The 20 best little lake towns in America

There are idyllic lake towns are scattered all across the country. Regardless of the season, an array of activities, plus the promise of lazing in Adirondack chairs, roasting s’mores over the fire and a deep night’s sleep in a rustic cabin, are just some of the compelling reasons to visit. Whether you’re planning a last-minute jaunt or a long-weekend down the road, these waterfront getaways should definitely be on your short list.

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20 best little lake towns in America
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20 best little lake towns in America

GREENVILLE, MAINE

Greenville sits on Moosehead Lake. Between the largest freshwater body in the state and Big Squaw Mountain Ski Area, there’s no shortage of outdoor recreation. And what’s a trip to Maine without a classic lobster roll? Mmm.

LAKE GENEVA, WISCONSIN

The Gilded Age mansions that line the 23-mile shore path have earned this Wisconsin idyll the nickname “Newport of the West.” Adding to the upscale appeal are world-class golf courses, posh boutiques and pampering spas.

WOLFEBORO, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Situated beside the 72-square-mile Lake Winnipesaukee (pronounced win-ah-puh-sockey), Wolfeboro bills itself as “America’s oldest summer resort” and boasts a bevy of seasonal activities, from swimming to ice-skating. It’s also home to the New Hampshire Boat Museum.

BRANSON, MISSOURI

With its live shows, theme parks and quirky attractions, Branson ranks high on the family-fun-o-meter. Don’t let a chance of showers rain on your parade. Make a beeline to Fritz's Adventure, an indoor amusement area with a ropes course, climbing walls and zip-lining.

OAKRIDGE, OREGON

An adrenaline junkie’s dream, Oakridge is the "Mountain Biking Capital of the Northwest." If cycling isn’t your thing, you can still experience plenty of outdoor thrills—canoeing, trout fishing, snowmobiling and trekking to the second tallest waterfall in Oregon. 

RELATED: THE 8 MOST UNDERRATED AMERICAN ROAD TRIPS

EUREKA SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

Eureka Springs is nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Founded in 1879, it charms travelers with its well-preserved Victorian structures and healing waters. Fans of spooky stuff can book an after-dark tour of the haunted Crescent Hotel—or stay overnight.

WASILLA, ALASKA

Lake Lucille in the main draw here, for good reason. You can also explore Independence Mine State Historical Park and check out Gold Rush artifacts or visit the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum.

OKOBOJI, IOWA

Speaking of expanding your travel horizons, Okoboji—Iowa’s top vacation destination—should definitely be in your consideration set. How many other places can you ride gentle waves, sample monster-sized cookies and play mini golf all in the same day?

BLAIRSVILLE, GEORGIA

Blairsville offers the best of both worlds: majestic mountains and mesmerizing lakes. Which means you don’t have to choose between trekking expeditions and fishing excursions. Guests can get a taste of true Southern hospitality at the local B&Bs, lodges and inns.

LAKELAND, FLORIDA

Lakeland serves up serious Old Florida vibes. Catching a film at the 1928 Polk Theatre is the perfect complement to an afternoon of peeping original plans at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center. Round out the weekend with a lavish brunch. Eggs Benedict, anyone?

SANDPOINT, IDAHO

Idaho is totally underrated. Take Sandpoint, for example. It has a wonderfully walkable downtown with excellent restaurants and cute stores plus friendly folks. And we’ve even heard the term “life changing” thrown around in regards to the huckleberry lemonade.

LAKE LURE, NORTH CAROLINA

Seeking a scenic escape? Head to Lake Lure. (Perhaps you know it from the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.) Spend the day splashing in the refreshing water or wakeboarding. Afterward, up the romance with a sunset pontoon cruise.

LAKE PLACID, NEW YORK

Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice (1932 and 1980), but its allure doesn’t disappear when the snow melts. In the warmer months, there’s plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing and hiking. Also impressive are the “Great Camps” that line the shore.

ELMORE, VERMONT

Named for Colonel Samuel Elmore, this tiny town in the southeastern part of Lamoille County touts forests and a 219-acre lagoon among its natural blessings. Upping the outdoorsy appeal is a recreational area with campsites, charcoal grills and picnic tables.

MEREDITH, NEW HAMPSHIRE

Meredith is considered the ultimate Granite State getaway—and for good reason. Hugging a protected bay on the western edge of Lake Winnipesaukee (“beautiful water in a high place”), it offers year-round recreation while historic buildings lend an air of nostalgia.

RELATED: 19 UNDER-THE-RADAR BEACH & LAKE DESTINATIONS AROUND THE COUNTRY

BREAUX BRIDGE, LOUISIANA

Breaux Bridge dates all the way back to 1829. Residents—many of whom are of Cajun descent—are proud to live in the "Crawfish Capital of the World.” No surprise, you’ll find flavorful cuisine. It’s also a big destination for bird watching and antiquing.

BIGFORK, MONTANA

Perched at the north end of Flathead Lake, this thriving arts community is known for its galleries, fine dining, live music and theater. Don’t leaving without catching a show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, a western Montana institution for more than 50 years.

LAKEWAY, TEXAS

Located on the shore of Lake Travis (pictured above), this affluent resort community (25 miles west of Austin) lures vacationers with its laid-back lifestyle—a big part of that are the golf links, tennis courts, marinas, trails and over 500 acres of greenbelts.

SAUGATUCK, MICHIGAN

Beautiful beaches and candy-colored sunsets over Lake Michigan make this Midwest town a must. Saugatuck Dunes State Park draws adventure seekers with its massive mounds and 13 miles of sandy trails. Sailing, fishing and kayaking are also popular pursuits.

GRAND LAKE, COLORADO

Two hours northwest of Denver lies Grand Lake—with just 500 residents. Don’t let its diminutive size fool you: The "Western Gateway" to Rocky Mountain National Park has loads to do for all seasons, whether it’s paddleboarding in the summer or snowshoeing in the winter. 

RELATED: 10 PICTURESQUE FARMS YOU CAN ACTUALLY STAY AT

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