Looking to go off the grid? These cities provide the perfect backdrop to get some much needed peace and quiet.
The modern world is one of constant information — there is hardly ever a time (besides sleeping) when we are away from our screens. Streaming movies and TV shows, online shopping, social media, texting, posting, updating, following every moment of friends and strangers’ lives (borderline stalking, let’s be honest with ourselves). Heck, even our jobs are online now, so it’s more important than ever to give ourselves time to step away from it all and take a breather.
You know the saying: disconnect to connect.
But whether that’s connecting with friends, family, your partner or just being alone with yourself, going “off the grid,” as it’s known, can be incredibly beneficial to our physical and mental health. I’d even say it’s good for our soul.
So here are 12 cities that make it easy to unplug.
When in California, why not unplug in a beach town? As the name suggests, Carmel-by-the-Sea (that’s the full name) is right on the water. It’s a great walking town with a big personality, plenty to do and lots to see, yet just small enough to keep things chill. Think Santa Barbara’s little sister. You can leave your phone/laptop in your room while you step outside and soak up some sun and local cuisine without ever having to worry about getting lost or getting bored because everything you might need is within a 1.06 square mile radius. Like I said, perfect for exploring on foot.
While you’re there, check out a dizzying array of restaurants, one-of-a-kind boutiques, and curated art galleries. And, of course, take a long relaxing walk along the white, sandy beaches.
Park City, UT
Park City made it onto another list as one of the most romantic cities in the country and the city makes it onto this list for many of the same reasons. The first of those reasons is my top list-qualifier; it’s a good walking town. All of these towns will have that in common. Park City specifically is great for those who are a little more outdoorsy. Look at all these fun activities — cross country skiing, dog sledding, snowboarding, snowbiking… and in the warmer seasons, why not try golfing, zip-lining, hot air ballooning, or horseback riding? Not to mention there are the movie theaters (this is home to Sundance Film Festival after all), bars and restaurants.
The city’s entirety is roughly 20 square miles. Still, the Main Street is self-explanatory, buffered up and down by several blocks of shops, eateries and the like, and features everything you might need for some good old-fashioned unplugging.
Experiences & Adventures
The 7 Best Places to Go Glamping
Now this is our idea of becoming one with nature.
Genoa is Nevada’s oldest settlement, but that doesn’t mean it’s dusty, decrepit and dull…in fact, the city is far from it. Genoa is a little thing (just over 9 square miles), nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and sitting right up against the very popular Lake Tahoe. Tahoe is gorgeous, sure, but that’s just the thing. It’s so scenic and popular it tends to overcrowd easily and at all times of year. On the other hand, Genoa is surrounded by those same picturesque mountains but is much lesser-known, making for a stunning yet quiet place to retreat from the crazy world and unwind for a while. And if you want to drive up to see Lake Tahoe for an afternoon, you’re close by. Follow it up with a chilled drink at the local Genoa tavern before walking back to your cozy room to read by a fireplace. No phones required.
Gig Harbor, WA
This charming little seaside boating town at the foot of Mount Rainier is a stunner. This is the perfect place to lock up your cell and whip out your cardigan, Birkenstocks and favorite paperback — sit in a wicker recliner on the porch of your rental and sip coffee while you watch the boats come in and out of the harbor. It’s less of a shopping town and more in a culinary-and-nature-experiences city. Lots of restaurants to try and beaches to stroll to while you recharge in scenic Gig Harbor.
As a Stephen King fanatic, I almost put down Bangor, but not everybody’s idea of a good time is stopping by to stare at a gothic house with bats and spooky spiders on its wrought iron fence, I figured Phippsburg was the next best option. Phippsburg is pretty big in area — about 71 square miles — but has a smaller population of just over 2,100 people. This is coastal Maine at its prettiest, with picturesque wooden boat houses standing atop thick timber stilts plummeting into the Atlantic. This is the kind of place you pack some boat shoes or a peacoat (depending on what season you visit) and chow down on the best lobster you’ll ever put in your mouth. It’s the sort of place you might stand and lose yourself in the sunset or sunrise — basically, a great place to “go dark” for a bit.
It’s funny to me that I’ve included so many beach towns on this list so far, seeing as I’m not big into beaches. So for those who are like me and want to avoid the sandier regions of the country, there’s this absolutely breathtaking little corner of the world; Paradise (and what a fitting name for it). Wide-open space to let your mind and imagination roam free. The sort of place that never ceases to floor you with its vast, gritty elegance. There’s a resort and some campgrounds you can stay in while you’re there and boy do I recommend it. Seriously, you won’t regret coming here.
Pack up your boots and unplug your computer for a journey up to Cloudcroft. This teensy town has a corral-full of western character—the west runs in its very blood. There’s no glitz and glam in Cloudcroft, no urban bustle or suburban dandyness…just bare-simple pleasantries for the traveler looking for a place to disconnect. Which, if you’re reading this, you are. The town’s got a spaghetti-western main street, plenty of good spots to rest your head and fill your belly, and miles and miles of nature’s finest hugging it from all sides — trails and creeks and mountains and rivers, you name it. If you want an old-school no-frills escape, there’s no better place.
As colorful as it is fun, Sedona is an excellent place to let loose. Known as Red Rock Country, this is the place you might imagine when you think of the American West — towering rock formations of auburn and orange, cascading stony structures bristled with scattered greenery and dramatic clouds barreling across the crystal blue sky like a herd of snowy-white cattle. And to add to its natural wonder, Sedona is home to a thriving art scene and community, so there’s quite literally always something beautiful to look at no matter where in the city you are. Incredible food, tons of gorgeous landscape to traipse, art galleries to visit, and loads of spas to unwind in…who needs Instagram when you’re in Sedona?
Waterfalls, rolling green hills, cascading rolls walls reminiscent of Yosemite… Cashiers is a looker, folks. Technically, the whole of Cashiers is pretty small, like 1.1 square miles small. And the official population (according to a 2019 census) is not even 150 people — talk about off the grid. But with a landscape like Cashiers’, it’ll be like your own private little heaven. There are plenty of cozy cottages to rent while you stay and rejuvenate sans phone.
As fun as it is stunning. As welcoming as it is environmentally and socially conscious. I’m talking about a little place called Aspen. I know you’ve heard of it, but this is your chance to truly experience it. No Instagram live-ing your tour through downtown, no TikTok-ing your zip down the slopes, no Facebook updates on how delicious dinner was…this is your chance to go and keep it all for yourself. Savor sustainable cuisine, don’t share it with anybody. Spend the day following an eagle down the ski slopes and write about your journey in a notebook so you can look back on it whenever you want, your eyes only. Watch the sunset under the craggy horizon and know that this is for you and you alone. In such a fun and beautiful place, you have the chance to get the whole experience, unfiltered and unsullied.
Grand Marais, MN
Laying on the north shores of Lake Superior is this quaint waterfront town. Grand Marais is just under 3 square miles and a lot of that is on the water, so it’s never hard to get around or find your place. Who needs map apps? On top of exploring the nearby Superior National Forest, you can partake in some hands-on arts and crafts to keep your hands busy — things like lace making, basket weaving, or how to make soap! Internet shminternet.
Ver-Mont literally means green mountain (fun facts with Dmytryk!) and Woodstock is a town that encapsulates that name marvelously. It wears its colonial-Americana history with class, everywhere you turn framing an idyllic scene of mossy brick building, red barns on rolling green hills, twinkling creeks running beneath covered carriage bridges. It’s not technically an “off-grid” city (a lot of these places aren’t) but I include it because it’s the sort of place that encourages exploration. It’s a landscape that requests an attentive eye and asks its visitors to look closely and earnestly at all the beauty it offers. So, Put the tech down for a second and walk around a while. Don’t Yelp restaurants, mosey down Main Street and see which smells draw you in. Don’t ask Google what you should do, follow your feet, follow street signs, pick up one of those brochures you always see at front desks and cash-wraps but never touch.