If you want to explore what National Geographic Traveler calls America’s best small cities in 2018, you could book a flight to Anchorage, Alaska, or Omaha, Nebraska, Charleston, South Carolina, or Boulder, Colorado. Or you could simply take a drive to Portland, Maine, or Newport, Rhode Island.
The publication chose 29 cities in total for its list, in part using “unconventional metrics” that the editors say lead to happiness, such as Instagrammable moments, green spaces, galleries, coffee shops, breweries, and music venues. Portland and Newport are the only New England cities on the list.
National Geographic Traveler gave a nod to Portland for Fort Williams Park, home of the 1791 Portland Head Light, and the Old Port Neighborhood, with its cobblestone streets and 19th-century buildings.
“Red lobsters on the plate, painted fishing boats in the harbor, and salty lighthouses on rugged shores make Maine’s photogenic biggest city top the list in number of Instagram hashtags,” the publication wrote.
As for Newport, editors wrote of the city’s Weekend of Coaching, which takes place every three years and is happening in 2018 from Aug. 16-19.
“Antique carriages, fine horses, and dandily dressed carriage attendants in top hats bring a rakish, raffish charm to the Weekend of Coaching,” the publication wrote. “The coaches, some dating to the early 19th century, roll through the city and stop at mansion museums, including the Vanderbilts’ lavish, cliff-top The Breakers.”
National Geographic Traveler partnered with Resonance Consultancy to compile the list. The team identified the top U.S. small cities using the before-mentioned metrics along with social media data about nightlife, culture, and restaurants from sites like Yelp and Instagram. The team sorted the U.S. cities into three groups based on their population (40,000 to 100,000, 100,000 to 200,000, and 200,000 to 600,000) and then determined the top cities in each population group in categories such as “meatiest” (amount of steakhouses and delis) and greenest (most parkland). National Geographic Traveler wrote that they also added what they considered trending cities to the mix.
Read the entire list of National Geographic Traveler‘s best small cities in the U.S.