Travel. For example, the Junipine Resort, which offers cozy condo-like accommodations including fireplaces, balconies and kitchenettes, is an average of $173 a night, and there’s a very good on-site restaurant. If you want to be close to hiking trails, Sedona Real Inn & Suites is a good choice at an average of $138 a night for simple yet comfortable rooms (some with a fireplace), fitness center, pool, outdoor firepit on a lovely patio and free breakfast. Up the romance quotient a bit at the Sky Ranch Lodge, where rooms are beautifully designed and there are incredible Red Rock views, for an average of $202 a night.

Plan your trip: Visit Sedona | Visit Arizona

5. Beaufort, South Carolina

If your idea of romance involves walking amid live oaks dripping with Spanish moss, this tiny and beautiful Southern seaside town is for you. The harbor town on Port Royal Island is home to narrow streets, those picturesque oak trees and a historic district that pre-dates the Civil War—and it’s one of the few U.S. cities to encompass the entire downtown. Explore the neighborhoods filled with Victorian, Greek Revival, Neoclassical and Federal-style homes by bike or on foot.

The author Pat Conroy spent a lot of time here, so if you or your partner is a fan, stop by the Pat Conroy Literary Center. There are also three exceedingly charming independent bookstores in town: NeverMore BooksMcIntosh Book Shoppe and Beaufort Books, and an afternoon spent among the shelves is as cozy as it is romantic. Art lovers should visit Legacy Art Gallery, Atelier Off the Bay, Rhett Gallery, Beaufort Art Association Gallery and Thibault Gallery.

Explore the 10-mile Spanish Moss Trail that goes around marshes and through trees draped in that romantic Spanish moss. Walk to Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park—if you’re Forrest Gump fans you’ll recognize Woods Memorial Bridge. And because Beaufort is on the water, you can book a Dolphin & History Boat Cruise with Coastal Expeditions or an ecology tour with Beaufort Kayak Tours. Or do your own thing by renting paddleboards with Higher Ground Outfitters

When it’s time to eat, check out Blackstone’s Cafe or Herban Market and Cafe for breakfast. For coffee, homemade jam and cold apple cider served in mason jars, visit Low Country Cider. Old Bull Tavern is a gastropub for dinner, while Saltus River Grill is the place for fresh seafood. Blacksheep is a tiny, cozy restaurant with a creative menu that encourages sharing. Gullah Grub Restaurant on nearby St. Helena Island is one of the area’s most famous restaurants and is a great place to discover Gullah cuisine.

NEA member travel benefits: Fly into Hilton Head Airport (HHH) or Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport (SAV), which are each about an hour away. For good deals on airfare, check NEA Travel’s portal. For hotels, visit NEA Travel: Hotels for prices like an average of $187/night at the historic Rhett House Inn, complete with classic Southern porches, stately rooms and an idyllic backyard with a fountain and plenty of dripping Spanish moss. For an average of $186/night you can stay at the Beaufort Inn, another historic mansion property with a terrace and garden and plenty of charm.

Plan your trip: South Carolina Low Country and Resort Islands | Visit BeaufortDiscover South Carolina

6. Grand Marais, Minnesota

Two hours north of Duluth, this beautiful town on the shores of Lake Superior has everything you want in a small town: art, natural beauty, good food and adventure. On the art front, it’s home to 16 art galleries and you can even create your own art with your partner, by visiting North House Folk School to discover the region’s traditional handicrafts, or the Grand Marais Art Colony, which offers classes and various events with its artists-in-residence. You’ll also want to visit the stoic Grand Marais Lighthouse, or see it from Artist’s Point, so named for the many people who have been inspired by the lighthouse and lake view to paint a landscape there.

For some fresh lake air, meander on the 57-mile Gunflint Trail, a National Scenic Byway that starts in town and leads to the Boundary Waters’ Saganaga Lake. In winter, try your hand, er feet, at cross-country skiing along the Pincushion Mountain Trail System, or drive 30 minutes to Lutsen Mountains for downhill skiing. You also may be able to spot the wavering Northern Lights in wintertime here—imagine seeing the supernatural-seeming phenomenon hand-in-hand with your loved one!

For breakfast, stop by Blue Water Cafe for locally harvested wild rice omelets and cranberry wild rice bread, while at lunchtime you could sample one of the town’s many food trucks or head to Fisherman’s Daughter to eat freshly caught lake trout, whitefish and herring. For dinner, a classic Midwestern supper club is a must, such as the landmark Birch Terrace Supper Club. 

NEA member travel benefits: Visit NEA Travel’s portal to book flights into Thunder Bay International Airport (YQT), which is the closest (but it’s over the border in Canada so you’ll need a passport), or Duluth International Airport (DLH), which is farther away, at 107 miles. The nearest hotels on NEA Travel: Hotel are the AmericInn by Wyndham Virginia, which averages $139 per night and has a comfy lobby with a fireplace and include breakfast, and the Hampton Inn Hibbing, which averages $182 per night and has an indoor pool and complimentary breakfast. But if you want to stay in Grand Marais, check out the six-room Mayhew Inn (from $175), the boutique hotel there. It’s in the center of downtown, with stunning views from its rooftop deck; plus it boasts a cozy lobby lounge equipped with a fireplace, board games and a record player and record collection and a backyard with an outdoor fireplace and pizza oven.

Plan your trip: Visit Cook County | Explore Minnesota

Travel options for NEA members