Beacon, New York, was recently named the coolest small town in the United States. The waterfront town is brimming with artists and has a charming and vibrant main street. It is a pleasure to walk through, has memorable restaurants, and hosts a quirky Sunday flea market.
But where else in America can you get that Beacon, NY vibe?
Towns like Beacon, NY include Provincetown, Massachusetts; Camden, Main; Port Townsend, Washington; and Cannon Beach, Oregon. These picturesque places embrace art, are situated near the water, rejoice in good food, and have that relaxed vibe that Beacon exudes.
Beacon is an ex-mill town with a population of under 16,000. Its history has given it an eclectic architecture that weaves between grit and grand. As a result, it is perfect for relaxation and taking a hike, making it a popular get-a-way for NYC residents. But it isn’t the only artist haven on the water, as our 21 suggestions prove.
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21 Towns Like Beacon, NY
Beacon is a small town that is full of celebration, including hosting live music, cider and craft beer festivals, used book fairs, along artesian and farmers’ markets. But thankfully, it is far from the only small town in the United States finding its unique groove. So whether you are in Alaska, Texas, or Delaware, there is a fantastic small town waiting for you.
Annapolis, Maryland, is a historic town adorned with 18th-century brick houses and St. Anne’s Episcopal Church with Tiffaney glass windows. Home of the US Naval Academy, the area is much larger than Beacon, with nearly 40,000 folks. But sitting on the Chesapeake Bay, right on the mouth of the Severn River, Maryland’s capital stands as a “museum without walls.”
Full of contemporary art and four centuries of architecture, Annapolis is a delight to explore. First Sunday Arts Festivals start each month off in a celebratory and creative mood. This is in addition to the twenty art galleries and performing art venues. In addition, the area hosts a wide array of ballet, opera, live music, theater, and a nearby Medieval Times Dinner and Tournament.
Other interesting features include the BWI Brewery Trail, local wineries, museums, and their popular Renaissance Festival. When you are hungry, check out places such as Bakers & Co, Mission BBQ, Jesse Jays, and Preserve.
Camden, Maine, sits on the Penobscot Bay and is home to around 5,000 residents. Situated near Camden Hills State Park, the town is a popular spot with sailors, hikers, beach lovers, and, in winter, skiing and snowboarders. It is a place to relax, shop, and enjoy good food.
Native Americans lived in the area for ages before Captain George Weymouth came upon it in 1605. Settlers began arriving in 1769, and now the area attracts many antique hunters.
Those that love history will enjoy the area’s surrounding museums that showcase exhibits from the past to the present. Key places include the Owls Head Transport Museum, Farnsworth Art Museum, and Center For Main Contemporary Art.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, Oregon, is home to around 1,500 people and the adorable tufted puffins. The seaside town boasts rock formations, a colony of Common Murres, and is situated near many state parks. It is also home to the Lost Art of Nursing Museum and Gallery, in addition to the town’s historical center.
Despite the town’s small size, it boasts a delightful art scene complete with the Stormy Weather Arts Festival. Book lovers flock to the annual Get Lit At The Beach literary fest. You can take in a variety of glassworks at Icefire. The Coaster Theater is a nice play to catch a show, too.
There are plenty of excellent choices when you are hungry, including ordering yourself Mo’s legendary clam chowder. Or turn your meal into an entire event at EVOO Dining and Culinary Shop. If local brews and grub are your thing, then you have to try Public Coast Brewing.
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May, New Jersey, declares itself as “America’s original seaside resort,” complete with a noble lighthouse.
Sitting at the edge of the Cape May Peninsula, it has around 3,500 residents. The history runs deep, and the town is striking thanks to the grand Victorian homes. It is an easy place to casually explore on foot due to pedestrian-only zones.
Cape May has many fine galleries to visit. But the real must-see is the nearby Sperlak Gallery & Sculpture Gardens. This famous art destination is part of a working farm that blends into the forest. They host many events, including concerts, lectures, tours, while also showcasing a wide range of art.
When you feel ready to sample the fermented crafts, do pop over to the Nauti Spirits Distillery and Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery. If you are looking for bars and taverns that serve food, try Mad Batter Restaurant & Bar and The Ebbitt Room. But for a truly unique experience and ambiance, give Exit Zero Filling Station a visit.
Eureka, California, is a coastal town that sits on the cusp of the famed Redwood trees. This once-booming logging town is now an artist haven, with a Beacon-like contrast of a Victorian-era Old Town and a working seaport.
It’s the type of town where you can stroll through Farmers Markets, catch a roller derby game, attend a Kinetic Sculpture Race, and hunt for marbles. Popular sites include the Romano Gabriel Wooden Sculpture Garden, where folk art was made from old vegetable crates. The Annie B. Ryan House & Garden is a wonderful way to familiarize yourself with native plants in the area. Or learn about Victorian millwork at Blue Ox Millworks.
Eureka is home to an unbelievable array of art. They have dance companies, symphony, acrobatics, street art, and numerous galleries. They also host the Redwood Coast Music Festival, the Eureka Street Art Festival, and various parades.
Galveston, Texas, is an entire city on an island in the Gulf. With a population of over 50,000, it is a place with many sides. There are faster-paced sections, including Moody Gardens and Pleasure Pier. But there is also the Galveston Island State Park, where migrating bird routes merge into a cornucopia of feathered delights.
The area looks like a miniature New Orleans, complete with its own Mardi Gras. But like Beacon and New Orleans, Galveston has a thriving art scene. It is home to the Galveston Arts Center, an artist residency, and many art galleries and studios. You can explore by yourself or take one of the guided ArtWalks.
Come the ARToberFest, the city truly puts on an artistic show. Many flock to The Grand 1894 Opera House, but there is also the ballet, symphonies, and a wide range of other live music to enjoy. Art is celebrated in all its mediums, including clay, various textiles, painting, glass, wood, mixed medium, metal, and more.
Homer, Alaska, is a community of fewer than 6,000 people. Named after con man Homer Pennock, the area is known for its halibut, gorgeous scenery, and arts. Like Beacon, it has roots in a blue-collar workforce that now boasts an eclectic mix of charm, wildlife, and grit.
Homer is often listed as one of the most beautiful places on our planet. Which isn’t surprising when you consider that the town, sitting on the Kachemak Bay, has views of the Kenai Mountains and many volcanic peaks. The area is popular with birders, kayakers, hikers, fishing folks, and snow-loving sports enthusiasts.
When you can tear yourself away from the abundant local wildlife, do check out Homer’s eclectic artistic community. Strolling along Pioneer Avenue is Gallery Row boasting a variety of art. There you can gaze at photographs, pottery, ceramics, jewelry, watercolors, batiks, and woodwork. There are nooks where you can find writers, concerts, and artist lectures, too.
Ketchikan, Alaska, is a city on the Inside Passage and is known for its numerous Native American totem poles. It is also close to the Misty Fiords National Monument, which is home to stunning mountains and an abundance of wildlife. With a population of around 8,500 people, it has that Beacon-esq blend of being a working town with a love of the arts.
Over 350 members of the town are registered as artists, with nearly a dozen galleries and shops promoting their talent. Ketchikan’s cultural and art scene is inspired by the nature they dwell in. You can learn more about the rich artistry by delving into The Artists: Ketchikan Story Project.
Ketchikan also offers a tempting array of food and drink. Drop-in at Bawden Street Brewing for a local brew. If you are keen to sample a wider selection of Alaskan beers, stop in at The Asylum. For food, well…most people don’t visit Alaska to eat Mexican, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t stop at Chico’s. For seafood, hit up Annabelle’s Keg & Chowder House.
Kingston, New York
Kingston, New York, was the state’s original capital and dates back to 1652 when the Dutch arrived. The area is brimming with charm and history, which you can learn more about on tours with the Friends of Historic Kingston. Or take in the local scenery while experiencing some historic fun by catching a ride on the Catskill Mountain Railroad.
The area is home to over twenty art galleries and venues. It is also home to local theater productions, ballet theaters and hosts Music in the Parks at T.R. Gallo Park. It is also home to the non-profit O+, which works year-round to provide artists with healthcare and throws an annual arts festival.
Kingston has a vast array of excellent food to offer. If you still love carbs, you won’t be sorry if you visit Kingston Bread & Bar. Front Street Tavern is perfect if you are looking for a gastropub. For a spicy Jamaican twist, check out award-nominated Top Taste.
Lambertville, New Jersey
Lambertville, New Jersey, sits on the Delaware River and has been called one of the “prettiest towns in America.” Like Beacon, it has blue-collar roots as a former factory town that has now become a place to relax and hunt for antiques and vintage treasures.
Despite having less than 4,000 people, the town embraces the arts. Favorite haunts include the ACME Screening Room, Roxey Ballet, and Bucks Country Playhouse. The area is also bursting with art galleries and studios.
Lambertville also has many wonderful cafes and restaurants. Start your day on the right by visiting the family-owned coffee bar, Lambertville Trading Company. Later on, check out Under The Moon Cafe, Anton’s At The Swan, and D’Floret.
Narrowsburg, New York
Narrowsburg, New York, is a cozy community of fewer than 500 folks right on the Delaware River. Framed by the Catskill and Pocono Mountains, the area is growing as a popular weekend-get-away from NYC.
The area is perfect for clearing the head while hiking, tubing, and hunting for antiques. When in town, it is a pleasure to explore the shops, including the incredible One Grand Book, the eclectic Maison Bergogne, and the ethical clothing boutique Mayer Wasner. If you are able to venture outside the town limits, meet the animals and shop at Buck Brook Alpacas.
Northampton, Massachusetts, sits on the banks of the Connecticut River, surrounded by mountains, forest, and farmland. It is an eclectic and liberal college town with a thriving music scene, a range of art galleries, stacks of bookstores, breweries, festivals, and poetry slams. There is always something going on and shows to see.
In between the art and the great outdoors, you’ll need to eat. Nab a smoothie at Haymarket when you need a nutritious boost. If you are craving local brew with some grub, stop in at Northampton Brewery Bar & Grill. If you are craving some excellent Asian cuisine, check out Teapot.
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
Old Saybrook, Connecticut, is home to over 10,000 folks and blooms with that New England charm. One of the town’s claims to fame is The Katherine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center that lives in the old Town Hall. It puts on an array of shows and has a small museum. The town is also known for being part of the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat route.
Old Saybrook is host to numerous museums and is surrounded by state parks and preserves. When you take a break from exploring, do check out 30 Mile Brewing Co. Also, be sure to visit Fresh Salt for great seafood and fabulous views. Other tasty options include the Tea Kettle, Penny Lane Pub, and, if visiting in the right season, Liv’s Shack.
Port Townsend, Washington
Port Townsend, Washington, may have less than 10,000 people, but it is far from overlooked. It began as a logging and farming town, quickly building up to be an international seaport. Now, like Beacon, its blue-collar roots are mixed in with a healthy art scene.
The Victorian-styled town is nestled amongst stunning scenery with plenty of outdoors to explore. It also hosts a Kinetic Sculpture Race.
The town is home to many cafes, book stores, and restaurants. Excellent food can be found at Sweet Laurette Cafe & Bistro or Silverwater Cafe while nabbing dessert at Elevated Ice Cream. If you are into craft beer, sample some local offers at Port Townsend Brewing Company, Discovery Bay Brewing, and Propolis Brewing.
Provincetown, Massachusetts, sits on the edge of Cape Cod and swells with tourists each summer. The area is popular with whale and bird watchers and is close to the Stellwagen National Marine Sanctuary.
Provincetown has long been known as an art colony and has a notable Art Gallery Association. From mid-May until mid-September the town puts on The Stroll every Friday evening. Galleries throughout the town throw open their doors and put on special exhibitions and events for all to enjoy.
The area is also brimming with places to eat and drink. There is Province Town Brewing Co for those wanting a local beer. You can also find plenty to eat and drink at The Mews Restaurant & Cafe, Ross’ Grill, or Mac’s Seafood.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is home to an award-winning boardwalk and just under 1,600 residents. This popular vacation get-a-way sits on a 30-mile stretch of coastline. It is also home to the treasured Rehoboth Art League that offers numerous classes, open studios, and events.
Like Oregon, Delaware does not have a sales tax. This makes the state a shopping destination on the East Coast, and Rehoboth’s adorable boutiques, antique dealers, and beach shops are no exception.
But regardless if you are sunbathing on the beach, bicycling around Gordons Pond, hiking the Junction Breakwater Trail, or catching a show at the Clear Space Theatre Company, you need to eat. Excellent places to try are Blue Moon, A(muse), Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, and Salt Air.
Saint Michaels, Maryland
Saint Michaels, Maryland, may have less than 2,000 people, but it is a much-beloved picaresque get-a-way destination. The coastal town brims with tradition and festivities, including Christmas highlights such as Midnight Madness.
The town was known for its clever wit back in 1812. The story claims that when the British approached by barges, the town dimmed their lamps and hung lanterns on trees beyond their community. Thus, when the redcoats fired their cannons, they missed.
If you can’t make the town’s annual Oysterfest, there is still plenty of seafood to enjoy. Be assured, Awful Arthur’s Seafood Company is anything but awful. Other great options include Foxy’s Harbor Grille and 208 Talbot.
Sag Harbor, New York
Sag Harbor, New York, found fame thanks to being featured in Moby Dick. Sat between East Hampton and Southampton, the village is sometimes overlooked. But this town of around 2,000 people is a family-friendly vacation haven for those that enjoy strolling around to look at antiques, the local Farmer’s Market, and enjoying the Wölffer Estate’s vineyards.
The area is wonderful for sailing, chartering a craft for fishing, or taking a cruise on a catamaran. There are also museums and a local theater when you have had enough of the sea. When you need a break, catch a meal at The Beacon or hang out at the Dockside Bar & Grill.
Skaneateles, New York
Skaneateles, New York, is a small town of around 7,000 people on a clear blue lake. It is a relaxing place, full of charm, that suits the annual Dickens Christmas events they put on every year between Black Friday to Christmas Eve. Come summer, the local Lockwood Lavender Farm puts on a purple show.
But while the area is known for its leafy forests, pleasant trails, and tranquil atmosphere, it is also home to the arts and antiques. Great places to find art include John D. Barrow Art Gallery, Gallery 54, Skaneateles Artisans, Snake Oil Glassworks, and the popular Curbstone Festival.
The Finger Lakes district is also well known for the fermented arts. While the region is filled with choices, do check out Skaneateles’ Last Shot Distillery and Anyela’s Vineyards. But if you are looking for a softer and sweeter experience, pop over to the Patisserie for carb heaven.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island, Georgia, sits 20 minutes from Savannah and is home to around 3,000 residents. The barrier island is known for its relaxing beaches and soft waves, making it perfect for relaxing dolphin spotting, and sea kayaking. But those wanting to get the hang of paddleboarding can practice first at the Back River, which has an even gentler touch.
The area is known for being bicycle-friendly for all ages, allowing people to ride from the beach to the Fort Pulaski National Monument. For those that don’t have their own wheels, there are places that will rent.
Tybee Island hosts a range of art. Gallery 80 pitches itself as a venue for fine art. For local turned wood and fun, quirky local finds, stop in at Tybee Cottage Art Gallery and The Irritable Pelican Artisan Gallery. Meanwhile, you can catch the performing arts and movies at the Tybee Post Theater.
Yachats, Oregon, is a tiny coastal town with less than 600 people. The charming place has gorgeous walks, lots of tide pools to explore, artist galleries, and gift shops. The town is a popular place for weddings and weekend relaxation. The town also hosts a variety of festivals, including music.
When looking for delicious places to eat, consider starting your day at Bread and Roses, a local favorite. Then, after hiking along the Ya’Xaik Trail or returning from a mountain bike ride, have a break at the Yachats Brewing. Later on, stop by the cozy and artistic Drift Inn for good food, live music, and original and hand-designed umbrellas.