By Robert Firpo-Cappiello - Budget Travel

From California’s wine country to the shores of the Hudson River, from the Arizona desert to the Great Lakes, we’re celebrating unique towns that are just waiting for you to discover them.

We love to help you find destinations that go beyond the obvious big cities and theme parks to discover something a little different: America’s Coolest Small Towns. For 13 years now, we’ve celebrated unique towns across the U.S., and this year our network of editors, writers, photographers, and videographers went in search of the coolest of the cool, each with a population under 20,000.

Combining cultural diversity, cutting-edge cuisine, natural beauty, and vibrant community spirit, these towns offer visitors a truly authentic experience, and the Coolest Small Town in America 2018, Beacon, in New York’s Hudson River Valley, exemplifies those core values, with an incredible array of artists and artisans, chefs, a world-class museum, DIA: Beacon, and a revitalized downtown. Here, the 10 Coolest Small Towns in America 2018.

The Gulf Coast’s foodie magnet

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is celebrated for fresh seafood like gumbo, shrimp, oysters, and crab, and perhaps no other coastal small town offers more and better restaurants than Ocean Springs. When you’re not chilling on the beach or paddling on the Gulf and its inlets, Ocean Springs will feed you well. Vestige specializes in seasonal, market-inspired dishes like crab croquettes and catch-of-the-day. Eat Drink Love offers fresh cheeses and cured meats perfect for a beach picnic. Phoenicia Gourmet Restaurant serves up blackened shrimp, red snapper, and crab cakes; the name of Aunt Jenny’s Catfish restaurant pretty much says it all; and the Shed Barbeque & Blues Joint dishes up big portions of classic smoky favorites in, yes, a retro-chic shed. For drinks and live music, stop by the Government Street Grocery. (Speaking of music, while you're in Ocean Springs, don’t forget to explore some of the Mississippi Blues Trail’s coastal sites in nearby Biloxi, Pass Christian, and Bay St. Louis.) And we must remind you that it’s not all about the food: Ocean Springs’s art scene is magnificent, with the Walter Anderson Museum of Art displaying an array of great visual art and also playing host to evening events, including an annual craft beer tasting.

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