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Outdoors + Adventure

America’s Most Beautiful Lake Towns

Summer is a great time to sneak in a lakeside getaway (think woodsy cabins, water just steps from your door, and canoes down by the dock). Here, our favorite lake towns across the US.

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Bigfork, Montana

Rumors of a killer Flathead Lake Monster haven’t kept people from coming to Montana’s 27-mile long freshwater lake. Make like Brad Pitt in A River Runs Through It and hire a guide from Bigfork Anglers to go fly fishing; they'll outfit you in waders and take you to either Bitteroot or the Blackfoot River. The Bridge Street Cottages is the place to stay, with its luxe private houses and porches overlooking Swan River. At night, catch a show at the Bigfork Summer Playhouse, which puts on top-notch music and theater performances through September.

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Wolfeboro, New Hampshire

No matter the season, New Hampshire's Lakes Region is always hopping. The adorable Wolfeboro – population: roughly 6,000 – hugs the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest in the wee state, and a fave among A-listers like Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon (he even named his daughter, Winnie, after the spot). As "The Oldest Summer Resort in America," the town charms with Colonial-style B&Bs, antique shops, old country stores, and docks lined with pontoon boats and cruisers. Stay at the white picket fenced Wolfeboro Inn, right on the lake, and for a quintessential bite between swims, head to the Straw Cellar gift and fudge shop. You'll go for the novel flavors like raspberry lemonade, but trust us, you won't be leaving without adding at least one piece of nautically-themed decor to your collection.

RELATED: The Most Romantic Lake Resorts to Spend a Summer Vacation 

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Grand Marais, Minnesota

Set on an idyllic stretch between Lake Superior and the Sawtooth Mountains, Grand Marais is a teensy town with just 1,351 people. But it’s surprisingly hip and creative, thanks to the Grand Marais Art Colony.You’ll find artists on the docks painting the gorgeous views and otters at play in the water below. Come nighttime, head to the 19th-century Grand Marais Lighthouse to catch the blue-green northern lights. Bed down at East Bay Suites, which has one, two and three bedroom loft-like apartments that look out onto the water.

RELATED: 8 Best Dude Ranches in Montana 

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Grand Lake, Colorado

At over 8,000 feet above sea level, Grand Lake is the Colorado mountain town of Pinterest boards everywhere, all snow-capped peaks and wild west storefronts, set along Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Lake. Check into the Gateway Inn, done up in rough-hewn log furniture, and just a one mile walk away from the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Once you've hit the trails, head to dinner at the historic Rapids Lodge (order the elk medallions with fig-pomegranate compote), then hit Grand Lake Chocolates for ice cream (we love the Death by Chocolate).

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Lake George, New York

Lined with 19th-century summer estates once owned by wealthy Manhattanites, Lake George is everything you could want in a waterside getaway. Stay at The Sagamore Resort, a red-roofed, whitewashed gem that's been presiding over the lake since 1883. We recommend pre-booking the hotel's basalt stone massage— it's the perfect way to unwind after a two hour trek to Shelving Rock Falls. On your way home, stop by Adirondack Winery to pick up a few bottles of locally made black cherry-infused red wine and fruity ice wine (a north country classic).

 

 

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Sandpoint, Idaho

Coeur d’Alene gets all the love as Idaho’s primo lake town, but for our money, Sandpoint is where it’s at. Nestled under the Selkirk, Bitterroot, and Cabinet mountains, the 43-mile-long Lake Pend Oreille is ideal for adventurers; you can rent a paddleboard or kayak with Watercraft Rentals or let the experts do the plying for you on a ferry ride with Lake Pond Oreille Cruises. Set deep in the woods a mile from town, Talus Rock Retreat is the B&B of choice. Book the Grand Arbor room, with a 30-foot-high turreted copper ceiling.

 

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Wasilla, Alaska

Sarah Palin may have put Wasilla, Alaska on the map, and we wish we’d known about it sooner. Among the city's highlights: hiking in the Independence Mine State Historical Park, dog sledding at the Iditarod Headquarters, and a taking a helicopter tour of the nearby glaciers with Pollux Aviation. Stay at the Best Western Lake Lucille Inn, which has views of the water and provides guests access to a float plane and boat dock.

 

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Lakeland, Florida

Vestiges of Old Florida are everywhere in Lakeland. You can see planes from the glory years of aviation at Fantasy of Flight; ogle original building designs at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitors Center; and catch a film at the 1928 vaudeville movie "palace," Polk Theatre. We recommend staying at the Terrace Hotel on the shores of Mirror Lake. Don't miss the hotel's Sunday Eggs Benedict brunch, served in the lovingly restored Terrace Grill.

RELATED: 8 Secluded Beaches You Can Escape to This Summer

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Elmore, Vermont

Elmore State Park bills itself as “The Beauty Spot of Vermont,” and it's not without merit. Wander along the Mountain Brook Nature Trail, filled with wildflowers like lady's slippers and Dutchman's breeches, and bordered by 18th-century homesteads. Or spend a lazy afternoon canoeing glassy Lake Elmore. In-the-know New Englanders stay at Stowe Meadows, a B&B that seems to get everything right, from the four poster king beds and cozy floor heating in the rooms to the complimentary pumpkin pancakes at breakfast.

 

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Mammoth Lakes, California

A five-hour drive north from LA, “Mammoth,” as it’s known, is a go-to escape for Hollywood insiders—mostly for skiing. Stop by the Mammoth Brewing Company for its Lair of the Bear brew, which is aged seven months in bourbon barrels, then check into Tamarack Lodge & Resort. The hotel sits beside the shimmering Twin Lakes and has private wood cabins, with stone fireplaces perfect for curling up on breezy nights.

 

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