Design Architecture

America’s Most Colorful Small Towns

While some small towns are termed “colorful” by virtue of their eclectic residents and lively local scene, others earn the label from their eye-popping residential and commercial buildings that inject visual verve into everyday life. If you’re a traveler in search of many-colored marvels, click through for our picks for the most vibrant small towns from coast to coast.

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Unalaska, Alaska

Anglers may recognize this whale-watching town off mainland Alaska as the backdrop of the television show “Deadliest Catch,” but for architecture buffs, the town’s dreamy dwellings are the real catch. Springtime visitors enter Unalaska by plane or boat, the only two methods of access available, then hoof it across the treeless green valleys to glimpse military ruins and punchy canary yellow and powder blue residences capped with teal or orange roofs and surrounded by wildflowers.

Key West, Florida via aloha75

Built in the 19th century by Bahamian immigrants known as Conchs, the pink, blue, and green conch houses along the coastline of this town at the southernmost point of Florida seem to draw inspiration for their pastel hues from the coral reef beyond the shore. Taking a cue from the conch house palette, the Southernmost House, a historic Victorian mansion on Duval Street that has hosted five U.S. presidents, sports a salmon-and-seafoam-green exterior.

Bisbee, Arizona

Mining was Bisbee’s claim to fame. The town was a source of metals like copper and gold as well as minerals, including a lapis-lazuli-toned turquoise known as “Bisbee Blue.” But it has architectural gems as well, including arresting Art Deco and Victorian buildings, such as the red-and-white Copper Queen Hotel and the magenta Inn at Castle Rock, that put the soul in historic Old Town.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

From the fairy-tale beauty of lilac-hued Hansel Cottage to the enchanting Tuck Box, a vintage eatery, Carmel-by-the-Sea brims with colorful, fanciful constructions. An abundance of art galleries, museums, and wildlife lookouts give even those unimpressed by the cozy architecture plenty to do.

Related: 50 Tiny Towns That Attract Hordes of Tourists Every Year

Surfside Beach, Texas

Zillow home in Surfside Beach, Texas

While less populated than nearby Galveston, Surfside is no less a destination for beach-bound vacationers. Awash in purple, yellow, and blue paint, the striking stilt homes that rise up from the sandy shoreline rival the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico in their wow factor.

Charlevoix, Michigan via stella12

Many have likened the Mushroom Houses of Charlevoix to Smurf cottages, when in fact architect Earl Young drew inspiration for their multicolored motifs, undulating eaves, and cedar-shake roofs from the landscape of Michigan. Whether you tour The Owl House, featuring pink, gray-blue, and black stones, or The Mushroom House itself, with its bright green trim, you’ll find that no two cottages are identical.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

In this town in the heart of the Ozark Mountains, you don’t have to wait for leaf-peeping season to see brilliant colors. Just head downtown to climb the “Rainbow Stairs” aka the Cash & Boardman mural, or stroll down Spring Street to browse the colorful storefronts, from the brilliant green of Hats, Hides & Heirlooms to the mood-lifting blue-and-bubblegum-pink Pink Flamingo boutique.

Taos, New Mexico

This desert escape in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is fittingly rife with radiant adobes. Some, like Taos Pueblo, never veer from the traditional reddish-brown color scheme. Others, like the inn Casa Gallina, incorporate playful hues that draw the eye. The Leghorn Casita, one of five houses at the inn, pairs adobe with bright blue columns and red trim to create a cheerful backdrop for a private garden.

Related: 25 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once

Hanalei, Hawaii

Hanalei, which means “lei valley,” is thought to be a reference to the rainbows that wreathe the sky in the wake of the area’s frequent rain showers. But the sky isn’t the only source of color in this town on the north shore of Kauai. From the multicolored mural near Wishing Well Shave Ice to Waioli Huiia Church (“The Little Green Church”), Hanalei serves up historic haunts of nearly every hue.

Ronks, Pennsylvania

Wikimedia Commons

For head-turning accommodations, check out the Red Caboose Motel and Restaurant in this farming community replete with Amish-themed restaurants and shops. The quirky retreat consists of 38 decommissioned cabooses that have been converted into motel “rooms” and painted in an array of striking colors.

Solvang, California

Known as “Little Denmark,” this quaint, must-see stopover in Santa Barbara County boasts four windmills, a one-third scale doppelgänger of Copenhagen’s Round Tower, and a collection of brightly colored, distinctively Danish buildings. Of course, Solvang’s Scandinavian flair is no surprise, given that the town was founded in the early 20th century by a group of plucky Danes who migrated westward in search of warmer weather.

Related: 35 Places in America That Look Like Foreign Countries

Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts via professorbop

Vacationers seeking eye candy are in for a sweet surprise when they cruise into this community on Martha’s Vineyard. Although the town hosts numerous buildings that date back to the 19th century, the most notable are the gold, crimson, and gray-blue Carpenter Gothic “gingerbread” houses “iced” with intricate white trim for an irresistible finish.

Leavenworth, Washington

If Oktoberfest, Maifest, and the annual Christmas tree lighting don’t lure you to Leavenworth, the electrifying real estate certainly will. Remodeled in the 1960s to resemble a Bavarian village, the downtown pops with varicolored restaurants and shops that include the yellow-and-sea-green Victorian Simplicity and the sky blue Black Swan gift shop.

Montpelier, Vermont

What makes Montpelier so postcard-worthy? The stunning foliage plays a key role in the fall, but all year long it’s the scintillating skyline that captivates. The town’s soaring monuments, including Trinity Church with its red brick facade and heart-emblazoned spire, and the Vermont State House, crowned with a golden cupola, are as radiant as they are tall.