Mackinac Island, Marquette, Traverse City: Best Small Towns in the U.S.?

Mackinac Island, Marquette, Traverse City: Best Small Towns in the U.S.?

Marquette Harbor Lighthouse Stairway

2023 isn’t even a month old and we already have a second round of USA Today Reader’s Choice polls that give Michigan a chance to bring home some awards. Last week we looked at the Detroit International RiverWalk being nominated for Best Riverwalk, and now there are new polls up that hope to find the Best Small Towns in the country. Mackinac Island is a finalist for Best Historic Small Town and Best Midwestern Small Town, Marquette is a finalist for Best Midwestern Small Town and Best Small Town Cultural Scene, and Traverse City is a finalist for Best Midwestern Small Town and Best Small Town Food Scene. Today we’ll take a look at the case for each finalist and link to their voting pages. These contests run until February 20, with winners announced on March 3rd. You can vote for one finalist in each category each day until the contest ends.

Mackinac Island Bicycle Tour Cover Photo

Mackinac Island is one of the most unique small towns not just in Michigan but in the entire Midwest. 10Best sums it up well: “One of the last car-free destinations in the U.S., Mackinac Island, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, seems trapped in the past – but in the most delightful way. Accommodations consist of turn-of-the-century hotels, while the horse-drawn carriage remains the favored form of transportation. With 80% of the island occupied by protected state park land, those looking to explore the outdoors will find plenty of opportunity for hiking and biking.” Up against Cody (Wyoming), St. Augustine (Florida), Concord (Massachusetts), Harpers Ferry (West Virgina), and others, Mackinac Island deserves a vote as the Best Historic Small Town in the U.S.

Presque Isle Park Lake Superior Marquette Michigan

Marquette has been a finalist in the past for Best Small Town for Adventure, but this year 10Best makes the case for its cultural scene: “Located in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the small town of Marquette is big on winter sports, with numerous events happening throughout the winter like the Annual Ishpeming Ski Jumping Tournament and the Upper Michigan Ice Races. It’s also home to a number of museums and galleries, including the DeVos Art Museum, K.I. Sawyer Heritage Air Museum and Graci Gallery.” In early voting Marquette trails Clayton (New York), Poulsbo (Washington), Mariposa (California), Dyersville (Iowa), and Solvang (California). If you’ve ever enjoyed a visit to this amazing Upper Peninsula community, you know it deserves a vote for Best Small Town Cultural Scene!

Rare Bird Brewpub Traverse City Ale Trail

Traverse City is also no stranger to appearing in these polls, and this is definitely not the first time it has been nominated for its food scene. From 10Best: “Known first and foremost for its beautiful freshwater beaches, Traverse City on the shores of Lake Michigan enjoys a buzzing food scene. Morel mushrooms grow in the area woods, and local chefs pair them with everything from local fish to farm-fresh eggs. Top dining options include Trattoria Stella by James Beard semifinalist Myles Anton, Filling Station Microbrewery and the Cordwood food truck.” We’ve certainly enjoyed many fine meals while visiting Traverse City, and think it definitely deserves to be named Best Small Town Food Scene over other finalists like Abingdon (Virginia), Ayer (Massachusetts), Fredericksburg (Texas), Bar Harbor (Maine), and others.

Dead River Falls Marquette Michigan Middle

Finally, all three of these beloved Michigan locations are up for Best Midwestern Small Town, where take on challengers from Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota and Indiana. 10best calls Mackinac Island “an idyllic place that transports visitors to a slower pace,” Marquette as a place where “stunning wilderness setting combines with a lively culinary scene and unique shopping experiences,” and Traverse City as a place that “showcases the beauty of Lake Michigan and the wilderness that surrounds it.” It’s hard to pick a favorite here but as long as one of these great Michigan options wins it’ll be a good thing!

Michigan Photos 2020 Harold Lloyd Safety Last Traverse City

It has been great to see Michigan get a lot of attention in these early-year contests and we can’t wait to see what Reader’s Choice Poll showcases next!