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Whether you live in a big city, or have a vacation planned to one of them, it’s always rewarding to escape the hustle and bustle for a day in favor of a slower pace. These charming small towns located close to top cities brim with scenic treasures, bits of history, and hidden finds. Venture an hour or two into the countryside and you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with a refreshing getaway that may surprise you. Here are seven small towns worth exploring.

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From Chicago: Galena

Located almost three hours northwest of Chicago, Galena’s long been a favorite weekend escape for Chicago folks. The town was established in 1826, and is home to the Ulysses S. Grant Home, a gift from the citizens of Galena upon General Grant’s return home from the Civil War. Interesting fact: Galena is the only location in the U.S. that was home to nine Civil War generals. Take in the views of the Galena River and examine the Civil War cannons in Grant Park. Hit the shops on Main Street, then join Galena Trolley Tours to learn more about local mining history and the well-preserved 19th century architecture. For a taste of nature, head to nearby Chestnut Mountain Resort for a lofty view of the surrounding hilly landscape from a chairlift or via the Soaring-Eagle zipline; then catch some thrills down the mountain on the Alpine Slide. Grab a table at the Log Cabin Steakhouse, which first opened its doors in 1935, sate your appetite with surf and turf delights at Fried Green Tomatoes, or indulge in French and German fare at Fritz & Frites—all are favorites with locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, charming soda fountain Root Beer Revelry lets you sample from 60 different kinds of root beer and 40 other gourmet sodas (straight or as an ice cream float). Nearby, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa boasts four golf courses and the nearby Shenandoah Riding Center offers trail and wagon rides.

If you decide to spend the night, find your Galena hotel here. 


From Phoenix: Jerome

Tiny Jerome is perched at 5,200 feet, atop Cleopatra Hill, between Prescott and Flagstaff, just two hours north of Phoenix. The historic town was previously known as the “Wickedest Town in the West” due in part to the prevalence of gambling and prostitution during its copper mining heyday. Founded in 1876, Jerome was once the fourth largest city in the Arizona Territory; today it’s a tourist and artist community with around 450 residents. Bring comfortable shoes to walk up and down downtown‘s steep streets to restored buildings, quaint shops, and specialty stores. You can also hike the trails off of Perkinsville Road and up to the peak of Mingus Mountain. From Jerome you can see the red rocks of Sedona and the San Francisco Mountains. Visit the Jerome Historical Mine Museum for an overview of area history and the Jerome State Historic Park, site of the Douglas Mansion, built in 1916 and now a museum with a 3-D display of the mining tunnels beneath the town. Kids will enjoy panning for gold at the Gold King Mine & Ghost Town, where you can also view more than 150 vintage cars, trucks and motorcycles, mining equipment, and historic buildings. Dine at the Haunted Hamburger, located cliffside above the Verde Valley, or at Wicked City Saloon for libations and hearty fare.

Find a Jerome hotel to extend your trip with an overnight stay here.


From Philadelphia: Kennett Square

Incorporated in 1855, Kennett Square is located an hour west of Philadelphia. Celebrate the town’s self-proclaimed moniker as the. mushroom capital of the world (more than 60% of the nation’s crop is produced in the region) by dining in Portabello’s for mushroom dishes and much more. Reserve seats well in advance for a farm-to-table meal at Talula’s and visit the gourmet market. Between eats, peruse a wide array of specialty shops and galleries in historic downtown, including the Mushroom Cap for all things mushroom and Mrs. Robinson’s Tea Room, selling hand-bagged teas from around the world. Join locals at the Creamery for food, drink, and entertainment or at the weekly, year-round Kennett Square Farmer’s Market held on Fridays. For a look into the past, learn about the town’s rich Underground Railroad history with a tour through the Kennett Square Underground Railroad Center. In need of some lush greenery? Spend time strolling through some of the more than 1,000 botanical acres of Longwood Gardens or venture out to tour Winterthur, one of several du Pont family estates in the vicinity. Meanwhile, art fans will enjoy nearby Brandywine River Museum of Art, showcasing the work of long-time resident Andrew Wyeth and his family.

Check out lovely Kennett Square hotels here.


From Los Angeles: Ojai

Formerly named Nordhoff, Ojai, the smallest city in Ventura County, was founded in 1874 and is located an hour and a half northwest of Los Angeles. Nestled in the Ojai Valley near the peaks of Los Padres National Forest, the town has long attracted artists, musicians and outdoor enthusiasts, drawn here for the scenic beauty and tranquil environment. Since the late 1800s, Ojai has had a reputation as a healing place, especially for those with respiratory illnesses. Unwind with spa treatments such as those in the 31,000-square-foot Spa Village at the famed, five-diamond Ojai Valley Inn. Hike or bike the 9-mile Ojai Valley Trail, taking in stunning views of the mountain landscape. Visit the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, home to a permanent collection of the famed Dadaist’s work. Stop in area wineries to sample local offerings, such as at Casa Barranca Winery, producing certified organic wine for more than 25 years. Browse through art galleries and shops in town, such as Bart’s Books, the world’s largest outdoor bookstore, with a vast selection of more than 130,000 new and used titles. When you’re ready to nosh, enjoy a leisurely meal at the Deer Lodge, the oldest restaurant and tavern in town, or try local favorites like Boccali’s, Ojai Rotie, and Osteria Monte Grappa. For an easy way to travel through the Valley, hop aboard the Ojai Trolley.

Can’t enough Ojai? Find a great selection of hotels here. 


From New York: Beacon

For a small town, Beacon packs a lot of cultural punch, and you only have to venture about two hours north of New York City to get there. The picturesque small town, founded in 1913, was named after the fires set on the summit of Mount Beacon to warn the Revolutionary armies of the movement of British troops. But these days, it’s known for its vibrant Main Street, where you can take a stroll and pop into specialty shops and boutiques, including Hudson Valley Marshmallow Co., Hudson Beach Glass, and the Beacon Mercantile, featuring everything you need for a take-home spa experience. Enjoy an impressive collection of contemporary art from 1960 to the present at Dia Beacon. Housed in a former Nabisco box-printing factory on the banks of the Hudson River, it’s one of the largest exhibition spaces in the U.S. Travel by boat or kayak over to Pollepel Island to tour the ruins of Scottish-style Bannerman Castle, built in the early 1900s to store military surplus items. For an elevated perspective, hike to the 1,500-foot peak of Mount Beacon for spectacular views of the Hudson Valley. If you can, time your visit to join the monthly Second Saturday Beacon, a celebration with gallery openings, artist receptions, live entertainment, and culinary tastings. Sample craft beer at local establishments, including Draught Industries and 2 Way Brewing Company. Dine on burgers at Meyer’s Olde Dutch, international fare in the Hudson Valley Food Hall, or grab made-to-order confections at Glazed Over Donuts.

Binge on Beacon with an overnight stay.


From Miami: Homestead

About 40 minutes south of Miami, you’ll find major small-town charm in Homestead, Miami-Dade County’s second oldest city. The town puts you right at the doorsteps of two National Parks, Everglades National Park and Biscayne National Park. Head to the former to see alligators, ibis, eagles, manatee, and rarely spotted panthers amid the mangrove forests and sawgrass plains. Take a boat tour, canoe or kayak to explore the latter, made up of 170,000 acres of bay, barrier islands and coral reefs. Within Homestead, which celebrated its Centennial in 2013, you’ll find a welcoming town center lined with family-owned shops and restaurants. Don’t miss Shiver’s BBQ, Casita Tejas, or Taqueria Morelia. Families will enjoy picking seasonal strawberries and an array of sweet treats at Knaus Berry Farm, while beloved Robert is Here fruit stand sells rare and exotic fruits and veggies, plus killer fresh-fruit milkshakes and smoothies. Families will also want to check out Robert’s animal farm, play area, and live music on weekends. For an unusual—and mysterious—tourist attraction, behold the Coral Castle Museum, an engineering marvel composed of 1,100 tons of rock hand-carved by one man over 28 years as a monument to unrequited love. Meanwhile, kids will enjoy Everglades Alligator Farm where you can take an airboat tour and watch alligator shows.

Make yourself at home in Homestead with a fantastic hotel deal. 


Austin and San Antonio: Fredericksburg

Nestled in Texas Hill Country, an hour northwest of San Antonio and hour-and-a-half west of Austin, Fredericksburg offers a unique blend of southern charm and rich German heritage. More than 5,000 German emigrants journeyed here between 1845-46, the year the town was founded. Take a self-guided walking tour of the downtown historic district and visit Fort Martin Scott, one of the few museums and living history sites highlighting the early years of Texas independence. Learn about the military heroes of World War II at The National Museum of the Pacific War, a 6.5-acre museum complex with interactive exhibits. Kids will also like Pioneer Museum, an 11-building, three-acre complex offering living history demonstrations throughout the year. Hike miles of trails and enjoy a 360-degree view from the top of Summit Trail at Enchanted Rock, the second-largest granite dome in the U.S. Head to Old Tunnel State Park at dusk to watch millions of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge in search of food and water. If swarms of bats aren’t your thing, head to Main Street to browse more than 150 shops, boutiques and art galleries, and enjoy Frederick’s Trade Days on the third Saturday of every month, with more than 350 vendors in seven barns, food and live music. Visit some of the more than 50 wineries and tasting rooms in the Fredericksburg area. Enjoy the local music scene at Hill Top Café or The Rockbox Theater. Dine at Otto’s for German fare, Cabernet Grill for southwestern cuisine, and Vaudeville for French cuisine in a bistro setting. Cap off meals with sweet treats at Clear River Ice Cream and Bakery or Twisted Sisters Bake Shop.

Get a real feel for Fredericksburg with an overnight stay.

Whether your aim is to vacation in a big city or to escape one, set aside time to explore these nearby small towns, each worth a closer look and just waiting to be uncovered.

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