Small towns have all the makings of a serene and soulful getaway: Main streets lined with local storefronts, restaurants and bars where customers are known by name, and innkeepers that make us feel like part of the community. To get the full small-town experience, book a stay at a B&B; most feature snug parlors and sitting rooms (great for getting to know your guestroom "neighbors"), proximity to nearby attractions, and a window into local architectural history.
The Mermaid Inn, Mystic, Connecticut
The Mermaid Inn an ideal fit for the whimsical seaside village of Mystic, Connecticut. The 19th-century Italianate Victorian with gazebo is set just a block from the Mystic River. It has a wraparound porch replete with rocking chairs and a hanging swing that guests make good use of on lazy evenings. There are four cozy guestrooms, each sporting fresh flowers and original artwork. Chocolate and cognac are nightly treats, and the inn's proprietor often whips up surprises like oatmeal and pecan cookies and strawberry rhubarb. The B&B is an easy walk to the Mystic Seaport—one of the country's largest maritime museums—as well as its shops and the iconic Mystic Pizza, which played starring role in a 1988 film of the same name. Some of the area's best beaches are nearby, too.
Chestnut Hill on the Delaware, Milford, New Jersey
Milford's Chestnut Hill on the Delaware is the perfect place to experience bucolic Hunterdon County, a scenic countryside of rolling hills and farmlands where river tubing and hot air ballooning are the norm. This picturesque Victorian and its cottage counterpart sit beside terraced gardens bursting with color and cozy right up to the Delaware River&mdashjust across the bridge from Bucks County. While the antique-filled inn has plenty of room for socializing, including a period-furnished drawing room and parlor, guests tend to spend a lot of time outdoors. Some bring along their own kayaks and inner tubes to launch from the inn's fully accessible dock, while others stroll over to Milford's tiny downtown stretch&mdsah;home to both the Milford Oyster House&mdsah;a local institution&mdsah;and the authentically British Ship Inn. The clapboard wonders of nearby Frenchtown, and Lambertville's art shops and antique stores are an easy bicycle ride away.
The Red House Inn, Brevard, North Carolina
Brevard's Red House Inn got its start as a 19th-century general store and later served as a railroad station before its current owners transformed it into a stylish B&B. The inn offers four renovated guestrooms in its main structure, including a ground-floor room with claw-foot bath and an upstairs suite with a private veranda and king sleigh bed. The property is a great place to spot Brevard's unusual white squirrels, although they're far from the only attraction this historical town has going for it. The rushing waterfalls and stunning scenery of both Gorges State Park and Pisgah National Forest are within easy distance, and the inn itself is a short walk to downtown highlights such as Rocky's Grill & Soda Shop, home to one of the best grilled pimento cheese sandwiches on the planet. Perhaps Brevard's greatest claim to fame is its Summer Music Festival, when the town comes alive with the sound of music played by students of the Brevard Music Center. Bluegrass is especially popular around these parts, with musicians (including local members of the Steep Canyon Rangers) often sitting in on public jam sessions that last until the wee hours.
Pomegranate House, Granbury, Texas
Less than an hour's drive from the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area, Granbury offers visitors the ultimate big city escape. Where to lay your head? The elegant Pomegranate House, a picturesque B&B comprised of four cottages (including one sheltered by a 300-year-old oak tree and another beside a tumbling waterfall and koi-filled pond). Each cottage has a small porch and an electric fireplace, and complimentary cookies and evening dessert are available. While the inn is an easy trolley ride to Granbury's historic square, those wanting to be closer to the action can book one of the inn's three downtown suites, located above the square's many boutiques, wineries and restaurants. When you're through perusing the selection of local art and jewelry or sipping Texas-made blackberry merlot, head over to Lake Granbury for a boat ride or a swim.
The White House Inn, Cooperstown, NY
Once the office and residence of a local dentist, the White House Inn is now a popular B&B in one of New York's most charming small towns. When guests aren't making use of the B&B's in-ground pool on sweltering summer days or cozying up by the parlor's fireplace on cool, quiet evenings, chances are they're taking full advantage of Cooperstown's many offerings. The town's Fenimore Art Museum is known for its excellent collection of folk and American Indian art, though outdoor-lovers may find themselves drawn to 9-mile-long Otsego Lake.
Bay Cottage, Port Townsend, Washington
With its private waterfront porches and proximity to natural attractions—including miles of sandy beaches—Port Townsend's Bay Cottage is a favorite for anyone seeking a relaxing small town getaway. Its three stand-alone sit on a scenic bluff overlooking Washington's Discovery Bay, providing welcome reprieve from downtown bustle. Port Townsend is the type of laid-back place where boat building is a way of life, and it's the gateway for verdant Olympic National Park and its secluded Hoh Valley—known as one of the quietest places in the U.S. The town's main stretch consists of historic 19th-century and early 20th-century buildings housing unusual shops like Joglo, a multilevel gallery and showroom displaying Indonesian art and furnishings, and Imprint Books, a writer-themed bookstore.
Andrew Morris House B&B, Natchitoches, Louisiana
In a town known as Louisiana's B&B Capital, the Andrew Morris House stands out. The inn is a 19th-century Louisiana Antebellum planter's cottage located in the center of Natchitoches's 33-block National Historic Landmark District. Every morning, a multicourse breakfast ranging from cream cheese-stuffed French toast to crustless quiche is served by candlelight, and there's a rear-covered porch for socializing. Natchitoches (pronounced “Nack-a-tish”) was established in 1714 as a French colony; this heritage is apparent in the historical town's French Quarter-style wrought-iron balconies and Creole homes lining the Cane River. For anyone familiar with the 1989 film "Steel Magnolias," the beauty of Natchitoches is unmistakable.