2024's 6 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the Southern United States (2024)

When you live in the US and crave a getaway, the South is just a flight or a fun road trip away. Biloxi is a real stunner along the Gulf of Mexico, with toppling attractions like the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and nearby Ocean Adventures Marine Park, while Newport is "The Entertainment Capital of Northern Kentucky," dating back to 1795 at the crossroads of two rivers.

When it comes to escapes and vacations, you first feel the soul yearn for beauty, comfort, relaxation, or entertainment, and then match it to a specific place. Abounding in charming accommodations and southern hospitality, visitors can meander through white-styled streets with palm trees and feast on seafood after an epic digital show in the Greek villa of Alys Beach. In 2024, explore the six most beautiful small towns in the Southern United States.

Alys Beach, Florida

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Fountains, popped-out shutters, and intimate green spaces define Alys Beach, a peace-inducing community established recently in 2004 to reflect bohemian vibes. Its design-centric, New Urbanism style with stunning architecture could be taken for the streetscape of a villa in Greece. Behind all the calming white facades that appear to glow from within, this luxurious vacation destination is perched above the "Mediterranean Sea" of Florida’s Panhandle region, the stunning Gulf of Mexico. Alys Beach is a truly unique vision of stark contrasts against the aquamarine waters and the iconic palm-lined entry into secluded courtyards, inspiring an oasis from everyday life, including Gulf-to-table dining with South Walton’s flair.

Typically quiet, the neighborhood’s white walls come alive as canvases for artistic creations during the annual Digital Graffiti, a one-of-a-kind digital projection art experience in May. Selected artists from around the world showcase their work that lights up your weekend with color—a win-win for everyone. Home to 173 residents, the well-off community enjoys an active lifestyle by the waters, trails like the scenic Timpoochee Trail, and a neighborhood nature preserve. Visitors can soak up sunshine at the beach or lounge in a cabana at Caliza Pool with a food and drink service. Follow up at the NEAT Tasting Room & Bottle Shop with artisan co*cktails, wines, and craft beer happy hour specials over live music and gourmet hors d'oeuvres.

Biloxi, Mississippi

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This larger, small town of just under 49,000 locals promises a grand time along the white-sanded Biloxi Beach, jet skiing, and revival in the cooling Gulf of Mexico waters. Whether you are in for a scenic hunt for notable landmarks like the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library or just letting your eyes rest on the horizon from the famed pockets of sand, Biloxi invites all to catch the Shuckers baseball game and share freshly-brewed coastal suds in a local pub. From two large lakes to the Biloxi River Marshes Coastal Preserve, take in the purple sunset at the iconic, kid-friendly Shaggy's Biloxi Beach. The Maritime and Seafood Industry Museum offers to learn more about the once “Seafood Capital of the World,” not that you will be disappointed by the "second-to-best" delicacies of the sea.

The Mississippi Coast, Coliseum and Convention Center, hosts regular events and concerts, including jazz and blues, while the nearby Ocean Adventures Marine Park is an aqua-themed amusem*nt park with live sea creatures. Home to several casinos and two entertainment districts—a beachfront and a historic one—visitors can enjoy mingling with a drink-to-go through the old part of town—a great way to have fun over major sightseeing, from the IP Casino, around Back Bay to the beach, and back to the west of the Interstate 110 loop. From a shrimping trip to a sunset sail on a Biloxi Schooner, create your own tale to savor the photoworthy moments, like the historic Biloxi Lighthouse overlooking the Mississippi Sound, to share back home.

Magnolia Springs, Alabama

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Nestled along the beautiful Magnolia River in South Alabama, this enchanting town exudes calming vibes with old-growth trees rooted as deep as the Spanish land grant that planted its "seed" in 1800. As one of the state's prettiest, with a beautiful soul, Magnolia Springs blends Southern hospitality under the mature canopy of magnolia trees that lend a feeling of protection and features a unique river route for mail delivery to this day. The scenic riverside entices visitors on a stroll along that can easily turn into a fun hike, like to the Weeks Bay Waterfront, under six miles away.

Visitors can enjoy a nice walk just west to the cerulean waters of the Magnolia Spring Marina, unwind right in the heart at the Bemis Bay Community Dock, and wind down in the elegance of yesteryear at the Victorian-style Magnolia Springs Bed and Breakfast. Afterwards, Jesses Restaurant, the most upbeat spot in the otherwise quiet town, serves sandwiches, steak, and Gulf-to-Table seafood in a former general store. Aside from this only lodging option, Magnolia Farms RV Park offers many sites among palm trees just minutes north by car or stroll into town for provisions and eloquent architecture.

Newport, Kentucky

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Flaunting rich history dating back to 1795, Newport is a modern small town with preserved architecture, all packed within only 3.5 square miles. Offering premier attractions way beyond its own weight class, you will never run out of experiences for every taste, from Newport Aquarium to Bridgeview Box Park, Hofbrauhaus, and BB Riverboats. Centered around the riverfront trails for strolls, this is a great place to start exploring the city with a breathtaking view of the Cincinnati skyline. Home to numerous festivals and year-round events, as well as unique shops, cafes, and local businesses, Newport’s charms encompass Newport with the Levee and MegaCorp Pavilion.

As a military post during the Civil War, responsible for the 1860s mass transit via mule-driven streetcars, Newport thrived after a horrible flood in 1937, with gambling halls and Las Vegas-style nightclubs in the 1940s and 1980s. Clearly not the scene today, the social change transformed Newport into a family-friendly town and "The Entertainment Capital of Northern Kentucky." Nestled across from Ohio along the Ohio River, at the crossroads of the Licking River, there are so many ways to enjoy the beautiful, watery environment.

Rocheport, Missouri

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Before the settlers started trading with the Indigenous people and the town was founded as a trading post in 1825, Lewis and Clark traversed the region in 1804. Today, the story of their westward travels is on display at the Meriwether Cafe and Bike Shop by the Katy Trailhead Depot, where bikers and runners like to gather at the covered bench on a break from the infamous Katy Trail. The longest recreational trail in the US stretches for 240 miles, while Rocheport is the lucky home to Rocheport Tunnel, one of the trail's most recognizable landmarks that was once part of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway. Christened after the French word for rocky port, it's a scenic day trip with enough dopamine-inducing activities for a weeklong getaway. Don't miss the old Rocheport General Store for provisions to take on a hike along the trail, a picnic on the northern bank of the tumbling Missouri River, or a stroll along Moniteau Creek, protectively embracing the town to the west.

Just two hours from both Kansas City and St. Louis, Rocheport offers a number of charming guest houses and B&Bs, while the red-bricked School House Bed & Breakfast is the most popular choice to spend a few nights in the distinct vibes of a boarding school. Home to under 300, this tiny river town encourages visitors to slow down to the languish river flow and savor the beauty of simple living against the unspoiled river views. With its immaculate, peaceful streets and the cooling breeze from the waters, many buildings are on the National Register of Historic Places. Sidewalks are never too busy on a sunny morning to take it all in under the rustling leaves and the button-eyed squirrels darting around. Even if it's just an acorn, there's plenty of opportunity to find memorabilia or even have it crafted for you, from the Big Muddy Mandolin to Art & Antiques and the Blacksmith Shop.

Sewanee, Tennessee

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Home to the University of the South and a population of under 2,500 Sewanee is a charming mid-state town blending history and the arts, stemming from one of the top liberal arts schools in the US. The surrounding 13,000-acre state parks provide a natural outlet via hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding for the studious to enjoy forest hikes or relaxation through inspiring features and overlooks, like waterfalls and bluffs. Inspiring an enriching escape with a world-apart feel, Sewanee doesn't see many visitors, delighting each one with a reminder of what it's like to be young again, where each "tourist attraction" is a long-time-curated part of local life.

Visitors can relax away from urbanity with all the comforts and spots to unwind over stimulating conversations with locals, including professors and students from around the globe. From local coffee shops to luxurious inns and casual rentals, Sewanee makes it easy to relax with a feeling of home. Don't miss the stately Jessie Ball duPont Library, the historic outdoor McClurg Dining Hall, and the Hospitality Shop, a cool thrift shop. Whether you are in search of international bites, local crafts, a spa treatment, or every other random pursuit you might expect in a college town, take your mind off the daily grind over a day on the trails, chic dining, or a family-friendly concert under the stars.

Visit The Southern United States This SummerWhat better way to spend your summer vacation than in a quaint southern small town with character?

In the South, relaxation comes with inspiring natural beauty and local acts of kindness, with a sprinkle of humor in the friendly faces and old Southern architecture on one enchanting getaway in the great nation. In 2024, visitors can dine old-school at a historic outdoor hall in the college town of Sewanee after chasing overlooks, waterfalls, and bluffs over the hundreds of miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding through the state parks of mid-Tennessee.

From the vastly flowing rivers through the valleys full of fields of wildflowers to the iconic Gulf shore sunsets, the enchanting scenery of the South belongs on a screensaver. Enjoy the views along the longest recreational trail in the US—the 240-mile Katy Trail past Rocheport Tunnel in the town that translates to "rocky port"—or an easy riverside stroll under a canopy of magnolias in one of the South's prettiest towns that still employs the river route for mail delivery.

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Alisa Mala June 27 2024 in Places

2024's 6 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the Southern United States (2024)
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