Our Favorite Small Town Experiences in 2019
Bringing it all together to wrap up our Best of 2019 Series: Today we're talking about our Favorite Small Towns of the year! All of these places have been mentioned in at least one (and usually multiple) Best of 2019 posts. We discovered so much more than we expected this year. All of the towns on this list have a population of approximately 100K or less (in most cases much less). Some of them we knew little to nothing about before we arrived. But all are worth exploring.
To see all of our Best of 2019 posts, check out our Favorite Places page. Alrighty, let's get to our favorite towns of the year...
Best Tourist Town
The minute we pulled into Medora, North Dakota we knew we were in a special place. This small town sits at the entrance of the South section of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. It is a fun, easily walked town with a lot of shops, restaurants and live shows to choose from. We had a great time at the Medora Musical which is a nightly seasonal performance held in a big amphitheater on the outskirts of town. Medora SD has a population of 130.
Best Step Back in Time
We were so glad that we needed groceries while we were camping at Devils Tower National Monument because the park hosts recommended the nearby town of Hulett, Wyoming. The grocery store was great, but the quick drive through town was so interesting. We felt like we stepped into an old west movie set! You can catch a glimpse of Hulett in our Black Hills SD to Black Hills WY post. Hulett WY has a population of 420.
Best Embrace of History
We love learning local history and visiting historical sites. We found the most impressive embrace of community history in one of our first stops of 2019: West Columbia, Texas! West Columbia is a town of friendly folks and a TON of Texas history. It was the first capital of the Republic of Texas and Stephen F Austin (the Father of Texas) was here when he passed away. From the cemetery, to the community museum to the Varner-Hogg Mansion, and more. There are a lot of historical sites here in town. West Columbia TX has a population of 3,900.
Best Big Small Town
The biggest city on our list is Wichita Falls, Texas! We had a great time exploring with our friend Melany who is from Wichita Falls. Local insight is important here to discover unique places like the swinging bridge and the World's Littlest Skyscraper! We also ate delicious food, shopped at a great farmers' market and stopped in at a beef jerky store... yes, we said beef jerky store. LOL! Downtown Wichita Falls is also home to at least 2 museums and Lake Arrowhead State Park is just a short drive away. Wichita Falls TX has a population of 104,000.
Star's Favorite Place
Star's favorite place of 2019 is all about people. By far her favorite stop of our entire year was just outside of East Bernard, Texas where we moochdocked on our friends' beautiful property. Star was able to play with their dogs, watch cattle and run off leash. But her favorite activity was buggy rides! We also love East Bernard for the time we get to spend with our friends as well as the restaurants we mention in our Best Food of 2019 post. It is a quiet community with wonderful people. East Bernard TX has a population of 2,300.
Our favorite Hidden Gem of a town this year is Quanah, Texas! We knew nothing about Quanah before we drove through it on our way to nearby Copper Breaks State Park. But through talking with locals, we discovered one of our favorite restaurants of the year in The Medicine Mound Depot, as well as a one of our top attractions (the fantastic Hardeman County Museum). Put this together with the state park (which was also one of our favorite state parks of the year), and we can't wait to go back and explore more of Quanah and its surrounding communities. Quanah TX has a population of 2,500.
Most RV Friendly Town
Our pick for Most RV Friendly Town of 2019 easily goes to Galveston, Texas. RVers have the choice of state park camping or five nice RV parks on the island! Add that to an active Winter Texan program by the visitor's bureau, fun family friendly activities, tons of great restaurants and shops, wonderful history and museums, good weather and a laid back vibe and it's easy to see why Galveston is a great year-round destination for a lot of RVers. If you'd like to see some of our favorite things about Galveston, check out our Explore Galveston Island video playlist! Galveston TX has a population of 50,000.
Small Town with a Big Personality
We had no idea when we visited Keystone, South Dakota that it was as small as it is. Home to Mount Rushmore, we experienced two very different sides to Keystone during our visit to the South Dakota Black Hills. We explored an old gold mine (one of our favorite attractions of the year) and discovered an old school house turned community museum as well as several interesting and charming small shops. A few blocks away, we found the hustle and bustle of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally when we arrived back in town via the 1880 Train. Keystone SD has a population of 340.
Easy Highway Stop
We made our first visit to Jacksboro, Texas this year when we visited Fort Richardson State Park. We found ourselves back in Jacksboro about a month later on our way to Oklahoma to start our big summer adventure. It was then that we realized how much Jacksboro has to offer to travelers. Highways 281 and 380 flow through Jacksboro. Here you'll find not only the state park, but several easy to access restaurants (including our choice for Best Burger of the Year), a nice grocery store and a clean truck stop that is easy in and out. We have a feeling we'll be passing through Jacksboro quite a bit on our travels! Jacksboro TX has a population of 4,300.
Town with a Past
We couldn't help but feel the history as we explored the town of Mineral Wells, Texas. Mineral Wells is located about 30 minutes south of Jacksboro on Highwy 281, so it's an easy two-fer on your road trip! With super unique (and CCC constructed) Lake Mineral Wells State Park just outside town, and a history of providing mineral rich water for health seekers back in the day, Mineral Wells is a town that was a big deal in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Celebrities and famous folk flocked from all over to experience the health resort town for themselves. Today, you'll see the looming, historic Baker Hotel as you approach town. We hear that renovations could be coming soon to return the hotel to its previous glory. We hope that's true! Mineral Wells TX has a population of 15,000.
Most Interesting Geography
We were blessed to find some incredibly diverse places geographically this year! From the Texas Gulf Coast to the Badlands of South Dakota and the majestic Teton mountains of Wyoming, we discovered that we are fascinated by the layouts of the land. Our most interesting town for natural formation was in San Marcos, Texas. San Marcos sits on the faultline separating the grasslands from the Texas Hill Country. In San Marcos, one side of the San Marcos River is flat and the other river bank features immediate rolling hills. Just amazing! You can see some of this interesting landscape in our Exploring San Marcos video. San Marcos TX has a population of 63,000.
Our Top Favorite Small Towns of 2019:
Honorable Mention: Quanah, Texas
Runner-Up: Keystone, South Dakota
Our Favorite Overall Experience in a Small Town in 2019: Galveston, Texas
We had a great time in all of the towns that we mention in this post this year. But Quanah and Keystone were a complete surprise for us. We really knew nothing about either town before we arrived. While they are small towns, if you take the time to explore and talk to the locals, you just might be surprised at the places you discover and the stories you hear.
Have fun exploring! To see all of our Favorite Places, remember to visit our complete Best of 2019 Series. Thanks for joining us for this fun look back at 2019. We look forward to seeing what 2020 brings! Happy New Year!