Small town charm for family vacations

By  0 Comments

There’s a certain charm that sits in the air and resonates through the vibe of a small town. John Mellencamp felt so deeply about Seymour, Indiana, where he grew up, that he wrote an entire song about it, including the line, “Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town and people let me be just what I want to be…”

That sense of community, self-identity and solace lure people to build lives in small towns and make them ideal destinations for family vacations.

Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania
Picturesque scenery, a mountainous location and colorfully painted architecture contribute to this borough’s nickname, The Switzerland of America. It’s also known as the Gateway to the Poconos and is nearly halfway between Philadelphia and New York City.

In addition to an eclectic, walkable downtown complete with interesting dining and shopping options, Jim Thorpe boasts such activities as whitewater rafting, mountain biking, paintball and hiking. There are many quaint, comfortable bed and breakfasts to choose from that allow visitors to experience the small-town atmosphere.

Be sure to check out the Asa Packer Mansion, now a museum, and Harry Packer Mansion, a bed and breakfast. The pair sits side by side on a hill overlooking the downtown. Fun trivia: Asa Packer founded the Lehigh Valley Railroad, which is a big draw to railroad fanatics.

Green Lake, Wisconsin.
As its name implies, this resort community is built around Green Lake, known to be crystal clear, wide open, crowd free and accessible. Who doesn’t long for a bit of down time? Sit by the lake and enjoy a book while Dad takes the kids fishing. After dinner, pull out a board game and roll the dice on family bonding.

As with any lake-centered community, a multitude of water-related activities are all options here. Throughout the summer, fishing, swimming, sunbathing and golfing are abundant. During the winter, ice fishing, skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice skating are all on the agenda.

Rent a hotel, bunk in cabin, pitch a tent, cozy up in a bed and breakfast, or rent a private house. You know no matter where you stay, traffic and noise won’t be a concern.

Corning, New York
A charming, walkable downtown complete with a variety of clever shops and tasty dining options from pub-type casual to an upscale steak house greet you when you step into Corning’s Gaffer District. A small park built between two buildings along Market Street overlooks the Chemung River and provides breathing room and a sweet spot to enjoy lunch or coffee outdoors. Enjoy a morning run along the river and soak in this small city’s sense of community.

Since the town’s home to Corning Incorporated, you may want to schedule a tour through the Corning Museum of Glass. The city’s other major cultural attraction is the Rockwell Museum, home of the native Rockwell family’s collection of art.
Take advantage of the close proximity to the Finger Lake region by engaging in any number of lake-related activities, or better yet, driving through beautiful New York wine country. Dozens of local vineyards and wineries line the finger lakes, offering generous tastings and breathtaking scenery. There are plenty of hotels, houses of all sizes for rent and historic bed and breakfasts to lay your head.

Flagstaff, Arizona
Although Flagstaff is a small town, the notoriety of its main drag and breadth of activities available along it are anything but small. The neon signs along the famed Route 66 will steer you through Flagstaff’s charming downtown area, where you will discover cute, locally owned shops, retro diners, eclectic coffee shops, kitschy Americana and even a night life.

While visiting this historic railroad town, wander through the Museum of Northern Arizona; marvel at Riordan Mansion State Park, which is actually two arts and craft-style houses built to mirror each other; and tour the Lowell Observatory, which houses the telescope an astronomer used to discover Pluto in 1930. Make this a nighttime stop and peer into the stars.

The family with a more vast breadth of interests will find peace here, as outdoor activities are as plentiful as those offered downtown. Flagstaff’s mountains and space offer plenty of room to roam and just about any open-air activity you can imagine, from hiking, mountain biking and disk golf to camping, boating and rock climbing. Elite runners often take long- or short-term residency here for altitude training. During the winter, skiing and snowboarding are popular.
From Flagstaff, follow Route 66 through any number of other worthy attractions and towns, such as the famed La Posada Hotel in Winslow and, of course, the Grand Canyon National Park, which offers an entire vacation all its own.
No matter where you unpack your suitcase, a small town will offer your family the opportunity to store the electronic devices and discover the marvels our great country has to offer, while rediscovering each other. HLM

Sources:,,,,, and this author’s experience.