The South’s Best Small Towns 2022

The South's Best Small Towns in 2022By Southern Living Magazine
March 08, 2022

There’s nothing quite like a small town. With plenty of sidewalks to meander, smiling faces to say hello to, and local shops to browse, everyone who visits these spots soon learns exactly what makes them sparkle—and what keeps people visiting year after year. Stay awhile: The South’s best small towns may seem quaint at first glance (or too quiet to keep you entertained for a whole weekend), but you needn’t be worried about filling the hours. These places are reinventing themselves all the time while still celebrating what makes them unique. There are spots where you can choose your own adventure: Relax and recharge or get out and explore. They’re filled with vibrant communities, dynamic businesses, and long-lived traditions that combine the creative and charming to irresistible effect. Whether you’re looking for a relaxed location for a weekend getaway, or an inviting spot to put down roots, these towns are great places to start. Set your sights on the South’s small towns this season. You’re sure to receive a warm welcome.

1. Beaufort, South Carolina

Located on Port Royal Island along the South Carolina coast between Hilton Head Island and Charleston is a Lowcountry gem studded with moss-hung oaks. Beaufort is full of coastal charm and is home to the Pat Conroy Literary Center, Penn Center, and Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park. Go kayaking, paddling, boating, and fishing along the area waterways, or explore on foot. You can also lace up and bike or walk the Spanish Moss Trail, which connects Beaufort and Port Royal as it runs along the Whale Branch River, to see the small-town sights.

2. Williamsburg, Virginia

No visit here is complete without spending time at Colonial Williamsburg, a living history museum where visitors get a glimpse of life in the America of centuries past, but what’s happening in contemporary Williamsburg is just as interesting. It’s a bustling community with a big roster of things to do and places to explore. Don’t miss sandwiches at The Cheese Shop; the boutiques and taprooms at Merchants Square; and brews from Precarious Beer Project, Amber Ox Public House, and The Virginia Beer Co.

3. Fairhope, Alabama

One of the most charming small towns in the state of Alabama is located on Mobile Bay, and it’s a laid-back getaway destination that will invite you to breathe a little deeper. In Fairhope, you can bike oak-lined sidewalks, see watercolor sunsets, and browse inspired shops, including Page & Palette bookstore and other businesses in the town’s French Quarter near the water. Explore the piers and meander the parks and beaches—there’s so much to enjoy on the bay.

4. Fredericksburg, Texas

This Texas Hill Country treasure blends its German roots and contemporary Texas traditions seamlessly. When you visit Fredericksburg, you can enjoy biergartens (including Altdorf Biergarten and The Auslander) and German food and architecture alongside Texas barbecue and a host of local wineries (more than 100 and counting!). The town’s bustling Main Street and museums always offer up something new to discover.

5. Beaufort, North Carolina

Along the southern end of North Carolina’s coast—in a stretch known as the Crystal Coast—is a walkable and bikeable small town that invites you to relax and stay awhile. The fishing village of Beaufort is filled with waterfront wonders, cute cottages, a winning boardwalk, lovely shops, and a bevy of nautical scenes, including Atlantic sunrises and boat masts bobbling along the water.

6. Stuart, Florida

7. Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee

8. Natchez, Mississippi

9. Decatur, Georgia

10. Aiken, South Carolina

11. Paducah, Kentucky

12. Travelers Rest, South Carolina

13. LaGrange, Georgia

14. Wetumpka, Alabama

15. Lewes, Delaware

16. Covington, Louisiana

17. St. Francisville, Louisiana

18. Pawhuska, Oklahoma

19. Easton, Maryland

20. Lewisburg, West Virginia

This article was reprinted in part from the March 2022 issue of Southern Living Magazine