Outside of the bustling North East cities lies several charming and timeless small towns. Whether you’re searching for picturesque landscapes, a town with old-world charm for your next trip, or a waterfront with lighthouses, the East Coast holds some of the cutest small towns that must be explored! Below is a list of the most charming small towns on the East Coast for your next weekend getaway!
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Nestled along the shores of the Long Island Sound lies one of the best small towns on the East Coast…Mystic! While this town has many attractions, it is famous for the movie, Mystic Pizza, a pizza parlor featured in the 1988 rom com which you will find among the charming stores and restaurants in the town. The main attractions of Mystic are along East and West Main Street, separated by a drawbridge, where you can admire sailboats gliding along the water. There are endless nautical boutiques to explore, along with delicious seafood restaurants. Among the restaurants, some of my favorites include The Mariner and The Shipwright’s Daughter.
While in Mystic, be sure to visit the Mystic Seaport Museum, an immersive maritime village that allows you to explore 19th-century ships and life at sea. Mystic is such a cute town, and I always make sure to stop by for the day on my way to Newport and Cape Cod, but it also makes for a fantastic weekend trip as there is much to explore!
Stonington, CT is a true hidden gem, a cozy coastal town perched along the New England Coast. This quiet coastal town holds endless picturesque charm waiting to be explored. Stonington, most famous for its harbor, boasts beautiful sailing yachts that you can admire along the coast. The town is walkable, and holds several charming boutiques and galleries, along with local fresh caught seafood to enjoy.
If you’re looking to enjoy the water, Dubois Beach is located right at the peak of Stonington, a small beach to enjoy watching the boats go by, and several picnic tables and a grass area perfect for an afternoon picnic! You will also find Stonington Vineyards, and Saltwater Farm Vineyards, where you can enjoy wine tasting in a beautiful setting. Stonington is truly a delightful small town in the North East, and makes for a wonderful day trip for a quintessential New England experience!
Lake Placid, NY
No matter what time of year, Lake Placid is a perfect weekend destination! Located 5 hours north of NYC is the beautiful small town of Lake Placid tucked away in the Adirondack mountains. Lake Placid may be small but it’s a town that has had a big impact in the region. Lake Placid hosted the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics (now boasting an Olympic museum) and is home to Whiteface Mountain, an awesome ski destination in the winter, or hiking with incredible views during warmer months!
If you’re spending a weekend during the summer, Mirror Lake is a beautiful destination for swimming, kayaking, or boating. The town of Lake Placid is an adorable, quaint town, capturing the essence of a European ski lodge. There are several boutique shops, waterfront restaurants, and my personal favorite, Origin Coffee! Lake Placid is the perfect weekend getaway all times of the year, with so many activities and sights to see, you won’t be bored! Check out my full Lake Placid travel guide for more!
Watkins Glen, NY
While there are many beautiful small towns scattered amongst the Finger Lakes region, Watkins Glen happens to be one of my personal favorites. It is a beautiful town right on Seneca Lake, full of the best that nature has to offer. Watkins Glen is a unique town in the Finger Lakes, best known for Watkins Glen State Park, a unique and scenic walking trail along a gorge with several impressive waterfalls. Watkins Glen State Park is one of the coolest hikes I’ve done on the East Coast, a must for a weekend trip! If you plan to stay the weekend, Harbor Hotel is a lovely place to stay right on the water, with great food options and even better views!
The Finger Lakes are best known for their vineyards, so be sure to spend a day touring all of the award winning local wineries in the region! My favorite time to visit the Finger Lakes is in the Summer and Fall, to best enjoy all that the area has to offer, including the wineries, the lake, and the numerous hiking trails. Some of my favorite hotels in and around the Finger Lakes region include the Hampton in Penn Yan with lakefront views, the stunning Lake House on Canandaigua, and the historic Avon Inn, an affordable option located outside of the Finger Lakes.
Hudson, New York, is a true hidden gem in the Hudson Valley region. Located just under 3 hours outside of New York City is the small town of Hudson, perched right along the Hudson River. The main street of Hudson is dotted with classic brown stone houses and restaurants, boutiques, cafes, and antique shops. Hudson radiates a very Brooklyn vibe with posh restaurants and cool cafes, a popular weekender destination for New Yorkers.
One thing Hudson knows how to do well is food. An absolute must is dining at the Maker Cafe, located on the first floor of the Maker Hotel. This stunning European inspired cafe transports you back in time and delivers nothing but incredible food and pastries. The Maker Cafe gets its pastries from the local cafe, Bartlett House, located just outside of Hudson in Ghent. The Bartlett House, formerly a railroad hotel, is another must to enjoy a cup of coffee and pastry in an old-world, Italian feeling cafe. It is truly a delight, and they make the best ham and cheese croissants! For dinner, be sure to dine at feast & floret, which is a delicious modern Italian restaurant with an incredible ambiance with a florist right on site. It was so special to dine in a beautiful floral ambiance, and then get a custom bouquet right after dinner!
In terms of local activities, you can take a tour through Olana State Historic Site, an incredible estate originally home to Frederic Church in the 1800s. Hudson is also filled with several hiking trails and trails close by, a popular one being the High Falls Conservation Area located in Philmont, which is a relaxing hike with scenic views of two different impressive waterfalls.
New Hope, PA
The picturesque town of New Hope, Pennsylvania, is nestled along the Delaware River, and filled with charm, making for a unique weekend getaway. New Hope is one of the cutest small towns with something for everyone! It is particularly known for its vibrant art scene, with local galleries and the James A. Michener Art Museum, as well as the Bucks County Playhouse where you can catch a live show.
New Hope hosts various parades, outdoor concerts, and events throughout the year. If you’re looking for an outdoor adventure, there are various walking and hiking trails around New Hope, as well as kayaking or paddle boarding along the Delaware River, which can be rented at Bucks County River Country.
One of my favorite things to do in New Hope is to eat! There are endless options for diverse and flavorful food, with my favorites being Odette’s for brunch, Nektar Wine Bar for tapas and wine, Nozomu Sushi for dinner, and of course, Nina’s Waffles for dessert! New Hope is such a cute small town, making for a great place for a date night or weekend trip!
Known for its University, Princeton, New Jersey is a quaint European-esque town located in Central Jersey, filled with charm and elegance. Princeton University is the centerpiece of the town, boasting a stunning architecture and history that transports you back in time. While you can spend the day walking around the campus and admiring the buildings, Nassau Street is the main street in the town that holds diverse restaurants, cafes, and shops that must be explored!
The food scene in Princeton is amazing, perfect for any foodie looking to explore some new favorite spots. There are endless activities to do in and around Princeton, including the Grounds for Sculpture museum, Princeton University art museums, Terhune Orchards, hiking at Institute Woods, or kayaking along Lake Carnegie. Princeton is a lovely small town full of beautiful architecture, nature, and activities, all waiting to be enjoyed. You can find more Princeton travel tips here!