Jetting off to far-flung destinations certainly has its perks—just take it from someone who traveled the world for a year, continues to galivant around the globe and developed some tried-and-true tips to combat travel stress along the way (me, I’m that person). But there’s also something to be said for exploring your own backyard—and by that, I mean this great nation. You’ll find idyllic lake towns scattered all across the country, from California to New York. Regardless of the season, the promise of outdoor adventure, lounging on Adirondack chairs, roasting s’mores over the fire and staying in rustic cabins are compelling reasons to visit. Whether you’re planning a last-minute trip or a long-weekend getaway down the line, these waterfront domestic getaways (no need to pack a passport) should definitely be on your shortlist.
The 20 Best Lake Towns in the United States
PureWow editors select every item that appears on this page, and the company may earn compensation through affiliate links within the story. All prices are accurate upon date of publish. You can learn more about the affiliate process here.
- Why We Recommend It: hiking, skiing, boating
- Where to Stay: Desolation Hotel ($300/night), Edgewood Tahoe Resort (from $445/night), The Landing Tahoe Resort & Spa ($268/night)
One of the best four-season adventure destinations in the country, virtually everything in the town of South Lake Tahoe centers around the giant freshwater lake. Besides waterfront recreation and beaches, visitors have access to the mountains for scenic hikes, winter ski resorts, and year-round entertainment.
- Why We Recommend It: boating, skiing, hiking
- Where to Stay: Eastwind Lake Placid ($209/night), Grand Adirondack Hotel, Lake Placid, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel ($144/night), Lake Placid Lodge, Relais & Châteaux ($445/night)
Lake Placid has hosted the Winter Olympic Games twice (1932 and 1980). But the allure of this beloved town in the Adirondacks doesn’t allure doesn’t disappear when the snow melts. In the warmer months, travelers will find plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing and hiking. It’s also one of the prettiest places to see fall foliage near New York City.
- Why We Recommend It: boating, wildlife, seafood
- Where to Stay: Kineo View Lodge($108/night), Blair Hill Inn, Relais & Châteaux (from $500K/night), The Lodge at Moosehead Lake Inn & Restaurant (from $377/night)
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 scarfing down some seafood? Kelly's Landing is our pick for a classic lobster roll.
- Why We Recommend It: mansions, boating, golf courses
- Where to Stay: Geneva National Resort (from $254/night), Mill Creek Hotel (from $147/night), Geneva Inn (from $101/night)
The Gilded Age mansions that line the 23-mile shore path have earned the town of Lake Geneva the nickname “Newport of the West.” Boating, beaches and golf courses make it a favored summer escape. Not to be overlooked, the quieter winter offers ice skating and cozy vibes.
- Why We Recommend It: history, boating, skiing
- Where to Stay: 1810 House Bed & Breakfast (from $167/night), Topsides Bed & Breakfast ($195/night), The Windrifter Resort ($119/night)
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 activities for every season, from swimming to ice skating. It’s also home to the New Hampshire Boat Museum.
- Why We Recommend It: entertainment, adventure, family fun
- Where to Stay: Lodge of the Ozarks (from $60/night), Branson's Best (from $59/night), Comfort Inn & Suites Branson Meadows (from $171/night)
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. Bee-line it to Fritz's Adventure, an indoor amusement area with a ropes course, climbing walls and zip lining, and book tickets to Dolly Parton's Stampede Dinner Show Attraction.
- Why We Recommend It:
- Where to Stay: 5 Ojo Inn Bed and Breakfast (from $174/night), Crescent Hotel (from $159/night), Edelweiss Inn (from $77/night)
Eureka Springs is nestled in the heart of the Ozark Mountains. Founded in 1879, it charms travelers with its well-preserved Victorian houses and healing waters. Fans of spooky stuff can do an after-dark tour of the haunted Crescent Hotel—or even stay overnight.
- Why We Recommend It: history, dogsledding, water sports
- Where to Stay: Alaska's Lake Lucille Bed & Breakfast ($129/night), Meier Lake ($200/night), Alaska's Select Inn Wasilla ($175/night)
Do yourself a favor: ignore the fact that Sarah Palin put Wasilla on the map and judge this Alaskan gem based on its own merits. Lake Lucille is the main drawcard. While in town, explore Independence Mine State Historical Park and check out Gold Rush artifacts or visit the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Museum.
- Why We Recommend It: fishing, family fun, golf
- Where to Stay: Vintage Block Inn & Suites ($85/night), AmericInn by Wyndham Okoboji ($85/night), Okoboji Inn & Suites ($95/night)
Speaking of expanding your travel horizons, Okoboji—one of the top vacation destinations in the Iowa Great Lakes region—should definitely be in your consideration set. How many other places can you ride gentle waves, hit the water park, sample monster-sized cookies and play mini golf all on the same day?
- Why We Recommend It:
- Where to Stay:
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?
11. Sandpoint, Idaho
- Why We Recommend It:
- Where to Stay:
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.
- Why We Recommend It: sunset cruises, swimming, wake boarding
- Where to Stay: Broad River Inn ($167/night), Chimney Rock Inn ($115/night), Fox Run Association ($89/night)
Seeking a scenic escape to a charming small town in Carolina? Head to Lake Lure (which film buffs might recognize from the 1987 film Dirty Dancing.) When the weather is nice, it’s pure magic. Spend the day splashing in the refreshing water or wakeboarding. Afterward, take a sunset pontoon cruise.
13. Elmore, Vermont
- Why We Recommend It: camping, hiking, beaches
- Where to Stay: Tentrr - Belle Vista Farm ($162/night), Smugglers Notch Inn ($125/night), The Lodge at Spruce Peak ($240/night)
Named for Colonel Samuel Elmore, this tiny town in the southeastern part of Lamoille County touts forests and a 219-acre lake with sandy beaches among its natural blessings. (And we’d be inclined to agree.) Upping the outdoorsy appeal is a recreational area with campsites, charcoal grills and picnic tables.
- Why We Recommend It: history, New England charm, fishing
- Where to Stay: Ballard House Inn ($199/night), Center Harbor Sutton House B&B ($181/night), Center Harbor Inn ($200/night)
Meredith is considered the ultimate Granite State getaway—and for good reason. Hugging a protected bay on the western edge of Lake Winnipesaukee, the town provides year-round recreation—from hiking and fishing to cross-country skiing—plus a winery, brewery and playhouse. While historic buildings lend an air of nostalgia and New England charm.
- Why We Recommend It: food, bird watching, antiques
- Where to Stay: Holiday Inn Express Breaux Bridge/Henderson, an IHG Hotel ($125/night), Drury Inn & Suites ($125/night), Hampton Inn & Suites Lafayette ($105/night)
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. Poche Restaurant & Market and Cafe Sydnie Mae are beloved eateries. Bird watching, live music and antiquing are great ways to pass the time between meals.
16. Bigfork, Montana
- Why We Recommend It: art, theatre, horseback riding
- Where to Stay: Timbers Motel ($108/night), The Inn On Bigfork Bay ($152/night), The Islander Inn ($80/night)
Perched at the north end of Flathead Lake, this thriving arts community is known for its art galleries, live music and theater. Don’t leave without catching a show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, a Western Montana institution for more than 50 years. On the outdoor side of things, there’s horseback riding, llama trekking (yes, that’s a thing) and whitewater rafting.
17. Oakridge, Oregon
- Why We Recommend It: biking, hiking, fishing
- Where to Stay: Westfir Lodge (from $155/night), Arbor Inn Motel Oakridge (from $85/night), Eagle Rock Lodge (from $240/night)
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.
18. Lakeway, Texas
- Why We Recommend It: golf, tennis, boating
- Where to Stay: The Otis Hotel Austin, Autograph Collection ($299/night), The Driskill in The Unbound Collection by Hyatt ($240/night), Austin Proper ($400/night)
Located on the shore of Lake Travis, this affluent resort community lures vacationers and daytrippers from nearby Austin (the city that keeps it weird is just 25 miles to the east) with its laid-back lifestyle. Leisure activities include golf and tennis. Lakeaway also has marinas, walking trails and over 500 acres of greenbelts.
- Why We Recommend It: kayaking, sailing, beaches
- Where to Stay: Starlite Resort ($120/night), AmericInn by Wyndham Douglas/Saugatuck ($109/night), Hidden Garden Cottages & Suites ($275/night)
Beautiful beaches and candy-colored sunsets over Lake Michigan make this Midwest resort town of Saugatucka 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.
- Why We Recommend It: fishing, hiking, Southern hospitality
- Where to Stay: Comfort Inn Blairsville ($119/night), Misty Mountain Inn ($163/night), Paradise Hills Resort & Spa ($113/night)
Blairsville supplies the best of both worlds: majestic mountains and mesmerizing lakes. This means you don’t have to choose between trekking expeditions and fishing excursions. Guests can get a taste of true Southern hospitality at the friendly local restaurants, lodges and inns.
- Why We Recommend It: hiking, paddle boarding, snowmobiling
- Where to Stay: Western Riviera Lodging ($79/night), Spirit Lake Lodge ($120/night), The Gateway Inn ($99/night)
Two hours northwest of Denver lies Grand Lake, a small mountain town 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 snowmobiling and snowshoeing in the winter.